Honestly, I don’t know what it is about Dan Wetzel’s particular form of playoff monomania that drives me so batty, but there it is.
His latest outburst is a criticism of Larry Scott’s conference champs-only plus-one proposal. This literally made my jaw drop:
Scott’s instincts aren’t completely off; deemphasizing flawed, groupthink-powered polls and mathematically unsound computer formulas is an admirable goal. The only reason polls (25 teams deep) are used is because college football still believes there was validity to something invented by some sportswriters in the 1930s.
It was a just a promotional tool then (try comparing teams in the pre-TV era). It should’ve remained that way. It never should’ve been used on an official level.
The computers were brought in to partially take subjectivity out of the equation. The formulas were bastardized, however, by PC decisions such prohibiting margin of victory.
At its core, this is the intellectual inconsistency that plagues college football, one that Scott reasonably wants to escape.
The problem is obvious: Rewarding only conference champs would be intellectually consistent only if all conferences were competitively consistent.
They aren’t even close to that. Plus they shift on an annual basis. Decades and decades of history in every sport says that there are years the second-best team in one conference or division is superior to a champion of another conference or division.
It’s not that I disagree with any of that. I think an objective, conference champs-only playoff format should be what D-1 winds up with once they get realignment out of their system and consolidate the division around 64 to 80 teams, but right now, it would lead to as many new problems as it would solve.
No, what drives me crazy here is Wetzel arguing that with a straight face after previously pitching a 16-team playoff with a 6-6 Sun Belt champion in it based on this appealing rationale:
… While no one would argue that the Sun Belt champ is one of the top 16 teams in the country, its presence is paramount to maintaining the integrity and relevancy of the regular season. Teams that put together exceptional season deserve to be rewarded. If you just take the top eight or 16 teams and match them up on a neutral field then there is no advantage to being No. 1 rather than No. 16.
The way to reward the best teams is two-fold. First is providing home-field advantage to the higher-seeded team until the title game (more on this later).
The second is by giving an easier first-round opponent – in this case No. 1 seed Auburn would play No. 16 Florida International. Earning a top two or three seed most years would present a school a de facto bye into the second round. FIU isn’t in the tournament to win the title – they won’t – but to make the regular season matter more. [Emphasis added.]
Intellectual consistency? Pot, meet kettle.