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04 Dec 2006

Confessions of a Football Junkie: Hanging Chads

by Russell Levine

Voting controversy. The states of Ohio, Florida, and Michigan proving critical. An online red state-blue state map showing the country evenly divided -- about all that was missing from yesterday's dramatic selection of Florida as the opponent for no. 1 Ohio State in the Bowl Championship Series title game on January 8 was Tim Russert and his dry-erase board.

The wait for Sunday's decisive human polls added an extra day of drama following a shocking Saturday that saw USC bounced from a date with Ohio State by its cross-town rival, UCLA. It's probably safe to assume that Roy Kramer, the former SEC commissioner who spearheaded the development of the BCS, never envisioned a day like Sunday, as an anxious fan base awaited the voting returns like a tight Election Day.

It has been known for weeks that the BCS would not enjoy a matchup free of controversy this season. With Ohio State the sole undefeated major-conference team, the primary question was how great would be the outcry from the schools that were left out. Poll voters and pundits alike appeared to embrace the candidacy of USC for the championship game following the Trojans' rout of Notre Dame last week, but when unranked UCLA pulled the upset, the second spot in the title game became a two-horse race between Florida (12-1) and Michigan (11-1).

Florida learned of USC's loss at halftime of the SEC championship game. Perhaps it was coincidence, but the news seemed to rattle the Gators, who saw a 17-7 halftime lead against Arkansas evaporate in the third quarter. But Florida rallied for a 10-point win, and speculation immediately began about whether the Gators would leapfrog idle Michigan into the second slot in the polls. Even with the game still in doubt, CBS analyst Gary Danielson began openly campaigning for the Gators to be the pick, offering an at-best questionable schedule comparison that seemed to suggest the Gators should go because the SEC's worst teams were better than the Big 10's.

As for Michigan, its biggest sin may have been not playing the last two weeks while first USC and then Florida passed it in the BCS standings. But this was no computer snafu. Because Michigan and Florida ended up in a virtual tie in the computer rankings, it was the human voters who put Florida in the title game.

It was not just the Gators' at-times ragged win over Arkansas that jumped them over Michigan. This was clearly a vote against Michigan -- and against a rematch with Ohio State, who handed the Wolverines their only loss of the season on November 18 -- as much as it was a vote for Florida, and although that violates the spirit of the BCS's goal of matching the two best teams regardless of conference affiliation, it's still understandable.

Rankled Michigan fans won't agree, but as controversies go, the snubbing of the Wolverines seems destined to rank below the BCS's greatest blunders: In 2001 and 2003, teams that were blown out in their final games and failed to win their conferences still qualified for the championship game. Though the BCS declined to make a rule change requiring championship-game participants to win their conferences, it seems those two scenarios -- in which Nebraska and Oklahoma went on to lose the national title game -- were on the minds of the voters who ultimately picked Florida over Michigan.

The Wolverines, of course, also lost their final regular season game and failed to win their conference. However, unlike Nebraska and Oklahoma, the loss was at No. 1 Ohio State and by just three points (although a late Michigan touchdown and two-point conversion made the game appear closer than it was).

Another past BCS failure also favored Florida. In 2004, Auburn went 12-0 and won the SEC title, but finished third behind fellow unbeatens USC and Oklahoma in the BCS standings. When USC destroyed Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, the cries grew louder that Auburn had been wronged, especially for having gone undefeated in the powerful SEC.

Through reputation or fact, the SEC typically carries the label of the nation's toughest conference, and perhaps the voters who elevated Florida over Michigan had that Auburn situation in mind when they filled out their ballots and opted not to spurn the SEC a second time.

More than merely avoiding a game we've already seen, the thinking behind the voters' decision appears to have been that Michigan already had a crack at the Buckeyes, and that Florida had done enough to warrant a chance, even if many college football observers feel the Wolverines are a slightly better team than the Gators. It's difficult to interpret the polls any other way. A week ago, both polls maintained Michigan was a stronger team than Florida, but that changed while the Wolverines were sitting at home.

Because Michigan -- unlike Auburn in 2004 -- had a shot at the No. 1 team during the regular season, there is less mystery surrounding the Wolverines' exclusion. Of course, the topic will be revisited should Michigan beat USC in the Rose Bowl and Florida fail to be competitive against Ohio State.

Since the BCS has usually reacted to controversy by making changes, it's worth speculating whether the same might occur this off-season. The easiest change would be to eliminate from title-game consideration teams that did not win their conferences, which would have cleaned up three of the BCS's four biggest messes (including this year's). But even that change is no cure-all. Had that rule been in place this year, and had Florida lost to Arkansas and Rutgers beaten West Virginia, the field for the second spot in the championship game would have included teams with two losses (including Pac-10 champ USC coming off a loss), or a Rutgers squad ranked in the lower regions of the top 10.

In tabbing Florida over Michigan to face Ohio State, the BCS probably ended up with the less contentious matchup, but this still makes five times in the system's nine-year history that there has been a controversial selection. Given the BCS's task -- to match two out of 119 teams Division I-A teams in a single championship contest without the benefit of a playoff to help narrow the field -- this is hardly surprising.

There are those who believe that every BCS dispute brings us one step closer to a playoff system, but BCS controversy does nothing to lower the considerable logistical hurdles currently preventing a postseason tournament. Until then, we're stuck with a flawed system and dubious votes. Does that remind you of another Florida election of note?

One Possible Solution

I have argued for years that all the clamoring for a playoff is a waste of time. The existence of the bowls, the resistance of the college presidents to the idea, and the fact that the NCAA does not currently run postseason football, all make it virtually impossible to have a Division I-AA style 16-team playoff. I'm also in the camp that suggests such a tournament would be bad for the college football by devaluing the best regular season in all of sports.

However, I do think there is one major change we might see as soon as a three years from now, when the first cycle of the "double-hosting" model is complete. The double-hosting model has created the infrastructure for a one-game championship. If the college presidents will take that tiny step, they might be able to create a four-team playoff under the auspices of the BCS, not the NCAA, that would stage two semifinals and a championship using the current bowl structure.

Here's how it would work. Each year, two of the four BCS games would host national semifinals, and one of them would host the title game a week later. The Fiesta and Rose would be paired as would the Sugar and Orange to make travel easier. In year one, the Fiesta and Rose would host semis and the Fiesta would then host the winners a week later. Year two would see the Sugar and Orange hosting the semis and the Sugar hosting the championship. Then back to the Fiesta/Rose with the Rose getting the title game, etc.

In years they weren't hosting semifinals, the other two BCS games would stage games from qualified teams outside the top four. Eligibility would be determined by criteria similar to what the BCS now uses: conference champs in the BCS leagues plus set criteria for mid-majors and Notre Dame. But I would scrap the BCS standings in favor of a selection committee made up of representatives of the six BCS conferences. They would establish clear criteria for picking and seeding the four teams. In other words, if rematches are to be avoided, make it part of the charter. If weight is to be given to conference champs, write that in the mission statement.

Limiting the field to four would obviously not end the controversy. For example, who would get the fourth spot this season, assuming Ohio State, Florida, and Michigan were the top three seeds? But that's still preferable to what we have now.

I believe very strongly that a four-team playoff is the largest that could be accommodated by the bowls. In this system, only two teams play an extra game, and only one of them has to travel twice in the postseason. It's not perfect (fans would most likely have to travel to the same destination two weeks in a row) but I think it would be a significant improvement over what we have now.

If access to the big money bowls is a problem (since this system would limit the number of slots to eight, down from the current 10), the fix is an easy one. Draft another bowl into the BCS, use some of the new-found TV money to increase its payout to BCS levels and keep the number of teams at 10. This game (I'd vote for the Cotton, but it could be one of the newer, well-financed games like the Chck-fi-a or the Capital One) would not participate in the hosting-rotation.

The key to this system is the use of a selection committee that would be charged with doing nothing but watching college football all season long and picking the four best teams using any and all available information, much as the NCAA basketball committee relies on the RPI. Does anyone think that this wouldn't be preferable to using polls in which most of the voters maybe see one or two games a week? To me, the BCS formula is the root of all its problems. Both the human polls and the computer rankings seem to lack the element of logic that a selection committee could bring.

I do believe we will see either a single-game championship with the participants picked from among the four BCS-game winners or something similar to the four-team playoff I've described, perhaps as soon as the next rotation of the BCS. It's both an improvement over the current system, and feasible, which virtually every playoff proposal I've seen is not.

John L. Smith Trophy

There were lots of candidates for the JLS Trophy this week -- and several excellent suggestions in the Seventh Day Adventure comment thread -- but I'm going off the board for my winner.

Houston coach Art Briles was certainly a viable candidate after he opted to run the ball without any timeouts on the Southern Miss goal line at the end of the first half of the C-USA title game. The play was stuffed and the Southern Miss players sat on the pile forever as the clock ran out. Even though the officials should have flagged USM for delay of game -- Houston should have had enough time to run another play -- this was a particularly unforgivable choice for one reason: It occurred on third down. When the play was stuffed, there was no move to get the Houston field-goal unit on the field on fourth down. Even had the Cougars been able to run another play, it appeared all they could do was attempt another run.

But my pick for the JLS Trophy this week is Rutgers coach Greg Schiano for his conservative play-calling in overtime against West Virginia. The college overtime format doesn't favor a team like Rutgers, which has an excellent defense, special teams, and ground game, but which doesn't pass all that well. When the Scarlet Knights forced West Virginia to go three-and-out and kick a field goal in their first OT possession, Schiano failed to grasp that he was just presented his best opportunity to win the game. His quarterback, Mike Teel, was playing the best game of his career. Instead, Rutgers ran twice, then threw short of the first-down line on third down and kicked the tying field goal.

