All the talk about a playoff for Division I-A football is petty in my view. I mean, it’s not that difficult to come up with a system that makes everyone happy, and yet the deference to the university presidents is so profound that no one truly attempts to talk them into a playoff.
So here’s a simple method, summed up in one paragraph: Use the four major BCS bowls as quarterfinals, with six BCS conference champions and two at-large teams qualifying. Stipulate that any team which finishes the regular season undefeated, regardless of conference affiliation, is guaranteed a spot (that provision is for Boise State this year). Seed them and match them up (1 vs. 8, 2 vs. 7, etc.) with top-seeded school choosing which bowl it wishes to play in, No.2 team gets second choice, etc. Play them over two days, with double-headers on both January 1 and 2. Then play semifinals the following weekend at pre-designated sites and the national title game the week before the Super Bowl at another pre-determined site. Anything not mentioned above remains status quo, including the 28 lower-tier bowls.
If the above was ever implemented, no one could logically complain. And the money generated from such a system would be significantly more than at present, because of the increased importance of the Jan 1-2 bowls.
Speaking of bowls, I have my annual predictions at the ready. Let’s go bowling…
Tuesday, Dec. 19 -- Poinsettia Bowl at San Diego, CA
TCU (-12) vs. NORTHERN ILLINOIS
NIU sports the nation’s leading rusher. The Horned Frogs counter with Division I-A’s fourth-ranked run defense. Something has to give… and it will be NIU, because the Frogs also have the ninth-best rushing attack.
Prediction: TCU, 31-16
Thursday, Dec. 21 – Las Vegas Bowl at Las Vegas, NV
BRIGHAM YOUNG (-4) vs. OREGON
The Ducks were all over the map down the stretch, while BYU has won nine in a row. Isn’t it sad, though, that a conference champ (BYU won the Mountain West) has to play in such a low-tier bowl?
Prediction: OREGON, 38-33
Friday, Dec. 22 – New Orleans Bowl at New Orleans, LA
RICE (-5½) vs. TROY
Are you kidding me?
Prediction: TROY, 33-27
Saturday, Dec. 23 – PapaJohn’s Bowl at Birmingham, AL
SOUTH FLORIDA (-4) vs. EAST CAROLINA
The Pirates have more of a bowl history, but South Florida is statistically the better team.
Prediction: USF, 26-17
Saturday. Dec. 23 -- New Mexico Bowl at Albuquerque, NM
NEW MEXICO (-3½) vs. SAN JOSE STATE
Observe this matchup and tell me while keeping a straight that there aren’t too many bowls. Spartans get the nod because of their rushing attack, which will ultimately nullify the Lobo’s homefield edge.
Prediction: SJSU, 42-34
Saturday, Dec. 23 – Armed Forces Bowl at Fort Worth, TX
UTAH (-1½) vs. TULSA
The Utes were in a BCS Bowl not long ago. Can’t believe they’ve fallen this far.
Prediction: UTAH, 27-24
Sunday, Christmas Eve, Dec. 24 – Hawaii Bowl at Honolulu, HI
HAWAII (-8) vs. ARIZONA STATE
Coach June Jones has done another masterful job with the Pacific’s best run-and-shoot program at Hawaii. Sun Devils are overmatched defensively.
Prediction: HAWAII, 45-31
Tuesday, Dec. 26 – Motor City Bowl at Detroit, MI
CENTRAL MICHIGAN (-10) vs. MIDDLE TENNESSEE
Truth be told, I don’t know a thing about either of these teams, except that CMU is the Chippewas… and they’re favored by double-figures. My research told me that Middle Tennessee is ranked higher in both rushing offense and defense. Hmmm…
Prediction: CMU, 30-24
Wednesday, Dec. 27 – Emerald Bowl at San Francisco, CA
UCLA (-4½) vs. FLORIDA STATE
It’ll be tough for the Bruins to get up again like they did for their upset of USC, but the Seminoles have been downright awful for much of this season.
