Thursday, October 21, 2010

BCS vs. Playoff ? One Man's Plan

CFRT Editor

I get asked a lot of questions regarding college football and, as you can imagine, I engage in a considerable amount of discussion about the sport in general.
And, one of the most prevalent questions I get is about my stance regarding a Playoff vs. the BCS. 

My answer?
There is no question that when given the proper circumstances, the BCS sometimes falls short in appeasing everyone’s opinion about who should play for the national title.
However, if you view the BCS for what it was really intended to do, and that’s pitting the No.1 and No.2 teams – according to the parameters set by the Coaches and AP polls, and six different computer ranking services based on six different mathematical formulas – few can argue that the BCS hasn’t done its job.

Problem is, no one - not even the President or some congressmen - can seem to agree on how those two teams are selected.
On the other hand, most people believe that a playoff is the only true way of crowning a national champion.
“Decide it on the field!” the BCS haters insist.
And, frankly, a playoff certainly would decide the national championship on the field.
In the majority of playoff scenarios, though, you wouldn’t necessarily be deciding the two best teams that season to play for the title, as much as you would be deciding the two best teams left standing at the end of the playoff, right?
Is that what we – the college football fans – really want?
How much of an impact would that have on the great traditions that have made the game what it is today?
And I’m not talking about the bowls.
Forget about the bowls for now, I’ll get to that in a minute.
No, I’m talking about the traditions of the regular season.
If there were a playoff in major college football, wouldn’t you agree that in some cases, some teams having a vested interest in the playoffs might be inclined to rest star players, thus watering down the end of the regular season?

Could you blame a Florida team for not playing their stars against Florida State (or vice versa) in the regular-season finale if it meant their run in the playoffs might be adversely affected?
It already happens in the NFL all the time.
The better question might then be; what incentive would teams have to play major opponents outside their own conference anymore at all?
I think you’d not only see a watering down of the stars on the field – particularly at the end of the regular season – but you might also see a more cupcake-than-ever approach to how teams build their schedules.
Remember, without the objective, albeit imperfect human and/or computer polls playing a major impact, there would be no practical reason to schedule great inter-conference match-ups anymore.
Of course, I’m not saying all traditions would fall by the wayside, but the reality is, without the element of trying to impress a poll voter in lieu of claiming a playoff berth, I am convinced the college football regular season as we know it would be drastically altered.
After all, isn’t all the quarrelling and gnashing of teeth we do over the regular season what makes college football so wildly popular?
That’s what I’m most afraid of, and most against in the argument of Playoff vs. BCS.
Regardless of which side of the argument you’re on, you cannot deny that one of the greatest dynamics of college football is the intense drama created by the week-to-week, live or die regular season.
So, this obviously means I am a BCS supporter, right?

Well, as another college football traditionalist might put it, “Not so fast my friend!” 
Believe me, I know I’m clearly in the minority here, but I think we are very close to getting the best of both worlds with the BCS.
I go back to as recently as the early 90’s, when the “system” we had then rarely ever pitted the No.1 and No.2 teams at the end for a winner-take-all game. 

Isn't that what we get with the BCS now? 
However, the BCS, in my opinion, still needs to undergo a bit of a face lift.

First of all, and the economy should naturally weed this out in time anyway, we should reduce the overall number of bowl games to a more sensible amount – say a maximum of 20 – and make it more difficult to qualify for what used to be a prestigious honor.
Next, take the coaches out of the poll voting.
Most of the time, they’re not even doing the actual voting and instead letting their Sports Information Directors do it for them, and when they are doing the voting the majority of them have an ax to grind or a vested interest to keep some teams down and other teams up.
I don’t mind a panel similar to the intent of the Harris Poll (an interactive poll devised of 114 panelists that includes former coaches, players, administrators and current and former media), but there is still too much vested interest if you’re involving former coaches and players.

My idea would be to have a human-poll element like that, but solely made up of non-former players who cover the sport in the media – not perfect, but much better.
I would then keep the computer element, but instead condense all the pertinent parameters each one uses now down to a single computer formula. 

Next, I would eliminate the automatic-qualifying conference tie-ins - this, alone, would eliminate the perceived bias against small or mid-major conference teams. 
And lastly, at the end of the regular season I would have No.1 play No.3 and No.2 play No.4 in two of the four current "BCS" bowls (rotating between the Fiesta, Orange, Sugar and Rose), forming a college football version of the Final Four.
That would pave the way for a final BCS Championship game against the winners of those two games (rotating the venue between those same four current "BCS" bowls).
“Oh, that’s just a ‘Plus One’ scenario,” you say, “that’s nothing new.”
Agreed, but my “tweaks” make more of a difference than simply adding a game at the end.
The bottom line to this argument – no matter what you or I think and hope will happen – is that money will determine what change, if any, takes place in college football’s future.
And that’s usually an argument against the BCS.
Is the BCS greedy and money-hungry? 

No doubt.
But, aren't we already talking about a greedy and money-hungry sport that exploits amateur athletes for billions in television revenues and merchandise?

