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02 Jul 2009

Varsity Numbers: The Perfect Playoff

by Bill Connelly

If you deign yourself a college football fan, at this point you've had to make a choice to retain your sanity: ignore any and all talk of a college football playoff, or embrace the idea and scream louder for change. Maintaining an "I'm okay either way -- I just want to watch college football" middle ground on the topic has become impossible because the subject just will not die. Not only do most college football analysts either directly or passive-aggressively mention it at every opportunity over the last two months of a given football season, but now Congress has gotten involved.

Because one all-posture, no-resolution hearing wasn't enough, Utah Senator Orrin Hatch is getting ready to hold a second Senate BCS hearing next week, asserting that the BCS violates the Sherman Antitrust Act by intentionally favoring certain participants over others. Meanwhile, Texas Representative Joe Barton introduced legislation prohibiting the NCAA from calling the BCS Championship a true national championship without a playoff.

(A cynic would point out that these two men happen to hail from states whose teams were on the short end of the BCS stick this last season, and that they didn't seem to care too much about the issue beforehand. A cynic would also point out that most other political decisions these two have made haven't exactly taken the "siding with the little guy" approach. But there's no room for cynicism here. Nope, none whatsoever.)

Assuming nothing becomes of this issue at the legislative level -- that this will just give elected officials some free points with constituents, and then they will move on to more pressing issues, if there is such a thing -- the issue still will not die. But one thing is virtually certain: a playoff will happen one day. Maybe not today, maybe not next year, but soon (relatively speaking). What will be the tipping point? Simple sports geology. As Red from Shawshank Redemption would say, "Geology is the study of pressure and time. That's all it takes really, pressure, and time." That, and TV ratings. Another few years of poor ratings for BCS games like Virginia Tech-Cincinnati or Georgia-Hawaii should be all it takes. The playoff ball is in motion -- it's just going to take a while to find its inevitable destination.

So with that in mind, it behooves us, as sports fans, writers, and nerds, to shift the focus from whether there will be a playoff, to what kind of playoff there will be. And only one idea combines the needs and wants of concerned parties and gives everybody a seat at the table. It is the perfect playoff.

The complaints

Before the perfect playoff is revealed, however, it is time to take a look at some of the primary concerns of those standing in the way of such a thing, or those just sitting at home and railing against the idea. All of these are stances are somewhat legitimate, but they can be accounted for within a playoff structure.

It would ruin the bowls.

This rationale comes up now and again, and it is understandable. No matter what naysayers think, bowls are great, and they are completely inoffensive and inobstrusive. If you don't like them, don't watch them. No other sport rewards fans as much as college football, and it is because of the bowl system. While cries of "monopoly" and "antitrust" are being tossed around constantly about college football these days, bowls are the closest thing to socialism in sports, and in this case, that's a good thing. Do not get rid of the bowls.

However, there is nothing saying that a playoff would have to impact, in any way, the New Mexico Bowl, the Meineke Car Care Bowl, the EagleBank Bowl, or the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.

(Bonus points, by the way, if you can identify where the EagleBank Bowl takes place without looking it up.)

Where's the tradition?

This is of the same tangent as the pro-bowl outlook above. More than any other sport, college football wraps itself tightly in tradition. Just looking at USC's uniforms, it is hard not to produce images of not only Mark Sanchez, Reggie Bush, or Matt Leinart, but also everyone from Keyshawn Johnson to Marcus Allen and O.J. Simpson. For the most part, college teams play in the same stadiums, with relatively similar jerseys (in most cases) as they did 25 or 50 years ago. And teams still fight to play in bowls like the Rose, Orange, and Sugar.

The playoff already exists. It's called March Madness. Why can't college football be different?

This one was offered by yours truly for years. March Madness is wonderful, but so is college football. Why does one have to conform to the other? Any playoff structure better take into account the differences between college football and all other sports (i.e. the aforementioned bowls, traditions, etc.). The current system could be retained in its entirety while adding a simple Plus One type of game, where either a) the top two teams after all bowls are completed face off in the national title game a week later, or b) two semifinal games are created among the BCS bowls, with the winners facing off for the title. That would be fine, and it is honestly the most likely solution, but it eludes the potential for the perfect playoff.

There are already too many demands on student athletes.

This one has just never held water. Football players in all other divisions and subdivisions play through December, and it appears they still get accommodations to take finals and keep up with their school work (more or less). And college baseball players miss half of the spring semester every year! We cannot selectively care about athletes' academics. Pretending that FBS athletes' academics are suffering because of the sport they play, while ignoring FCS athletes and those participating in every single other NCAA sport, is disengenuous.

Plus, just about any realistic playoff idea will wrap up by the second week in January, meaning teams would be finished before the second semester starts. This is a fall-back excuse with almost no merit.

The little guys still probably wouldn't get a seat at the table.

This is the major issue with just having a Plus-One system. Utah was ranked 6th in the BCS standings last year. A Plus-One system would not have helped them. If a four-team playoff were drawn up, it would have almost certainly included Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas, and Florida, leaving the Utes out in the cold. If a Plus-One were based on post-bowl BCS rankings, the final would have most likely pitted Florida against Texas and once again left Utah hanging. The Plus-One idea is a solid one, but in most circumstances it would not, in any way, help the "little guys" unless there is a significant penalty for losses incorporated back into the BCS formula, which is not a terrible idea.

Every game counts in college football! Why change that?

This is true, except for the exceptions. What sets college football apart from other sports is that an upset loss in September could possibly wreck your title chances. In general, if you are from a major conference, going undefeated will most likely get you into the title game (2004 Auburn being the exception, of course). If you lose a game, you have to rely on numerous other teams and factors, but you may still get there. If you lose twice, your title hopes are dead (2007 LSU being the exception, of course). The idea that every game during the college regular season is a playoff game is riddled with exceptions, but it still relatively common. The biggest imperfection with the below "perfect playoff" would be that it would open the door for a 3- or 4- or 5-loss champion. The odds would be miniscule at best, but the possibility would exist.

But that is enough naysaying. Time to unveil perfection.

The process

Is there a playoff out there that could accommodate these concerns and still deliver the playoff that proponents want to see? Absolutely. It is a 16-team tournament that a) includes every conference champion and five at-large bids (thereby giving everybody a seat at the table), b) accommodates most student athletes' schedules (meaning, it doesn't cram 2-3 games into finals preparation -- only one or so), and c) completely preserves the pomp and tradition of every bowl game that chooses to exist (is there pomp in the St. Petersburg Bowl?).

Here's how it works:

1. Tourney Selection Show the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Conference championship games are eliminated. (For that matter, college football's 12th game could also be eliminated, dropping the schedule back to 11 games, but eliminating a source of easy revenue in tough economic times might be a no-go, especially after dumping the conference title games.) All conference champions get a seat at the table, meaning champions from the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Pac-10, SEC, Sun Belt and WAC occupy 11 of the tournament's 16 slots.

Five at-large bids will be selected by an approximation of the BCS rankings. The formula can be tweaked however deemed necessary, but the concept would be the same -- human polls and computer rankings would both be taken into account.

Other notes: There would be no limitation to how many at-large bids one conference receives, and seedings could be adjusted to assure that no conference members play each other until the semifinals (as in basketball), unless more than four teams from the same conference qualify (which almost certainly would not happen).

2. The playoffs would start the next weekend, when conference championship games currently take place. In 2009, that weekend falls on December 5. The top eight seeds host the first round games.

3. The quarterfinals take place the next weekend (December 12). The higher seed in each game hosts.

4. On the day after the quarterfinals (in this case, December 13), bowl pairings are announced. All teams not in the semifinals are eligible. The tournament semifinals would take place at two rotating BCS bowls. Where applicable, the other BCS bowls can follow their automatic bid processes, meaning an SEC champion who did not make the semis could still go to the Sugar Bowl if it is not one of the semifinal sites. More importantly, the Rose could still hold onto whatever Big Ten/Pac-10 match-up it wants as long as semifinalists are not involved.

5. The semifinals would take place on or around January 1, at a designated BCS bowl. The rotation could, in many ways, operate as it does now. One year, the Rose and Sugar host the semifinals while the Orange and Fiesta produce match-ups with other teams. The next year, it is the Sugar and Orange. The next, Orange and Fiesta. The next, Fiesta and Rose.

A rule could be created to say that quarterfinal losers will fill the other two BCS bowls. That way, if a Troy or Central Michigan or some low seed pulls off a monumental first-round upset, they are rewarded with a big-time bowl if they lose in the quarterfinals. The bowls might not agree with that -- the Fiesta Bowl wouldn't be excited about taking Troy unless they absolutely had to -- but it would be interesting. Plus, it would allow all non-BCS bowls to fill their slots a week earlier as normal, meaning travel to non-BCS bowls could be arranged within the same timeframe in which they are currently arranged.

6. The championship game would take place as it does now--a week after the January 1 bowls (and now, semifinals) at a designated, rotating BCS host.

The idea of bowls as consolation games assures that bowl spectacles are not lost. Purists retain the tradition of the bowls, while playoff enthusiasts get their playoff.

A demonstration

The best way to determine how this would work is to do some simulating. Using the current BCS formula (and an estimation of how things would have played out without conference championship games), here is how the field of 16 would have been determined and seeded for the 2008 season. Conference champions for conferences with title games are simply determined by best overall conference record, regardless of division.

1. Alabama (12-0, SEC Champion)

2. Oklahoma (11-1, Big 12 Champion)

3. Texas (11-1, At-Large #1)

4. Florida (11-1, At-Large #2)

5. USC (10-2, Pac-10 Champion)

6. Utah (12-0, Mountain West Champion)

7. Penn State (11-1, Big Ten Champion)

8. Texas Tech (11-1, At-Large #3, bumped from #7 to avoid Oklahoma at #2)

9. Boise State (12-0, WAC Champion)

10. TCU (10-2, At-Large #5)

11. Ohio State (10-2, At-Large #4, bumped from #10 to avoid Penn State at #7)

12. Ball State (12-0, MAC Champion)

13. Cincinnati (10-2, Big East Champion)

14. Boston College (9-3, ACC Champion, determined by lengthy tie-breaker*)

15. Tulsa (10-2, Conference USA Champion)

16. Troy (8-4, Sun Belt Champion)

* The first stab at an inter-division, non-title game tie-breaker: divisional ties are settled first. In this case, Boston College of the Atlantic Division and Virginia Tech of the Coastal Division would win their division tie-breakers. The first interdivision tie-break would be head-to-head, which in this case favors Boston College because of their 28-23 regular season win over the Hokies. If no head-to-head match-up took place, tie-breakers would likely include a) records against common conference opponents, and then b) BCS rankings.

Round One

On December 6, 2008, the following games would have taken place:

16 Troy at 1 Alabama
9 Boise State at 8 Texas Tech
12 Ball State at 5 USC
13 Cincinnati at 4 Florida
11 Ohio State at 6 Utah
14 Boston College at 3 Texas
10 TCU at 7 Penn State
15 Tulsa at 2 Oklahoma

To avoid any arguments, this example will just assume that all home teams win in the first round. That probably wouldn't happen, but actual results here aren't important. What's important is the possibility of a major upset like, say, Tulsa over Oklahoma.

If you are using the "Quarterfinal losers go to BCS bowl" rule, the Round One losers and all other bowl-eligible teams would have found out their bowl fates on December 7.


Here are the quarterfinal games, which would have been held on December 13.

8 Texas Tech at 1 Alabama
5 USC at 4 Florida
6 Utah at 3 Texas
7 Penn State at 2 Oklahoma

Again pretending that all home teams won, that would have resulted in semifinal match-ups of Alabama-Florida (in, say, the Orange Bowl) and Oklahoma-Texas (Fiesta). Meanwhile, the losers could fill the BCS bowls if that rule were to be implemented. USC and Penn State would have gone to the Rose Bowl, and Utah and Texas Tech would have gone to the Sugar.


While other bowls were taking place as normal, the semifinals could have taken place as they currently do, likely on the evenings of either December 31, January 1, or January 2.


The finals would then have taken place on January 8, 2009, and we might have even had the same matchup.


While there is certainly no true guarantee that a playoff will ever be implemented, the long-term odds are very good. While there are no truly perfect playoff ideas, this one would get the closest to assuaging the most worries. Bowls would not be impacted, traditions would go untouched, and the benefits of this 16-team idea would end up being a) better rewards for the "little guys" of Division I, b) more potentially classic, high-impact games (like, in the above example, a USC-Florida quarterfinal match-up in mid-December), and of course, c) a more clear, true national champion. A Plus-One addresses some worries but probably wouldn't help the little guy very much. An 8-team tournament would, in some seasons, shape up pretty well, but in some season, eight would be too many, in others not enough. A 16-team affair would set rigid rules for who qualifies, offer everybody a seat at the table, and in the end, give you the closest thing possible to a perfect playoff.

