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Bad Idea Time: Replace all conference ties with randomized bowl bids

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Conference ties are a pain. Merely getting rid of them is not enough.

Yes, I’m here to propose a system in which Notre Dame might have to play in the Potato Bowl

Do you wanna see Ohio State have to face San Diego State in the Quick Lane Bowl? Sure, we all do!

Let’s back up.

In the beginning, God created the Rose Bowl, and saw that it was good. The Rose Bowl’s idea was to pair the best Eastern team against the best Western team, which evolved into the best Big Ten team against the best Pac-12 team. Everyone copied the Rose Bowl for a century or so, and thus we had a complex tangle of ever-shifting conference ties.

For the most part, they don’t mean a lot. Some are pretty good for reasons beyond just geographic proximity. For example, there’s the Midwestern attachment to the Rose Bowl, and ... well, that’s the primary exception that proves the rule.

Do you really, deeply, spiritually care about whether your team goes to Orlando or Tampa, or does your conference’s bowl order just tell you one is More Prestigious than the other? Without that, you’d mostly only care about opponent and city, right?

Amid a decade of putting together weekly bowl projections, I’ve long wished we could get rid of strict ties and let conferences grab from each other’s plates and veer out of order in ways that make everyone happy. It is HARD to keep eternally 8-4 Iowa from going to the Outback Bowl yet again, and it’d be nice to not have yet another Florida-Michigan bowl looming on my spreadsheet each week. This is especially annoying when the BCS or CFP or whatever forces a mediocre team into an actual big bowl.

But thanks to everyone’s pal Spilly, we have an even better idea:

Let’s use the Big Ten as an example. The current order gives you basically this every year:

  • Ohio State against a Southern team in whatever the current title thing is
  • Wisconsin or Penn State or somebody in the Rose against a Pac-12 team
  • Michigan in the Outback against an SEC team, Iowa also in the Outback against an SEC team, and an eight-win team in the Holiday that is mad about not being in the Outback (one of these teams is actually in the Citrus)
  • Various Northwesterns, Illinoises, Purdues, and Indianas in the Music City/Gator and Pinstripe
  • Someone is mad about going to Santa Clara
  • Someone is even madder about going to Detroit
  • At the bottom, someone is delighted to have made any postseason at all
  • Iowa has already booked travel to the Outback for next year

It’s that, almost exactly, every year! And elsewhere, good teams in non-power conferences are stuck going to the bowls that get made fun of!

Let’s fix this.

5. Keep conference ties, but randomize within each conference.

If we want to pretend everyone in each geographic region grows up hoping to play in the NFL stadiums that have deals with their current conferences, we can hang on to these things. Let’s please just rotate everything within those groups, for freshening.

I’m not sure if this can get Indiana to the Rose, but it can get Indiana to the Citrus once a decade or so.

4. Lose all conference ties. Group bowls into three (or whatever) Prestige Tiers or Geographic Zones or whatever. Teams will know which group they probably land in, but will have no control over which game they get within their tier.

Now we’ve merged every conference’s team lists into one big list. Anybody can go anywhere, within certain bounds!

Bundle bowls however you want. Maybe we say better teams have better odds of landing somewhere close, and non-powers making their first trips in a while also get preference, but any Power 5 teams who goofed their way to 6-6 have to rack up miles.

Then keep pressing Randomize until Rutgers is in the Hawaii Bowl.

3. Lose all conference ties. Randomize everything but the New Year’s Six games.

Let’s have some order here, letting the committee or some computers (or whatever we’re using at the time) pick the best games, but beyond that?

Alamo Bowl, you need to stop acting like you’re fancier than the Frisco Bowl just because you have a roof. Neither of you is an NY6 game. However, do we really want a 6-6 Mississippi State and a 9-4 UAB meeting in the Rose Bowl*?

Now our control group of Big Ten teams is heading to:

  • Cotton Bowl: Illinois vs. USC
  • Cure Bowl: Michigan State vs. UAB
  • Gasparilla Bowl: Michigan vs. Kent State
  • Holiday Bowl: Iowa vs. SMU
  • Military Bowl: Minnesota vs. Marshall
  • Music City Bowl: Indiana vs. Oklahoma State

Look at all that muscle confusion!

