Here are my goals:
1. To give EVERY team in August a legitimate chance to win a national championship (like UCF, Northern Illinois, Fresno State, etc.), especially if you win your conference championship.
2. To make as many teams as possible have their last game be one of significance toward a national championship drive.
You can go to previous years proposals below:
So on to this year. There were more changes in the college landscape from 2012 as the Big East and the Western Athletic Conference became no more. But, the American Athletic Conference came into being. The AAC received the automatic BCS berth from the Big East. Also, there is more on the horizon with the Big Ten adding Rutgers and Maryland next year, as well as other moves. But, we'll save that for next year.
This is the final product:
Some general notes:
*All seeds determined by the BCS for at-large teams, by computer rankings for conference champions not in the top 25 BCS rankings)
*The regular season needs to be completed for BCS conferences by the weekend before Thanksgiving (11/23) and the week prior to that for the non-BCS conferences (11/16) OR the non-BCS conference can decide to not host a championship game the weekend of the 23rd.
*Don't get completely tied up in the teams, but more the process and the seeds. Since this bracket is trying to seed based off of three different weeks all at the same time, there are going to be inconsistencies in team rankings. Trust the process!
*This is NOT an NCAA basketball bracket where you could have a tourney pick'em. Rather each round gets re-seeded much like the NFL and other leagues do.
Here's how I ended up with that bracket:
Original Draft (Building on the 2012 model)
Last year's model had seven at-large teams in addition to the eleven conference champions. Since there is one less conference this year, the structure needed to be revised. On the surface, one less non-BCS qualifier conference yielded the simple math of one more at-large team.
The four conference champions would host at-large teams on Thanksgiving weekend with an additional two at-large games to be played either at a neutral site (what I would prefer) or the site of the higher-seeded team. There were some different ways to work out the matchups, but I thought that the highest-seeded non-BCS conference champion (Northern Illinois) deserved a favorable matchup. Beyond that, the highest seeded at-large team should have the easiest opponent. Thus, the games ended up like so:
UCLA (AL8) at Northern Illinois (MAC)- A
Baylor (AL3) at Fresno State (MWC) - B
South Carolina (AL2) at Rice (CUSA)- C
Alabama (AL1) at Louisiana-Lafayette (Sun Belt) - D
Oregon (AL4) vs. Oklahoma (AL7)
Clemson (AL5) vs LSU (AL6)
The winners would move on to the weekend of the four BCS Conference Championship games. Additionally, Oklahoma State (as of the time of this draft) from the Big 12 and Central Florida (from the AAC) get byes to the conference championship weekend due to their BCS tie-in. If seeds held from Thanksgiving weekend, the games would make for a fun Saturday of 8 games (note that conference champions still get home games):
ACC Championship - Florida State vs Duke
Pac-12 Championship - Stanford vs Arizona State
SEC Championship - Auburn vs Missouri
Big Ten Championship - Ohio State vs Michigan State
Alabama (AL1) at UCF (AAC Champion) (Highest seed vs lowest seed remaining)
South Carolina (AL2) at Northern Illinois (MAC Champion)
Clemson (AL5) at Oklahoma State (Big 12 Champion)
Baylor (AL3) vs Oregon (AL4)
Winners from this round would match up in a final 8 the weekend of December 14. Games to be played at the higher-ranked conference champion (again rewarding a conference champion over an at-large team). If seeds held:
Baylor (AL3) at Florida State (ACC Champion)
Alabama (AL1) at Oklahoma State (Big 12 Champion)
Stanford (Pac-12 Champion) at Auburn (SEC Champion)
South Carolina (AL2) at Ohio State (Big Ten Champion)
Then, like is proposed for starting in 2014, a semi-final would occur around New Year's Day with the Championship the next week.
Version 2.0 (Only conference champions, quicker path to the championship)
I was pretty happy with the first bracket, but then Auburn beat Alabama, Ohio State lost, Oklahoma State lost, Northern Illinois lost and my bracket looked pretty inaccurate (although it's the process that counts!). It also wasn't sitting well with me that a #3 (Auburn) vs #5 (Missouri) was occurring in the round of 16. Could the winner of that game be given a bye to the semi-finals? Also, could the number 1 seed be advanced to the semi-finals? These thoughts gave birth to version 2 of the 2013 bracket.
Here's what it looked like BEFORE the results of conference championship weekend
And then AFTER the results of the weekend (Ohio State, Northern Illinois, and Oklahoma State losing)
In this model, the four non-BCS conference champs square off the weekend of Thanksgiving. The winner of these games would be inserted into the BCS conference championship weekend to play the champion of the Big 12 and the AAC. Once the results from conference championship weekend were completed and the new polls came out, the top two teams would get byes to the semi-finals. One thought in my head for this year was, if Ohio State won, who would get the second bye? That's a HUGE difference between having off and playing a very difficult game. Maybe some language to the effect of "if two top-8 BCS ranked teams are playing in a conference championship, that winner gets and automatic bid to the semi-finals. The remaining four teams would match up the weekend of December 14 to determine the other two teams to advance to the New Year's semi-final.
Version 3 (A hybrid of versions 1 and 2)
The idea of Alabama not being in the top 4 (or at the very least top 8) just didn't seem fair. So, this version bumped back the Big 12 and AAC conference champions to have to play in the Thanksgiving weekend round. The matchups for that round's four games would be set up to be the highest conference champion vs the second highest versus the second lowest. Then the first at-large team would get the third lowest conference champion and AL2 vs the 3rd conference champion.
BEFORE Conference Championship Saturday results, it looked like this:
AFTER the results, it looked like this.
*The Tide - Alabama lost one regular season game on an amazing and strange play to end a game that would have otherwise gone to overtime. It seems like they needed a shot. Having a second at-large team gives some incentive to teams to keep playing hard even if they do lose a game. How about an Alabama-Auburn rematch in the semi-finals?
*On the road - A few years ago, Fresno State had the motto "Anybody, Anytime, Anywhere." It would be fitting for them to earn a home game against a big school like Alabama or South Carolina. Also, having warm weather teams leave that comfort and play a meaningful December game in the snow intrigues me.
*Bowling? - Bowls could still happen. Bowl announcements were made this year on December 8. In the final bracket, only six teams are left after December 8...and four of those are ticketed into the semi-finals. Perhaps the two losers of the December 14 games could be matched up on a New Year's Day Bowl. Would that be enough time?
*Meaningfulness - I mentioned this last year also, but a team like Bowling Green would much rather have a chance to host South Carolina in a playoff than lowly 6-6 Pitt in the Little Caesar's Bowl in Detroit. Fresno State - vs USC in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl on December 21 or a chance to take on the team that most people still think is the best in the country on their turf. Michigan State's national championship hopes ended September 21st with a loss to Notre Dame (with four pass interference penalties). Winning the Big Ten Championship gets them a Rose Bowl date, but no shot at a national championship. Baylor and UCF play each other in the Tostito's Fiesta Bowl for bragging rights, but no ability claim stake to the #1 trophy.
Will it happen? Maybe some day. Next year brings the four-team playoff, but that's just going to cause a bunch of debate over who's #4 and who's #5 or #6. A bracket based on conference championships for ALL conferences is the best way to eliminate opinion and debate as much as possible.