Posted by: Bill Connelly on 02 Jul 2009

131 comments, Last at 12 Dec 2010, 8:55pm by Mikey Benny


by Kevin Eleven :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 12:37pm

1. The classic Florida vs Alabama SEC title match just vanished.

2. The classic Texas v Texas Tech game from 11/1 just became meaningless.

3. Everyone knows that nine out of then years, the MAC, WAC, CUSA, and Sun Belt champs wouldn't finish as high as fifth in a realconference, which is why they're in those crappy, makeshift conferences in the first place. No way those teams should be comprising 25% of the field. This isn't like basketball where 65 teams- basically everyone- gets in, so one should be judicious about who gets in.

I'm against a playoff, as it takes away from the regular season. Does anyone watch regular season college basketball anymore? Are there any meaningful regular season games? We all know the answer is a resounding NO. Do we want football to turn into that, and have our fall Saturdays ruined?

Having said that, if there HAD TO be a playoff, I'd say 16 teams. Conference champions in a with at least one team from the conference that finishes in the BCS Top 25 gets in. Everyone else is an at-large.

by ChuckC (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 12:57pm

Real fans still watch regular season games. The reason the regular season means less in college basketball is because teams play 30-35 games, not because there's a playoff at the end. A couple games out of 35 isn't going to ruin a season like 1 out of 11 will.

by Flounder :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 1:36pm

I definitely agree. I watch plenty of college basketball, and most of the MSU games. I only watch a handful of college football games. Who watches the BCS now anyways? As was stated near the top of the article, sagging TV ratings is what will ultimately make a playoff happen.

by ChrisH :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 2:18pm

1. The classic Florida vs Alabama SEC title match just vanished.

Now it's become a classic semi-final game where the winner makes the national title game, EXACTLY like it was as the SEC Title Game.

Conference champions in a with at least one team from the conference that finishes in the BCS Top 25 gets in.

Except now that you can't use the AP Top 25 for this possibly, and the Coaches Poll refuses to allow their ballots to be made public. If you were a Big 12 coach this past year, where your league has good teams and will get more in if the other conferences aren't in the Top 25, wouldn't they have incentive to not vote for those teams?

Also, if you're in the Pac 10 and know you're only getting 1 team in most likely, don't you vote those other conferences up really high in your poll so that the Big 12 doesn't get those stronger teams in, and you get weaker teams to play possibly. While I'd love to eliminate the polls entirely for picking teams for a tournament, if you're going to use them, at least they should do it in ways that coaches don't have huge incentive to vote funny in the polls.

Sometimes I like the idea of a tournament, sometimes I like the season as it is right now. I don't think some of these points are really bad things, though.

by DrewTS (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 2:52pm

"I'm against a playoff, as it takes away from the regular season. Does anyone watch regular season college basketball anymore?"

Substitute "college basketball" with "NFL", and you'll see the hole in this argument. And yes, college basketball does quite well also.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 4:58pm

If college football is as history and tradition laden as they say, and if that matchup is as classic as you say, that game could never be meaningless. It's like saying: "Mike Shanahan will probably be playing reserves in his week 17 matchup against the Raiders, because, you know, the game doesn't matter." It just wont happen.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Sat, 07/04/2009 - 1:00pm

2. The classic Texas v Texas Tech game from 11/1 just became meaningless.

Nonsense. In fact, it would have been somewhat more meaningful than it was in reality (where it created a division tie won by neither Texas nor Texas Tech, instead of being the marquee win that got the Red Raiders into the playoffs). If Texas Tech had lost, they wouldn't have been among the top 5 teams that didn't win their conference, and so would have failed to make the playoffs.

3. ... No way those teams should be comprising 25% of the field. This isn't like basketball where 65 teams- basically everyone- gets in, so one should be judicious about who gets in.

348 teams play division I men's basketball. The 65-team tournament puts ~18.7% of them in the playoffs. 120 teams play disivion I-A/FBS football. A 16-team playoff puts ~13.3% of them in the playoffs. That's not a lot more selective (a 22-team playoff would be the closest you could get to equally selective).

My new CuseFanInSoCal blog

by deep64blue :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 12:51pm


by deep64blue :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 12:51pm

Sorry this idea is so rubbish it shouldn't be on a site like this. The Conferences all get an auto bid - fine lets watch all the big conferences split in two so they get more people in.

You can have a playoff or you can can have bowls - take your pick, it's one or the other (*), common sense and the people running the system know that.

* If you count a plus-one as a play-off then that would keep both, for that reason it's the most likely solution. Play the regular season, play the traditional bowls then pick the top two to play for the National Championship.

by The Ninjalectual :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 6:02pm

A "plus one" college football playoff is about as much change as the *average* college football booster will be able to accept... what old southern man with 25 year vintage season tickets to Auburn is going to embrace a brand new system?

"Just look at that pumpkin."
-John Madden, looking at the moon.

by Dennis :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 1:00pm

I like it for the most part. Getting rid of the conference championship games would never fly, though. There's too much money at stake. So you'd have to push back the start of the playoffs to account for those.

To the argument that it renders the regular season meaningless, no it doesn't. Most teams would still have to win their conference to get in. And it would encourage more non-conference matchups of good teams because a loss wouldn't torpedo their national championship chances since it would have no bearing on winning a conference.

As for pointing to how specific regular-season games would have been meaningless because both teams would make the playoffs anyway, you're also adding 15 games that are guaranteed to be meaningful.

And as for saying that the non-BCS conferences shouldn't get automatic bids, then kick them out of the FBS. I've said it many times, if you aren't going to treat every team and every conference equally, then kick them out and end the hypocrisy.

by S :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 1:01pm

It's like you read my mind.

On tweek: I'd have the season start a week earlier and permit the Conference Championship games to happen Thanksgiving weekend (as well as the Army-Navy game, since, technically, they'd be eligible too). Also, there would need to be some system to account for other weather-related make-up dates (i.e. a hurricane forces Miami to cancel a game in September, they would need to find a common date to make-up that game by Thanksgiving).

Otherwise, I'd say it's indeed near-perfect.

by Mike Dunham (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 2:27pm

I was thinking something very similar - this is the kind of system I have personally advocated to my friends, etc. for years. The difference is my tweak would be to push your hypothetical playoff back a week and keep the conference championships. Rivalry games on Thanksgiving are just too good to screw with.

Personally, I would also force all teams who want a shot at the playoffs to join a conference; i.e., no "independent" school would ever be allowed to compete in the playoffs without having to run a conference gauntlet during the regular season (this means you, Notre Dame). Anyone who buys the whole "the BCS makes the regular season games matter" argument should agree with me on this.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 4:47pm

Except Notre Dame typically plays a schedule way, way harder than most teams in the non-BCS conferences, and easily equal to that of several BCS teams depending on the conference strength.

Conferences aren't good if they suck.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 1:02pm

"Is there a playoff out there that could accommodate these concerns and still deliver the playoff that proponents want to see? Absolutely. It is a 16-team tournament that a) includes every conference champion and five at-large bids (thereby giving everybody a seat at the table)"

I'm sorry. The playoff that proponents want to see includes Troy as a participant?

College football is different because college football is the worst connected sport in all of the United States. By a long shot. Basketball is far, far better. Without a strongly-connected season, you will never be able to include the proper teams without including too many undeserving ones.

A playoff isn't the answer. It won't stop any of the "national champion" talk - not when Alabama gets to play Troy and Utah has to face Ohio State. To claim that that gives Utah a "seat at the table" is like pointing to the kiddie table in the corner of the room and saying "hey, you've got a seat."

You have to fix the scheduling first. Period. Until you do that, a playoff won't fix anything.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 1:19pm

Incidentally, I wrote a lengthy story about this in the article linked in my name that include suggestions to improve college football.

I don't suggest a playoff format, because I strongly feel the real reason people are clamoring for a playoff isn't because they want a playoff - it's because the regular season has been getting worse for years now (due to economics), and so people are really clamoring for "better football games," and assuming a playoff is the only way to get them.

But even if they are clamoring for a playoff, you can't get a playoff that "makes sense" without fixing scheduling first. The ridiculously poor connectivity between teams has got to go. Last year, for instance, I think Penn State - a top 10 team - was only 4th-order connected to Alabama - another top-10 team. There's just no way to compare teams that distantly connected.

by Dennis :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 4:08pm

How is including Troy any worse than some 13-17 basketball team getting a bid to the NCAA tourney because they happened to get hot and win their conference tourney? Again, if you're not going to let every conference winner in, then kick them out of the FBS.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 4:44pm

How is including Troy any worse than some 13-17 basketball team getting a bid to the NCAA tourney because they happened to get hot and win their conference tourney?

Because that wouldn't happen every year, and the Sun Belt champion getting in would.

Again, if you're not going to let every conference winner in, then kick them out of the FBS.

No argument, but economically you can't do it. The major BCS teams require too much income - that needs to be fixed first. They couldn't survive with 6 home games and splitting the revenue on those games.

The problems in the FBS go way too deep for major changes. That's why I'm not saying a playoff is bad. What I'm saying is that a playoff won't change any of the problems people complain about, and I don't actually believe that most fans want a playoff as much as they want better games.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 4:49pm

I believe if you look at history, you'll find there are several conferences whose champions have never won an NCAA tournament game. In fact, most of the 14+ seeded teams would need a great deal of luck to beat the last-place team in the Big East or ACC and would lose by 20 points to most of the teams in the NIT. Pretty much no at-large team gets a seed below 12; the 13+ seeds are low-major conference champions or, very rarely, teams that make an unlikley run in their conference tournament.

My new CuseFanInSoCal blog

by Brian Fremeau :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 5:00pm

In order to have a college football playoff that replicates the NCAA basketball tournament in terms of participation, you'd have to have 24 teams (11 conference champs and 13 at-large). In basketball the distribution is 31 conference champs and 34 at-large, and the total number of teams (65) represents about 20% of the teams playing Division 1 basketball.

Of course, as Pat has mentioned, the regular season connectivity still pales and is the most-overlooked issue. And I agree with his thesis that people want better games more than they want a playoff.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 5:11pm

Of course, as Pat has mentioned, the regular season connectivity still pales and is the most-overlooked issue.

The scariest thing is that it's getting worse, and the main driver is economics. Without some other method of stabilizing the economies of university academic programs, they're going to keep trying to find cheaper and cheaper alternatives for home games, which means worse and worse connectivity. With the scheduling delays for football (i.e. you schedule games 5-6 years down the road) I really wonder if we won't start seeing some of the effects of the recession show up in really, really crap seasons in about 5 years.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 5:02pm

Except there's an obvious seeding bias there: of course the 14+ seeded teams aren't going to win an NCAA tournament game, because they play the top seeded teams. There are plenty of teams in the tournament that they could beat - heck, at the least, the other low-seeded teams.

Troy in a hypothetical FBS championship wouldn't have a chance against any of the other teams. Troy's best win last year was Florida Atlantic - they're the only team they beat that actually ended the year with a winning record.

March Madness is large enough that it's essentially guaranteed to include everyone who could conceivably win the tournament. A 16-team tourney that includes the non-BCS conference champs is guaranteed to leave off a team that could

In this case, most likely, Georgia would be the team that has the best case for being left out for no particularly good reason.

by Dennis :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 6:36pm

Troy led LSU by 21 points in the 4th quarter. To say they wouldn't have a chance against any of the teams flies in the face of the facts. I don't think they would win a playoff game, but they deserve the opportunity to try.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 6:50pm

I'm not sure if you got the memo - LSU was not a good team last year. They certainly wouldn't be in anyone's playoff tourney unless it was a 64-team field.

Saying that Troy was up by 21 points and still lost to an 8-5 team kinda stresses the point. Georgia would have a very legitimate point that Troy has absolutely no business being in a playoff when they're not.

And if your next argument is "well, then Georgia should leave the SEC and join the Sun Belt" - sure. Follow that thought through. The BCS conference teams "fan out" and the talent level equalizes between all the conferences.

Which means you now reduce the number of games played between the best teams in Division IA, worsening the overall useful connectivity. And worse, on the whole, the games get worse, because you have more "top-25 team vs. cream puff" games than you did before.

by Kevin Eleven :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 7:02pm

No one is denying Troy the opportunity to "try". Of course, it would help if they BEAT LSU as opposed to having a late lead, not gotten trampled by Oklahoma State, etc.

Seriously, was Troy more deserving of a theoretical playoff berth last year than Oklahoma State, a team that finished fourth in a six-team division? OSU beat the crap out of them- that really speaks volumes about letting the Sun Belt champion in ahead of a real team.

"Give the little guy a chance" is a wonderful slogan, and you'll sound like the world's sweetest guy while reciting it. However, I still prefer my slogan: "Give a playoff spot to those who deserve it the most".

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 7:17pm

It's funny, but I don't really get why fans care about conference champs at all for a playoff. Division IA conferences are economic - they bear no resemblance whatsoever to divisions/conferences in major league sports.

Pretty much the only playoff I really think would "work" would be an 8-team playoff, no automatic berths, all teams selected by committee. People will always complain about the committee, sure, but at least the system isn't an artificial system attempting to create a "fair" playoff that can't possibly exist. You'll leak in enough non-BCS teams that the non-BCS conferences would have a chance. Even a 4-team playoff would probably be enough most years.

And while people would complain about the committee a ton, no one would be complaining about the quality of the games.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 12:01pm

I expect in a sixteen team playoff with autobids, Buffalo would have been the #16 seed last year, not Troy. And there's no way I'd count them out against Tulsa, either. I hate to say it as a Big East guy, but they might well have had a slim chance against Cinci, too. Maybe even Virginia Tech.

