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Tradition vs. Progress: Making the Bowls Matter in a New World

While we still have some time before the college football world is turned upside down by the revolutionary concept of a playoff, we continue to poke and prod at the BCS system and the traditional (and often times non-traditional) bowl games that accompany it. Fans have wanted changes to the system almost from day 1 and who can blame them? An imperfect system designed by imperfect humans to supplement an imperfect game.

The Fiesta Bowl is probably playoff bound but can we use the bowls to enhance the regular season?
The Fiesta Bowl is probably playoff bound but can we use the bowls to enhance the regular season?
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

What could possibly go wrong?

More than a decade later, we sit at the edge of the cliff, staring out over the chasm of change preparing to jump in with excited glee. "Bowl games are lame!" some shout out. "Give me good matchups! Tradition doesn't matter!" others say. Who can argue? It's pretty hard to justify the tradition and pageantry surrounding the Bowl or the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas as critical to our college football heritage.

That being said, when you look across the landscape at these college football exhibitions, some bowls do have tradition that we should care about. The Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, just to name a few, are all steeped in a rich tradition that surround not only the teams that play in them, but the communities as well. These all have a home in the new playoff system because of that tradition and while some may argue that the rest of the bowls should be cast aside as redundant, I have a different solution.

The bowl games should become an opening extravaganza to celebrate the return of college football at the beginning of the season instead of representing the last gasp of merely an exhibition-style afterthought.

As we move towards a system where committees seek to place teams in a playoff bracket to ultimately determine a national champion, those committee members should be given as much information as possible to help them in their choices. Moving the bowl games to the beginning of the season helps to accomplish that goal. Competitive games, containing traditional and non-traditional conference matchups, could be an extremely engaging and powerful way to kick off the season and provide a backdrop for committee selections at the conclusion of the regular season when conference championship games conclude.

I'd love to see Oregon State play Texas in the Alamo Bowl, LSU and Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and many more of this year's bowl season matchups to start off September.

With resume builders at the beginning of the year, additional non-conference matchups based out of existing scheduling, the regular conference season, and potentially a conference championship game, teams would have plenty of room to build compelling resumes on a quest to win a national championship. The bowls would also bring with them a tremendous amount of drama and importance to the regular season, one that many issues opponents of playoff systems bring up.

Such as a system isn't without its flaws. How would you select teams to go to the bowl games in the first place if it isn't based off of that regular season's campaign? What do you do about teams that wouldn't have the extra game? These issues, and others like them, can be solved and the results could be profoundly positive on the game of college football, both in terms of play on the field and logistically creating a better quality of product.

While the easy thing for fans to do is to dismiss the bowls as something antiquated, perhaps college football can seek to look at things a bit differently to frame these contests and something more than just money and ratings grabs. Make them more than just exhibitions to be tossed aside as irrelevant to the national championship picture. Allow the bowl system in general to become integral to the success of the new college football playoff system.