Predictably, that was as close as Rutgers would come to the win, and they didn't embrace the chance. It has been a great year for both the Scarlet Knights and Schiano, but he needed to trust his quarterback in that spot, and give his team its best shot to get to a BCS game. He did neither, and Rutgers is headed to the Texas Bowl, which is a long way down the bowl pecking order from Miami.

BlogPoll Ballot

This season, I'm voting in the BlogPoll, hosted by MGoBlog. I'll post my ballot in Junkie each week. Feel free to comment -- my rankings may change based upon your suggestions.

Rankings that may need some further explanation include:

  • Not much in the way of change this week. I didn't see anything out of Florida in the Arkansas game that would warrant a jump over Michigan. That was a ragged win against a somewhat-limited team (any team that can't pass and whose best player is hurt early in the game meets my definition of "limited"). Still Arkansas doesn't drop far because Florida is a quality team and they were in the game to the end.
Rank Team Delta
1 Ohio State --
2 Michigan 1
3 Florida 1
4 LSU 1
5 Louisville 1
6 Wisconsin 2
7 Oklahoma 3
8 Southern Cal 6
9 Arkansas 2
10 Auburn 1
11 Wake Forest 1
12 Notre Dame 1
13 West Virginia 3
14 Rutgers 3
15 Boise State 1
16 Texas 1
17 Tennessee --
18 Boston College --
19 Virginia Tech --
20 California --
21 Brigham Young 1
22 Texas A&M 2
23 Oregon State 3
24 Penn State 1
25 Nebraska 2

Dropped Out: Hawaii (#21).

Portions of this article appeared in Monday's New York Sun.

Posted by: Russell Levine on 04 Dec 2006

99 comments, Last at 08 Dec 2006, 2:29pm by zlionsfan

Comments

1
by Lincoln (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 8:16pm

First!

2
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 8:41pm

To me, the BCS formula is the root of all its problems. Both the human polls and the computer rankings seem to lack the element of logic that a selection committee could bring.

I have to say, that's the best criticism that I've heard of the BCS so far. I've never been a huge fan of either of the two elements of the rankings, though I thought they were pretty complementary in what they were trying to do. But I can't think of any way to structure the polls to avoid preseason bias, and there's no way for statistical rankings to have enough information to rank teams precisely without being biasable themselves.

The one thing I'd have to say, though, is that one thing that would improve that situation is a minimum schedule strength requirement. Teams like Boise State, for instance, have to know when their schedule is just too weak to put them in real consideration.

Either that, or do the smart thing and split Division IA in two (yes, again).

3
by Basilicus (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 8:46pm

It's a big mistake to think people won't keep subscribing to the BCS as it is. It creates debate and publicity. They'll rancor for change, yes, but I don't see it happening outside the minor fixes they add every year.

People arguing about college football teams and who deserves to be where only makes people watch college football more. It's covered by everyone, and even those who wouldn't usually tune in to the national championship game might. You can't hit up a news page, social page, news network, or sports channel without seeing this as a top story, right alongside a thousand folks dying in the Phillipenes. Why? Because Americans are arguing about it. It's a self-feeding, repeating cycle, and college football would be smart to stick with it.

4
by Pete C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 8:52pm

ultimate problem is that, while a four team play-off is better, it would only be marginally better and would not get rid of the whining. For instance, under your system the top four would presumably be OSU, USC, UM and Florida. Whose to say Boise, Louisville or even Oklahome don't deserve the spots instead of Michigan and USC?

I have always believed that they should go to an 8 team format, with 6 conference champions and 2 wild cards. That way, the big 6 are represented fairly no matter how weak or strong a conference might be. In addition to the six, you must include the provision that an undefeated WAC or MWC team gets an invite (to allow for the Boise's or Utah's of the world). Seed based on BCS standings. OSU v. Wake, Florida v Oklahoma, Michigan v Boise and USC v Louisville.

In addition, such a format would make conference championship Saturday one of the greatest days in all of sports. Thats why you would not need to make it 16, because the conference title games would already be a defacto "play in" round.

5
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 8:52pm

The biggest problem I have with a 4-team playoff shows up perhaps most clearly last year. At the end of the year, the rankings went #1 USC, #2 Texas, #3 Penn State, #4 Ohio State. I believe tOSU was a better team at the end of the year than they were when they lost to Texas and Penn State, thanks largely to the improvement of Troy Smith. But that doesn't change the fact that they still lost to them. Moreover, I'm not in favor of a system that leaves open the possibility of a 2-loss team managing to win the national championship when there are undefeated teams out there, simply because they happened to lose at the long time. To me, the great commandment of college football is simple: Thou Shalt Win All Thy Games, Else Thou Shalt Not Complain. Any system that moves away from that is in error.

6
by Schlom (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 9:08pm

Why couldn't they just leave the old system in place? With the unbalanced schedule college teams play you can never tell which team is better than the other. This year, Ohio State got Michigan at home, therefore they are the ones playing for the national title and Michigan isn't. LSU had a much tougher road schedule than Florida which could mean that LSU is the better team and "deserves" to be playing for the national title. People seem to forget that this isn't the NFL so why is everyone trying to make it into a half-assed version of it. Since nobody plays the same schedule, ultimately the "National Title" is meaningless -- at least when the writers were voting on it we knew that.

7
by Derek (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 9:14pm

And since hypotheticals are all the rage, a four-team playoff might not really help us this year. Suppose Ohio State and Michigan both won their "semi-finals" only to meet in the "Championship" game. Michigan wins by 1 after some controversial officiating and is declared "National Champion".

The only teams that truly get screwed are the unbeatens (like Auburn from a few years ago).

8
by andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 9:21pm

You can't get rid of all the whining. Basketball has a 64-team playoff, and every year you hear whining from some school relegated to the NIT that "we're not #65"... (scuse me, I guess with the play-in game, its "we're not #66")...

But you are pretty sure that whoever's whining has zero case on being the best team in the game.

9
by peachy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 9:24pm

I like your proposal... but I might point out that as far as the BCS standings are concerned this year, we have already had the semifinals of a 4-team playoff - OSU beat UM, UF beat LSU.

10
by Oldcat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 9:32pm

#5 I don't know about your logic. This is what happens all the time in NCAA basketball and nobody blinks when a 18-11 team wins it all.

The whole disease of 1 loss / 0 loss that permiates College football polling is one of the biggest problems it has - since one loss to anybody ruins your title hopes, schedule patsys and run up the score on them. Id rather a system that allows a team that schedules tough opponents be forgiven the inevitable extra loss.

Beating a slate of inferior teams 90-0 isn't what a national champion should be - its just gaming the system.

A playoff would require that a team be able to beat 1-2 high quality teams to be national champion. Thats better than the old polls used to require, and at least as good as the BCS.

11
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 9:35pm

While everything surrounding Florida is incredibly annoying, particularly their head coach, I look forward to the game.

On a Wisconsin-related note, I saw today that Wisky is a 3 point underdog against Arkansas. Fine with me. The Badgers were openly mocked in the national media before both the 1994 and 1999 Rose Bowls. Craig James termed the latter Wisco team the "worst champion in the history of the Big Ten". Last year the Badgers were ridiculed by the Jason Whitlocks of the world, etc. as well as the Auburn players. In each case Wisconsin won.

I have no idea how Wisky will handle McFadden, etc. But if Barry Alvarez still has something to say I know the team will be ready. The man had his flawas but bowl game prep was not one of them.

12
by ChrisFromNJ (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 9:36pm

#5

To me, the great commandment of college football is simple: Thou Shalt Win All Thy Games, Else Thou Shalt Not Complain.

If that's the case, why hasn't anyone complained on Boise State's behalf? *They* deserve a crack at Ohio State more than anyone else. Any fix to the BCS must state loud and clear that if you are undefeated, you deserve a shot to play for the national championship. Plain and simple, no exceptions.

Now that Rutgers is stuck in the frickin' Texas Bowl, here's my BCS dream scenario. Florida edges out OSU, the other bowls do whatevder, and Boise State utterly crushes Oklahoma. Seriously. I want to see what the pundits and big-conference money interests would say then.

13
by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 10:17pm

Re 4: An entertaining hypothetical with your proposal--six conference champions are determined, and there is one undefeated team each in the WAC and MWC. That takes up your 8 spots with legitimately deserving teams. But now let's suppose there's a "storied program" playing somewhere in Indiana that goes, say, 11-1, with the one loss being a narrow one to USC. Think there would be much outcry? Alternatively, say Ohio State wins the Big Ten, and Michigan crushes Notre Dame. (Seems like a possible scenario, doesn't it?) Then Wisconsin/Penn State/MSU/someone gives Michigan a second loss. Everyone other 2nd place team, from SEC, Big 12, etc., has 2 losses. That second wild card discussion becomes, again, very entertaining.

I'm not, by the way, being negative--I like your proposal, and "entertaining" is not something that is bad.

14
by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 10:19pm

Since nobody plays the same schedule, ultimately the “National Title� is meaningless — at least when the writers were voting on it we knew that.

Using that criteria, ALL championships are meaningless since no two teams in any sport play the same schedule.

If that’s the case, why hasn’t anyone complained on Boise State’s behalf? *They* deserve a crack at Ohio State more than anyone else. Any fix to the BCS must state loud and clear that if you are undefeated, you deserve a shot to play for the national championship. Plain and simple, no exceptions.

I doubt the writer actually believes this himself. College Football would suffer greatly from such a ruling. What would stop a strong SEC or ACC from joining the Sun Belt conference, scheduling all 1-aa softies on their NC schedule, and making it to the National Title Game every year?

If a team like Boise wants to get into the National Title mix, they first need to upgrade their conference. At this point it would make sense for both the WAC and Boise to come together.

15
by Gerry (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 10:25pm

"For instance, under your system the top four would presumably be OSU, USC, UM and Florida."

LSU begs to differ with the inclusion of USC.

Hence, why the arguing never will go away. It might get shifted lower and marginalized thusly, though.

16
by CaffeineMan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 10:34pm

At this point it would make sense for both the WAC and Boise to come together.

I'm confused. Isn't Boise St. already in the WAC? Or do you mean something else?

17
by Chris Heinonen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 11:08pm

Going to 8 teams, IMO, would be far too many. Yes, someone is going to be unhappy if they are #5, but those teams that come in at #3 are already unhappy, and this is an improvement over that. That said, I know I would have complained if my team was #5, but it's better than being #3, IMO, since #3 usually has more of a claim to play in the title game than #5. 8 teams is just way too many and, honestly, punishes those Top 2 teams too much by giving them 3 chances to lose, not just one.

18
by Dave (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 11:09pm

I'm on record as favoring a 16-team playoff; 11 conference champs + 5 at-large teams if Division I-A, err, the Bowl Division, is configured as it is now. That gives pretty much everyone the opportunity to get in based on play on the field (excepting the handful of indepenendents), and five spots for independents and/or other quality teams that didn't win their conference. I figure if you didn't win your conference, and aren't one of the five best other teams that did, you might be better than the Sun Belt champ, or even the ACC champ, but you aren't winning the national title.

If I were granted dictatorial powers as the Rat Bastard College Football commissioner, I'd make a few more changes. First, the 12th regular season game would go away. Second, conference championship games would go away, and conferences would be required to play a round-robin schedule. If your conference has too many teams for that -- too bad, kick a few teams out. Third, no more independents.

When the dust settled, we'd have 7 9-team conferences and 7 8-team conferences. The playoffs would be 14 conference champs + 2 at-large teams; fewer at-large teams being less of an issue because the 'power' teams would be spread out among more conferences.

19
by ChrisFromNJ (not verified) :: Mon, 12/04/2006 - 11:23pm

#14:

Under the current scenario, I'm dead serious that Boise State deserves a shot at Ohio State this year. My ideal scenario is actually virtually identical to Pete C's in #4, though with the stipulation that it should be possible for a BCS conference to be left out if a) the champ is ranked sufficiently low (out of top 15, maybe?) AND there's a sufficiently strong mid-major.

As for the "ooh an SEC team could sandbag it in the Sun Belt and play 1-AA teams" strawman, I have two responses: 1) I'm also in favor of eliminating all games against 1-AA opponents, and 2) I have faith that there is enough tradition, competitive issues regarding other sports, and potential for Lots Of Official Disapproval From The Pollsters that such a thing has no chance of happening.

Over the past few decades the ranks of the independents have plummeted, and conferences seem to have mostly stabilized. Mind you, there was the ACC raiding the Big East, and then the Big East raiding C-USA, but in that case no teams dropped to the mid-major ranks. The only team to drop from a BCS conference to mid-major status is the currently independent Temple. I'm sure you're familiar with the storied football history of *that* institution.

As for Boise State "upgrading its conference", I just don't see how they can go ahead an do that on their own. I suppose they could try to join the Pac-10, but I'd be shocked if the Pac-10 let them in. And don't forget about all the other non-football sports. (Sort of like how everyone was trashing the Big East's nonconference schedule, and conveniently forgetting that teams like Louisville was turned down by just about every SEC team it tried to schedule games with.)

20
by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 12:27am

19- We agree to disagree, then. I don't see Boise's 12- 0 record as anywhere near as impressive as Florida's 12 - 1.

It's like a QB passing for 4,000 yards in high school vs passing for 3,500 yards in the NFL. I know which QB I'd rather have.

21
by Show (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 12:37am

Love love love the article, love the suggestion. I'm not a proponent of a large, division I playoff in CFB. A four team playoff would still make the regular season very relavent and very important.

Also love the idea of a selection committee. I think that should be implemented regardless of whether a playoff was or not. The problem with the computers is that they can't see which team is better. They can only rely on a very limited data set to make a decision, which isn't fair. Either allow them to have a DVOA type formula to decide which teams are best, or scrap them all together.

The argument against forcing championship games participants to win their conference is also a good one. I read another good one on SI.com, and I'll relay it here. On the last weekend of the season, 10-1 and third ranked Florida is playing at 11-0 and second ranked Florida State. Florida's only loss came at the hands of 11-0 and first ranked Tennessee. The Vols are going on the road to Kentucky, but regardless of the result of that game, Tennessee will play for the SEC title. Florida beats FSU, and, in an upset for the ages, Kentucky beats Tennessee. Now, you'd have a Florida team that was ranked third, had just beaten the number two team in the country on the road, and watched the number one team lose, yet they would be locked out of the national championship because they couldn't win the conference.

Crazy situations like this are almost bound to come up eventually. Steadfast rules are not the way to deal with the BCS.

22
by Mnatr (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 12:44am

What's funny is that people freak out about the problems with the college football championship, but absolutely love the Men's basketball tournament.

In which system does the top team win most often? How about top 5 teams? You can argue that whichever team win the 65 team tourney is always the best team, but you'd be wrong.

23
by adwred (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 1:07am

As a Madison alum who knows nothing about college football except the Badgers rule, I have a question: has their ever been a 6th ranked team less talked about than the beloved footballers of the esteemed University of Wisconsin? C'mon there must be someone out there that thinks its interesting that this team is ranked so highly; they weren't supposed to do anything at all. Why no love?

24
by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 1:07am

Re #22: Yep.

IIRC, one year a 31 - 2 Wisonsin-Green Bay team was left out, while a bunch of 19 - 11 teams from big conferences got in. And that's a field of 64 teams!

25
by MLA (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 1:14am

If you haven't seen them yet, there are now a couple of AP articles floating around in which some of the poll voters more or less admit that they blatantly disregarded the poll criteria in order to put Florida in the title game. Rather than order the teams based on who they thought was best, some voters admitted to putting Florida ahead of Michigan to avoid a rematch or because Michigan wasn't a conference champion. Of course, we all knew this would happen, but I really wasn't expecting voters to be so honest about it.
This to me invalidates the whole BCS system, because poll voters chose not to vote for the team they thought was best in order to get a desired title game. The poll asks voters to rank the teams based on how good they are, not to put teams in order of who you most want to see play in the national championship. I don't see how anyone can have any faith in the BCS system if the voters are going to ignore the poll criteria and rig the vote in order to get the matchup they want to see.
If we're just going for what game we want to see, why not let the viewers vote on who plays for the national championship?

26
by JoshEngleman (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 1:16am

I have been thinking about the whole playoff scenario and came up with this. It mimics the NFL in a way. I would take the top 6 teams in the BCS and give a bye to the #1 and #2 teams.

The "first week" would have the 3 vs. 6 and 4 vs. 5 matchups. You can still use the current BCS bowls, but just rotate them. Using this year as an example, Michigan would play Louisville and LSU would play Michigan. The bowls would rotate each year.

I've tossed around a few ideas for where to go from here. One could be that is just simply by initial seeds. The Michigan/Louisville winner would face Ohio St and the LSU/USC winner would face Florida. I have given thought to having them reseeded, giving Ohio St. the most favorable seed matchup. Either way, it would leave us with the final two teams playing in the BCS title game. Little wrinkles could be added like provisions for including non-BCS conference selections, but I feel like the basics of this system could really be good.

27
by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 1:17am

The argument against forcing championship games participants to win their conference is also a good one.

I don't agree with that- why, for example, would Michigan be better served losing to Notre Dame than to Ohio State?

28
by Whiskey (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 1:51am

"I have argued for years that all the clamoring for a playoff is a waste of time."

I disagree that clamoring for a playoff is a waste of time. The BCS system exists because of widespread popular demand for a playoff system. Continued demand makes a playoff more likely, and your proposal for a de facto playoff is an implicit nod to this demand. Remember, the BCS is a compromise between the public, who wants a system that determines the national champion by playing football games, and the institutions making all the money.

"...much as the NCAA basketball committee relies on the RPI."

This isn't true, and it hasn't been for years. The NCAA selection committee uses factors like quality wins not at home and strength of schedule, but the RPI wasn't even a factor in last year's deliberations.

22 : "In which system does the top team win most often? How about top 5 teams? You can argue that whichever team win the 65 team tourney is always the best team, but you’d be wrong."

You are conflating "top" teams with "best" teams. I'm not convinced there even is such a thing as a "best" team. Was St. Louis the best baseball team of the 2006 season? Were last year's Steelers the best football team? We don't know, but we do know both were champions. We also know all of their competitors had a shot to win; we can't say that about Division I-A.

29
by Jason Scheib (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 1:59am

re #21: "yet they would be locked out of the national championship because they couldn’t win the conference."

Actually they could. When they played Tennessee earlier in the season.

It all comes back to the question of whether a team should be considered the best team if they had the best season from beginning to end, or if they were the best team at the end of the season. College football has always gone the first way and other sports generally have gone the second way. But I'm not sure you can have it both ways.

30
by Show (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 2:07am

#28

I know they COULD'VE won the conference. But now, they can't, and they'll be the no doubt, consensus number one in the country. Is it fair to leave a team like that out?

31
by MRH (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 2:12am

I don't buy the "playoff tournament invalidates the regular season" argument. So does the BCS - why should Ohio State have to play anyone if the regular season is so all-fired important? So did the bowl games, once the polls routinely considered them in picking the number one team.

Either the regular season matters in and of itself, or it matters ONLY in selecting who plays for the national championship in the bowls or BCS or tournament, however structured.

As for tradition, what tradition? How many games in a traditional season? 8? 9? 10? 11? 12? More if you play in Hawaii? It wasn't that long ago that the Fiesta was a minor bowl. Let's go back to the 4 traditional big bowls on New Year's Day.

If there is a national championship, have a playoff tournament and settle it on the field. Anything else is just a debating society.

32
by Solomon (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 2:17am

#30 -- It is totally fair. If you are not the best team out of 12, then you are not the best team out of 119. One good thing about 1-A college football is that a team must play well throughout the season and win most, if not all, of its games to be champion. I would support a rule banning non-conference champs from the title game.

33
by Jason Scheib (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 2:20am

Re #30: Like I said, it all comes down to whether you consider the best team to be the team who had the best entire season or the team that finished the best. If you look at the entire season you would have to say that although Florida in that scenario beat the #2 team in the country, they also lost to the #1 team in the country, and in this scenario (but without that rule) they would very possibly play Tennessee again for the title, but that matchup already happened.

It's fine if you think college football should determine it's champion by who finishes the season the best instead of who had the best season from beginning to end. I'm not necessarily opposed to that. I'm just saying I don't think you can really have both, and it seems to me that when people debate about whether or not there should be a playoff, what they really are debating about is this.

34
by Solomon (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 2:26am

In the past few days, someone complained about the Big 10 needing to play a round robin or have a championship game. He/she mentioned that Purdue did not have to play either Ohio State or Michigan this year. The solution is to kick Penn State out of the league and play a nine-game round robin (like the Pac-10). With a 12-game schedule, this still allows for 3 non-conference games. It did not make sense to add Penn State in the early 1990s, and it is still a poor fit. The Big East would be a better fit for PSU, and it could renew some its Eastern rivalries. PSU has only contrived rivalries in the Big 10 (the coveted "Land Grant" trophy w/ MSU for instance). Plus, it is awkward having 11 teams in the Big 10. I wonder how feasible it would be to exile PSU.

35
by Jason Scheib (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 2:27am

For the record, I am in support of the champions of the 6 major conferences making the playoffs and no one else. No at-large teams, because that would either be 1) teams that didn't win their conference 2) teams not in a conference (Notre Dame would have to join one if this were the rule) 3) teams not from major conferences, which should be a different classification with their own playoffs (when's the last time anyone could reasonably argue that a team from a mid-major conference was the best team in the country?)

36
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 2:29am

(when’s the last time anyone could reasonably argue that a team from a mid-major conference was the best team in the country?)

2004.

37
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 2:34am

It did not make sense to add Penn State in the early 1990s, and it is still a poor fit.

Whine, whine, blahblahblah. Penn State is extraordinarily similar to Big Ten teams in style. They've got a heckuva lot more in common with Ohio State and Michigan than West Virginia, Louisville, and Rutgers. Hell, Ohio State and Penn State were like mirror clones last year.

For one thing, Beaver Stadium (like Michigan and Ohio State's) holds 100,000 plus people. I'm pretty sure the largest stadium in the Big East is 40,000 seats fewer.

38
by ChrisFromNJ (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 2:48am

#20:

I'm not saying that Boise State's 12-0 is necessarially more impressive than Florida's 12-1. It's not. Were Boise State 11-1 and Florida 11-2, I'd not worry about giving the edge to Florida. What I'm saying is that it's fundamentally unfair that a team can go undefeated and have no chance to play for the national championship.

But since you mention it, might as well take a look at the only FO stats for those teams that I can calculate:

Boise State:
GUTS 2
STOMPS 5
SKATES 0
DOMINATIONS 3
Other 2

Florida:
GUTS 3
STOMPS 3
SKATES 0
DOMINATIONS 2
Other win 4
Loss 1

Neither team has a SKATE, which reflects well on both of them- though both have close wins against .500 teams (Florida State and Wyoming). When you factor in the fact that a winning team in the SEC means more than a winning team in the WAC or MWC, sure, Florida probably comes out ahead. But not by all that much.

39
by ChrisFromNJ (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 2:57am

#35 and #36

*checks Wikipedia*

Well, the last time a non-BCS conference team other than Notre Dame actually won a national championship was BYU in 1984. That was also the first time since Army got a share of it in 1946.

So it's a once-in-a-blue-moon rarity. But even if it only happens once every few decades, you still need to leave the door open.

40
by Solomon (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 2:59am

Re #37

Here are the Big East stadium capacities (from Wikipedia):

School / Football stadium Capacity

Cincinnati -- Nippert Stadium 35,000
Connecticut -- Rentschler Field 40,000 Louisville -- Papa John's Cardinal Stadium 42,000
Pittsburgh -- Heinz Field 65,050
Rutgers -- Rutgers Stadium 41,500
South Florida -- Raymond James Stadium 66,000
Syracuse -- Carrier Dome 50,000
West Virginia -- Mountaineer Field 60,000

This supports your point about stadium capacity. My argument was more about geography, a lack of rivalries (no Big 10 school considers Penn State its biggest rival), and the resulting awkwardness from adding an 11th team. On a similar note, I remember reading how Arkansas has had trouble forming strong rivalries in the SEC.

41
by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 3:10am

It wasn’t that long ago that the Fiesta was a minor bowl.

20+ years is a long time.

#38- that evaluation seems not to take quality of opponents into play.

Further on #38, it is fair that a team can go undefeated and not have a chance. There are only two teams in the game, and the two that have shown the most in the regular season. I can't seriously entertain the notion that, given each team's schedule, it's "fair" that Boise be ranked ahead of Florida.

IMO, there's no logical defense to picking Boise over Florida once one looks at the schedules.

42
by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 3:20am

Pat, I know you are a PSU guy, so consider this a compliment.

When the Big East looked into forming a football conference in the late 80's / early 90's, they made a huge mistake- they dissed Penn State.

PSU should have been the marquee program for the Big East, not Miami. But Trangesee wanted PSU as football only (!!!) and PSU went to the Big 10 instead.

At the end of the day, I still see PSU as a Big East school. Hopefully this will correct itself.

43
by Mac (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 3:33am

Re: #3
I had never thought of it that way, but you're right: the BCS controversy generates a helluva lot of interest in college football. That's a BIG positive for a very flawed system.

44
by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 4:04am

Re: 39

Plenty of teams that went yet part of BCS conferences have won the national championship, including Penn State in 1982 and 1986, and Miami in 1983, 1987, and 1989. Miami, pre-Schnellenberger (1979), was hardly the program we know it as today.

Also, Pat in #36 was referring to Utah in 2004. They might not have been the best team in the country, but it's very hard to conclusively prove that they weren't. (No close games, #1 pick in the NFL draft, Urban Meyer as head coach.)

45
by Will (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 4:06am

There's not a cutoff for a playoff that'll make sense every year - the Auburn, Oklahoma, USC year had 3, last year had 2, and this year has 1 team that would be a legitimate title contender going into the bowls. Why isn't there outcry that OSU should just be crowned the champs, without having to play in a bowl? They're pretty clearly the best team in the country, why should they have to prove it to a team that's already lost? (Or, alternatively, they should play Boise St...) Why should any team have gotten a shot at SC or Texas last year, when they were clearly the two best teams?

Any system "works" if people agree with it, and the only reason why the BCS is considered a failure is because the guys running it have no balls. They just need to come out and say this is our system, and we're sticking to it. The 15-1 Vikings and the 116-win Mariners lost in an unfair playoff, too bad. The AP writers can vote for the Colts to be the best team in the NFL last year, but it doesn't change who won the Super Bowl, and that's who the champ is.

46
by ChrisFromNJ (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 4:25am

#44:

Sure, but Penn State and Miami were powerhouse indepenents who eventually joined BCS conferences. And as for Utah and BYU, I was just going one step further and showing that a team not currently in the BCS managed to actually win the media championship once, not just create controversy. Does anyone know if there were any other Utah-like uprisings between 1984 and 2004?

#38:

Once again, I'm not trying to prove that Boise State is actually a better team than Florida. I'm trying to make the more philosophical point that any competition in which you can defeat all your opponents, do as well as possible, and still have no chance whatsoever to even play for the championship, is just fundamentally broken. You seem to disagree.

Besides, Florida's probably not the #2 team in the country anyway. Michigan is, but the voters don't want a rematch.

47
by kibbles (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 9:30am

It was not just the Gators’ at-times ragged win over Arkansas that jumped them over Michigan. This was clearly a vote against Michigan — and against a rematch with Ohio State, who handed the Wolverines their only loss of the season on November 18 — as much as it was a vote for Florida, and although that violates the spirit of the BCS’s goal of matching the two best teams regardless of conference affiliation, it’s still understandable.
I don't see what's so clear about that. As I said in the other thread, the AP Ballot- which has absolutely NOTHING to do with the BCS, and has absolutely no impact on who plays in the National Championship- also voted Florida #2. It's pretty hard to argue that they were just voting against a rematch, since their votes had literally no impact on whether there would be a rematch or not.

Re #25: This to me invalidates the whole BCS system, because poll voters chose not to vote for the team they thought was best in order to get a desired title game. The poll asks voters to rank the teams based on how good they are, not to put teams in order of who you most want to see play in the national championship. I don’t see how anyone can have any faith in the BCS system if the voters are going to ignore the poll criteria and rig the vote in order to get the matchup they want to see.
If we’re just going for what game we want to see, why not let the viewers vote on who plays for the national championship?

That's actually a common misconception. The voters didn't ignore the poll criteria. There's no mandate that says that they have to vote the two best teams #1 and #2. There's no mandate that says they have to vote the two most deserving teams #1 and #2. They are given absolute free reign to vote however they want for whatever reasons they want. Of course, if they get too silly, they'll get their voting privileges revoked, but if one person wants to vote the two best teams, while another team wants to vote the two most deserving, and a third person wants to vote the two with the best winning percentage, and a fourth person wants to vote the two with the hardest strength of schedule, and a fifth person wants to vote the two with the highest margin of victory... well then, more power to them. They're totally free to do so under the rules set forth by the BCS.

