One Foot Inbounds
The college football weekend in review

One Foot Inbounds: Fantastic Friday

One Foot Inbounds: Fantastic Friday
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Robert Weintraub

Theater, comic book, and rock 'n' roll fans, unite! The musical Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark, a wall-crawling lavish Broadway epic with music by U2, is poised to be the season's big hit, despite what will no doubt be insane ticket prices. However, with only a few weeks remaining, the show is beset with technical problems, script issues, and a growing sense that this could be Ishtar on the Great White Way.

In other words, the clock is ticking down, and Kyle Brotzman is trotting in for the kick.

What the producers need isn't Peter Parker, but the Spectacular Cam Newton.

After Friday's breathless, noon-to-2 a.m. action, Saturday felt like one of those races that follow the Kentucky Derby on the card -- the gamblers are interested, but the casual fan is wrung out. I get so much wrong in prognosticating football (not unlike other aspects of life) that I feel compelled to point out something I managed to call correctly in Seventh Day Adventure. In an exact inverse of last season's Iron Bowl, Alabama jumped out to a big lead, but were slowly roped in by a relentless offense led by the Heisman Trophy front runner.

It was that shocking a development. Alabama was at home, with 101,000 or so screaming for Auburn blood. Greg McElroy came out like a combination of Joe Namath and Ken Stabler. He broke his career high for yards passing in the first half, and before the pre-game meal of Dreamland Barbeque could be fully digested, the Tide were up 24-0.

Alabama could have put the game away in the first 30 minutes, but it came away empty on a couple of red zone journeys. Auburn defensive end Antoine Carter made a great play to run down and punch the ball from a rampaging Mark Ingram, forcing a touchback after a long run. Then the awesome Nick Fairley strip-sacked McElroy and fell on the ball around the 10-yard line. Auburn went to the half down 24-7, when it could have easily been 35-0.

Auburn has made so many second-half rallies this season that they surely believe they can do it every time, regardless of opponent. With Cam Newton at the helm, all things are indeed possible. He struck with a long bomb on the second play of the half (Tide safety Mark Barron took a poor angle to the ball and paid the price), and you could feel the huge crowd go "uh-oh." Later, Newton scored his 18th touchdown of the season on the ground, breaking the school record held by a pair of pretty fair backs, Bo Jackson and Cadillac Williams.

The comeback was completed thanks to a fourth-and-3 laser of a throw to keep the drive alive (everyone, including Alabama coach Nick Saban -- or Lou Saban, according to Verne Lundquist -- had to presume Cam was keeping it on this hypercritical play). Then he found Philip Lutzenkirchen (German for "wide open") in the end zone with just fewer than 12 minutes left for the winning score.

But for all of Cam's heroics, it was the Auburn defense that, uh, turned the tide. Shredded like fine parmesan in the first half, the Tigers altered their gaps slightly and began to get heavy pressure on McElroy. The unit also dialed the intensity way up, smacking Alabama around and knocking several offensive players out of the game. McElroy was knocked senseless by a late T'Sharvan Bell blitz (he certainly looked offsides). When Alabama had one last shot at winning, backup A.J. McCarron was throwing it. Unlike the 1993 Iron Bowl, when Patrick Nix won it for the Tigers off the bench, there would be no Forrest Gump ending for Alabama.

Auburn held on to win 28-27 in a game they will be talking about amid the southern longleaf pines of Talladega Forest and the shadow of Lookout Mountain for a long, long time.

They will also be remembering the final game of the day amid the slot machines and Keno parlors of Reno, Nevada. I warned Boise in that same fateful SDA last week that this was a road trip fraught with danger. Sure enough, Nevada roared back from a large deficit to shock the Broncos 34-31 in overtime. Every season, it seems, Boise goes out to a big lead against the Wolfpack and holds on for dear life.

