Why I think the plus-one has a pulse.

ESPN had its conference bloggers chime in with sort of a state of the playoff series of posts on where the respective conferences stand on the new format debate.  I found it surprisingly revealing.  What’s especially interesting is how specific the Big Ten and Pac-12 are on fine tuning selection standards – and how unspecific the SEC sounds about that.

Take this from Ted Miller, who covers the Pac-12:

There are other issues to consider, particularly from the Pac-12 end of things:

  • Schedules need to be standardized. One conference can’t play eight games and another nine. That’s a variable that must be eliminated, one way or another. Otherwise you’re comparing cupcakes and rib eyes.
  • There needs to be a serious consideration of scheduling in general. Penalties should be integrated into the system for weak nonconference scheduling.
  • If some sort of BCS-type formula is retained, it needs to reincorporate margin of victory. That was previously killed because administrators were worried about coaches running up the score. A simple solution to that is establishing a baseline figure of dominance, such as making a 21-point victory no different than a 50-point victory.

And here’s Adam Rittenberg’s take on what the Big Ten is looking for in part:

The Big Ten wants a committee to value conference championships. It wants a committee to value schedule strength, road wins and head-to-head victories. It wants a committee to take into account factors such as injuries. The Big Ten wants a committee to look at Oregon and Stanford from 2011 — Oregon won the Pac-12 championship and crushed Stanford in Stanford Stadium, yet finished one spot behind the Cardinal in the final BCS standings — and send Oregon to the playoff.

Now compare those fairly similar concerns with the breezier approach Chris Low describes.

The simplest way to explain where the SEC stands going into Wednesday’s BCS meetings is that the SEC doesn’t see its streak of six straight national championships ending any time soon.

In other words, the more, the better.

So in a four-team playoff to determine the national champion, the SEC’s preference is that it’s wide open.

No provisions about winning your conference or winning your division to qualify for the playoff.

Just the highest-ranked teams — period.

Ironically, the problem here is Les Miles’ and Steve Spurrier’s bugaboo, unbalanced scheduling.  SEC schools play less conference games than their counterparts in the Pac-12, ACC and Big 12 and the conference hasn’t formalized a ninth BCS-level game the way the Big Ten has with the Pac-12.  That doesn’t simply create a strength of schedule disparity based on the level of opponents schools face, it also leads to another disparity, which HP summarizes.

Now you can argue that SEC superiority renders all that meaningless.  (If you’re Mike Slive, you can even argue that with a straight face.  He’s good, folks.)  But every other conference is going to be pushing for an equalizer.  Either the SEC finds itself faced with adding another conference game, or it’s going to have to deal with heavy pressure to agree to a strength of schedule component in the postseason calculations.  That’s likely to be a contentious debate.

And speaking of contentious, make sure you read what Mark Schlabach has to say about the relationship between Jim Delany and Mike Slive.  While I think Schlabach slightly overstates the degree of power the two have over the situation (as he recognizes, if the two truly neutralize each other, they’ll both need allies to carry the day, so the other commissioners do have some say in where things go), it’s hard not to get past this:

“Jim Delany is one of the most competitive people I’ve ever met,” says one industry insider familiar with the negotiations. “He sees the world in simple terms: You’re either helping the Big Ten or hurting it.”

The 64-year-old Delany has earned his reputation as an aggressive and abrasive commissioner in 23 years at the helm of the Big Ten. Slive, 71, has taken a more soft-spoken and diplomatic approach in his 10 years with the SEC. “Don’t be fooled by Slive’s grandfatherly demeanor,” says the source. “These guys have been at it for a while. They remind me of Bowden and Paterno. I don’t see one retiring until the other does.”

On some level, it’s not just professional.  It’s personal.  And that certainly doesn’t make it easier to reach an agreement, particularly when one of the driving forces behind this restructuring is a dislike of what SEC dominance culminated in with the last title game.  So when you see a summary like this,

These aligned interests have served only to consolidate Delany’s and Slive’s positions of power. “The quickest way to solve the debate would be to stick Jim and Mike in a room and tell them, ‘Let us know when you’ve got it figured out,’ ” says a source. “At this point, it’s about which one is willing to come to the middle.”

… ask yourself who is likely to make that move.  Barring some existential threat I’m unaware of, it sure beats me.

Which brings be back to my header.  The one thing I feel certain the commissioners are in agreement on today is that they want the extra revenue the new title game will bring in.  No matter what, that’s a-happening.  So they’re not sticking with the status quo.  If Slive and Delany can’t engineer a compromise on a four-team playoff, there isn’t anything left to sign onto except a plus-one.  I’m not guaranteeing the outcome, but there’s a logic to agreeing to that in the short run while pledging to continue to work towards a future playoff.  Mind you, I’m not saying it’s good strategy – in fact, I suspect it’s going to make things worse – but it’s convenient.  And convenient may be the best these guys can do this summer.

