Maddening as college football's postseason is, fairness dictates one concession: It's better than it used to be.
Time was when bowls finalized matchups in mid-November. Time was when the champions of the Big Ten, Pacific 12, Big 12 and Southeastern Conference were obligated to specific bowls, precluding even an attempt to pit the season's two best teams.
Consider 1990. Second-ranked Georgia Tech won a share of the national championship by beating No. 19 Nebraska in the Citrus Bowl. Meanwhile, unranked Virginia faced No. 10 Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl.
And then there's 1984, when No. 1 Brigham Young completed its national title run by defeating unranked and 6-5 Michigan in the Holiday Bowl.
That said, the present bowl structure can't be torched fast enough.
Virginia Tech fans can relate. Their Hokies (11-1) are fifth in the Bowl Championship Series standings, a ranking that should dictate an enticing postseason encounter with a top-flight opponent.
But if Tech defeats Clemson in Saturday's ACC title game, it will return to the Orange Bowl, where the opponent figures to be the Big East champion, either Louisville, Cincinnati or West Virginia. None of those Big East outfits is ranked, and Louisville is 7-5 with losses to Florida International and Marshall.
That would be the worst record ever in a BCS game, preposterous in any season, more so in this, when the Hokies would be 12-1 and basking in a school record for wins.
One matchup that might spare the Orange Bowl another deserted stadium is Virginia Tech against 9-3 West Virginia, a reunion of a Big East rivalry that turned nasty as the Hokies headed to the ACC. South Beach crawling with Hokies and Mountaineers? That's reality TV waiting to happen!
One problem: The Orange Bowl is foolishly scheduled for Jan. 4, the Wednesday after kids return to school from holiday break. How many families, no matter how devoted to their team, can flock south then?
If Tech loses Saturday, it's almost certainly bound for the Dec. 31 Chick-fil-A Bowl. New Year's Eve in Atlanta is very fan-friendly, but the pairing does the ACC little good.
Sure, the opponent hails from the SEC. But while the Chick-fil-A ranks second in the ACC's bowl pecking order, it's usually saddled with the SEC's fourth, fifth or sixth team.
A bowl matching 11-2 Virginia Tech and 7-5 Auburn offers the Hokies and ACC little if any chance to improve their national image. A win is dismissed because of the Tigers' pedestrian record; a loss is ridiculed as proof the ACC can't compete.
The solution is a playoff, staged on campus sites until the final, with the bowls becoming consolation prizes, football's version of basketball's NIT.
But that's years, decades, perhaps lifetimes away, leaving us to grope for salves.
Start with schedules that make BCS games more accessible to the live and television audiences. Then qualify or scrap the automatic BCS bids awarded to the champions of the ACC, Big East, Big 12, Pac-12, Big Ten and SEC.
If you win an allegedly big-boy conference but fail to crack the top 15 nationally, sorry, you don't belong in a BCS game. Moreover, aside from your fans, no one else wants to see you in such.
Better yet, ignore the polls and retire the BCS standings (John Junker could host the farewell party at a gentlemen's club). Then appoint a selection committee for the major bowls, and give them autonomy and flexibility — the ACC champion need not be wedded to the Orange Bowl, nor the Big 12 winner to the Fiesta.
Create the best games. If Alabama and LSU are locked into the title contest, give us Oregon-Oklahoma State pyrotechnics. Give us Bud Foster's Virginia Tech defense against Wisconsin's Russell Wilson and Montee Ball, Stanford's Andrew Luck versus Michigan's Shoelaces Robinson, Houston's Case Keenum against Boise State's Kellen Moore.
Just give us something better.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun