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22 Oct 2007

Confessions of a Football Junkie: Miles' Mindset

by Russell Levine

College football national titles are rarely won without the benefit of at least one upset-avoiding play that is forever etched in the memories of the championship team's fans.

The list of such plays is long and storied. Just last season, Florida needed a last-second blocked field goal to survive against South Carolina. In 1990, Colorado won a game at Missouri on a fifth-down play. In 1997, Nebraska won a game -- also against Missouri -- when a receiver kicked a thrown pass to a teammate. Ohio State's 2002 championship would not have happened without a miracle touchdown pass on a fourth-down play against Purdue.

If LSU, which has somehow endured its most recent three games with a 2-1 record despite being in second-half trouble in all three contests, goes on to win the title this year, the Tigers' game-winning touchdown against Auburn will surely join -- if not top -- that list.

With his team trailing by one, but in comfortable field-goal range and still in possession of a timeout, LSU coach Les Miles opted not to stop the clock, and instead had quarterback Matt Flynn throw for a touchdown. When Demetrius Byrd gathered in the 22-yard pass and crashed to the yellow-painted end zone turf with just one second remaining, the Tiger Stadium crowd did not erupt as it had in the famous "earthquake" game in 1988. In that contest, a last-minute, game-winning touchdown pass -- also against Auburn -- elicited such a reaction from the LSU faithful that it registered on a local seismograph.

The earth did not move Saturday night. When the rowdiest crowd in college football sits largely in stunned silence at one of the most memorable finishes in college football -- and one that could end up having a distinct impact on the national-championship picture -- you know you have just witnessed something truly bizarre.

Miles' perfectly illogical call served as a metaphor for a college football season that has made a mockery of every script and blown up nearly all preconceived notions of those who follow the sport.

Had Flynn been chased from the pocket, or had the Auburn defender draped all over Byrd gotten a finger on the ball and caused a deflection, the clock would have expired and LSU fans would have been lining up to pay Miles' buyout and pave the way for him to return to Michigan, his alma mater.

But LSU made the play, and is now just a Boston College loss away from being back in position to reach the national title game, so the fact that Miles seemed completely oblivious to his team's clock peril will likely be lost to history. Immediately following the game, Miles seemed to indicate to ESPN sideline reporter Holly Rowe that he thought he had plenty of time to kick a field goal if the pass was incomplete. He appeared to overlook the not insignificant detail that the clock was running at the snap of the play, nearly committing the type of gaffe that typically gets named after the perpetrator.

No matter what happens to LSU the rest of the way, no matter if Miles ends up leaving for Ann Arbor following the year as has been rumored, to laud Miles for his guts is to miss the bigger picture. This was not a gutsy call, it was a reckless one. LSU just got away with the equivalent of driving the wrong way down the freeway at rush hour. At night. Without headlights.

LSU could easily have taken its shot at the end zone and still left itself with a comfortable margin for error. The winning pass came on third down, so a spike to stop the clock was not an option, as it would have forced a fourth-down field goal attempt. But LSU could have hurried to the line and snapped the ball with another seven or eight more seconds on the clock and still had their timeout remaining to set up the field goal if anyone was tackled in bounds.

It's not like Miles was choosing between a game-winning touchdown and a game-tying field goal. He risked his entire season -- and perhaps his coaching reputation -- on the likelihood of completing a 22-yard pass vs. kicking a 39-yard field goal.

Then again, in a year in which Appalachian State wins at Michigan and Stanford at USC, in which Notre Dame starts 1-7 and South Florida plays itself into the national championship discussion, maybe logic need not apply for the title contenders, of which LSU is -- again -- most certainly one.

The new BCS standings, released Sunday evening, showed LSU in third place, narrowly behind Boston College for second. The Eagles face their toughest game of the season this week as they visit Virginia Tech. Ohio State is No. 1 for a second straight week.

Few teams have ever welcomed a bye as much as LSU this week. After surviving a visit from Florida, falling at Kentucky in triple-overtime, and edging Auburn, the Tigers can rest up before visiting Alabama November 3 in a contest that will all but decide the SEC West.

Waiting for Miles and LSU in Tuscaloosa is a familiar name: former coach Nick Saban. Whereas Saban was cool and calculating in leading LSU to a shared national title in 2003, if Miles wins one this year it will be because he cashed in on some of the biggest gambles this sport has seen.

Miles has never been one to play it close to the vest. And this particular Tiger appears he will never change his stripes.

John L. Smith Trophy

If you read the first 1,000 words above, you know this week's winner is Les Miles. But it's too easy to quit there, so let's look at a couple other dubious coaching decisions from the weekend.

Had Miles just opted to kick the game-winning field goal, the obvious winner would have been his Auburn counterpart, Tommy Tuberville. After Auburn scored to take the lead, 24-23, with 3:21 left, Tuberville opted for a squib kick. This despite leading by less than a field goal and with an eternity still to play. Yes, LSU has a dangerous kick return unit, but the squib kick should only be used if one of the following two conditions exists:

  1. Time is more precious than field position
  2. You're kicking to Devin Hester

Since neither condition existed for Auburn, Tuberville's decision was a poor one, and he ended up giving LSU the ball at its own 42-yard line.

Another JLS-worthy call came from the Michigan-Illinois game. Michigan trailed, 14-10, in the final four minutes of the first half and was lined up to punt on fourth-and-27 from its own 13-yard line.

At that point, Illinois had to figure the worst-case scenario would be getting the ball back at around its own 40 with plenty of time to extend its lead before half. In a situation like that, a team should never put the punt block on -- the risk of a penalty is too great.

However, Ron Zook opted to rush the punter. Joe Morgan hit Zoltan Mesko's extended leg, bringing a (correct) personal-foul call and giving Michigan a first down. The rest is predictable. Given new life, the Wolverines went 72 yards in nine plays for the go-ahead score and a huge momentum shift in the game.

Much like Miles's call, Zook's decision was a misguided evaluation of risk/reward. Why risk a first down for the opponent when the worst-case scenario is going to give you good field position?

BlogPoll Ballot

This season, I'll again be voting in the BlogPoll, hosted by mgoblog. I'll post my ballot in Junkie each week. Feel free to comment, and I may adjust may rankings based on your suggestions.

Rank Team Delta
1 Ohio State --
2 Oregon --
3 LSU --
4 Oklahoma 1
5 Boston College 4
6 West Virginia 4
7 South Florida 3
8 Florida 8
9 Southern Cal 8
10 Arizona State 1
11 Virginia Tech 1
12 South Carolina 6
13 Kentucky 6
14 Kansas 1
15 Missouri 1
16 Michigan 8
17 Georgia 8
18 UCLA 8
19 California 11
20 Wake Forest 6
21 Alabama --
22 Rutgers 4
23 Texas 3
24 Hawaii 1
25 Virginia 1

Dropped Out: Auburn (#15), Cincinnati (#18), Illinois (#19), Tennessee (#20), Texas Tech (#22).

Rankings that may require further explanation: LSU is certainly more battle-tested, but I'm not positive that makes them better than Ohio State. They've certainly shown some defensive liabilities the last three weeks. On a neutral field today, I give OSU the slight edge. But we'll learn more about Ohio State this week than we have all season as the Buckeyes visit Penn State in their first real test.

South Florida doesn't drop all that far because I don't think a narrow loss at Rutgers is that bad a loss. The fact that USF won at an Auburn team that beat Florida and gave LSU all it can handle speaks to the Bulls' quality.

Speaking of Auburn, I wanted to keep them in with three losses, I really did. But that Mississippi State loss is looking worse each week.

