Last week I essentially defended the Bowl system by arguing that a playoff wouldn't do justice to the regular season.
Today I'm raising the question, are there too many Bowl games? And if so, how do we change to Bowl system to make every game (or at least 75% of them) more valuable.
This year there are 34 Bowl Games. Like every year, there are about 10 games you won't miss, another 5 you'll want to catch, and another 5 that will be worth watching. After that we're left with about 14 games that are awful, about half of which include teams that you want to see against awful opposition.
Bowl games are supposed to be a reward for teams that played good to great football in a particular season. The following teams played very mediocre football and have made it to bowl games in 2009; UCLA (6-6, 3-6 in Pac 10), Wyoming (6-6, 4-4 in Mountain West), Marshall (6-6, 4-4 in C-USA), Texas A&M (6-6, 3-5 Big 12), Minnesota (6-6, 3-5 Big 10), Iowa State (6-6, 3-5 Big 12).
That's 6 teams right off the bat that shouldn't be playing in post-season games. In my opinion, if a bowl loss would put you below .500 on a season, you shouldn't be eligible for a bowl game. That should be a rule. To make matters worse, Minnesota and Iowa State are playing each other in the Insight Bowl on New Years Eve. A game I know the entire nation is looking forward to.
On top of those six .500 teams, there are a few pretty desperately mediocre teams who shouldn't be playing in a post season game. Middle Tennessee State, 2nd place in the Sun Belt, are going to play (and likely lose to) C-USA #5 Southern Mississippi. I'm all for the Sun Belt sending a second team to a Bowl, it legitimizes the conference, but C-USA #5? The 7-5 Golden Eagles were about as mediocre as a team could be all season long.
With a 3-5 conference record, Kentucky are going to play a pretty good Clemson team in the Music City Bowl. And WAC #4 Idaho are going to play MAC #4 Bowling Green in the Humanitarian Bowl.
Finally there's UConn, USF, and Northern Illinois. Northern Illinois are the MAC #5, and though they were able to beat Purdue early in the regular season, it's hard to argue for five teams from the MAC being bowl eligible.
NIU's opponent, USF, are a similar story. At 7-5, 3-5 in the Big East, it's hard to make a case for this team being Bowl eligible, especially considering they've gotten blown out in four of their five losses. UConn on the other hand, had four losses to ranked teams at the moment, three of which remain ranked. The biggest issue lies in that none of their wins (outside of a win over the aforementioned USF) comes against a participating Bowl team.
UConn's opponent in the Papa John's.com bowl with be the South Carolina Gamecocks; a 7-5 team, with a 3-5 conference record, making them SEC #7. I know the SEC is the premiere conference of the FBS, but c'mon, seven teams? That's a little too hefty. Even for the SEC.
So far we've eliminated UConn, USF, NIU, South Carolina, UCLA, Wyoming, Southern Miss, Marshall, Texas A&M, Minnesota, Iowa State, Kentucky, Idaho, and Bowling Green from Bowl games.
I know I've omitted FSU from this elimination, and I suppose at 6-6 they shouldn't be eligible, but Bobby Bowden has earned a chance to go out on a positive note. Let's give him a rare break in this situation.
That's 14 teams, in other words 7 games. Enough to take our Bowl season from 34 games to 27.
27 games would be perfect, wouldn't it? With the leftover teams who were stuck against poor opponents we'd get games like Fresno State vs Temple and Clemson vs Georgia. Not wonderful games, but better than what we have.
Truth be told. as good a 27 game Bowl Series would be, it probably won't happen. The profitability of the Bowl system for the NCAA, the universities, and the cities which host the games, is too high for the NCAA to start cutting back on Bowl games. And with the Yankee Stadium Bowl coming next year, the better odds would be with that number growing to 40 by 2015.
Hopefully, for the competitive sake of the sport, it won't.