So I don't see how including Troy over Oklahoma State or Georgia Tech or Georgia or BYU or Oregon is any worse than including low-major champs in March Madness in 2006 and 2007 that, quite frankly, the 2006 and 2007 Orange (among the 'first teams out' both years) would beat by 30 points every time they played.

Besides, the point of including all conference champions in the playoffs is so that every school (well, except the three indpendents, but there aren't enough of them to matter a whole lot) can go out and win their conference on the field, and that gets them a chance to play for the national championship, no matter what pollsters or computers or the selction committee thinks of their chances. Granted, they get to start their run on the road against someone like USC or Florida or Texas or Ohio State, so they probably won't make it out of the first round, but they deserve a chance.

And the point of having at-large bids, instead of inviting conference champs only, is that sometimes there are ties, there are some independents, and sometimes the #2 team in a conference is still a legit top-10-ish team.

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by Kevin Eleven :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 12:28pm

"So I don't see how including Troy over Oklahoma State or Georgia Tech or Georgia or BYU or Oregon is any worse than including low-major champs in March Madness in 2006 and 2007".

It isn't, and that's my point: I don't want football to turn into basketball, with it's fluke winners and undeserving participants in it's tournament.

With college football's current system there are no fluke winners. Every champion is undisputed and had earned it over the course of the entire season. I prefer to keep it that way.

by rk (not verified) :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 1:38pm

Every champion is undisputed? If that were true, this wouldn't be an issue.

by Kevin Eleven :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 3:44pm

Which one are you disputing?

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 1:07pm

"I expect in a sixteen team playoff with autobids, Buffalo would have been the #16 seed last year, not Troy."

Troy was the Sun Belt champion, and most people were talking about autoberths for conference champions.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 3:58pm

The Sun Belt champion is not automatically worse than the MAC champion (which was Buffalo last year). The Bulls had a worse record, on an easier schedule, than Troy.

Or the CUSA champ, for that matter. Or even the WAC champ, if Boise has a down year. The Sun Belt champ is almost certain to be worse than the MWC champ and the Big 6 champs, but sometimes (especially in the ACC and Big East -- sigh), not by enough that an upset is extremely unlikely.

My new CuseFanInSoCal blog

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 5:29pm

"The Bulls had a worse record, on an easier schedule, than Troy."

Not by any decent measure of schedule. Not Sagarin's, not Wolfe's, not Massey's, not Colley's. Maybe if you just averaged win/losses of opponents, but in a league as poorly connected as Division I, that's ludicrously unjustifiable.

"Or the CUSA champ, for that matter. Or even the WAC champ, if Boise has a down year"

What makes you think I'm singling out the Sun Belt? I wouldn't autoberth any of the non-BCS conferences, and if you really want to get rid of the "BCS conference favoritism is unfair!" just give it to the 6 conferences whose champions average the highest final ranking (poll+statistical) at the end of the year over the past 5 years.

Ideally I wouldn't have any champion autoberths, since they're stupid and unjustifiable, but fans seem to want it and I'm sure the conferences would require it since they each bring tons of money to the total pie.

But giving Troy - and Buffalo, for that matter - an autoberth simply because of a strange belief that being the conference champion of a crap conference is an accomplishment worthy of millions of dollars is flat-out bizarre.

by Mikey Benny :: Sun, 12/12/2010 - 8:55pm


Automatic berths guarantee that the best team in college football would have a chance to play itself into the playoffs and into the national championship, regardless of conference or preseason standings. THAT is the beauty of March Madness. Is that so hard to understand?

by Thok :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 5:39pm

Moreover, in a playoff scenario, Troy is likely to improve a lot, simply because they can offer recruits a chance to play in the playoffs. They could fairly quickly become a Gonzaga or Memphis like team that was nationally respected despite playing in a down conference (or barring that, a Davidson or George Mason or College of Charleston like perpetual participant who periodically got a big upset or two.)

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 8:46pm

"Troy is likely to improve a lot, simply because they can offer recruits a chance to play in the playoffs"

Why would they improve? They'd only improve if they pulled in recruits from better teams, and the better teams already have a chance to play in significant national profile games. Sun Belt games are barely on TV; even a player on a bad Big Ten team, like Indiana, is on nationally televised games multiple times a year. They'll still be at a serious disadvantage in terms of facilities and coaching/support staff.

Troy saying "hey, we might get to the playoffs and get pounded our first game" isn't going to sway any serious recruits away from teams in BCS conferences.

by cjfarls :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 1:10pm

Agree completely with Dennis... those complaining about the minor conference bids really have little data to back up their claims in any event. While the dregs of the minor conferences are uncompetitive, the top teams from minor conferences consistently are competitive with the major conference teams. Lop-sided conference vs. conference records are skewed by biased scheduling, where the top major conference teams routinely force the minor conference teams to play away games, and/or schedule against the weaker teams.

Now, I'm not saying the minor conference teams are ever likely to be the #1 seed or team... but to have a system where they never get a chance ignores the reality of teams like Boise St, etc. that have developed programs worthy of respect due to results on the field.

I've been a propoent of a "plus 1" system as the best of bad options, but I really like this proposal.

by Jim (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 1:16pm

This seems to be the best playoff system but this would make the game worse not better.

It would ruin the bowls.

This would actually be correct. The first big problem to the minor bowls is the gambling action will leave killing a huge chunk of the audience. Second, these games would be regulated to ESPNU if they are on TV at all, most bowls depend on the TV money to survive. Third a playoff changes a fans perception on what a bowl game is from a reward to a participation ribbon.

The playoff already exists. It's called March Madness. Why can't college football be different?

The physicality of the sport prevents football from having a large number of games. The teams in the championship game have played 6 (possibly but never going to happen 7) games in 3 weeks. The only way to have large playoff fields is to greatly expand the season or to kill the players. The latter is not going to happen and the first could is a huge risk. Using your December schedule there is a huge risk that the ratings are not going to be there. There will have to be either direct competition of their own product or against the NFL.

The little guys still probably wouldn't get a seat at the table.

Nor should it. I am sick of hearing about Utah. They played a schedule that was easier than all but 2 teams of the top 5 BCS conference last year. They barely won many of there games. They had a chance to play Texas but ran from the opportunity and their big bowl win was against a team that was playing for nothing with out there star player. If they want to play with the big boys actually take up the challenge. Boo Hoo Texas would not agree to play in Utah suck it up and be road warriors make a name for your program going into established powers and beating them and you will become a draw. Better yet try to join the Pac 10 or Big 12.

Now for the problems with your proposal.

1. There might not be an official cap on teams from a conference but there will be a defacto political cap. Also, the non-BCS schools just do not play the same game as the BCS schools. I know I am repeating myself but only 2 teams from the top 5 BCS schools played an easier slate than the hardest slate from the non BCS schools. Every team in the Big East would be competitive with the winner of the Sun Belt winner. The TV cameras covering the game cost more than the whole Troy athletic budget. More so these teams are rating killers no one will watch and half the stadium will be empty. Even Nebraska will not travel to a first round game like this.

2. Asking for that much travel from fans is asking for empty seats during this time of year. Even rich alum that could afford to go to each "bowl" playoff game are in a time crunch because of Christmas. Right now the bowls do great because most of them take place after Christmas when family obligations are much less and its vacation time.

3. Making the Rose bowl into a playoff game will still kill what makes the Rose bowl special. Stuff like the tonight show interview of the teams, the parade, etc. Now the players are in a one week lock down of having to win the game festivity be damned.

by S :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 1:35pm

"The first big problem to the minor bowls is the gambling action will leave killing a huge chunk of the audience. Second, these games would be regulated to ESPNU if they are on TV at all, most bowls depend on the TV money to survive."

Why? In this system, the second round would be December 13 (before most of these bowls start) and the semi-finals would be after New Year's (when just about all of them are done). How would this have any impact on these bowls?

"More so these teams are rating killers no one will watch and half the stadium will be empty."

Ohio State has no problem selling out when they play at home against MAC teams. Same with SEC and Big 12 schools against the Sun Belt. Why would these teams sell out games early in the season and then fail to sell them out when there is actually something to play for?

"Asking for that much travel from fans is asking for empty seats during this time of year.Even rich alum that could afford to go to each "bowl" playoff game are in a time crunch because of Christmas. Right now the bowls do great because most of them take place after Christmas when family obligations are much less and its vacation time."

The higher seeded team hosts the first and second round, their fans wouldn't need to travel any more than they would for a typical home game. Also, the NFL manages to sell out games throughout December. Wouldn't big time programs be able to do the same?

"Making the Rose bowl into a playoff game will still kill what makes the Rose bowl special. Stuff like the tonight show interview of the teams, the parade, etc. Now the players are in a one week lock down of having to win the game festivity be damned."

What impact would a playoff have on the Rose parade? It's not like the city of Pasadena would cancel it because now there's more at stake in the game. The Texas-USC title game was held at the Rose Bowl and I'm pretty sure the parade went off without a hitch. And if media access to the players is an issue, why can't the NCAA create a media day, similar to what the NFL does at the Super Bowl?

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 1:39pm

"Also, the NFL manages to sell out games throughout December. Wouldn't big time programs be able to do the same?"

1) College stadia are bigger than NFL stadia.
2) The NFL teams are not located 3+ hours from the nearest metropolitan area.

by S :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 1:46pm

Exactly, and yet the big time programs still draw more people on a per game basis than the NFL does. Why wouldn't people come to see a playoff?

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 1:51pm

Because they do it during a good time to travel to those locations. I do have to agree that having games at colleges in December isn't going to be as successful as you'd expect.

by S :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 2:00pm

But people travel from all over Wisconsin to see the Packers in December. Is it really that much different from traveling to Austin or Baton Rouge in December? I just don't understand your argument.

by Dennis :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 4:14pm

I agree with S. The games on campus will sell out. The problem with this proposal is having the semifinals an finals both at Bowl sites, because those are the ones that fans really have to travel for. For most people, making two big trips a week apart isn't feasible. So they'll either go to the semis and not be able to go the championship or skip the semis in the hopes of going to the final.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 4:27pm

The Packers are a bit of a special case - using them as attendance measurements would imply that any city in the US could support an NFL team. You don't get the same kind of fanaticism in other small markets, like Jacksonville, which only manages to sell out by shrinking the number of claimed available seats in the stadium.

The other problem with this format that hasn't been mentioned is you just forced the independents into conferences, which is fine - but it bloats the size of the conferences a little bit more, which reduces the overall connectivity of the league.

by Flounder :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 6:11pm

But you do get that level of fanaticism with... wait for it... college football teams! Green Bay is often compared to a college team, actually. The games would sell-out, and they would sell-out no problem.

by Dennis :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 6:38pm

There are only 3 independents left and 11 conferences. How is that going to "bloat" the conferences?

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 7:02pm

I did say "a little."

But it's not the degree of "bloating" that matters, it's the fact that big conferences are bad for connectivity, so taking an independent and making them a conference member is bad. The independents are a nice connecting bridge between the ACC and the Big Ten last year, for instance. I should've probably just said "removing independents hurts connectivity."

by Dennis :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 7:19pm

Wouldn't it be better for connectivity if the ACC and Big Ten just played each other instead of common opponents?

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 7:33pm

Then they wouldn't've played the other opponents they did. Independents always help connectivity because they're not required to play opponents with common opponents, whereas all conference members are required to play ~75% of their schedule against opponents who share ~75% of their opponents.

Plus, it's not just the Big 10-ACC: Notre Dame also linked the PAC-10 and the ACC, for instance. They also helped with Big 10/PAC-10, but those conferences are already well-connected.

The conference connections could definitely be improved, but even when that's done independents would still help. With the schedule format (3 or 4 out of conference games out of 12) there just aren't enough cross-conference games for good connectivity.

by S :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 9:17pm

You're absolutely right about the Green Bay-Jacksonville comparison. But the fact is you do get that kind of fanaticism in the college game. The biggest teams in the BCS conferences (i.e. the teams most likely to host playoff games) routinely draw 100,000+ fans for home games and still have waiting lists. Which brings me back again to my original question, what is so unique about college football that they'd be unable to sell tickets to a December playoff game when NFL teams, whose fans are experiencing the same travel/Christmas challenges as college fans, are able to do so?

Also, who said anything about forcing teams into conferences? Notre Dame, Army, and Navy could still qualify for an at-large birth. They'd be at a disadvantage in doing so, but those are the sacrifices these institutions would have to make in order to take advantage of being independent (i.e. more freedom in scheduling, non-shared TV revenue, etc.)

Also agreed that schedule connectivity is a problem, but it's a problem with no easy solutions. It goes to the heart of what's wrong with college football's archaic structure.

by Kevin Eleven :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 10:06pm

Way, way, WAAAAAAAY too much focus solely on attendance in these posts. While I'm certain the stadiums would remain full for the regular season if there were a playoff, TV ratings and overall focus on the product would dwindle.

