An NFL Style Playoff Is Right

The debate rages on with No College Football Playoff, so a few points need to be considered and clarified as to why a playoff is so desperately needed and why the BCS is so desperately worthless.

With 120 teams and only 12 games, it is difficult to determine which 2 are the best. While imperfect (but what system is perfect?), the BCS system selects 2 teams independent of divisions or geography and dependent upon results of the games they’ve played.

How is it possible in one breath you can say that 12 games and 120 teams makes it difficult to select the best two yet at the same time be a proponent of a system that attempts to do just that? Let’s look at a sport that has things right, the NBA. Let’s take the 3rd worst team in the West, the LA Clippers. They are 7-4 in their division and 13-21 in the Western Conference. Suppose the season was just 12 games. They go 7-4 in their division and win their 1 other game for an 8-4 record. Now suppose Division leader LA Lakers lose their one other game and go 8-3 in division and 8-4 overall. Those teams, if you only took their division games so far and one other “non conference” game, could have equal records in theory. Are those two teams at all equal? No, one wins 67.9% of the time while the other wins 36.4% of the time. How do we know this? Because in the NBA every team plays each other at least once.

This does not happen in college football. You can have two teams finish at 8-4 and you might say they are pretty equal teams. Yet if they played a 119 game schedule one could end up 90-29 and the other could be 50-69. The BCS does a poor job of selecting the two best teams. All they can do is select the two teams who had the best regular season’s. I would emphatically say that last season Oregon would not have been a top 5 team if there was a 119 game schedule. If everyone played everyone else, Alabama would have been in the top 5 when all was said and done. They might have lost 10 games total. Just so happens that 3 of those game in their first 13 games. Doesn’t mean Wisconsin is better than them. Just that Wisconsin had a better regular season by only losing once.

But I would prefer a system that errs on the side of letting good teams in compared to a system that doesn’t care about on the field performance.

This completely mischaracterizes my position. A playoff system doesn’t care about on the field performance? And the BCS does? Every other year they throw on the field performance out the door and vote on it! Your performance can sway voters, yes, but in the end, its a vote! And even if you win all your games and can’t perform any better, your on the field performance can mean nothing…because its a vote! TCU’s regular season performance has meant nothing for two straight years now. Why even bother having a regular season? Why even bother having 120 teams in the FBS? Why don’t the 6 BCS conferences make their own league?

And the 1984 Cougars don’t count since that was 14 years before the BCS. Under the BCS, no non-AQ team will ever play for the championship. Ever.

Since playing in a playoff has “clear and measurable criteria,” what exactly is it? Win your division? Ok, that is a goal, but at the beginning of the season, you don’t know exactly what you have to do in order to do that. Sometimes you will have to win 12 of your games, sometimes 9. You make it sound like making it to the BCS Championship is completely out of a team’s control, but don’t pretend like your fate in winning a conference is completely within a team’s control because it simply isn’t.

This is completely misguided. You know every year what it takes to win your division or conference- beat the other teams! If you win every conference game, you win your conference. If you lose a conference game, then your fate might be in the hands of someone else. But when the season begins, everyone’s destiny is controlled by their on the field performance under a playoff. You know you have to win your conference to get there, and you know what it takes to win your conference. Everyone has an equal chance at it. Under a playoff, it would be impossible for a team to go undefeated and not get into the playoff. Completely impossible. And how many undefeated teams were denied by the BCS again? So tell me which system has clearer criteria. The one that lets in every undefeated team or the one that votes on which undefeated team to let in.

Also, with this criteria, non-conference games are basically irrelevant because non-conference games don’t factor into how the winner of a conference is determined. I think that annual games like Florida vs FSU and Notre Dame vs USC, not to mention the random exciting non-conference games like Boise State vs Virginia Tech or LSU vs UNC, should be valued and important to how a team is considered. With the BCS, those games factor into the regular season title chase. With a playoff, they are essentially exhibition games, which would be a shame.

Why would this be a shame? How on earth can this be viewed negatively? Think of how many more games like those you have mentioned would be played if the non-conference games weren’t a must win? You prefer to see Alabama pound Chattanooga year in and year out? The BCS has dawned the cupcake non-conference schedule. Now when good schools actually meet outside of conference play, it is a huge deal! Why? Because it never happens anymore! Get a playoff and people wouldn’t be afraid to play each other anymore. You might see some SEC vs. Pac 10 games more than once a year. You might see teams more willing to schedule a Boise State or TCU. And do you think any of those teams would play like it didn’t matter? Plus, if you don’t win your conference, you still have 5 at large spots to fill, and those non-conference games would certainly play a role in that selection process.

I prefer a system in which a team must expect to win each week, is independent of geography or conference affiliation, and takes only the teams that have proven their merit all season, accepting the fact that there may be instances of tough-decision making when a good team is left out.

With the BCS, winning each week doesn’t guarantee anything. If you think it is independent of conference affiliation you are on crack. Most seasons there are more than two teams who prove their merit. And you want a system where those tough-decisions rest on the shoulders of coaches who haven’t seen the other teams play?

I want a system that gives clear criteria before the season starts of how you can participate in the championship game. I want a system that guarantees equal access to that championship game for every team from every conference. I want a system that is independent of coaches votes, the opinions of random sports personalities in the media and the arbitrary formulas of computers. I want a system that requires teams to prove their merit. I want a system where tough decisions about who gets in and who gets out are made by an informed committee, just like with basketball.

You repeatedly cite the seasons of 2008 when Utah was the only undefeated team, 2009 when there were 5 undefeated teams at the end of the regular season and 2010 when TCU was undefeated but ranked third as for reasons the BCS is bad…The whole picture needs to be considered, not just a few seasons here and there.

And yet you do exactly what I’m accused of doing? You just picked and chose the seasons that suited you. Let’s look at the BCS years:

1998- controversy
1999- easy choice
2000- controversy
2001- controversy
2002- easy choice
2003- controversy
2004- controversy
2005- easy choice
2006- controversy
2007- controversy
2008- controversy
2009- controversy
2010- controversy

You want to look at the whole BCS picture, do you? Look at the 3 years you cherry picked to support your point- the only three years when there were just two undefeated teams. Every other year you have multiple teams who could make the case for being #1 or #2. In a playoff, all those teams would have been pit against each other in a tournament to determine the champion.

We should have seen it coming in 1998, in just the first year of the BCS. Tennessee finished #1 and undefeated. Then behind them you had 6 one loss teams and another undefeated team. What made Florida State better than Kansas State, Ohio State, UCLA, Arizona, Wisconsin or Tulane? When did they prove their merit more than the other guys? And this has happened every year but three. I think it is much more common to have multiple great teams at season’s end than two clear best teams. We’re quickly approaching parity in college football. It’s been 5 straight years of controversy now since we had two clear top teams. Do you think the trend will right itself and we’ll start getting two clear favorites or that the chaos will continue. I think chaos…right up until we get our playoff.