Category Archives: BCS/Playoffs

The surest sign of bracket creep

Ladies and gentlemen, how do you know when Bill Hancock is talking out of his ass?

Why, when his lips are moving.

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Greasing the postseason skids

Obviously, it’s not getting the attention that the new playoffs are, but there’s another change being ushered in with the demise of the BCS that has the potential to be even more significant over the long haul.  The bowl system as it is today is being dismantled.

The 13-member selection committee will not only provide the final Top 25 rankings, but will determine which teams go to which New Year’s Six bowls that do not have conference tie-ins. In other words, you’ll see fewer bowl reps on campus wearing tacky blazers because they have no control over who comes to their bowl. That’s right: no control over what team plays in their bowl. Nada.

The selection committee will determine who plays where. Another big change: Bowls can no longer skip teams in the rankings to pick a lower-ranked team that travels better.  [Emphasis added.] The bowl teams will be selected based on the highest-available ranked team.

Right there is your admission that the power conferences have made the call that the future of college football is in broadcast revenue.  The bowls will have to live with that.  In fact, with the conferences negotiating lower ticket purchase guarantees, the TV money is going to be their key to survival.

But not as independent entities.  Because the other thing being established here is the principle that bowls outside the current semi-final arrangement are being reorganized around a pure seeding arrangement.  That makes things smoother when they’re preempted in the name of an expanded playoff.

The conferences have discovered how much leverage they wield.  Bowls as we know them are the dinosaurs of college football.

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“It’s going to expand because they’ll never keep everybody happy.”

I’d like to take this opportunity to personally welcome Mark Schlabach to the ranks of the postseason skeptics.

… Only six years ago, a college football playoff was considered taboo.

What changed their minds? Money, of course. The almighty dollar was the driving force behind one of the most dramatic changes in the sport’s history…

And that’s expected to change when exactly?

He goes on to hint at something in his conclusion that he doesn’t quite tease out in its entirety.

… University presidents will be reluctant to let the college football season stretch from fall semester into the New Year. In an era of increased awareness about player safety, coaches and athletic directors will worry about the physical toll of a three-week playoff, and longtime bowl partners will lobby like crazy to protect the “bowl experience.”

But with 76 teams playing in 39 bowl games this coming season, the “bowl experience” isn’t what it used to be. It’s like beating Tennessee or Texas — everybody’s doing it.

When coaches, players and fans get a taste of the excitement and drama of a four-team playoff, they’ll want more.

If they want to keep expanding the playoffs without extending the length of the season, there’s one way to do that:  compress the bowls, either by shrinking the bowl season or by eliminating some of the bowls.  As Schlabach notes, they’ve already cheapened the bowls by inflating their numbers, so who’s really going to object if CFB offers to swap some meaningless postseason games for more playoffs?  ESPN sure won’t.  The real problem will come when they expand so much that they damage the regular season cash cow.  That’s a genie they won’t be able to stuff back in the bottle.

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“We just can’t have that in college football. We won’t have it.”

It’s not that I’m surprised Bill Hancock keeps uttering total bullshit about the CFB postseason.

It’s just that I can’t believe people in the media are still willing to take his utterances at face value.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, It's All Just Made Up And Flagellant

Eh, championship, shampionship…

So, having read this debate at ESPN about the ACC’s plans for its conference championship game (aka The World’s Smallest Outdoor Cocktail Party – h/t Jim Donnan) and keeping in mind Todd Graham’s whine about the fairness of the Pac-12 choosing to play a championship game while the 10-team Big 12 doesn’t, I’ve got a few questions.

  1. As Todd Fortuna asks, “…why does the NCAA even have authority to determine how leagues govern their title games, anyway? As we’ve seen recently, particularly with the SEC sticking with its eight-game league slate, conferences are free to determine their respective league schedules however they wish. It’s only right that they get to choose how to determine their league champion, too.”  I get that adding a game needs the NCAA’s approval, but as to the makeup of who plays, why is the NCAA involved?
  2. That being said, what is the point to maintaining divisions for the regular season if they’re going to be ignored come championship time?  I mean, aside from money.  As David Hale points out, in the ACC, all that’s going to do is make the Clemson-FSU regular season meeting less meaningful, if those two are your ACC front-runners.  And further, “… after FSU completely dominated Clemson this past season, was there really a need for those two to face off again? And if Clemson managed to sneak by the Seminoles in the title game by a point or two, would that have proven the Tigers deserved the league title instead of FSU? And would it have been worth costing the ACC its shot at a national title?”
  3. As silly as that seems, it’s not nearly as ridiculous as a conference with a round robin regular season schedule adding a championship game.  But if college football heads down that road to appease the Todd Grahams of the CFB world, why stop there?  Wouldn’t the truly fair thing be to mandate that only conferences with fourteen members and a championship game be eligible for the national title postseason?