Overall, I think the SEC is the best conference, and certainly the deepest. Therefore the two-loss SEC teams Florida and Kentucky are still high. But I think the gap between the SEC and everyone else is much less than it was a year ago. I mean would anyone be that stunned if LSU lost to, say, Boston College?

Yes, Michigan makes a big leap this week. The Wolverines have really made defensive strides, and if they get Hart and Henne healthy in time for the final three games (at Michigan State and Wisconsin, home vs. Ohio State) they will be a threat to win the conference. USC also rockets upwards. Not because bombing Notre Dame is so impressive, but because they finally played like the Southern Cal we've all come to know.

Boston College and Arizona State, you're on the clock this week. Look bad in your first games vs. real stiff competition and you will tumble.

Got a gripe? Post it in the comments, please.

Games I watched at least part of: South Florida-Rutgers, Louisville-Connecticut, Penn State-Indiana, Florida-Kentucky, Michigan-Illinois, Auburn-LSU.

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

Posted by: Russell Levine on 22 Oct 2007

101 comments, Last at 27 Oct 2007, 12:19am by NF

Comments

1
by PaulH (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 6:51pm

An LSU friend of mine -- a guy who basically thinks if you put Rosie O'Donnell in an LSU uniform and put her at wide receiver that she would be one of the best receivers in the country -- said, and I quote, "That was the worst decision I've seen since Curley Hallman against Auburn in 1994." I think that about sums it up.

I don't know about LSU, though. Yes they are good, but I just cannot see them winning it all at the moment. They lost to Kentucky -- a team that doesn't look all that good at the moment -- and beat Florida and Auburn with last-minute rallies at home, but the truth is that they trailed for approximately 112 of 120 minutes in those games.

Taking all of that into consideration, I cannot see them beating Alabama, Ole Missk, Arkansas, likely Florida again in the SECCG, and then winning the BCS title game.

And Glenn Dorsey is now hurt with a sprained knee due to a big-time chopshot by an Auburn guard on a chop block. No torn ligaments, but it's a question mark as to when he'll be 100%. Right now they are saying he is expected to play against Alabama, but you never know this early.

2
by navin (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 6:56pm

I agree that the gap between the SEC and the next best conference isn't huge. In fact I think the SEC and Pac 10 are about even in strength. I'll give the edge to the SEC because none of the teams are horrendous and the top ten teams would be very competitive in any conference. The Pac 10 gets a lot worse after number five Oregon State.

My rankings of the top six conferences:
1. SEC
2. Pac 10

Large gap

3. Big East
4. Big 12
5. Big 10

Huge gap

6. ACC

The ACC is really mediocre this year. I guess FSU did beat Alabama on a neutral field and Maryland beat up on Rutgers. It just seems as if the conference has no elite teams. The end of the season rivalry games against the SEC (USC-Clemson, Florida-FSU, Georgia-Georgia Tech) could change my mind.

As for the middle tier, you could rank them in any of six ways and I wouldn't disagree. I just looked at Sagarin and he disagrees. He actually has the Big 10 in last by a lot. Only two teams are in his top 25, (OSU 3, Michigan 21, Penn State is 29).

I really wish college football went to an eight team playoff with the six BCS champs and two at large bids for non BCS teams. Then we wouldn't have to complain about conference strength and I bet we'd see even more great OOC match ups.

3
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 7:03pm

My Meaningless Top 25:

1. Ohio State
2. LSU
3. Boston College
4. Arizona State
5. Oregon
6. Florida
7. South Florida
8. West Virginia
9. Kansas
10. Oklahoma
11. Virginia Tech
12. Missouri
13. Southern Cal
14. Michigan
15. Kentucky
16. Auburn
17. Penn State
18. Virginia
19. Georgia
20. Texas
21. UCLA
22. South Carolina
23. California
24. Purdue
25. Texas Tech

Predicting the National Championship Game: Ohio State, BC, Arizona State, Oregon, Florida, and Kansas all lose at least one game. LSU, West Virginia, and South Florida all win out. Despite having beaten West Virginia and having identical records, South Florida remain ranked below WVU.

Russell says he wanted to put Auburn in his Top 25- I nearly had them in my top ten, and they certainly would be if they didn't pull a rock vs MSU.

My friends and I always have an preseason informal pool over which coach will be the first to be fired. Since Ole Miss' Ed Orgeron and Arizona's Mike Stoops have survived the day (so far) it's looking more and more like every D-1A coach will at least get to finish out the season, with a few "he won't be back next year" declarations in November.

Finally, is there a dumber controversy than "Team XYZ moved up in the polls despite being idle"? What a voter should do is re-evealuate the entire season every Sunday, and ignore the previous week's ballot entirely. South Florida lost, so it only makes sense that another team claim the #2 spot.

4
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 7:04pm

I'd really prefer a twelve team field with 11 conference champs, one 2nd place finisher, a bye given to the top four conference champ seeds, along with home field advantage to the higher seeds until the semi-finals. This would really allow some non-BCS schools to have some recruiting success as well, along with winning your conference the key.

5
by Aaron (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 7:07pm

Eh. It wasn't that bad a call. If you watch the replay, the ball's caught in the end zone with 4 seconds still on the clock, they were just late stopping it. To expect them to have been even later stopping it because the pass was knocked down is unlikely - time was wasted waiting to make sure he really had caught it. An incompletion would have still left probably 1 if not 2 seconds on the clock, and even if it had run off, they would have reviewed it to see how much time should be left - the SEC actually does a pretty good job of using replay.

The only real risks were an interception or a sack, but with the pass pattern and interception wasn't a big risk, and with a timeout, a sack really just makes it a longer field goal - instead of 40 yards, 47 yards. It was definitely a risk in that regards, but not a crazy stupid risk.

You also have to remember that LSU's kicker Colt David has yet to hit on a field goal of 40 or longer this season, he's 0/3 from 40+. In fact, for his career he's only 3/10 from 40+.

Miles actually probably made the best decision in that circumstance - he's got a kicker who's not real good and enough time to take a shot at the end zone. Don't overreact just because the refs were slow to stop the clock after the play so it looked like it was close to ending time.

6
by citizen jason (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 7:09pm

#2: I don't disagree with you, but at least some of the terribleness at the bottom of the Pac-10 is due to the strength at the top. Take Washington--I don't think they are terrible, but 4 of their last 5 games have been Ohio State, USC, Oregon, and Arizona State. Ouch.

7
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 7:12pm

Boston College and Arizona State, you’re on the clock this week. Look bad in your first games vs. real stiff competition and you will tumble.

I expect Arizona State to lost three of their next four, and Boston College to lose three of their next five. That still gives both teams nine-win seasons, which makes 2007 a very successful season for both.

Maybe I'm the only one, but I would be so entertained if Dennis Erickson capitalized on this year's success and left Arizona State after one season.
It's rumored that he covets an SEC job, and would consider a move to Arkansas, or even Ole Miss.

8
by Roscoe (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 7:12pm

I only halfway agree with the Les Miles critique. Colt David has been a bit shaky all year (he missed two out of two against Florida), and I don't think he has made a single field goal from that range all year. When LSU had 3rd down at the 22, I was plenty worried, as I didn't think they were close enough for David to have much of a chance.

Coach Roscoe probably would have called a draw or a short pass over the middle to shorten the range for Colt. Of course, that is exactly what Auburn was thinking LSU would do. So maybe it made more sense to go with the guy getting single coverage in the corner of the end zone.

I agree that LSU should have gotten the play off sooner. But when Byrd caught the ball and official signaled touchdown, there were at least three seconds on the clock. There should have been enough time for a field goal try.

9
by BHW (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 7:14pm

I'll preface this by saying I'm a UCLA alum/fan:

They have no business being in the Top 25. Not yet. Yes, beating Cal was a good win, but this is still the team that got blown at by Utah. We have to prove we can beat teams week-in week-out before making any ranking.

