Ask CFN ... Football March Madness?
Posted Mar 15, 2007

What if football was able to have a March Madness-style tournament? Will the Heisman race, led by Darren McFadden, have any sizzle? Which teams will have great records because of their schedule? Which are the ten must-see games of the year? These and much more in the return of Ask CFN.

Pete Fiutak

Fire over your questions to me at I might not be able to answer them all, but I promise they're all read. Any e-mails sent to this address may be published or edited unless requested otherwise. (Please put ASK CFN in the subject line, and PLEASE keep the questions short ... it makes my life easier.)

Past ASK CFNs ...     
Potential Bowl Shockers
Tim Brewster?
Fox's BCS broadcasts
- Is Brady really better than Russell?
Hot & Cold Bowl Programs
- How ineffective was Reggie Ball?
- A 2007 Top 10 Mock Draft
Can Michigan win a national title?
- BCS possibilities for several teams
- West Virginia schedule, BCS rules
- Toughest coaching jobs
- Hidden Heisman 5

- Is Temple worst ever?
- Oklahoma-Oregon fiasco
- Has Bob Stoops lost it?
- Is Colorado done?

I have noticed during football season that there’s only a small difference between the BCS computer rankings and the voters whereas there seems to be a huge difference between the basketball RPI and the voters.  Why the difference? – Alex

A: The BCS voters actually create the BCS. The RPI is all about schedules and the strength of every team compared to what they’ve actually done on the field or on the court. The Coaches and Harris polls currently makeup 2/3rds of the BCS, so obviously the BCS ranking is going to reflect the pollsters. In a perfect world, there’s a better mix of schedule-strength and voting, but that was changed up in college football after USC, ranked No. 1 by the pollsters at the end of the 2003 regular season, was left out of the national championship.

I love March Madness, you love March Madness, everyone loves March Madness. However, am I nuts, or do I still think, for all of college football’s goofiness, that it figures out a national champion better? After all, it seems like EVERYONE gets in the basketball tournament. Is that really fair, if you really think about it? – BP

A: I don’t get it either. Talk show hosts and media types cry and whine for months about the BCS system, yet no one seems to think boo about the idea that a team can finish sixth in its conference and can still play for the national championship. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is a wonderfully glorious gimmick. If the idea is to find out which college basketball team is the best, then you forget the regular season, create a big tournament with everyone in it, and play it off. College football’s system still needs a ton of tweaking, but I’ve always argued that it comes closer to crowning a true national champion than college basketball does. You have to reward the regular season more than college basketball currently does.

Everyone talks about a college football tournament, but what about the basketball tournament … more teams, fewer teams, or does it have it right? How should it be changed? – OF

A: It’ll never happen, but the hoops tournament needs to cut the number of teams to 16. If it were up to me, there would be 12 automatic bids for the regular season conference champions for the Atlantic 10, ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Conference USA, MAC, Missouri Valley, Mountain West, Pac 10, SEC, and WAC. If there’s a regular season tie, it either gets broken by a conference tournament (which would otherwise just be a nice exhibition), or be decided on by the tournament committee. Then, the four at-large spots would go to other regular season conference champions and would be determined by the committee. That way, the regular season would actually matter, the little guy would still get its shot, and you’d take the fluke factor out.

In my world, the automatic bids would go to: Xavier, North Carolina, Kansas, Georgetown, Ohio State, Memphis, Toledo, Southern Illinois, BYU, UCLA, Florida, and Nevada. The four at-large bids would go to (remember, regular season conference champions only): Gonzaga, Butler, Virginia Commonwealth and Winthrop.

Let’s say college football wanted to do a March Madness-style tournament. What would be the best way to run it so it would have the same feel as the hoops tournament, yet still get the right teams in place? – KH

A: I’d use the same theory as my idea for the hoops tournament. I’d make it an eight-team playoff with the six “BCS league” champions getting the automatic bids, and then a committee would put in two champions from other leagues. So for this year, my tournament would’ve had Wake Forest, Oklahoma, Louisville, Ohio State, USC and Florida getting the automatic bids. Boise State would’ve gotten one at-large spot, and then the debate would begin. In reality, Notre Dame would’ve gotten the other spot, but if I was the head of the committee, I’d have put in BYU. Would anyone have any realistic beef with this? Don’t like it Michigan or LSU? Win your conference.

My friends and I were having a lunchtime discussion and would be curious on your thoughts. What’s one college on-field rule that would make the NFL better? How about NFL rule to college? How about on-field rule for both that you’d change? – PS

A: Do the overtime rules count? The NFL is all about the passing game and doing whatever it can to promote offense, so I’m stunned the league requires a receiver to get two feet in bounds. It doesn’t make any sense. If you catch the ball and touch the ground with your elbow, knee, or ear, and then the rest of you goes out of bounds, you’re in, but if you get one foot in, you’re not in. I’d also change the NFL’s instant replay rule.

