Playoffs: I’m not the only one with mixed emotions.

It may come as a surprise to Brian Cook, but evidently you can find postings on the Internet by people who are anti-playoff without being pro-BCS.  Besides me, that is.

Bill Connelly put this out today, for example.

… There are legitimate arguments for keeping the current system in place, but yesterday’s egregious USA Today column from BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock didn’t actually touch on any of them. Instead, it just infuriated me.

Bill may have in mind something like what Teddy Greenstein wrote in the Chicago Tribune yesterday.

… So it’s a 16-team playoff — as the book “Death to the BCS” endorses — or bust. And a 16-teamer, in my book, would water down the regular season.

Instead of a compelling weekly drama, dozens of games would be reduced to glorified exhibitions. Auburn-Alabama and the SEC title game were must-see TV because the Tigers were playing for their lives, not a playoff seed.

No other sport has this. In the NFL, some teams use Weeks 16 and 17 to rest their starters. Borderline .500 teams can make the NBA and NHL playoffs. Yet some cry about 6-6 teams playing in bowl games that have no bearing on the national title.

In college basketball, teams toil for four months for the sake of seeding. Did it matter that Michigan State lost to Syracuse on Tuesday? What was at stake, the chance to move up or down a line in the NCAA tournament bracket? When two top-10 teams square off in college football, it’s compelling.

That’s about as succinctly stated a diminish-the-regular-season argument as I’ve seen.  (Although I don’t agree with his assumption about a four-team playoff.)

This is on the mark, too.

The playoff crowd argues the BCS is not a fair way to determine a champion. But would it be fair to Auburn or Oregon — the nation’s best teams throughout the season — to have to win four more games to claim a national title?

With a 16-team playoff that has 11 conference champions and five at-large teams, Auburn might have to beat two-loss teams such as Arkansas and LSU — again. Same goes for Oregon, which already beat Stanford.

You know who makes a 16-team playoff? Sun Belt champion Florida International (6-6) and Mid-American champ Miami of Ohio (9-4). But a team from the at-large pool of Stanford, Ohio State, Michigan State, Arkansas, LSU and Boise State would not. Is that fair?

When college football crowns its champion Jan. 10, Auburn or Oregon will be the undisputed best team. Compare that with baseball, where the 2006 Cardinals can go 83-78, get hot in the postseason and end up guzzling champagne.

Greenstein’s third point, that an extended playoff would not be a boon to fans who now travel to bowl games, sort of touches on a tradeoff that I’m not sure playoff proponents have thoroughly considered.  The larger a playoff field gets, the more difficult it becomes for the fans of a program to travel to its postseason games.  The likely response to that would be to propose shifting more of the postseason to schools’ home fields, but that plays right into Hancock’s position that a playoff would adversely affect the bowls.  You can dodge that whole thing by keeping the field smaller than eight, but…

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42 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs

42 responses to “Playoffs: I’m not the only one with mixed emotions.

  1. Biggus Rickus

    I would like a four team playoff if not for that damned slippery slope.

    • FisheriesDawg

      I don’t even see that we need four. As I see it, there are two rules to get yourself into a national championship:

      1. Don’t lose.

      2. Play a real schedule in a real conference.

      Sorry to the Boises, Hawaiis and TCUs of the world, but more often than not a team that runs through one of those other conferences undefeated just wouldn’t stack up compared to the top two from the big six.

      Following those two rules, there is one season in the history of the BCS that “failed”…2004 Auburn. Along those lines, we can come up with plenty of examples where the NFL playoffs “failed” to get the best teams together (giving 10-6 New York a shot against 16-0 New England after it had already lost that game at the end of the regular season, anyone?). I’m willing to make that tradeoff of a rare “failure” for the sheer urgency and madness of the CFB regular season compared to the vanilla of an NFL season.

