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24 Nov 2008

Football Junkie vs. Barack Obama

by Russell Levine

Those of you in favor of President-elect Obama's college football playoff plan, please take a close look at the state of college football this season.

Mr. Obama appears to be calling for an eight-team playoff that features the top eight teams, regardless of conference affiliation. As of this week, here is your eight-team field: Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Florida, USC, Utah, Texas Tech, Penn State. Sounds great, right? But consider that such a plan would not include half of the BCS conference winners (if Oregon State beats Oregon to share the Pac-10 title). The ACC and Big East champs would also be left out.

I just don't think a playoff of only the top eight teams is fair. You have to reward teams for winning their conferences, and because of the limited head-to-head non-conference games between members of BCS leagues, it's impossible to rank the conferences before bowl season.

Take the SEC this season, a conference that I feel very strongly is living off its reputation of the past few campaigns. It is a league with one great team (Florida), one very good one (Alabama) and not a whole lot else. And before the SEC backers start bashing, please go take a look at the conference standings. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Back now? Good. Then you've seen that beyond Florida and Georgia in the East, the rest of the division is a combined 23-21. The West is even worse. Beyond Alabama, the other five teams are a collective 27-28. And consider those records are fattened up against what is generally the softest non-conference schedules of any of the six BCS leagues.

In aggregate, the SEC's non-conference record to date is 36-8. Sounds dominant, right? Dig a little deeper. Against BCS league schools, the SEC is just 5-6, with four games left (Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech, South Carolina-Clemson, and Vanderbilt-Wake Forest).

Before you cite Ole Miss, which has beaten Florida and an increasingly bad LSU, as being an example of SEC depth, remember that the Rebels lost to Wake Forest. Here are the rest of the non-conference embarrassments: Tennessee lost to UCLA and Wyoming. Arkansas was destroyed by Texas. LSU trailed Troy, 31-3, at home, before rallying. Mississippi State lost to Louisiana Tech and Georgia Tech. Auburn lost to West Virginia. Vanderbilt lost to Duke.

My point is not that the SEC is terrible; clearly it's not. My point is that assumptions about conference strength are pretty meaningless year-over-year. Those who would argue that an eight-team playoff shouldn't include the six major-conference winners risk losing a potentially very good team based on reputation.

Everyone assumes the ACC is terrible this year, but maybe it's just very, very competitive? If the ACC goes 3-1 against the SEC this week (with Georgia Tech beating Georgia, Clemson over South Carolina, Wake over Vanderbilt, and Florida State losing to Florida) the ACC will have gone 7-4 against the SEC head-to-head. And yet, two SEC teams would make an eight-team, purely merit-based field ahead of the ACC champion.

Another popular version of the eight-team playoff, which involves the six BCS conference winners plus two at-large teams in a three-week tournament to decide the "true" national champion, would be a disaster along the lines of the U.S. economy this season.

If such a plan were in place this year, we would be left with a field that includes the Florida-Alabama and Big 12 winners, but also with potentially Cincinnati and Boston College. Oregon State would get in, but USC wouldn't. Let's pretend these are your six conference champs: Boston College (ACC), Cincinnati (Big East), Penn State (Big Ten), Oklahoma (Big 12), Oregon State (Pac-10), Florida (SEC). Fine. That even presumes there is no upset by Missouri in the Big 12 game. Who are your wild cards? Presumably, any such system would offer some guarantees for a non-BCS conference team that achieved a certain ranking. Utah and Fresno Boise State would likely both qualify. Any system that calls itself a true championship would have to include teams that went undefeated against a reasonable schedule, but let's just pretend the have-nots are limited to a single bid, and it goes to Utah. Who gets the eighth spot? Is it 11-1 USC? 11-1 Alabama? 11-1 Texas? 11-1 Texas Tech? 10-2 Ohio State?

Would this solve anything?

Yes, it would provide a tournament winner. But if you think Texas fans would be any less bitter about being left out of an eight-team playoff this year than they will be if they get jumped by Oklahoma next week and miss the BCS title game, well, you've never been to Texas.

Would it be any fairer than what we currently have with the BCS? No.

Setting aside all the issues of trying to work a playoff system into the bowls, I just don't see that there is a perfect system out there. Eight teams is not enough. Sixteen might be, but it's too long and it also risks messing up the best thing the sport has going for it -- the intensity of its regular season.

Like it or not, an eight-team playoff is no guarantee of a fairer conclusion to the college football season. To me, anything short of 16 teams is likely to cause as much controversy as the BCS does now. And since 16 teams is never going to happen in my lifetime, I see eight as just some sort of a bad compromise that's not going to solve anything.

Even eight teams isn't likely to happen for another decade or more. ESPN's ownership of the BCS only strengthens that entity's existence. About the most we can hope for is a plus-one championship after the bowls, which I do see happening after a second rotation of the current double-hosting model is complete -- another five years from now.

Until then, let it go. Some years, we'll have controversy. Others, we won't. Always, there will be intense interest. These are things not even our new President-elect can change.

Mr. President-elect, you claim not to know a single serious college football fan who opposes an eight-team playoff.

Clearly, we haven't met.

John L. Smith Trophy

Those who took part in the SDA LiveBlog Saturday night know where this one is going.

As the Texas Tech-Oklahoma game quickly devolved into an enormous blowout, some channel surfing to other games of note set in. I spent quite a bit of time checking in on Oregon State at Arizona, a game with major Rose Bowl implications.

Many felt this was a trap game for the Beavers, and Las Vegas made them a slight underdog. Indeed, the game was close throughout before Oregon State prevailed on a last-play field goal.

Maybe it was the pressure of the moment that got to Oregon State coach Mike Riley. After all, the Beavers were two wins away from their first Rose Bowl berth in more than four decades. How else to explain his decision-making in the fourth quarter?

The game was tied, 10-10, when Oregon State took possession at the end of the third quarter. After three plays netted nine yards, Riley decided to go for it on fourth down -- from his own 40-yard line. Just because the Beavers converted didn't make it the right call. Why risk giving your opponent a short field in a tight, defensive struggle? With nearly an entire quarter to play, the proper call is to punt and play defense.

Emboldened by his success, Riley pushed his luck three plays later -- and it nearly cost him a shot at the Rose Bowl. Faced with another fourth-and-1 at the Arizona 49-yard line, and with his best running back on the bench, Riley went for it again but this time the Beavers were stuffed. Arizona took advantage of the good field position to march for the go-ahead touchdown.

Riley deserves congratulations for getting the Beavers this far, but he also deserves this week's JLS Trophy.

BlogPoll Ballot

This season, I am again voting in the BlogPoll, hosted by mgoblog, and now available on CBS Sportsline. I'll post my ballot in Junkie each week. Feel free to comment, and I may make changes based on comments for a revised ballot later in the week.

Rank Team Delta
1 Texas 1
2 Oklahoma 2
3 Florida --
4 Alabama 1
5 Penn State 1
6 Southern Cal 1
7 Texas Tech 6
8 Utah --
9 Oklahoma State --
10 Missouri --
11 Ohio State --
12 Boise State --
13 Oregon State 3
14 TCU 1
15 Georgia 2
16 Cincinnati 3
17 Georgia Tech 9
18 Brigham Young 5
19 Boston College 6
20 Ball State 1
21 Oregon 2
22 Michigan State 4
23 Northwestern 1
24 Mississippi 2
25 Florida State 1



Dropped Out: Maryland (No. 14), Pittsburgh (No. 20), Miami (Florida) (No. 22).

Rankings that may require further explanation: Last week, I punted. After weeks of feeling that Alabama was a very good, but not great, team that was living off one unbelievable half against Georgia, I dropped the Tide down behind Florida and the Big 12 South trio, who I all believed were superior teams. A week later, and not much has changed, except that Texas Tech is getting punished for being exposed on the road at Oklahoma.

Alabama will have its chance to prove me wrong against Florida, and a win in that game would move the Tide right back up to No. 1. But not now.

I have also done what the human voters decided not to, which is remember that Texas beat Oklahoma on a neutral field. I do recognize, however, that the looming three-way tie in the Big 12 South renders head-to-head among the three teams largely irrelevant. For now, it's Texas by a nose over Oklahoma and Florida. The Big 12 pair get the nod over the Gators and Tide because I feel the Big 12 is a far stronger conference.