NFL to college, I like the idea of having to tackle or touch someone down. I’ve never liked how a college player is down just because he falls down. If he slips, the defense has done nothing and gets the “tackle.”

For both college and pro, I’d change the half-the-distance rule on penalties. For example, if the offense is on the ten and the defense gets flagged for holding, the ball goes to the five. I say it should go to the one inch mark, or as far as the ball can go without being in. There’s not enough of a punishment for a defense to commit most score-saving penalties.

I know all the schedules have yet to come out, but what three big-time teams are going to be like Wisconsin of last year and be decent, but will have great records because of their schedule? – JB

A: 1) Rutgers. Can you say tailor-made national championship schedule? Try this out: Buffalo, Navy, Norfolk State, Maryland, Cincinnati, at Syracuse to start. South Florida, West Virginia and Pitt all have to come to Piscataway, but there are three road games in the final four playing at UConn (win) and at Army (big win) before the regular season showdown at Louisville.

2) Wisconsin. Yes, again. The Badgers play a real non-conference game against Washington State to open it up, but then things are relatively easy until a road date at Penn State. They have to also go to Ohio State, but they also get Michigan in Madison. If UW wins two of the three big Big Ten games, 11-1 is likely again, 10-2 at worst.

3) Alabama. There are only four road games (Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Auburn) along with a neutral site game against Florida State in Jacksonville, while Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and LSU all have to come to Tuscaloosa. Even with the tough home slate, Saban’s boys should be 8-4.

Am I nuts, or is this going to be the worst Heisman race ever? I’m sure it’ll be close, but Colt Brennan? Darren McFadden? Mike Hart? Zzzzzzz. It’s not exactly Leinart, Bush and Young. – TD

A: It’s not going to have the epic names, that’s for sure, but it’s going to be a wide-open race with plenty of room for debate and discussion. You’re right, Brennan, McFadden and Hart are hardly all-timers when it comes to the big names, but that could change over the course of the year if all three do what they did last year. In the end, this will be a more fun race than you might believe with John David Booty, P.J. Hill, Brian Brohm, Colt McCoy, Ray Rice, Steve Slaton and Pat White all to be in the hunt.

Brady Quinn or JaMarcus Russell? Which one would you take? – FA

A: How about neither? Here’s the problem; when you take a quarterback in the first round, you’re married to him for at least three years. With rare exceptions, rookie quarterbacks stink. For the longest time (and it still might be true), Rick Mirer, statically, was the greatest rookie quarterback ever. So the first year’s a wash, and then if he stinks in year two, you’re still going to give him one more shot, and even then, you’ve sunk two-plus years.

Quinn and Russell each appear to be fine, but neither is a rock-solid lock to be special. If I’m the Raiders, Lions and Browns, I go for Calvin Johnson, Joe Thomas, and/or Adrian Peterson, hit free agency for a quarterback (even though it’s a bit too late) or try to trade for a Matt Schaub or try to convince Jake Plummer that there’s no future in handball.

What games this season would you say are the MUST WATCH games and why? – DP

A: My top ten at the moment (and for the first time in what seems like forever, there’s no Miami – Florida State) …
1. Florida at LSU, Oct. 6 – Probably a preview of the SEC championship, and possibly the national championship.

2. Virginia Tech at LSU, Sept. 8 – The two defenses will likely finish 1-2, in come order.

3. USC at Nebraska, Sept. 15 – If Nebraska wants back into the big-time, this is the game to do it.

4. Rutgers at Louisville, Nov. 29 – If Rutgers can beat West Virginia and South Florida at home, it might be 11-0 going into this showdown.

5. Ohio State at Michigan, Nov. 17 – The luster is off after the way these two played in their respective bowls, but it’s still Ohio State vs. Michigan.

6. USC at California, Nov. 10 – Cal is good enough to win the Pac 10 title. With a win over the Trojans, it would show it’s good enough to possibly win the national title.

7. Texas vs. Oklahoma, Oct. 6 – As always, the Red River Rivalry is going to be among the year’s biggest games.

8. Louisville at West Virginia, Nov. 8 – Certain to be another classic, the winner might make a big statement in the national title race.

9. Wisconsin at Ohio State, Nov. 3 – If the Badgers can win in Penn State, it’ll likely go into Columbus unbeaten for the matchup Big Ten fans wish they could’ve seen last year.

10. TCU at Texas, Sept. 8 – Here’s the big shot for the little guy. If TCU pulls this off, it’ll likely go unbeaten and have a claim it should be in the national title mix.