35 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs

35 responses to “Why I think the plus-one has a pulse.

  1. paul

    I am Red and Black. Period. I am a Georgia fan born and bred. I am also a Georgia alumnus as are my wife and our son. But the SEC, Slive and McGarity are wrong on this one. We not only need a nine game conference schedule , we ALSO need a strength of schedule component AND a margin of victory component. We need to get rid of the cupcake scheduling mentality. The only way to do that is to penalize teams for doing it. However, the idea of taking injuries into account seems ridiculous. Injuries are part of the game. That’s like saying we should take the weather into account. I guess I shouldn’t give the Big 10 any ideas, they already sort of went there with the playoffs at home argument. But let’s face it, they’re also right about head to head victories. Having said that, I do think it ought to be about the best teams. If more than one of the best teams in the country reside in the same conference, so be it. I realize that won’t always favor the SEC. The game is cyclical. Eventually we will have multiple powerhouse teams in the Big 10 or Pac 12. Their time will come. They deserve the same opportunity the SEC got.

    • Bob

      I agree with Paul. It is the SEC that is being stubborn about this. Go to a 9 game conference schedule and set up a Big Ten-PAC 12 type deal with either the ACC or Big 12. Yeah, I know several of us play big in-state games already but we have been playing more non-conference BCS teams than any other team in the SEC for years and that fact has not hurt us.

      I have been getting one email after the next from the UGA Athletic Department trying to get me to buy more Buffalo, FAU and Vandy tickets. I can’t find anyone who wants to go to those games in which I already have one more ticket. Go to 9 games and eliminate FCS opponents…and I might be more sympathetic to Slive and the SEC.

  2. Macallanlover

    Bravo for your comments criticizing the SEC’s position on nine conference games and their weakness for not pushing for more quality match-ups for fans. They are wrong, they have been wrong about this, and too many fans are silent on the issue while being offered less entertainment for their money. I think the SEC champ should always have a seat at the table for a playoff, even if they have 2-3 losses. I also feel the other major conferences have that right too. There is no way to know who the best teams are until we have seen them interact.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      I have hinted around about this in several posts in the past but here is a serious proposal for the SEC that solves all the problems about SOS, cupcakes vs. serious games against good teams, number of conference games and the ability of SEC fans to see their teams play in person: Retrench to 10 teams and play a 9 game round-robin SEC schedule where every team plays every other team yearly. Send Vanderbilt to the ACC where they belong. Send South Carolina to the ACC, too, because the Cocks belong there as well (albeit for a different reason). Send Arkansas to the Big 12 where they belong. Send Missouri to the Big 10 where they really wanted to go in the first place. The SEC keeps Texas A&M because of the Texas media market, access to Texas recruits and because it is “the most like an SEC school” of the ones we have let join. Going to 9 conference games with the remaining schools takes care of the SOS problem but if you want to really guarantee a high SOS make very team in the conference play an OOC game against a team from either the Big 10, Big 12, PAC 12 or ACC at least once a year. Tech satisfies that problem for Georgia and this would make Bama, Auburn and (the worst violator) Florida have to step up and play a real OOC game and a real schedule with real teams on it every year, not just once in a while like Bama does. Will this happen? No way! Why? Because of $$$$$!

  3. The other Doug

    Nice blog post Senator. Perfect start to my day.

  4. Sean

    When the Big 12/SEC announced the Champions Bowl, I immediately thought that the Plus-One was back on the table.

    Mostly from a revenue point of view. If they do the Plus-One, then there’s no “semifinal” money to spread around — it’s the revenues from the individual bowls. So the value of the Rose Bowl goes up tenfold, with that money staying with the Big Ten & Pac-12. And the value of the Champions Bowl explodes, with that money stay with the Big 12 & SEC.

    From a money/power perspective, the Plus-One is the best for those conferences because it consolidates all of it to themselves. The Big Ten/Pac-12 won’t have to cut a check to the Mountain West for having the Rose Bowl. The SEC/Big 12 doesn’t need to subsidize the ACC/Big East. And if that happens, it gives the Big 12 a huge chip in raiding the ACC & the Big Ten a huge chip in finally luring Notre Dame.

    If those 4 conferences want to rule college football — they’ll go with the Plus-One.

    I agree it’s definitely not the best way to crown a true national champion but almost nothing in this debate has been about that. It’s been about money & power.