Games I watched at least part of: Ball State-Central Michigan, Michigan-Ohio State, Michigan State-Penn State, Syracuse-Notre Dame, Ole Miss-LSU, BYU-Utah, Oregon State-Arizona, Texas Tech-Oklahoma.

(Ed. note: Our "No Politics" rule in the comments still applies to any of our President-Elect's non-football related opinions. Thanks. -- Aaron Schatz)

Posted by: Russell Levine on 24 Nov 2008

87 comments, Last at 18 Oct 2012, 2:23am by North Face UK

Comments

1
by zlionsfan :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 5:28pm

11 conference champions. 5 at-large teams. All but 8 teams will play no more than the same schedule they do now. All conferences will be represented, averting the threat of legal action and giving us that one-in-a-million shot that makes the basketball tournaments so interesting.

One network, one set of sponsors, a pile of cash ... the conferences and the right bowls and/or sites will drop whatever's left of "tradition" just as fast as they've done every time the opportunity's come up in the past.

And I, for one, will welcome our new playoff overlords.

Regular-season intensity? I'm guessing you mean games like Michigan-Indiana and USC-Washington State. I don't think Texas-Oklahoma will lose any of its luster during years when both teams seem to be locks for the tournament. And even if it does change that somewhat, wouldn't you rather have the luster back at the end of the season? I mean, it's not like the rest of those BCS bowls mean what they did "before" ...

I support going for it on 4th-and-1. If you can't get a single yard, and all that sort of stuff.

And finally, 62-10.

17
by dbostedo :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 7:38pm

"I don't think Texas-Oklahoma will lose any of its luster during years when both teams seem to be locks for the tournament."

Really? REALLY? I think I'd lose about 95% of my interest. And that's not hyperbole, I really do find myself interested in that game because the loser could be done with their championship dreams.

33
by mm (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 9:21pm

Regular-season intensity? I'm guessing you mean games like Michigan-Indiana and USC-Washington State. I don't think Texas-Oklahoma will lose any of its luster during years when both teams seem to be locks for the tournament. And even if it does change that somewhat, wouldn't you rather have the luster back at the end of the season? I mean, it's not like the rest of those BCS bowls mean what they did "before" ...

Ehhh...I'd pretty much stop caring at all about the regular season outside of the one or 2 teams I follow. I'd probably follow 1 or 2 teams through the playoffs and then watch the finals. Over the whole year I'd probably watch less college football than I do in one month now.

And don't bring up college basketball. It's many months of pointless games followed by a month of betting pools.

2
by pete (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 5:30pm

The problem in College Football is that the best team does not always win its conference. However, you could say the same thing about College basketball. When you decide your conference based on on an arbitrary game that often does not match the two best teams, you get situations like you had with OU in 03 and could have this year if Missouri wins the Big 12.

I would propose a 12 team playoff, winners of the 6 major conferences, a minimum of 2 spots from non-bcs conferences, then 4 wild cards given out regardless of conference affiliation. Give the top 4 a bye week.

This year, the twelve participants would be Bama, Texas, Oregon State, Penn State, Cincinnati, FSU, Utah, Boise, USC, Oklahoma, Florida, Texas Tech. Can anyone argue that the best team in the country is not in that group? I'm also ok with making it 16, but then you'd have to add Ohio state, georgia, Ball State and Missouri. Those schools are clearly on a second tier and thus would only fluff up the playoff

3
by pawnking (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 5:50pm

a tournament would make college football exactly like every sporting event in the world. It's exciting, but it's also predictable and very often the best team does not win the whole thing. It makes a hot team at the end of the year get to brag about being #1.

Whatever you want to say about the drawbacks of the current system, the fact is that the NC winner is always one of the best teams in the nation, without a doubt. You can argue that another team, or maybe 2 other teams, might be better, but you never have a case where a team everyone agreed was the 10th best winning the NC. In basketball, the NCAA one and done format makes every NC winner just a hot team, usually no better than one of the top 10 based on their regular season performance.

I love college football, and long may the current system rule!

4
by Joseph :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 6:04pm

Russell:
1. I believe the 8 teams you mentioned are the best 8.
2. You listed the SEC's non-conference losses/near losses. Want to do the same for the ACC? Also you failed to put the numbers in context--the numbers you use (which I assume are correct) means that the ACC has a 4-3 advantage over the SEC, and list 3 of those losses--the two Mississippi schools and Vandy--not exactly the traditionally "strong" SEC schools. Could you list the 7 ACC/SEC games that have occurred and the final scores?
I agree that the SEC is not the best overall league this year--I'm not even sure it's second best (all this comes from a LSU fan). But sorry, I believe that in this year the ACC & Big East champs just lose out (if we're talking a playoff system--let's face it, neither of them will get a shot at the title with the current system either--and neither deserve it. WIN THE GAMES--that's what makes college football great, whether you want a playoff system or not. (And frankly, I don't have a strong opinion either way--although the year a perfect Auburn team got screwed and last year's "everyone's mediocre--who's the best two loss team?" scenarios really boost the argument for a playoff. REMEMBER THIS COMES FROM AN LSU FAN WHO BELIEVES THEY BACKED INTO THE CHAMPIONSHIP TWICE--and I don't care--they won the title and that's what matters in the end.)

5
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 6:06pm

I for one believe that teams who are in the top 5% of point-scoring should have 39% of their offensive point totals collected by the NCAA and redistributed to teams of lesser offensive capability (including the Detroit Lions), according to their needs. These teams of lesser means will then have an equal portion of the redistributed point totals applied to each game of their season with wins and losses then awarded according to the revised point totals. BCS rankings will subsequently be re-evaluated. Such a system will permit teams of limited offensive means, like Furman and Muhlenberg College, the opportunity to challenge for BCS Bowl appearances and ultimately assist them in recruiting top-tier athletes in order to more fully develop their collegiate athletic programs, and empower them to achieve that great American dream which is to become a powerhouse football factory with questionable academic standards.

Sorry, I really couldn't resist that.

45
by Key19 :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 11:49pm

I didn't know Barack Obama visited Football Outsiders!

6
by Steve (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 6:25pm

So basically our choices are:

An 8 team playoff where a few teams might get snubbed by ultimately things are decided on the field

or

A game with 2 teams selected in a beauty contest, in which:

1) over half of the division I-A teams (those not in BCS conferences) literally have NO CHANCE of being selected no matter how good they might be
2) at least 4 (and sometimes even 5) BCS conference champions are watching from home
3) All too often teams garner votes for percieved quality based on reputations which, as this article demonstrates, are often undeserved
4) Losing a game in week 1 is forgivable, but losing the exact same game in week 12 is death no matter how strong your season is

And so on

I think its telling that the NCAA renamed I-A and I-AA as the Bowl and Championship subdivision. In one division they actually have a legit Champion, and in the other they just have bowls.

18
by dbostedo :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 7:39pm

"So basically our choices are:

An 8 team playoff where a few teams might get snubbed by ultimately things are decided on the field..."

What about the current system doesn't decide things on the field? The top two teams still play. Think if it as a 2 team playoff system if you wish.

"A game with 2 teams selected in a beauty contest, in which:

1) over half of the division I-A teams (those not in BCS conferences) literally have NO CHANCE of being selected no matter how good they might be..."

If they are ranked #1 or #2 they'll play for the title. A long shot I know, but possible.

"2) at least 4 (and sometimes even 5) BCS conference champions are watching from home..."

That's always going to be true no matter how you set up the playoffs. It's just the losses that keep you home may have come earlier in the season now.

"3) All too often teams garner votes for percieved quality based on reputations which, as this article demonstrates, are often undeserved"

Totally agree...one of the worst things about the current system.

"4) Losing a game in week 1 is forgivable, but losing the exact same game in week 12 is death no matter how strong your season is..."

Another strong point. I've heard this explained away by people who expect teams to get better during the season - meaning an early season loss doesn't mean as much. I think that's a stretch, and very schedule dependent. I'd like to look at all losses as though they happened during the same week.

35
by Steve (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 9:32pm

"What about the current system doesn't decide things on the field? The top two teams still play. Think if it as a 2 team playoff system if you wish."

