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Radio Joe Zenzola


College Football should look to European Soccer for the answers

Just a couple of days ago, 12 college presidents came together to reform the college football ranking system. Instead of a computer deciding who’s going to the national title game, a committee will decide who the top four teams are in the country, put them into a playoff style format, and see which team comes on top. While I believe this solution is better for college football, it doesn’t make everybody involved happy. Seriously, can we trust this committee? Who will it comprise of? Will there be bias? Is it a bunch of ESPN football analysts deciding this? Who knows? In the end, teams like Boise State will get suckered out because their schedule wasn’t strong enough.
I’ve decided to come up with a format of my own. Let me be clear – this is just an idea. Whether you believe this is better or not, is up to you. After all, every great idea always has its pros and cons. I was originally going to put this idea towards the NBA (and I still may do that in a future blog), but when this news broke about the rankings, I figured the system I would put in place here makes way more sense for college football.
There’s a lot of detail here, so bare with me.
European soccer has a format like no other. Take England, for example. There are probably 100 soccer teams throughout the country. Between these 100 teams, there are a series of leagues. The top dog league in England is the Premier League. This includes some of the best English soccer teams in the world – ManU, Man City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, etc. There are 20 teams in the Premier league. Throughout the course of the season, these 20 teams square off against each other. Every team plays at home against the other 19 teams, and plays away against those same 19 teams. It’s a balanced scheduled, so every team is getting a fair shake. A crappy Premier League team like West Ham United has to play ManU twice, but so does a team like Man City. (The strength of schedule doesn’t exist). Again, this format goes for leagues all over Europe – Spain, Germany, Italy, France, Netherlands, etc.
At the end of the season, the team with the highest point total in the Premier League (based on a points system: you receive 3 points for a victory, 1 for a tie, and 0 for a defeat) wins the Premier League title. There are no playoffs in this situation. (Just a side note, the Premier League and the other English leagues play each other in two bracket style tournament cups throughout the course of the season). Because every team has a fair shake in this league, whoever can overcome their schedule will win it. Man City or ManU does not have any more of an advantage on their schedule, than teams like Reading and Southampton.
Are you guys still with me?
While a champion is crowned in the Premier League, the bottom three teams in the standings are fighting for their lives. As I said earlier, there are multiple 20-team leagues in England. Here’s the order of the leagues:
  1. Premier League
  2. N-Power Championship League
  3. League 1
  4. League 2
  5. League 3
  6. There may be more…
The teams that are in these lower level leagues can either move into a higher league at the end of the season, or fall into the league below them next season. How does that work? In order to move up a league, the team must finish in the top three in standings at the end of the season based on point totals. If that team accomplishes that, they advance to a new league, and face a new crop of talent. If they were to play well in that league and finish in the top three there as well, they could move up again!
For example, a team like Brentford who plays in League 1 could theoretically play in the Premier League in two years. All they would have to do is finish in the top three in League 1 at the end of the year, move up to the N-Power Championship League and finish in the top three there, and then get to play with the likes of Man City, Man U, and Arsenal in the Premier League.
However, on the flip side, whoever the bottom three teams are in a particular league at the end of the season, can get bumped down a league. Not only is it competitive at the top of the league standings, but it’s also brutal at the bottom. For example, this season in the Premier League, Bolton, Blackburn, and Wolverhampton were trying to avoid finishing the season in the bottom three. In the end, they all failed. Instead of playing in the Premier League next season, they will compete with teams in the N-Power Championship League. If one of those teams played horrible next year in that league, and wound up in the bottom three again, then they would be bumped down to League 1. Hell, if Arsenal had two horrible seasons, they could end up in League 1 too.
Now that you have this in mind, can it work for Division 1-A College Football? I think it can.
While each English League has 20+ teams, there would have to be a smaller amount for football. I would say 15 teams per league. Why? Because it’s absurd to have young kids playing in 20+ regular season games throughout a season. They’re prone to more injuries than ever before. The NFL doesn’t go that far! Besides, it’s important that everybody plays each other at least once in the span of a season. Secondly, since there are an odd number of teams, you could still give a bye week for each team. In the end, each team will play the other 14 teams in that league – 7 at home, 7 away. I would do everything possible to make sure that a bad team faces a couple of top 5 teams at home, with the same balance for away games. If you want to challenge the strength of schedule that way, have at it. I don’t think it’ll make much of a difference.
Let’s say the highest league in college football (equivalent to the Premier League) is called the ‘Zenzola League’. This league would have the top 15 teams in the country. If we were starting this new league format next year, we could take the top 15 schools from the top 25 list, and throw them into the Zenzola League. The schools ranked 16-25, and those just on the edge would be in the league below that. Then, you could rank schools based on record, and place them in leagues below that. The bad teams will face the bad teams in deeper leagues, and the best of the best will play each other in the higher leagues. Like I said, strength of schedule should no longer be an issue here. If Boise State is in the Zenzola League next season, they can have a serious crack at a national title because their schedule will no longer consist of teams from the Mountain West Division. Rather, they’ll face teams like Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma State, etc.
Furthermore, if you’re a team not starting the season in the Zenzola League, it will be your job as a school, to fight your way to get there, and then to stay there season in and season out. Remember, if schools battle their way into the top three or fall into the bottom three in a specific league by the end of the season, that is the only way they can move out of the league they’re currently in.
This system can work. However, can fans deal with it? Here are some issues…
  1. Are there bowls?
Yes, absolutely. In fact, who says we have do to exactly what the Europeans do in their soccer league? Obviously, the Zenzola League will have the best of the best teams. The top two teams will square off in the National Title game at the end of the regular season. The two teams in 3rd and 4th place will square off in the Rose Bowl. The 5th and 6th place teams will face in the Orange Bowl, etc. If there is a tie for first, second, third, etc., the tiebreaker can consist of an accumulation of points the team made in football games (adding all the touchdowns and field goals together). If your team can score 60 points in a single football game, more power to you. Because these teams are in the best of the best league, they should deserve the best bowls. What’s the problem with that?

