a terrible blight on our fine country
After reading wolfman81's diary about Conference Title Games, the BCS, and playoffs, I wanted to write a reply that focused on whether there was any suitable alternative to the Conference Title Game. I threw out an idea and saw how recent history would affect it, and was surprised that (a) I actually found it a plausible alternative, and (b) my response was uber-long. So I decided to make my own diary. This is my first diary, so if it's not diary worthy, please go easy on me and mods just bump it back down to the board.
I've often felt the same as wolfman81- that Conference Championship games are an unfair way to determine who the Conference Champion is. To me the perfect way is to have a complete round-robin in the league, where everybody plays everybody and a champ is determined by league record. This is obviously not possible in a 12 team league, or even the 11 team Big Ten of yesterday. And I do think a conference title game is a better solution than having teams in the conference not play each other and just having a hot mess at the end of the season (see: 2010 Big Ten standings). So what's the alternative?
You could say "let's limit conferences to ten teams, kick out Penn State and Nebraska AARGH!" Let's step into la-la land for a second. Even when the Big Ten had ten teams, we still only played 8 conference games, and only had a true round-robin for a few years in the '80s. But why couldn't they do it now? Obviously the cash from a title game, and the bonds from the CIC don't care too much about what's the best idea for us naive football fans. Yet if we are focused on the best way to pick a champion from a league, and a way where every game truly matters, this is it - true round robins in ten team leagues, with three additional regular season games.
So now accepting that we can't do that, what's the best way within the current paramaters? How do you pick a champion from a 12 team league, where you're allowed to play a title game at the end of the season, and you want an "every game matters" mentality?
Well, what if we had no divisions? Teams played their schedules, missed a few opponents, and then at the end of the year you'd set up a title game based on the two best teams - except with two extra provisions. To limit rematches, if you lost to the #1 team in the conference, you don't get to play them again. If you beat them, and you're next in line, you've got a chance to prove you're the league's best - and they've got a chance to prove that it was all just a fluke. And of course, in a tie, the head-to-head winner has a tiebreaker. So for this year's SEC, your standings would look like this:
(1) LSU 8-0 (2) Alabama/UGA 7-1 (4) Arkansas 6-2 (5) USC 6-2...
And lo and behold! A tie at #2 - but since Bama LOST AT HOME to LSU (note: yes, I'm bitter), UGA would get to play in the Georgia Dome. And so we get the same thing as this year. Well that's one instance where it works. Let's look at the B1G, 2011:
(1) Sparty 7-1 (2) Penn State, Wiscy, Michigan 6-2...
So we've got a three-way knot of doom at #2, where M didn't play either of the other two guys. Except since Sparty beat Wiscy and Michigan, it's not so bad - they play Penn State in Indy. The same Penn State who lost handily to Wiscy - not exactly ideal, but then, is it fair for Sparty to have to beat Wiscy twice? Maybe so, maybe not. Let's look at this year's Pac 12 and then ACC. Pac 12:
(1) Oregon 8-1 (2) Stanford 8-1 (3) USC 7-2 (4) Washington, UCLA 5-4...
So by my rules, since Oregon beat #2 Stanford, and USC is ineligible, and Washington lost to #1 Oregon...we're left with UCLA. Wow. Same as this year. ACC:
(1) VT 7-1 (2) Clemson 6-2 (3) 4 teams at 5-3...
So VT would get a chance for revenge at Clemson. Really, the only title game that would change this year is the B1G, where Penn State would get a shot at the title. And while I do feel for Sparty, I don't think anybody believes Penn State is more deserving than Wisconsin this year for the B1G title. But that is just my opinion, and this system doesn't look too bad yet. So let's look at recent history, to find some examples that might blow up my system completely. Your 2010 Big Ten:
(1) Sparty 7-1 (2) Wiscy 7-1 (3) Ohio 7-1 (4) Iowa, Illinois 4-4 (6) Penn State 4-4
So (if Nebraska had missed all of these guys hypothetically in a 12-team 2010 Big Ten) Sparty would play Ohio for the title, since Sparty beat Wiscy head-to-head. But if Ohio beats Sparty and wins the title, theny you've got a situation where Wiscy > B1G Champ Ohio > Sparty. And Sparty did get blown up by middle-class Iowa. But really this isn't any more unfair than what actually happened, and we'd avoid a rematch, and Wiscy's defeat at Sparty clearly matters. But apparently it matters more than their defeat of Ohio? Clearly my plan isn't ideal - but then, neither is the current system. One last example, the 2008 Big 12:
(1) Texas, OU, Texas Tech (4) OK St 5-3 (5) Mizzou 5-3 (6) Nebraska 5-3...
Oh, right. That whole triangle of doom scenario. Which would be broken by the BCS probably, giving Oklahoma the #1 spot. At least they'd get to play Texas again, for revenge. Hmm, come to think of it, that's better than playing Mizzou, isn't it? And it's a better solution to the triangle of doom than the current system has.
I started off thinking my idea was completely ridiculous and would be proven so with just this season's standings alone. I was certain it'd have a tougher time dealing with the most ridiculous issues of recent memory. I now actually think I might prefer my way a little bit - it mostly follows the current system pretty closely, and actually avoids rematches where the #1 team has to prove it's better again - but instead gives them a chance to avenge a loss and prove they are truly the conference's #1. Two negative side effects are that it gives some pretty unworthy teams a shot at the title - but mostly not any moreso than today's system - and that it screws with the BCS a bit more. For example if in 2008, UT had been ranked higher than OU, Tech and UT would have played the title game. If Tech upset UT a second time, OU would have gone to the BCS Title game while not playing for their conference title. Wait a sec...where have I heard that before?
Actually, it has no more negative side effects than the traditional "division" system used today. I started off a skeptic of my own plan, to try to prove the validity of the conventional thinking. I've convinced myself that this is better. Its negatives are the same as the current system, and its positives are that the regular season matters more. What are your guys' thoughts? Is this better than the present system? Is there a better alternative? If it's worse, why and how?
EDIT: I just thought of a pretty big time negative - it's conceivable that a team goes 9-0 in conference, and the only teams they didn't play have losing conference records. I guess one additional provision would be this: if the only teams who haven't been beat by #1 have losing conference records, then #1 will just play #2. I mean this is totally bats and la-la land anyway, right?
EDIT II: I had originally gotten my 2008 Big 12 tie-breaker wrong. I incorrectly said UT won the tie-breaker that year. It was OU. It's been fixed.