Check out the national hype when it's time for USC vs Ohio State or Texas vs Oklahoma. Would there be anywhere near as much attention paid to those games if both teams were likely to make the playoffs regardless? Why would there be?

by Jim (not verified) :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 12:41am

"Why? In this system, the second round would be December 13 (before most of these bowls start) and the semi-finals would be after New Year's (when just about all of them are done). How would this have any impact on these bowls?"

On the TV end the broadcast networks will not air non-playoff bowl games and going from OTA to Cable kills ratings even for the NFL. So high rating games like the Citrus Bowl, Outback Bowl and Aloha bowl will instantly lose what half of their income if not more.

For the fans, it changes the mindset of what a bowl game means. As crazy as the number of bowl games there is it is still seen as a reward for a decent to great season. Playoffs change this mindset to one where the games are seen as participation prize making it much more optional.

"Ohio State has no problem selling out when they play at home against MAC teams. Same with SEC and Big 12 schools against the Sun Belt. Why would these teams sell out games early in the season and then fail to sell them out when there is actually something to play for?

The higher seeded team hosts the first and second round, their fans wouldn't need to travel any more than they would for a typical home game. Also, the NFL manages to sell out games throughout December. Wouldn't big time programs be able to do the same?"

I miss read the OP and thought all 4 rounds would be at bowl sites. So the games will still probably sell out. But, saying that you can't really compare the NFL to college as someone else already mentioned. NFL games for the most part are day trips for most fans involved where they live within a couple of hours from the stadium and drive to the game on the day of and go home the night of. College games though involve much more overnight travel where outside of students the drive is much longer and the number of people that stay overnight is high though in that most of these games will be played at empty campuses that increase that only increases the numbers. Giving up one day in early December for a football game is no big deal with college you are giving up a weekend. And asking for people to give up 2 weekends in December that is asking a lot.

On TV college underdogs are rating killers pure and simple. George Mason games had the lowest ratings when they went on their run, the non BCS teams have either been the worst or second worst rated game of their respected years slate even the all time classic Boise State game. But more important these schools for the most part do not travel.

"What impact would a playoff have on the Rose parade? It's not like the city of Pasadena would cancel it because now there's more at stake in the game. The Texas-USC title game was held at the Rose Bowl and I'm pretty sure the parade went off without a hitch. And if media access to the players is an issue, why can't the NCAA create a media day, similar to what the NFL does at the Super Bowl?"

The parade will still be held of course but the involvement of the participating schools would not be there. For years when the rose bowl is the final there is just not time for anything more than maybe one media day. No trips to Disneyland or Knottsberry farm or any of the other pure reward type actives for the players. Never mind that the teams most likely to get here have players that have been on the award circuit giving them approximately zero time to actually enjoy the holidays. And since they are not getting paid I am not impressed by well the NFL does it for an answer.

by Flounder :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 1:32pm

I would love love love to see this idea implemented. I haven't watched a BCS bowl for the last three years, because I find it so completely pointless. I would watch this.

by Kevin Eleven :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 2:01pm

In most seasons a Plus-One would be stupid. Let's take a look:

2008: Florida vs Utah would have been nice. Of course, if Utah were serious about being a National Championship contender, they shouldn't have scheduled Utah State and Weber State out of conference while playing in a weak MWC. But I digress- a plus-one would have been good last year. Of course, Texas Longhorn fans would scream that they were getting robbed, so there would still be controversy.

2007: Who does LSU have to play after the bowls, and why?

2006: Who does Florida have to play after the bowls, and why?

2005: The ultimate NO...who does Texas have to play after the bowls and why? Does anyone deserve the #2 spot after USC? Do we really want to see a USC vs Texas rematch?

2004: I could see Auburn getting a shot at USC, but why does USC have to beat both Oklahoma AND Auburn?

That's just five years, the next five give you similar results.

Conclusion: a Plus-One would create as many problems and controversies as it would solve.

by Dennis :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 4:17pm

If there was a plus-one, the bowl matchups would have been different because they would pair 1 vs 4 and 2 vs 3 instead of 1 vs 2. So of course a plus-one doesn't make sense based on the past matchups since they already had the 1 vs 2 games.

I don't like the plus-one idea because it leaves out too many teams.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 5:17pm

There are two variants of 'plus one' that get tossed around. A four-team mini-playoff, like you propose (which I think is better than the current system, though still has too few teams), and the 'pure plus one' (play the 'traditional' bowls, and then select the BCS title game participants after that).

I have serious issues with the 'pure plus one' format, because I think it would almost never be better than the current system. In 2008, it likely would have been just as difficult to pick title game participants after the bowls as before (assuming, as is likely, USC beats Penn State in the Rose, Utah beats Oklahoma in the Fiesta, Florida plays Texas in the Sugar, and Virginia Tech beats Cinci in the Orange), then does Utah or USC play the Florida/Texas winner in the BCS title game? Or does Utah play USC? And most years aren't any better; you usually end up with either the title game we actually got being extremely likely (because the two teams that played were really the best by a fair margin, and weren't going to meet in an earlier game) or more confusion.

A seeded plus one, on the other hand, would at least put two more teams in the mix, which is a small step in the right direction. Though it's very tough to say which of USC, Utah, or Texas should have been sitting at home (the final BCS rankings say USC, but I'd bet poll votes would have been different if the top 4 were heading to a playoff). Still, I think you need at least eight teams without autobids for conference champions (and 8 teams with autobids for the BCS 6 doesn't work; too often at least two BCS conference champs are outside the top 10 and not legit title contenders) or sixteen teams with autobids to have a good chance of catching every legit title contender every year.

My new CuseFanInSoCal blog

by Brian Fremeau :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 5:25pm

Agreed on the pitfalls of the "pure plus-one". There is no way a re-jiggered formula/vote/whatever that follows a set of bowls would be fraught with any less controversy than now. I think it would be worse, in fact.

And even though Utah stomped Alabama last year, if that game were to have happened in 2008 and three of Florida, Texas, Oklahoma and USC were all to have won their bowl games, which teams would be picked in the "pure plus-one"? Even if they were the only undefeated, I'm not sure Utah would finish better than 4th. If the "pure plus-one" was in place in 2007 and Hawaii knocked off Georgia, would Hawaii have been picked over even 2-loss LSU?

by Kevin Eleven :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 6:03pm

There is a difference between a four team playoff and a Plus-one. I would be more receptive to a four-team playoff than either a plus-one or a sixteen team format BUT...

***Again, a four-team playoff would create controversy. For example last year Florida and Oklahoma get in. That leaves two of the following out: Utah, Texas, Alabama, or Boise State. Someone would be very unhappy.

That's just one example. The only way everyone (in theory) could be satisfied would be to dilute the regular season and start letting too many teams in, and I'm against that. Having the two best teams play for the National Championship after the rebular season has been played is, in my opinion, the best way to do things.

by tuluse :: Mon, 07/06/2009 - 4:40pm

2006: Who does Florida have to play after the bowls, and why?
2006, Boise State. They're undefeated with a top 5 ranking.

2004: I could see Auburn getting a shot at USC, but why does USC have to beat both Oklahoma AND Auburn?
Because if you want to be the champion you have to beat all contenders?

by horn (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 2:03pm

Don't like it at all, you've eliminated 2 regular season/conf title games on the small possibility Utah or Troy is actually worthy this year. Who cares. If they are that good they will be ranked in the top 2-5 by the Pollsters and Computers.

If the 'little guys' want more respect they should do what Miami did in the late 70s and 80s thru today to earn it - play Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere. Road games at Mich, ND, PSU, FSU, Florida, Oklahoma, Mich St, Arizona, Washington, ad infinitum. Playing the Sacto States of the world OOC doesn't impress me in your 12-0 season, sorry, and if it impresses anyone then they are simply ignorant/moronic.

The regular season is the playoff. Just because some years the Nat'l Champ loses a game [or much more rarely, 2 games] is no different than having an 8 or 10-loss CBB Champion.

And good luck in your FantasyWorld of getting the Rose Bowl to agree to not be able to host any of the BCS playoff games in a given year, AND not be able to host the P10/B10 winners either. As long as you're wishing why not ask for referees with 100% accuracy and coaches who make their players go to class? And learn!

by DrewTS (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 3:19pm

"If they are that good they will be ranked in the top 2-5 by the Pollsters and Computers."

I agree in principle, but in practice, the pollsters tend to just go with the crowds. The reality is that many teams (like Utah last year) are barred from the championship game before the season even starts. Utah can make a name for themselves over time, and I would even say they've begun to do that. But that takes like a decade before people gradually start to take a non-BCS team seriously. Maybe the 2015 Utes will get some benefit from what the 2008 Utes did, but that hardly seems fair in the here-and-now.

I've gradually come to hold the same opinion as some others above. If D1 is going to be broken up into FBS-Actually-has-a-chance-to-win-a-title and FBS-we'll-rank-them-just-to-spice-things-up-but-never-in-the-top-5; then call things what they are and stop the farse. A sports league is not set up fairly if each of its member teams doesn't have an equal chance (on paper) to win a title.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 4:20pm

If D1 is going to be broken up into FBS-Actually-has-a-chance-to-win-a-title and FBS-we'll-rank-them-just-to-spice-things-up-but-never-in-the-top-5; then call things what they are and stop the farse.

There are better reasons to break up the FBS than just "stop the farse". FBS is just too big for a sport with so few games. Decent connectivity would require throwing out the league structure and carefully and perfectly planning every team's games. That's just not practical.

Incidentally, the reason why non-BCS teams don't get ranked in the top 5 except once in a blue moon is the same problem. Non-BCS schools's schedules are really, really bad. People complain when a Big Ten team plays two teams from the MAC - the MAC champion plays a lot more than that!

The problem's all connectivity. A league of around 50 or so would actually be tractable in 12 games. Still not ideal: an ideal league size for N games is around (N/2)^2 but paring down FBS to 36 teams seems a bit impractical.

by Dennis :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 4:30pm

Of course there are 125 teams in the FCS and their playoff system seems to work great.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 4:36pm

1) Are you sure? Somehow I think if the FCS had nearly the same number of fans that the FBS did, there'd be an equal amount of complaining. The FCS fanbase is probably less than 1% of the FBS fanbase - and guess what? The *bad* teams in the FCS probably have a fanbase that's a tiny, tiny fraction of an FBS team. In other words: somehow I doubt the "have-nots" in the FCS can yell loud enough for anyone to care.

2) The FCS doesn't have the economic issues that the FBS has. As a result, they end up with far, far better connectivity than the FBS does. You *can* get decent connectivity with large teams: you can get major-league connectivity with (N-1)^2 teams, but to do that you have to entirely abandon any division structure. Small divisions are better.

by Dennis :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 4:26pm

Exactly. It's already been proven that teams like Utah and Boise State can go undefeated and still won't crack the top 5.

In a truly fair system, every team would start the season on equal footing with the same chance to win a championship. That is obviously not the case now - there are 60 teams that have zero chance to win the championship before anyone steps on the field. So either make it a fair system, or split up the FBS.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 4:38pm

Check your facts. Boise State, 2006, Utah, 2004. Both finished in the Top 5 of the AP Poll, and if the BCS put out final standings they probably would've been higher in both.

Utah and Boise State don't get ranked high because they play all the creampuffs that people criticize BCS teams for, except they play twice the number of games against them.

by Dennis :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 7:12pm

Check your facts. They didn't crack the top 5 until after they won their bowl games. Utah was 6 and Boise State was 9 at the end their respective regular seasons.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 7:19pm

Thus implying that the problem is Utah/Boise State's scheduling, and not anything else. Had they scheduled the bowl game team for a game in the regular season, they would've been Top 5.

by thestar5 :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 8:51pm

Which gets them what exactly? Who cares where you're ranked if your not in the Top 2? What does winning the "Orange Bowl" get you? Nothing. Any sport where half the teams have zero chance of winning a championship is a joke. The current system is preposterous, 95% of the teams' seasons are meaningless by the time the season is halfway over.

by Kevin Eleven :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 9:59pm

Real college football fans care about where their team is ranked at the end, what bowl they played in, and whether or not they won.

I don't expect a non-fan to understand that.

While you say 95% of the field being eliminated from a shot at the championship at mid-season is bad, I say having a team finish 8 - 8 and still be in a position to win the Super Bowl is worse.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 10:29pm

"What does winning the "Orange Bowl" get you?"

You mean besides the giant trophy and all the T-shirts that say "Orange Bowl Champions"?

You do realize this is a sport where fans go crazy when their team wins a goofy trophy for winning a single game, right?

by Jim (not verified) :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 1:20am

Utah had a chance this year but they where the ones that backed out of playing Texas. If they played and beat Texas there is little doubt they would have been ranked in the top 3 in the human polls and either 1 or 2 in the computer polls which probably would have been enough to get them in. It was there misfortune that they played Michigan in a historically down year and barely beat them. So even this win in most years would have been good enough to vault them into the top 5 of the BCS. If Troy for example where ever to go undefeated they would be ranked in the top 4 or 5 since they play 1 or 2 power teams on the road just about every year.

