At face value, the upcoming College Football Playoff seems far more equitable for the gridiron game than the Bowl Championship Series ever managed to be during its 14-year reign. Sure, there were a couple of ready-made contests that provided what felt at face value like a definitive answer of supremacy for a given season. But over the long haul, the BCS often felt like it was making things up as it went along, jiggering the numbers for the benefit of the cartel.
Here’s the rub, though — it did lead to an advent of attention finally making its way to legitimate mid-major teams, what came to be known as BCS Busters during the era. Under the old fractious system, schools like Utah and Boise State and Hawaii and Marshall never would never have had the opportunity to argue that there were collusive forces working against them. Once the Bowl Coalition begat the Bowl Alliance begat the BCS, there was legitimacy to the gripe of teams like BYU in 1996 and Tulane in 1998 like never before. Now that there was a system in place, transparent if flawed, there was the ability to look at the numbers as they were being crunched that season and weigh things out at home.
Now, we are being led back into an era of uncertainty. At face value the new system might seem at least somewhat more favorable for mid-major football squads; the new system provides a guaranteed berth to the “highest-ranked” team from the five unaffiliated conferences into one of the CFP-affiliated bowl games. The BCS made Boise State famous, but ultimately in retrospect they are as famous for their landmark victories at the Fiesta Bowl as they are for the numerous times they missed out on a legitimate spot in an elite bowl pairing. Twice perfect seasons went unrewarded, as Utah rated higher each year even though in both cases Boise State was also a top-10 school in the BCS standings.
The third time it happened, they were at least offered an at-large berth… only to be paired against fellow BCS Buster TCU in the same Fiesta Bowl setting where they had more dramatically prevailed over Oklahoma in the Glendale night three years earlier. Once again the cartel worked the system to its advantage, mitigating the impact of having two high-quality Busters in a single season.We certainly got to see some landmark games where Cinderella stories were writ large; we were also treated to the Kids’ Table Bowl during the 2009-10 postseason.
And unless they hit the top-six threshold in the BCS standings or, after 2004, the top-12 mark — or had the most improbable series of events fall into your lap, as Northern Illinois did in 2012 — you had no guarantee of a spot. Should you have the misfortune of being one of the best 10 teams in the country, according to whichever formulation of polls and computers being utilized that season, it could still be nothing but pyrite under the pickaxe if there is another mid-major having an equally successful campaign.
The chase itself, the fact that one could watch the progress of the Broncos or Horned Frogs or Cardinals (either the Louisville or Ball State variety) week after week through October and November into the final announcement after Championship Saturday at the beginning of December, was half of the recognition equation for BCS Busters. Part of the allure was obviously the upsets over teams like the Sooners and the Crimson Tide and the Badgers in the Fiesta and the Sugar and the Rose Bowls. But in many ways it was the weekly standings that forced people to think about these teams for entire seasons.
So what could possibly be bad about a season of following the five mid-major conferences in the quest for a berth in one of these top-shelf bowl games? Here are five reasons why the College Football Playoff could doom the mid-major teams to obsolescence in a way that the BCS never could…