The top two teams... as determined by fickle human voters overly concerned with conference and program reputations and counting up losses, and computers polls which are forced to exclude margin of victory in their calculations.

"If they are ranked #1 or #2 they'll play for the title. A long shot I know, but possible."

For all intents, its not possible. The voters will never let it happen. If we're going to keep up this BCS charade for picking the national championship, then I say we need to let the non-BCS teams have a championship of their own, either by playoff or by a lower tier BCS.

"That's always going to be true no matter how you set up the playoffs. It's just the losses that keep you home may have come earlier in the season now"

Come again? If we had a playoff and all (or most) conference champions were given bids, then you wouldn't have the majority of conference champions sitting it out based on subjective rankings. They would all be given a chance to settle things on the field. As opposed to the current system where at least 4, and twice 5, conference champions have been excluded from even trying to win it all.

57
by dbostedo :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 11:27am

Sorry if I wasn't clear on the last point. It was just a poorly made reference to the "whole season is the playoffs" idea. Lose 2 games in October, and you've essentially lost your playoff games - because you won't make the title game.

And I don't see how having fickle human voters pick 8 teams is much better than having them pick 2. Agreed on the computers, although having them include margin of victory has its own problems, and at times there simply isn't enough inter-conference play to really trust computer rankings. I do hate how people have downplayed and handcuffed them because they disagree with the human polls sometimes. Isn't that the point?

I guess overall I don't want a playoff because I don't think it really proves anything better than we have now. Sure it crowns a champion, but so does the current title game. Sure a larger playoff gives more teams the opportunity to prove it on the field, but that's not always good. I'd MUCH MUCH rather have the current system, than see this year's Big East champ get hot and win it all.

I suppose it comes down to how people personally weight the different plusses and minuses. I give a lot of weight to the added regular season excitement, and low chance of a random hot team winning, of the current system. I give low weight to "settling things on the field".

64
by Steve (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 1:26pm

"And I don't see how having fickle human voters pick 8 teams is much better than having them pick 2"

Seems to me that its at least 4 times better. Though personally I'm in favor of conference champions getting an automatic bid, so really the voters could select, at most, 2 teams.

"I'd MUCH MUCH rather have the current system, than see this year's Big East champ get hot and win it all."

I'd much rather have games decided on the field by actual players. If the Big East really is as weak as people seem to think, they there would be no worry about them suddenly "getting hot", although remember that only the champion would make it and the current big east champions would probably have no more than 2 losses. If the Champions of the Big East, who would probably be a number 7 or 8 seed in a playoff, can run off three straight victories against the Oklahomas and Floridas of the world then damned if they don't deserve to be the champion.

What's more likely to happen, though, is that a team like Penn State will get a shot to actually prove how good they are instead of being exluded based upon upon the percieved weakness of the Big-10, which is mostly a result of OSU's past two title game flops.

What I don't understand is the obsession with having "the best" champion. This isn't a beauty contest, an election or an awards show. We don't send our champion overseas to represent us to the nations of the world. The great thing about sports is that they're shouldn't be a need for subjectiveness when picking the best. You play the game, the winner is the winner.

72
by Matt C (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 3:07pm

I definitely agree with you Steve. Remember the best is the enemy of the better. Would an 8 team playoff have problems? Yes. Would it be much better than the BCS? Yes.

If you're trying to determine strength across conferences, you need connectivity. You're not going to get that unless the NCAA controls non-conference scheduling. That will never happen.

Therefore, taking conference winners makes the most sense. And since, conference record determines the champion, it might actually encourage teams to play more big 6/tougher Non-conference games.

I would add a couple things, I would put some threshold on getting in. Like you have to be in the top 15 in the final BCS, regardless of whether your are the conference champ. That way if you have a CLEARLY terrible conference representative they will not get a spot. It could be top 10,12,15,20, or whatever.

Similarly, I would guarantee a spot to the highest non big 6 ranked school, that must finish in the top 12 or 15, However they play at least 3 big 6 schools in non-conference to qualify for this guarantee.

Also, I would limit conferences to 3 representatives, and I suppose you could put in some stipulations that would grant a spot to the team that makes it the 2nd rep from the conference, over a team that makes it the 3rd rep from its conference. Although, being that teams are all highly ranked, I don't think you could use rankings.

In response to margin of victory, I surprised (I guess I shouldn't be really) no one in the major media has suggested using it, but limiting it to 24 points in any single game.

73
by dbostedo :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 3:45pm

"If the Champions of the Big East, who would probably be a number 7 or 8 seed in a playoff, can run off three straight victories against the Oklahomas and Floridas of the world then damned if they don't deserve to be the champion."

I agree - by definition they would deserve it. I just like the current system better, in addition to the reasons mentioned above, partly because it's unique.

And in general, I like the idea that we try to pick the best team - the one that's proven the most over the course of the season, not got better throughout to the point where they are playing the best right now. I like that it's "an award show". I can understand the merits of a playoff system, I just like the current system better.

78
by rossi23 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 8:36pm

16 Team Playoff 11 Conference Champions + 5 At large using a form of RPI to determine the at large teams.

If you have to win your conference how does it not make the regular season important. It makes it very important to win your conference championship. Meaning conference are very important. If you don't win the conference title maybe your not as good as the HYPE that your team received. If you don't win the conference you need to schedule a strong non conference slate and win those games.

It's a shame though. I would sure miss those great matchups like we had last week....Like Florida and The Citadel! Kind of makes me sad just thinking about it!:)

80
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 10:05pm

16 Team Playoff 11 Conference Champions

And this is going to be seeded how? Who's the team that gets matched up against the Sun Belt champion? That'll be a great game! Based on Ohio State-Troy and Oklahoma State-Troy, I'd expect something like 45-15. Be still my heart.

And you don't think including Troy instead of, say, Georgia won't piss off college football fans?

7
by Flounder :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 6:29pm

I heartily endorse and 8 team playoff.

The solution to the potentially mediocre conference champ is simple enough. If you have more than 2 conference losses, you're not eligible for the playoff. That would eliminate the ACC this season. Of course no system is perfect, and of course there will always be bitching. But bizarre formulas that get tweaked almost every year to the select the "perfect" title game sucks, and it sucks hard.

To pawnking: you said "It's exciting, but it's also predictable and very often the best team does not win the whole thing."

And how often does the best team not win the whole thing now? I don't understand this argument at all. If the best team always won, sports would be pretty boring. The idea is for the most deserving team to win. A playoff doesn't always give you the best team, but I'd argue it gives you the most deserving team the large majority of the time. Certainly more often than our current system.

12
by Disco Stu (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 6:55pm

So you're arguing that the "most deserving" team is a better champion than the "best" team? I'm kind of speechless here. I just don't get this. I think the college football postseason makes otherwise sane people a little crazy.

15
by Steve (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 7:32pm

"Most Deserving" vs "best team" is mostly semantics.

But to answer your question: Yes. As a fan I always prefer the "most deserving" to be champion over the "best" team. Why? Because the deserving team actually goes out and wins it. We play sports to win, and if you win, no matter how small the margin, no matter how ugly, you should be rewarded for it.

At the end of last year their were a lot of teams who were viewed as "better" than the Giants. But the Giants won on the field, thus making them the most deserving team. Why should college football be any different?

38
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 9:48pm

But bizarre formulas that get tweaked almost every year to the select the "perfect" title game sucks, and it sucks hard.

The BCS "bizarre formula" hasn't been changed since 2004. "Almost every year"? I'm not a great fan of the BCS either, but I've got more solid reasons than that: I don't like it because Billingsley is insane, the Division IAA teams shouldn't be included at all, and because the human polls need to be revamped.

It's not bizarre, and it isn't changed 'almost every year.' If anything the thing that's clouded college football recently is allowing Division IAA teams to count towards bowl eligibility every year.

A playoff doesn't always give you the best team, but I'd argue it gives you the most deserving team the large majority of the time. Certainly more often than our current system.

I have no idea what in the world "most deserving" means, and I really doubt you could define it in any consistent way at all.

77
by dbostedo :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 7:18pm

"I have no idea what in the world "most deserving" means, and I really doubt you could define it in any consistent way at all."