10
by navin (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 7:20pm

I agree, Washington could rebound in the next five games. The thing that bothers me is that all of their losses except for the Southern Cal game were double digit losses.

11
by navin (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 7:25pm

I also don't understand why Auburn is unranked. Compare their losses to Michigan's--Auburn has two close losses to highly ranked teams and one head scratcher against Mississippi State. Michigan has one blowout at home to a highly ranked team and on head scratcher against Appalachian State.

How does that make Michigan worthy of a higher ranking?

12
by Sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 7:27pm

What game was Russell watching? The crowd did erupt--the commentators even made reference to the seismic thing, as I recall. They were undoubtedly shocked by the call, but not so much so they weren't cheering the touchdown.

13
by bradluen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 7:35pm

If you agree that Ohio State, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Arizona State, Oregon, USC and West Virginia have proven little or nothing so far this season, you'll agree this will be a very educational week.

At least a couple of national title dreams will end. Probably more.

14
by Chris Heinonen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 7:46pm

#5,8: The problem with Les Miles's decisions isn't that the clock should have stopped with 3 seconds left, it's that after he started talking at the end of the game, he had no idea how much time was actually left, and so was making a play that was ridiculous based on the timing. If they have to flush the QB from the pocket and he still throws (watch Cal-OSU last week, QB's aren't always smart at the end), the game might end.

Had they run the play with 5-6 more seconds left, we have far less issue with it, but then you have a chance of the clock running out on you while still holding a timeout, are in FG position, and your comments indicate that you can't even manage the simple task of keeping track of how much time is left, it all adds up to a really, really poor call.

15
by bradluen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 7:50pm

Just to emphasize the teams I named above, who are in just about everyone's top dozen, have made their names against rubbish schedules:

Ohio State - best win at Purdue, second-best vs Michigan State
Boston College - best win at Georgia Tech, second-best vs Wake Forest
Virginia Tech - best win at Clemson, second-best win... uhh...
Arizona State - best win vs Oregon State, second-best win vs Colorado
Oregon - best win at Michigan, second-best win... at Washington?
USC - best win at Washington. Really.
West Virginia - best win at Maryland, second-best win vs Mississippi State

Against current top 25 teams, the seven teams above are a combined 1-3.

16
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 8:02pm

#4: Winning even the ACC, or the Big Ten, is ridiculously more difficult than winning, say, the WAC. You can't give all the conferences autoberths. They don't all deserve it. If you want to give them a recruiting advantage, you give an autoberth for going undefeated against a minimum schedule strength (based on the historical performance of opponents).

When I say "deserve," as well, I really mean "money." The BCS conference teams are the ones that are pulling in serious money. They're the ones who got the TV contract. Divvying up that money to teams who didn't do anything to earn it will really, really harm the financials of the BCS conference athletic departments (who are frequently shaky anyway).

You can't treat all the conferences the same. If you really, really want to, the only way to do it is to split Division IA (or whatever it's called) in two. Again. There's too much of a money disparity.

17
by msgr (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 8:06pm

#11: Dude, get with the program. This column is all about bashing the SEC and building up the Little Eleven.

18
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 8:27pm

Pat, if the NFL built the most powerful sports draw by having a competition in which a team in Green Bay had as much chance to win the title as the team in New York, it's not unreasonable to think that college football could maximize revenue by having a competition in which the team in Salt Lake City has as much chance to win the title as the team in Columbus. In about ten years, the recruiting contests would rebalance greatly, and you could have college football really give the NFL a competitor.

19
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 8:43pm

#15: Of course, the problem is that the teams that have beaten 'decent' competition frequently have losses to worse teams than the average team of the teams that haven't.

The entire top 25 is really, really flimsy with the exception of LSU, and jeez, LSU just escaped becoming really flimsy themselves.

I mean, look at Oklahoma, for instance. Their best win is Missouri, second best Texas: both teams who are really flimsy themselves (who's Missouri or Texas beaten? no one in the top 25 anymore).

That's the big problem. There's pretty much no team, other than LSU, that has beaten significant competition that's managed to stay decent.

20
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 8:45pm

#18: You think the NFL would work expanded to 100+ teams, with market sizes varying by almost two orders of magnitude?!

21
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 8:52pm

Pat, with 18-22 year old talent that was paid a pittance by a cartel? Sure.

22
by navin (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 8:53pm

Pat,
SC beat Kentucky who I don't consider to be flimsy, of course they lost to Vandy at home so...

And of course USF beat both WVU and Auburn. Also Cal has wins against Oregon and Tennessee. I'm sure there are a few others that I can't remember.

23
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 8:59pm

To clarify, Pat, why would Ohio Sate/Penn Sate this Saturday be less valuable to a television network if BYU had a chance to win the national championship if they were Mountain West champs?

24
by Carlos (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 9:04pm

just to take a shot at UVA -- they needed a horribly blown call (and blown replay!!) on a 4th down conversion in their final drive in order to (eventually) beat maryland on the final play of the game.

Bad spots happen all the time of course, but this was pretty amazing b/c the linesman gave UVA's player an extra yard on the spot, which the replay showed pretty closely, and then the replay official didn't overturn it.

Maybe they're still the 25th best team, but if they're moving up it must be a function of others moving down.

25
by Yinka Double Dare (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 9:13pm

22 -- I think his point is that a fair number of teams have bad losses to go with their good wins. Being an alleged top team and then going out and losing to Colorado, Vandy, Stanford, etc is worse than the undefeateds who haven't played anyone yet -- they may not have any good wins (yet), but at least they've beaten all the teams they're supposed to beat, which is more than some of these teams can say.

Of course, the pollsters aren't paying any attention to that -- looking at the one-loss teams they're still keeping Oklahoma high while dropping South Florida well below Oklahoma, despite better wins than Oklahoma and a better loss. People care about strength of schedule and strength wins except when they don't, apparently.

But we shouldn't really get too worried about these things until the last few BCS standings -- teams that haven't had a good win yet will have their opportunity, a few more bad teams will be allegedly good ones, and we can sort it out in a month or so. Hopefully some of these teams that I don't feel are as deserving will lose a/another game before then. In the meantime, I'll enjoy the weekly mayhem.

26
by Fourth (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 10:03pm

Good job keeping WVU ahead of USF despite the h2h. No seriously, USF looks like they have another loss coming. Though I also wonder how WVa plans on stopping Ray Rice. Guess that stuff will sort itself out.

Oklahoma also looked terrible against 1-win Iowa State (though I see you didn't watch any of that one). I think my money is on Mizzou to win the big 12 now.

Also see MGo for more on Miles...there should have been 3 seconds on the clock after that td, and their kicker is horrible anyway. Maybe the only thing they should have done is be a little faster getting the play in, but you can't tell me 3 seconds are going to roll off the clock while the ball is "tipped around" in the end zone. I guess it was a bit risky, but so are fg attempts with bad kickers.

27
by Yinka Double Dare (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 10:19pm

Fourth, Russell is actually the first commenter on that MGo post (or at least I presume it's him), I think Russell disagrees with Brian.

28
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 11:29pm

#22: Why isn't Kentucky flimsy again? Oh yeah. Because they beat LSU, and LSU isn't flimsy (yet). What about other than that? Who've they beaten...? Oh yeah. No one. So SC is solid because they're standing on Kentucky who's standing on LSU... who's the only solid team in the top 25. Good thing that Kentucky win over LSU is solid! Oh wait...

Seriously, if LSU had beaten Kentucky (and it's not like you can call a 3OT loss 'not close'), LSU would be a bajillion miles above the rest of the pack in every single statistical ranking not created on hallucinogenics.

