This is a terrible time to start arguing for a plus-one format. After Tuesday's playoff meeting between conferences and school presidents, we might never use the term again. College football's getting a four-team playoff, no matter how big a show Nebraska's chancellor makes of fearing the future. The playoffs will be distinct from the bowls, and won't simply be an extra game bolted on the end.
But have we articulated to ourselves just what would be so unacceptable about a plus-one?
It wouldn't mean any less football -- it might even mean more. It would mean a far more legit No. 1-vs.-No. 2 championship than we've ever had. And it would completely preserve the entire bowl system, or at least the parts anybody cares about preserving. It would even make the bowls better all the way down by bumping out the two worst teams.
The only real difference: in a playoff, there would be no room for intervention between the opening of the postseason and the title game, even if the TV networks are stuck with a Cincinnati vs. TCU final. In a plus-one, the whole thing gets reset after the bowls, and a selection committee or poll picks the top two teams, which would require an even more carefully selected group of selectors.
And it wouldn't look like a bracket. It would be hard to make a visual. You could come up with one on your own, but it would just be a big glob.
Just for the sake of understanding evil before we cast it out (I'm on your side!), let's look back at two things. First, what last year's bowl lineup could've looked like -- you'll note moving LSU and Alabama back into the bowl pool means no room for 6-6 Purdue and 6-7 UCLA (they might still make it in, due to a lack of eligible Pac-12 teams, but ain't nobody got time for that), along with no suspect BCS invite for Virginia Tech.
Basically, in this particular year, every game with a Big Ten or ACC tie gets better if a plus-one system moves No. 1 and No. 2 back into regular bowls. We still get an actual championship game afterward, but now multiple bowls have direct title implications.
This would be worth it just to get Nebraska and Oklahoma playing again, right? That looks better than what we got before, and we'd get a game between Nos. 2 and 3 for a shot at LSU, provided the Tigers' defense could stop Andrew Luck. That's pretty much the same thing as what the playoffs would've given us.
And here we have what the last 25 years of top bowls would've looked like under a BCSified plus-one. And, to keep things simple, we'll modify it in a few ways:
- The Rose Bowl gets the Big Ten and Pac-[number] champs. In the event of a tie in years without conference championship games, it gets the highest-rated AP team. I ignored BCS rankings for this whole thing, since there were some years in there during which we hated the formula more than we did during others.
- The Sugar gets the SEC champ, the Orange the ACC, and the Fiesta either the Big 12 or the higher-rated Big 8 or Southwest champ. The Big 12 didn't exist until 1996, you'll recall.
- Just to keep it simple, the bowl with the lowest-ranked automatic entrant gets the highest-ranked remaining at-large, and so on. In the 2000s, this usually means, like, the Orange Bowl gets the No. 3 team.
That's it. After that, the two top-ranked teams play at a neutral site that was bid out in advance, and that's the title game. Let's breeze through the last 25 years of such a system.
The Miami Era
1991 gave us another split championship, between Don James' crowning glory at Washington and Dennis Erickson's unbeaten Canes. The Huskies ranked second in the country in both offense and defense despite playing three top-10 teams, while Miami beat four top-11 teams and had the nation's best defense. I think they'd meet in the title round.
And in 1992, another one that actually happened -- Alabama beat Miami, 34-13, in the Sugar. Both should make it back in this scenario as well. Miami's bowl opponent, Texas A&M, had beaten only one ranked team all year, while Syracuse had already lost twice.
The Nebraska Era
Florida State's best team ever really did face Nebraska in 1993, winning 18-16. But that 1994 game never happened, despite Tom Osborne's attempt to sway Joe Paterno into lobbying for it. Still more Nebraska in 1995, with another game that actually happened.
I've got 1996 Florida getting vengeance on the Huskers in the first post-Tommie Frazier year and earning a rematch (ewwwwww!) with FSU, just as they did in the Sugar that year. This was a pretty easy call, since No. 4 Ohio State beat No. 2 Arizona State for realsies in the Rose and had a much better defense.
1997 marked the last-ever year without a championship game, so of course it went down as another split title. It would've given us a sure classic with a plus-one. The top defense against the top offense, Charles Woodson vs. Ahman Green, and the plus-one's starting to seem more and more okay. I apologize.
Everything's Mostly The Same Here On Out
So that's that. Now that we've given the plus-one our full attention for a moment, we can now dismiss it forever, right?
While we’re here, let’s watch some college football videos from SB Nation’s new YouTube channel together: