Hey, what happened to “It’s so easy”?

Silly me.  I thought embracing the move from the BCS to a four-team playoff was going to usher in an unprecedented era of world peace.  Instead, in one corner, we’ve got the Big Ten clutching on to the Rose Bowl like grim death, while in the other, Texas AD DeLoss Dodds is ready to chuck all the bowls in the trash can.

And now we’ve got the Michigan AD telling us it’s no big thang, mane.

“Where we are right now, we have a system that’s been pretty good determining the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams. … Our ability to know who is No. 3, No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 is far less accurate, and so what we’re doing now is coming up with a way to play an extra football game. That’s great. People are excited about another football game. The only thing they’d like more than one football game is two more football games.”

Curse you, fans, you and your damned excitement!  Can’t you let the people in charge screw things up on their own?

It’s enough to have better men than me shaking their heads in frustration.  Like Bruce Feldman:

The good news? It sounds like we’re very close to finally getting an actual college football playoff. The not-so-good news? The selection process that is bound to be involved to determine the final four teams involved is going to be messy.

Really messy.

Hopefully, though, we’ll get some level of progress on this front too. After all, when you really examine the old BCS formula that thing was a farce. Start with the Coaches Poll that figured into it significantly. College coaches don’t have the time to get involved in watching other teams they aren’t playing. The not-so-well-kept secret is their football ops guy or their sports information director fill out their ballots, just as former Alabama coach Gene Stallings admitted Wednesday morning he had his do when he was “involved” in the Coaches Poll. On top of all that, their livelihood is so dependent on the outcome of the poll. It’s ridiculous to have them involved in this.

True ‘dat.  But I tell you what – Feldman goes on to mention something almost as a throwaway line that I don’t think is a half-bad idea.

Years ago I made the case that the Vegas oddsmakers would probably be the best fit in determining the rankings. Not that I ever thought it would actually happen, but within the context of it, there is relevant point: In theory, the oddsmakers get you the strongest or best teams, but do they actually get you the “most deserving” teams? Those terms don’t always go hand-in-hand.

Maybe yes, maybe no.  But I do know a couple of things.  One, if Vegas does the picking, it’s going to be cold-blooded.  There’s no money to be made in being biased or having conflicts of interest.  And, two, the odds are set in anticipation of how people bet; to some extent, those lines reflect our own enthusiasm and respect for the teams in play.  So on some level, isn’t that giving the fans what they want?

I’m curious what you guys think of that.

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26 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs

26 responses to “Hey, what happened to “It’s so easy”?

  1. Uglydawg

    “the odds are set in anticipation of how people bet”, could be a huge problem. College football fans are often so Disney-eyed that they will bet on their team (see, “Gamecock- fan-diminished cranial capacity) out of pure dilusional, unwaranted optimisim. The odds could very well be determined by fan enthusiasm (which would still favor the SEC) vs logic. PT Barnum would be proud of the way Vegas would rake it in, (not that there’s a SC fan born every minute, but you get the point).

  2. Derek

    Proposing to use Vegas odds in such a way demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of sports odds. Vegas’ intent in setting a line is to get equal amounts of money on each side. Vegas has no interest in determining who the best team is. They are interested in knowing where the money will be bet which is the same as saying they follow the perceptions of the betting public. Those perceptions are not always accurate. Vegas will never tell you who the best team is. They will only tell you who the people who place bets think the best team is.

  3. HahiraDawg

    I believe this method would make way too much sense to ever get even close to accepted. As for UD’s concern that ‘anticipation of people’s betting’ could be a “huge problem”. I don’t think so. Only ND I believe (maybe Texas?) would have enough of a national following to offset those of other fanbases. USCe’s delusional base could never swing things enought to create a “huge problem”. Just the suggestion gives them too much credit.

  4. Z-Dawg

    The biggest risk with Vegas picking is that they would be more inclined to pick programs that can generate the most action in a given contest. This would favor teams with more active fan bases which gets us right back into the argument of excluding the “Have Nots”. With that said, I would guess that the WWL would also jump on board with that proposal because their goals would essentially be the same.

    • You think there’s gonna be problems generating betting interest in a national semi-final?

      • Z-Dawg

        Not at all. If it was a close call between say Notre Dame and TCU they would probably favor the team with the larger base. Since the current system already has questionable integrity regarding rankings and selection of bowl teams it wouldn’t necessarily be a downgrade to let Vegas do it.

  5. cube

    1) Create an RPI poll for football. Don’t calculate until first week in October.
    2) Ask AP to wait and collect its first poll the first week in October (that means no preseason poll either).
    2) Add the new RPI poll and the AP poll together to create the “playoff” poll (call it whatever).
    3) Take the top 4 teams in the playoff poll.

  6. SCDawg

    Whatever method they decide to pick runs the risk of being so fundamentally flawed that popular opinion will quickly force an expansion from four teams, which I think is fine, to 8, then sixteen, and so forth. Which I think is not fine.

    Seriously, does anyone have any confidence in this process or these people anymore? I think it’s set up to fail because they’re so incompetent they’ll put the perfect poison pill in there.

    • Connor

      They’re set up to fail because it’s an impossible problem. You can’t create a 4 team playoff that isn’t fraught with all of the core issues that have made the BCS so reviled. On top of that new problems, such as location, will be created.
      Whatever 4 team Frankenstein gets cobbled together will leave most fans less content with the post-season than they are now.

  7. Cojones

    A Vegas-led fan poll? Genius!