      Sure, in the name of fairness, you could give TCU a shot this year. Can anyone outside of Fort Worth honestly say that they think TCU is the best of the three teams in that group this year, though? How about 2005…what would be the point in adding extra teams other than Texas and USC? We knew who the two best teams in the country were that year without a doubt and it produced one of the greatest games of all time. Why tinker with that formula unless you just like underdogs for the sake of liking underdogs?

      • Biggus Rickus

        There are years where there are more than two good choices for the title game. 2007 and 2004 come immediately to mind.

        • fuelk2

          I think 2004 is the only strong argument. As for the other years, including our situation in 2007, the fact that teams in a real conference get left out is entirely under their control (i.e., don’t lose during the season).

  2. SCDawg

    “The larger a playoff field gets, the more difficult it becomes for the fans of a program to travel to its postseason games.”

    This point is too often ignored. The result could be either lackluster ticket sales, or massive corporate buyers of tickets.

    • Irwin Fletcher

      Higher seed gets a home game. Play early rounds beginning of December. Use the bowls for the last two rounds. Fans will have the same amount of time to travel as under the current system with championship games and bowl games.

      I think its a foregone conclusion that the national championship game will be a game like the super bowl or the final four with a mix of corporate folks, general sports fans, fans of the teams that can afford short notice travel and buying off the secondary market, and a small allotment of student/alumni tickets…I haven’t been to one of those events, but isn’t that a pretty close estimate of what it is now?

      • FisheriesDawg

        No, the national championship game (and BCS bowl games not called the Orange Bowl and stuck with an ACC tie-in) has a far greater percentage of actual fans of the team compared to local and corporate ticket-holders than the Super Bowl or Final Four. The atmospheres are vastly different.

      • SCDawg

        Use Wetzel’s 16 team format this year and pretend you’re a Michigan State alumnus and you’re seeded at #9. First, you travel to Arkansas. If you win, back down south to Auburn. You win at Auburn (After sCam is declared ineligible for throwing a laptop filled with 100 dollar bills at a fellow student to take a test for him). Then you’re either on to Stanford to play the Cardinal in Cali. or a neutral site for a a defacto bowl game/playoff game. If you win, you get to travel to another neutral site to another bowl-like game. Oh yeah, tickets to these “Bowl” games are $125-$250 for nose bleed seats.
        Even though Spartan fans are pretty excited about their season, how many are able to make the trip to more than one of those locales? I know have four straight free weekends to travel and more than $25k just lying around. . . .

        • SCDawg

          Derp. “I know I have” lots of free time and money. Me english bad.

          • Irwin Fletcher

            I don’t want to completely discount the travel argument. I think I made a pretty strong case above against it being unduly burdensome compared to the current system…but let’s be realistic about what we are talking about…scratching the entire idea of a playoff because 50K fans of the lower seed’s fan base will not be able to travel to every away game in the playoffs if they keep winning upsets in the playoffs…I’m pretty sure most MSU fans would trade being able to only go to one away playoff game for a shot at a national championship.

            • SCDawg

              I think most MSU fans would gladly watch that on tv :)
              I don’t think we should discount playoffs entirely based on my argument, I just don’t think it’s discussed enough. I really think extended playoffs would damage the common fan’s ability to see most of the playoff.

  3. JasonC

    Dang you Senator! Why can’t you taste the excitement of FIU in the playoffs? If Wetzel says it’s right, it must be!

  4. Dante

    I still think if marquee programs stop watering down there schedules and play decent OOC opponents, a lot of this playoff talk would die down because we’d have a better idea of how good each team really is.

  5. Irwin Fletcher

    “That’s about as succinctly stated a diminish-the-regular-season argument as I’ve seen. ”

    Counter: The NFL has an 18 week regular season. NBA, MLB, NCAA Basketball….play 82, 162, and 30(?) games in the regular season. College Football’s schedule of 10-12 games makes each game that more important.

    “Auburn-Alabama and the SEC title game were must-see TV because the Tigers were playing for their lives, not a playoff seed.”

