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HOW WOULD IOWA FARE IN THE OLD NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP SYSTEMS?

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Let's drop the 2015 Hawkeyes in the 1985 bowl system and see what develops.

Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa is one game away from having at least one more game. Should the Hawkeyes beat Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game Saturday, they are virtually assured a spot in the College Football Playoff (read that sentence again...we'll wait).

But does Iowa benefit from the playoff system? How would an undefeated Iowa fare in the old incarnations of the championship-deciding poll systems? Would we be better off in the Rose Bowl? Let's have a look.

The Old Bowl System (pre-1992)

Rose Bowl: No. 4 Iowa vs. No. 7 Stanford
Orange Bowl: No. 1 Clemson vs. No. 3 Oklahoma
Fiesta Bowl: No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 8 North Carolina
Sugar Bowl: No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 9 Notre Dame

And you wonder why we got rid of the old system.

The good news is that Iowa fans would get to go to the Rose Bowl, which at least a third of Iowa fans would rather do than go to the Playoff anyway.  The bad news is that, at least as the polls currently sit, Iowa would have no chance of winning a national championship barring an upset in the Sugar Bowl and something weird in the Orange Bowl.  If Clemson wins, Clemson is your champion.  If Clemson loses and Alabama wins, either Alabama or Oklahoma would be national champion, and they likely would split the title as happened in 1990 and 1991, which was pretty much the reason we got rid of this system anyway.

There is one other variable to consider: The current rankings themselves.  The AP and Coaches polls have, almost comically, adjusted their modus operandi since the Playoff Committee Top 25 was introduced to the system.  Formerly, the polls would stick with their system of "losing team goes down, everyone else shuffles up" all the way through the season.  Only monumental wins could shake the prevailing wisdom.  The polls now keep up that stubborn adherence to preseason rankings only until that first Playoff Committee poll hits the press, at which point the pollsters completely recalibrate their votes to conform to the only poll that matters.

Take, for instance, this season.  Ohio State was the near-unanimous top team in the country entering the season.  Despite some performances lacking a certain luster over the season's first nine weeks, the Buckeyes remained the top team in both major polls.  On the Sunday before the first College Football Playoff poll was released, Ohio State still held 39 of 61 first-place votes in the AP Poll and 48 of 64 in the Coaches Poll.  Clemson had 6 first-place votes from the AP and 2 from the Coaches.  The next week, Clemson beat No. 17 Florida State, a big win but hardly an earth-shattering result.  Ohio State knocked off Minnesota on the same day without too much trouble.  Yet Clemson suddenly had 31 first-place votes in the AP Poll, taking the top spot from Ohio State, and 21 votes from the Coaches Poll.

The big change in the calculation of voters was not the Florida State win.  Rather, the change came from the introduction of the College Football Playoff poll that week, which the AP and Coaches then impersonated like they'd suddenly become Frank Caliendo.  It wasn't just at the top of the poll, either.  Just seven teams changed positions in the final pre-Playoff AP Poll, and six teams changed rankings in the Coaches Poll.  The next week, as writers and SIDs scrambled to match the Playoff Committee, just one team stayed in the same position in the AP and the Coaches Poll (though not the same team, oddly enough, because writers suddenly discovered that Clemson was good before the SIDs did).

The AP and Coaches polls of 2015 are the old French radical asking a mob of people where they are going so that he can lead them there.  The Playoff poll makes them quaint and irrelevant now, but it also means that the current polls aren't quite what we could expect had the Committee never came into existence.  We can only go with what they have done this year, but the polls could look completely different if we really did roll back to a previous version of this particular software.

Bowl Coalition (1992-94)

Rose Bowl: No. 4 Iowa vs. No. 7 Stanford
Orange Bowl:  No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 1 Clemson
Fiesta Bowl: No. 11 TCU vs. No. 8 North Carolina
Sugar Bowl: No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 10 Florida State
Cotton Bowl: No. 9 Notre Dame vs. No. 12 Baylor

You can see pretty quickly why loyalty to the Rose Bowl was kind of killing the Big Ten.  If you finished first in the Big Ten during the Bowl Coalition, you got to go the Rose Bowl, which is awesome.  If you finished second, you got to go to the Citrus Bowl, which is pretty cool.  If you finished third, even if that meant you were No. 6 in the country like Ohio State is this season, you got to play in the Holiday Bowl which...is in San Diego?  Three Big Ten teams went 10-1 in 1993, and one of them ended up playing unranked BYU on December 30.

That wouldn't matter much to Iowa, which would play in the Rose Bowl against Stanford again, and would be left out of the national championship picture again.  And if you think there would be a split, ask Penn State how that went for them in 1992.  Or West Virginia, which was undefeated and ranked No. 2 by the coaches behind also-undefeated Nebraska but dropped to third behind the Huskers and one-loss Florida State by the AP.  Nebraska played Florida State, the Noles won, and Florida State ended up as national champion.

Bowl Alliance (1995-97)

Rose Bowl: No. 4 Iowa vs. No. 7 Stanford
Orange Bowl:  No. 2 Alabama vs. No. 1 Clemson
Fiesta Bowl: No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 5 Michigan State
Sugar Bowl:  No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 6 Ohio State

At least the Big Ten gets its due under the Bowl Alliance (though Michigan State could have been shoved out by Notre Dame by virtue of being Michigan State and not Notre Dame) and the games get better, but the scenario stays the same.  A national championship game between Clemson and Alabama, and Iowa on the outside looking in.

Bowl Championship Series (1998-2013)

Rose Bowl: No. 6 Iowa vs. No. 7 Stanford
Orange Bowl:  No. 9 Notre Dame vs. No. 10 Florida State
Fiesta Bowl: No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 16 Houston
Sugar Bowl:  No. 11 Baylor vs. No. 4 Ohio State
BCS National Championship Game: No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 2 Clemson

For purposes of determining the BCS formula's selections, we're using the Massey composite rankings as a generic computer poll.  And in that world, Alabama might be the top team in the country; Clemson is a fairly distant third behind the Crimson Tide AND Oklahoma.

The one team definitely not getting a boost is Iowa, which would get a Rose Bowl bid as Big Ten champion but likely fall behind Ohio State and Michigan State in the final rankings based on their No. 8 finish in the computer polls. North Carolina falls victim to the same curse, getting passed by Florida State (who presents a better option to the Orange Bowl regardless). Michigan State and UNC are left behind to avoid having three teams from the same conference in the BCS bowls, and Houston gets an at-large spot.

The takeaway from this? If you like the Rose Bowl and/or being really mad at everyone for the first nine months of next year, the old systems were great for you.  In every circumstance, a No. 4-ranked Iowa team would be left out of the running for a chance at a national title.  Penn State fans still talk about being denied their opportunity to win a title in 1994.  Iowa fans could turn that into 50 years of rage.  But if you want an actual chance, we're living in the golden age.  Embrace it, because there's no guarantee we'll ever be here again.