The BCS and bowl system anger many. Odds are any type of playoff will as well. We’re years away from change of any kind, but we have an issue that should be fixed now. Well, we have lots of issues that should be fixed now, but we have one that needs to be. It should be a step in the direction of making a college football postseason truly mean something. Like everything else, it won’t be because of money, money, and, of course, money, but it’s a plague on the bowl season as we know it. It’s the 6-6 team.
There’s a certain amount of pride in going to a bowl game. There are only a handful of programs that have a legitimate shot at winning a National Championship year in and year out. For many others there is the dream. And for even more there is just the hope of finding success. For those that success if being selected to play in a bowl game. It’s something you earn and should be a reward for the team and its players (and sometimes the fans depending on where you end up).
While a number of things diminish what the bowl season once meant, the sheer number of games is probably the most discussed. This season there are 35 bowl games, meaning 70 teams are selected. You don’t need to be a mathematician to know that’s more than half of the country. Quite a bit more. Which means it’s way too many. The bowl season started on December 18 and lasts until January 10. Remember when the bowls revolved around New Year’s? Not so much anymore. The first bowls were 14 days before January 1.
My desired scenario consists of a team having to win at least two-thirds of their games to become eligible. In other words, you should go at least 8-4. That means you’re good. Not great, but also far from bad and definitely not just average. That change won’t happen, again because of that money thing, but even if we can’t eliminate the 7-5 teams, the 6-6 teams have to go. If for no other reason than they could come out of bowl season with a losing record. If a loss could push you to 6-7, you do not belong.
Take Saturday for instance. The bowl season kicked off with a matchup of 6-6 teams. Hours later, UTEP had lost to finish their year 6-7. That’s not good. There should be no “at least we went bowling.” Going bowling doesn’t negate the fact that your final record is a losing one. You were the worse team on the field more times than you were the better one. Sure you won as many as you lost during the regular season, but why should you be rewarded for that? You should have to win more. Bowls are a reward. Or at least they should be.
Tomorrow night, we’ll see another 6-6 team in action. Louisville will battle 8-4 Southern Miss in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s We Need More Apostrophes Bowl. I’m happy for Charlie Strong for having a season deemed more successful than predicted. I believe good things are ahead for Strong and the Cardinals. I do not, however, believe they should be bowling. They played better than expected and lost some close games, but again they didn’t win more than they lost. It may not be that simple, but it really should be.
FIU, Georgia Tech, East Carolina, Illinois, Army, Tennessee, Washington, Clemson, Georgia, Middle Tennessee, and Kentucky also went 6-6 (way to represent SEC East!). Add those to Louisville and the two that already played – BYU and UTEP – and there are 14 teams in the postseason that finished .500. Not above. 500. Exactly .500. That’s seven bowl games worth. Or 20% of total bowl participation. Way too much. Only two of those teams face off against each other, meaning there is a chance (however remote it might be) that 13 teams could come out of bowl games at 6-7. The BCS isn’t the only problem we have.
The reward of going 6-6 should be just that – going 6-6. You didn’t have a winning record, but you didn’t have a losing one either. It’s something to build upon and work toward the goal of making a bowl game next season. But they’ll continue to be rewarded because bowls aren’t being cut. Ones that fold are replaced and 6-6 teams fill the slots. Three bowl games wouldn’t be discontinued, let alone seven, so we’re stuck with the middle of the pack. The teams most of us wouldn’t pay to see and the ones fans don’t even go out to watch. We watch the games on television and wonder why the stands are so empty. The reason is simple: no one wants mediocrity. We want the bowls to mean more than a chance to not finish 6-7.