    Doesn’t that cut both ways? Wouldn’t playoff football be must see TV because each team would be playing for their lives? And, despite the authoritative tone taken, wasn’t the argument during the week before the Iron Bowl and the SEC championship, Would a 1-loss Auburn team be in the national title game?

    As far as compelling weekly drama, I’m pretty sure the NFL would argue that they absolutely have that.

    And one other point….38% of the teams in the NFL make the playoffs. 53% of the teams in the NBA make the playoffs. Roughly 50% of the D-1 football programs make a Bowl. Even if the Playoffs were 16 teams and there was no contraction of D-1(both of which I wouldn’t be keen on), allowing roughly 13% of the eligible teams to make the playoffs in D-1 football, combined with the incredibly short length of the college football season wouldn’t significantly impact the importance of each week in college football based simply on the math involved.

    I think that is what gets overlooked. The ‘drama’ of the regular season in college football is because there are only 2 spots for 119 teams and each team only plays a relatively small sample size of games to prove they belong. Keep the playoff small and the season short, and I think you can have the best of both worlds…compelling football week to week with a frenzy of do-or-die matchups in a playoff.

    Last point…”When college football crowns its champion Jan. 10, Auburn or Oregon will be the undisputed best team.” Really? I’m not so sure. #1-College Football isn’t crowning anything. The AP, the BCS, etc. are. #2- Because Oregon or Auburn goes undefeated, they are the undisputed best? What if Auburn had to play Stanford instead of Clemson? What if instead of Portland State, Oregon had to play Boise again? I think there are a lot of Stanford and TCU fans that will disagree…and will say, if we had the chance, we could have beat (insert winner name).

    • FisheriesDawg

      What Stanford fans are griping? They got their shot at Oregon in October and lost by 21. If Auburn beats Oregon in January, what argument do you think Stanford fans will have?

    • Good Lord, so much to fisk, so little time to do it. ;)

      Counter: The NFL has an 18 week regular season. NBA, MLB, NCAA Basketball….play 82, 162, and 30(?) games in the regular season. College Football’s schedule of 10-12 games makes each game that more important.

      You’re talking each game; we’re talking regular season as a whole. Big difference. Extended playoffs diminish the impact of the regular season, regardless of its size. By the way, when you make arguments about the size of the regular season, how come you don’t take note of the size of the postseasons in MLB, NBA, NHL? They’re huge (and baseball is getting ready to add more).

      Doesn’t that cut both ways? Wouldn’t playoff football be must see TV because each team would be playing for their lives?

      I think that’s our point about an extended playoff.

      And one other point….38% of the teams in the NFL make the playoffs. 53% of the teams in the NBA make the playoffs. Roughly 50% of the D-1 football programs make a Bowl.

      Playoffs aren’t the same thing as bowl games. Bowl games are glorified exhibition games.

      College Football isn’t crowning anything.

      The NCAA isn’t crowning anything. I’m not sure what you mean by “College Football”, but considering that every D-1 conference participates in the BCS, I’d say it’s closer than you admit.

      • Irwin Fletcher

        “You’re talking each game; we’re talking regular season as a whole. Big difference.”

        I’m not a math major, but my point is that 1/12 is bigger than 1/16 is bigger than 1/82 is bigger than 1/162. “Extended” playoffs, (I assume extended is 16 and non-extended is 8″?), by definition would add games, that’s correct…(it would add at most 15 games in a 16 game playoff…and if you use the bowls, it is probably only adding a net of 12..so it would increase the number of d1 football games each year by about 1%). BUT…it doesn’t by definition ‘water down the regular season’ or turn games into ‘glorified exhibitions’.

        Just looking at his example of the Iron Bowl and the SEC championship game proves that there is a lot of gray in a picture he his trying to paint in black and white. Hell…those teams had already played before. That South Carolina-Auburn game earlier in the season was greatly diminished by the fact that the two teams would have to play again to determine the champion of the league!!! No one watched that game! Errr…no it wasn’t. Gameday was there. It was nationally televised. It was a great game. Yet everyone in the place knew it was a possibility that both teams would have to play again to be the SEC champ. He is essentially citing a playoff game (the SEC championship game) as an argument against a playoff.

