I apologize for the following scenario I'm going to throw at you, but please play along. Now imagine if you can Brent Musberger's voice. (Again, I apologize.) Shouldn't be hard to do right? If you watch enough college football it won't be.
"Ladies and gentleman, we are back live in Pasadena, CA at the Rose Bowl live as the new kings of college football are about to be crowned," Musberger's voice booms. "Let's throw it down to Erin Andrews and the 2009 - 2010 national championship coach Mack Brown of the Texas Longhorns!"
Yes, yes, you're right, we all know Alabama won the BCS title that season by defeating Texas 37-21 that night at the Rose Bowl in California. Notice the key phrase there. BCS title. Fortunately for Alabama, and the University of Notre Dame as it turns out, there wasn't a playoff that year.
Because if the playoff format currently approved for the 2014 regular season were in place in 2009, the Texas Longhorns would have been college football's national champions.
Don't believe me? Here's how it would have went down
The final four in college football at the end of the regular season in order were Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati and TCU. Alabama was ranked first and Texas Christian fourth, so the Crimson Tide would have hosted TCU in the first semi-final game. And they would have won. But the Horned Frogs would have made Alabama work for it. TCU had an SEC like defense that year. They were big and fast. They forced turnovers and they were as good as any defense in the country that season.
But TCU hadn't seen a team like Alabama. After nearly a full half of holding down the Tide, TCU's defense begins to crumble a bit and Nick Saban's team would begin to start wearing down the Horned Frogs. As you probably recall the Crimson Tide had a great defense as well, and certainly had more offensively than Texas Christian. By the second half Alabama starts to pull away. A couple turnovers and no response from the TCU offense, and Alabama punches its ticket to the national title game with a 16 - 6 victory.
The other semi-final would have Texas hosting Cincinnati. The Bearcats were a great story in 2009 with a star in the making head coach Brian Kelly and a team that was playing in its second BCS bowl game in as many years. And this time, they were coming in to the bowl game undefeated.
More importantly, because it would have been a playoff game, Brian Kelly would have been there.
Kelly left Cincinnati in December of 2009 when Cincinnati didn't qualify for the title game of the BCS by virtue of the their third place standing that season. Undefeated and on the outside looking in.
Which gave Kelly his out. He has stated many times since that if his Cincinnati team had a chance at a national title he would have stayed. In addition, Notre Dame has stated that if they had to wait until January they likely would have moved on to another candidate. Which would have changed things for both programs for years to come.
But for our purposes, Kelly stays and takes Cincinnati to Austin, Texas.
And loses. They would have put a better fight than they did against Florida in the Sugar Bowl with interim head coach Jeff Quinn at the helm. But Texas had too much for the Bearcats. Colt McCoy was nearly unstoppable that season, and Kelly, for all of his success on the offensive side of the ball with the Bearcats, didn't yet have the size or speed on defense to stop Texas. Longhorns score early and often and eventually pull away, 41-23.
Which leaves us a true national championship game between two of college footballs elite programs. Alabama and Texas.
Ok, I can hear the Alabama fans screaming now, and I get it. I know Alabama had too much for them that night. I know for the most part that game wasn't really close.
But they did it by taking out the best player in college football that season in McCoy. Texas had no shot without him. They fought valiantly, but they couldn't do it without their star quarterback. To be fair they may have done the same thing in a title game after a semi-final victory.
But that's the point. Instead of having over a month off, both teams would have played the week before. A rhythm would have been re-established. McCoys' offensive line and receivers would have been back in sync.
That would have made all the difference in the world. After all that time off, Alabama took it to McCoy and the Longhorn offense before they knew what had hit them.
Now, because the national championship game is played a week after the semi-finals, we would get a better look at both teams competing. The fact that the system now keeps teams idle for nearly six weeks in some cases has long been a sore spot for many college football fans. Teams play a full season and then they take over a month off?
Not anymore. At least for the title game.
So now Alabama faces the best quarterback in the country and he's ready. His team is ready. He's not caught off guard and knocked out of the game before he even has a chance. McCoy keeps the Alabama defense at bay with a couple of early sustained drives featuring a quick passing game from college football's most accurate passer.
Alabama hasn't had anyone do this to them all year. Frustration mounts as the night grows on. They can't put Texas away early, and they can't put many points on the scoreboard either. And that's when McCoy strikes.
Late in the game, still upright, McCoy takes his team down the field. As time slips away he finds Jordan Shipley over and over again until McCoy finds him in the end zone with just under two minutes left.
That's not enough time for an anemic Alabama passing attack, Texas pulls off the upset, 17 - 14. National champions. Mack Brown' second title. Saban has to wait for his second.
Colt McCoy rides off in to the sunset. A burnt orange sunset.