This time, Nevada dominated the second half, possessing the ball for 24 minutes and rushing for 239 yards in the final two quarters. Boise's defense was sucking enough wind to start a cyclone. Nevada tied the game with 13 seconds left. Then the fantastic Kellen Moore hit Titus Young with a bomb that was 2007 Brady-to-Moss in its arrogant disregard for the defense -- Moore simply threw one down the middle of the field as far as he could, and Young ran it down, diving to make a play that seemed to keep Boise's BCS hopes afloat.

But Brotzman missed a short field goal -- although to the naked eye it appeared to go over the upright, just good. Replays were Rashoman-like in their ability to convince the viewer of either position. Brotzman than missed another in overtime, and Nevada didn't, and poof, Boise's outstanding season disappeared into the Reno night like so many marriages do in the divorce capital of the U.S.

Brotzman's botches cost Boise an estimated $4 million in missed payouts, according to sports money guru Darren Rovell. Worse, the loss prevents Boise from a desperately desired crack at one of the big boys. And it snaps the Broncos' 24-game winning streak, in a manner most un-Boise like. Special teams excellence, clutch play, smart football -- these are the hallmarks of Boise State in the last several seasons. But it all came apart for them. Give props to WAC champ Nevada, a superb team in its own right. In a just world, we'd see both teams in a playoff format. But we live in a world where nitwits like Gordon Gee hold sway, so we'll have to settle for drama only insomniacs and Pacific Time Zoners could enjoy.

And one last note -- some folks used Friday's dramatics to crow anti-playoff sentiment (looking at you, Jason Whitlock). Sorry, but these games and contexts would have been similarly amazing with a playoff system. Certainly Boise wouldn't be making an eight-team tournament after losing in its last game. For the final time: A playoff would not detract from the suspense of the regular season. Here endeth the Wetzel.