        I’m not that smart…I just don’t understand how this dogma that the regular season becomes pointless with a D-1 playoff takes hold when we have high school football, college football at other levels, and NFL football as examples of highly competitive, highly entertaining, and highly meaningful regular season games that feed into a playoff for the state or national championship. Football is unique because there are so few games each season. That is why they are events…not because there isn’t a playoff or is a playoff.

        • No one is arguing that the regular season becomes pointless. All we’re saying is that there’s a radical shift in emphasis that takes place in the wake of bigger playoffs.

          To quote from the linked article,

          [Adding a new round of postseason play] removed substance from the regular season, regressing it into a prolonged waiting period, except for marginal teams with no business of being in the playoffs getting the chance nevertheless.

          Now if you think playoffs are the be all and end all, that’s a tradeoff you’ll make every day and twice on Sunday. Personally, I think it’s a shame that we don’t see pennant races like the ’93 NL West anymore. And I don’t want to see college football go down that road.

    • The Realist

      To your last point, I think you are getting caught up on semantics. The NCAA doesn’t recognize a champion, but most everybody will still hold the winner of the BCS title game as the national champion.

      To your secondish point, what is compelling about having FIU or Miami(OH) play Auburn and Oregon? How about Georgia Southern being in the 1AA playoffs? They finished 7-4 and third in their conference. Now they are in the quarterfinals (final 8), playing… their conference champion, Wofford who they lost to at home two months ago. This is what happens when you have an extended playoff system.

      To your first point (I’m losing track), you say that 1-loss Auburn might have gotten in regardless of what happened in the Alabama game. It was possible, but under a 16-team playoff, it would not have mattered one iota because they had already clinched the SEC West division. That game would have been meaningless in the national championship picture. It’s not that a playoff makes the entire regular season meaningless, but it negatively impacts the meaningfulness of the regular season. The game is still meaningful under a playoff, just less so than under the current system.

  6. Al Golden

    If we’re gonna have a playoff let’s do it right. 5-3 in the MAC would definitely be good enough to get in it. Right?

  7. Scorpio Jones, III

    None, nobody, not any one of the playoff proponents address the scholarship limit issue.

    They all seem to ignore what a struggle getting through a regular season with the current scholarship limits is.

    With the current limits, it is very likely, in fact almost a certainty, the team that won on the field would be the team which had the best injury luck, not the best team.

  8. dboy

    4 game playoff. No more and no less. I would do that in a second.

  9. My main argument to those against a playoff system is that I can promise you I will love UGA football, college football Saturdays, and all things college football no matter what the system is.

    That being said, I am a nobody, so what does it matter? lol

  10. Macallanlover

    The “regular season scare tactic group” ignores that SC and FSU played all their athletes in winning the season finales two weeks ago when they were already locked into the conference championship games. And that has happened in every situation before that, including UGA. A playoff of 8 teams, and four home field seeds at risk, will never resemble the NFL season issues, nor those of NCAA basketball. The argument only makes sense when the field is excessive. 8 spots of 120 is damned precious.

    • MinnesotaDawg

      Agree completely. The arguments posed by many on here are either based on an extended playoff scenario (16 or more teams) rather than an 8-10 team playoff, extremely speculative, or caught up in hypothetical details (visiting team’s fans ability/ desire to travel in consecutive weeks??).

      Moreover, from the second week on, the current college football season is packed with games which are “meaningless” with respect to the National Championship, but yet fans still die hard, coaches still coach for their jobs, and players still lay it on the line every week. The idea that the game or any team’s approach would be negatively affected by providing a handful of teams the small chance at a NC despite a loss or two (or mid-major affiliation) seems unrealistic to me. Not to mention that the resulting games would be an incredible amount of fun to watch–unlike the tiresome December exhibition slate that awaits us now.