Prediction: UCLA, 23-13
Thursday, Dec. 28 – Independence Bowl at Shreveport, LA
OKLAHOMA STATE (-2) vs. ALABAMA
The Tide was 6-6 during the regular season, good enough to get its coach fired despite being the son of a coaching legend. The Cowboys’ top-10 rushing offense will be the difference.
Prediction: OSU, 24-21
Thursday, Dec. 28 – Holiday Bowl at San Diego, CA
CALIFORNIA (-5) vs. TEXAS A&M
The Aggies knocked off Texas for the first time in many years. The Golden Bears would have preferred the Rose Bowl, and lost this game a year ago.
Prediction: TEXAS A&M, 35-27
Thursday, Dec. 28 – Texas Bowl at Houston, TX
RUTGERS (-7½) vs. KANSAS STATE
The Scarlet Knights got within an overtime loss to West Virginia of a BCS bowl. This is unquestionably a letdown for them. But KSU isn’t that good this season.
Prediction: RUTGERS, 38-17
Friday, Dec. 29 – Music City Bowl at Nashville, TN
CLEMSON (-10) vs. KENTUCKY
The Tigers’ promising season was derailed early, and finished with a loss to the “other” USC. The Wildcats lost to Louisville yet again. If the stats mean anything, this could be the season’s most lopsided bowl game.
Prediction: CLEMSON, 44-14
Friday, Dec. 29 – Sun Bowl at El Paso, TX
OREGON STATE (-3½) vs. MISSOURI
The Beavers own a win over USC and finished strong. The Tigers limped home. But I still expect a relatively close game
Prediction: OREGON STATE, 34-27
Friday, Dec. 29 – Liberty Bowl at Memphis, TN
SOUTH CAROLINA (-6½) vs. HOUSTON
I’ve never understood why this bowl isn’t played in Philadelphia? Anyway, the Gamecocks hail from the tough SEC but the Cougars are the Conference USA champs. It’s time for an upset pick, because UH is a conference number one.
Prediction: HOUSTON, 20-17
Friday, Dec. 29 – Insight Bowl at Tempe, AZ
TEXAS TECH (-6½) vs. MINNESOTA
The Gophers barely qualified for a bowl berth, going 6-6 with one of the wins coming against Division I-AA North Dakota State… by a point. The Red Raiders are always fun to watch.
Prediction: TEXAS TECH, 31-23
Friday, Dec. 29 – Champs Sports Bowl at Orlando, FL
PURDUE (even) vs. MARYLAND
Although the matchup isn’t particularly significant, it does figure to be competitive. Neither team can stop the run, but neither runs it that well either.
Prediction: MARYLAND, 21-20
Saturday, Dec. 30 – Meineke Bowl at Charlotte, NC
BOSTON COLLEGE (-6) vs. NAVY
The Midshipmen are perennial bowl participants these days and lead the nation in rushing offense, but the Eagles have the better team and have played a tougher schedule. And, BC is 12th nationally in run defense. The Eagles will extend their nationally-best six-game bowl winning streak.
Prediction: BC, 30-16
Saturday, Dec. 30 – Alamo Bowl at San Antonio, TX
TEXAS (-11) vs. IOWA
The Longhorns have been inconsistent, but Iowa is among the nation’s most disappointing teams. Horns hook ‘em easily.
Prediction: TEXAS, 35-13
Saturday, Dec. 30 – Chick-Fil-A Bowl at Atlanta, GA
VIRGINIA TECH (-2½) vs. GEORGIA
A very close matchup, and both clubs finished the regular season strong. The Dawgs’ virtual homefield advantage might actually matter.
Prediction: GEORGIA, 17-14
Sunday, Dec. 31 – MPC Computers Bowl at Boise, ID
MIAMI (-3½) vs. NEVADA
A fascinating clash, on an equally unusual field (it’s blue). Nevada will really want to prove it’s a bigtime program, but the Hurricanes will be even more motivated to avoid such an embarrassing loss. Miami’s third-rated run defense will shut down the nation’s 22nd-best rushing offense.