I'm pretty sure the consistent definition is that the "most deserving" team is the one that wins the playoff games that give them the championship. According to most people, if you have a playoff, you automatically find the "most deserving" team.

But I want to know who the "most deserving" teams are prior to the playoffs (including the 2 team one we have now), putting all the importance on the regular season.

8
by Mosi Tatupu (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 6:31pm

Russel and others,
Has anybody paid any attention to Rutgers lately? I know the Big East is not exactly a tournament of champions, but how unprecedented would their turnaround be if they beat Louisville next week and go to a halfway decent bowl (Meineke) or even any bowl (papajohns seems like a good bet). They started out the season 1-5, and some named them the worst team in any of the six BCS conferences. Since then, they've won six straight, beat two ranked teams (#25 UConn, #19 Pitt), blew out #19 Pitt on the road, before following it up with three more blow out wins: at home against Syracuse, on the road against an at least better than average South Florida team, and home against Army. If they beat Louisville they will be 7-5, and I think it would be one of the neat stories in College Football. It's not just that they've won five straight, it's that they won five straight blowouts, and yes, Syracuse and Army stink, but 'Cuse did just beat Notre Dame, and Pitt and USF on the road are solid wins. The turnaround is even more remarkable when you look at just how pathetic their first six games were: blown out by UNC, a loss to NAVY, and a loss to D1AA Fresno (a decent team, but still). They lost their two big east games to WVU and Cincy, both one score games.

Pretty strange turn of events.

23
by Wait, what? (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 8:08pm

Rutgers fan here, so yeah, I've been watching (when ridiculous TV arrangements allow, at least). I've seen teams collapse at the end of a season before, but to come back from an early string of losses and win like they have this year is definitely unusual; Mike Teel's play at QB has been a huge part of that. Here's hoping for a win vs Louisville and a bowl bid.

The Big East has been amazingly volatile this year, with teams either looking dominant or looking terrible (often in successive weeks). Makes for interesting watching, certainly.

25
by Travis :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 8:35pm

Rutgers will almost certainly get a bowl bid even if they lose to Louisville, but a win has an additional benefit. It would give the Big East six teams with 7 or more wins, which would mean that a 6-6 Notre Dame team couldn't take their Gator or Sun Bowl slot. Notre Dame would be forced into some lesser bowl with a minimal payout, probably the Texas Bowl.

9
by Mosi Tatupu (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 6:33pm

Gah, I apologize for the horrible typos in that post.

10
by ElAngelo (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 6:43pm

I like the idea of a 12-team tournament. Use some computer to rank the conferences, and the winners of the top 4 conferences get a first round bye. The other two winners are seeded 5th and 6th, and then give out 6 wildcards, with a guarantee of 2+ spots to go to non-Big Six schools.

11
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 6:46pm

Russell,
Is Texas a placeholder #1, or would you move Oklahoma past Texas if they beat OkSU and Mizzou? I think they will, and if they do, they should be ahead of Texas, since wins over those two teams are Texas's only non-H2H reason for being ranked ahead of OU at this point. If you would do that, then should OU be ranked ahead of Texas right now?

I guess this is more of an overall poll philosophy question, but right now ranking Texas over OU to me look like a result overly-focused on the flaw of one team in a subset of two teams that are both flawed. I've been overly bullish on OU before, and maybe am again, but that was a ridiculously impressive performance on Saturday to go with a whole string of them this year. Of course, now that I've praised them, they'll go and blow it by losing to the Cowboys and the B12 will be won by a team that's been annihilated in conference play, when two teams that haven't been annihilated will be sitting on the sidelines.

13
by johonny (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 7:05pm

You have to reward teams for winning their conferences is the dumbest idea around. What if the conference stinks? I'm sick of watching teams eeck into the playoffs winning weak conferences in other sports while teams with much better records from other divisions go into the play offs. College football is the worse because conferences ignore out of conference games making the conference championship sort of a joke. It's like in baseball if Red Sox and Yankees ignored their record against the Angels in seeing who won the East. Someones going to always be the best team not in the play offs but in general it's a heck of a lot fairer than the make up a champ at the end by having coaches that in general don't watch all the games just vote for each other.

19
by SJT (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 7:41pm

Really? Its the "Dumbest Idea around" to reward teams for winning their conferences. Why? Because the conference might be "weak" based on reputation? What if the very best team in the land played in the worst conference and easily won all their games? What if they played in a brutal conference and won but suffered several losses as a result? Which team is better? You don't know unless they play, and they won't play unless you reward teams for winning their conference.

As for your Yankees/Sox comparison, the total record only works in baseball because the teams play essentially the same schedule. If the Yankees got to schedule only the Pirates and Royals while the Sox scheduled the Angels and Philies you can bet your ass their would be a lot of upset Sox fans if total record was the deciding factor for the division race.

14
by Tom Gower :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 7:11pm

Here's the problem-the system in place was put in place by the BCS conferences. To get out of the current system, you need to get the current system out. To do that, you need the conferences to agree to do so. The includes all the BCS conferences, including the crappy ones (which based on the year is at least 1 of the P10, B12, B10, SEC, ACC, and BE).

The problem is that you're simply not going to get the BCS conferences to agree to a system that they think leaves them worse off. That means they have to get at least as much of the money as they are now, which means they have to have at least 1 team in whatever playoff you want every single year. We may be able to remove the conference championship requirement when it gives a less than perfect result (from a playoff perspective, USC should make it over OrSU this year, and say, 1-loss UT over Mizzou), but that's your absolute baseline for a playoff. You can probably use the BCS's long-term conference adjustment mechanism, but that's not going to solve any short-run problems like Cincinnati and Maryland. A "top 8 teams" playoff is absolutely a non-starter, and it's an exercise in ignorance or willful blindness to believe otherwise. I don't mean to come off harsh, but we're not magical fairy princesses with the ability to wave a wand and make the world the way we wish it was, and I'm against pretending that we are.

16
by dbostedo :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 7:38pm

Apparently (and not surprisingly) Mr. Obama has not met me either. I completely agree. In fact, I agree with this column so much I'm stunned.

20
by Carlos (not verified) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 7:50pm

Boo to any playoffs.

The current system allows dozens of teams and their fans to go out on a high note, a bowl game win.

It all depends on what you're optimizing for, but I submit that you'll never have a playoff sytem that "solves" the "best team must be champion" problem. Imagine the year in which there are three teams much better than all others. Two would meet in the semis and the other would get an easier route to the finals. That's so unfair!

32
by joon :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 9:20pm

i think the point of the 8-team playoff is not so much that it's perfect, but that it's way better than what we have.

in your 3-good-teams scenario, having two of them play each other in the semis would be fine by me. it's vastly preferable to leaving one of them out of championship contention entirely, which is what happens in the BCS. ask 2004 auburn and 2003 USC how they felt about that.

44
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 11:32pm

in your 3-good-teams scenario, having two of them play each other in the semis would be fine by me.

Even if they would've ended up in a circle-of-death? Seed Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Texas, and, I dunno, Ball State. The seeding order determines the champion (assuming existing results and Ball State losing universally).

it's vastly preferable to leaving one of them out of championship contention entirely, which is what happens in the BCS.

I don't know that it's actually vastly preferable. In situations where it's clear who the two best teams are (say, 2005) the BCS is ideal: the least attrition for the two best teams, and the remaining teams can be competitively (or interestingly) matched up against each other. In a situation where you've got two clear best teams, forcing them to play "qualifiers" is only a negative - you increase the chance of an injury - in other words, you affect the chance of the tournament format determining the result, rather than the actual teams themselves.

In a playoff situation with standard seeding one of the least likely matchups is #1 vs #2, and you also get a slew of weak matchups (#1 vs #8, for example) which tend to be avoided in the BCS.

Unless you're planning a 120-team mega-deathmatch, teams will be left out of a playoff. If you're saying that an 8-team playoff is better than a 4 team playoff (which is better than a 2 team playoff), you have to explain why it's better than a 16-team playoff, which is difficult. The logistics suck for any playoff format over 2 teams, so it's really a question of "is it worth it?"