Another recent example is the 2007 USF Bulls. They where ranked number 2 in the BCS for 2 weeks despite starting the season at number 34. They go undefeated or stay at one loss they are playing for the national championship. But, than this is a program much like Miami and Florida State that has worked for their respect and not cried for it playing on the road and moving up to tougher competition at every chance and asking for games against Florida. Maybe they never get to 2 in a non fluky season but they put themselves in a position to be respected when the opportunity presented itself.

The effects of early season polling on the top 2 teams is greatly exaggerated at least when it comes to undefeated teams. If you play in a BCS conference and go undefeated it is the rare occurrence (Auburn)that a undefeated team gets "screwed" but that is just the fluke just like this year in the NFL a team with an 8-8 record made the playoff while a team fresh off a 18-1 year and with a 12-4 record stays home.

by Scott P. (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 2:20pm

So there are no conference championship games, but conference champions get an automatic bid. Does not compute.

by S :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 2:28pm

You do it old school, best record gets in; like how the Ivy League determines its NCAA representative.

by Kevin Eleven :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 2:08am

Old school, my ass. You name the decade, I'll name a team from it that didn't play for a National Title while being undefeated because they played in a chump conference.

by DrewTS (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 3:02pm

That's how the Big Ten and Pac 10 determine their champions. Hell, that's how the NFL determined its champion for a while.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 4:05pm

No, not really. The Big Ten and the PAC-10 don't have conference champion tiebreakers. They have tiebreakers to go to a BCS bowl.

The difference is important, because the BCS bowl is just about money and prestige - it has nothing to do with an opportunity for bigger and better awards, since the BCSCG candidates are selected in a completely separate manner.

You can't really justify "old school" champions feeding into a playoff system when they were never intended to do so. The tiebreakers for Big Ten/PAC-10 are "team that hasn't been to a Rose Bowl recently," after all.

And ad-hoc tiebreakers kinda suck with systems that are as poorly connected as college football. Take Penn State and Ohio State, and assume Ohio State beat USC, so that the two teams ended with exactly the same record. You can say "Penn State beat Ohio State, so they get in," but you can also say "Ohio State lost to a better team than Penn State did, so they get in." Logically both tiebreakers are defensible, and even though the former is more "familiar" to sports fans, the latter is probably more mathematically justifiable.

Bottom line: not enough regular season games. Eliminating regular season games = bad.

by Scott de B. :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 8:19pm

So both Oklahoma and Missouri are 12-0 (or 11-1, or 10-2, etc.) They didn't play each other. Who wins conference championship?

Or, what if Oklahoma is 10-2 and is ranked #9. They beat Missouri 33-10. Missouri is 11-1 and ranked #11. You send Missouri?

by Roscoe :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 9:17pm

I agree, it doesn't make sense to lose the conference championships. In the PAC 10 you don't need the game, because the teams all play each other. But in the SEC, if the West and East champions didn't play each other, how can you send one to the championship and leave the other home?

I also think the 16 team format requires too many games. If you put the conference championships back in, you have the final winner having to play 17 games. That is just too many at this level.

If it was up to me, I would scrap the BCS, go back to the pure bowl system and let the sportswriters argue about who is number one. However, if you are going to have a playoff, I would make it 8 teams. The six major conferences all send a champion, and the other two seats go to the most highly ranked champions of the smaller conferences.

The at large seats should be eliminated. If you can't win your conference you have no business playing for a national championship (which puts more emphasis on the regular season). Also, it doesn't make sense to give an automatic berth to the smaller conferences. Most of the time they have no business being at the dance.

BTW, I agree strongly with Pat. The regular season seems to be getting worse and worse. I attribute a lot of this to the BCS; teams seem to be afraid to schedule tough out-of-conference games because one loss could knock them out of the BCS race.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 10:26pm

"BTW, I agree strongly with Pat. The regular season seems to be getting worse and worse. I attribute a lot of this to the BCS; teams seem to be afraid to schedule tough out-of-conference games because one loss could knock them out of the BCS race."

Never attribute to maliciousness what can be explained simpler: the worse scheduling is probably due to the fact that football is being squeezed for every penny, and finding schools that'll take a cheap payout are getting fewer and fewer. ADs at universities have pretty much said this, word for word. It'll be interesting to see what happens in the next few years as the recession makes athletic budgets tighter.

by Bill Connelly :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 3:05pm

Yeah, I think the only thing that's going to turn around the scheduling problem is when playing the big-time teams gets them more money. I know ESPN has begun basically offering BCS teams money to agree to play each other...I think you'll begin to see that happen more and more. As soon as the $$$ benefit of playing the big teams makes teams $1 more than beating the pud teams (and getting closer to bowl eligibility or a big win total), you'll see them start taking the plunge more.

by Jim (not verified) :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 5:17pm

I pretty much agree with you but I think there might be one other idea that could help create better OOC match-ups. Give bonus points to teams that play hard OOC and take away BCS points for playing extremely easy OOC. This bonus would not be based on the current years schedule either as that should be accounted for by the voters and computers. I would suggest this bonus be based on say 35 percent 3 year old record, 25 percent each 2 and 4 year old records and 15 percent 1 year out. I know that these are whole new teams but in college programs are usually good for a long time and scheduling USC for the 2012 season you should expect them to be a good team. So if USC does suck that year you at least tried to play a legit team. At the same time there will be a negative hit to your bonus for playing D2 teams at home and zero score for playing D2 on the road (if that where every actually to happen). There should also be penalties if you break agreements to play better teams (with of course exceptions being made for what ever agreed upon reasons). There can of course be other exceptions from the formula based either on long time or regional reveries.

I think a system like this would all but require the perennial powers to play at least one or two legit OOC teams a year. Years with 3 or 4 teams competing for either 1 or 2 of the championship this bonus would make the big difference.

by Bill Connelly :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 5:28pm

Strength of schedule is already taken into account with the computer rankings. Give the computers more weight instead of the human polls, and you get more weight for strength of schedule. Of course, this will never happen. When the computer polls disagree with the humans, the humans raise a stink and the computers end up with less weight in the BCS formula. At least that's what happened last time. Insane, and completely self-defeating, but true.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 6:12pm

The problem is that the disagreement that caused the heavy weighting of humans over computers was completely justified by the results on the field leading up to that. Computers lifted Nebraska ahead of a Colorado team that had just beat them and a one-loss Oregon team that was #2 in both polls (and Oregon went on to beat Colorado in the Fiesta Bowl), and Miami won one of the more one-sided BCS title games (though it's possible 2001 Miami would have done that to anyone). Computers lifted 2003 Oklahoma into the BCS title game despite being ranked #3 in both polls (USC was #1 in both polls); Oklahoma lost the BCS title game, while USC beat #4 Michigan by two touchdowns and created the only split title in the BCS era.

I wish the computers were more accurate than humans, but at least for the very top teams, with the rankings used by the BCS when the computers counted for more than the polls, it ain't so.

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by Bill Connelly :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 8:30pm

I will go to my death screaming "COLORADO HAD LOST TWO GAMES AND LOST TO FRESNO STATE TO START THE SEASON." There was NO way Colorado should have made the title game just because they beat NU. Yes, Nebraska got drubbed in Boulder. But from beginning to end, they were the second-best, second-most proven team in the country that year. (And I'm a Missouri fan--I'm not saying this because I'm even remotely biased in NU's favor. I can't stand them most of the time.)

What the computers do that I love is, they take the whole season into account. This isn't college basketball--getting hot late like Colorado did that year shouldn't mean a whole lot when very few teams with more than one loss (sans playoff) will have even the smallest of chances of making the national title game. In fact, only LSU has ever played for the title with two losses. So for all intents and purposes, all teams deserving of title game consideration were hot for 90% of the season.

Now, you could certainly make the case that Oregon got screwed. Their only loss was 49-42 to a 9-3 Stanford team. Granted, their only truly impressive win was over 10-2 Washington State, but Nebraska's only great win was over Oklahoma. Either way, Oregon had a case, but Colorado VERY MUCH did not. And yes, Nebraska got crushed, but the odds are very good that Oregon or Colorado would have done the same. That Miami team was ridiculous.

And as for 2003...well...Oklahoma's loss came to an 11-win Kansas State team. USC lost to 8-6 California, and LSU lost at home to 8-5 Florida. OU lost to the best team, and...well, quite honestly, they lost by seven points in LSU's backyard with their QB playing with a broken hand and foot. They acquitted themselves relatively well in the end. In hindsight we can say that LSU and USC were the best teams, but at the time all three teams had a case*.

* I realize that both 2001 NU and 2003 OU lost in their conference title games, and that was part of the outcry against them, but a) as a personal preference I've just never really cared about the time of year in which the loss occurred, and b) that's unfair to teams whose conference have title games (USC didn't have the opportunity to lose in a conference title game, right?).

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 10:13pm

It's true that the computer-aided Nebraska and Oklahoma teams may have had a case, but what it comes down to is that when they played in the BCS title game, they lost (the former in failure of epic proportions, the latter in a display of offensive ineptitude that today looks shockingly out of character for a Big 12 team), and the teams passed over won bowl games against top-5 opposition. You have to decide somehow between teams with a similar resume, and there's no denying that the teams the humans liked did better.

My new CuseFanInSoCal blog

by Bill Connelly :: Sat, 07/04/2009 - 12:43am

To an extent, yes. Colorado did get smoked by Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl that year...

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Sat, 07/04/2009 - 1:40am


That's not actually what happened. I don't know why that story gets spread around (I'll have to dig and find the source on this, but it may take a while).

What actually happened is that the BCS went to a bunch of statisticians, people in the sport, etc. and gathered a bunch of ideas. In fact, most of the reforms were suggested by statisticians for very valid mathematical reasons. The version of the BCS early in the decade (pre-2003, I think) was actually a complete disaster: a separately-included SoS meant you double-counted, since SoS is the basis of a non-margin of victory statistical ranking, and the heavy weighting of the statistical component severely overstresses how imprecise each ranking is.

The most recent change was just to remove margin-of-victory from the statistical rankings. I know a lot of people think this was an example of the BCS hurting the system because margin-of-victory makes things "more accurate," but that's not actually the case at all. You can't use margin-of-victory to determine participants in a championship game, because margin-of-victory is only useful in situations with very large margins (20+), which is exactly when you don't need margin-of-victory because it was probably between a good and a bad team. In the vast majority of games where you care, the score will be too close to measure degree of victory in any sane manner. Basically: margin-of-victory works when you measure the league as a whole. It doesn't really work when you're trying to figure out if a 10-7 victory is better than a 13-7 victory.

Without margin-of-victory (which you have to exclude, see above) the statistical rankings just aren't that precise. Having the rankings be half as important as the human polls is probably about right.

(The other amusing thing to realize is that the statistical polls are typically tuned to match the human polls, historically - college football is too disconnected to rigidly constrain rankings just by results. So the commonly-held belief that they're "independent" isn't really true - they're independent of current-year biases, but they frequently have the same long-term biases as human polls.)

by Brian Fremeau :: Sat, 07/04/2009 - 1:57am

The relative weight of the computer and human portion of the BCS formula is one part of the debate, but I think a bigger "problem" is that there are only 6 computers that are included (and the top and bottom rankings are discarded, leaving only four). Regardless of where anyone stands on the relative weight of the computer portion of the BCS formula, I think the system would benefit from a much larger sample of computer systems.

I think the Massey Consensus Ratings are a good example.

Imagine if there were only four coaches that voted ...

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Sat, 07/04/2009 - 6:04am

First, I'll renew my push for calling them statistical rankings. They have nothing to do with computers. I could generate ELO ratings for college football using a notepad and a few hours (OK, maybe more than that, but the basis for the rankings should be statistical).

Why would more be better? Of the 6 present, 1 is completely bat$#!+ insane (Billingsley), 1 I don't have a lot of information about (Anderson-Hester). Billingsley should be dropped in any rational discussion, and that should stress the point: more rankings are only good if they make sense.

The thing is, with only win/loss and site information available, there aren't that many "different" ways to rate teams that are still statistically valid.

1) Different max/min methods (max likelihood vs. chi squared) etc., and what the specific form of the logistic function looks like (i.e. how likely are upsets)
2) How/if HFA is handled
3) How unbeaten teams are handled
4) How Division IAA teams are handled

Note that of the remaining 4, Wolfe does something that's not on this list, but that's because it's not valid: he weights games, stressing the most recent games (like weighted DVOA). But for a ranking system that's intended to promote teams into a playoff, that's violently wrong. Because of college football's season (OOC games first) it also acts to fracture the league (Wolfe even *admits* that it makes the predictions *worse*, but he "feels strongly" about it).

If the available statistical rankings reasonably span all reasonable possibilities in that list, that's enough.

It's also absolutely necessary for the BCS to spell out what they actually want from the statistical rankings: a relative ranking of the season of each team. That's the only criterion that makes sense.

Imagine if there were only four coaches that voted ...

Yes, but imagine if in the Harris poll, there were 4 good pollsters and 100 bad ones. In that case trimming down the 100 would make things better. (Wait... isn't that the current Harris poll?)

by Brian Fremeau :: Sat, 07/04/2009 - 9:48am

Agree on Billingsley.

"It's also absolutely necessary for the BCS to spell out what they actually want from the statistical rankings: a relative ranking of the season of each team. That's the only criterion that makes sense."

