A case for the playoffs?

>> Monday

You could call this a two-part post. It began as a comment to Sever's post about some conferences having a title game while others don't, and I decided to take the ball and run with it. So first, addressing the title game:

The conference title game has always been a murky issue as far as the BCS goes (though one could say the BCS as a whole is a murky issue, no?). Anyways, you could call it a double-edged sword too. Yes, in this case, Mizzou could be screwed if they don't take care of business and finish 11-2, While WVU would be 11-1 with a win at Pitt. However, in a different year, a team ranked 3 in the BCS could theoretically leapfrog the #2 team by winning a title game when #2 doesn't play one. In other words, if not for that same conference title game that's being knocked now, said team wouldn't have a shot at it at all. So it really works both ways.

That said, I think this year more than any other makes a solid case for why a playoff system of some sort would work wonders in college football. There have been a staggering number of top-level teams being defeated, to the point where the BCS is truly a minefield. As a result, there is more parity at the top than ever before.

Take Kansas, for example. The Jayhawks had an unprecedented season, with their only loss coming to a one-loss Missouri team that was up at the top of the Big 12 with them. Since both teams share a division in the conference, the loss not only eliminates Kansas from the title game, but denies them a chance to vault back in with a spot in the conference title game.

Ohio State ran the table for most of the season, only to stumble against Illinois. While that was a game that the Buckeyes should have won, do they honestly deserve to play for secondary hardware simply because they lost the one game (effectively tying them in record with West Virginia and Missouri)?

Finally, Hawaii can run the table with a win against Washington on Saturday. Unfortunately for them, they are in a lesser conference, and their geographical location does not allow them to customize their non-conference schedule as well as they would like, making them lower in the standings, despite being the only undefeated team in the NCAA. Perhaps a playoff system would give them a shot at the national title?

A solution would be to re-weight the BCS to allow for some semblance of parity between the conferences, perhaps even giving extra weight to the teams who come from non-title game conferences. A 12-team tournament could begin on December 8, with the top four teams getting a bye. Even allowing a bye week before the New Year would put the title game at roughly the same spot it is now. As for the current bowls, they could be absorbed into the playoff system, where the major bowls become hosts for the semifinals. The minor bowls can continue to operate as they currently do, taking teams ranked 13th and beyond. So, without further ado, here is the hypothetical top 12 playoffs, based on the current BCS.

1. Missouri
2. West Virginia
3. Ohio State
4. Georgia

Those teams all have bye weeks, and the first-round matchups are as follows:

#5 Kansas vs. #12 Hawaii
#6 Virginia Tech vs. #11 Boston College
#7 LSU vs. #10 Florida
#8 USC vs. #9 Oklahoma

Obviously, week two would either follow traditional tournament seedings, with #1 playing the 8-9 winner, #2 the 7-10, and so on, or possibly re-seed so the top team plays the lowest ranking team alive, and so forth. Keep in mind that these seedings are based on today's BCS, which is designed for a 2-team title game, and that the rankings I made today are solely based on up-to-date rankings, not accounting for more topsy-turviness next week. Perhaps I'll devise the new rankings in the offseason and do this throughout the year next season.

As you can see, this system brings back the teams that at one point had a clear shot at the title, only to stumble once, and opens up the national championship picture, eliminating much of the debate.

Unfortunately, the dearth of college teams will still leave some teams out, Arizona State and Tennessee, the first two teams out of the playoffs, played solid seasons and could make their own cases, but this is going to be the case in all of college sports. Let's not forget that the 65-team NCAA basketball field has an angry 66, 67, 68, and 69 who are left out. However, this system would give more teams the chance, instead of an easily debateable two.

Just my long-winded $.02

Edit: Now that this has got me thinking about it, I'm gonna design the "Danny Championship Rankings System", and post that and the rankings/matchups in the next day or two.


danny's gentile roommate,  11:35 AM  

Completely agree, and always have agreed with this idea. Letting a pimped-out iMac and a bunch of fat guys only attending for the media pre-game spread determine a national champion has never made any kind of sense to me.

AND more games en route to a title bout only means more money from every possible source (tickets, sponsorships, broadcasts, etc.). It would be a nice filler instead of waiting a month and a half to play the BCS bowl games.

Danny 11:39 AM  

Exactly. And it means extra home games for the teams involved, as the first and second rounds (and maybe even the semis) can be held in the high-seed's stadium.

