From the Sidelines

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 4, 1998

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / November 4, 1998

Another college football season, another so-called method for determining the national championship of the sport.

This season, it is something called the Bowl Championship Series rankings. Even its name is unwieldy. Actually, it is quite simple, really.All you have to do is take the average of The Associated Press media poll and USA Today/ESPN coaches poll, add that to the average of the Hester & Anderson/Seattle Times, Jeff Sagarin’s rankings and New York Times rankings, plus the rank of schedule strength compared to other Division I- A teams divided by 25 and one point for each loss during the season.

The team with lowest total is the No. 1 team. For instance, UCLA was No. 1in the first ever BCS standings released last week with a total of 3.04.The Enigma code in World War II was probably easier to decipher.

The No. 1 and No. 2 teams at the end of the season play in the NationalChampionship game which this season is the Fiesta Bowl. Nice idea, havingthe top two teams in the country play for the championship. Novel conceptwhen it comes to college football in recent years.

One problem, though. As of this week, Ohio State, Tennessee, Kansas Stateand UCLA are all undefeated. Was that not the problem in the past, what todo when there was more than one undefeated team? And whose to say that Florida State and Florida, both of whom dropped early season games, may not be the best teams right now? Have you ever wonder why college basketball does not have this problem at the end of the season as to who No. 1 is? Or college baseball? Orcollege soccer? Or college hockey? It is called a playoff system, something that fans have been calling for for years but that college football consistently does a nice tap dance around.

Granted, the best teams in the country do not always win in those playoffs. But that is the beauty of it. They give a team that lost early inthe season, maybe due to an injury, inexperience or just a bad performance, a chance to win the championship.

A playoff would also give a team that was unheralded at the beginning of the season a chance. The 1958 LSU Tigers probably would not be able towin the national championship today because they were ranked 36th before the season. Tulane and Arkansas, unranked before this season andfor much of it, have slim hopes of playing in one of the four major bowls this year.

Here is a thought. Keep the BCS standings. Create a 16-team playoffsystem. The teams would be the champions of each of the 10 Division I-Aconferences (including independents) with the remaining six being the highest-ranked non-conference winners. The BCS standings would be usedto rank the teams from one to 16 in the playoff.

One thing that playoff will do is not penalize teams for playing a harder non-district schedule. Actually, by increasing the importance of the rankof schedule, teams would be rewarded for scheduling more attractive matchups early in the season. Who would the true fan rather see come toTiger Stadium, Utah State or Florida State? It would also serve as a better gauge of a team. LSU rose to No. 6 in thecountry after defeating the likes of Arkansas State and Idaho. KansasState has feasted on a number of cupcakes to rise to No. 4. Whatever the solution is, it needs to be found. Name a team sport and anundisputable champion can usually be found. Why not college football?

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