Is it just as necessary for the BCS to spell out to voters what they actually want from their votes as well? Or is it valid that the voters are trusted to bring their own perspective on the logic of their poll to the table?

One other important thing that statistical rankings can do that the BCS formula dismisses is not just rank teams but rate them. The strength of the statistical system's output is that it can say the number one team is way stronger than the number two team, for instance. That the gap between No. 3 and No. 4 is enormous compared to that between No. 2 and No. 3. But by using the numerical rank in the BCS formula instead of the more nuanced rating, this data is lost.

Theoretically, voters could be asked to assess this type of nuance as well, but I think they would struggle mightily to do so.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Sat, 07/04/2009 - 10:06pm

Is it just as necessary for the BCS to spell out to voters what they actually want from their votes as well? Or is it valid that the voters are trusted to bring their own perspective on the logic of their poll to the table?

I've actually waffled back and forth on this a while, and really, I'm not sure. They probably should - but there is some validity to just letting the humans rank them "however they want," because in reality, you're trying to mimic a fan's ranking, and how a fan would rank teams to get into the NC probably varies just as much.

Mainly I just think the vetting needs to be improved on the human polls: coaches' ballots should be excluded if their ballots show a significant bias against the consensus over a multi-year period for any one school, and the Harris poll needs to substantially increase in size to help wash out incompetence.

"The strength of the statistical system's output is that it can say the number one team is way stronger than the number two team, for instance. That the gap between No. 3 and No. 4 is enormous compared to that between No. 2 and No. 3. But by using the numerical rank in the BCS formula instead of the more nuanced rating, this data is lost."

It's not actually that easy. The scales aren't the same between statistical rankings: matching them could be quite difficult, since you'd have to define "reference performances" and define the ranking of said reference performances. There's no reason that the scales have to even be linearly related: one could range from +infinity to -infinity, and the other can range from 0 to 1.

You'll note that in Massey's Consensus Ratings, he uses ordinal rankings to compare the teams as well.

I think you could do it, though, it'd just take a lot of work. You could do something like ask each poll to provide a ranking based on the probability a team is located at a certain rank times the rank value, for instance. I'm not sure that would translate well for all polls, and it doesn't allow for all kinds of distance gaps, but it's better than nothing.

by Crosseyed and Painless (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 3:08pm

If you don't want a playoff, fine. There are good reasons against one. However, "the regular season is the playoffs" isn't one of them. Ask USC fans the last couple of years.

by Kevin Eleven :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 2:12am

The regular season IS the playoffs. USC had control of their destiny, and they blew it when they lost to Oregon State. From there it comes down to strength of schedule, where Florida and Oklahoma were more impressive with one loss.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 4:59pm

The major problem with this plan is eliminating conference championship games and leaving 12-team conferences around. I'd prefer to blow all the conferences up and rest them in a logical, evenly-sized arrangement (I've put together variants with 8-team, 10-team, and 12-team conferences), but if you just want everyone at 10 teams or less so you can reasonably play a round-robin within a 12-game schedule, here's my simple plan...

1. The schools that play Big East football split off into a new conference (referred to as the Big East for the rest of this post).
2. Penn State leaves the Big Ten for the Big East, getting the Big Ten down to, hey, 10 schools.
3. BC leaves the ACC to return to the Big East.
4. Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Miami, and South Florida form a new conference.
5. The Big 12 splits on North/South lines.
6. The Big 12 North adds Boise State, Utah, and BYU.
7. The Big 12 South adds TCU and Tulsa.

That gives you
ACC - 8 teams (could add ECU for 9)
Big 10 - 10 teams
Big 12 North - 9 teams
Big 12 South - 8 teams (could add UTEP for 9)
Big East - 9 teams
Pac 10 - 10 teams
SEC - 8 teams (could add Memphis for 9)
*New Georgia/Florida/Alabma Conference - 8 teams (Could add UCF for 9)

It leaves a bit of a mess in the mid-majors, but that can be sorted out much more easily (and the MAC needs to lose three teams somehow; CUSA might need to lose one).

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by Kevin Eleven :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 6:17pm

No offense to CuseFanInSoCal, but I hate that idea. You're essentially blowing up ALL (or at least, far too many) of college football's traditions in quest of making a playoff work. We're going to tear apart the Southeast Conference in pursuit of this??

Such proposals remind me of Clark Griswold's demented quest to see WallyWorld in the original "Vacation" film. Clark was better off before becoming obsessed with an amusement park, and college football is better off not re-inventing itself for the sake of a playoff.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 12:08pm

Eh. My plan leaves the Pac 10 alone, returns the Big Ten to the alignment that it had for forty years, pretty much sets up the ACC and Big East as they always should have been (or at least as close as you're going to get), and re-divides the Big 12 -- originally formed by smushing together the SWC and Big 8 -- to incorporate some of the new western powers. Okay, Oklahoma ends up on a different side of that split than they started on (or rather, than they were on for a long time; they started in the SWC, but left in 1919), but since the Big 12 was formed, Oklahoma/Texas has become a much bigger deal than Oklahoma/Nebraska (which isn't played every year anyway, and might be as a non-conference game).

The only place where it's stomping on tradition more than very lightly is in the southeast, and I'd argue that my new Georgia/Florida/Alabama conference preserves most of the traditional SEC rivalries AND preserves the SEC schools long-standing rivalries with Georgia Tech, FSU, and Miami (with USF and possibly UCF to provide some new blood). Alabama-Auburn is still a conference game. Florida-Georgia is still a conference game. Georgia-Alabama is still a conference game. Georgia-Georgia Tech is now a conference game. So are Florida-Florida State and Florida-Miami. About the only major player in that interlocking network of SEC rivalries that's gone is Tennessee (sorry, LSU fans, but neither Auburn nor Alabama nor Florida really consider LSU their major rival).

I mean, the 'best' way to knock down the SEC to 10 schols from a 'tradition'-based standpoint is to get rid of South Carolina and Arkansas, but that makes it very hard to put together the rest of the 'extra' pieces in a coherrent way. I suppose if you undo the ACC raid of the Big East and re-consign Louisville, USF, and Cinci to mid-major land you can do it (but we will keep UConn in the Big East and Temple out).

Say, like so
ACC: Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, North Carolina State, South Carolina, Wake Forest, Duke, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Virginia (add South Carolina due to undoing the SEC expansion; lose BC, VT, Miami due to undoing the ACC raid on the Big East)
Big 8 (expanded): Boise State, Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State (add Boise State)
Big East: Boston College, Connecticut, Miami (FL), Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, West Virginia (lose Temple due to failing to meet Big East requirements, gain UConn do to upgrade to FBS, gain Penn State do to geography, regain BC, VT, and Miami due to undoing the ACC raid)
Big Ten: Ohio State, Michigan State, Iowa, Northwestern, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue, Michigan, Indiana (lose Penn State)
Pac 10: USC, Oregon, Oregon State, California, Arizona, Stanford, Arizona State, UCLA, Washington State, Washington (no change)
SEC: Florida, Georgia, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, LSU, Auburn, Mississippi State (lose Arkansas, South Carolina by undoing the 1992 expansion)
SWC: Arkansas, Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M, TCU, Texas Tech, BYU, Utah (lose Houston, Rice, and SMU from the traditional SWC, add BYU & Utah)

And as for the little guys -- they shuffle their membership every few years anyway.

My new CuseFanInSoCal blog

by epv (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 5:11pm

As long as college teams get to pick their own schedule the post season is meaningless. Schedules should be computed by a known formula like the NFL. Cream puff games make it difficult for me to take the BCS seriously.

by Will :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 6:24pm

The BCS does a good job at choosing a national champion. That's all it was ever designed to do. You will never have a situation where a mediocre team gets hot and becomes "champion" in the BCS. I'm looking at the Giants Super Bowl and the Cardinals World Series as recent examples.


by MTR (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 6:36pm

Eight team playoff. Conference champions only. Pick which ones any way you like. One loss can still destroy your season, so the regular season still matters. Plenty of good teams left for bowl games. The best little guys get a shot. It's not perfect, but it's pretty good.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Sat, 07/04/2009 - 12:40pm

In the BCS era, there have been a lot of ties for conference championships.

ACC - 1 tie (now plays a championship game)
Big East - 3 ties
Big Ten - 6 ties
Pac 10 - 4 ties
Mountain West - 1 tie
CUSA - 1 tie (now plays a championship game)
Sun Belt - 4 ties
WAC - 3 ties

Now, many of these were two-way ties that were resolved by head-to-head for purposes of picking up automatic bowl bids, but Ohio State and Iowa did not play in 2002, and the Big Ten's traditional Rose Bowl tiebreaker would have gone to Iowa (for complicated reasons, the Hawkeyes ended up in the Orange Bowl). And while 2002 Washington State beat 2002 USC head-to-head, USC was ranked higher in the polls and BCS standings. Would your 8-team, conference champions only system include only Iowa and WSU (as the conference picked their tiebreakers, and they're stuck with them), only Ohio State and USC (the top-ranked teams), or all four (since they were all among the top 8 conference champs)?

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by Doug Darroch (not verified) :: Thu, 07/02/2009 - 8:02pm

This system is close to perfect except for the bowl games. The bowl games make this system extremely complicated and I have a much simpler solution. Move the bowl games to the first week of the season. The entire off-season USC and Penn State fans would be anticipating their Rose Bowl match-up on Labor day weekend that would immediately put one of the teams at 0-1. You could have all of the bowls on Labor Day weekend just like it use to be on New Years.

by Will :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 12:28pm

Dumb. We don't even know if either of these teams will be good the next season. Or do you propose not allowing college football players to graduate or go to the NFL so they can play in their Bowl Game the following season?


by Sophandros :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 10:25am

Cool, someone came up with the identical system that I came up with a couple of years ago and posted on this and other sites months ago!

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

by Dales :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 11:38am

"A cynic would also point out that most other political decisions these two have made haven't exactly taken the "siding with the little guy" approach."

Gah. PLEASE please please please keep FO from being yet another place where one has to deal with politics. I mean, it is fine to beat them up for preening about the BCS, but do you really want to open the site up to arguments over which politicians care about which group of people?

by Bill Connelly :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 3:06pm

Yeah, that's all the politics you'll ever get from me--don't worry. I'm just getting really sick of the folks trying to score cheap political points with my favorite sport and not getting called on it more. I rolled my eyes when Obama brought it up too, if that makes you feel better. :-)

by ChiTown11111 (not verified) :: Fri, 07/03/2009 - 8:50pm

Sadly the real title games: USC Florida and Florida Alabama magically have no hope of being the actual final game! Bad seeding is bad.

by Kibbles :: Sat, 07/04/2009 - 3:36am

I have to admit that I never used to be much of a college football fan. Throughout the '90s, I regarded the college game as little more than the NFL's D-league, except without paychecks. In fact, college football wasn't even on my radar until 2002, when I enrolled at the University of Florida and a friend of mine who had an older sibling on campus insisted that we get season tickets. I figured I might as well, since the worst case scenario was I was out $50. As a result of all of this, all of my knowledge of pre-2002 college football comes from what I've learned after the fact (and my knowledge of non-UF college football from 2002-2004 is likewise mostly second-hand). A bigger consequence of this is that, to be perfectly honest, I don't give one fig about the "history" or "tradition" of college football. I know all about the Rose Bowl's humble roots as an exhibition game, and how the Big 10's tiebreaker for who went was simply who hadn't been for the longest time, and all the pertinent details... but I don't care. I understand that the big bowls used to be the Rose, Orange, Sugar, and Cotton, and I know how the Fiesta bought its way into prominence by staging the first "National Championship" between Penn State and Miami, and how the Cotton lost its elite status when the SWC fell apart... but I really don't care in the slightest which bowls are big and which are small. None of this really matters to me in the slightest.

I suppose I must seem like the perfect candidate to support a playoff- my first love is the NFL, and I don't care at all for college football's history or traditions- but I have a dirty little secret. I think the perfect playoff in college football is no playoff at all. Yes, college football is the only major sport without a playoff... but is that such a bad thing? Why does every sport have to be the same? Does anyone think that MLB should expand to 32 teams, split into 4 divisions per conference, add an extra two slots to the playoffs, and increase the percentage of the schedule devoted to interleague play? After all, that's what the NFL does, and the NFL is the most successful sport on the continent! Does anyone think that the NBA should switch to a single-elimination postseason? That's what March Madness is, and it's arguably the most successful playoff format on the continent! I say let baseball be baseball, NCAA basketball be NCAA basketball, NFL football be NFL football, NBA basketball be NBA basketball... and college football be college football. What's with this massive push towards homogenization? Why can't we let something just be different? If I want to see a football playoff, I'll watch the NFL. If I want to see pomp and tradition and passion and rivalry, I'll watch college football. If I want an entire offseason with nothing substantive to talk about, I'll watch the NFL. If I want an offseason rife with intrigue and controversy, as well as decades of revisionist history, I'll watch college football. Hell, everything about college football has always been about disputed results. Don't believe me? Ask someone how many NFL MVPs Peyton Manning deserved... then ask how many Heismans he deserved. Ask a Florida grad what their all-time record against Georgia is... then ask a Georgia grad what their all-time record against Florida is. Ask an Alabama grad how many national championships they have. After the NCAA finishes vacating wins from FSU, ask a Seminole how many wins Bobby Bowden trails Joe Paterno by. Why should we be upset that the winner of the 2003 national championship depends on who you ask? Isn't that pretty much par for the course for college football?