Prediction: MIAMI, 21-13
Monday, Jan. 1, 2007 – Outback Bowl at Tampa, FL
TENNESSEE (-4½) vs. PENN STATE
No defense played No. 1 Ohio State tougher this season than the Nittany Lions. The Vols are more balanced, but I like the upset pick here.
Prediction: PENN STATE, 23-17
Monday, Jan. 1, 2007 – Cotton Bowl at Dallas, TX
AUBURN (-3) vs. NEBRASKA
The Cornhuskers have had a nice season, but have stumbled against virtually every quality foe they have run up against. The SEC gets it done again.
Prediction: AUBURN, 24-20
Monday, Jan. 1, 2007 – Capital One Bowl at Orlando, FL
ARKANSAS (-1½) vs. WISCONSIN
The Hogs’ Darren McFadden was a Heisman finalist, but the game’s MVP will be Badgers back P.J. Hill.
Prediction: WISCONSIN, 27-20
Monday, Jan. 1, 2007 – Gator Bowl at Jacksonville, FL
WEST VIRGINIA (-7) vs. GEORGIA TECH
Great matchup of WVU’s explosive attack against the stellar defense of Tech. But ultimately, the team which ranks in the top 10 nationally in both rushing offense and rushing defense, as the Mountaineers do, gets my vote.
Prediction: WVU, 31-22
Monday, Jan. 1, 2007 – Rose Bowl at Pasadena, CA
USC (-1) vs. MICHIGAN
I’m surprised so many pundits are taking SC, because Michigan will have a lot more to “play for.” The Wolverines also sport the nation’s stiffest run defense, and they can pressure the QB as well. Won’t even be close.
Prediction: MICHIGAN, 31-17
Monday, Jan. 1, 2007 – Fiesta Bowl at Glendale, AZ
OKLAHOMA (-7½) vs. BOISE STATE
I’m of the mind that it’s Boise State who should be playing Ohio State in the Title Game, being that the Broncos are the only other Division I-A team with a perfect record. And they’ll show why they should have gotten the chance with their performance.
Prediction: BOISE STATE, 34-31
Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2007 – Orange Bowl at Miami, FL
LOUISVILLE (-10) vs. WAKE FOREST
Great offense vs. stellar defense. In the pros, I usually side with the D. But in college, dynamic attacks win out.
Prediction: LOUISVILLE, 33-20
Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2007 – Sugar Bowl at New Orleans, LA
LOUISIANA STATE (-9) vs. NOTRE DAME
You know my upset specials in the pros? Usually pretty good picks, if I do say so myself (okay, I said “usually”)… well, here’s my Bowls version for this year. The consensus is that LSU is going to dominate this clash. But with as much time to prepare as the teams have, and with a Heisman Trophy finalist as your QB, the Irish have the tools to end its eight-game bowl losing streak.
Prediction: NOTRE DAME, 30-24
Saturday, Jan. 6, 2007 – International Bowl at Toronto, ON Canada
CINCINNATI (-8) vs. WESTERN MICHIGAN
This matchup would be boring enough if in mid-December, but putting it between the New Year’s Bowls and the title game? The line is a bit heavy – WMU leads in some key categories, but I like Cincy to win nonetheless.
Prediction: CINCINNATI, 27-23
Sunday, Jan. 7, 2007 – GMAC Bowl at Mobile, AL
SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI (-6) vs. OHIO
Anyone else find it amusing that a bowl named after car financing is being played at Mobile?
Prediction: SOUTHERN MISS, 21-12
Monday, Jan. 8, 2007 – BCS TITLE GAME at Glendale, AZ
OHIO STATE (-8) vs. FLORIDA
It would be fun to forecast a Gators upset. And, of course, any team that has parlayed a 12-1 season to this point must be pretty good. But the Gators’ strengths are trumped by even better personnel in Columbus. If USC was playing, as most of us thought was going to be the case, I’d give the Trojans a legitimate shot because of their defense. But Florida just won’t be able to slow the Buckeyes enough. Ohio State will win its second national title of the 21st century.
Prediction: OHIO STATE, 38-24