Thursday, February 11, 2010

College Football Playoffs...

::::::::::: This is a repost of a previous blog. I'm reposting it because my blog now updates on various sites, and I found the insight of "Dante" in the comments particularly interesting. Simply thought a few others might like to view it.:::::::

Lately, I've been reading a great number of opinions on how college football should crown its champion. A couple of years ago, I came up with a formula in which there would be only 96 D-I teams, in 8 conferences of 12 teams apiece. The playoffs would consist of 8 conference championship games (round 1) and then a 4-week seeded tournament of those conference champions. Why? Because the logic follows: the best team in the nation MUST be the best team in their own conference. From there, the best team in the nation must be able to prove it on the field. There is no "seeded disadvantage" for the BEST team in the nation, because they should be able to beat the other teams. So, the 8th seed couldn't complain about playing the 1st seed, because if they're actually the best, they'll win. Now, here's the kicker...there's no "home field advantage" in the playoffs. All playoffs are on neutral sites, (aka "bowls") and the "big four" would become the "big six", including both the quarter and semi final rounds. The National Championship game could then either find a permanent home, or continue to rotate among those big six stadiums. Personally, I'd love to see it find a permanent home.

Anyway, I was looking over some previous blogs this morning, and I ran across one I wrote in 2007. It offered a perspective that was quite different for me. It came before LSU won the title with 2 losses, and before Alabama won it as the first 14-0 champion. Give it a read, if you'd like.

Oh, and afterwards...yet another thought on the whole thing.

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I was doing a little thinking about the current incarnation of the BCS in college football. While most fans agree that it is a bad solution to a horrible problem…there's no real champion in college football...conferences like the PAC-10 eat it up. They love it. They're traditionalists.

Traditionalists will argue that this is the way it's always been, and the way it should stay. They are proponents of the old bowl system…where teams just hoped to get invited to a bowl, and if they did so, great. Then, numerous media groups could vote on who THEY thought the best team MIGHT be.

That made sense in 1929, when money was scarce and traveling from one end of the nation to the other for the purpose of football competition was a much larger ordeal. Now, though, many of the top teams in the nation have either their own planes, or the easy ability to charter them. Their coaches are being paid in the millions. Simply put: the money is there, the time factor is nonexistent.

Bowl games today don't mean nearly as much as they did under that old system. People like to point to the pageantry and tradition of games like the Rose Bowl…but the fact remains, it's a football game in a stadium. That's all it is. If there's not a championship attached, it really doesn't mean much. There are far too many bowls. It takes 6 wins to get into a bowl. There are 12 games in the college football season. So, what we're saying here, is that we want to reward mediocrity. Is 50% really a good thing? If your auto mechanic was 50% sure your car was in good shape, would you want to drive it out into the desert for the weekend? If your paycheck came, and only 50% of your hours were on it, would you be excited? Or, would you feel great about having a spouse who's faithful 50% of the time?

HELL NO!

50% is not something to be proud of.
*** 2010 note: Joe Cox was 50% accurate...anybody love THAT?***

Now, let's look away from those teams who are scratching and clawing just to get into a bowl…and look to the elite. The top 20 or so teams in the nation all have the same goal at the beginning of the year: to go undefeated.

Now, a lot of people would say that the goal is to win the national championship. Well, I defy that. See, in today's college football, playing for the national championship is almost synonymous with being undefeated. I know, I know, I know…there has RARELY been an undefeated team in the national championship game. True. But, ask any fan of any of the major schools the first thought that crosses his mind when his team loses its first game. Almost unanimously you'll get something along the lines of "Well, we're screwed now. Hope we can at least win the conference."

WHY?

Because we live in an era that most people never thought would happen. We live in an era of Playoff College Football.

"BEN! There's no playoffs in college football!"

Bull. If you lose a game, you pretty much lose the championship. That's a playoff. It's the longest playoff series in sport. College football playoffs start in September and end in January. The sad thing is….there's not really a regular season. There aren't expendable games. When you lose, you fall. The distance you fall from a loss is WHOLLY disproportionate to how you will climb with a win. Not only that, but the amount of falling and climbing is largely based on a subjective component of human voting.