College football is messy, but that's okay- it's supposed to be messy. It's always been messy, and with any luck it will always be messy. Regardless of where you stand on the line, you have to admit that the current formula has been pretty darn successful for a pretty long time. The college game carries with it a level of excitement and a level of urgency that is unmatched in North American sports. Why mess with success?

My other big issue with a playoff is that any system can be perfect... if it's the right year. If it's the wrong year, any system can be terrible. Take the BCS- it's considered a terrible system, rife with controversy... but in 2001, it got it absolutely right- Miami played Ohio State, and nobody else got a chance because nobody else DESERVED a chance. A 4-team playoff would have given two undeserving teams a chance at the title, and an after-the-fact plus 1 system would have forced the UNQUESTIONED national champion to play another game for no purpose, and in all likelihood would have given us a REMATCH of Texas/USC. Imagine the nightmare that would have ensued if Texas had won the first time and USC had won the second.

The problem with a college football playoff is that the number of deserving teams varies from year to year. Some years (2001, 2005), there are only two deserving participants, and any playoff would unfairly penalize those two. Other years (2003, 2004), there are 3 deserving participants, and a 4-team playoff brings an undeserving party to the table. Other years (2006, the most commonly cited year by +1 and 4-team playoff proponents), there are exactly 4 worthy candidates. Other years (2007), there really aren't *ANY* deserving participants, so one system is very much as good as another. Heck, in theory, we might one day have a year where there's only one deserving participant, and *ANY* championship game (even the BCS championship) is unfair. Imagine if, for instance, Texas went undefeated while no other BCS conference school finished with fewer than 2 losses and no non-BCS conference school finished with fewer than 1 loss. I suppose in that situation you'd put undefeated Texas against a 2-loss SEC champ, or a 2-loss Pac 10 champ. But what if that 2-loss team won the championship (which takes place a full month after the season ends and is often not fully indicative of the quality of the team through the season). I'd argue that 1-loss Texas would still probably be a better champion than the 2-loss team that just beat them.

Really, if college football were ever hell-bent on selecting a true undisputed national champion (and as I've said, I don't think they SHOULD be), the best solution is also the most impossible. The best solution would be to tailor the system to the situation on a year-by-year basis. Have a committee whose sole purpose is to decide how many teams are actually worthy of contending for a national championship, and then set up a playoff for precisely that number of teams, no more and no less. Barring that, then maintain the status quo- or, even better, do away with the BCS National Championship altogether and return to the way things were. It would certainly be a lot easier to decide who the worthy teams are if we wait until after the bowls, like we used to- especially because the bowls are the single biggest source of connectivity in the entire season. All of that hand-wringing of Florida vs. Michigan after the 2006 season sure seems silly with the benefit of hindsight, doesn't it?

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Sat, 07/04/2009 - 12:25pm

If you define a legit title contender as any BCS conference/ND team with the same number of losses or fewer than the #2 team in the final regular season AP poll, and any other undefeated team in the AP top 25 (I'd say any undefeated team, period, but I'm too lazy to try and find out if there were undefeated teams outside of the top 25), then the number of legit title contenders breaks down like so...

2008 9 teams
2007 11 teams (that's what happens when a two-loss team gets in the title game)
2006 4 teams
2005 2 teams
2004 5 teams
2003 3 teams
2002 2 teams
2001 5 teams
2000 6 teams
1999 3 teams
1998 7 teams

The average in the BCS era, therefore, is a little over 5; only twice have there been more than 8, and only twice have there been exactly 2 (2002 and 2005). Since byes in football playoffs are a terrible thing if you're interested in fairness (there's no question that a bye + home-field advantage grants a tremendous advantage in the NFL playoffs, and that's with far less talent and schematic disparity than there is in college football), that indicates an 8-team playoff is pretty workable if you're willing to do without autobids for conference champions and trust the selection mechanism (I'm not sure I trust any selection mechanism completely, hence I favor a larger playoff with autobids for all 11 conference champs).

But since you were talking about 2002 (the Miami/Ohio State BCS title game followed the 2002 season, not the 2001 season). BCS #3 and BCS #4 in 2002 were Georgia and USC teams that despite one loss for the Bulldogs and two for the Trojans (this was the first of USC's long run of top 5 teams) were playing excellent football at the end of the season. #5 was a one-loss Iowa team that had not played Ohio State in the regular season, and at least some national commentators believed was better than Ohio State going into the BCS bowls. #6 Washington State went to the Rose Bowl due to a head-to-head win over USC. Claiming none of those teams could have beat Ohio State or Miami (in fact, I think it quite likely that USC would have; in the second half of the year, USC really became USC as we know them today), or would have been illegitimate champions if they had done so, seems a bit silly to me.

by Kibbles :: Sat, 07/04/2009 - 4:04pm

To me, it's not a question of who COULD win a couple of games and become a national champion, it's a question of who DESERVES THE CHANCE. Imagine for a second that the most talented team in the nation went 6-6, with all six of their wins coming by 50+ points, and their 6 losses being by a combined 6 points, all on the road against top 10 teams. Clearly that team *COULD* contend for a national championship, but they don't deserve the chance. The NFL and MLB demonstrate that plenty of teams COULD win national championships, but what I love about college football is that, regardless of what you could do, you don't get a chance unless you earn it. If there are 5 teams that have earned a chance at the championship, then an 8-team playoff brings 3 undeserving teams to the party, and one of which COULD potentially win it. I'd favor any system that results in no chance of an undeserving national champion.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Sat, 07/04/2009 - 10:59pm

Not really. The reasons why low-seeded teams have made runs in the NFL and MLB playoffs are somewhat different, and neither really applies to college football (you will note that low seeds rarely make it beyond the first week of the NCAA basketball tournament, and almost never make the final four; the NCAA champion is a #1 seed more often than not, and almost never worse than a #4 seed).

The NFL goes to extraordinary lengths to minimize talent disparities between teams, with a salary cap, a draft order that gives preference to worse teams, revenue sharing, and a myriad of other mechanisms. Beyond that, there are only 32 teams in the NFL (as opposed to 120 in I-A/FBS), and the NFL is unquestionably the premeir destination for pro football players. There's a substantially smaller talent gap between the Steelers and Lions than there is between USC and a random borderline top-25 team, let alone USC and the worst team in the Pac 10, or the worst team in college football.

Baseball's different because it's just a much more random game than football (division champions in MLB rarely win 60% of their games; last-place teams frequently win 40%), and two hot starting pitchers can carry a team through the playoffs with very little help from anyone else. There won't be any 2005 Cardinals in any division I-A/FBS college football playoffs because they're playing college football, not major league baseball, so the better team has a much, much better chance to win a single game than the better MLB team does to win a best of 7 series.

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by Kibbles :: Sun, 07/05/2009 - 12:47am

The difference between the Steelers and the Lions might be smaller than the difference between USC and the 26th team in the nation, but we aren't talking about the 26th team in the nation- we're talking about the 6th team, or the 8th team. I don't think the talent gap between USC and the 8th best team is so great that you could just assume USC would win (hell, the talent cap between USC and *STANFORD* isn't so great that you can take a USC win for granted anymore).

My point remains- if there is a team that is wholly undeserving of a chance at the national championship, why give them such a chance? Sure, the odds of them winning might be 1%, but those odds are 1% better than that team deserves. I *love* the fact that, in college football, if you win the national championship there is never *ANY* question that you were a deserving team. Some people might argue that you were only the SECOND most deserving team, but nobody is going to argue that you were simply undeserving. I find that refreshing. In the NFL and the MLB and the NBA and even NCAA Basketball, plenty of undeserving teams get a legitimate chance at the national championship. The fact that they don't always walk away with it doesn't change the fact that they didn't deserve that chance in the first place.

by jebmak :: Sun, 07/05/2009 - 3:03am

I don't agree with you Kibbles, but yours is the first argument against a playoff that seems rational to me. Thank you for showing me an opposing view.

by Bolt fan (not verified) :: Sun, 07/05/2009 - 1:09pm

Kibbles makes a great point, but I disagree with his conclusion. An eight team playoff, if set up correctly, could not produce an unworthy champion. My plan would be to keep the regular season as it is, then have an eight team playoff having the first round games at the home fields of the higher seeds in the days before Christmas, then have the semifinals at 2 BCS bowl sites on or just after New Year's day, then have the final a week or so later at another BCS bowl site. To come up with the teams we keep the BCS rankings and any conference champions or independents in the top eight are automatically in. Some years you might have five or six teams makes it this way, other times it might be eight. Then if there are any spots left open, a geographically balanced selection committee picks the rest of the teams, giving preference to any conference champs just outside the top eight. Last year my tournament would have been:

1. Florida - SEC champ
2. Oklahoma - Big 12 champ
3. Penn State - Big 10 champ
4. USC - Pac 10 champ
5. Texas - at large
6. Alabama - at large
7. Utah - MWC champ
8. Boise St. - WAC champ

The other conference champions didn't have good enough seasons to make the tournament. The virtue of an eight team tournament is that any FBS team that has a good enough season can make it but if there are no guaranteed spots then no three or four loss teams will get in. This system would be inclusive but not to the point of making the regular season meaningless.

by Kibbles :: Sun, 07/05/2009 - 4:32pm

Last year is a very convenient year for 8-team playoff proponents, but last year was an aberration. In any other year, you'd have a very hard time filling a field with 8 "deserving" teams. Take 2005- Texas and USC were so much more deserving than any team in the country of a chance at the championship, that giving any other team an equal chance as they received would have been unfair. Why should it be just as easy for a two-loss team ranked 7th in the country to win a national championship as it is for a no-loss team ranked 1st in the country? Or 2004- three teams went undefeated in big-time BCS conferences against big-time BCS competition, so why should five teams with worse records (many of them compiled against easier competition) be given just as much of a shot at the title as those three teams?

by Bolt fan (not verified) :: Sun, 07/05/2009 - 6:21pm

Because in the system that we have now, we don't "know" who would beat whom unless they actually play during the regular season, we can only guess. Even in 2005, if Texas and USC were really the two best teams then they wouldn't have had any trouble beating other teams to get to the championship game. If all the teams played each other then we could get a better idea about who the best two teams are, but they don't. So we are left with guesswork, which we have now, or we can decide it on the field. And by the way I agree that sixteen teams is too many, but I also think that four, while an improvement, is not enough. But I also have to say that it's kind of fun to argue about.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Sun, 07/05/2009 - 9:11pm

I'm of the opinion that 8 teams without autobids is the absolute minimum size for an acceptable playoff, because things have to be somewhat strange for there to be more than 8 legit contenders. But I don't agree that sixteen is too many; in high school, lower divisions of college football, and pro football, teams routinely play 16 or more games, and a team would only play 17 by playing a conference championship game and making it to the final.

Looking at the percntage of teams that make the playoffs in other division I college sports

basketball (men's) 18.7% (65 of 348)
baseball 21.2% 64 of 302
I-AA/FCS football 12.8% (16 of 125); changing to 16% soon (20 of 125)
hockey 27.6% (16 of 58)
lacrosse (men's) 27.1% (16 of 59)
soccer (men's) 11.9% (24 of 202)

I-A/FBS football has 120 teams. So playoffs of the following sizes would result in
2 teams (what we have now) - 1.7%
4 teams (seeded plus one) - 3.3%
6 teams (I've seen this proposed) - 5%
8 teams - 6.7%
12 teams - 10%
16 teams - 13.3% (still a smaller percentage of teams than every sport then NCAA sponsors a tournament for except soccer)

Really, a 24 or 32 team field would be better, but that would take wholesale reorganizing of the sport. Cconference championship games would have to go (which means getting conferences down to 10 teams or less, and 8 or 9 would be better because an 8 game conference season in a 10 team conference doesn't allow round-robin play), and you'd probably want to get down to at least an 11 game regular season, if not ten, to stage a five-week playoff.

If I were made supreme dictatator of college sports (i.e. all my decisions are final and cannot be appealed or overruled), I would go ahead and stuff everyone into 8-team conferences, with a ten game regular season, and a 32-team playoff. But that's not going to happen.

by Kibbles :: Sun, 07/05/2009 - 9:35pm

Once again, why should the percentage in college football be comparable to the percentages in the other college sports? Why must every sport be the same? Why not celebrate the differences? If you want something like an NFL playoff... then watch the NFL playoffs.

Getting rid of the current system in college football and replacing it with a playoff because a playoff is "best" would be like deciding that broccoli was the best vegetable, and therefore petitioning congress to make it illegal for farmers to grow any vegetables other than broccoli. Nothing against broccoli- I'm a big fan of broccoli- but I already get plenty of broccoli, and sometimes all I want is a nice fresh carrot.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Sun, 07/05/2009 - 9:52pm

It's not just other sports. It's also football at every other level but I-A/FBS. High school football has playoffs. JUCO football has playoffs. Divsion II, III, and the NAIA have playoffs. I-AA/FCS has playoffs. The NFL and CFL have playoofs. Heck, pretty much every other team sport at every level determines its champion by playoffs.

