Check out the Top 25 scoreboard from this weekend’s season openers:
- #1 Florida 61, Division I-AA Charleston Southern 3
#2 Texas 59, Division I-AA Louisiana Monroe 20
#3 Oklahoma 13, #20 Brigham Young 14
#4 Southern California 56, unranked San Jose St. 3
#5 Alabama 34, #7 Virginia Tech 24
#6 Ohio State 31, unranked Navy 27
#8 Mississippi 45, unranked Memphis 14
co-#9 Oklahoma State 24, #13 Georgia 10
co-#9 Penn State 31, unranked Akron 7
#11 LSU 31, unranked Washington 23
#12 California 52, unranked Maryland 13
#14 Boise State 19, #16 Oregon 8
#15 Georgia Tech 37, Division I-AA Jacksonville State 17
#17 Texas Christian opens Sept. 12 at Virginia
#18 Florida State 34, unranked Miami 38
#19 Utah 35, unranked Utah State 17
#21 North Carolina 40, Division I-AA Citadel 6
#22 Iowa 17, unranked Northern Iowa 16
#23 Notre Dame 35, unranked Nevada 0
#24 Nebraska 49, Florida Atlantic 3
#25 Kansas 49, Division I-AA Northern Colorado 3
Only four of the games pitted ranks teams against one another. Now, it’s impossible to know rankings two or three years in advance, when most of these games are scheduled. But only a handful of the games — the ones I’ve highlighted in bold — are non-embarrassing.
Steven’s right that major football powers should simply never schedule games against Division I-AA schools. (I’m sorry, but I refuse to play along with the NCAA’s idiotic attempt to rebrand the minor leagues as the “Football Championship Series.”) I’d go even further, though: they shouldn’t play perennially noncompetitive teams, either.
Yes, it’s true that these also-rans sometimes give the big boys a scare. Navy did it Saturday, nearly upsetting Ohio State. Appalachian State beat Michigan a couple years back and upstart Troy State beat Mississippi State (although it took tornadoes and a torrential downpour) before that. Sometimes, these games showcase a rising power and every once in a while we’re treated to a wonderful Cinderella story. But, frankly, it’s always an accident.
Mostly, these games are a joke that make a mockery of sportsmanship and competition.
As an Alabama fan, I’ve thrilled to the last two season openers, against highly ranked Clemson and Virginia Tech. It’s been especially satisfying to win those games, getting the season off to a rousing start. But, honestly, fans of Clemson and Virginia Tech have to be upset with their athletic directors for agreeing to these games and wrecking the season before even getting to inter-conference play. Given the way the rules are set up, it may be cheesy but it’s very smart for the Southern Cals of the world to get their seasons off to a bang by whomping up on the San Jose States. And it’s very much in the interest of the patsies to take half a million dollars or so as a prize for their beating.
And, while my Tide deserves kudos for scheduling marquee opponents to start the season the last two years — and for its home and away series with Penn State set for 2010 and 2011 — they’ve got plenty of cupcakes lined up, too. Should a team with national championship aspirations really be playing Florida International, North Texas, and Chattanooga?
Why not change the rules and mandate that the big boys open up with the big boys? And, in fact, play the big boys each and every week? Wouldn’t that be much more exciting?
Here are the conferences that matter: ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, SEC. Go ahead and throw the Big East in, too, if you want to pretend. Those are the BCS conferences.
Let’s limit the national championship to schools playing in those conferences. Let’s mandate that schools in those conferences schedule games only against other schools in those conferences. And — here’s the exciting part — let’s take a page out of European soccer’s playbook a have a system where the lesser teams in those conferences get replaced by the best teams from outside.
So, obviously, Notre Dame will have to join a conference. I vote for the Big East. They’re already a member for everything but football and it’s too small, anyway, with only eight schools playing football. Heck, get all the BCS conferences up to twelve schools, which should pretty much cover any decent football programs. (I mean, really, are there more than 72 college football programs that ought to have a shot at the championship?)
Divide the conferences not already aligned that way into two, six-team divisions. Then, play a season where each team plays, say, six games from within the conference and six games from another conference on a rotating basis. Play a conference championship game for all conferences, so the ones that do so aren’t at a huge disadvantage.
And the worst team in each conference each year? They’re out. Replaced by the top six teams not currently in a BCS conference. If you’re among the Best of the Rest the next year, you’re back in. If not, tough luck.
The beauty of this system is that it survives even if the college presidents finally come to their senses and agree on a playoff. And it means every game, every week has meaning for the fans and the schools. There will be no patsies. And the worst teams even have something to play for: a seat at the table for next year.