52
by joon :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 1:32am

the thing about a playoff is that there's no "would have." the teams play each other and the winner moves on. if there are three great teams in the semis, one of those teams will go 2-0 and be crowned as champions. it's not ideal

a 4-team playoff is better than a 2-team playoff, because there are typically more than 2 teams in a season who have demonstrated an ability to compete for the championship. 4 vs 8 is tougher; frankly, i'd rather go with 6 (with some byes), but i feel pretty strongly that 8 is better than 2. even in the BCS's dream season of 2005 when exactly two teams went undefeated, i don't see what the harm would have been in giving them byes into the semis of a playoff instead of roping them off into their own game. if texas or USC loses to an inferior team, well, they can still say they had a great season, but they're not the champs. kind of like last year's patriots.

16 is pretty silly; it's hard to make a well-reasoned case that teams not even ranked in the top 10 deserve a chance to play for the title, even undefeated teams from mid-majors. if they're really impressive, they generally sneak their way up the polls and computer rankings.

as for the logistics: yeah, it's worth it. what's more exciting than playoffs? what's less exciting than meaningless bowl games? not much. i realize the BCS is the status quo and there's a lot of resistance to change, but change is coming, america. yes we can!

75
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 5:33pm

what's less exciting than meaningless bowl games? not much.

The ludicrous amounts of money that ESPN just paid for all of the BCS bowl games (not just the NC game) would tend to disprove your point.

60
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 1:07pm

I just want to say that this phrasing and idea made me laugh heartily and I am now a champion of the "120-team mega-deathmatch"!

Maybe make it double elimination!

21
by Carlos (not verified) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 7:55pm

The problem in College Football is that the best team does not always win its conference. However, you could say the same thing about College basketball.

Um, no. The problems with both -- if you had to pick just one -- is that in both, the athletes don't get paid squat while the universities and coaches make bhzillions, causing the universities to make horrible Faustian choices about exactly why it is that they exist.

I loved how the Cal coach got ripped in the press and apparently at the University for his decision to fly East for the Maryland game on Friday, as opposed to having his team fly Thursday morning (missing yet another day of classes). This is UC-Berkeley -- supposedly one of the nations finest universities!

22
by tuluse :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 8:00pm

The argument for no 8 team playoff is that teams 9-16 would not get a chance to play for the championship. However, right now teams 9-16 don't a chance to play for the championship. I'm not seeing the how a playoff system is in any way less fair than how things are now.

27
by Irish Boy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 9:02pm

There are many problems with a 16-team playoff.

1.) It's logistically impossible. If you use neutral sites, you will get practically no attendance for opening round games, because people will not travel from campuses. If you use home sites, you'll have problems with scheduling conflicts (many teams share stadiums with NFL teams or other organizations, for example, and can't just leave four weeks in Fall "open")

2.) It'll destroy the bowl tradition, especially for the major bowls. Before people complain about keeping tradition just for the sake of tradition, remember that more than any other sport, college football is all about tradition, from the marching bands to the trophies to, yes, the bowls. Once you lose that, you can't get it back.

3.) Seeding will be a nightmare. Do conference champs get the highest bids? Is it just the BCS top-16 formulation? If it's just the BCS top-16, why bother with conferences at all? There's no way to make sure that the 3 seed is facing a team just slightly better than the 2 seed, which is what reliable seeding has to accomplish to ensure that if teams get easier roads, it's because they deserve easier roads.

4.) If there are no autobids, prepare for marquee interconference matchups to vanish beyond how rare they are now, as teams refuse to take that chance and watch their ranking fall. Likewise, traditional rivalries will mean much less. Ohio State/Michigan will still be venomous, but it will matter much less. That's bad; see the tradition argument above.

5.) Playoff creep means that teams that don't even deserve to be in the playoffs will occasionally win. Assume the 13-16 seeds have a 25% chance of winning each game. One of these worse teams will win the championship 1.5% of the time, just by luck. Limit the grouping severely and you ensure a great team wins. Let in a huge grouping and you get the 2006 Cardinals every so often.

6.) The discussion will just shift from "which 1-win teams deserve entrances" to "which 2-win teams deserve entrance". That doesn't strike me as an improvement.

7.) It will not necessarily produce more competitive games. The NFL playoffs are a tournament format, of course; does everyone remember the 80s-early 90s Super Bowls?

50
by CuseFanInSoCal :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 12:54am

1) You'd use home sites for the opening two rounds of the playoffs, and regional sites for the semis and finals. It's not hard for all NFL teams that share a stadium with a division I-A college team to leave two Saturdays open.

2) There is no bowl tradition worth mentioning any more. The last game with any tradition was the Rose Bowl, where the Big Ten champion has played the Pac 10 champion all of once since the BCS started. So there's nothing wrong with killing the bowls; they deserve to die.

3) Going by what's done in basketball, you'd regionalize and seed, with no automatic preferences given to conference champs in seeding. Conference champs get autobids so that every team in college football (except the three independents) has a clear way to get in the playoffs, no matter what any selection committee member, poll voter, or computer ranking system thinks of their merit -- and to make sure every conference gets a share of the money.

4) I'm in favor of autobids; 5 at-large spots should be more than enough to make sure any team with a real shot at winning the title gets in.

5) It's not likely, and it's exciting when it happens (most basketball Cindereallas go down in the round of 16).

6) The current debates are 'which two teams should play in the title game' and 'which teams should get BCS at-large spots'. Arguing over seeding and over the five teams that get at-large spots (which is only one more than the BCS gives out in years where no non-BCS team grabs an autobid) seems like an improvement to me.

7) That's true. But there have been a fair number of non-competitive BCS title games and other BCS bowls, too.

My new CuseFanInSoCal blog

36
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 9:38pm

I'm not seeing the how a playoff system is in any way less fair than how things are now.

By that argument, a 2-team playoff isn't any less fair than an 8-team playoff, either.

24
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 8:21pm

"You have to reward teams for winning their conferences,"

Why? If they can't qualify, why should they get an auto-in for winning their conference?

26
by WLK (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 8:44pm

Oh wow, another Big 10 fan with a massive inferiority complex when it comes to the SEC. Georgia destroyed Arizona, who is favored over likely Pac 10 champs Oregon State.

28
by Eddo :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 9:04pm

Oh wow, another SEC fan bringing up a massive strawman argument. Nowhere did Russell say that the Pac-10 was better than the SEC, so why does it matter that Georgia destroyed Arizona? (And for that matter, Penn State (Big Ten champ) destroyed Oregon State, who is the likely Pac-10 champ.)

29
by Irish Boy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 9:04pm

Oh wow, another SEC fan with a poor grasp of facts. Georgia destroyed an Arizona STATE team that failed to qualify for a bowl this year.

30
by DragonFireKai (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 9:14pm

Ummmm... What? Georgia hasn't played Arizona in recent memory. They beat Arizona State, who's currently 4-6 and already lost to Oregon State. Get your facts straight.

55
by nittanyfan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 9:25am

Look, Russell takes every chance he gets to tear down the SEC, regardless of whether it's even germane to his column topic. No one is disputing that the Big 12 is the strongest conference this year, yet hacks like Levine revel in pointing out that the SEC is not as strong as it has been in years past. What's the point? Even in a down year it's still the second best conference.

31
by Jean Sansterre (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 9:14pm

I agree: an 8 team tournament to determine the national champion is unfair.

Let's go with a 2 team tournament instead.

34
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 9:24pm

I just chuckle every time I hear someone try to suggest a playoff system. I really do. The problem isn't a lack of a playoff.

8-team playoff? Not enough spots to include 2 unbeaten teams. Conference champs? Both Oregon State and USC are conference champs. The PAC-10's tiebreakers only apply for admission into the Rose Bowl - one of them is length of time since previous Rose Bowl. It's not intended to determine "who's the best." Ditto with the Big 10 - Ohio State and Penn State shared the championship this year. So who do you pick? Who knows. Maybe the PAC-10 and Big 10 are required to add another game. So now you're talking 4 additional games for those teams. Good luck on that. (Same argument for 16-team playoff).

The problem isn't a lack of a playoff. College football is not college basketball. It is the worst connected major sport in the US. It's the scheduling that's the problem. A playoff just likely makes the problem worse - because you give more teams valid reasons to complain.

