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Making the case for playoffs 

Finally, those of us who have always hated the Bowl Championship Series have our dream scenario.

Once again, the greed-based system of determining college football's national champion has failed.

Once again, the opportunity has come for those who want a common-sense playoff tournament, which exists in every other college sport, including football at every other level.

It's time for the NCAA to end its mafia-esque relationship with the major bowls, accept reality and admit one game cannot possibly crown a legitimate champion. It's time for the major conferences, who should be controlling this situation, to wield their power.

With one vote, one decision, the NCAA could create the Greatest Sporting Spectacle in America, better than March Madness or even the NFL playoffs. Eight (or 16, if you prefer) teams battling for college football's ultimate prize: quarterfinals in mid-December, semifinals around New Year's Day and a grand finale after that.

Instead, come Sunday, the complex formula of combining polls with computer rankings will spit out two teams for the BCS Championship Game on Jan. 7 at New Orleans. Those two programs and their fans will celebrate, claiming justice has been served. Everyone else will call it a travesty and rightly so. Because, once again, the system assumes that an 11-1 or 12-1 team from any BCS league (including the Big East, the smallest and worst BCS conference) is better than any 10-2 or 11-2 team from much better, deeper, tougher leagues.

Consider this: If both win Saturday, we'll have Missouri vs. West Virginia for the national championship. Meanwhile, the Rose Bowl will have Ohio State vs. Southern Cal, either of whom would handle West Virginia and perhaps Missouri. (Don't be swayed too much by Mizzou whipping overrated Kansas.) That's not even considering the Southeastern Conference, which has teams with three losses (Florida, Tennessee) and even four (Auburn, Arkansas) capable of beating anybody, but they're all behind Georgia and LSU at 10-2.

One game, determined by a computer, is simply the wrong, outdated way to settle what team should be No. 1. Especially when the other sports, led by basketball, not to mention every other level of football, have a reasonable way to determine what team is the best at the end of the season.

Instead, we have Southern Cal with two losses, looking better than anybody on the planet last week in its 44-24 win at Arizona State. We have Georgia, which won't play for the SEC championship because of an earlier loss to Tennessee, still the highest-ranked SEC team and waiting for an at-large berth in one of the lesser BCS games. We have Virginia Tech, having won six straight, going to the Atlantic Coast Conference title game.

And we have what would be a captivating tournament, stuck on the drawing board. Here's how the bracket might have looked for an eight-team first round, assuming no surprises Saturday and using bowls as sites:

Cotton Bowl: No. 1 seed Missouri (12-1) vs. No. 8 seed Southern Cal (10-2).

Sugar Bowl: No. 4 seed Georgia (10-2) vs. No. 5 seed Virginia Tech (11-2).

Gator Bowl: No. 2 seed West Virginia (11-1) vs. No. 7 seed LSU (11-2).

Fiesta Bowl: No. 3 seed Ohio State (11-1) vs. No. 6 seed Kansas (11-1).

Behind them are four more who have a strong argument, or could change the lineup this weekend: Oklahoma (10-2) plays Missouri for the Big 12 title, Boston College (10-2) faces Virginia Tech for the ACC crown, Florida (9-3) is done and Hawaii (12-0) hosts Washington to end its season.

In fact, if you wanted to suggest 16 teams instead of eight, guaranteeing spots for the Mountain West (Brigham Young this time) and the Western Athletic Conference (Hawaii), you'd find no opposition here. College football's other divisions have at least 16-team tournaments.

This is trying to be realistic in taking apart the top echelon of the bowl system as we have known it. Eight teams might be the only way to win approval at the start, with 16 the next step.

Back to our mythical bracket, just imagine these semifinals:

Orange Bowl: Southern Cal (or Missouri) vs. Georgia (or Virginia Tech).

Rose Bowl: Ohio State (or Kansas) vs. West Virginia (or LSU).

Out of that group, the two remaining teams would fully deserve a shot at the national title, and the TV audience would be more than for basketball's Final Four. The title game would continue to rotate among the top handful of bowls. Oh yeah, and the network TV rights for the tournament games would provide a mega-windfall, ideally divided among all major-college programs, with bonuses for the participants as is the case now for basketball.

Don't try to tell me it would kill the lesser bowls. They have done fine co-existing with the BCS, and they would continue to whet the appetite of college teams and fans around the Christmas season.

So be sure to tune in to FOX at 6 p.m. Sunday for the BCS Selection Show, as a computer system tells us which teams would have survived all those delectable quarterfinal and semifinal games we'll never see.

Forget the system. Give us playoffs. Please.

routon@csindy.com

Sports Shot

Brace yourself With so many coaching vacancies in college football, don't be shocked if somebody makes a run at Air Force's Troy Calhoun. Even perhaps Notre Dame, if Charlie Weis doesn't survive.

Seeking perfection Falcon High School (13-0) faces Berthoud for the Class 3A state football title, 1 p.m. Saturday at District 20 Stadium (Liberty High School).

Bronco downer Hard to believe Denver could blow a 14-point lead in the final minutes against Chicago, a loss that will haunt the Broncos. How bad are those special teams?

Saturday marathon Army-Navy, 10 a.m., CBS; Boston College-Virginia Tech, 11, ABC; LSU-Tennessee, 2 p.m., CBS; USC-UCLA, 2:30, ABC; BYU-San Diego State, 4:30, the Mtn.; Cal-Stanford, 5, Versus; Arizona-Arizona State, 6, ESPN2; Missouri-Oklahoma, 6, ABC; Hawaii-Washington, 9:30, ESPN2.

Ralph's picks

All season long, we've been giving you advance warning of surprises, such as LSU and Kansas being in trouble last Saturday. Now the final pre-bowl week:

Upset specials

Arizona (taking 7) at Arizona State

Boston College (taking 4) at Virginia Tech

Missouri (taking 3) vs. Oklahoma

Against the spread

Washington (taking 12) at Hawaii

LSU (giving 7) at Tennessee

Stanford (taking 13) vs. California

BYU (giving 14) at San Diego State

USC (giving 18) vs. UCLA

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