As the BCS careens toward its latest controversy - a seemingly unavoidable rematch between LSU and Alabama - it's only natural to hear renewed calls for a true playoff. A four-team playoff, eight-team playoff ... heck, even a 16-team playoff.
But here's a better idea: How about no playoff, and junk the BCS and return to the good ol' days?
The most glorious bowl season in the history of college football - and this really isn't in dispute - took place on Jan. 2, 1984. On that day, the Big Four bowl games (Cotton Bowl at the time, before Fiesta bought its way into the exclusive club) hosted seven of the top eight teams, and the national championship for the 1983 season wasn't decided until the very last minute of the last game.
That was well before ideas such as the Bowl Coalition, Bowl Alliance and let alone the BCS were conceived. Conference tie-ins reigned supreme, and the national championships were determined free of interference from PR firms, TV networks and computers.
This week's BCS Bowl Projections:
BCS National Championship: LSU vs. Alabama - We've already beaten this horse beyond death for three weeks, and nothing that happened this week (or will happen next week) should change that. There is a reason why most movie sequels are duds, and this one is headed that way.
Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Wisconsin - Rick Neuheisel for sure would like this to be 1984, when he hoisted the Rose Bowl MVP, but he'll be getting a pink slip instead after the Ducks try their best to top USC's 50-0 wipeout of his Bruins. Wisconsin will properly avenge their Hail Mary loss at Michigan State.
Sugar Bowl: Michigan vs. Houston - The 10-2 Wolverines barely squeeze into the top 14, which makes the Sugar Bowl, without the ability to pick an SEC team, very grateful. The Cougars, meanwhile, may be playing for a shot to be the only unbeaten team left standing - but even that won't net them a national championship.
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Stanford - OSU did its best to win Bedlam and make a case for the BCS title game, but the voters - not enough of them, at least - don't change their minds. If anything, this will be a shootout between Andrew Luck and Brandon Weeden.
Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Louisville - The BCS's worst nightmare continues. A year after unranked and 8-4 UConn got pasted in the Fiesta Bowl, it's the Orange's turn to cry uncle. The 7-5 Cardinals get the Big East's automatic bid after UConn shocks Cincinnati.
To quickly recap what happened on that memorable day in 1984: Second-ranked Texas lost to No. 7 Georgia, 10-9, in the Cotton Bowl, with the game turning late on a botched Texas punt. Then third-ranked Auburn kicked three field goals to beat No. 8 Michigan in the Sugar Bowl, 9-7. Finally, fifth-ranked upstart Miami pulled off a dramatic upset of No. 1 and unbeaten Nebraska in the Orange Bowl, 31-30, the game decided when Cornhuskers quarterback Turner Gill's 2-point conversion pass in the final minute fell incomplete.
The only dud of the day was the Rose Bowl, when fourth-ranked Illinois was routed in a shocker by a 6-4-1 UCLA team quarterbacked by Neuheisel.
Nebraska coach Tom Osborne could've opted to kick the PAT in the Orange Bowl, the tie would've left the Huskers as the only unbeaten team, keeping them at No. 1 and giving Osborne his first national championship. But the loss resulted in Nebraska, Texas, Auburn, Georgia and Miami each with one loss, all with a claim to the mythical title. Nebraska and Texas each had its only loss by one point in a bowl game; Georgia's only loss was by 6 to Auburn; and Auburn's only blemish a 20-7 defeat against Texas.
The team that had the weakest resume and the worst loss by far was Miami, which was drubbed in its opener, 28-3, by a 9-2-1 Florida team that lost to both Georgia and Auburn.
Amidst considerable debate and controversy, Miami was voted No. 1 by both the AP writers and UPI coaches poll, giving Howard Schnellenberger's team its first national championship and launching the Hurricanes dynasty that would last a decade.
Advance 28 years, and we have a system that produces no less controversy and a champion that's still every bit as mythical as in 1984. And what's far worse is that we have a much more diluted regular season and completely meaningless bowl games outside of one.
During the 1983 season, this is the list of non-conference teams the aforementioned title contenders played:
- Nebraska - Penn State, UCLA, Syracuse, Minnesota, Wyoming
- Texas - Auburn, Oklahoma, North Texas
- Auburn - Texas, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Southern Miss
- Georgia - UCLA, South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Temple
- Miami was an independent, but its schedule included only one team (East Carolina) that's not from one of today's BCS conferences
So five teams, only one played against a I-AA team (Texas vs. North Texas), none played more than one non-BCS opponent and each team except Miami played an eventual conference champion in its non-conference slate. And UCLA, after losing to Nebraska, Georgia and BYU in its non-conference schedule, actually had plenty to be proud of in losing just once in Pac-10 play and pounding the Big Ten champ in the Rose Bowl.
Unfortunately, those were the glory days. Now teams avoid a tough non-conference schedule like infectious diseases, all in the hopes of not spoiling a run at the still-mythical national championship. Just about all the previously big bowl games are totally superfluous rubbish, strewn over up to two weeks to complete what used to be handled in one day. And this is progress?
Consider, if the BCS never existed, this is what we could have this season (and just like 1984, with New Year's Day on a Sunday) on Jan. 2, 2012:
- Sugar Bowl: No. 1 LSU vs. No. 4 Stanford (AP rankings)
- Orange Bowl: No. 3 Oklahoma State vs. No. 5 Virginia Tech
- Cotton Bowl: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 7 Houston
- Rose Bowl: No. 8 Oregon vs. No. 15 Wisconsin
If LSU beats Andrew Luck and Stanford, no doubt the Tigers will be crowned as the national champion. But if Stanford pulls the upset, LSU, Alabama, OSU, Stanford, VT and even, gulp, Houston, reprising Miami of 1984, would all have a claim to the title.
Wouldn't that lineup be far better than our actual BCS bowl projections? What we'll end up is a surely anticlimactic replay of a "Game of the Century" and a bunch of exhibition games interrupted by endless hype for an entire week.
It's ironic that three weeks after that memorable bowl fest, while the Los Angeles Raiders were pummeling the Washington Redskins on their way to the Super Bowl title, a nascent Silicon Valley company unveiled an iconic ad that was transcendental both in what it sold and how it created the the Super Bowl commercial craze. It promised that "1984 won't be like 1984."
Only if college football today could be more like 1984.
Samuel Chi is the proprietor of BCSGuru.com and managing editor of RealClearSports. Sam's college football and BCS analysis, exclusively for SB Nation, will appear on Sundays and Mondays throughout the season. Follow him on Twitter at BCSGuru.