USF has solid wins. And they lost to Rutgers, who would be an average DIA team if they hadn't beaten USF.
Cal has solid wins. And they lost to Oregon State, who would be a below-average DIA team if they hadn't beaten Cal.

That's my point. I've been crowing for a statistical ranking that shows the "error" in the ranking for each team (i.e. how much you can move each team's ranking by without changing the overall likelihood of the result significantly) for a while - this year might be the year that finally makes me do it.

If you could see the distribution for each team, it would be incredibly wide for every team except LSU (and the unbeatens, of course, for whom it would look totally different).

Except for the unbeatens and LSU, the top 25 basically consists of a bunch of teams whose resume includes a bunch of decent wins and a loss which is trying to yank them WAAAY down. Get rid of a win for those teams, and they'd fall a ton. Get rid of that one loss and they'd sproing way up.

#21: Pat, with 18-22 year old talent that was paid a pittance by a cartel? Sure.

The NCAA is not a cartel. The BCS conferences might be, but the NCAA as a whole is not - there are far too many small schools who have no resources/control whatsoever. The NFL rules the league with an iron fist comparatively.

What would happen if the NCAA tried to mandate what you suggested? The BCS conferences would threaten withdrawal from the NCAA. Just that simple.

29
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 11:36pm

To clarify, Pat, why would Ohio Sate/Penn Sate this Saturday be less valuable to a television network if BYU had a chance to win the national championship if they were Mountain West champs?

Wrong line of thinking. The money paid to the BCS bowls is due to the popularity of the sport, which is primarily driven by the national audiences - i.e., BCS conferences.

Putting, say, BYU in the running for a national championship would be giving money that OSU/PSU/the rest of the BCS conference teams earned to BYU simply because of some athletic contest. Universities don't play games with money.

You might say "well, people aren't interested in BYU games because they're not really playing for the NC" but honestly, that's completely unfounded. The viewership for BCS conference teams doesn't go down a ton when they're having a down season.

30
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 11:45pm

if the NFL built the most powerful sports draw by having a competition in which a team in Green Bay had as much chance to win the title as the team in New York,

That's an aside, not a main reason. The NFL has a game that's easy to follow one's favorite team (16 fall / winter Sunday afternoons), easy to bet on, and fun to watch.

The NHL and NBA have a "competitive balance" situation similar to the NFL's (and the New York teams stink in those leagues), so why is the NFL miles ahead in terms of popularity?

MLB doesn't have such a feature, yet it still laps the NHL and NBA in terms of popularity. How can this be?

31
by Dave (not verified) :: Mon, 10/22/2007 - 11:47pm

#4, I really hate playoff byes, especially in a sport where off weeks and home field advantage are huge (and this is even more true in college football than pro football). And you pretty much have to play the first round (and probably the second round) playoff games of a 4-round playoff on the higher seed's home field; short-range travel arrangements for 10,000 fans is possible, but for 50,000, not so much. So I'd go for the full-on 16-team deal; 11 conference champs + 5 at-large teams.

32
by bradluen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 12:02am

At this point of the season, what I want from a top 5-10 team is for them to have at least a couple of good wins over quality opponents, with losses only to opponents who appear to be good. It's too early to demand that the losses are to teams that have proved themselves to be good, simply because there are too few teams that have proved themselves to be good. For opponents, a high mean is enough; a high mean and low variance will only be possible near the end of the season, if then.

Besides LSU, I think these teams have multiple good wins and no horrible losses:

South Florida: at Auburn and West Virginia, loss to Rutgers (whom most people did consider "above average" before the USF game, if not by much)
Florida: Tennessee, at Kentucky, losses to LSU and Auburn
Missouri: Illinois, Texas Tech, loss to Oklahoma

(aside: and Missouri can't make anyone's top ten because...)

If you think the SEC is really that good you can throw in Kentucky and Georgia; if you think the Pac-10 is really that good you can throw in Cal, etc. The point is that all these teams come closer to meeting my criteria than the teams I named in 15.

33
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 12:14am

I could live with that, Dave, as long as no conference had more than two teams in the tournament. I'd still prefer to have it extremely unlikely that any 2nd place conference finisher could make the tourney. I'd hate to sacrifice the intensity of the intra-conference matchups by teams knowing that they could finish 2nd and still get in. In fact, I would almost prefer to limit the tourney to the top eight conference champs.

34
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 12:25am

Pat, we have no idea of what would drive the ratings of football playoff over time, because there has never been one.

35
by William (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 12:52am

The Miles criticism is overblown. The closeness of the play at the end to the final gun was due primarily to two factors outside of the control of Miles -- (1) Flynn being a little slow to get the play off (he was under center with 12 seconds left but did not get the snap until the 8 second mark), and (2) as, noted above, at least two full seconds running off the clock after Byrd caught the ball (which an incompletion would not have taken up). All of this binary thinking "they either win the game there or lose it" as a result of Miles' decision seems to me to be lazy reporting/analysis or just done to make the story more sensational than it really was. When Miles was interviewed, he said he felt good calling that play because LSU had 16 or so seconds left. I think he oversold that by a few seconds, but Flynn was clearly in position to get the ball snapped at 12 seconds -- and I don't think it's all that risky to take a shot with 12 seconds left. Not a stupid move by any stretch (and the whole risk-reward analysis fails to account for Colt David's inconsistency -- as also suggested above) and definitely not deserving of the JLS Trophy. More deserving, in that game at least, was Tuberville for both the squib kick and failing to challenge a questionable spot on 3rd down on the final drive that was ruled a first down but should have led to fourth and short.

36
by Steve (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 1:27am

#24 I don't know which game you were watching, but the sport in the UVA-MD game was correct. This is coming from an unbiased observer.

37
by nick (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 1:43am

so, basically everybody here has well reasoned arguments as to why you're wrong re. Miles, Russell--care to respond? :)

38
by Sean McCormick :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 2:03am

I'm with you, Will. I don't notice anyone complaining that the minor conference winners don't deserve to make the NCAA Tournament come March. On the contrary, they generally provide the most entertaining games of the entire tournament. Eleven conference winners and one at large bid. if the big conferences are as dominant as people assume, there's no threat of their not being heavily represented in the final rounds. Plus, the emphasis on conference winners keeps the regular season as relevant as it is now.

39
by bradluen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 2:20am

The argument I'd make against an extended playoff (besides that it's not going to happen anytime soon) is that games like the 2006 Rose Bowl are less likely to happen. There's a good chance that USC and Texas win their way to the final, but you put that at risk, and it means the teams might be banged up by the time they face each other.

40
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 5:31am

Pat, we have no idea of what would drive the ratings of football playoff over time, because there has never been one.

If you're trying to suggest that you could honestly say "no, the non-BCS conference teams have just as much influence on the TV ratings of NCAA football as the BCS conference teams," you're crazy.

The reason the non-BCS conference team games have been the most entertaining/interesting is because those teams are actually good. That's one of the requirements of them getting an autoberth!

Make it "you just have to win the conference" and they won't be good. They'll be dreck.

41
by SB (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 7:18am

#36

I'm pretty sure he was watching the correct game. That was atrocious officiating.

Not as bad as Louisville-Connecticut, but it was still really bad.

42
by princeton73 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 9:57am

In the litany of miracle plays that led to an eventual national championship--I can't BELIEVE you didn't mention Clint Stoerner's fumble when all Arkansas had to do was run out the clock against Tennessee

43
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 10:04am

Russell,

I was there The Night the Earth Shook -- to say that it didn't match up to that event is obvious.