  • Oregon needed to work some on Fantastic Friday, too, but when they hit the afterburners, Arizona and its tragicomic special teams were left far in the distance, 48-29. A 19-play, 99-yard drive in the third quarter was un-Duckish in its length and was kept alive by an offsides penalty that negated a missed Oregon field goal. Oregon's four other touchdown drives in the second half took 15 plays -- combined. Now only the Civil War remains between the Ducks and the Big Pond.
  • Ducky the Oregon mascot has done a Navy Seals-worthy 2,636 pushups this season (he does one for every point UO has after every score). The buff mallard should put in for worker's comp at season's end.
  • With Ohio State blasting Michigan, and Sparty taking out JoePa, Wisconsin needed to beat Northwestern with as much style as possible in order to keep in front of the other Big Ten co-champs in the BCS standings. How many points would be enough? Forty? Fifty?? Sixty??? Just in case, Wisconsin put up 70. It was enough to send Bucky Badger to the Rose Bowl. It was another impressive game on both lines, led by offensive tackle Gabe Carimi and defensive end J.J. Watt.
  • Mississippi State beat Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl, 31-23. No word on the final price this year's hot JuCo prospect was auctioned off for at halftime.
  • Cyrus Gray continues to run wild for Texas A&M, which put an end to Texas' awful season with a 24-17 win in their annual Thanksgiving grudge match. Cyrus The Virus said Cy-onara to Texas defenders to the tune of 223 rushing yards, the sixth straight 100-plus-yard game for Gray after taking over for injured starter Christine Michael. There's a John Malkovich is better than Stephen King joke in there somewhere, but I can't seem to locate it.
  • Big ups to Charlie Strong, who got Louisville bowl eligible with a pummeling of Rutgers. Look for the Cardinals in the Beef O'Brady's Bowl, which presumably is filled with rib bones. Strong is clearly missed at Florida, which succumbed to Florida State for the first time under Urban Meyer, 31-7.
  • Elsewhere in Florida, Jacory Harris hadn't played for most of the month, but he came off the bench against South Florida and quickly reminded everyone of what they were missing. Harris led the moribund Hurricanes to 17 unanswered points before throwing a killer interception with Miami in field goal range with a few seconds remaining. Miami then lost in overtime. It was a coach-killing performance. Sure enough, The U didn't even wait until the day was over to can Randy Shannon.
  • It wash hearts-in-mouths time in Fort Worth when quarterback Andy Dalton went down with an injury to his throwing shoulder in an otherwise boring rout of New Mexico. Fortunately, it seems Dalton will be OK in time for the Rose Bowl. That has a nicer ring than what my mother would say to me when I had a boo-boo -- "You'll be better by the time you're married."
  • Oklahoma State down by two to Oklahoma, three minutes and change to play at home, Big 12 title game berth on the line. A second-down Sooners pass caroms off two defenders and hits the turf. The third-down pass goes for 86 yards and a score to Cameron Kenney. On such small matters history books are written. But hang on -- bedlam! OK State returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, putting the score at 40-38. And then OU hit back with a 76-yard touchdown pass on play-action with everyone on State up in the box. Score one for much-maligned offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson! The Sooners won 47-41, and they will appropriately take on Nebraska for the conference crown.
  • Earlier in the game, Oklahoma State's Broderick Brown made one of the best plays you'll ever see, leaping to bat a Landry Jones pass that was sailing out of bounds back into play, where it was intercepted by a teammate. He looked like a basketball player saving a loose ball.
  • Bad loss by Ohio at Kent State -- the Flashes kept the Bobcats from the MAC title game with a 28-6 pounding. Miami of Ohio now gets the dubious privilege of facing Northern Illinois, which hung a 71-3 beating on Eastern Michigan. The Huskies are whipping MAC opposition by 32 points per game.
  • At the bottom of the MAC, congrats to the Akron Zips, which beat Buffalo 22-14 to avoid a winless season. Seldom has 1-11 felt so good.
  • Ryan Mallet's sensational deep passes led Arkansas past LSU, 31-23, drove the final stake into the undead heart of The Lester, and pretty much guaranteed the Hogs a trip to New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. Bobby Petrino can relax in the knowledge that the Atlanta Falcons could well have that week off, in the form of a first-round playoff bye. I'm sure they will be yelling "Whoo Pig, Sooey!" in Flowery Branch.
  • Tough day for Cincinnati Bearcats fans. Ex-Cat coaches in Notre Dame (upset win over USC) and Michigan State (11-1, conference co-champs) celebrated, while Cincinnati got demolished by Connecticut, 38-17, leaving them bowl-ineligible.
  • Speaking of that Notre Dame win, USC backup Mitch Mustain was finally sighted in Crimson and Gold, starting in place of Matt Barkley. He deserved better, having a sure touchdown pass dropped in a SoCal downpour with one minute remaining, just before a game-ending pick.
  • Maryland does it again to N.C. State. The Wolfpack have had several promising seasons ruined by the Terrapins. Saturday, dreams of a surprise trip to the ACC title game died in College Park, as Maryland won 38-31. The game ended after a horrible spot by the refs on a fourth-and-1. Florida State goes to Charlotte instead, to tangle with Virginia Tech, appropriate in this season of Michael Vick's renaissance.
  • I thought of the Hokies as Boise was losing at Nevada. Virginia Tech quietly won its 10th in a row by crushing state rival/punching bag Virginia, cruising through ACC undefeated. It seems like yesterday when the Broncos and Hokies squared off at FedEx Field on Labor Day. As always, the football season has raced past far too quickly.

The OFI Top 25

1. Auburn
2. Oregon
3. TCU
4. Wisconsin
5. Stanford
6. Ohio State
7. Arkansas
8. Michigan State
9. Boise State
10. Virginia Tech
11. Oklahoma
12. Missouri
13. LSU
14. South Carolina
15. Nevada
16. Texas A&M
17. Nebraska
18. Alabama
19. Oklahoma State
20. Northern Illinois
21. Florida State
22. Utah
23. Central Florida
24. Hawaii
25. UConn

Auburn takes over as my No. 1 because the Iron Bowl was the most impressive victory of any by the unbeaten teams. This, of course, tickets the Tigers for almost certain defeat in the SEC title game. War Eagle!