Re #27: I don’t agree with that- why, for example, would Michigan be better served losing to Notre Dame than to Ohio State?
Well, for one thing, then they would have a win over a quality team (tOSU) on their resume. ;)

Re #45: There’s not a cutoff for a playoff that’ll make sense every year - the Auburn, Oklahoma, USC year had 3, last year had 2, and this year has 1 team that would be a legitimate title contender going into the bowls. Why isn’t there outcry that OSU should just be crowned the champs, without having to play in a bowl? They’re pretty clearly the best team in the country, why should they have to prove it to a team that’s already lost? (Or, alternatively, they should play Boise St…) Why should any team have gotten a shot at SC or Texas last year, when they were clearly the two best teams?

Actually, that's a very good point. People are complaining about a different thing every season. To propose a *VERY* radical solution... how about trying to find a system that will please everyone all the time? Why not accept that every possible system has flaws, and come up with some way to adapt each year's system to that season's particular needs?

In seasons where there is one clear-cut, head-and-shoulders #1 and two teams hotly contesting the #2 spot, why not have the two potential #2s play each other for the chance to get to #1? That rewards #1 (tOSU) for having a dominant regular season by giving them a bye. It rewards both Florida and Michigan for their great-but-not-perfect years by giving them both a shot, although requiring that they win two.

In seasons where there is a very clear-cut top-two (such as last year), just stage the National Championship and be done with it. That way, you don't penalize the clear-cut elite two by forcing them to play extra games against lesser competition before allowing them to play for the title (imagine if there was a 4-team playoff last year and Reggie Bush/Vince Young/Matt Leinart got hurt in the first round. Think there'd be an outcry about how Texas/USC had to play in the first place since they're so much better?)

In years where there are a very closely grouped top-4, implement an And-1 playoff (#1 vs. #4, #2 vs. #3, winners play for National Championship).

In years where there are three teams all considered very similar (LSU/USC/OK in 2003, USC/OK/Aub in 2004), it'd be pretty tough to come up with a satisfactory system- a round robin might just leave them all 1-1 against the other two- but I'm sure if you got the brightest minds together you could come up with something. Maybe you just play a round-robin, and if they all go 1-1, the media picks a champion (and the teams can't complain, since they had a chance to win it on the field but they failed).

After you come up with the different setups for the different scenarios, figure out a way to determine what type of situation you have in any given year. For instance, instead of ranking the teams, you could come up with a "power points" system, where voters give teams a number of points for how good they think they are. This year, maybe tOSU would have gotten a perfect 25, while Michigan and Florida got 23 each, and then LSU/USC/Boise/Loisville all got in the 18-20 range. Then you can just set point cutoffs- if the #1 team has this much advantage over the #2 team, then we go to this system, if the #2 and #4 teams are within this amount of each other, then we go to this system, etc.

It'd be a very complicated setup, but maybe that's good. Simple models can never perfectly fit such a complex sport, so maybe it's time for a complex model. As long as you keep the outcomes simple, you can always use the existing BCS bowls without very much re-arranging at all (except for the 3-team round-robin thing).

48
by Justanothersteve (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 10:39am

I think all the controversy is just silly. It's not a perfect system. There will never be a perfect system. It's like democracy - it's not perfect but it's better than anything else anyone's come up with. The current disagreement is not like a couple years ago when three majors were all undefeated and Auburn couldn't get a shot. This year, it's the clear #1 vs an arguable #2. I'd prefer UM or Boise State, but Florida at least has a decent argument.

49
by Pete (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 11:08am

Personally, I think Michigan would be a better match for OSU. However, I believe most of the time OSU would beat either Florida or Michigan by a significant margin. Florida has some excellent players, but does not seem able to dominate ANY college team (1AA counts as High School for me). The Gators could lose to anyone, although to be honest they might still be able to beat anyone in the country.

I really don't like the way 1 or more cornerbacks tend to back 10 yards away and backing up at the snap. UF did play better against the run than I expected and Chris Leak had a couple of runs that he did not look tentative. As a whole I think Chris Leak is a much better pocket passer, although he still has 3-5 throws where he misses an open receiver. I don't remember him making terrible choices, while Tebow may not be given that many choices (run left).

I think the setup is almost ideal to give the Bowls + 1 a try. All of the bowls would be played as normal by January 1st or 2nd (USC vs. OSU in the Rose Bowl, UF vs. at large - in Sugar Bowl probably UM, not sure if LSU or Notre Dame would make the big 4), followed by the BCS championship for the Top 2 rated teams a week later. While this would mean 1 more game, the season would not really last any longer for those top 2 teams. (Probably OSU vs. UF/UM winner) The Rose Bowl has 2 defined choices, but the other bowls get to chose "at large" teams. These bowls could agree that the choices are offered to the highest ranked teams (UF being #2).

50
by Rocco (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 12:11pm

Are UF fans going to do everything in their power to make Leak miss the team plane to Glendale? He's a good QB, but on some throws I wonder if he's trying to keep the other team in the game (like both interceptions). I'm terrified of what he'll do in the title game.

51
by Dave (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 12:15pm

#40, it's probably worth noting that Louisville, UConn, and Rutgers have major stadium expansion plans in various stages (Louisville being the fathest along).

And yeah, the basic mistake back when the Big East was founded was creating a basketball conference and glomming other sports on to it later (and hence half the conference doesn't play I-A football -- and one of the original members only moved up to I-A a few years ago), rather than creating an all-sports (including I-A football) conference to begin with.

52
by DGL (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 12:22pm

Since college football is steeped in tradition, and the first football game ever was played between Princeton and Rutgers, I think that the Ivy League and Big East champions should play a one-game playoff to determine the national champion.

(But what do I know - my alma mater is in Division III. Hey, at least they have a shot at the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl.)

53
by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 12:32pm

I think the linked Slate article sums up my feeling perfectly. The National Championship should determine who the best team in College Football is, not who the best two teams are. I already know Ohio State is better than Michigan. I do not know if Ohio State is better than Florida. If Ohio State wins and Michigan both win their games, than Michigan will be #2, so they can still have that honor. Personally, I hope they lose, and lose badly, to put this "controversy" to bed.

54
by James G (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 12:37pm

34, 37, etc...

I think Penn State fits in just fine with the Big Ten. Geographically, State College is closer to Columbus than it is to Boston (which is now an ACC team anyway). PSU's 3 most played rivals are WVU, Pitt, and Syracuse, which are in the Big East. However, beyond that, it's not clear to me that PSU fits in better with the rest of the Big East anyway. PSU has now played Michigan State more times than they have played Boston College. They have played Ohio State 1 time fewer than they have played BC. Other common opponents are Maryland and N.C State.

As long as they were an eastern independent, their primarily eastern schedule worked, but they always added teams like Notre Dame, Alabama, and Miami to their schedule. Without the other independents, and with such changes as the SEC going from a 6 game to an 8 game schedule, it makes sense for PSU to join the best conference they can find - and that's the Big Ten.

55
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 12:41pm

I would prefer the current system, or even the old system, to any playoff that allowed a team which did not win it's conference to participate. I haven't watched a college basketball game earlier than March in about 15 years, because what college basketball essentially has is a four month pre-season schedule. The tradition of college football, and what maintains intensity from the very start of the sweason, is the conference races, and allowing wild card teams to play in a playoff system weakens that.

What Russell proposes would work just fine with the top eight conference champs seeds. Just have the conferences wrap up their races by the last Saturday in November (maybe everybody would need to start on the last Saturday in August, which would be no big deal), and have seeds five through eight play at the home fields of seeds one through four on the first Saturday in December.

The BCS conferences wouldn't need to feel that they were giving away the store to the non-BCS conferences, since a non-BCS champion would likely make the top four seeds about once every 20 years, and the top four BCS champs would get an extra 80,000-100,000 fan payday every year. The bowl system would hardly be disturbed, a very good non-BCS champ would get a better chance that they currently have, and to all the BCS teams that failed to win their conference, well, somebody in your conference is more deserving than you.

What is required to make it happen is a Dick Ebersol-style t.v exec writing a very, very, large check.

56
by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 12:43pm

While there are a number of major problems with the current BCS system, the biggest problem is this- it ensures that college football is the only sport where there are teams that begin the season without any chance of winning the national championship. Boise State got as high as it could possibly get, but from the moment the season started, they never had a chance to play for the national championship.

I like the calls for a playoff system based on conference champions and have supported that idea for some time. That said, I would go a step further and say that there should be NO wildcards. No independent teams should be eligible- if you want to compete, join a conference. Likewise, any conference that doesn't have every team play each other needs to institute a championship game. By taking those steps you ensure that every team in the country has a fair shot at playing for a championship and that the regular season maintains the same sort of tension it has always had.

57
by White Rose Duelist (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 12:55pm

How many teams refused to play Boise State this year? If they tried to schedule better teams, but were refused, how does that reflect worse on BSU and not on the teams afraid to play them?

58
by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 12:59pm

Re: 54

Not that it matters, but Boston College is no longer in the Big East.

Penn State also played Cincinnati a bunch of times in the late 1980's-early 1990's, before they joined the Big Ten.

59
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 12:59pm

Russell, you meant that the NCAA doesn't run postseason football at the I-A, er, Bowl Subdivision level only, right? Because they do run postseason football at all the other levels ...

I don't think it makes sense to take voters to task for jacking around with their ballots last week; for all we know, there have been shenanigans the entire season (and I believe we've been directed to some of them). We shouldn't expect anything better from them. Besides, how reasonable is it to expect coaches to vote fairly on something that has a direct impact on their jobs? How would you handle it if you were asked to rate your performance against that of your peers at other companies, knowing that a low enough rating over a period of time could cost you your job?

Kevin, one thing that would stop an SEC or ACC team from joining a mid-major conference in football is that they'd likely be dropped in all sports, and no number of chances at a semi-mythical I-A title would be worth losing that affliation across the board.

A round-robin schedule would hurt most teams more than it would help them. Having to play Purdue this season instead of, say, Ball State might have helped Michigan, but that's not always going to be the case. More conference games generally means less control over strength of schedule, which is really the only good lever that ADs have with respect to the BCS title game.

