Bracket For The NCAA Football Championship

(Note: This is the Who, What, Where and When. The Why can be found here)

Honestly, this is so easy those NCAA guys could do it in their sleep. Take the top 12 teams, rank ’em, and pit ’em against each other, giving the top four a first-week bye. The second week, No. 1 plays the winner of 5 vs. 12, No. 2 plays the winner of 6 vs. 11, etc.

Hey, if you want to, you can expand it to 16 teams. Or 24 teams, giving eight teams a first-round bye. But by then your post-season is getting pretty long — this isn’t the NBA, after all — so I would keep it at four rounds.

But what about poor Virginia Tech, you ask? They finished 13 in the rankings, with only two losses on the season. Haven’t we arbitrarily eliminated a team that had a legitimate right to consider itself one of the top 12 teams in the country? Aren’t they cheated by this system?

Yes, that case could be made. I will concede that there will always be arguments about teams in the ‘teens under this system. For this bracket, I’ve used the final BCS rankings. The NCAA can use whatever ranking system it wants; it doesn’t matter a whole lot, because if a team ends the regular season ranked 13th and gets eliminated from the championship playoffs, it’s not like anyone could say they were a legitimate contender to be No. 1. They were a legitimate contender to be No. 5, perhaps, but who really cares about No. 5?

The teams who are legit contenders, though, will have the chance to prove themselves, on the field, where it matters. Every year there are a handful of them, and only two get to actually play for the “championship.” Under this easy-to-implement system, 12 teams will.

For this exercise, I’ve tried to locate the games in warm-weather cities, preferably in cities that already have bowl games, and avoiding domes as much as possible. The top-ranked teams get the location that’s the closest to their campus. For some of the early games, we can even call them “bowls” if the NCAA thinks it will generate more revenue, but I think the fact that they’re mileposts along the road to a true college championship will make them important enough. The championship game is on January 1, the traditional final day of the college football season.

So here’s the prospective lineup:

WEEK 1 (December 11)
Game 1, Memphis, Tenn. (We’ll call it the Liberty Bowl): Wisconsin (5) vs. Missouri (12)
Game 2, Tampa, Fla.  (Tampa Bowl): Ohio State (6) vs. LSU (11)
Game 3, San Antonio, Texas (Alamo Bowl): Oklahoma (7) vs. Boise State (10)
Game 4, San Francisco, Calif. (California Bowl): Arkansas (8) vs. Michigan State (9)
First round Bye: Auburn (1), Oregon (2), TCU (3) and Stanford (4)

Week 2 (December 18)
Game 5, Jacksonville, Fla. (Gator Bowl): Auburn (1) vs. Game 4 winner
Game 6, San Diego, Calif. (Holiday Bowl) Oregon (2) vs. Game 3 winner
Game 7,  Dallas, Texas. (Cotton Bowl): TCU vs. Game 2 winner
Game 8, New Orleans, La. (Sugar Bowl): Stanford vs. Game 1 winner

Week 3 (December 24)
Game 9, Miami, Fla: Game 5 winner vs. Game 8 winner
Game 10, Pasadena, Calif.: Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 winner

Week 4 (January 1)
National Championship, Glendale Ariz.

Get your office pools ready!

Boycott The Bowls!

NCAA Division 1 Football is only sports league that holds its meaningless exhibition games at the end of the season, rather than the beginning of the season.

Check ’em out: there are 34 college bowl games, beginning with the “New Mexico Bowl” on December 18, right on through the “Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl” on January 9 … and that’s not counting the so-called “BCS National Championship Game” on January 10.

The latter, of course, is a national championship in name only. It will not feature two teams who have had to fight through a playoff process to reach the title game; instead, they will be teams who have been selected through an arbitrary process involving computer rankings and votes from so-called experts, for whom one criterion will no doubt be teams that will produce a large television audience.

More importantly, these two teams will have been IDLE for five or six weeks before the game, rather than playing a series of elimination games building up to a final matchup, the way it’s done in every other league on the planet. Think about it: this is supposedly the most important game of the year, but the teams will have seen no competitive action for more than a month beforehand. During this five or six weeks, the rest of us are supposedly being distracted by farces such as the “Pinstripe Bowl” or the (I kid you not) “Beef O’Brady’s Bowl.” I can’t wait to see the pride on the faces of the players who win that one, walking off the field with their gleaming Beef O’Brady’s trophy to take back to their school’s awards cabinet.

Thirty-five games means 70 teams will be playing “post-season” football this year. Are there 70 post-season-worthy teams in Division 1? A few years ago the NCAA instituted a laughable rule that teams can’t be invited to bowl games unless they win six games during their regular season. Honestly, it would be hard to set that bar any lower. So we now have the spectacle of truly mediocre teams hoping to get their sixth win so they can be “bowl-eligible” and maybe, with a 6-5 record, get an invitation to the “Humanitarian Bowl.”

Forgive us, NCAA, if we don’t watch this dreck.

Actually, the only way this system ever gets changed is if we DON’T watch it. And I don’t mean turning off the “Hawaii Bowl” so we can spend some time with our families on Christmas Eve. That’s an easy call, just as skipping 95 percent of these crappy matchups will be. But we as a sports-fan nation need to go all the way and turn our backs on January 10 when the Anointed Two face off in the so-called championship game. This game is no more meaningful than the other 34 games; it will not produce a true national champion.

I say ignore ’em all. Let that January 10 game have a ratings share of zero. Then maybe the NCAA will wise up and hold a real national championship.

A One-Way Drive In 1980

Preface: Maybe I have a strong internal calendar. I seem to remember a lot of key dates in my life ; I remember way more birthdays than I have a right to; and if I hear it’s the anniversary of something or other, it always seems to be more interesting to me than to the people around me. Whatever. Some people know important things; I know anniversaries. Anyway, 30 years ago this month I saw what still stands up as my favorite concert of all time — The Who at the Checkerdome in St. Louis. As I’ve thought about that show and all of the events that surrounded it, it occurred to me that that whole year of 1980 was one of the most significant in my life. I selected and started attending a new, out-of-state college; I cast my first presidential vote; I turned 21; I flew for the first time, and saw the ocean for the first time; and, most importantly, I met the girl I would end up spending the rest of my life with. So I decided I’d devote a few pages of this blog to the year of 1980, sort of following along as it happened, with the benefit of 30 years of hindsight. For those who shared at least part of that year with me, I hope this brings back good memories. If not, the money-back guarantee applies. All posts in this series will be in the category “1980,” for those playing the home version of our game. -js


The spring of 1980 found me living at my parents’ house, after 2-1/2 years at the University of Missouri. I’d left Mizzou at the end of the fall semester in 1979, with plans to finish my schoolin’ at a smaller college somewhere. First, though, I was going to take a semester off.

My friend Geoff was also back at home after having left Mizzou, but he had already started his second college stint, at CW Post in New York city. We had a literary friendship — we typed dozens, probably hundreds of letters back and forth, mostly, but not exclusively, talking about whatever music we were listening to. Music was a critical element of our friendship. We each “discovered” the Who’s Next album at about the same time, a thousand miles apart and almost a year before we met each other, and we both, I think, remain firm in the belief that it’s the greatest rock album of all time.

Who’s Next was released in 1971, but by 1980 the band had seen more than its share … Keep reading