Conference Championships - My (Totally Bats!) Alternative

Submitted by Vasav on December 5th, 2011 at 9:47 PM

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.



December 5th, 2011 at 11:48 PM ^

You could theoretically achieve something like this with a loophole in the rules. It kind of got brought up when we were setting up divisions, but was never discussed in detail.

The rules state that you have to have two divisions of at least six teams in which there is a round robin. The winners of those divisions will play each other in the conference championship. The loophole is that they don't say that the divisions have to be decided ahead of time or specify any criteria for choosing division winners.

So, what you do is split into 4 subdivisions of 3 teams: A, B, C, and D. There is a 3-way round robin in each of the subdivisions. All of the teams in A and D play all of the teams in B and C, giving 8 games schedules. It also gives you two possible sets of divisions. A-B vs. C-D or A-C vs. B-D. If you want the winner of A to play the winner of D, then it doesn't matter which divisions you select. If you want A to play C then you pair A with B and vice versa.

It doesn't give you the exact setup that you are looking for, but it would give you some options on who to place in the championship game. By altering the rules, you could always find a way to get the best matchup for the championship game.


Subdivision A

Subdivision B

Subdivision C

Subdivision D

So, if you want PSU and MSU to play each other, you pair A-B and C-D then you select some criteria that makes both MSU and PSU win their divisions. Obvious choices would be conference record or division record, but you could do cross-division record, or even the best team from one division vs. the highest ranked team that hasn't played the best team in the other division.

Knowing the NCAA, though, they would crack down on this in a heart beat, while at the same time letting the BCS go crazy with their system.


December 6th, 2011 at 12:00 AM ^

I always thought the original conference title game, the SEC Championship, was an exception that the NCAA let the SEC come up with to make their 12-team "super-conference" manageable. Well, couldn't the NCAA make a similar exception, sans divisions, and still allow for a conference title game?

Hardware Sushi

December 6th, 2011 at 2:05 AM ^

The no division part is kinda interesting. I still don't have a problem with an undefeated team having to beat the same team a second time in the championship game and that seems to be one of (or the?) main reasons for all these new conference championship proposals.

I think this is one of those things that will take time for most Big Ten fans get used to...

Just an observation - people on this board are having problems with a two-division championship format - how is anyone going to agree on a playoff?

Embrace the BCS...let the hate flow through you...


December 6th, 2011 at 2:19 AM ^

I kinda had embraced it...until Sunday night. Honestly, if they "tweak" it so that you've got to win your conference to play in the game, or no rematches, but especially no intra-conference BCS Titles, I"m back in their corner.

I don't want a playoff. Sometimes I feel for the Boises, TCUs, and Cincinattis of the world in 2009. But mostly not. While they've got a tougher road, TCU won the Rose Bowl last year - I'm pretty sure they didn't really care about the BCS Title Game. If Boise had gone undefeated this year they'd have been in the Title game. Thanks for screwing it up in this of all years, guys.

But back to the original post: yes rematches were part of the issue for me. Another plus is getting rid of "Legends" and "Leaders" though.


December 6th, 2011 at 5:36 AM ^

For a team to be eligible to play for the championship they must be within 2 wins of the league leader?


So if you're 8-0 only 6-2 teams are eligible.  A team like UCLA should NEVER play for the championship.  PERIOD.  


December 6th, 2011 at 6:42 AM ^

I don't think a new plan needs to replicate the current selection of conference championships. The Pac12 was a terrible match up, for example. UCLA had no business being in that game. I would rather see rematches between good teams ( eg LSU vs Alabama ) than I would for for the BCS or other bowl games. If we're going to have rematches between conference foes then lets do it in the conference and leave the bowls to generate new match ups.