as I did last year, I'd like to imagine a world in which we had been treated to a month of playoff-level excitement. A world where we had gotten to see 16 of the season's top-ranked college football teams battle for the ultimate, indisputable title.
Here is what it might have looked like. I have bracketed and seeded the teams according to their final regular-season BCS rankings, with some consideration given to tradition (e.g., SEC champion in the Sugar Bowl bracket) and geography. I also used the rule of no more than one team per conference in any given bracket.
Rose Bowl Bracket
1st seed Oregon (12-0, Pac-10) vs. 4th seed Oklahoma State (10-2, Big 12) -- winner: Oregon
2nd seed Arkansas (10-2, SEC) vs. 3rd seed Boise State (11-1, WAC) -- winner: Boise State
Rose Bowl: Oregon over Boise State. Arkansas had a solid season, but lost its bowl game. Boise State had an even more solid season and won its bowl game. Oregon was two seconds away from the title.
Fiesta Bowl Bracket
1st seed TCU (12-0, Mountain West) vs. 4th seed Nevada (12-1, WAC) -- winner: TCU
2nd seed Ohio State (11-1, Big Ten) vs. 3rd seed LSU (10-2, SEC) -- winner: Ohio State
Fiesta Bowl: TCU over Ohio State. The Buckeyes and Horned Frogs both looked impressive in their bowl games, but I have to give the nod to TCU. Ohio State’s only loss in the regular season was to Wisconsin, which got beat by undefeated TCU in the Rose Bowl.
Sugar Bowl Bracket
1st seed Auburn (13-0, SEC) vs. 4th seed Connecticut (8-4, Big East) -- winner: Auburn
2nd seed Oklahoma (11-2, Big 12) vs. 3rd seed Michigan State (11-1, Big Ten) -- winner: Oklahoma
Sugar Bowl: Auburn over Oklahoma. No brainer.
Orange Bowl Bracket
1st seed Stanford (11-1, Pac-10) vs. 4th seed Virginia Tech (11-2, ACC) -- winner: Stanford
2nd seed Wisconsin (11-1, Big Ten) vs. 3rd seed Missouri (10-2, Big 12) -- winner: Wisconsin
Orange Bowl: Stanford over Wisconsin. Wisconsin lost a squeaker in the Rose Bowl, but could have taken Missouri, which lost to Iowa in its own bowl. Meanwhile, Stanford looked unbeatable in the Orange.
Eastern Semifinal: Auburn over Stanford.
Western Semifinal: Oregon over TCU.
National Championship Bowl: Well, we all know the answer to this one. Or do we? If we had actually gotten to see this play out, I wouldn't have been surprised in the least to see surprisingly strong TCU and Stanford in the big game. And Ohio State, Oklahoma and Boise State all sure looked strong in their own respective games. Sadly, for this season at least, we'll never know.
If we had five megaconferences, here is what the playoffs might have looked like…
Conference Championship Games
ACC: Virginia Tech over Florida State
Big Ten: Wisconsin over Michigan State
Big West: TCU over Oklahoma
Pacific: Oregon over Nevada
SEC: Auburn over South Carolina
Rose Bowl: Oregon over Arkansas
Fiesta Bowl: TCU over Ohio State
Sugar Bowl: Auburn over Virginia Tech
Orange Bowl: Stanford over Wisconsin
Eastern Semifinal: Auburn over Stanford
Western Semifinal: Oregon over TCU
National Championship: Bowl: Auburn over Oregon