[Bumped for being interesting. --LVS.]
Here's a radical yet simple solution to the BCS vs. playoff debate: Require that every team in contention for a spot in a BCS bowl game play 13 regular season football games, even if they are not in a conference that has a title game.
Unlike the many proposals that float around this time of year, what I am suggesting doesn't require elaborate bracketology, re-jiggering teams around into different conferences, or even forcing conferences to have title games. It only requires that we have four additional and very important football games to watch on the last weekend of the regular season.
Here's how to get there...
Mountain West - WAC Game of Champions
A basic premise of this whole idea is that only one team (if any) ends the season unbeaten. Nothing could go further toward making this happen then an annual game between the champions of the non-BCS conferences most likely to produce good unbeaten teams: the Mountain West and the WAC. At a minimum, the winner of this game would get an automatic trip to one of the BCS games.
If the winner were unbeaten, then they would control their destiny for a BCS title game shot.
Boise State has finished the regular season unbeaten in three of the past six years. Hawaii has done it once, Utah has done it twice, and both Boise and TCU threaten to do it again this year.
Were any of these teams deserving of a chance to play in the BCS title game due to their supposedly weaker schedules? A lot could be done to beef up those schedules by having the champions of these conferences play each other at the end of the year.
This season, it would likely be a 6th-ranked Boise State vs. a 4th-ranked TCU. Last year, it would have been an unbeaten Boise vs. an unbeaten Utah. That would have been a re-match of a hypothetical 2004 game when the same pair of teams also finished the regular season unbeaten.
In ANY recent season, the winner of this game would have beaten a well-ranked opponent and been deserving of an appearance in one of the BCS bowls.
So, that's one extra football game for two teams. The rest of the games go like this...
The "Conference Invitational Game"
With no conference title game, the Big Ten, Pac Ten and Big East champions never play a 13th regular season game. That should change with a "Conference Invitational Game" to be played by each of these conference champions. Their opponents would be the highest-ranked BCS teams NOT appearing in any other conference title game.
So this year, let's assume the champs would be Ohio State, Oregon and an unbeaten Cincinnati. The opponents for these teams would be the next highest BCS teams not otherwise locked into a conference title game, which would likely be names such as LSU (currently #8), Pitt (#9), Oklahoma State (#12), Iowa (#13), Penn State (#14), and so forth.
Does an unbeaten Cincinnati deserve a shot at the BCS title game? No? What if they have to stay unbeaten by beating LSU at the end of the regular season?
Likewise, an unbeaten independent (such as Notre Dame) or unbeaten Sun Belt team (if such a thing were possible) would be sent to one of these games. Also, an unbeaten team from the MAC or C-USA would go here instead of their own conference title game.
And, wherever possible, unbeaten teams would be forced to play each other in these games.
Again, the winners of these three games get the BCS bowl auto-bids.
So, how does the BCS title game get selected?
The Final Four
The four strongest teams from the games above will be seeded into Final Four BCS bowls games, with the two winners going on to play in the BCS title game.
How do you know your Final Four? At this point, you only have seven to choose from - those that have been forced to play and win that 13th game to end their regular season:
1. The ACC, SEC and Big 12 championship game winners. (3 teams)
2. The winner of the Mountain West vs. WAC conference champions game (1 team)
3. The winners of the Conference Invitational Games (3 teams)
If unbeaten teams were - whenever possible - deliberately forced to play each other in the above games, then there is a strong likelihood that there will be no more than four unbeaten teams remaining - if any at all.
Any team that DOES survive this to go 13-0 goes automatically to one of the Final Four slots.
After that, the highest BCS ranked teams remaining of the seven finalists will receive Final Four bids.
Just Win Baby
What does this fix? Well, nearly everything.
All 120 teams control their own destiny starting with the first week in September. Forget complaints about the discrimination against non-BCS conference teams. ANY team in ANY conference can win the national title by "simply" getting through January without ever losing a game.
Lose, and only then are you at the mercy of your schedule strength, your conference quality, the BCS computers and what-not.
Upsets happen and they are the friend of this system. Some of those seven finalists after the regular season will clearly NOT be title game ready. For example, the ACC Championship Game winner this year is most likely not going to be a team that anyone would recognize as deserving of a title shot.
Oklahoma LOST the Big 12 title a few years ago and was infamously granted a pass to the BCS title game anyway. But in this proposal, you're gone if you can't win your own conference title game. End of problem.
In some years, a supposedly "undeserving team" might crack the Final Four if there are not enough truly deserving amongst the final seven. But in virtually no season would a "deserving" team be left out - they would have had a chance to prove themselves
And as noted at the outset, this requires no major changes to any conference or elaborate playoff brackets. Very little tweaking to the current system. Just eight more football teams play that 13th regular season game each year, and a plus-one format for the BCS title game.
It all gets settled on the field.