The one thing that hit me after I posted this was that schools' finals would be coming up, so just do away with that bye week I was talking about, and shift the tourney to start a little later. Then it's all over break anyways, and there's no academic impact. The teams can even take the Christmas week off, and the title game can be a week later. Perfect.

Patrick 11:57 AM  

I see your argument Danny, but there is no chance it will ever happen. You argue that because Kansas lost, they cannot vault themselves into cgampionship contention. Your are correct, but if they would have beat Missouri, then they would be playing Oklahoma for a chance at the title. You see, the game against Missouri was in itself, a playoff game. The players knew it, we knew it, etc. So essentially for those two teams, their playoff began last weekend. Missouri won, therefore they advance. The season itself is the playoff system and if Missouri beats Oklahoma (which will likely happen, 47th pass defense for the sooners)then we get the proper BCS CHampionship game. Even if Missouri loses, then we will likely get Ohio State, and even then, we get the proper Championship game.

A Playoff system will never happen because the traditional powerhouses will make more money than they already do by making multiple bowl game appearances and thus creating an even more imbalanced college football landscape.

Danny 12:12 PM  

Quite the contrary. This system would be even more of a cash cow for the "big bowls." The finals, or title game would continue to rotate between the 4 bowl stadiums, giving one of them an extra bowl game, like it is now. The semis could rotate between the three remaining bowls, so 2 of them would be involved in the picture as well. The odd bowl out each year can then have the pick of the litter from the remaining teams left out of the playoffs, giving them a solid game as well, with the title-host bowl getting second pick for their actual bowl game.

As for the second-tier bowls, the teams that they generally field will still be around as per usual, so nothing would change in that regard.

Iain 1:35 PM  

The only playoff that we have a chance of seeing is a 4 team playoff. Even that's a strech because none of the major BCS Bowls want to become known as "the semi-finals". Additionaly the PAC-10 Commisioner said that if the BCS changes into any kind of playoff system that his conference will leave the BCS system. The people in power want the system that exists now because they get more money than a playoff would bring in. If you think that all the bowls besides the championship game are pointless now think how much more worthless the'll be under any playoff system.

Vinnie 4:18 PM  

I'll reiterate what I said last year on playoffs:

If crowning a "true" champion is your bag, then it really comes down to what you'd rather trust--the crazy whims of pollsters and computers or the crazy whims of single-game outcomes. Personally, I'll take the former.

If all this "fair play" jive is really just your way of saying, "I wanna see some exciting playoff games," then admit that. And don't expect that you'd end up with a "truer" champ because you'd only be opening the door for '85 'Novas (the team, not the car).

Vinnie 4:28 PM  

Having said that, a fluke champ that won by virtue of a hot streak and some good breaks on the field is easier for people to swallow than an arguable #1 getting left out becuase of a few hundreths of a point and some bad breaks in an early-season loss.

And since I don't particularly care either way, I say whatever makes the most people happy.

Anonymous,  5:37 PM  

going back to my fake NFL bowl lineup a few posts back I forgot about the
AWESOME BOWL Browns vs Irish
I know the awesome bowl doesn't exist and Notre Dame is not bowl eligible nor an NFL team but fewer obstacles have been cleared to get the Irish into a premier bowl game. The Browns win this one by at least a hundred but the bowl makes tons of money.
Anyone still like the idea of bowl games?

Zuch 6:59 PM  

I'd prefer the chance of seeing a fluke winner of an 8/12/16 team playoff than the current system that continually leaves out teams playing the best at the end of the season (USC this season, Auburn in 2005, USC in 2002, Oregon or Colorado in 2001). While West Virginia may be one of the top two teams, there's no way you could tell me that Missouri would be favored over USC, LSU, Georgia or even Ohio State on a neutral field.

Mike 7:21 PM  

The thing that always bothered me was that college football is unlike pretty much every other NCAA sport (or pro sport for that matter) in this regard.

There are an obscene percentage of teams that BEGIN the season with ZERO CHANCE to win the championship.

Even in the NCAA Basketball Tournament, the team that finished dead last in its puny conference the year before, in theory could put a solid team together, win its conference tournament, win 6 games in the NCAA Tournament and be national champions.

In college football, practically speaking, only the teams from the BCS Conferences and Notre Dame can pull it off.