Now I’m not suggesting that I’m on board for any of this.  It’s just surprising to me, at least a little, that we’re hearing talk, some of it serious, about tinkering with Roy Kramer’s invention, one that’s served the sport pretty damned well for more than a couple of decades.  The reason for that, of course, is the birth of the four-team national playoff and the power conferences gaming out the best scenario to maximize their prospects in that.  That most of the decision makers don’t have a clue what might work best doesn’t mean they won’t try.  You tell me how optimistic we should be about that working out well.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football

Cindy, you’re gonna need a nicer slipper.

Playoff-busting is going to be a much higher mountain to climb than BCS-busting ever was.

At least until the next time the playoffs expand.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major

“We like our path to the national championship playoff.”

The Big 12 thinks the Pac-12′s whining about the SEC’s eight-game regular season conference schedule is just crazy talk.

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said the SEC struck a compromise by staying at eight and requiring a nonconference game against a power-five conference starting in 2016.

“It isn’t the number of games, it’s who you’re playing,” Bowlsby said. “The committee will be more than sophisticated enough to make those distinctions, just like my experience with the basketball committee. They could very easily tell the difference between a 9-9 record when everybody plays each other twice and a 9-9 when there’s been some no-plays and one-plays.”

Then again, wandering soul and current Arizona State head coach Todd Graham doubles down by jumping on Bowlsby’s conference for not playing a nine-game schedule and a championship game. Never mind that the Big 12 is a ten-team conference playing a round robin schedule that makes a conference championship game as useless as tits on a boar hog.  Todd thinks that everyone should model themselves on what the Pac-12 wants:

“If we’re playing Stanford and if we didn’t play that extra (Pac-12) game, we’d be playing a [FCS] team,” Graham said. “What if we go undefeated and lose to Oregon in the championship game and the team in the Big 12 doesn’t have to play a championship game?”

The response to that is so obvious that I’m not going to insult your intelligence by typing it here.  But even Jim Delany recognizes the obvious overarching issue.

Graham’s and David Shaw’s delicate fee-fees and Chris Fowler’s aesthetic sensibilities aside here, with regard to the selection committee’s analysis, the issue isn’t the number of high-profile conference games played.  It’s how many cupcake games a team in consideration for a playoff spot schedules, assuming that more than lip service is going to be paid to strength of schedule.  If there’s one area that needs to be painfully transparent when the committee rules from on high, that’s it.  If strength of schedule is given due deference, the big schools will find themselves lining up in accordance, one way or another.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Big 12 Football, Pac-12 Football

Is anybody going to teach the SEC a scheduling lesson?

Allen Kenney thinks the WWL might choose to push the SEC to reconsider its adherence to an eight-game conference schedule.

Now imagine a panel of ESPN talking heads hammering viewers and selection committee members with those talking points on Tuesday nights when the committee’s rankings are unveiled. (Great part about Tuesday night: No NFL game to go up against.) Now imagine Kirk Herbstreit doing that on a Saturday night broadcast from Norman. Now imagine Damon Huard talking that noise on a Wednesday afternoon edition of College Football Live. And on and on…

Does the committee snubbing ‘Bama in favor of one of the power conference champs really seem so unrealistic in that scenario? In fact, how many of the “second” SEC candidates since 2006 actually seem immune to that kind of politicking by the debate embracers?

And since we’re dealing in backstabbing hypotheticals, think of the outcry in SEC country if that went down. If it happened multiple times, Mike Slive would need an armed militia to get around Birmingham. Unless the other conferences agreed to expand the playoff before the term of the four-team joint is up, try to find a better solution than adding another conference game.

Seeing as ESPN already owns the SEC media rights for the next 85 years or something, Mickey might even get those extra conference games for free.