Lowsman Watch

1. Nick Fairley, defensive tackle, Auburn. I tweeted before the Auburn-Alabama game that, while Fairley has been awesome this season, he has benefited from a weekly national TV showcase. Then with more eyeballs on him than ever before, Fairley single-handedly kept the Tigers from getting routed in the first half, then caved in the Tide o-line in the second half. It was an Outland Trophy-worthy performance.

2. Brandon Hogan, cornerback, West Virginia. The Mountaineers had the double satisfaction of beating Pitt in the Backyard Brawl and likely ruining the Panthers shot at a BCS bid. Hogan was the key figure, with a forced fumble and recovery, an interception and long return that set up a WVU score, and blanket coverage on star Pitt wideout Jon Baldwin.

3. Brandon Burton, cornerback, Utah. The Holy War between Utah and BYU is underrated in its vitriol, and is almost always close. This season's edition, the last as a Mountain West Conference showdown, was no exception. The Cougars lined up to kick the game-winning field goal, but it was blocked by Burton to give the Utes a 17-16 win.

4. Von Miller, linebacker, Texas A&M. The senior All-American demolished the slickers from Austin with a night that included seven tackles, two sacks, three tackles for losses, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and an interception. The pick, off a deflected pass at his own 8-yard line, sealed the victory with 2:37 to play.

5. Luke Kuechly, linebacker, Boston College. Kuechly has been ultra-consistent this season, regularly ripping off games with double-digit tackles. He had 10 more in a win over my Syracuse Orange, the 21st-straight game he's had 10 or more tackles. Kuechly leads the country with 171 tackles.


30 comments, Last at 04 Jan 2011, 12:52pm

1 Re: One Foot Inbounds: Fantastic Friday

Sparty had Penn State for 50 minutes before the Lions got out of their own way.

I don't know which was true, that Minny was running the ball because their line finally got its act together or the Iowa D-line was just not there on Saturday. Seemed to go both ways all game.

Pat Fitzgerald gets a lot of pub for his team's effort but that effort was not present on Saturday. The defense basically bagged it once the Badgers got up 21-3. The Ball TD run where he started down the left sideline and cut back across the field was a sorry display. The last ten yards the safety could have laid out to tackle Ball at the ankles and instead he just ran behind and then pushed him from behind as Ball got to the end zone.

5 Re: One Foot Inbounds: Fantastic Friday

I played ultimate frisbee for years, and in that sport the Oklahoma State bat-it-back-in-to-a-teammate play is known as the "Greatest." It's much more common than in football (where I've never seen it before) because an incompletion is a turnover so an interception is not much worse, so offensive players attempt it when it's reasonably possible to succeed. Plus the disc floats, giving time to catch up to one going out of bounds.

Oops. Now I miss playing ultimate.

6 Re: One Foot Inbounds: Fantastic Friday

An 8 or 16-team playoff surely would reduce the importantance and joy in these games. And your throwaway comment that Boise still wouldn't make an 8-team playoff isn't necessarily so - in a year like LSU's prior title they certainly would have.

Asking students [who surely cannot afford it], alumni, and fans to travel to 3 seperate locations in ~14 days to watch their team play would make the Bowl experience unaffordable to all but the richest boosters. And it certainly devalues the regular season no matter how much BCS-haters protest otherwise.

This *was* a playoff game, and Boise lost. Just like Auburn won.

7 Re: One Foot Inbounds: Fantastic Friday

Huh? In a typical 16 team suggestion (11 champs + 5 wild cards) Boise St-Nevada matters a lot. Nevada played their way into a 16 team tournament (or at least into the discussion), and Boise goes from playing a 13 or 14 seed (imagine a MAC, Conference USA or Big East Champion) to a 7-10 seed (say Arkansas, one of the Big 10 teams, Oklahoma, or LSU.)