The bowls maintain tradition unless they can make more money by changing. There are currently zero bowls whose names are the same as they were at their inception (sorry, Rose Bowl presented by Citi, that's not your original name). There are, I believe, nine bowls named solely after their sponsor (a couple of which may never have had an actual name). The tradition argument is a distraction thrown out by college presidents in the hope that we won't actually follow up to see what they mean by it. If "tradition" means "let bowls buy their way into the BCS ring and/or play whenever they want" (there are eleven games in January this season. Eleven!), then yeah, the bowls still have tradition.

I don't think the BCS is helping college football. I think the incremental steps toward a playoff are hurting the sport. They should either implement a 16-team playoff or go back to fixed conference tie-ins and stop pretending that their current solution is working.

60
by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 1:09pm

For the heck of it, distances from Penn State to each school, in miles:

Cincinnati: 367
Connecticut: 299
Louisville: 456
Pittsburgh: 115
Rutgers: 182
South Florida: 926
Syracuse: 178
West Virginia: 137

Illinois: 548
Indiana: 473
Iowa: 712
Michigan: 320
Michigan State: 367
Minnesota: 830
Northwestern: 516
Ohio State: 277
Purdue: 475
Wisconsin: 613

61
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 1:18pm

zlionsfan, why on earth do you want to weaken the importance of conference races, by allowing 2nd place conference finishers, or, heaven forbid, even third place conference finishers? Think of how much less important this year's Buckeye/Wolverine scrap would have been, or how many conference championship games would be less fun, if both teams knew they were going to the playoffs. A Wild card system works in the NFL because there is so much parity, and so many common opponents. It would be terrible for college football, just like it has been terrible for the first four months of the college basketball season.

I want a playoff of conference champs, but a playoff that included 2nd place conference finishers would be awful. No thank-you. I'd rather they stick with what they have now than go down that road.

62
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 1:22pm

Penn State ain't leavin' the Big Ten voluntarily, and the other schools can't kick them out, which they don't want to do anyways, absent the mother of all lawsuits, so it's kind of pointless to examine the issue.

63
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 1:34pm

Why should we bother sending Ohio State to a Bowl game? Frankly, NCAA should just crown their ass right here and now. We all know OSU is #1, the best team in football.

Let them sit home and then Florida and UM can fight for #2.

The only way this ends uncontroversally is if tOSU wins... and everyone else can moan about being #2.

64
by hrudey (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 1:45pm

61: Agreed. I'd love to see a Michigan-LSU matchup, for example, but not for even a shot at a national title. I'd certainly encourage a system that emphasizes conference championships and encourages teams to schedule high-quality non-conference foes.

65
by hrudey (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 1:47pm

63: Mostly because the precedent has always had the #1 team playing a bowl game against a quality opponent. If OSU wins, obviously they're #1. If Florida wins, they win that part of the title, and if the AP wants to vote OSU #1 still, they can, though I don't think there's real precedent for that.

66
by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 1:54pm

The biggest problem the BCS has is that people expect it to be liquid and perfect every year, and that's not reasonable.

For example, in the NFL a team from the AFC can go 10 - 6 and not make the playoffs, while an 8 - 8 NFC team could...even if the first team beat the second team.

If that happened we'd all shrug our shoulders and say "that's the system", but for college football we start screaming over every percieved imperfection.

67
by andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 1:56pm

Can someone do a beatpaths of the top 100 schools in college football?

68
by David (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 2:08pm

There wouldn't be nearly this much complaining over the BCS if it was a deeply flawed, money-grubbing way to pick the best eight teams in I-A, or the top sixteen. But when it's used to hand-pick the participants of the championship game itself, that amplifies every inherent error in the system.

On the subject of at-large bids, it's my opinion that if you believe that there's championship-level parity between the winners of the different conferences, you have to accept that the same parity may exist between members of the same conference. The only way around that I can see is if you make every conference play a title game with automatic bids for the winners, which makes those games the de facto first round of the tournament.

69
by Sean (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 2:08pm

Re 66: Not really. The NFL system inherently puts every team in position to compete for a championship, while the college system does not. An AFC team not making the playoffs at 10-6 would be equivalent to a team finishing second in the SEC but being a better team than the one that won the ACC. Not that big a deal.

But Boise State needing to be clairvoyent about who they schedule five years from now...

70
by James G (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 2:26pm

Travis - yes, Penn State did play Cincinnati frequently, in a totally unbalanced way. Cincinnati kept coming to State College. In the end it was 6 home games for PSU, 2 for Cincy. That's not really the type of game you expect to make a conference game. I realize BC's not part of the Big East any more, but as long as we're talking about kicking PSU out of the Big Ten, we might as well discuss putting the old Big East teams that are now in the ACC back into the Big East as well.

Personally, I like PSU in the Big Ten. I totally think having Penn State and Ohio State in the same conference makes sense.

71
by MLA (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 2:35pm

Re 47:
What you're saying about the poll criteria may be true, but then why does everyone (commentators, coaches, etc.) talk about it as if it were a true ranking of teams? During the national championship game, no one is going to say this is "a matchup between the team voters most wanted to see play and the team they second-most wanted to see". Instead, they'll say it's "a matchup between the top two teams in the country". Nobody ever talks about the rankings in the polls as anything other than a ranking of the top 25 best teams.

72
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 2:47pm

When the Big East looked into forming a football conference in the late 80’s / early 90’s, they made a huge mistake- they dissed Penn State.

That wasn't the only reason Penn State didn't go there. Economically, it was clear Penn State would've been a giant among midgets in the Big East in terms of the amount of viewership and attendance they'd bring. Like I said, it wasn't a good fit - Penn State would have much, much different concerns than the other Big East teams.

Them not agreeing to make the Big East an all-sports conference was just the indicator to Penn State that their fears were valid.

For the heck of it, distances from Penn State to each school, in miles:

My main point before wasn't geographic, mind you. Geography really doesn't matter when all the schools are less than a three hour plane trip away. Besides, Penn State's not much more geographically separated than Minnesota.

It was more 1) economic, see above, 2) football styles, and 3) size/scale/type of each university. The Big East is primarily a private-school conference. The Big Ten is primarily a public-school conference.

The football styles is a big thing, too, though. In terms of the football they've always played, Penn State's much more a Big Ten school than a Big East school.

If you look here, you can see Penn State looks much more in line with the other Big Ten universities than the Big East. (It gets worse when you realize that the enrollment at Penn State is really more like 84K, not 40K). In the Big East, Rutgers is really the only one which is anywhere near the same ballpark as Penn State.

73
by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 3:30pm

Just to be clear, I wasn't arguing that Penn State should join the Big East, or that Cincinnati and Penn State were rivals (the last game ended 81-0, for God's sake). The Big Ten would be best served by kicking Northwestern out, but that won't happen either.

74
by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 3:46pm

The Big East is primarily a private-school conference. The Big Ten is primarily a public-school conference.

True in the 1980's, but not true of the current Big East football conference. Only Syracuse of the 8 current football playing schools is private, but all 8 of the basketball-only schools are, as are former members Boston College and Miami.

Again, I emphasize that Penn State's decision made perfect sense at the time, and would again today.

75
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 6:09pm

I was mainly responding to #34 and #42, both of whom suggested that the Big East would be a better fit for Penn State. They're completely crazy. Yeah, Penn State played Pitt, Syracuse, Rutgers, WVU, etc. back through before the time of cheap airfare. But that had more to do with those teams also being independent.

Travis: Yes, but Penn State wasn't joining just as a football member. Besides, at the time, the Big East members were only Providence, St. John's, Georgetown, Syracuse, Seton Hall, UConn, and BC, which, except for UConn, are all private.

76
by OMO (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 6:10pm

Just checking...but is ChrisFromNJ actually complaining that Rutgers is only going to the Texas Bowl?

Dude...have you forgotten about the last 100 years of Rutgers football?

77
by jfolg (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 6:24pm

can we please stop the talk about a +1 system? how can intelligent people want this? can they not realize that is exactly what we have now (regular season +1 bowl game)? how is that different than (regular season + bowl game +1 title game)?
i'd like to ask +1 proponents what they would think of their little system in 99 or 02 or 05? texas beat usc last year, do we then make them play 1 loss penn state or 2 loss ohio state?
the current system is a "playoff." it's just a two-team playoff. the only way to make it better is to add more teams to the system.

78
by ChrisA (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 6:24pm

Re 76:
This is another Chris from NJ responding for him and all Rutgers fans. While we are certainly thrilled that Rutgers is in any bowl game they are probably the team getting screwed more than any other in the country when you consider their ranking and what bowl they are playing in. Several teams beneath them per the polls (Penn State, Nebraska, Georgia Tech) are playing in bigger profile bowl games with much larger payouts. I know this all based on conference tie-ins and they only have the Big East to blame but it is still frustrating. And trust me no one has forgotten about the last 100 years which is why I am making the trip to Texas even after the disappointment of Saturday night.

79
by MRH (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 7:11pm

My playoff proposal: designed to choose a national champion on the playing field while keeping the regular season of some importance and forcing teams to play tougher schedules so that regular season games are more competitive.

4 round Playoff tournament:

SEC, Big 12, ACC retain their conference championship games. Winner of these games moves directly to the round of eight (quarterfinals).

10 teams play in a seeded round to move to the round of eight. Winners of Big East, Big 10, and PAC 10 qualify automatically.

The conference champion of any other Div 1 conference receives an automatic bid if their conference has a cumulative winning percentage of .500 or better against members of the Big 6/BCS conferences (those listed above; Notre Dame is considered a Big 6 team for this calculation).