The lower name bowls like the Capital One, Chick-fil-A, Ticket City Bowl, Outback Bowl, etc., would carry over into the leagues below the Zenzola League. After the 3rd or 4th league down, teams that low will have no chance at a bowl. It’s their job to get out of those deeper leagues as soon as possible. No matter how you slice it, every single Division 1-A football team has a shot at making it to the Zenzola League...at some point...
  1. So no more divisions and rivalries?
That’s right. No more Big Ten, SEC, ACC, Big 12, Mountain West, etc. etc. etc. New rivalries can be form based on the league your team is in. Just because rivalries were created out of regional divisions for so many years, doesn’t mean that has to stop. You may be stuck with those teams anyway, if you happen to be in the same league.
  1. Are there too many teams in Division 1-A to do this?
Look, if I’m doing my math correctly, there are almost 120 schools in Division 1-A Football alone. If you divide that by 15 teams per league, you’ll have 8 leagues. It would look something like this…
        1.  Zenzola League (Top League)
        2.  League 1
        3.  League 2
        4.  League 3
        5.  League 4
        6.  League 5
        7.  League 6
        8.  League 7
Like I said before, if this system began next season, teams like Duke, Kansas, Indiana, and Idaho, would find themselves in either League 6 or 7 because these are horrible football programs with horrible records. If they ever want to get to the Zenzola League, they need to get their acts together, and duke it out with some of the worst in the country. Someone will come out in 1st place no matter what, like in League 7, for instance.
I hope my gibberish made some sense here. I wonder if this idea has already been considered…
What do you think? Am I wrong?
Again, follow me on Twitter @RadioJoeZenzola.
In my next blog, 'What I would like to see in return if the Brewers trade Zack Greinke'…
Until next time, Milwaukee…

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06/28/2012 2:04PM
College Football should look to European Soccer for the answers
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