Alabama-Auburn would have had similar significance in a 16 team suggestion.

8 Re: One Foot Inbounds: Fantastic Friday

The biggest problem with most 16-team playoffs is that they consider the 'champion' of the MWC, WAC, Sun Belt, etc as one of the automatic berths. Which is patently ridiculous and not at all what most people want to see. In a 16-team playoff which SEC West teams go? Which Big East teams go? Which Big-12 teams? Which of the three 11-1 Big-10 teams?

It's certainly better, but it's not so quantitatively awesome as many dictate. You'd still want to have some way to limit non-AQ teams from entering the playoffs and making them a joke. You'd still need some way to determine which of the 16 teams were deserving based on something other than their conference records.

I'm getting to the point where I think the pros of a playoff (namely being able to schedule blockbuster OoC games) outweigh a lot of the cons. And yes, in theory every game is important to a team - but that has the side effect of making the risk of scheduling someone good far more of a con than the benefit. If we could get to the point where schools made more of their bowl money on big tournaments or doing home and homes with good schools to increase TV revenue (think of something like the Maui invitational but for football) and then allowed the OoC records to be fairly unimportant or not as important in determining whether or not you made it in, that'd be great. If they could do something like the basketball or volleyball official power ranking that would be great too. But something's got to stop teams from scheduling complete jokes of OoC games - especially none away (Auburn played 4 games away from home!) and makign that money back.

10 Re: One Foot Inbounds: Fantastic Friday

In a 16-team playoff which SEC West teams go? Which Big East teams go? Which Big-12 teams? Which of the three 11-1 Big-10 teams?

If I had to guess what a tournament would like today, it would be something like this (I'm using BCS standings as a guide and generally picking teams with better records or tiebreakers for conference titles. I also flipped Boise St and LSU to prevent a first round SEC matchup.)

1. Auburn
2. Oregon
3. TCU
4. Stanford
5. Wisconsin
6. Ohio St
7. Arkansas
8. Michigan St.
9. Oklahoma
10. Boise St*
11. LSU*
12. Virginia Tech
13. Northern Illinois
14. Connecticut
15. UCF
16. Florida International

Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and maybe Alabama and Nevada would have legitimate complaints (and except for Nevada, they lost multiple games they should have won), except that all of them lost games they should have won [and Nebraska has a chance to win it's way in anyways at the expense of Oklahoma, which actually makes the Big 12 championship game more important than it currently is.] If you just did top 16 you'd add some Big 12 flotsam and have a complaint over Alabama and Nevada at the cost of the bottom four teams.

11 Re: One Foot Inbounds: Fantastic Friday

Wouldn't Nevada be an automatic entry as the WAC champion? I don't know how the three way tiebreaker works in the conference, but Hawaii is 9-3 whereas Boise and Nevada have one loss a piece.

EDIT: Did some research and the WAC does not have a conference championship tiebreaker. My hunch is that in this hypothetical world, Nevada would get the nod over Boise due to the head to head win and Hawaii's weaker overall record.


12 Re: One Foot Inbounds: Fantastic Friday

I would also add that the only way I could see a 16-team playoff working is with a "minimum ranking" of conference champs. Something like, "you must be in the top 25 or be from an AQ conference". It really is a joke that UCF and Florida International would get a shot at the championship, however long it is, when some of Missouri/Nebraska/Oklahoma/Nevada (I feel no sympathy for Alabama and its three losses) wouldn't.

Also, to be picky, the Big XII championship is extremely important this year, as the conference (barring Wisconsin jumping Stanford) will only get one BCS bid.

16 Re: One Foot Inbounds: Fantastic Friday

Nevada would have been an automatic entry in that 'system'. And it's a pretty silly system that favors Connecticut over Alabama or South Carolina. Or favors Northern Illinois over Oklahoma State. Really, it's easy to find far better teams than Northern Illinois, Conn, UCF, Florida least this year. Some years those teams might be good enough, but definitely not this year.

