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Old School vs. BCS vs. CFP

by Donovan Tennimon
Aug 28, 2013 1:31 PM EDT



Kickoff Countdown: Two Days

Editor's Note: This is the sixth in a seven-day series designed to sustain college football fans until North Carolina and South Carolina kick off the season Aug. 29 at 6 p.m. ET. We've looked at the best, underrated and worst statesfor producing FBS talent, reflected on our favorite tailgating memoriesgiven you a printable schedule guide to the 2013 season, ranked every FBS starting quarterback and offered you conference-by-conference bold predictions. We'll also provide a comprehensive food guide for every school (Wednesday).

Perhaps the biggest debate in all of sports during the last 15 years has centered on the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). Is it fair? Is it legal? How are the teams determined? And so on and so on. The process that was created to guarantee a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup at the end of the year has taken a lot of flack since its inception in 1998.

Does anyone remember what we had before the BCS? I’m not talking about the Bowl Alliance or the Bowl Coalition, both precursors to the BCS. I’m talking about a mythical system used to crown college football’s national champion. Remember when the No. 1 team and the No. 2 team rarely played each other at the end of the season? That was old school football.

Starting next season, major college football finally will be like all other sports and have a playoff to determine its champion. The College Football Playoff (CFP) will match the top four teams at the end of the regular season. One of the things that made major college football so special was the fact that it was different. Every game was a playoff game. In 2014, it will be just like any other sport in our nation.

The Case For Old School

In the beginning, there was no agreement or guarantee to match the two best teams during the postseason. Only 11 times did a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup occur during a bowl game prior to the BCS. For a while, the national champion was crowned before the bowl games were even played, which made the bowls kind of a glorified scrimmage with no real meaning.

Some fans and schools actually preferred this method of postseason play. There was no controversy over who played where against which opponent. Conference champions were locked into bowl games based on geography, history, and conference affiliation. That’s the way it had always been. Everyone knew the Rose Bowl hosted the Big Ten Champion and the Pac-10 Champion. The Sugar Bowl had the top team from the SEC and the Cotton Bowl got the Southwest Conference (SWC) Champion.

Eventually, fans wanted more and administrators wanted more, too — more money. Often times, there were split national champions and disputes about who should have been ranked No. 1 when the bowl games ended. Sometimes, an undefeated team finished second behind a one-loss team. Just ask Penn State. Administrators saw the opportunity to create a system that would further emphasize the big bowl games and increase payouts to their participants.

The Case For The BCS

The Bowl Coalition (1992-1994) begat the Bowl Alliance (1995-1997) which led to the BCS (1998-2013). Finally, there would be a system in place to guarantee a No. 1 vs. No. 2 bowl game to put a bow on the season. The only question was how these two teams would be selected. It seemed logical to use the existing polls and then throw in some computer rankings.

Unfortunately, that never really worked. The formula for ranking the nation’s top teams was tweaked, then tweaked again. The media (AP Poll) eventually got frustrated with the system and pulled out all together, leading to the Harris Poll — a collection of former players, coaches, administrators, and current and former media.

Even the most optimistic proponent of the BCS couldn’t have foreseen the controversy surrounding the BCS rankings. How can you pick from three or more undefeated teams, or three or more one-loss teams? Someone is always going to be left out of the process. The rankings are always going to be subjective.

At least the BCS provided matchups that would have never happened otherwise. Perhaps the best national championship game of the BCS era was the 2006 Rose Bowl between USC and Texas. Those two teams would not have played each other at the end of the season had it not been for the BCS.

Also, the BCS created so much buzz and hype that college football has grown into arguably our country’s most popular sport. Never before had Alabama fans paid so much attention to the outcome of a Stanford vs. Oregon football game at midnight. For all its faults, the BCS actually shrunk the college football world and made every game relevant to fans across the nation.

The Case For The CFP

Well, it’s finally here — almost. Next season begins the CFP where the top four teams in the country, as chosen by a selection committee, will engage in a playoff format to crown the 2014 national champion. This appears to be the most fair, inclusive way to determine the best team in college football.

Have them prove it on the field. No more computers and no more coaches with bias toward their own team or conference. Now there will be twice as many teams playing for a national championship as there is under the current system.

How about that selection committee? There is going to be somewhere between 12 and 20 members of this committee consisting of current athletic directors, former coaches, former athletic directors and administrators. Let’s just hope they can avoid bias. Supposedly, a committee member will excuse themselves from discussion when the topic of their current or former team is brought up for consideration, similar to the NCAA Basketball Selection Committee.

What’s going to happen when there are two undefeated teams and three teams with one loss? How is that fifth team going to feel about being left out? This is the same thing many college basketball teams go through at the end of each regular season. Will the CFP ever select a team from outside the Power 5 Conferences — ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC?

The Winner: The CFP

This seems to be what everybody wants. Even those individuals that don’t know much about the history or pageantry of college football have been clamoring for some form of a playoff. The BCS was just too controversial. Too many teams felt snubbed and it was too difficult to try to understand how the top two teams were chosen.

The old-school method of determining a national champion is just that: old school. If the BCS was filled with faults, then the method for crowning a champion prior to the BCS was void of any logic or reason whatsoever. At least the BCS tried and succeeded in matching the top two teams in football. 

Just be careful what you wish for. College football never will be the same after the 2013 season. Hopefully that's a good thing.