The BCS is dead, and the regular season isn’t feeling so good itself.

This is pitch perfect:

… In the last few years, many fans and pundits allowed the word “playoff” to take on something of a talismanic quality. Replacing the BCS with a playoff system would surely cure the evils of the BCS, they thought, and quite possibly “save the sport” by “settling things on the field.”

Here’s the problem: A playoff does not even attempt to crown either the best or most deserving team. The very purpose of a playoff or tournament is the exact opposite: No matter a team’s talent or apparent destiny, everything can be undone on a single day by a single bounce of the ball. (Admittedly, that’s actually the allure of a playoff, hence why they call it March Madness.) Yet we’ve become so accustomed to playoffs that it’s difficult for us to think of any other way of selecting a champion.

And then Chris really nails the big problem I have with the new postseason format.

The primary advantage of a playoff is certainty, and after years of endless BCS debate — which followed decades of debate under the earlier bowl systems — certainty has real allure. But in most sports that have playoffs, like the NFL or the NBA, the criteria for getting to the playoffs is basically objective. Most playoff spots are decided based on win/loss records, with certain mechanical tiebreakers in place and known in advance. It’s not that the playoff crowns the best or most deserving team — just ask the 10-6 New York Giants that knocked off the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII. It’s that the loser has nothing to complain about: Everyone knows the rules.

Yet the new College Football Playoff lacks the very thing that makes playoffs in other sports so palatable, namely a semblance of objective certainty. While the defective BCS formula should have been interred long ago, it has been replaced by a Council of Platonic Guardians. The College Football Playoff selection committee will meet confidentially, then announce the identities of the playoff participants by edict. That’s not exactly what I’d call “settling it on the field.”

It’s not.  But, then again, that’s not why Delany, Slive and company have fashioned this arrangement we’re supposed to be thrilled with.  Their intent seems pretty apparent to me – maximize revenues while minimizing the threat to the power conferences’ place in the postseason.  And there lie the seeds of the instability of the new format.

I share Chris’ concerns about what playoff expansion means for the relevancy of the regular season – what he encapsulates as “F— It Saturday” – but, honestly, I think that train’s already left the station.  Delany paid lip service to that as recently as a couple of years ago, but the reality is that the only relevancy commissioners and presidents care about is the revenue stream they can capture from regular season broadcasts.  And it’s apparent that these guys believe that an expanded postseason won’t threaten that.

No, the real problem is going to be the totally subjective nature of qualifying for the playoffs.  The smartest guys in the room are inviting a level of second guessing that they’ve never dealt with before.  And there’s nothing to think based on their recent track record that there will be any sort of proactive planning when it goes south, which it inevitably will.  Why should there be?  After all, they’ve already proclaimed this is all college football needs and locked in a long-term deal for it.  But they’re just one major controversy away - “F— It Saturday” will be replaced with a ferocious argument about why a particular school was stuck with a number five ranking – from a media shitstorm, public outcry and, most importantly, a decline in viewership that will have them fleeing to the lifeboats to figure out the next quick fix.  Which will, of course, be another round of playoffs.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

The sad thing for me now isn’t that the regular season will be diminished.  It’s that we’re probably entering the last phase of college football as we know it.  And that phase is going to have a pretty short lifespan.

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17 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs

17 responses to “The BCS is dead, and the regular season isn’t feeling so good itself.

  1. TennesseeDawg

    What’s going to happen in these playoffs (you know, where we decide the best team and settle it on the field) when an SEC crew gets picked and throws a ridiculous penalty in a close “playoff” game that influences the outcome?

  2. PTC DAWG

    Win the SEC and you are in. Or don’t and take your chances. How does that diminish the regular season?

    • Sanford222view

      The current format does not diminish the regular season with only 4 teams getting in the playoff. The diminishing of the regular season begins really when they expand to 8, 16, etc. Then you have teams getting in that didn’t have to win their conference and losses start not to matter as much.

      Or…how about this scenario? Georgia is undefeated going into the Tech game and heading to the SECCG to play either a one loss or undefeated Alabama. What’s to stop Georgia from resting most starters to save them from injury and losing the Tech game if it didn’t impact them winning the SEC and qualifying for the playoff? I am guessing a one loss SEC Championship team that rested/saved players likely causing the one loss would still make the play off. Does that not diminish the regular season?