Honestly I think it'd be easier to simply have the 16 team playoff select only from the Big 6 schools, with some proviso to allow for one or two at large non-big 6 schools. That's what most people honestly want as far as a playoff. They don't want to see the WAC champion in there most of the time. They don't care about Miami of Ohio. And therein lies the rub; a 16 team playoff is awfully small compared to the total number of potentially competitive teams. It works out okay in basketball because there are 64 slots - but 16 slots for a 120-team division? That's worse than the old-school MLB pennant races.

29 Re: One Foot Inbounds: Fantastic Friday

16/120 = 13.3%
45/347 = 13.0% (45 because there were roughly 20 one-bid conferences last year in NCAA basketball)

If you don't have any automatic qualifier, as you suggest, then 16 teams seems just about right.

DISCLAIMER: I don't follow NCAA football, so maybe the bottom of the 120 football teams is more competitive than the bottom of the 347 basketball teams.

19 Re: One Foot Inbounds: Fantastic Friday

Not patently ridiculous; patently fair. Allowing all the conference champs to go to the playoffs ensures that the best team in the country will ALWAYS have a way to earn the National Championship on the field, no matter which conference they were in, no matter how lowly they are ranked by the talking bobbleheads.

21 Re: One Foot Inbounds: Fantastic Friday

How is that 'fair'?

The best team in the country as decided by what? Why does it matter if a team gets through the WAC? Hell, can I invent a conference so that I get a playoff game? That's crazytalk. Conferences are really, really mutable in NCAAF - as we've seen this season and for the next two. The idea that each conference gets a guaranteed 'in' would do things like encourage teams to get to that in no matter what - by dropping conference affiliations. And where does Notre Dame or BYU fall into this? If they're the best team they don't have a guaranteed way to get into the playoffs, do they?

It's fair in the sense that it's objective. It's completely unfair otherwise.

26 Re: One Foot Inbounds: Fantastic Friday

The fact that any team is disqualified from a national championship because of their conference is bogus. You think the NCAA basketball tournament is unfair?

When I say "best", I mean, truly best. What if (for a crazy example) UL-Lafayette or Florida International is the best team in the country in 2014? They would have no chance to win a BCS National Championship.

But in a 16-team playoff, they'd be in as Sun Belt champion, and would have the chance to prove on the field they are (or are not) the best team. What is the injustice if they get in at the expense of the #14 or #15 team in the country? Honestly?

This system basically would guarantee the best team in the country will be in the playoffs, playing for the national title.

28 Re: One Foot Inbounds: Fantastic Friday

There is no such guarantee that "the best team in the country will be in the playoffs, playing for the national title" unless you have enough spots for at large bids for the dozen or more AQ conference non-champs that are absolutely better than the Sun Belt or MAC champs every year. The NCAA basketball tournament field of 65 includes 31 conference champs and 34 at large. A similarly sized football tournament field would have 11 conference champs and 13 at large.

The NCAA tournament is fair BECAUSE there are so many at large teams from power conferences. If there were only 11 at large teams in the NCAA basketball tournament (and a limit of 2 or 3 bids per league), I don't think it would be fair, no.

I don't know about an "injustice", but no, I don't think the Sun Belt champ should participate in a college football playoff at the expense of the 4th-best team in the SEC. Should FIU should be given a guaranteed opportunity to play for a title but Arkansas or LSU or Alabama shouldn't? Arkansas, LSU, and Alabama have proven already that they might be the best team in the nation more so than FIU, have they not?

30 Re: One Foot Inbounds: Fantastic Friday

"Not enough at-large bids" is not really a valid counter-argument to what I'm saying. If you didn't win your conference, what argument do you have that you're the best team in the country?

Plus, let's say the best team got "left out" because they didn't win their conference? Well, they had a chance to play their way in as conference champs, and failed to do so.