If the President really has so much free time to deal with college football:

* Get rid of bowl eligibility for games against Division IAA opponents.
* Force BCS statistical rankings to exclude all games against Division IAA opponents.
* Do something to encourage more variety in interconference games. Maybe require that BCS conferences, in order to maintain their autoberth into the BCS bowls (or a playoff, or whatever) schedule at most, say, 8 games against one conference collectively, on average, over any 5 year span.
* Do something to try to boost lesser-profile games - like possibly encourage the cable companies to include the conference TV networks in a lower tier (The point here is that you want to boost the value of the weaker games so that the teams can pay out more and schedule better opponents).

The first and second suggestions are seriously, seriously needed, and pretty obvious. The last two are somewhat off-the-cuff.

37
by Irish Boy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 9:44pm

That's the thing: there's a bunch of easier solutions that would make ranking much easier while giving more exciting games and preserving all that is good about college football. End the 1-AA games. Require all BCS teams to play two BCS interconference games (no loading up on MAC teams). Really punish teams for playing easy schedules (my argument for why Oklahoma should be #1, notwithstanding the loss to Texas.) Even add a plus 1 system- maybe add the Cotton Bowl to the BCS, keep the 10 team format, rerank after New Years Day, and then play the top two. All those things would be much simpler and actually feasible.

39
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 10:09pm

Require all BCS teams to play two BCS interconference games (no loading up on MAC teams).

Nonono. That's not an easy problem to solve, and you're exaggerating it a bit, too.

Obviously, the "loading up on MAC teams" is a Big Ten thing. But realistically, only 3 of the 11 Big 10 teams played more than 1 MAC team (Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana) - and to be honest, none of those teams ended up being great teams (in fact, only 1 of the 3 actually won both games). But the Big 10-MAC problem is bigger than just those 3 teams. Every Big Ten team except Iowa played a MAC team. That's the real problem.

But the solution isn't as easy as saying "Thou shalt play 2 BCS interconference games each year!" For one thing, that could still result in something like a massive Big 10-PAC-10 crossover, just like the MAC. And that doesn't help you either! But also because scheduling is hard - Big East teams, for instance, have to schedule as many as four out-of-conference home games, and it's near-impossible to schedule a home-only series with a BCS team unless you're one of the big, huge schools.

The smartest thing is to force the conferences to schedule certain ways - like force the Big Ten to have a minimum number (and maximum number against any one) of games against the ACC, PAC-10, and Big East over a 5-year spread. And then do something similar with the other conferences.

Really punish teams for playing easy schedules (my argument for why Oklahoma should be #1, notwithstanding the loss to Texas.)

Teams schedule games years in advance. Alabama had no way of knowing that Clemson was going to suck (neither did the country!), just like Oklahoma had no way of knowing that Cincy was going to be the best team in the Big East (not that I know what that means), and Texas had no way of knowing that Arkansas was going to suck.

'Punishing' a team for playing a schedule that includes a BCS opponent who turns out to suck won't encourage them to play a harder schedule, because how the heck will they know who to schedule?

40
by Irish Boy (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 10:21pm

I could live with all that. Plus, I know that making a set rule isn't going to work when the Pac-10 only can schedule three non-conference games and the Big East needs five.

One thing I'm not as worried about is having there be, say, a Big-10/Pac-10 challenge or something of that nature (ACC/SEC, whatever). Maybe not every year, but having something similar to what the Big 10 and ACC do in basketball could be pretty cool, and it would go some ways towards settling the "which conference is better" question.

63
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 1:22pm

It would be pretty easy to stop teams from scheduling years in advance. Much bigger events are scheduled with shorter timeframes. You could mandate that you can only schedule 2 years in advance, or even 1.5.

Just a minor point.

74
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 5:31pm

It would be pretty easy to stop teams from scheduling years in advance.

How do you not complete a multi-year contract years in advance?

62
by witless chum :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 1:20pm

I vote Irish Boy for NCAA dictator for life! Even though, as an MSU fan, I have to hate and shun Notre Dame.

I really like the idea of reranking after the major bowls (none of which will be played after Jan. 1) and then having #1 and #2 play for the title. You could even junk the BCS bowl system and bring back the traditional Rose Bowl matchup. Two teams having to play one extra game on Jan. 8 doesn't seem like it would destroy all academics. If there aren't clear #1 and #2 after the bowls, then we haven't lost anything over the current system, have we?

41
by Solomon (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 11:00pm

I will list 3 scenarios that are better than the BCS (of course, there may be more than 3).

1) 8-team playoff. auto bids for 6 BCS conference champs. remaining 2 bids go to highest ranked champs of other 5 conferences (sun belt, MAC, MWC, WAC, CUSA). make the independents join a conference. or not, and make them eligible for the 2 extra spots (but i don't want notre dame to get a free pass to the tourney most years). use BCS standings or AP poll to seed teams. play at neutral sites over 3 weeks in late december and january. teams outside the tourney with at least 8 1-A wins (no credit for 1-AA wins) qualify for lesser bowl games. this will eliminate some of the crap bowls with 6-6 teams. absolutely no wildcards. i always liked baseball better before selig ruined the format in 1994. who can forget the great division race in 1993 b/t giants & braves? with wildcards, that race is not the same.

2) more realistic -- a plus one format. keep the original 4 BCS games (rose, sugar, orange, fiesta) w/ original conference affiliations. big 10 & pac 10 play in rose, sec in sugar, acc in orange (or could go retro and put big 12 there), big 12 in fiesta. throw big east and 2 at-large teams in somewhere. lesser bowls remain as is (but i like my earlier idea of increasing bowl eligibility to 8 wins). after the bowls, determine new BCS standings, and have 1-2 play in the BCS championship game about 1.5-2 weeks after the other BCS bowls (played Jan. 1-2). maybe play it the friday night before the NFL divisional playoffs. kickoff all BCS games by 7 pm ET (kickoff, not start telecast at 7 and then kickoff 45 minutes later) so the games end before midnight.

3) no playoffs. declare winner of SEC championship game the national champ as well. just kidding with this one.

42
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 11:21pm

teams outside the tourney with at least 8 1-A wins (no credit for 1-AA wins) qualify for lesser bowl games. this will eliminate some of the crap bowls with 6-6 teams.

Yes, that makes sense. Let's eliminate a moneymaking opportunity for a city and two football teams plus eliminate a holiday game for some college kids because you think the bowls are crap.

Could work - except for the part about going against everything that the NCAA stands for.

43
by Kevin Eleven :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 11:32pm

Russell, God Bless You for striking the right nerve and getting posts here.

I'm against a playoff. It would turn CFB into what basketball has become- a three week season fueled by betting pools.

The magic of college football is Texas Tech beating Texas, and then losing to OU. It mattered, and we lived and died with it.

46
by Steve (not verified) :: Mon, 11/24/2008 - 11:58pm

The magic of college football is Texas Tech beating Texas, and then losing to OU. It mattered, and we lived and died with it.

You don't think these games would have mattered just as much, if not more, with a playoff system? I really, really don't understand this line of thought that a playoff would somehow degrade the quality of the regular season. The season is still only 12 games long, and every game will be important with 119 teams fighting for 8 playoff spots. They'll still be great matchups, must see game, upsets, and barnburners under a playoff system.

65
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 1:27pm

Exactly, what makes football game important is the scarcity of games not the postseason. The postseason has nothing to do with the importance of the games. If they played 80 games or more like most sports no amount of tinkering with the postseason would make the games important.

47
by Solomon (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 12:27am

"Yes, that makes sense. Let's eliminate a moneymaking opportunity for a city and two football teams plus eliminate a holiday game for some college kids because you think the bowls are crap.

Could work - except for the part about going against everything that the NCAA stands for."

Pat -- where have you been? I have not seen any of your posts for a few weeks (or did I just miss them?).

Don't a lot of those bowls have half-empty stadiums and do well to break even? my opinion is a 6-6 season is usually mediocre and does not merit a reward (bowl game). i might be willing to compromise on 7 wins. would you want teams with 4 or 5 wins in bowl games? how about every team playing in a bowl? we have to draw the line somewhere, and i would move the bar a little higher.

What is that for which the NCAA stands, anyway? The integrity of the student athlete? Why does it still have that pointless postseason NIT basketball tournament?