So, welcome everyone, to the 2007 NCAA Football Playoffs. It's the most convoluted playoff system ever created, consisting of 119 teams, with only about 8 having a legitimate shot at the title. The rest are just there to create drama and Cinderella stories. Enjoy the only playoff system where the teams that lose are still allowed to hang around just to screw up things for the winners.

It's gonna be fun!
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A different opinion:

Why do we NEED a playoff system? Why do we NEED a "champion" to be determined on the field? It's for one thing - PRIDE. It's so we, as fans, can go into our offices and brag about how OUR team has done. This past season, when Alabama won the title, Alabama fans were proud of their team...and many SEC fans were proud that a team from their conference won the title. yes, there's an insane amount of arrogance surrounding our beloved conference, and I'm infected by it.

BUT, I went to highschool with a guy who was adamant that SEC fans couldn't claim BAMA's championship. He's a Bama fan...and insists that other SEC fans have done NOTHING to earn the title. They didn't cheer for 'Bama during the season. They were haters. They didn't deserve to revel in the victory. Now, this is a guy who never played a game of football in his life. In fact, I don't remember him even being a fan of football in High School...and we're a pretty tradition-rich program. (LaGrange High...GO GRANGERS!) So, I had to remind him that in actuality, he had done NOTHING to create that championship..that he hadn't earned it, that he hadn't put in any work. As such, he had the same ZERO right to claim the title as any other SEC fan.

And this got me thinking...what is it about the games that these 18-22 year olds play that has us in such a fit about who the champion is? Perhaps that's where the University Presidents have it right. At the end of the day, the game is a competition and the bowls are rewards for a job well done. Not every team is going to be good enough to win a title, but some of the "lesser" teams do actually deserve a reward. I'll be honest...it's damned hard to win a football game. It's even harder to win 8,9,10 games. Personally, I think 8 wins should get you into a bowl game. That's a 2/3 season. It ain't great...and you shouldn't be considered for any "elite" bowl or a title or anything. But, a reward is warranted. As for the "championship" of the nation, it's pretty subjective...especially in a sport as SINGULAR as football.

"Dukes...what do you mean by "singular"?"

Well, in baseball and basketball, you will play a team a few times before the end of the season. You will get numerous chances to redeem yourself or prove you are consistently better. In football, your entire season can be destroyed when a longsnapper screws up on a potential gamewinning fieldgoal. That's tough. You could be the best team in the nation, but on one rainy Saturday, you lose everything because the conditions are better than you. And that's just how it goes.

Not only that, but when you start to do a playoff system, you are defining who the champion is by a set of rules and stipulations. At the end of the season, you are going to know DEFINITIVELY who the best was. As such, you're going to lose one of the greatest components of college football - conjecture. There's going to be less to talk about. There will be no "BCS dispute articles" to be written. Gone will be the "if we'd have played in that game" talk...because it will be simple - your team wasn't good enough. No excuses, no doubts. There will be ONE best team in the nation every year, and the other 118 will be NOT best. No discussion. No argument.

Are we sure we want that?

Go Dawgs.

1 comment:

Dante said...

I still maintain that when elite college football teams start playing elite out-of-conference football teams on a regular basis, talk of playoffs will disappear. Texas vs. Ohio State shouldn't be an aberration. It should be the norm.

Sadly, schools are obsessed with making it to a BCS bowl given the step up in cash involved. Many teams are willing to slate 2-4 crappy out of conference games that will be home sellouts anyway over giving us the most quality football games in a season. I'm proud of Georia this year for giving us Oklahoma State, Arizona State, and A&M instead of tweedle-dee, tweedle-dum, and maybe an Outback Bowl opponent. In the end, Georgia made less money but gave us better football. Not many schools are willing to do that sort of thing.

Playoffs or not, I don't really care. I just want to see good college football on a regular basis. Given the current climate, I think a better place to start than playoffs is campaigning for conference-agnostic entrance requirements for any BCS Bowl. For example, if you don't play 10 losable games, you're out. If we're going to argue that every games counts, let's actually mean it. Because near as I can tell, it doesn't really count when Florida plays Jacksonville State, but if they played the real USC, we'd have a lot better idea of how to rank both teams at the end of the season.