Opinion: Expand College Football Regular Season to 14 Games; Reform Bowl System
In the new era of realigned conferences and the trend towards 9 game conference schedules, I believe if the college football powers that be are going to be serious about determining a credible national champion (okay, let's pretend they are) and creating a more exciting post-season, it should start with expanding the regular season to 14 games and end with reforming the bowl system to make more of the bowls compelling -- let's be honest, most are exhibitions -- and more appealing to fans.
First, the thought behind expanding to 14 game regular seasons....
I favor this because as non-conference schedules are now down to 3 games per school in many cases, the number of comparable non-conference opponents has and will continue to lessen, particularly as teams have weakened those non-conference games to maybe one truly quality opponent. By comparable, I don't really mean Missouri, say, having the same exact opponent as say, Washington, but comparable opponents in terms of quality outside one's own conference.
The best way to do that outside of expanding the regular season would be to have a playoff -- so when teams reached the playoff they would have to defeat a number of non-conference quality opponents before reaching the championship. A second way to do it would be to reduce conference sizes down to where we're playing 7 or 8 conference games. Neither of those are likely to happen. As such, I believe the alternative is to expand the regular season from 12 to 14 games.
Before I go into the reasons why, it is important to note that I believe that one way to combat schedules being too long would be to eliminate conference title games. If you are going to play 9 of the 11 other teams in your league, in the case of the Pac 10, that's enough to fairly determine a champion based on regular season play. Also, it creates an even playing field going into the bowls between conferences with and without title games.
Let me also add that in this system, the number of conference games allowed would be capped at 9.
Finally, and I'll address this at the end, this reform should also include some kind of a restructuing of the bowl system to make it more compelling.
With that in mind, there are three main reasons why I believe in an expanded regular season:
#1 -- There would be more comparable non-conference games between teams, which would help judge how they should truly be ranked.
Let's assume Missouri, for instance, would still play ASU, Miami-Ohio, and Western Illinois. Expanding the regular season by two games, they could add another BCS school, say, like Virginia Tech, and another non-BCS school, like Wyoming. They'd then have two BCS games, two FBS non-BCS games, and one FCS game.
With those added games against different leagues at a variety of levels, pollsters could more fairly determine where we fall.
#2. With more games, schools would be more willing to schedule tougher non con games because one could withstand 1, 2, or even 3 losses and their season wouldn't be over. 11-3 could still garner a major bowl bid. It would be important to, as well, given the added feature of the selection committee I mentioned below. This, I think, would make college football more compelling, if we saw more LSU-Oregon early season games!
#3. It would allow more creativity in scheduling. Some fans would like to play Nebraska or Illinois in the non-con. Well, the problem is, if you lock into any one of those schools, in the current system, you've basically locked up your non-con. By an expanded non-con schedule to 4 or 5 games, you could lock in an Illinois or Nebraska and still have room for some variety in the schedule.
Some might say "oh, can schools really take another two games". Of course. First of all, around 26 schools already play 13 games -- Hawaii, the 13 teams who play Hawaii, and the 12 teams who play in conference title games (Big 10, Pac 12, ACC, CUSA, MAC, SEC). If you dropped the title games, you'd thus be adding 1 game for 26 schools and 2 games for the rest.
In terms of when to play them, I would start the college football season 1 or 2 weeks earlier -- there used to be "kickoff classic games" the weekend o two before Labor day anyway -- and then play the other game the weekend after Thanksgiving.
So, in this system, you'd have 9 conference games and 5 non-conference games, and then one bowl game.
So, how would the bowl system change?
First of all, I would outlaw bowl affiliations except for conference champions to BCS games.
Second of all, there would be SIX BCS games, instead of the five now.
Third of all, the fifth bowl would be the Cotton Bowl and the sixth the Capital One Bowl. (More on the NCG in a bit) Half of those would be the six BCS conference champs, the other six from the rest of the pool, selected by aselection committee.
Fourth of all, as to the selection committee, rather than bowl owners inviting teams as they do now, I would create a bowl selection committee to select the six at large teams for the BCS, as well as the teams to the rest of the bowls as well, where they would also be responsible for slotting them. The only thing they would have to hold to is conference affiliations with conference champions.
Fifth, any team playing in a BCS bowl would be eligible for the national championship. Yes, all 12!
Sixth, all six BCS games would be played on January 1 or 2 (in the case of the NFL playing on Sunday, Jan 1), to bring the fun back to January 1. Games would last from 10 a.m. to midnight.
Seventh, following the bowl games on January 1, the 12 BCS teams would be re-ranked, with the Top 2 playing in the national championship, which would be played two weeks later. (Or, you could simply re-rank the six BCS winners, with the top two playing in the NCG)
Those two teams would end up playing 16 games, just two more than they play now.
1. If the Big 10 and Pac 12 champs were #1 and #2 following the regular season, they could elect not to play each other in the Rose Bowl in hopes they'd play each other in the NCG.
2. By allowing all 12 BCS teams to be eligible for the national title game, it would make all the games compelling. What if #5 Stanford upset #1 Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, and #2, #3, and #4 lost? Very exciting, if you ask me.
3. Fans wouldn't be forced to go to the same damn bowls every year. I don't know about you, but the Alamo, Insight, Holiday, Texas, Cotton lineup gets really old. What about the Liberty, Music City, etc, which are much more accessible to fans than the Insight? By having the selection committee, this would free them up to slot teams by geography, and not some pre determined tie in.
4. With 14 games and then bowl games and then the NCG after, we'd be more comfortable with the national champ and it would be hard to argue #3 or #4 never had their chance.
5. There would be more compelling games, start to finish, and the regular season would still matter while adding more of a playoff feel to non-con games as well as the Six BCS games!