15 Re: One Foot Inbounds: Fantastic Friday

Having a college football playoff system would be great, but it isn't a perfect solution because there will still be controversy over which teams are invited.

17 Re: One Foot Inbounds: Fantastic Friday

Here's my playoff proposal.

12 teams, first two rounds in the home stadium of the highest seeded team. Automatic bids to the six BCS conference champs, the highest ranked non-AQ conference champ, and any team that finishes in the top 8 of the BCS. The final seeds go to the highest ranked in the BCS standings (or selection) with no conference to exceed 2 (unless it has 3 in the top 8). Seeding as follows.

1. Higest Ranked BCS conference champ
2. 2nd Higest Ranked BCS conference champ
3. 3rd Higest Ranked BCS conference champ
4. 4th Higest Ranked BCS conference champ
5. 5th Higest Ranked BCS conference champ
6. 6th Higest Ranked BCS conference champ
7. Higest ranked non-BCS conference champ
8-xx. The rest of the top 8 of the BCS
xx-12. Whoever is left.

Assuming the higher ranked BCS teams win their conference championship and the home team wins in the first round;

1. Auburn
2. Oregon
3. Wisconsin
4. Oklahoma
5. Virginia Tech
6. West Virginia
7. TCU
8. STanford
9. Ohio State
10. Arkansas
11. Michigan State
12. Boise State (or Missouri or Oklahoma State)

Round 1
Boise State at Virginia Tech
Michigan State at West Virginia
Arkansas at TCU
Ohio State at Stanford

Round 2
Stanford at Auburn
TCU at Oregon
West Virginia at Wisconsin
Virginia Tech at Oklahoma

22 Re: One Foot Inbounds: Fantastic Friday

Doesn't work. For example, you could have 4 teams from (say) the SEC West with a top 8 BCS ranking, and none of them could be the champion due to how the system works. And there could be 4 other BCS ranked teams that are in there as well. With your system 7 of the spots are guaranteed to the winners of the conferences (regardless of ranking). 5 open spots for top 8 BCS, and now you have 6,7, and 8 outside looking in.

Chances are low that it happens but this is a good example of the kind of year where it could; if Auburn loses the SEC championship and (for example) Oregon lost the Pac-10, both would be highly ranked. Along with the other 3 SEC teams and 2 Big-10 teams. Meanwhile the conference champs (let's say South Carolina and Utah) would get in, the ACC and Big East don't have a ranked team that gets in, and the only two top BCS 8 champs are Nebraska/Oklahoma winner and Wisconsin.

25 Playoffs

I'm not a playoff supporter, but if I were to set it up, it would be the 6 AQ conference champions and two at large bids. First round games will be traditional bowl matchups with the current selection criteria, second round and championship games will be hosted on a rotating basis. Seeding begins in the second round. All playoffs participants share revenue equally (i.e. the champion gets the same amount of money as a team that loses in the first round), minus travel costs - this would be a must to keep the traditional bowl rivalries in place.

This year it would be as follows, with no at-large selections due to the top 4 requirement:

First round, no seeding.

Rose Bowl
Wisconsin (Big 10) vs. Oregon (Pac 10)

Sugar Bowl
Auburn (SEC) vs. Stanford (top 4)

Orange Bowl
Virginia Tech (ACC) vs. Connecticut (Big East)

Fiesta Bowl
Nebraska (Big 12) vs. TCU (top 4)

Second round, with seeding (assuming no upset).
#1 Auburn vs. #4 Virgina Tech
#2 Oregon vs. #3 TCU

Championship game
#1 Auburn vs. #2 Oregon

1) Current Bowl system stays in tact, traditional rivals return.
2) Conference championships regain their utmost importance.
3) The top small conference schools have a chance.
4) Notre Dame could theoretically keep their "top 12" clause.

1) Best teams sometimes don't win their conference championships.
2) The champion team plays two extra games, with increased chance of injury.
3) First round is not "fair".
4) The Big East stinks.