This time of year, everyone argues about how great it would be for NCAA football to use a playoff system, like the NFL does. But nobody asks themelves ""what if the NFL borrowed the postseason system from the college game?"" Maybe it's the NFL that has to reconsider its postseason structure, not college football. I figure if the NFL adopted the bowl system, we'd have a pretty exciting postseason. Here's how it would shape up this year.
First, because all bowls have conference tie-ins, we have to align the NFL divisions with the FBS conferences, which I'll do according to the power of the divisions and taking into account geographic considerations.
To start off, the NFC North will become the Big Ten, because of obvious geographical reasons, as well as the fact that the best teams from this division always flame out in the postseason (Packers in the 2008 NFC Championship at Lambeau, Bears in the 2007 Super Bowl).
The AFC North will tie into the Big East with teams such as Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, the AFC East will connect to the ACC with teams in Miami and Boston and the AFC West will match up with the Pac-10. Then the AFC South will take the Big 12 with those high-power passing attacks (Indianapolis and Houston) and the NFC East will take the SEC, the two powerhouse divisions in their respective leagues.
That covers the six BCS conferences, but we've still got two NFL divisions left. So the weak NFC South will go with the mid-major Conference USA, and the NFC West will tie into the WAC.
Now that that's taken care of, we'll move ahead to the bowl games. Remember, a team must be .500 or better to qualify for a bowl game. There are 18 such teams in the NFL, creating nine bowl games this winter.
We'll begin with four non-BCS bowl games. Kicking off the bowl season is the International Bowl between Baltimore and Atlanta. Both teams are coming off losses, but squeak into postseason play at 6-6. Fans will surely flock to Toronto to see Joe Flacco attempt to top a career performance in his season finale last week against Green Bay, while Atlanta will start Chris Redman in a quarterback duel for the ages.
Next is the Holiday Bowl between Denver and Houston. Broncos fans will be unhappy their team's 8-4 record wasn't good enough to qualify them for an at-large berth to a BCS bowl after losing the Pac-10 title to San Diego. But they have to remember there are sexier teams out there that the pollsters want in the big bowl games. Meanwhile, Texans fans have patiently awaited head coach Gary Kubiak to guide the Texans into the postseason, and now they finally see their dreams materialize.
Steelers fans will be disappointed with their bowl selection, as Pittsburgh accepts a bid to the Meineke Car Care Bowl with a lackluster 6-6 record. The Dolphins also had a down year after looking to build on their surprise 2008 ACC title, but their 6-6 record places them in this lower-level bowl game.
Two teams not expected to make the postseason get their chance in the Peach Bowl, with the Jacksonville Jaguars matched up against the New York Jets, setting up a fierce rematch after the two teams battled for bowl positioning a few weeks ago.
Now it's time for the big boys and the BCS bowl game matchups.
The Chargers take their Pac-10 crown into Pasadena to gear up for the annual stomping of a Big Ten team in the Tournament of Roses. Minnesota won the Big Ten, but is destined for bigger and better things, so the Rose Bowl continues to show its loyalty to the Big Ten by bumping up the fortunate Packers, like it did with Illinois a few years back.
Later on New Year's Day the SEC champion Dallas Cowboys take on the Conference USA champion New Orleans Saints. This selection elicits the most controversy, but fans can't expect the media to reward the Saints when they play in a mid-major conference. Think of New Orleans as the TCU of the NFL. Thrashing each and every opponent isn't enough to go to the national championship game. The strength of schedule for the Saints is poor, with their best win coming against a five-loss Patriots team. The Saints did beat the 8-4 Eagles in week two, but no voters remember anything that happened that early in the season.
Two at-large selections fall here with the Arizona Cardinals and the New York Giants facing off in Tempe. The Giants enter the game with five losses, but with their fan base and exciting, big-name players, they get the nod for the final at-large berth over Denver. The Cardinals' respectable 8-4 record is also good enough to obtain an at-large bid out of the WAC (like Boise State).
The ACC champion New England Patriots earn the trip to Miami to face an at-large selection in the Philadelphia Eagles. The Patriots come out of a weak conference, but are fortunate enough to receive an automatic BCS bowl bid.
BCS National Championship
Finally, a week after New Year's Day, we get to the national championship, and the people get what they want with Peyton Manning and the Colts taking on Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings. New Orleans fans can't believe the Vikes get the nod here, but the national title game has gotten in the habit of taking Big Ten teams no matter how they fare the year before. The BCS once again satisfies itself by winding up with two big name teams and two big name quarterbacks in its title game.
Want to see the bowl system take over the NFL? Start the petition by e-mailing Scott at email@example.com.