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The Voice: Imperfect bowl system beats the alternative

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The_Voice_Matt_Lepay_200.jpgAs the college football regular season hits the home stretch, the annual debate continues as to why the BCS stinks, and why there should be a playoff.

At the same time, if you are a Badger fan, isn't this kind of fun? At least your team is in the conversation. Yes, the average computer ranking vs. Ohio State has closed from five spots to one, but overall the Badgers remain seventh in the BCS poll, while the Buckeyes continue to be ninth.

Nationally, the talk continues whether TCU or Boise State will again be denied a shot at the national title. Who is the best one-loss team out there? Is it really LSU, or is Stanford, Nebraska, or one of the three Big Ten teams with one bump worthy of consideration?  

Playoff talk will continue until there is one. On Dan Patrick's nationally syndicated radio show last Friday, OSU coach Jim Tressel said "Within five years we will be positioned for a playoff of sorts." Badgers' Coach Bret Bielema says he loves the current bowl system, but has added he can live with the idea of a "plus one" format, which essentially is a four-team playoff.

In last week's edition of Sports Illustrated, there is a bracket for a 16-team playoff. Others have come up with ideas for an eight-, 10- or 16-team tournament. Some are well thought out, while others are just people throwing stuff against the wall to see what might stick.

If you think about it, what really happens quickly in college athletics? That is not meant as a knock, but if college football ever does get a playoff, my guess is that it would start at four teams. Then in time, it could grow to eight, then maybe 10 or 12, etc.

Look at the NCAA basketball tournament. It has grown, but it didn't jump from eight to 68 overnight.

(Note: Remember the NCAA does not run college football's postseason. Bowls work with conferences plus Notre Dame to develop what we have today. I am using the basketball tournament simply as an example of how the world of college athletics tends to work gradually.)

As frustrating as the BCS can be for many fans, myself included, believe this system is better than what we had before, which basically was no system. In 1984, BYU won the national title by beating Michigan in the Holiday Bowl. That year the Wolverines finished with a 6-6 record.

Imagine the outcry today if the national champion earned the crown by beating a .500 team in a bowl game.

While fans of TCU and Boise State wonder whether they will get to see their teams play in the title game, I must agree with those who say that today's system at least gives those programs a chance to play in big stage bowl games.

So far, that has not been the national championship game, but what college football fan will ever forget the Broncos' 2007 Fiesta Bowl classic with Oklahoma? Prior to the BCS era, I don't believe we would have seen that matchup.

If Tressel is right and a playoff is on the way within five years, no doubt many fans will rejoice. In the meantime, fans and many in the media will continue to vent.

So go ahead and vent. But remember Badger fans, your team remains in the conversation for a BCS bowl bid. The system if far from perfect, but with two games left in the regular season, the Badgers remain a major player in the race.

Sure beats the alternative, doesn't it?

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It needs to be noted that when BYU won the National Championship in 1984 they were required to participate in the Holiday Bowl. They had no choice.

At the time of the bowl game BYU was ranked #1 and Washington was ranked #3. Washington was not contractually obligated to any bowl game (USC was going to the Rose Bowl). Washington was given the opportunity to play BYU in the Holiday Bowl (a #1 vs #3 matchup, not bad) but refused the offer because they wanted to play in a bowl game with a bigger payout. Washington had the opportunity to prove BYU wasn't legit and they refused.
Once BYU was crowned National Champion Washinton raised quite a fuss.

One other note is that BYU plated Washington at the start of the next season (1985) and blew them out 31-3.