    I think people dramatically underestimate the value of the Rose Bowl to the Pac-12 & Big Ten. Everyone talks about the tradition of it, but that’s only part of it. If those conferences said, “We want our champions in that game on New Year’s Day every year,” a TV network is going to fall all over itself to pay a ton of money to air it. There are a handful of TV events — not just sports — that can get you 20 million viewers year in & year out. The Rose Bowl is one of them.

    And as long as there is an AP Poll, those conference teams can still claim a national title. It’d be terrible but, again, it’s all about money. Rose Bowl = $$$$.

    That’s why I think Jim Delaney is not bluffing when he says things like, “We’ll go back to the way thing are.” The notion that USC or Ohio State or Michigan would suddenly become irrelevant if they bailed on a playoff is absurd. If anything, it would just destroy the playoff if those 2 conferences weren’t involved & we’d be right back to 1994.

    Which is funny, since for most of the 1990s, most people just wanted the extra game to settle debates (see 1990, 1991, 1994, 1997, etc.)

  5. Always Someone Else's Fault

    Going back to the way things were is fine with me.

    The scheduling thing is classic, “Be careful what you wish for.” It sounds great on paper, but the practice of it won’t meet the hype. Which is better: two home games against FAU or a home-and-away with Minnesota? I prefer the two home dates against FAU, actually, for a bunch of very good reasons. And anyone arguing that a committee should consider a home-and-away with Minnesota as some sort of merit badge over just because Minnesota is in the B1G isn’t thinking very clearly.

    I would love to see Georgia play Texas or a team like Texas every weekend – in theory. In practice, that’s begging for 6-6 for both teams. Even the pros come out and lay eggs when the week-to-week grind catches up with them. You seriously want college kids to perform at that level?

    It would be nice to see the SEC’s primary bloggers illuminating the assumptions behind some of these scheduling arguments rather than just conceding them. If you seriously want to argue that Georgia’s schedule is appreciably weaker than USC’s or Ohio State’s, or let stand Huston’s perpetual nonsense, then fine. I think it’s complete crap, but to each their own.

    • Have you seen Southern Cal’s schedule this season?

      • sniffer

        Senator, help me a bit. Are you saying the SC schedule is weak or strong? IMO, Hawaii, Syracuse and ND are not that compelling in this discussion. Just wondering.

        • Georgia plays Buffalo, FIU and Georgia Southern. None of those three would be favored to win a game against the three teams you mention SC plays.

          • The other Doug

            But we play a tough SEC schedule full of top 20 teams like Ole Miss, Kentucky, Vandy, and Tennessee!

            • Dawgaholic

              You are missing the point Senator, whether you are playing a team you should beat by 21 or 35 isn’t very important. How many teams you play that could actually beat you more than once out of 20 is important. Considering the likely championship game opponents, UGA’s schedule is more difficult to go undefeated against than Southern Cal’s. Do people not realize that the same schedule may be easier for a mediocre team to go 7-5 against but harder for a very good team to go undefeated against.

              Simply put, the SEC as a whole plays stronger strong teams and weaker weak teams than other conferences.

              Of course, the Big Ten and PAC 12 are not asking for a quality win component.

              • Simply put, the SEC as a whole plays stronger strong teams and weaker weak teams than other conferences.

                I can tell you that the SOS rankings generally don’t bear that out. When the Pac-12 was the Pac-10 and played a round-robin format, its teams usually had better SOS numbers than SEC teams did.

                You can talk about how the relative weaknesses of teams don’t matter, but that’s not how you compute SOS.

                • Mayor of Dawgtown

                  That’s because the bottom team in the PAC-whatever was at least a D-IA school that could beat some other low level PAC-whatever teams (i.e. Wazzou) as opposed to a Sunbelt team that ain’t beating anybody in the SEC including Vandy. But the reality is the same. Wazzou stood as much of a chance at beating USC and Oregon as the Sunbelt team does with an SEC program. So it’s an illusion–SOS increase all on paper. That’s why this SOS argument is BS. A cupcake is a cupcake whatever the flavor is and there are more cupcakes in the PAC-whatever than in the SEC. Vandy, UK, Ole Miss and Miss State beat the crap out of the lower level PAC-whatever teams all day long and twice on Sunday. The year Florida last won the BCSNC the Gators’ only loss was to Ole Miss.

                  • Dawgaholic

                    As I’ve said before, a strength of schedule formula which says beating 3 seven win teams is just as good as beating 2 ten win teams and a one win team is an example of the fact that you can make statistics say whatever you want them to say.