The real deal-breaker for a playoff probably lies in the hands (pockets) of the presidents of the universities anyway.
As long as the presidents and their schools – who reap the rewards of the conference coffers as a whole, regardless of whether their team is in the BCS money or not – have a say-so in the matter, any real form of a playoff may never happen.
In most cases, each school in a conference equally shares bowl monies, and under the current “system,” conferences regularly send six to eight teams to bowls.
It is hard to imagine the presidents relinquishing that kind of equal-share direct deposit in favor of the off chance that one or two of their conference teams makes it to the big money in the playoffs.
In conclusion, I will say this; while I agree whole-heartedly that the current “system” needs to change, the more thought I pour into this subject, the more I am against a true playoff format for major college football.
Trust me, I used to be a huge playoff supporter.

I mean, it works in the NFL, right?
Problem is, the NFL doesn't have 120 teams.
Now I just think we should be careful of what we wish for.
Yes, in a playoff system we would once and for all see the national championship decided “on the field.”
Okay, I get that.
But, if it will have a damaging impact on the regular season, and I am convinced it would, will the playoffs be the only time we really start paying attention?

Your thoughts?

BCS Bowls Projections

For the remainder of the season, I will give my ongoing BCS Bowl projections in this spot.

BCS Championship Game
Alabama vs.Oklahoma

Rose Bowl
Oregon vs. Michigan State

Fiesta Bowl
Boise State vs. Ohio State

Orange Bowl
Auburn vs. Florida State

Sugar Bowl

CFRT's Pick 6

UCLA at No.2 Oregon
Stranger things have happened, but it's hard to imagine the Bruins sneaking up on Oregon, who have to feel just a bit slighted that Oklahoma leap-frogged them for the No.1 spot in the initial BCS standings. It doesn't bode well that UCLA is averaging less points per game (22) than they are scoring (25) per game, especially against the No.1 scoring team in the nation. The Ducks are still averaging 54-plus per game. Oregon, 49-24.

No.6 LSU at No.4 Auburn
Every week we expect to see LSU coach Les Miles run out of luck and every week The Mad Hatter wins a game. Auburn hung 65 points on Arkansas last week, but will have trouble matching that against a LSU defense that only yields an average of 14.4 points per game. A big day and big win for Auburn QB Cam Newton will put the Florida transfer squarely in the Heisman driver's seat. War Eagle, 35-28.

No.13 Wisconsin at No.15 Iowa
You have no idea how close I came to picking Kentucky over South Carolina last week after the Gamecocks knocked off then-No.1 Alabama. Could the Badgers win over former No.1 Ohio State produce a similar hangover that lingers too long for Wisconsin on a serious road trip against Iowa? I missed my pick last week, but not this week. Hawkeyes, 27-24.

No.16 Nebraska at No.14 Oklahoma State
Nebraska's undefeated season came crashing down last week against a Texas team fresh off a bye week, while the Cowboys traveled to Texas Tech and beat the Raiders in Lubbock for the first time since 1944. I can understand Mack Brown utilizing an extra week to devise a defensive plan to stop Nebraska, but the Cornhuskers are still fourth in the country in rushing while Oklahoma State is 10th in the Big XII in total defense. 'Huskers, 42-31.

No.8 Alabama at Tennessee
You know it's a big rivalry when the game has a name (The Third Saturday in October). Problem is, these programs are currently headed in opposite directions. Last year, on their way to a national title, Alabama had to block two kicks to survive against Tennessee. Could the mystique of the rivalry raise it's ugly head again? Doubt it. 'Bama 49-14.

No.1 Oklahoma at No.11 Missouri
Could the No.1 team - on the road against a ranked opponent - fall for a third consecutive week in a row? The top-ranked Sooners have looked like world beaters at times (against Florida State and Iowa State) and at other times looked very average. Missouri has the second ranked scoring defense in the nation, giving up just over 10 points a game. Oklahoma, 28-14.

Last Week: 3-3
Season: 29-13

Your Saturday "Couch Schedule"

"Early Game"
No.7 Michigan State at Northwestern at Noon on ESPN

"Afternoon Remote Control Roulette Games"
No.6 LSU at No.4 Auburn at 3:30 p.m. on CBS
No.13 Wisconsin at No.15 Iowa at 3:30 p.m. on ABC (East)
No.16 Nebraska at No.14 Oklahoma State at 3:30 p.m. on ABC (West)

"Night Game"
No.1 Oklahoma at No.11 Missouri at 8 p.m. on ABC

1 comment:

  1. Wow. 3 SEC teams in BCS Bowls? I know the west is strong this year. But one of those 3 will have at least 2 losses and probably outside the top 10. I can see possibility of LSU in N'awlins for the regional draw and Auburn in Orange means they probably beat LSU but lost to 'Bama (who's in title game). And for 'Bama to make it to the Title game, they would have had to pound LSU and Auburn pretty soundly and then erased their loss by burying South Carolina in SEC Championship game. And for that to have weight South Carolina would have had to come in looking pretty impressive with a string of big wins. Wow, this will make your head spin.