Tommy Hodson hits Eddie Fuller in the back of the end zone to give LSU a 7-6 win on the last play of the game -- over an unbeaten, #1 -ranked Auburn team. All the Patriot fans out here probably just convulsed at the mention of Tommy Hodson, but at that moment he was the most clutch player in history. The spontaneous roar at what just happened did indeed trip the university's seismograph. Why does LSU have seismographs? Becuase the New Madrid fault --source of the biggest quake in US history, literally runs under Baton Rogue and the campus.

But of course the roar Saturday night wasn't as big -- it couldn't be. But it sure was there - and there were three seconds left on the clock when the balll got into the WR's hands. Sorry, but there was enough time for LSU to make the kick -- that the announcers weren't able to watch the clock on replay excuses them, but not all the commenters who have parroted the silly line since.

Tuberville, on the other hand, DID give the game away -- not almost give it - -LSU isn't close enough to do anything if he doesn't call for that preposterous kick.

44
by Aaron (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 10:20am

The reason college football will not move to playoff is the one everyone hates, but also the best reason not to: money.

Sure, it would be nice to have a playoff and be able to pretend to know who the best team is (but even a playoff doesn't guarantee this - does anyone outside Pittsburgh actually believe the Steelers were the best team in the NFL that year? They got tremendously lucky in almost every playoff game they played), at least as far as fans are concerned. But newsflash: college football is not about the fans, and shouldn't be. College football should be about the universities, and the bowl system is MUCH more beneficial to the universities than a playoff would be.

There are 32 bowl games, so unless you're proposing a 64 team playoff (NCAA basketball tournament includes 65, but basketball is a sport for wimps and nowhere near as physical as football - you can't ask a football team to play that many games over a reasonable amount of time), you're going to be leaving some people out of the mix. Those schools will now no longer receive television exposure and proceeds that can be used to benefit their other programs. There is no revenue sharing in college football that forces, say, USC to give a chunk of cash to Tulane.

The bowl system benefits the smaller schools, the ones who wouldn't be in a playoff, the schools who have a football team because college football generates revenue for a university that can be used for other things, not because they want to be national champions.

Everyone who wants a playoff system just so they can feel better about declaring a school the best in the country should be ashamed of themselves because all you're going to accomplish is to punish the little guys. And I don't mean little guys like South Florida this year, I mean little guys like New Mexico State, Akron, or Florida Atlantic. Schools who wouldn't make a playoff, but probably will make a bowl, and be able to make their universities slightly more money by doing so.

College football isn't about who wins, and the NCAA has never made that its priority. The bowl system benefits the whole of college football more than a playoff system would, even if it would let you sleep better.

45
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 10:45am

Pat, if you think the world is static, you're crazy. One of the reasons why the BCS schools tend to be better is that their advantages are self-perpetuating. Put every conference champ 4 nationally televised wins, at most, away from winning a national championship, and all of a sudden the BYUs of college football have a much easier time recruiting against the Arizona States and even USCs. Within 10 years, interest in college football explodes,as people with ties to many, many, more schools begin to think that their favorite can get some attention in the spotlight.

No, the established powers don't like the prospect of change, but there may be enough Senators in enough states with constituents who don't like the BCS cartel to force it eventually. A few years when there is strong enough perception that a few non-BCS schools haven't gotten a fair chance to participate could shake things up. Like I said, I'd be quite happy with the six BCS conference champs and two non-BCS conference champs, and then only giving the non-BCS conferences that participate a full revenue share if they advanced past the first round, but it seems to me that you may just as well allow 11 conference champs in, if you really want to grow the sport.

To me the worst outcome would be a situation in which multiple 2nd place conference finishers get in, because that resembles college basketball way too much, which essentially has a four month pre-season schedule. I haven't watched a college basketball game in January or February for years for the same reason I don't watch NFL games in mid-August. I'd rather college football stick to what they do now than allow multiple 2nd place conference finishers in the door.

46
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 10:49am

Aaron, that's only true if you leave out the non-BCS conferences. Let them in, grow the sport, and the revenue stream to everybody increases. A well constructed college football system could have NFL size revenues, and that would make everybody better off. Heck, letting 12 teams into a playoff wouldn't have to hurt the minor bowls, and could even help them.

47
by Pete (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 11:13am

According to Sagarin’s unbiased conference rankings:
CONFERENCE CENTRAL MEAN SIMPLE AVERAGE TEAMS
1 SOUTHEASTERN (A) = 80.76 80.56 ( 1) 12
2 BIG EAST (A) = 79.21 78.60 ( 2) 8
3 PAC-10 (A) = 78.20 77.76 ( 3) 10
4 BIG 12 (A) = 78.18 77.42 ( 4) 12
5 ATLANTIC COAST (A) = 77.36 77.12 ( 5) 12
6 BIG TEN (A) = 75.37 75.40 ( 6) 11
7 MOUNTAIN WEST (A) = 69.08 68.71 ( 7) 9
8 I-A INDEPENDENTS (A) = 65.13 65.43 ( 8) 4
9 WESTERN ATHLETIC (A) = 62.50 62.64 ( 9) 9
10 MID-AMERICAN (A) = 61.02 60.98 ( 10) 13

Please also note that the average of any of the Top 5 conferences would be expected to win with an average (3 points) home field advantage. The Big Ten is not far behind the Top 5, although I do not remember any bowl games being anywhere near a home field advantage for them. The Top teams in the SEC (LSU, Florida) could easily lose to some of the other top teams in the country. However, the average teams in the SEC (Kentucky, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Auburn) might be able to beat some of the top teams in the country on a good day. I was surprised the PAC-10 had dropped from #2 to #3. I guess Tennessee's blowout to Alabama reduces the importance of Tennessee's loss to the PAC-10.

I advocate going to a Bowl + 1 as soon as possible. It would be simple to do with the normal bowls run and a week or two later having the championship game at a rotating (random?) site. If a team like Ohio State goes undefeated and then beats Oregon or USC then they probably are that much more deserving. Maybe Hawaii is the best team... if they go undefeated the rest of the way and win a major bowl they could have a valid argument. I think the Bowl + 1 would pacify the Big Ten and PAC-10, while allowing something a little better than the present system.

Winning a conference with a championship means playing one additional tough game, possibly forcing that conference champion to beat a good team a second time (perhaps this time on a neutral field).

48
by Kyle S (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 11:47am

There's no reason why there can't be a multi-tiered playoff AND other bowl games such as the Alamo Bowl in college football.

49
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 12:08pm

I HATE THE IDEA OF A PLAYOFF.

HATE HATE HATE.

In college football, the regular season is king. Saturday's LSU v Auburn thriller wouldn't have mattered if there were a playoff.

Let me repeat: Would. Not. Have. Mattered.

Look, you guys already have a meaningless college sport: basketball. The regular season may as well be an exhibition. You can tune in for three weekends a year, fill out your brackets, show interest for a brief annual period, and ignore it the rest of the time. Why do we have to do that to two sports?

Russell Levine put it best last week: After all, do fans really want to see college football turn into another version of the NFL, where Sunday’s win by the Patriots over the Cowboys in a much-hyped battle of undefeated teams is, ultimately, essentially meaningless in the Super Bowl chase?

50
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 12:30pm

Well, kevin, that is simply untrue. In a playoff where only conference champs get in, Auburn against LSU would have been very meaningful.

51
by Yinka Double Dare (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 12:32pm

Pat, there are plenty of autoberth teams in the basketball tournament who were not good at all -- the requirement is that you win your conference tournament, not that you are actually good. If every conference didn't have a tournament and based it on the regular season champ (as the Ivy does), then maybe you could say the autoberth teams were actually decent teams. But I think that's what we'd have for football.

