Congratulations to the Alabama Crimson Tide, winner of last night's so-called "National Championship Bowl" and holder of this year's mythical NCAA football crown. I say "mythical" because, while I believe they have a good claim to the title, for some reason we still don't have a true playoff system to definitively settle the matter. So, as I did last year and the year before, 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 (11-2, Pac-12) vs. 4th seed Oklahoma (10-3, Big XII) -- winner: Oregon
2nd seed Arkansas (10-2, SEC) vs. 3rd seed Wisconsin (11-2, Big Ten) -- winner: Arkansas
Rose Bowl: Oregon over Arkansas. This one really could go either way, but I've got to give the edge to the Ducks and their brain-implodingly tacky uniforms.
Fiesta Bowl Bracket
1st seed Oklahoma State (11-1, Big XII) vs. 4th seed Clemson (10-3, ACC) -- winner: Oklahoma State
2nd seed Stanford (11-1, Pac-12) vs. 3rd seed South Carolina (10-2, SEC) -- winner: Stanford
Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State over Stanford. This is exactly what happened in this year's Fiesta Bowl.
Sugar Bowl Bracket
1st seed LSU (13-0, SEC) vs. 4th seed West Virginia (9-3, Big East) -- winner: LSU
2nd seed Boise State (12-1, Mountain West) vs. 3rd seed Baylor (10-3, Big XII) -- winner: Boise State
Sugar Bowl: LSU over Boise State. Boise State looked good yet again, but - last night's game notwithstanding - LSU has been dominant all season.
Orange Bowl Bracket
1st seed Alabama (11-1, SEC) vs. 4th seed Michigan (10-2, Big Ten) -- winner: Alabama
2nd seed Kansas State (10-2, Big XII) vs. 3rd seed Virginia Tech (11-2, ACC) -- winner: Kansas State
Orange Bowl: Alabama over Kansas State. The SEC owns the Big XII this year.
Eastern Semifinal: Alabama over LSU
Western Semifinal: Oregon over Oklahoma State
National Championship Bowl: 'Bama looked pretty unstoppable last night. But who knows? If we had actually gotten to see this play out, I wouldn't have been surprised in the least to see Oklahoma State or Oregon win the big game. And West Virginia and Arkansas sure looked strong in their own bowl games and could have been Cinderellas at the ball if there had been a ball. Sadly, for this season at least, we'll never know.
BONUS: The "N.I.T." of College Football
This year, 70 teams participated in 35 bowl games. Many of these were barely-worthy 6-6 teams, but there were a few good ones in there as well. Here is what a second-tier 16-team tournament might have looked like. I've included all of the conferences champions without a spot in the main tournament (C-USA, MAC, Moutain West, Sun Belt and WAC), as well as the next-best available teams according to the BCS rankings and AP poll.
1st seed Houston (13-1, C-USA) vs. 4th seed Arkansas State (10-2, Sun Belt) -- winner: Houston
2nd seed Penn State (9-4, Big XII) vs. 3rd seed Auburn (8-5 SEC) -- winner: Auburn
Chick-fil-A Bowl: Auburn over Houston
1st seed Georgia (10-4, SEC) vs. 4th seed Louisiana Tech (8-5, WAC) -- winner: Georgia
2nd seed Southern Miss (12-2, C-USA) vs. 3rd seed Florida State (9-4, ACC) -- winner: Florida State
Gator Bowl: Georgia over Florida State
1st seed Michigan State (11-3, Big Ten) vs. 4th seed Ohio (10-4, MAC) -- winner: Michigan State
2nd seed Texas (8-5, Big XII) vs. 3rd seed Notre Dame (8-5, Independent) -- winner: Texas
Alamo Bowl: Michigan State over Texas
1st seed TCU (11-2, Moutain West) vs. 4th seed BYU (10-3, Independent) -- winner: TCU
2nd seed Nebraska (9-4, Big Ten) vs. 3rd seed Cincinnati (10-3, Big East) -- winner: Cincinnati
Insight Bowl: Cincinnati over TCU
Outback Bowl: Georgia over Auburn
Cotton Bowl: Michigan State over Cincinnati
Capital One National Invitational Championship Bowl: Michigan State over Georgia