48
by Crash (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 12:33am

"Would it be any fairer than what we currently have with the BCS? No."

Wrong! It would be much fairer: win your conference and you are guaranteed a spot. Play great football all year and you might get a spot. As opposed to what we have now, where you can do both and not get a second thought about being picked to play in the title game. Think about a team like PSU, a great team which had one close loss against a good team, just like Florida, USC and Texas, and Oklahoma. But since they play in the Big-10 they (unfairly) carry the baggage from OSU's past title game failures, and they aren't even in the conversation.

The whole jist of this article seems to be "a playoff isn't perfect, therefore we should keep the even more imperfect BCS". Yes, some teams will no doubt get screwed under a playoff system, but not nearly as many as get screwed under our current BCS setup.

79
by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 9:59pm

Think about a team like PSU, a great team which had one close loss against a good team, just like Florida, USC and Texas, and Oklahoma. But since they play in the Big-10 they (unfairly) carry the baggage from OSU's past title game failures, and they aren't even in the conversation.

Texas lost to Texas Tech (10-1, AP #7)
Oklahoma lost to Texas (10-1, AP #2)

USC lost to Oregon State (8-3, AP #17)
Florida lost to Mississippi (7-4, AP #25)
Penn State lost to Iowa (7-4, AP #28)

It has nothing to do with OSU.

49
by Chris (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 12:39am

First, the conference championships have not been played yet, which should give more teams 2 or more losses. I think it's fair to say that if a team has 2 losses it is "fair" for them to miss the playoffs. Second, how about limiting conference champions automatic bids only if they win a championship game?

As for the form of the playoffs, I have simple solution that results in a champion, yet still retains the bowl system. Have 8 teams, but instead of having a traditional single-elimination tournament, have a consolation bracket. So the 8 teams that make the playoffs will have 3 additional games each. The last set of games will serve as 1st place, 3rd place, 5th place and 7th place games. This last round can also take place during the traditional new year's period and be hosted by the Orange, Rose, Sugar, and Fiesta Bowls on a rotating basis.

Of course, there are two problems that my solution will not solve. First, that this will break any remaining traditional conference-bowl tie-ins, and second, that people may claim that the ninth, tenth or umpteenth team deserves a shot at the championship. However, I think this system would result in a champion that people will have a hard time disputing, as well as having the least amount of logistical problems.

Example: Assuming the higher seed will beat the lower seed in each round:
Round 1: #1 vs #8, #2 vs #7, #3 vs #6, #4 vs #5
Round 2: #1 vs #4, #2 vs #3, #5 vs #8, #6 vs #7
Round 3: #1 vs #2, #3 vs #4, #5 vs #6, #7 vs #8

51
by Solomon (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 12:56am

i agree that the games vs. 1-AA teams need to stop (although i did enjoy appy state vs. michigan). consider this fairly new Rose Bowl tiebreaker for the Big 10: if head-to-head results do not break the tie, the team with the fewest games vs. 1-AA (or FCS or whatever), likely 0, wins the tiebreaker.

this could have happened as follows: Penn State beats Iowa but loses to Michigan State (hypothetically, people). thus, OSU, PSU, & MSU tie for the Big 10 crown at 7-1. head-to-head results are all 1-1. MSU wins the Rose Bowl bid b/c it did not play any 1-AA opponents. I did not realize at the time that Ohio State risked losing a Rose Bowl bid by playing Youngstown State. now i really hate the fact that OSU played YSU twice in 2 years.

the Big 10 also has a later tiebreaker about the team that went to the Rose Bowl least recently wins the tie. years ago, a rule existed that prevented a Big 10 team from going to the rose bowl in consecutive years. If head-to-head does not break the tie, can't the Big 10 come up with something better, like BCS or AP standings? i think the SEC used to do this for the Sugar Bowl bid (prior to 1992).

53
by Gihyou (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 2:37am

So the main thing I take away from this thread is:

1. The current system is deeply flawed.
2. An 8 or 16 team playoff system is also flawed, but in different ways.

My question: Why on earth do we even bother with this 'National Champion' business? I myself hardly find it worth the bother. I know it makes for good 'discussion', but I can't for the life of me think of another sport that essentially says "We have no good way to choose our champion, so here's a dog-and-pony show for you to argue about interminably."

I say screw it and just play the bowl games everyone likes so much and then everyone can go home. I don't care which two of the 15 or so power programs we see year after year will get to play for this year's 'national championship'.

54
by MC2 :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 5:29am

It never ceases to amaze me how much time and mental energy the BCS apologists (or "traditionalists", if you prefer) spend dreaming up all sorts of byzantine arguments against a potential playoff system.

Another thing that never ceases to amaze me is the ability of politicians to take any subject (no matter how unrelated to politics) and pimp it for all it's worth.

56
by Rover (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 11:08am

This

Whatever you want to say about the drawbacks of the current system, the fact is that the NC winner is always one of the best teams in the nation, without a doubt. You can argue that another team, or maybe 2 other teams, might be better, but you never have a case where a team everyone agreed was the 10th best winning the NC. In basketball, the NCAA one and done format makes every NC winner just a hot team, usually no better than one of the top 10 based on their regular season performance.

is

Ehhh...I'd pretty much stop caring at all about the regular season outside of the one or 2 teams I follow. I'd probably follow 1 or 2 teams through the playoffs and then watch the finals. Over the whole year I'd probably watch less college football than I do in one month now. And don't bring up college basketball. It's many months of pointless games followed by a month of betting pools

exactly

It'll destroy the bowl tradition, especially for the major bowls. Before people complain about keeping tradition just for the sake of tradition, remember that more than any other sport, college football is all about tradition, from the marching bands to the trophies to, yes, the bowls. Once you lose that, you can't get it back.

right.

The whole *reason* college football is so popular is tradition. Yes, it's more interesting because it's more unpredictable, but that's in large part because its a more amateurish level of play. You take the tradition away, college football begins to look more and more like an inferior version of the NFL, and the interest level outside the bowl games is going to subside.

I mean, it's not like the rest of those BCS bowls mean what they did "before" ...

And this is where I go really old-school: I don't see the need for an 'official' national championship. I was (and here I date myself) perfectly happy with the "mythical" national championship that led to all the barroom debates (that for some reason needed to be eliminated). College sports was always about regional competition -- the conference championship was key; the bowl was the reward. Nationalizing that competition is to me part and parcel with having an Olive Garden in every midsize city / suburb in the country -- a homogenization of the regional differences that used to make life a little more interesting.

One last point, if anyone's still reading: Losing a game in week 1 is forgivable, but losing the exact same game in week 12 is death no matter how strong your season is

This is an unavoidable problem if you want to name a champion. You're just moving the "death game" to week 14, or 15, and in a playoff it *really is* "death no matter how strong your season is." Under the current system, even losing a game in week 12 you still have a chance that the voters look at the totality of your season and decide you're one of the top two. (Of course, if you lose that game, you're back at "death"...) If you want to have a champion, you have to have elimination games. I prefer that they can come at any time rather than only at the end of the season, but then I like watching football in September and October.

58
by Parker (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 12:48pm

Why are some people so averse to the idea of a 'random hot team' winning a championship? By 'random' I take you to mean 'teams from conferences that I automatically assume are inferior and am not interested in'. If an team like Rutgers has a good enough season to rank in the top 8 using the BCS formula, how are they 'random'. (I am not in favor of auto berths for all Conference Champs, so the implication is that Rutgers would be a very good football team, not just the best team in a lousy conference)

So in your world, if Rutgers goes 12-0 or 11-1 in the regular season and then beats Alabama, Florida and Oklahoma in consecutive weeks to win the Championship, that is some sort of grand disappointment because they just 'got hot' at the right moment?

Wow.

Why don't you just advocate what you really want, which is a world in which the SEC, Pac-10, Big 12 and Big 10 are the only schools allowed to field a football team. Oh, that wouldn't work because then you would have to play each other every week and you would have lots of records like 7-4 and 6-5 and (gasp!) 3-8. And God forbid that USC or Ohio State or Texas or Clemson go 3-8, or even 7-4. How in the world would you get some 18 year old to come to your school and make millions of dollars for you without the near guarantee of being able to kick the ass of some overmatched school 8 out of 11 weeks? And what will the boosters have to jerk off with while they write those big checks? An 68-42 record over the last 10 years? I don't think so.

