MGoBlog’s Brian Cook takes a stab at, as he puts it, debunking anti-playoff arguments in this post. How well he succeeds at it is probably a function of the reader’s own playoff biases, but from my selfish standpoint I would simply note that he digs himself a pretty deep hole in his initial paragraph when he dismisses any discussion of mission creep. Cook does so not because concern about mission creep isn’t a valid anti-playoff argument, but rather because in his mind his own six team playoff proposal renders analysis of any larger format unnecessary.
Here are the anti-playoff arguments that Cook addresses:
- regular-season games would be less meaningful.
- Playoffs don’t necessarily crown the best teams or include all deserving contenders.
- A playoff would diminish my college football fandom.
- We should go back to the old days.
Skipping the last point – I’m not even sure that rises to the level of an “argument” in the first place – the other three points are variations on a theme, namely, that a formal playoff would rob the D-1 football regular season of some of the relevancy and passion that makes it unique in American organized sport. Now, I don’t believe that a small playoff would have much impact on that, and Cook doesn’t want to concern himself with mission creep, so maybe there isn’t much else to say about his post.
Except for this: the rationale that running the playoff gauntlet would cure the problem of not having enough meaningful games during the regular season to cloak a MNC winner with a good enough resume is misplaced justification at best. If you find it necessary to improve the caliber of regular season competition and reduce “meaningless” games (was Michigan-Appalachian State meaningless before or after it was played?) so that whichever school is crowned #1 at season’s end meets with general approval, is it really necessary to create a playoff for that?
In truth, the short answer is no. There are any number of ways to tinker with the current setup short of setting up a playoff that would raise the general level of regular season competition. Paul Westerdawg suggests two: reduce the number of D-1 schools (I’d be in favor of whacking more than the twenty he proposes, but it’s certainly a good start), and cut back on the number of games against 1-AA opponents that can count towards bowl qualification (as a general principle, I would prohibit playing more that one 1-AA school in a given year).
To that, I’d add a strength of schedule component to BCS qualification. Either factor SOS directly into the computer numbers, or set a minimum threshold – maybe top half nationally – in order for a school to participate. The system should reward schools like Fresno State that are willing to play anyone, anywhere over schools like Hawaii. (And speaking of Fresno State, the system should punish gutless programs like Kansas State.)