SBN's own Bill Connelly did some BCS alternative ruminations earlier today, all of them trying to fix a broken system that is geared toward historically powerful college football sports teams, and not other ones. It's not really a battle between haves and have-nots; it's more like a class struggle between haves and other haves. It is pretty amusing to see the wealthiest athletic programs argue over a system that benefits them more than they realize, quibbling over minor details.
But in their brainstorming about possible ways to determine the ultimate champion, he reviews the old methods as well as potential new systems such as the "plus one" and the conventional bracket playoff. Some of these would include a MAC team. Some wouldn't — provided they weren't one of the top eight teams, which they never are. Even if Ball State had gone undefeated through the MAC Championship, they might've gone into the top ten. But a MAC team has never been in the top 10 entering their bowl game; three times a team finished exactly 10th (Miami in 1974 and 2003, Marshall in 1999).
It remains without a doubt that even though Marshall went undefeated in '99, the '03 RedHawks team was a top-five team. No doubt in my mind. Their lone loss was to Iowa, who also finished in the top 20, but essentially bore through everyone else they faced, from Northwestern to Cincinnati (then in C-USA) to ranked BGSU (twice) to Louisville in the GMAC Bowl. Remember that this was the year USC and LSU had the split national championship. Much was up for grabs, and perhaps this is the selective memory taking over but I think they could've played any one of them rather well, perhaps even won.
But the 2003 Miami teams are anomalies. They come around once every 10, 20, 30 years in the league. There has never been, in my opinion, a Greatest Team Of All Time that frequented the hustle belt. It might happen in the future, but to become great you not only need skill players on offense, but a defense that is not only sound fundamentally, but big strong, and about 20 players deep. This is what truly separates an SEC team from a MAC team: it's not speed (although they are faster) but sheer depth. The system is set up so that the best players choose the best teams, and the rest filters down into the lower conferences.
Three things make MAC football great: 1) the small handful of September upsets, 2) the MAC Championship and 3) seeing the stars go to the NFL and succeed. That is the list. Bowls are nice, but it entirely feels like a bonus round, as it should be, rather than the reward. Here's one shot to beat a team perceived to be of similar stature and strength. Go get 'em. If the season ended annually with having the MAC championship go into a packed 80,000-seat stadium and lose to a top five team by 30 points, it'd rightly diminish the entire season. This conference already artificially pads the winning records of historically strong teams. Why further that with a playoff system?
NCAA basketball and other sports are different. Not only with narrower talent margins, but the design of the game enables for more upsets. You can get on a "run" in basketball thanks to hot 3-point shooting and because of the length of the game (40 minutes). Football games are an additional clock hour long, 20 game minutes longer, and are won by having more strength and attrition. Scheming can help but nobody's been able to "trick" a team like LSU for 60 minutes. In the event an upset does occur, which may happen one out of 10 times? Ain't no way they'd pass through the second round.
It does not disturb me in the least that Power Conference Team A made the championship game while Power Conference Team B plays in a lesser bowl game. It's not fair? College football is not fair and it has nothing to do with the system they use to select the teams, but the method by which the teams select the players, coaches and TV contracts. Until that changes — and holding your breath for this to happen may result in asphyxia — let's not try to revamp a system that accounts for anomalies.