The whole thing is a sham.

(Rant off)

69
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 2:06pm

here here :)

81
by dbostedo :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 12:10pm

Big VT fan here - so I have no problem with a Big East or ACC team winning the title. In fact, right now I'd prefer it, as long as they were being rewarded for a great season.

However, I still don't like the idea of this year's VT team potentially winning the title. Under an 8 team playoff, if they win the ACC this year they'd move on. Then if they ran the table on, say, Penn State, Alabama, and Florida, it would really downplay the importance of the bad (to me) season they've had thus far. I still wouldn't think they were the best team, and I like to think that the best team, over the course of the entire season, wins the national championship. I don't like the idea of a team that loses to ECU, BC, FSU, and Miami, and scrapes by other teams, winning the title.

59
by Anonymous Coward (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 12:56pm

The whole point of an 8 team playoff is that one of those top 8 teams should be the best in college football and after a playoff you have a winner. End of 50% of stupid discussion.

82
by dbostedo :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 12:23pm

True, but the winner is not necessarily the best team.

83
by Dennis :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 4:06pm

And how would that be different than every other sport?

84
by dbostedo :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 5:12pm

It wouldn't be different, which is part of my point. I like that college football is different currently.

Plus, frequently I hear people equating "playoff champion" with "best team". For instance, I think it's pretty obvious that over the course of the season, the New England Patriots were the best NFL team last year. The Giants won the super bowl. I'm guessing if you asked a bunch of people who the best NFL team was last year, they'd say the Giants.

A few years ago, when (I think) UConn upset Duke for the NCAA basketball title, it's one of the few times I remember commentators on TV saying that while UConn won the title, Duke was still the best team. That's a distinction that doesn't get made very often.

61
by RickD :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 1:10pm

So your logic is that even though an eight-team playoff system is better than a two-team playoff system, since it isn't "perfect", we should leave things be?

Let's just say that more people disagree with you than agree. And most of the people who agree have a financial stake in the current arrangement.

66
by Pete (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 1:35pm

I disagree with Senator Obama. I like the Bowl system and its history. I would not oppose a tournamnet, but I understand reasons why it might not be considered the best (whether 16-team, 8-team, 4-team or the current 2-team).

Here are some things I propose:

1) Either get rid of the Coach's poll or force them to publicize their votes. Yes, I know that there could be problems. Too bad. If you believe something then stand up for it.

2) Allow one or two of the more reknown systems to use margin of victory and home field advantage. Winning by 50 points is much more convincing than winning by 1 point. A single play can easily make the difference in a game (last second throw/fumble by Ohio State against Penn State, Oklahoma not throwing that interception against Texas, etc.) It is not necessary to use Sagarin's predictor, but I find that it is more worthwhile than the ELO-Chess that was forced upon him. Best may be something like Sagarin Rankings. Take a look at my link for Sagarin Conferences. Something like Fottball Outsiders' FEI and Sagarin reward playing/beating good teams.

3) Play the Classic Bowl Games and THEN determine who will be in the championship. Between the conference championships and the Bowl games this might work out very similarly to a playoff. At the least it should give the top teams some decent competition outside of their conference. This could be implemented almost immediately as the contracts would not be violated. The Big 10 and PAC-10 play in the Rose Bowl. SEC champ goes to the Sugar Bowl, while the ACC goes to the Orange Bowl.

Are there potential pitfalls and drawbacks? Sure. However, I think it is a step in the right* direction. (*right = what I prefer, of course)

67
by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 1:53pm

"the best thing the sport has going for it -- the intensity of its regular season."

Yes, the intensity of that Citadel-Florida game was almost more than I could take.

68
by Tom Gower :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 2:02pm

One thing that hasn't been brought up is the use of a selection committee with the use of the BCS standings similar to the basketball committee's of RPI (or, if they were more intelligent, KenPom ratings), strong persuasive authority but not absolutely definitive.

70
by morganja :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 2:16pm

What constantly amazes me is the tolerance that college sports fans have for the corrupt bureaucracy which is college sports. Especially otherwise conservative fans, which criticize and condemn corruption and bureaucracy in all other aspects of government, are stalwart advocates of corruption in college sports.

While I will watch games, especially App State games, and root for the home team, the fact is that college sports are a disgusting institution. It wouldn't be quite so bad, except Colleges spend the time and effort pretending to represent ideals to which they are structurally and philosophically opposed.

What do people really learn from college sports? To lie. To cheat. To use the power of the government to manipulate and cheat athletes of their just rewards and to divert taxpayers money to legions of NCAA officials and their cronies who are living large off the labor of others.

71
by Parker (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 3:01pm

"Whatever you want to say about the drawbacks of the current system, the fact is that the NC winner is always one of the best teams in the nation, without a doubt. You can argue that another team, or maybe 2 other teams, might be better, but you never have a case where a team everyone agreed was the 10th best winning the NC. In basketball, the NCAA one and done format makes every NC winner just a hot team, usually no better than one of the top 10 based on their regular season performance."

Yup, the NCAA Basketball Tourney just churns out a random hot team year after year and names them Champion:

2008 Kansas - #1 seed
2007 Florida - #1 seed
2006 Florida - #3 seed
2005 North Carolina - #1 seed
2004 Conneticut - #2 seed
2003 Syracuse - #3 seed
2002 Maryland - #1 seed
2001 Duke - #1seed
2000 Michigan St - #1 seed
1999 Conneticut - #1 seed

So that's 7 #1 seeds that have won in the last 10 years. And one of the #3 seeds that must have just got lucky at the end actually stayed lucky through the entire next season and won the whole thing all over again. Amazing.

76
by Ken S (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 6:20pm

Isn't a #3 seed really a #9-#12 seed? There are four brackets. So even the #1 seeds are really #1-#4 seeds.

And people still argue about which teams make it into the tourney.

85
by parker (not verified) :: Sat, 11/29/2008 - 1:28pm

Here's what makes sense to me:
1.Automatic bids:
The 2 conference champions that are highest ranked.

2. Playins
The next six highest ranking conference champions, and the next two highest ranking second place teams.
why: This essentially is the NFL system. The best conference champions sit at home while the other conference champions and the next best teams play it out to see who gets to play those teams.

How should we rank the teams.
This is easy. Put together a commitee the same way its done for the basketball tournament. Using the BCS the same way the bball committee uses RPI, fair rankings would result, as long as the above stipulations were put in place. The committees job would be to decide which of the remaining champions should be included and which of the remaining 2nd place teams should be included. This would be much easier for a 12 game body of work than it is for a 30 game body of work.

Playing it out.
Two weeks of playins. These two weekends dont have to be consecutive. These games need time to be planned well. After those two weeks (4) teams would remain. Two teams from the playins and the two automatic bids. This would lead to the championship round.

Here's where the 4 major bowls come into play. We have to make sure they make the same money for this system to be plausible. The second week of playins would be played in two of the major bowls. The first week of the championship round would be played in the other two major bowls. This leaves one more game and this is where things could get creative.

My suggestion would be to have a game with a superbowl type atmosphere that changes venues every year. The type of game where you buy the tickets 1 year in advance no matter who is going to play. This would make the NCAA tons of money. You could play it the week before the superbowl.

He else do we need to appease:
The Big 12, the ACC, and the SEC. These conferences have to make the same money they would have from their conference championship games.

What happens to the rest of the bowls:
Nothing, they all go along the same way they have been. To say anything would minimize a chance to take a vacation to some place warm over the holidays is crazy. People would still love the bowl games and in turn the players would still love playing in them. The bowls have always been exhibition games that noone should really care about playing. Except, that everyone loves playing in them.

Heres what I think the best game schedule should be.
Thanksgiving weekend: Playin round 1
Christmas weekend:playin round 2
New Years weekend:championship round 1(final four)
Week before superbowl: Championship game

Yes the season is ridiculously stretched out. But consider this, the college bball season runs November-March(5 months). The college fball season would run September-January(5months).

Having so many weeks of rest would give players the built in benefit of being able to stay healthy. The most games any team would end up playing would be 16. But with the last 4 being played over a two month period.

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