Beyond that, I want a playoff because it's likely the only way, barring a 2007-esque train wreck, that a post-ACC raid Big East team will get a clear shot at the national championship (How many pollsters would vote for a one-loss SEC champion over undefeated Rutgers -- or in some happy future, undefeated Syracuse? Or even a two-loss SEC champion? I bet it'd be a lot.). I want a playoff because the best team in college football has been excluded from the BCS title game twice (2003 and 2008 USC). I want a playoff because an undefeated team should get a shot at the national championship even if they play in a 'lesser' conference. I want a playoff because it's extremely rare for 2 -- and only 2 -- teams to be the clear choices for a national championship game, with no one else deserving a shot.

I want a playoff because the bowls suck. Really and truly they suck. All but a handful of the non-BCS bowls barely pay for the costs to get the teams there and back, and are of absolutely no consequence as both teams involved are well outside the top 25. Because there used to be tradition involved with the bowls, but the modern system of strict ties of bowls to conferences and the BCS mean that's long gone; even the classic Big Ten - Pac 10 Rose Bowl has featured pairings where at least one of the conference champions was absent more often than not.

Does that answer your question?

My new CuseFanInSoCal blog

by Kibbles :: Mon, 07/06/2009 - 3:49am

Yes it does, but I don't really agree with it. The fact that every other sport in the history of ever has a playoff just makes it that much more imperative that Division 1 football NOT go to a playoff, in my mind. And as I said, college football has survived and THRIVED on controversy and open-ended championships since the beginning of time.

I also think you're selling the Big East short. There are several Big East teams that could make it to the national championship. South Florida was ranked in the top 2 before choking away their shot. Rutgers, Louisville, or West Virginia all would have been absolute LOCKS for a NCG appearance if they'd managed to go undefeated. If a Big East team finishes with 1 loss then they are unlikely to make the championship game, but that's because a team with 1 loss against a tougher schedule will undoubtedly be more deserving.

Also, the best team was excluded from the MNC game in 2003, but that best team still won a national championship that season, so what's the point losing sleep over it? As for USC being the best team last year... not by a long shot. According to FEI, USC was FIFTH going into the bowls (behind Florida and Oklahoma, but also behind Texas and Penn State). And the season-ending gap between USC and Florida is laughably large- USC finished .008 points ahead of Oklahoma and .011 points ahead of Texas... while Florida finished .076 points ahead of USC. In the poll where the voters were not obligated to vote for Florida, USC managed just one first-place vote out of 65 and finished behind not just Florida, but also UTAH (which garnered 16 first-place votes) and in a virtual tie with Texas (0.2% separated their final point totals).

Also, if every undefeated team deserved a chance to play in the national championship, then what would be to stop Notre Dame from scheduling the 12 biggest bottom-feeders in all of Division 1 football to earn a championship game appearance every year? No, schedule has to matter in a big way- just look at Hawaii in 2007. Could you imagine what a farce it would have been if they'd made the MNCG over Florida, Michigan, *AND* USC? They were a mediocre team that played a joke of a schedule.

I also agree with you that 90% of the bowls suck, but a playoff wouldn't do away with the bowls, it would only make those bowls suck EVEN HARDER. Besides, what did those bowls ever do to you? If you don't like them, then don't watch them. In the mean time, they do incredible things for the local economies, *AND* they give a school like Vanderbilt or Rutgers something to be proud about. Nothing wrong with that.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 07/06/2009 - 3:52pm

Beyond that, I want a playoff because it's likely the only way, barring a 2007-esque train wreck, that a post-ACC raid Big East team will get a clear shot at the national championship

So... you want a playoff because it's the only way a Big East team will play for the national championship, except for all the other ways that they could?

It's really hard to take your argument seriously when it's entirely hypothetical and when the situation you claim is impossible nearly happened two years in a row. The Big East almost sent a rep to the BCSNC game two years ago. Three years ago, Louisville was virtually guaranteed a shot in 2006 if they hadn't lost, being ranked #3 with Michigan and OSU ahead of them.

How many pollsters would vote for a one-loss SEC champion over undefeated Rutgers -- or in some happy future, undefeated Syracuse? Or even a two-loss SEC champion? I bet it'd be a lot.)

I'd take that bet. In a heartbeat. So long as Syracuse's OOC schedule wasn't filled with teams from the Sun Belt and WAC, and the Big East still had its automatic berth (i.e. if their champion had finished decently high for the past 5 years). 2006 and 2007 showed that the pollsters have no problem pushing an undefeated Big East team above multiple-loss SEC teams.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Sun, 07/05/2009 - 1:55pm

In the NFL and the MLB and the NBA and even NCAA Basketball, plenty of undeserving teams get a legitimate chance at the national championship. The fact that they don't always walk away with it doesn't change the fact that they didn't deserve that chance in the first place.

In NCAA basketball and in the NBA, they never walk away with it (I mean, maybe you can say 1985 Villanova, but for all they were an 8 seed, they gave Georgetown a very close game in the regular season, too; pro basketball isn't all that random and plays best of 7 series in the playoffs -- it's pretty much impossible for an undeserving team to win the title in the present playoff format). In the NFL, all playoff teams are arguably deserving (well, except for the random 8-8 team from a weak division we seem to get almost every year) because the talent disparities are so small. And unless baseball wants to chop 20 or so games off the regular season and go to best of 9 or best of 11 playoffs that are scheduled somewhat like regular season series (i.e. enough games on consecutive days that you have to use at least a 4-man rotation), undeserving teams are going to make runs in the MLB playoffs, because they're playing baseball.

Besides, as you say, the number of 'deserving' teams is hardly fixed from year to year. For logistical (how do you set up the games, TV rights, etc.) and competitive reasons (it's completely unfair to have moving goalposts from year to year for what standard is necessary to make the post-season), it's neither fair nor practical to decide the playoff format after the regular season is complete.

by Kibbles :: Sun, 07/05/2009 - 4:47pm

You're absolutely right- it's neither fair nor practical to decide the playoff format after the regular season is complete. All the more reason to... you know... not have a playoff. I mean, if it's not fair to decide the playoff format ahead of time (because we don't know how many deserving teams there will be), and it's not fair to decide the playoff format after the fact (because it creates a moving standard that isn't clearly articulated during the season), then it seems to me that a playoff simply could not, would not, be fair.

As to your first point... in NCAA basketball, undeserving teams rarely win the championship (regardless of how close Villanova played Georgetown, they weren't even one of the top 20 teams in the country that season), but undeserving teams frequently dash the championship hopes of deserving teams, which is just as unfair. Imagine if, after Texas and USC went undefeated, the NCAA decided that they couldn't play for a national championship unless they first beat three different 9-4 teams. Texas and USC had already earned their place in that championship- they had nothing left to prove at that point.

In the NFL, *NOT* all playoff teams are deserving. Last year 9-7 Arizona was not deserving at a chance at the title, especially when 11-5 New England sat at home. 9-7 Pittsburgh wasn't deserving of a shot at their championship. 9-7 New York wasn't deserving of their shot at the championship. 9-7 Carolina wasn't deserving of their chance at the title. None of these teams were even in the top 20% of the NFL after the season was over and done with.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with that- the NFL Championship isn't about who is most deserving, it's about who is hottest at the end of the season. That goes double for the NCAA tournament. It's a wonderful format, full of excitement and anticipation and emotion and hope. I *love* the single-elimination playoff format, and would be very sad if the NFL and NCAA basketball abandoned it. I'm just saying that there's room in my heart for different methods of crowning a champion, too. Variety, as they say, is the spice of life.

by Bolt fan (not verified) :: Mon, 07/06/2009 - 1:10pm

Except that it's impossible for 50% of the FBS teams to make the championship game, even if they go undefeated. Is that really fair?

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Mon, 07/06/2009 - 1:23pm

Yup. Heck, college football has a system so manifestly unfair that even the biggest big-name media darling school out there (USC) gets routinely screwed over by the system. I mean, when you can't even count on the system doing right by the good ol' boys, then who's it doing right by?

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by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 07/06/2009 - 3:35pm


1) FBS teams make their own schedule, and choose their own conferences. "Going undefeated" doesn't mean the same thing for every team.
2) A 12-game schedule has so many independent schedules that you could have over a dozen undefeated teams in FBS. I think you could even have over 16.

This is not a situation of "the haves and have nots." The non-BCS conferences are, on average, seriously weaker than the BCS conferences. The teams in those conferences have an automatic advantage in that they have an easier schedule. If they want to be considered "elite teams," they have to schedule their out-of-conference games harder. That's definitely not easy, no, and most teams don't do it because economically it's not worth it.

The "50% of the FBS teams" chose to take a path that's less prominent nationally but more economically viable. It is perfectly fair, from a sports perspective, to not include them in a playoff. (It may not be fair from an economic perspective, but a playoff won't fix that.)

by Bolt fan (not verified) :: Mon, 07/06/2009 - 3:54pm

Nope, they don't choose their own conferences, so by extension they don't choose their own schedules. You don't think that BYU or Utah (or any other Mountain West school) wouldn't jump at the chance to join the Pac-10? If you do I've got some swamp land that I want to sell you. The only reason that the non-BCS conferences don't have a weaker is because they don't have a seat at the table. The deck is stacked against them. A playoff would give them a chance.

by Bolt fan (not verified) :: Mon, 07/06/2009 - 3:56pm

Oops, I meant the only reason they are weaker. Use the preview!

by Kibbles :: Mon, 07/06/2009 - 4:58pm

They do, however, choose their out of conference schedules. I guarantee you if Utah scheduled USC, Texas, and Florida as its OoC schedule, an undefeated season would absolutely guarantee them a shot at the championship.

You could say that USC, Texas, and Florida would all balk at playing Utah, but you'd be wrong- last season, Utah balked at playing Texas. If they hadn't backed out of that game an undefeated season definitely would have gotten them into the championship. Besides, it's not as if USC, Texas, and Florida don't want to play Utah... it's that they don't want to play Utah on the terms that Utah is asking for. If Utah called the athletic director of any school in the nation and said "We want to play you guys in your stadium without any promise of a second game, and we'll even waive our appearance fee", that athletic director would jump at the chance and would busily search for the next opening in their schedule (or even drop one of their current commitments to MAKE an opening in the schedule). Several highly-regarded "mid-majors" have managed to schedule games against the big guns- just look at TCU vs. Oklahoma last year. Had TCU gone undefeated, they almost certainly would have been in the national championship against either Texas or Florida.

Now, you could argue that it's unfair that Utah has to play the big boys in their own stadiums... but I'll call bull on that, too. The big boys have to play PLENTY of other big boys in their stadiums already. Every two years, UF winds up with a road game against LSU, Tennessee, and Florida State, two neutral-site games against Georgia, a handful of other road games against bowl teams due to the nature of the SEC (in recent years this has included games at Alabama, the annual meetings with Kentucky and South Carolina, and a clash with Miami), as well as a neutral site game against one of the elite SEC teams in the SECCG. If you count a neutral site as half a road game, that averages out to about 4 road games against bowl teams (including 2 of them against perennial top-10 teams) a year, so I'm not exactly sympathetic if Utah has to schedule one or two road games against top-10 teams every year in order to get a shot at the championship game. Even if Utah managed to get USC, Texas, and Florida on their OoC schedule, their overall schedule would still be weaker than many BCS-conference teams.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 07/06/2009 - 6:27pm

Nope, they don't choose their own conferences,

They choose to be in a conference. Being an independent would allow them to schedule easily as hard as a BCS conference team.

It would also make them a worse team, because they wouldn't bring in the money that the conference gives them. But that's an economic reason, not a "playoff structure" reason.

The only reason that the non-BCS conferences don't have a weaker is because they don't have a seat at the table

Um. No? Not even remotely correct? The reason non-BCS conferences are weaker is because they do not have the money that the BCS conference teams have. I mean, it isn't even close: OSU, Penn State, USC, etc. have between five and ten times the money that the best MWC, WAC, Sun Belt, etc. teams do. That means better facilities, better bargaining position for scheduling out-of-conference games, and a better coaching staff.

Honestly, I find it hilarious that everyone's saying "give team X a shot at the playoffs! otherwise they don't have a chance!" Even with a playoff, a Sun Belt champ has no shot at a championship whatsoever. They won't have that unless they have the same economic power as the major college teams, and a playoff won't fix that unless it shunts TV money from the playoffs from BCS conferences to the non-BCS conferences.

And that won't happen, because, well, it's not 'fair' economically - the BCS conference teams are the ones that are driving the economy of college football. Shunting money to the weaker conferences makes sense only if you believe that you can grow the "entire" pie of college football, and you can't, because fundamentally those universities are smaller than the major conference teams.

You can't make FBS, as it is now, "fair." It's unfair on a very fundamental level, and no playoff structure will fix that. All you'll do by giving smaller conferences berths into a playoff structure is hurt the overall economy of college football.

In my mind, that's worse, because if the BCS conference teams can be made economically stable without having to lean heavily on creampuff games, then the NCAA can consider splitting Division IA into two or more, and then you'll start having a "fair" sport.