BCS vs. Playoff

November 29, 2007 |

As earlier promised, here is my look at the BCS system and why it’s better than a playoff system. Before I get into the meat and potatoes of my dissertation, let me point out that I am a realist. I understand that the bowl system is far from perfect, but a playoff system would be far from perfect as well. And you know what? As much as the BCS has been continually blasted there are certainly some good points. So in the next few paragraphs I am going to do what no one else ever does. I am going to point out the good points of the BCS and the foreseeable flaws of a playoff system.
 
In my opinion, or should I say IMHO so teenagers can follow along, the BCS has accomplished two very important things.
 
#1. It has eliminated jokers from winning the national title, a la BYU. Under the BCS system this will never happen again.
 
#2. The BCS system encourages teams to play tough schedules. When we end up with multiple teams having the same record, the strength of schedule component REWARDS the teams who have played tougher competition. Look at this year. If Mizzou beats Oklahoma, and please God let them beat Oklahoma, then Mizzou, WVU, Kansas and Ohio State will all end the season with one loss (probably). The computer will then determine that Kansas and Ohio State, due to their weak conference, and weaker non-conference schedules do not belong in. Think about it. If three or more teams have the same record, the BCS takes the two teams who have played tougher competition. It seems to make sense. Isn’t that the way it should be? You watch, if Ohio State gets left out, they’ll start playing Texas again real soon.
Now, on the flip side, did you ever wonder why if everyone is so sure that the playoff system would be better, why haven’t we gone to it already? Maybe it has some flaws as well. Let’s point out the biggest two.
 
#1. It will trivialize the regular season much like college basketball has done. Don’t get me wrong, I love March Madness as much as the next guy, but be honest; we love it a lot less after we realize that we can’t win our office pool. The truth is that college basketball and the powers that be have determined that the only month that matters is March. When Arizona won the National title in the mid 90’s they were fifth in the their conference in the regular season. FIFTH! How can a team who finishes fifth in a conference of ten teams be the national champion? That same year, Kansas went into the tournament with a record of 32-1. And they played a real schedule. It wasn’t like UNLV running through Cal State Santa Barbara. Then in the NCAA Tournament, Kansas lost by three points to this same Arizona team, who just happened to be red hot. So you have one team who basically won every game they played for four and half months, and then lost a close game on a neutral court and they’ve nothing, but another team who underachieves for most of the season then gets hot at the end and is the National Champion. You’re right. That system is perfect.
In college football, every week is the playoff system, even those in September. If you lose, you’re in trouble. Sometimes teams with one win can get back, like this year, but usually it’s tough. The title game almost always fields one undefeated team, so the odds of making it with a loss are slim. Every game matters in college football because you have to finish in the top two in the BCS standings. If you go to a playoff then……….
 
#2. ….Schools will stop scheduling tough non-conference games. The goal of the regular season would no longer be to establish yourself as the best team in the country. It would be to manipulate your schedule so that you could ensure yourself of being in the top eight.
*** I keep using the number eight because a sixteen-team playoff would be utterly ridiculous. Somewhere in it we have to remember that these are kids who ‘generally’ aren’t paid for the services. More games gets more people injured and it becomes more difficult academically for those players who do actually graduate and get real jobs. At some point the fat, bar-stool, sitting sports fan has to realize that these kids are not gladiators who are beaten to death for our amusement. And really, look at the teams who are 9-16 right now in the BCS poll. Does Clemson really deserve a shot at the National Title? Please.
 
So in summation:
 
BCS good points
 
  1. Eliminates unproven champions
  2. Encourages tougher non-conference schedules.
 
Playoff bad Points:
 
  1. Makes regular season games less meaningful
  2. Encourages softer regular season schedules
These are the basic points. There are so many others, like how do you select the teams for a playoff? (I assume that you use a system like the BCS, but then isn’t that interesting that such a flawed system could accurately pick the top eight teams when it can’t pick the top two) Also, do you play on home fields or use neutral fields? Assuming you use home fields, is it really fair to send kids from the Deep South to play a game in Michigan in late December? Do you really think it would be a fair way of determining an Alabama or Miami teams ability by having them play a game in fifteen degree temperatures when half of the players on their rosters have never seen snow?
 
I guess it all comes down to the fact that there is no perfect system, playoff or otherwise. You show me a playoff scenario and I can tell you why it’s not fair to someone. I can probably tell you why it’s less fair than the one we have now. If you want to send in your playoff system format, I will gladly poke holes in it. But……
If you told me that you wanted to do a four team playoff using the top four teams of the BCS in a 1 plays 4, 2 plays 3 format with the winners meeting for the National Title, I wouldn’t be opposed to that.
 

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