And a playoff that includes only one at-large and otherwise requires winning your conference would still have made the LSU-Auburn game important -- a win by Auburn keeps them in the conference title hunt, and severely hurt LSU's chances. Even in winning, LSU still would need to keep winning to make sure they got to the conference championship game.

I don't think that system will ever happen though, and a big playoff with more at-large teams would definitely take away from the regular season somewhat. I still can't believe there isn't a rule that you have to win your conference to be in the title game though -- if you can't win the championship of a subset of teams, why should you get to play to be the champion of all of them? This is why, while as a Michigan fan who would have loved another shot at Ohio State, I couldn't be too ticked last year when they were moved in the polls to put Florida in the game.

52
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 1:08pm

50: True, but then I'm looking at the Sun Belt champion getting into a playoff ahead of the #2 team from another conference.

I just don't get why some people want to drag Texas and Ohio State down to the level of Louisiana-Lafayette and Utah State.

Sort of related...after Boise State's feel good winover Oklahoma, wouldn't it have made sense for the Mountain West to make a public offer to Boise to join the conference?

53
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 1:19pm

Kevin, guarantee the Sun Belt champ a shot at the national championship, and in about 7-10 years, if not less, their recruiting will be competitive with the #2 finisher in BCS conferences.

I'm with you on this much; a playoff which allowed multiple 2nd place conference finishers would be much worse than what we have now.

54
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 1:20pm

if you can’t win the championship of a subset of teams, why should you get to play to be the champion of all of them?

Sounds good on paper, but that basically says it's OK to lose a non-conference game, but not a conference game.

In 2003 when Oklahoma went undefeated into their conference championship game to Kansas State and lost. People said that since they didn't win their conference, they shouldn't qualify for the national title. I asked why it would have been OK to lose to UCLA but not Kansas State, and no one could answer.

One problem with a "conference champions only" rule would be that all non-conference games would be rendered as completely meaningless.

I think it's funny that people now pine for "traditional bowl matchups". I grew up reading columns about how the Rose Bowl provided stale matchups, and how it positioned potentially unattractive matchups. Today's system is far better.

55
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 1:27pm

Kevin, guarantee the Sun Belt champ a shot at the national championship, and in about 7-10 years, if not less, their recruiting will be competitive with the #2 finisher in BCS conferences.

1. They already have a shot at it.

2. Why doesn't that work in basketball?

3. I don't see it. The top recruits want to go to the big-time schools with big time facilities, national TV games, tradition, etc. If Arkansas State told a recruit "we can offer you a shot at the National Championship", the recruit could say "so can Florida State and Georgia- and they can offer a lot more".

It seems the core of your plan is to make it *easier* for Sun Belt and WAC teams to make it into a tournament than an SEC team. Why do we want this?

56
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 1:30pm

Kevin, if you seed the playoff, with byes and home field advantage until the semifinals, based upon quality non-conference wins, with gigantic demerits imposed for cupcake games, then the non conference games remain quite important, and you do a lot to weaken the incentive to purposely schedule easy wins, which is the worst aspect of college football. Why people like a system where teams will purposely try to schedule non-competitive games is beyond me.

57
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 1:35pm

No, Kevin, the Sunbelt champ doesn't have anything but the most miniscule chance. Basketball isn't football. Depth is far more important in football which is why reducing scholorships to 85 has had such a leveling impact. It only takes a traditional program losing a couple of recruits to have a substantial impact. Guarantee the Mountain West champ a chance at the title, and good Mountain West schools will be able to pick off a couple more recruits a year who are going elsewhere, and over time this has a substantial effect.

58
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 1:41pm

because no one cares about the smaller schools. Have you ever been to a Sun Belt game? NCAA football is better off with the USC's and Michigan's of the world winning then seeing the Middle Tennessee State's perhaps becoming somewhat competitive...there are so many good players coming out of high school, why kill great games played in the SEC or the Pac-10 for parity?

59
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 1:55pm

lionsbob, please explain how an SEC or PAC 10 game which is intergral to advancing to the national championship would be "killed".

60
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 2:01pm

Also, no cares about Sunbelt games because there is practically zero chance that a Sunbelt game could ever have championship implications. If the NFC West champ had as much opportunity to play in the Super Bowl as the Sunbelt champ has to play for the national title, interest in the NFC West would approximate that of the Sunbelt.

61
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 2:09pm

Because the loss of quality players to the Troy's and BYU's of the world will only cause parity across the board, not just within conferences. Instead of seeing Vandy knock off South Carolina, we will be seeing Troy beating the hell out of Arkansas State and top heavy BCS conference play.

62
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 2:15pm

lionsbob, why would you suppose that Troy would be getting players that Vandy now has? The schools are quite different in character. It is far more likely that Troy will grab a player or two that Spurrier is now getting, making it easier for Vandy to knock off South Carolina.

63
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 2:25pm

OK, sure. But at least we will get to see Troy beat up on Arkansas State and UL-Monroe along with 14,000 fans. Hopefully no one gets hurt, since depth is going to blow ass in all facets of the game. But at least we will perhaps see a cool playoff game.

64
by Erik (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 2:35pm

I know it's already been pointed out many times in the comments, but geez, Russell, if you're going to write an article about it you should at least watch the play closely rather than listen to the idiot announcers. There were obviously 4 seconds left when the TD was caught. I couldn't have cared less about this game and happened to watch the end on tv and as that fool announcer was going off, even I was yelling, "what an idiot!, there obviously should be more time on the clock!" Any time less than 3 seconds would have been overruled by a replay challenge. The call was maybe a bit risky but with a quick drop and single coverage, the ONLY risk was an INT, and that was minor. Again, I have no affiliation here and didn't really care about the game, but your article is embarrassing. A 39-yard field goal isn't exactly a gimme so I think it made sense to take a shot. You can argue with that but at least have your facts straight on a site like this - it's not ESPN where you can just make stuff up.

65
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 2:37pm

60- Nobody cares because nobody cares.

Again, small schools have a very shake to enter and win the basketball tournament, yet somehow the best players want to go to the traditional powers.

66
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 2:40pm

Yes, lionbob the status quo is to be defended at all times, because there are no circumstances in which more than 14,000 would ever turn out for a Troy/Arkansas State game.

67
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 2:45pm

kevin, stop comparing basketball roster construction to football roster construction. They are not remotely similar. Nor is 65 team tournament similar to a 12 team tornament.

Also, "just because" reasoning isn't very convincing.

68
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 2:57pm

Well I guess if Arkansas had an away game that week, some Arkansas State 'fans' will show up or perhaps because they got a couple of good recruits they might be able to play in a playoff game (on the road...which they will not go to)! At least the quality will be down throughout NCAA football and we will get to see badly played games all the time. Because every college football fan wants to see more Sun Belt quality games instead of those Florida-LSU games I would rather watch Ole Miss-Mississippi State games.

69
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 3:06pm

67- It's not about roster construction. You're asserting that people would care about Sun Belt teams if those teams had a legitimate shot at a championship. I'm responding with what I feel is a legitimate question: why does this not hold up in basketball?

Using your theory, a recruit would sooner choose Maine than North Carolina, since Maine plays in a weaker conference and would have a better shot of getting into the tournament. But that just doesn't happen- the best recruits go to the big schools with the tough competition.

70
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 3:12pm

Oh, yes, it would just be awful if talent were more evenly distributed. Football would hardly be worth watching at all, and people would hate it. Gosh, if Arkansas State had some better players, why would anyone want to watch Florida-LSU or Ole Miss-Mississippi? They'll watch soccer instead!

71
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 3:15pm

Because roster construction is closely related to having a real chance of winning a championship, kevin. It is about roster construction.

72
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 3:21pm

Will, how far do you want to go with this? Division 1-AA teams? Division III teams? I'm not sure the world will ever be ready to see Plymouth State vs Daniel Webster College in the Fiesta Bowl.