    Vegas odds are selected by many people who work matchups according to position and team strengths. They factor in coaches, injuries, suspensions, the field, rivalry, etc. before posting a consensus odds. After that the betting changes the odds to move it to a bettor-generated consensus. The initial odds are as cold as a freezer in their generation according to one of my son’s two friends who work or have worked as Vegas oddsmen. They do the same for the NFL. Think they let NFL fans help set the odds initially? Think again.

    This is nothing but a replay of a 2-team selection. How does selecting 4 teams make it a playoff? Same ole, except more of it. You are having a 4-team playoff instead of a 2-team playoff, neither of which can be called a NC Playoff that we have clamored for. You will need 8 teams to even begin the process because the selection process with that many teams will only then begin to dilute the prejuducial selection process.

    • Cojones

      You can never have a Coaches Poll because that was bastardized years ago by Tressel and Big10 coaches (just substitute Criar in his place). They overweighted their ballots toward Big10 in order to fight the rising SEC. UGA was a victim more than once. It was insidious and dishonest and we didn’t get to view their votes until a few years ago. They still arrogantly slipped SEC Teams compared to Big10. The few honest ones in the poll (from the Big10) were overwhelmed by the aholes voting higher for their own teams and other Big10 members.

    • cube

      I disagree. Selecting 4 teams instead of 2 definitely dilutes the prejuducial selection process. It would be even more diluted at 8 but going to 4 helps.

  8. ZeroPointZero

    Vegas? They would put the two biggest betting draws in. It would be Notre Dame vs USCw every year. Love Vegas, but far from trust Vegas.

    • Can you point to a single Vegas book which currently lists ND as one of its top two schools odds-on to win MNC?

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        I think 0.0’s point was that the Vegas guys might very well have an agenda other than simply picking the truly 4 best teams in the land. Capice?

  9. Just Chuck

    Probably won’t happen just because no one in college football would vote to put gamblers in charge of anything.

  10. Always Someone Else's Fault

    Could something like Intrade, which turns politics into a market, be done for CFB? Same basic dynamic at work as Vegas in some ways, but a futures market, which eliminates “host” bias.

    Voters follow polls, which are up, down and all over the place depending on who got sampled and what sort of statistical treatment the pollster used. Those are all dead-even right now. Intrade, on the other hand, has Obama running 60/40 over Romney right now. Those are the people willing to speculate on the results with their money. Market wisdom and all that. It’s been a pretty reliable predictor.

    Thoughts?

  11. JG Shellnutt

    Would there need to be a new odds-making? Right now, they make odds on who will win the national championship, which is not necessarily the same as odds-making on who would make and then win a 4 team play-off.

    Right now, the top 4 to win it all this season, would not necessarily be the 4 that would be in the 4 team play-off because they are different questions. For example, this particular Georgia team has higher odds of winning it all by virtue of being in the SECe as opposed to the SECw.

  12. shane#1

    Whatever happened to “It’s so easy”?, Well, it was a great old Buddy Holly song until Linda Ronstadt had to screw around with it.

  13. Cosmic Dawg

    I wonder if all of the above leads us right back around to where we started – that is, we feel that the BCS selection is subjective, based on TV revenue, our *perception* of a program or a conference more than what they may or may not actually be able to do on the field, etc. So the odds are skewed by some of the same kinds of forces that skew voting and bowl selection,etc.

    How about this:

    a) *Force* any D-1 teams who want to vie for the *official* NCAA national championship into one of eight conferences, or have 7 divisions and let all the indies get their “champ” decided by whoever has the highest rank = 8 playoff teams.

    b) So you have eight conferences with all the D-1 teams. Every conference has two divisions. Everybody plays 10 or 11 regular season games. The two divisions in each conference play a championship game to determine the eventual eight playoff teams. So yes, you must win your conference to go to the playoffs. No crying in football.

    c) You have a weekend of championship games. THEN, all the bowl games *except* the eight biggest, most historic bowls are played the week after as a kind of showcase for the other good teams and a way for fans of those teams to have some kind of postseason.

    d) After that week, the postseason starts, and the most historic bowls are either rotated around or the SEC champ and the ______ champ always go to the Sugar Bowl, or whatever.

  14. Cosmic Dawg

    correction:
    “…or one of eight conferences, or have 7 CONFERENCES and let all the indies get their “champ” decided by whoever has the highest rank = 8 playoff teams…”

    • Cojones

      And if UGA is ranked # 3 and someone else is the SECC?

      • Cosmic Dawg

        If you believe the rankings should determine who plays in the big games, that is fine with me – I’m not in a big rush to have playoffs, and I actually think the rankings do a pretty good job. If we keep the bowl games, though, I think the colleges and athletes who are supplying the entertainment should use their leverage to get more from the bowl tsars.

        However, the big scream about the polls is that they’re so subjective. In my post, the conference championships act as a kind of playoff, and in your scenario UGA would have lost the “first round” to another team.

        In every playoff system in every sport, sometimes it happens that #3 gets beaten by #2 or #1 in the third to last round and has to go home earlier than if they’d been in another bracket. The purpose of playoffs as I understand them is not to perfectly rank the teams 1-8, or, say, in the case of college hoops, 1-64. We can’t, for instance, rank the NFL teams perfectly 1-16 or whatever after the NFL playoffs.

        It is to give every team a chance to become #1 – and to find out fair and square who is #1 – through play on the field. If that is important to us, the BCS will always be imperfect – by definition – every single year.

        If finding out who is #1 through play is not important to us, if that is not the sole goal of the playoff conversation, then we need not talk about playoffs anymore, because they have no use except for that – as far as I can tell.