Remaining seven (of fewer) teams are chosen by an NCAA selection committee from teams with 9 qualifying wins. A “qualifying win� is a win: in conference; against a Big 6/BCS conference team (including ND); or AT another Div 1 team (i.e. play at Bowling Green, the win counts; play at home it doesn’t). Teams from conferences holding a conference championship game can be considered ONLY IF there are insufficient qualifying teams (i.e. you want your big payday championship, your 3rd-best team has less of a shot at the title). If there are not enough nine win teams, the selection committee may consider eight win teams without regard to conference limitations.

The “BCS bowls� host the semis and final on a rotating basis. The losers of the semi-finals play in a 3rd place bowl game in the odd-bowl out.

Bowl games are still played as today and teams that go to the tournament and lose may still play in one. Non-playoff teams may still go to a bowl game but must have 6 qualifying wins (as defined above).

I'd prefer a return to an 11-game regualr season but that doesn't have to be part of the above.

80
by Ben (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 7:35pm

I disagree with giving the JLS trophy to Schiano. All year long, RU has moved the ball late in the game by going on the ground at tired D-lines (see espec UNC, Pitt, USF, and Louisville games), and they had had success running against WV in the second half. In fact, in the next two OT's, Rutgers scored touchdowns on the ground, and covered the majority of the 25 yards on the ground. After his two runs in the first OT, Rice's five rushing attempts in OT's 2 and 3 went for 7, 13, 14, 1 (from the 2), and 1 (TD). Obviously, the chance for a big gain was there--it just didn't break right in the first OT when it would have won the game.

Maybe it would have played out differently if RU had thrown on first down (I might have tried play action), but as I understand it, the point of the JLS is to reward out-and-out stupidity, whereas I think Schiano made an justifiable, if unimaginative, decision to dance with the one that brung him.

81
by kibbles (not verified) :: Tue, 12/05/2006 - 7:51pm

Re #71: What you’re saying about the poll criteria may be true, but then why does everyone (commentators, coaches, etc.) talk about it as if it were a true ranking of teams? During the national championship game, no one is going to say this is “a matchup between the team voters most wanted to see play and the team they second-most wanted to see�. Instead, they’ll say it’s “a matchup between the top two teams in the country�. Nobody ever talks about the rankings in the polls as anything other than a ranking of the top 25 best teams.

To be honest, what does it matter what people call it? People call it the matchup between the two best teams in the country because it helps ratings. Even if everyone thought that Ohio State and Michigan were the two best teams in the country, does that necessarily mean it's true? Three weeks ago in the NFL, people might have called a Denver/Indy game a matchup between the two best teams in the country, but today I don't think anyone considers either of those teams to be truly elite. Perhaps its the same way with Ohio State and Michigan- maybe Florida truly is objectively a better team, it's just that most people assume that Michigan is better. It's just as much of a conceit to call Ohio State and Michigan the two best teams in the country as it is to call Ohio State and Florida the two best teams in the country.

No matter how the rankings are determined (vote for the best teams, or the most deserving teams), they're just that- rankings. They are subjective opinions, not objective facts. Even if people voted for the two teams they thought were best, calling a #1 vs. #2 game "a match between the two best teams" would be asinine. The only proper way to describe a matchup between #1 and #2, no matter the criteria for determining those teams, is "A matchup between the top-ranked teams in the nation".

82
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 6:40pm

Will, the reason is because I believe that a playoff system should include a combination of the best teams and conference champions: it's almost a certainty that at least one major-conference second-place team will be better than another major-conference first-place team.

Besides, it would be impractical to consider a playoff system that doesn't work that way. I-A BCS isn't likely to work without I-A non-BCS; non-BCS conferences will get Congress to shoot down a playoff system that doesn't include their champions; BCS alumni and popular opinion will get Congress to shoot down a playoff system that includes Central Michigan but not Michigan, Troy but not LSU.

The idea is that I would prefer to include pretty much every team that has a legitimate claim to a shot at the title. The BCS makes no attempt to do that - non-BCS teams were thrown a bone by having a shot at a secondary bowl, but the NCAA will make a reasonable decision with respect to student-athletes before a non-BCS team plays in the BCS title game.

Yes, some regular-season games would lose some importance, just like the conference championship games do now on occasion. But unlike basketball, football's tournament isn't likely to be larger than 16 teams (there are about one-third as many I-A football programs as there are DI basketball programs, so from that standpoint alone, 16 is reasonable), so that leaves five at-large spots, which means that if you're going to have a third-place team in the tournament, it's either going to be a really strong third-place team, or it'll be an anomaly. (And like the basketball tournament, if, say, Wisconsin got in as a third team and got bounced in the first round, the Big Ten wouldn't have a shot at getting three teams in again for a long time.)

Would that lessen the importance of conference games? Sure, if you think you can get in with two losses. So yes, if it were possible to place less importance on a UM-OSU game, there would be if both teams were unbeaten, but Arkansas would still need to win the SEC to get in, Wake and Georgia Tech would need to win the ACC, and Rutgers would still need to win the Big East.

If you want each individual regular-season game to have a direct effect on that team's title chances, then yes, this system will change that, if you're a fan of a major BCS school. If you follow any other I-A school, you may be more willing to make that tradeoff.

83
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 9:53pm

Well, zlions fan, I don't think any 2nd place finisher in a conference has a legitimate claim to a national title. That's why we had a conference race; to determine the best team in that conference. I'd rather stick to the mess we now have than go a system in which 2nd placers regularly had a crack at the title.

As for what Congress will stand for, I think as long as two non BCS conference champs got a shot every year, they would be mollified, and as long as four BCS conference champs got a home playoff game nearly every year, that would satisfy the BCS conferences. A non BCS school might crack the top four about every 20 years or so, which shouldn't scare off the BCS conferences at all, and the notion that the third best non-BCS conference champ would ever have a realistic chance of winning it all, if given the chance through an expanded field, is almost laughable. I think two non BCS conference champs getting a shot each year would make the non BCS conferences very happy.

Brigham Young at Ohio State, Boise State at Florida, Wake Forest at USC, and Louisville at Oklahoma would have been a great opening weekend in the college football playoffs this year, would have made the vast majority of fans happy, and not detracted a thing from the conference races.

84
by Stravinsky (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 11:01pm

The problem with the whole system was exposed a month ago when Rutgers looked like they might end up undefeated and it was stated that even if they did go undefeated, their chances of making it to the BCS Championship were hurt because they weren't in the pre-season polls. Now, a poll conducted before any teams have even played a down can only be called one thing, a popularity contest. Therefore, if the results from a popularity contest can determine the final results then the the entire thing is nothing but one big popularity contest.

The BCS Poll system was designed from the beginning to give the same results as the popularity polls with the exception that it would now seem "scientific" and "objective" simply because a computer did it.

85
by navin (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 11:23pm

I really like the BCS conference champs plus two proposal as well. I've been talking about it to some people offline, but the argument we always end up with is Notre Dame. I'm sure they would have ended up being one of the eight teams this year instead of BYU, even though the Irish lost to both Michigan and Southern Cal. (I don't believe they deserve to be in a BCS bowl game this year.)

I think the Notre Dame dilemma would be the toughest one to resolve when creating a playoff system.

86
by Jason Scheib (not verified) :: Thu, 12/07/2006 - 12:02am

re #83 - I absolutely agree.

The only thing I would add is that, assuming the 2 non-BCS conference champions that get in do so because of their records, there might be some incentive for non-BCS conference teams to not schedule games against teams in BCS conferences because doing so may cost them a win which in turn might cost them getting in the playoffs. Something would need to be built in to make sure that didn't happen.

87
by Mikey Benny (not verified) :: Thu, 12/07/2006 - 12:33am

OK, those of you who think the conference champion's automatically the best team in the conference, chew on this:

Let's imagine that in 2008, we have an improved ACC where a 12-0 #1 Virginia Tech wins a very tough Coastal Division, while FSU wins a very weak Atlantic Division with an 8-4 record. Knowing FSU, they usually have some of the best talent in the country, but are poorly coached. So let's say they decide to show up at the ACC Title Game, and nip Tech in an obviously fluky game.

You're seriously saying Tech isn't the best team in their own conference in that scenario?!

By the way, that scenario was a nearly an exact description of what happened last year, except that Tech had one loss (to Miami).

Was Florida State the best team in the ACC last year? It was clear that Tech was, and FSU just had an extraordinarily lucky game. Let's just say they were lucky games last 60 minutes, not 62 or 63.

I say this as an FSU alum -- FSU's 2005 ACC championship is one of the biggest jokes in recent college football memory.

So please, cool it with the hysterics if a non-conference champ gets into the game. You guys are smarter than these inane "if you don't win your conference, you shouldn't have a shot at the title game" arguments. Leave that to the talking heads that can't factor nuance and circumstance into decisions.

88
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 12/07/2006 - 1:45am

No, Mikey, I'm seriously stating that if a conference wants to determine their championship through a playoff game, then I prefer that the game be played for the largest possible stakes, meaning the loser gets squat, in terms of a shot at the crystal ball. Personally, I'd prefer that every 12 team conference start the last Saturday in August, or even the first Saturday in September, play an 11 game conference round robin, with 2 non conference games, and screw the conference championship games.

As for Notre Dame, tell'em that if they want to play for the title, they have to join a conference. If they were smart, they'd join the Big Ten, making that league misnamed by two.

Regarding the two non BCS conference champs and their incentives to schedule competitive BCS games, tell 'em they'll receive no seeding credit for beating non BCS schools, some credit for beating lower division BCS schools, and huge credit for beating an upper division BCS school.

Actually, I'd do the same in determining the seeds for the six BCS champs; no credit would be given for beating a school which didn't win their non-BCS conference, and little credit would be given for winning a nonconference game over a BCS school which finished in the lower division of it's conference. This would discourage the worst current aspect of college football; the attempt to deliberately schedule non-competitive nonconference games.

