Congratulations to the Alabama Crimson Tide, winner - for the second year in a row - of Monday 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 have done for the past three years, 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 (11-1, Pac-12) vs. 4th seed Wisconsin (8-5, Big Ten) -- winner: Oregon
2nd seed Kansas State (11-1, Big 12) vs. 3rd seed LSU (10-2, SEC) -- winner: Kansas State
Rose Bowl: Oregon over Kansas State. This was what actually happened in this year's Fiesta Bowl.
Fiesta Bowl Bracket
1st seed Notre Dame (12-0, independent) vs. 4th seed Louisville (10-2, Big East) -- winner: Louisville
2nd seed Georgia (11-2, SEC) vs. 3rd seed Oregon State (9-3, Pac-12) -- winner: Georgia
Fiesta Bowl: Georgia over Louisville. Yeah, that's right, I said it. I think Louisville would have beaten Notre Dame. The Irish were a fraud this year. I have no idea how they were unbeaten. The Cardinals beat a very solid Florida team in the Sugar Bowl this year, and I think Florida could have beaten Notre Dame. In any case, Georgia could have beaten any of them.
Sugar Bowl Bracket
1st seed Alabama (12-1, SEC) vs. 4th seed Northern Illinois (12-1, MAC) -- winner: Alabama
2nd seed Oklahoma (10-2, Big 12) vs. 3rd seed Florida State (12-1, ACC) -- winner: Florida State
Sugar Bowl: Alabama over Florida State. Florida State mopped up he floor this year with Northern Illinois. Alabama would have done the same and then given Florida State the same treatment.
Orange Bowl Bracket
1st seed Florida (11-1, SEC) vs. 4th seed Nebraska (10-3, Big Ten) -- winner: Nebraska
2nd seed Stanford (11-2, Pac-12) vs. 3rd seed Clemson (10-2, ACC) -- winner: Clemson
Orange Bowl: Clemson over Nebraska. Nebraska looked better than Florida in its loss. Clemson looked better than Stanford in its win.
Eastern Semifinal: Alabama over Clemson
Western Semifinal: Oregon over Georgia
National Championship Bowl: There was no doubt 'Bama was going to win the National Championship this year. But just think: if Ohio State wouldn't have been on probation, they would have been undefeated and Alabama wouldn't have even been in the championship game. Once again, the BCS manages to just squeak one out by the skin of its teeth! Then again, if we had actually gotten to see this play out, I wouldn't have been surprised in the least to see Oregon or Georgia win the big game. Ohio State might have even been in the mix if they had been allowed to play. And you never know what Cinderella would have started dancing if only there had been a ball. The only team we know for certain wasn't up to the challenge was Notre Dame. Sadly, for this season at least, we'll never know how the rest would have fared.
BONUS: The "N.I.T." of College Football
As I did last year, I also showed 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, MWC, Sun Belt and WAC), as well as the next-best available teams according to the BCS rankings and AP poll.
1st seed South Carolina (10-2, SEC) vs. 4th seed Arkansas State (9-3, Sun Belt) -- winner: South Carolina
2nd seed Northwestern (9-3, Big Ten) vs. 3rd seed Kent State (11-2, MAC) -- winner: Northwestern
Chick-fil-A Bowl: South Carolina over Northwestern
1st seed Michigan (8-4, Big Ten) vs. 4th seed Fresno State (9-3, MWC) -- winner: Michigan
2nd seed Texas (8-4, Big 12) vs. 3rd seed Vanderbilt (9-3, SEC) -- winner: Texas
Gator Bowl: Michigan over Texas
1st seed Texas A&M (10-2, SEC) vs. 4th seed Baylor (7-5, Big 12) -- winner: Texas A&M
2nd seed Utah State (10-2, WAC) vs. 3rd seed San Diego State (9-3, MWC) -- winner: Utah State
Alamo Bowl: Texas A&M over Utah State
1st seed UCLA (9-4, Pac-12) vs. 4th seed Tulsa (10-3, C-USA) -- winner: UCLA
2nd seed Boise State (11-1, MWC) vs. 3rd seed San Jose State (10-2, WAC) -- winner: Boise State
Insight Bowl: Boise State over UCLA
Outback Bowl: South Carolina over Michigan
Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M over Boise State
Capital One National Invitational Championship Bowl: Texas A&M over South Carolina