Me, I’m a little skeptical about Mickey moving things.  Not that the talking heads won’t stir the pot, but I don’t think ESPN expects to get something (better broadcast inventory for the SEC Network) for nothing.  If it did, we’d already be hearing about that.  As for the pot stirring, I’m guessing Slive’s already taken that into consideration and isn’t particularly concerned.  And why should he be, when Jeff Long is chairing the selection committee?

But.

There’s another way to skin the cat, one that I suspect most of us would cheer.  Consider the question asked by UCF’s AD as he ponders the scheduling world made by Mike Slive’s word:

“I don’t really have an issue with requiring a ‘Power 5′ game; my question is why do they continue to schedule FCS?” Hansen said. “How is that going to be counted? In basketball a game against a Division II school doesn’t count in the RPI. It’ll be interesting to see how that is (viewed by the committee), but that’s the thing that’s a little more perplexing.”

Yeah, I’d say.  So what happens if the selection committee members were to announce that FCS games wouldn’t be counted in their deliberations?  I bet that would move the scheduling needle in a hurry.

If you’re looking for affection and support from the public, fellas, forcing schools out of the cupcake hosting business would get you a helluva lot more love than a weekly rankings show will.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, ESPN Is The Devil, SEC Football

Expanded playoffs and short attention span theater

I like John Pennington, but this argument leaves me scratching my head:

While an eight-team field is most likely on the way — at least according to those ADs polled by CBSSports.com — the most probable opposition to such a move will go a little something like this: “Expanding the playoffs will lesson the importance of the regular season, just like basketball.”

But would it?

Basketball is a sport that stretches for over six months from November through the first Monday in April.  The regular season itself consists of 30+ games.  What happens pre-New Year’s can mean zip by the time February rolls ’round.  In other words, the basketball regular season is not meaningless because it ends in a tournament… it’s meaningless because it’s too darn long.  Football wouldn’t have such a problem.  Football’s regular season typically lasts about four months and that’s including two-week dead period in early-to-mid-December.

By the end of a football season, many a fan can tell you the result and correct score from each of his favorite team’s 12 regular-season games.  Try that with a basketball fan.  Not even folks in the Bluegrass State could pull off that feat. Basketball has too many games.  There’s too much to process.

Well, either he underestimates the cognitive abilities of Kentucky fans, or the CBB regular season has been relatively meaningless for an awfully long time, because the vast majority of NCAA champs have played over thirty games in a season since Oregon did it in 1939.

It’s not the basketball regular season that’s been growing.

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Workin’ the refs

Another reason to suspect the weekly reporting of selection committee rankings is likely to be an unnecessary distraction is because it invites this kind of lobbying:

The SEC announced on Sunday its decision to stick with an eight game conference schedule, turning down the option to join the Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten with a nine-game conference schedule. After the Big Ten makes the jump in 2016 it will just be the SEC and ACC, who has Notre Dame as a partial member playing five ACC teams per year, left at eight.

“I’ve been saying this for three years now: I think if we’re going to go into a playoff and feed into one playoff system, we all need to play by the same rules,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “Play your conference. Don’t back down from playing your own conference. It’s one thing to back down from playing somebody else. But don’t back down from playing your own conference.”

The four-team playoff guarantees at least one of the five power conferences will be left out, so expect plenty of conference-against-conference comparisons in these first few years of the College Football Playoff era.

“There’s no taking away anything that LSU and Alabama and Auburn recently have accomplished,” Shaw said. “They’ve been phenomenal. My take is to say, ‘OK, the rest of us are playing our conference. We’re playing nine out of 12 teams in our conference. Why can’t you do the same thing?’

“You can’t color it. You can’t try to explain it away. You’re not doing what the rest of us are doing it. We’re doing it. The Big Ten is doing it. The Big 12 is doing it. Everybody is pushing toward a nine-game conference schedule.”

At least if you leave it at one vote at the end, it’s a fait accompli.  Instead, they’re going out of their way to invite second-guessing and whining about conference scheduling on a weekly basis, all in the hope of swaying the selection committee’s evaluation process.  And while that’s great for ESPN – the WWL could schedule a 30-minute bitchfest to run after The Jeff Long Show – I predict it’s going to be a turnoff for the rest of us who just want to see the selection committee cobble together a playoff group of the four best teams.

Gee, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think they were trying to encourage us to be dissatisfied with the new format.

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