89
by Mikey Benny (not verified) :: Thu, 12/07/2006 - 8:10am

I understand what you're saying Will... I just say, if you don't have a playoff, don't pretend to have one. You (should) pick the BCS title game based on the body of work of the year. I have little problem with what you're saying. As was mentioned earlier, Notre Dame is actually in the Big East already. They are even tied into Big East bowls. They just don't play a Big East schedule. It would be more likely, perhaps, for them to simply start playing that schedule. Although it would, for traditional purposes, make more sense for them to play in a Big 10+2.

Notre Dame, however, really has no incentive to join a conference; they'd lose much more than they'd gain, and they're just too powerful an influence to be coerced. The NCAA WANTS them to be relevant. *If* ND insists on remaining an independent in football, a plan like yours just wouldn't happen.

In case anyone cares, I'm all for a 6-team playoff... give the top 2 byes, seeding according to the BCS formula.

90
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 12/07/2006 - 12:30pm

The key, Mikey, is that the NCAA does not control the bowl system, the BCS conferences do. If a network (other than NBC, obviously) were to approach the BCS conferences with a large enough check in hand, the BCS conferences could be induced to strong arm Notre Dame into a conference. It isn't as if Notre Dame has had a dominant footbal program recently; a few great years under Holtz, and prior to that, all the way back to the Dan Devine era. A playoff that excluded Notre Dame would do just fine, ratings-wise. How long would the Notre Dame alumni be willing to have their season end in November, as far as the chance to play relevant games? One year?

As far as which conference, they already play about 33% of a Big Ten schedule, they are geographically centered in that conference, and the Big Ten gets better ratings than the Big East, It would be up to Notre Dame, however.

91
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 12/07/2006 - 12:41pm

Notre Dame has much more in common with Big East schools than Big Ten schools, though - except for their football draw, which would be the problem. Hence why they stay only semi-connected to the Big East in football.

Staying semi-independent is really the best solution for Notre Dame right now - my guess is that if they were forced to join a footbal conference, they'd join the Big East. Ideologically, it's a better fit for them. But I really, really doubt the NCAA would ever adopt a solution that forced teams to join conferences to stay relevant. Notre Dame would pitch a royal fit, and uh, their alumni have just a little influence.

92
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Thu, 12/07/2006 - 1:22pm

Yes, Notre Dame has much more in common with Big East schools ... like being in the Big East in every sport other than football. I don't believe the Big Ten would accept them as a football-only member, and I don't believe either ND or the Big East would be interested in severing the non-football relationship. As much sense as it would make in football for Notre Dame to join the Big Ten, it's too late now.

I like the idea of making Notre Dame play like the other schools, but yeah, right now the BCS needs ND more than ND needs the BCS.

I don't like the idea of more conference games - football teams aren't connected enough as it is, and dropping the number of non-conference games would make it even tougher to determine which conferences were better than others.

The biggest problem with BCS teams and non-conference scheduling is that they have zero motivation in the current system to schedule anyone other than cupcakes. For one thing, most BCS teams already have at least one game every year against a (usually) strong team (like Michigan-ND or Florida-Florida State).

For another, a loss tends to hurt a team much more than weak strength of schedule does, especially if voters follow the drop-a-team-after-a-loss rule. We can also experiment with Colley's tool to test different scenarios. (I thought about this last night.)

Let's say that Michigan played Florida instead of their weakest NC opponent, Ball State. (That Central Michigan game looks a little better now.) A loss to Florida, replacing the win over Ball State, drops Michigan from .93396 in third to .90175 in fourth. Now, a win over any of the BCS contenders instead of over Ball State would move UM to #1, but the point is the risk involved. If they have a 99% chance of beating Ball State, and a 50% chance of beating Florida, why would they ever schedule Florida?

Same problem for the non-BCS powers. Even if the non-BCS team remains a power when the game is played, the risk for the BCS team is much greater than the potential reward, and if they have fallen, it's just as bad as the BCS team's original NC opponent.

For three years, North Texas ran through the Sun Belt unbeaten. (NCAA players know this, of course - we saw the "rise" of North Texas and Boise State, but of course it's different in video games.) Let's say that in 2004, the Mean Green realize that they'll never crack the BCS with their current schedule, so they agree to play at Michigan for two years, starting in 2006.

Well, this year, North Texas sucks. Again taking away Ball State, if you add a victory over North Texas, Michigan falls to fourth (.91679).

So I don't see most BCS teams changing their scheduling philosophy, not when one loss means so much. So that means the non-BCS teams can't do much to change either: they can't schedule better teams because those teams won't play them, and there aren't many opportunities to move into a BCS conference like Louisville did. (Is the Pac-10 looking for another team? I don't think so.)

93
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 12/07/2006 - 1:27pm

pat, maybe I'm wrong, but does not the BCS group operate semi-autonomously of the NCAA? The current t.v. deal, which, let's face it, is the driving force of all college football arrangements, was made independent of the NCAA, was it not? If the BCS conferences can more or less tell the WAC or Mountain West to go pound sand, why couldn't they do the same to Notre Dame if (and it is a big "if") a t.v. network wanted to dominate eyeballs at the beginning of December, and the beginning of January, and wrote a check to do it?

94
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 12/07/2006 - 1:45pm

zlions, having fewer, but also fewer deliberate noncompetitive nonconference games, would be good for the sport. It would make the non playoff Bowl games more interesting, in that the non conference contests would be more novel, and many teams and coaches would see it as the key opportunity to display their quality. Think of what baseball was like before free agency and, later, interleague play. Players approached the All Star Game like a steel cage death match, because it was the one opportunity, other than the World Series, for players in each league to measure themselves by. The Capital One, Outback, Insight, Alamo, etc., Bowls would all be approached with more intensity, if there were fewer opportunities elsewhere for players to demonstrate their superiority over players in other conferences.

95
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 12/07/2006 - 3:52pm

If the BCS conferences can more or less tell the WAC or Mountain West to go pound sand, why couldn’t they do the same to Notre Dame

Um, because the possible TV viewers for Notre Dame dwarf the possible TV viewers for a WAC or MWC BCS entrant.

Remember, Notre Dame has a sizable TV contract all on its own with NBC for its home games. It's tough to imagine the BCS abandoning Notre Dame when ND has basically the largest fan base of any college football program. In fact, it'd probably be more likely that they'd add an additional BCS bowl and permanently guarantee Notre Dame a spot. :)

96
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Thu, 12/07/2006 - 5:12pm

Well, yes, that was my point, pat, that tv. viewership drives everything, and that no scenario is impossible, given sufficient ratings. Who would be made more uncomfortable? A t.v. network which bought a playoff package in which Notre Dame did not participate, or the Notre Dame alumni who would be deprived of the opportunity to see their team compete for a championship? It depends on the size of the check signed by the network, of course, and I just don't know enough about the ratings to have insight as to whether a playoff without Notre Dame could induce a network to write a big enough check to convince the BCS to play hardball with Notre Dame. Did viewership make any real leaps last year with Notre Dame's return to a BCS bowl? Did viewership suffer with the many down years Notre Dame has endured since Holtz left, excluding the Irish from the major bowl games?

Of course, the fact that NBC is willing to pay what they do for Notre Dame, which doesn't even cover all the major traditional games, like USC, indicates that there probably is enough money on the table to make a middle ground obtainable, which leaves Notre Dame out of a conference, but without the BCS giving the Irish the keys to the store, as is pretty much the case now.

Perhaps requiring Notre Dame to have no more than one, or maybe two, losses, against sufficiently difficult opposition,if they want to get into the eight team field (bumping one of the non BCS conference champs), while, as you suggest, guaranteeing them a "Notre Dame Bowl", with a good payout, in any year in which they had at least six wins, but lost more than one, or perhaps, two, games.

There are enough t.v. viewers to attract to make it doable, especially if a network gets really aggressive about having premium content to offer at the beginning of December. It'd be nice if the November sweeps were extended a week.

97
by Jason Scheib (not verified) :: Thu, 12/07/2006 - 8:47pm

re #92 - is it even remotely possible to have team schedules determined by some sort of a formula like in the NFL? It would seem strange for a NFL franchise to schedule it's own out of division games and say schedule the Cardinals instead of the Patriots so they would have a chance for a better record. That would seem ridiculous.

98
by Erasmus (not verified) :: Thu, 12/07/2006 - 11:59pm

Miami promotes Randy Shannon-a great move in my opinion and better then the other names being mentioned for the head coaching job.

Looks like Rodriguez for the Alabama job....

99
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 2:29pm

Jason, I would say that it is not remotely possible in the current setup. There are two major obstacles that I see.

One is the lack of uniform conference sizes. From a logistical standpoint, it was awkward for the NFL to schedule games with a 5-4-4 or 5-5-4 divisional setup; although the expansion to 32 teams didn't necessarily improve the quality of play (let's forget the idiotic move to 31 first), it did make scheduling much, much easier. In college football, you have four independents, five 12-team conferences, an 11-team conference, a 10-team conference, two 9-team conferences, and two 8-team conferences. My laptop threatened to shut down just thinking about that.

Yes, it's possible to take, say, the top 8 teams from each conference, schedule them appropriately, and throw the remaining teams in a large pot and mix them up ... but then you may get Lions Syndrome, when a team that had a bad year the year before gets just good enough that their easy schedule gives them a conference (division) title.

The other is the huge difference in finances between NCAA and NFL teams, with respect to attendance (few non-sellouts in NFL games) and interdependence (a lot of NFL dollars end up in a common pot). You can tell New England and Indianapolis that they have to play at Detroit and Arizona, and it won't have much of an impact on their bottom line. If you tell Florida and Michigan that they have to play at Temple and Utah State, they're going to ask for a couple million reasons why they should.

Will, I think interleague play stinks, and that Bud Selig is a fool. I'm not sure if that was what you were implying or not. :)