  3. Connor

    Amen, Senator.

  4. Bright Idea

    All other sports’ playoffs crown “champions” not the best team. The committee will decide which four has a chance to be champion.

    • Macallanlover

      Dead on, the argument about “best” is always subjective and no playoff will ever decide that. The coming playoff is better than anything we have had (BCS was better than the former restrictive bowl matchups) but they will be lacking until the conference champions of all “power” conferences are included. I will watch what they bring, and enjoy the games, but this is a half ass solution. It is as if they realized that two teams did not satisfy the need for deserving teams but didn’t have the guts to offer the solution fans around the country have been asking for. Until a representative of those conferences is included, there will be legitimate complaints. You will never convince the fans in those geographies that their conference couldn’t compete for the title, and I cannot blame them.

      • Bob

        Absolutely. That way Rice, which won its conference got into this ever growing playoff addiction gets a chance. Never mind that they play in a vastly inferior conference. Never mind they lost to the 9th best team in the SEC (if that) by 30 plus points. Equality for everyone. Of course the other 8 teams in the SEC and the 5 in the Big 12 and 6 in the PAC 12 are sitting home while we give Rice a shot which has surely been earned in some mythical way.

        • Macallanlover

          Guess you missed the part about “power” conferences. Of course, I am sure there are geniuses here who know why we should exclude “regional winners” since there are never any disputes about strength of schedule or conferences. Ever growing…guess you are a little confused about that too, but don’t hesitate to make S. A. comments like this with the facts all jumbled. Whatever fits your agenda.

  5. Carlton Thomas

    Couldn’t be happier about the new format. Only thing better would be 16 teams. Then our season wouldn’t have ended on a miraculous halfback pass against Missouri.

    Our 02 05 07 and 12 teams would have had legit shots at a national title under this scenario. That’s progress.

    And I will still be excited every year when we play auburn, tech and florida

    • Noonan

      This pretty much sums up how I feel. I have always felt the FCS model would be the best playoff format.

  6. Normaltown Mike

    Catfish misses the BCS.

  7. Always Someone Else's Fault

    Chris nails it. Thanks for the read.

    The new systems amounts to an even more subjective level of evaluation over a larger field of teams, guaranteed to anger a wider swath of fans at a faster clip. Want to know what I didn’t watch yesterday? Any CBB regular season, any NFL playoffs. Hard to care about the former, my team isn’t in the latter. CFB is the last sport where I will watch a game involving teams other than my own. Wonder how long that lasts.

  8. Cosmic Dawg

    This is my problem with it, exactly. If I understand it correctly, are we not replacing an occasionally frustrating but fairly unique and fun, subjective selection process that has a lot of grassroots input from a lot of different people with a top-down, subjective selection process from a Star Chamber?

    It is all about the money, IMHO

  9. Bob

    I would say the pre-Bowl Alliance/BCS was perfectly fine. On January 1, you had Georgia rip Texas’ heart in Dallas, while Miami upset Nebraska in one of the all time great games and Auburn beat Michigan in the Sugar. EVERY one of these games impacted the final poll. And there was controversy…always is and always will be, regardless of what the commissioners come up with next. Haven’t had such drama since the Bowl Alliance came into being, but we sure as hell have had the controversy.

    • Carlton Thomas

      Same system crowned BYU champs for beating an 8-4 Michigan team. Not that BYU wasn’t any good, but they didn’t get the chance to prove it against an opponent remotely worth bestowing “National Champs” on another team.

      You are a fool.

  10. Scorpio Jones, III

    All I can do, as a fan, all any of us can do is live with this playoff that was sooooo important to have.

    Is it flawed…of course it is, it was driven by money and steely-eyed accountants, not competition.

    Senator you are going to chew your fingers to the bone, grind your teeth to the gums over the ridiculousness of the whole thing…I feel for you and for us.

    But we are just fans, just the folks who have created this golden goose, that we matter not at all is, eventually, going to be the cause of the end of this game as we know it…assuming you accept this has not already happened.

    The armies of the dark side are marching and we are left standing on the sidelines with no vote.

  11. Bob

    Not related, but Joe Shad reporting Todd Grantham going to Louisville as DC.