      • Macallanlover

        Certainly the travel issue has to be considered but an 8 team playoff presents minimal issues. The 1st round would be at the top 4 seeds’ home fields so it is just another home game for those 4 teams, and 5-8K tickets for the visiting team. Nothing new there. The 2nd round is the four winners at a traditional bowl venue, same as always, nothing new there. The Championship game (only involving 2 teams) could be at a dome in the middle of the country, easily accessible for the two fanbases. These fans would be more than willing to travel. It isn’t like this will be an annual event involving the same teams all the time. With a true playoff, fans would be pumped, and no team would dominate. Much ado about nothing.

        It is also a fallacy to think this would sink the existing bowls. Bowls would continue as is, maybe the 2-3 bowls who play their games in mid-December would suffer from haqving to compete with the four 1st round games. Nothing earth shattereing again.

        • MinnesotaDawg

          Right. The extra neutral site game we’re talking about here is a once-in-a-generation (for most teams) National Championship game! I think that college fans, who regularly plunk down a couple grand or more for the the right to buy season tickets, might be willing to go the extra mile in such a case.

    • HackerDog

      Using the importance of the current regular season to argue that the regular season under a playoff season would be just as important is logically fallacious.

      Look at every other sport with a playoff for examples of teams treating the regular season as glorified seeding exercises.

      • Macallanlover

        Actually, the importance of the regular season is a given: no playoff, or limited playoff. It is only mentioned because some feel a playoff would change that. I do not, and never thought that was valid….it just happens to be some folks’ favorite counter perhaps because they just cannot come up with anything better.

        I agree, discussion of this topic should be shelved and the debate moved to more significant issues, but it isn’t going to happen. Some folks really think that way so it will come up again, and be overcome….again and again.

  11. kckd

    Auburn/Bama is always must see tv. UGA/Tech is always must see tv to the two teams involved and their fans. The games that would change would be the matchups like SCU and Bama from earlier this year.

    • Macallanlover

      I don’t understand, are you saying Bama and SC would be any different in the middle of the year? That game is/would be played with the same intensity with, or without a playoff in anyone’s proposal. Frankly, with a limited playoff there is no change in how games would be played.

      Regular season concerns are a big diversion tactic by those who want to mislead. Most of these guys are smart enough to know it isn’t relevant but realize it is easy to confuse the majority. Same way politicians restate issues to confuse the electorate. They know the NFL/NHL/MLB argument falls apart when put into a serious discussion as to how it would relate to CFB..

  12. JW

    All of these arguments overlook the spirit of college football and it’s fans. A playoff would in no way diminish the importance of the regular season. In the current system only the hardcore fans care about the majority of the regular season once their school has lost a game and is essentially eliminated. Take our own Dawgs this season. After losing to USC and Arkansas what were we playing for? Virtually a long shot at the East. Yet, we continue to show up and cheer for our guys in what basically becomes a weekly exhibition. Consider if you were a Wisconsin fan this year…perhaps could give Oregon or Auburn fits, but they can’t even claim a Big Ten title.

    Does the NFL playoff system keep folks from caring about the regular season? Far as I know, still the most popular sport in America. Sure they may have a few useless games at the end of the season, but they have far fewer meaningless games than their collegiate counterparts given how quickly most are eliminated. This whole thing exhausts me.

    • MinnesotaDawg

      Well put. I’m right there with you (this includes being exhausted, yet aggravated with many of these obstructionist arguments).

      • Junkyard Dawg '00

        Gotta agree w/ JW and Minn Dawg here. I’m exhausted by it all too. Today, I am a much bigger fan of the NFL than college football. Four or five years ago, I would have told anyone around that the best sport around is college football, bar none. Now, unless it is a GA game or has implications on GA’s season, I’m not interested. I do not think the current system allows teams a chance to overcome obstacles that come about during the ebb and flow of a football team’s season and it all stinks of collusion for a very select few to me… ie the top teams of the very top conferences and the payoffs for university presidents.

  13. Boom Mother F’er’s a Gator