* I sense that you, the reader of this post, do want this. Continue.

2. Lose all conference ties. Randomize everything but the Playoff semifinals.

Actually, Fiesta Bowl, remember how you went on a crime spree in like 2010? You’re lucky to even exist. Peach Bowl, everyone remembers your decades as a mud-caked disaster in a dilapidated NFL/MLB stadium. Cotton Bowl, you used to be called the lil ole Dixie Classic, hosting teams like the Centenary Gentlemen. You’re no better than the Potato Bowl, and deep down, you know it.

You’re all lucky to host semifinals sometimes, but you deserve nothing beyond that. You are now regular-person bowls. Here are your randomized 2019 assignments, again using just Big Ten teams as the illustrations, after we send Ohio State to the Playoff:

  • Arizona Bowl: Indiana vs. Tennessee
  • Boca Raton Bowl: Michigan State vs. Alabama (sorry)
  • Camellia Bowl: Penn State vs. UCF
  • Citrus Bowl: Illinois vs. Washington
  • Hawaii Bowl: Iowa vs. FAU
  • New Mexico Bowl: Michigan vs. Ohio (cue laugh track)
  • Potato Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Kansas State
  • Sun Bowl: Minnesota vs. Hawaii

Most have never been to those bowls before, and none of those B1G teams since Minnesota’s 2003 Sun trip. And most of these matchups are quite rare or all-new, with the exception of Michigan State never being able to avoid Alabama (sorry). See how fresh?

1. Randomize everything.

Gaze into the void, 2019 bowl teams:

  • Fiesta semifinal in Glendale, AZ: Virginia Tech vs. Texas A&M
  • Peach semifinal in Atlanta: BYU vs. Toledo
  • Cotton in Arlington, TX: Arkansas State vs. Cal
  • Orange in Miami: SMU vs. Michigan
  • Rose in Pasadena, CA: Boise State vs. Utah
  • Sugar in New Orleans: Ohio State vs. Hawaii
  • Alamo in San Antonio: UAB vs. Wisconsin
  • Arizona in Tucson: Arizona State vs. Miami
  • Armed Forces in Fort Worth: Tulane vs. Southern Miss
  • Bahamas: Kent State vs. Louisville
  • Belk in Charlotte: Ohio vs. Texas
  • Birmingham: Tennessee vs. Louisiana Tech
  • Boca Raton: Oklahoma State vs. UCF
  • Camellia in Montgomery, AL: FAU vs. Central Michigan
  • Camping World in Orlando: Eastern Michigan vs. Western Michigan
  • Cheez-It in Phoenix: Buffalo vs. USC
  • Citrus in Orlando: Notre Dame vs. Oregon
  • Cure in Orlando: Virginia vs. THE CAJUNS
  • First Responder in Dallas: Kansas State vs. Auburn
  • Tropical Smoothie in Frisco, TX: Georgia Southern vs. Temple
  • Gasparilla in Tampa: Baylor vs. Georgia State
  • Gator in Jacksonville: Charlotte vs. Utah State
  • Hawaii: Cincinnati vs. Boston College
  • Holiday in San Diego: Kentucky vs. Florida
  • Independence in Shreveport, LA: Wake Forest vs. Minnesota
  • Las Vegas: Michigan State vs. Indiana
  • Liberty in Memphis: Illinois vs. Appalachian State
  • Military in Annapolis, MD: LSU vs. North Carolina
  • Mobile: Washington vs. Iowa
  • Music City in Nashville: Mississippi State vs. Wyoming
  • New Mexico in Albuquerque: Marshall vs. FIU
  • New Orleans: Miami (Ohio) vs. Liberty
  • Outback in Tampa: Washington State vs. Air Force
  • Pinstripe in New York City: Western Kentucky vs. Penn State
  • Potato in Boise: Georgia vs. Nevada
  • Quick Lane in Detroit: Alabama vs. Iowa State
  • Redbox in Santa Clara, CA: Oklahoma vs. San Diego State
  • Sun in El Paso: Clemson vs. Florida State
  • Texas in Houston: Navy vs. Pitt

And if any of you don’t like it, you have to go play Memphis in Memphis.