I have a friend who has always hated the fact that the Sun Belt, WAC, and MAC teams are even in 1-A. He feels that these teams around is becoming more trouble than it's worth.

Of course I disagree with him...but I can accept the Central Michigans and the Louisiana Techs in the world for what they are.

73
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 3:23pm

Also, Kevin, it is erroneous to compare a conference champ's chance of winning a championship in a 65 team field to conference champ's chance in a 12 team field. If the NCAA basketball tourney was limited to 11 conference champs and one at large bid, recruiting patterns would be entirely different.

74
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 3:23pm

You are right people will still watch it. Would it be fun, no. Would it be good play, no. The spread out of talent will only lead to lower quality.

and I am sure you would be bitching about the level of competition in soccer at any rate. Why does Man U get all the good players? The game would be a lot more fun if Cowpaddy had one or two good players on it.

Though that does beg the question, not everyone is playing to win a championship-they have a higher goal of perhaps making the NFL. Why don't we see more Mitch Mustain's going to say Tulsa? Why risk the chance of being a back-up-when you could play right away and perhaps be a big star in a smaller pond?

75
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 3:28pm

people can take it as far as they wish. I just think it is silly to act as if having the Mountain West champ play the Pac 10 Champ in December, for a chance to play the winner of the Big 12/WAC game, to go on with a shot at the title, would be harmful to college football.

76
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 3:32pm

Yes, lionsbob, people will watch stuff even if they don't like it. Whatever.

Lionsbob, you do see guys go to a smaller school to get a better chance to play in the NFL. The third string qb for the Pats did so. I merely wish to strengthen the incentive.

77
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 3:41pm

Matt Gutierrez transferred from Michigan to Idaho State when it became apparent that Chad Henne would be getting all the starts while Gutierrez was eligible.

Ironically enough, New England's second stringer was stuck in a similar situation, but opted to stay at USC.

78
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 3:47pm

Yes Gutierrez went to Idaho State, after losing his starting job to a true freshman at Michigan. But I would think going to Tulsa would perhaps give you an even greater chance then going to Idaho State. Why choose to go to USC when there are 8 Parade All-American RBs when you can go to San Diego State and play right away perhaps? If the incentive is: play for a national championship, I guess we might see more. But like someone else has already said: USC can say-sure you can play for a national championship at San Diego State, but have you seen our facilities, have you seen our fanbase, have you seen our stadium, oh by the way I am Pete Carroll, I use to coach in the NFL, I know what it takes to become a NFL player, oh yes and if you really care about an education we our better as well.
Just because you tell the WAC and Sun Belt that their teams can play in a playoff does not mean you are going to get players splitting off to play for the schools now. It will only lead to the terrible non-competitive games.

79
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 3:52pm

Yea, lionsbos, you assume everything will remain the same. I disagree, for seldom do things remain the same, especially once forces are put in motion to change things.

80
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 4:01pm

79- I don't think it's that people are opposed to change, I just dislike the change you're proposing.

Making it unfairly difficult for an SEC or ACC team to win the national title would stink, and I think that cost outweighs the potential benefit.

81
by Eddo (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 4:07pm

lionsbob, Will is right that things won't just stay the same if teams are given a shot, yet I don't like Will's idea.
While giving smaller conferences a chance to win is great, their champion must meet some minimum requirement (using computer rankings or something). Either that, or invite 16 as opposed to 12.
Will, I think the biggest problem with your solution is that you will never get enough support for the fact that some schools like UL-Lafayette that win a weak conference will get in over schools like the second-place SEC, Big East, and Pac-10 teams this year (well, two of those three).
While lionsbob is wrong in assuming nothing will change, you are also wrong in assuming things will change immediatly upon deciding all conference champs are eligible. No one will go for it at first. Maybe having a 16-team tournament, then bringing the number down after 10 years, or not inviting all conferences at first, until they have a good 3-year stretch to "qualify" or something.

82
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 4:07pm

Why is requiring a conference championship an unfair requirement? Do you think 2nd place finishers should be given a chance? I thought you wanted to maximize the importance of LSU/Auburn.

83
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 4:08pm

Why would they not stay the same? If the competitive balance became somewhat closer-you don't think schools like USC and Alabama and Michigan who already have deep pocketbooks will not dig deeper into them. Boise State is not recruiting any better and they are in the limelight more then any other non-BCS school the past couple of seasons-hell Syracuse out-recruited them.

84
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 4:12pm

Because pretty much no one wants to see a Troy-LSU playoff game. But almost everyone will want to see say a USC-LSU playoff match-up.

85
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 4:15pm

Eddo, I said it would take 7-10 years to change things; that it would not be immediate. In any case, I really would rather keep what we have now than go to a 16 game field, because a 16 game field entails too many 2nd place conference finishers, and I think the best tradition of college football is the importance of conference races. I think an eight temam field with 6 BCS champs, and two non-BCS champs, would be quite good.

86
by thok (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 4:16pm

A simple and reasonable rule would be that a conference champion combined with a record of 9-3 or better (maybe 8-4 if you prefer) would be guaranteed to make a playoff.

Does anybody have a problem with leaving a 7-5 team out of a playoff?

87
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 4:19pm

lionsbob, merely reducing the scholorships to 85 has had a big impact. If a school like BYU can tell recruits that winning the Mountain West puts them on national t.v., three or four wins away from a national title, BYU will be able to better compete with the best Pac 10 recruiters.

88
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 4:34pm

and I think it won't. I think not enough quality players in the long run will choose BYU over USC or even Oregon even if the opportunity to perhaps play for a National Championship to even make a difference and it will go on to hurt the overall quality play of the games that people want to see. At any rate I want to see Texas-USC 2005 match-ups with the amount of talent on the field, not some watered-down national championship game.

89
by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 4:44pm

Re playoffs:
Why doesn't someone just compare 2A and 1a schools? Is 'recruiting' or however they get talent in 2a more evenly distributed than in 1a? We can also look at teams within conferences since every team within a conference should have a reasonably similar chance at recruiting talent since they have the same shot at a national title. As far as I can tell, that's not true but I don't have any emprical data to back me up.

Speaking of though... Will, why don't you just watch the other divisions of college ball? Why do you think that everyone wants to watch your version of college ball when they don't care about the televised playoffs in the other divisions?

90
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 4:47pm

lionsbob, if so few quality players will change their minds regarding which schools they wish to attend, how is the quality of play going to be so degraded in another Texas-USC matchup? By what method have you been able to determine this with such fine precision, that few players will change their school selection, but enough players will change to greatly degrade the quality of such a game? This is a remarkable claim!

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by tlt (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 6:45pm

i am very dubious of a playoff system for the following reasons.

people too much misunderstand the abuse players take in a playoff type atmosphere. these games present significantly better and physically more mature players playing without restraint or self consideration, and with that comes a heightened chance of career ending injury. high intensity games such as these also impact a player's longitudinal playing time, shortening his career, because of, for instance, a compounding effect sustained on joints and ligaments when continually overloaded. for me, it is hard to ignore how severely and completely the play of nfl teams who have participated in the playoffs drops off, sometimes in just one season, when compared to those who have not. and to expect players to commit themselves to athletics at an amateur level with the same dangers to their career without remuneration is overlooking what will be the obvious reslut. the better players simply have no reason, even now, to persist in programs that really only offer them exposure and schooling in their sports; once the risk outweighs the reward altogether, we will see an exodus of talent from the amateur ranks to the pros that dwarfs what we are now witnessing. how that will impact the quality of professional sport, ignoring the obvious impact on the college game, can be seen in the poor schooling so many nfl players bring with them when they leave college preparations early.

in a very real sense, the idea of a playoff system threatens not only the integrity of the game, but its structure as well.

tlt

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by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 6:51pm

I should have clarified. I personally think it would do little to "level" the playing field. But if it did work, I think it will water it down enough to make potential great (in terms of talent) season ending games like USC-Texas few and far between.