53 out of 119 teams begin the season in August knowing that even if they run the table, it's all in vain just because of the conference they play in; a decision that may have been made years or decades before they were even born. (Example: What if the SEC decided in 1991 that they wanted Louisiana Tech instead of Arkansas, and Arkansas joined the WAC with Houston, Rice, SMU, and TCU when the SWC dissolved? Who'd have a better shot at the title? What if the Big 12 decided they wanted Texas, Texas Tech, Baylor, and Houston. Would Texas A&M have a prayer languishing in Conference USA or the Mountain West?)

The non- BCS schools make up 45% of the teams in I-A. 45% eliminated from title contention before the first kickoff in August. Ask any of those teams if they think "The regular season is the real playoff."

That's the same as starting a Major League Baseball season and before the first pitch is thrown in April, saying "OK, I'm sorry guys, but even if you guys go 162-0, no team from the American League will get to play for the title. Why? Well, we just think you'd get steamrolled anyway, so what's the point?"

As for widening the gulf between haves and have-nots, how can playing against top-notch competition possibly hurt anyone?
People used to think there was no way the American Football League could ever hang with the National Football league, then they started playing a regular game called the Super Bowl.

In my ideal system, college football would follow a shocking model: The same one used for every other NCAA sport. Eleven 1-A Conference champions get an automatic bid (sound familiar?), and then a selection committee would pick anywhere from 1 to 5 at-large bids for a 12-16 team tournament.

Mike 8:14 PM  

So my tournament is...
11 Conference Automatic bids
1.) Ohio State (Big 10 Champ)
2.) Mizzou/Oklahoma (Big 12 Champ)
3.) West Virginia (Big East Champ)
4.) Tennessee/LSU (SEC Champs)
5.) VaTech/BC (ACC Champs)
6.) Arizona State/USC (Pac 10 Champ)
7.) BYU (Mountain West Champ)
8.) UCF/Tulsa (Conference USA Champ)
9.) Troy (Sun Belt Champs)
10.) Bowling Green/Cen. Mich. (MAC Champ)
11.) Hawaii (WAC Champ)

5 at large bids
1.)VaTech/BC loser (10-3)
2.)Mizzou/Oklahoma loser (10-3 or 11-2)
3.)Georgia (10-2)
4.)Kansas (11-1)
5.)USC (9-2)

Last four out
Tennessee/LSU loser (9-3 or 10-3)
Illinois (9-3)
Clemson (9-3)
Texas (9-3)

Zuch 12:16 AM  

I for the most part like your concept Mike, but would have the top 2 non-BCS teams (or any other non-BCS team that finished in the top 16) along with the six BCS champions and then have eight at large bids.

My 16 teams would look like this:

Auto Bids:
VT/BC winner (ACC)
Ohio State (Big Ten)
Missouri/Oklahoma (Big 12)
West Virginia (Big East)
USC (Pac 10)
LSU/Tennessee winner (SEC)
Hawaii (Top 2 non-BCS team)
BYU (top 2 non-BCS team)

At Large Bids:
Arizona State
Big 12 Loser
LSU if they lose/Cal if LSU wins
South Florida

Mike 10:20 AM  

That may end up being an effective compromise (Two guaranteed non-BCS slots in the tournament.)

My only concern would be that it would lead to essentially a BCS-Triple-A, where the same subjective debates and formulas are re-enacted just on a smaller conference scale. That's why I included all conference champions in my tournament. Decide it on the field. Say Troy doesn't have a prayer against Ohio State or Mizzou? Well, no 16-seed has ever beaten a #1 in basketball, but they keep playing the games.

I'm also not buying the argument that games like Arkansas-LSU late in the season would be rendered unimportant in a playoff system since LSU was already assured of a spot.

1.) That's absurd. Look at last year's MU-Pitt game. Last game of the regular season, both teams already assured a tournament spot, and it was far from a boring game. Teams will still be jockeying for position. Could mean the difference between getting Tulsa or Georgia in the first round.

2.) LSU only won the SEC West by 1 game. In my format, the selection committee would have to think long and hard about inviting 3 teams from one conference.

3.) As for schedule, I had always thought about having the first round around Christmas at campus sites. New Years at neutral bowl sites (Pick four from Pasadena, Dallas, New Orleans, Miami, etc.)
Semifinals at neutral sites (Indianapolis, Houston, Minnesota, etc.) and the Final the weekend before the Super Bowl in the same city; not necessarily the same stadium (Houston, Dallas, Miami, LA, Arizona), to set up a week of American football championships.

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