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by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 7:14pm

Well given the dramatic effect of reducing scholorships to 85 has had, I don't think it takes more than a handful of players per year to make a big difference, and not just the bluest of the blue chips. In any case, like I said, just going to a six BCS champion/ two non BCS champion playoff would be good with me.

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by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 7:15pm

82- It's unfair because it's extremely likely that any of the 12 SEC teams would finish first in the Sun Belt this year, and every Sun Belt team would finish dead last in the SEC. And this is coming from someone that thinks Troy U is pretty good and could surprise a Conference USA team in the New Orleans bowl.

I understand what you're saying- that could change over time. But I don't think that it would ever change enough to put the Sun Belt anywhere the SEC in terms on of-field quality. Not many kids are going ot pick Florida Atlantic over Florida State on the grounds that hey, come here and you'll get pummeled by a big time team on National TV*. That is, if we win the conference.

Would this plan increase parity? Consider this: it likely wouldn't be the Ohio States and USCs of the world losing these players...it could very well be the Mississippi States and the Indianas of the world that lose out on second-tier prospects, making it more difficult for those schools to compete. That ain't parity.

*As opposed to the games that go untelevised.

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by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2007 - 8:11pm

Well, basing a plan on what would happen the first year is unwise, and categorical statements about "ever" are usually wrong. There is a chance that greater intra-conference disparity could result, so if one wanted to start out with 6 BCS champs and the two best non-BCS champs in any given year, and see how things went, there could be some wisdom in that.

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by Pete (not verified) :: Wed, 10/24/2007 - 9:18am

I would repeat my personal preference for Bowl + 1. I believe it keeps the season intact, stressing conference play and rivalries. Each game would matter, although the last games (conference championships, if present, and bowl games) against strong competition would be especially important since they would be freshest in the memories of voters and computer rankings. Personally, I believe it would be a better representation for what I want to see (Ohio State would have to face some decent opponent, such as USC or Oregon or Arizona State; An undefeated Hawaii or Kansas might face LSU or Boston College). However, it would not be quite as problematic to implement as a full 4, 8 or 16 team playoff.

I still would like to see Computer Rankings be allowed to include margin of victory (See Sagarin Predictor or at least Rankings rather than Elo-Chess).

After the bowls are completed the Top 2 teams would then go to a location (perhaps pro stadium like the Super Bowl, perhaps rotating around the major Bowls). This would allow SEC to go to the Sugar Bowl and PAC-10 and Big 10 to go to the Rose Bowl. Please remember that the Big 10 stated that they would not agree to any system that did not include them in the Rose Bowl (and PAC-10 followed suit). The Championship game is alread a week or so after January 1 (the historical date for the major Bowls).

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by mactbone (not verified) :: Wed, 10/24/2007 - 10:46am

I would only like a +1 system if it only applies when the top two ranked teams after the bowl games are undefeated. If there are still two undefeateds at the end of the year and the polls (computer and human) think they're that close then I would want to see them play.

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by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Wed, 10/24/2007 - 1:10pm

97- I don't think you could have an event as big as a National Championship Game scheduled on a tenative basis.

2003 was the only year a plus one was necessary. If anything, a plus one after the "traditional bowls" could just stip up more controversy.

Also remember that the "traditional bowls" can no longer exist, except for the Rose Bowl. For example, the Orange Bowl would usually be the Big 8 champs vs a strong independent team. Since Notre Dame is the only indy team with a pulse (2007 aside), that concept is dead.

One thing I would change about the current system is removing the limit of two BCS bowls per conference. Had it not been for Boise State, the Fiesta Bowl would have been stuck with either West Virginia or Rutgers with Arkansas, Wisconsin, and Auburn all ineligible.

I'd also like the National Championship Game to start at 8:30 Eastern on January 1, and to have all of the BCS Bowls played on New Year's Day again. Have the Orange start at 11:00 AM, the Sugar start at 1:00, etc. Move the Citrus, Outback, etc to the weeknights ater Christmas.

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by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 10/24/2007 - 6:11pm

One of the reasons why the BCS schools tend to be better is that their advantages are self-perpetuating.

What?!?

The reason why the BCS schools tend to be better is because they have ridiculously more students, alumni, resources, and money!

These aren't independent teams! They're university-sponsored organizations. Do you think it's a coincidence that the largest schools in the country are the BCS teams?

Just go looking through the NCAA's financial reports for each schools. Ohio State's football expenditures dwarf a team like, say, Central Michigan or something. Sometimes by three orders of magnitude! Keep that in mind - three orders of magnitude! This isn't a "self-perpetuating advantage." It's because the major BCS universities - Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, etc. - are much, much, much larger than the others.

The idea that you can equalize NCAA football is ludicrous. You can't equalize the money. You can't equalize the recruiting potential (most of these students do, in fact, choose their schools for more than just football). You will never get the larger schools to play equal amounts of away games as smaller schools, and forcing them to do so would just have them leave the NCAA. The facilities will never be the same. The coaching will never be the same.

I think one thing you're forgetting is that these teams weren't forced into those conferences. They can leave. They stay there because they like playing in a conference that's competitive for them. They don't care about winning a national championship.

Just to stress it again:

Ohio State - endowment: $2.02 billion.
Eastern Michigan - endowment: $50 million.

In fact, the idea that the BCS conference teams have advantages that are "self-perpetuating" is easily disproved. USF, one of the best teams in the country right now, did not exist 11 years ago. They're now one of the best teams in the country. Clearly, they had no "self-perpetuating" advantages since they had no self to perpetuate them from! What they do have are 42,000 students, an $18M athletic facility, and an NFL stadium to play in.

Rutgers is another example. They were a laughing stock for years, and last year, they were a very strong team. What changed? Several million dollars dumped into an athletic facility. Read some interviews with their coach, and the quality of their facilities when he got there was abysmal.

If the non-BCS conference teams really care about a national championship, they could always switch conferences, or go independent and schedule much harder. The polls would notice, the BCS would notice, and they'd end up in the running. They don't, because they're not that interested. Most of the coaches in the minor conferences flat out say so.

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by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 10/24/2007 - 6:36pm

Also, no cares about Sunbelt games because there is practically zero chance that a Sunbelt game could ever have championship implications

No. No one cares about Sun Belt games because the universities are small (and/or don't stress athletics).

There are a miniscule number of fans of college football who give a crap about it as a "sport". The vast majority are following their alma maters, or family members' alma maters.

I really, really don't get this argument. The Sun Belt victor last year was Troy. Troy finished 7-5. Remind me again why Troy is more deserving than Florida State or Nebraska? Who beat Troy? And a lot of other teams much, much better?

Maybe if there weren't any out-of-conference games, I would agree with you. But there are. And the weaker conferences lose them. Florida State, Nebraska, Georgia Tech could've conceivably ended the season 10-1, losing their conference, and you'd let in Troy, at 7-5? Troy could've lost to the same team, and FSU would be left out even though Troy and FSU both lost to the same team, FSU beat Troy, and Troy lost several other games that FSU didn't.

How does this make sense? At all?

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by NF (not verified) :: Sat, 10/27/2007 - 12:19am

The two biggest problems with the current system in college football are that 1) football factories schedule non-competitive non-conference games in a revenue-motivated system that is comparable to bribery for wins, and 2) the polls are heavily influenced by reputation, and focus on quantity of losses over quality of wins.