                    It shouldn’t matter nearly as much as to whether your cupcakes were teams ranked 75-90 or 105-130 as it does whether your best wins were against teams ranked 3-15 or against teams ranked 15-30.

    • paul

      McGarity is all about six home games. But in the coming season three of those six are complete crap. Games that I literally refuse to pay for. No kidding. I let my tickets go this year. Clearly, I was not alone in this decision. I know I am in the minority here but I’d rather see us lose a couple or three games against superior competition than watch a glorified scrimmage.

      • Dawgaholic

        Name the PAC 12 or BIG team which you believe has a more difficult path to an undefeated season, including conference championship game, than any SEC team.

        • paul

          I don’t doubt for one second that top to bottom the SEC is currently the toughest conference to play in. Has been for a while. May be for some time to come. But these things tend to by cyclical. Never the less, I believe we should be playing nine conference games and zero to one cupcakes per year. What I want to see is a team that’s hungry to play the best team week in and week out, all year. Not a team that’s trying to work the system. I’d rather have a two loss team that played quality competition every single week than a national champion that beat up on three or four teams who only showed up to collect a paycheck. I see no honor in that.

          • Always Someone Else's Fault

            The P12′s bottom 6 teams last year were among the worst in football. Half that conference was in Duke territory. Where’s the honor in that?

            These arguments are full of catch-phrase nonsense that doesn’t hold up to scrutiny for longer than the 3 seconds it actually takes to think about it.

            • Sagarin had Duke at #113. Name me the six Pac-12 schools in “Duke territory”.

              Palm had Duke at 103, if that works better for you.

              By the way, don’t trip over Ole Miss as you research. ;)

              • Always Someone Else's Fault

                Sagarin:
                Teams ranked below Georgia Southern (81) on USC’s schedule last year:

                Minnesota, Syracuse, Oregon State, Washington State, Colorado.

                Arizona and UCLA were in the 60s (Arkansas State: 67). Arizona and Cal basically tie Vandy at 41.

                So, I apologize. 5/12ths of USC’s schedule was worse than Kentucky last year. Two more of their games were Arkansas State equivalents, and 2 more were Vandy equivalents. That’s 3/4ths of their schedule.

                Stanford’s schedule was even lighter, substituting San Jose State and Duke for Minnesota and Syracuse.

                Let’s compare (not including post-season):
                9, 10, 188, 103, 31, 50, 41, 29, 133, 33, 85, 56

                So…
                Georgia played 4 teams equal to Kentucky or worse. USC played 5.
                Georgia played 7 teams equal to Vandy or worse. USC played 9.
                Georgia played 8 teams ranked in the top 60. USC played 5.

                USC is probably the P12′s best scheduling example. Georgia, on the other hand, avoided the SEC’s 3 strongest teams in the West last year – and they STILL come out stronger on schedule.

                And you’re not going to push back against this crap?

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        I respect what you are saying Paul but I promise you that the games will be sellouts and someone else who feels differently will be in those seats.

        • paul

          While what you are saying is probably true, for now at least, it’s just that mindset that is the problem in my opinion. And I don’t think it will continue to be true forever. Today’s students aren’t buying in. And they are tomorrows season ticket holders.

          • Dawgaholic

            People don’t buy in when you don’t win it all. Win a crystal football next January and 99 percent will buy in. The other 1 percent are the ones that did not buy in to Herschel.

            We were two drops and a punt not going out of bounds from there being a very strong argument that playing Boise cost us a shot at playing for the MNC last year. We could have played Louisville instead.

            • paul

              1980 was my senior year in Athens. I think it’s very different today. When Herschel played, pretty much the only way to see him was to buy the tickets. Today’s students have spent their entire lives being treated strictly as consumers to be sold to. Even the university handles them that way. It’s one of the reasons the state provides HOPE to keep top talent in-state. However, they are responding strictly as consumers to be catered to as well. My son, a recent graduate with a finance degree from Georgia, has absolutely no interest in season tickets. Not because he can’t afford them, he can. His degree and experience landed him a sweet job with a high dollar salary right out of school. Not because he doesn’t bleed red and black. He does. He even stays on top of recruiting. But from the standpoint of a consumer he doesn’t see season tickets as a sensible investment of his time and money. Winning and losing aren’t part of the equation for him or most of his friends. They watch no matter what. They care, no matter what. They go to the games they really want to attend. Financially, it just doesn’t make sense to them to buy season tickets. Neither he nor any of his twenty or so closest friends who are recent graduates have any interest in season tickets. If you are like me, getting those tickets was a primary goal of your first years out of school. This generation sees things differently.

  6. Connor

    They only have 2 open spots on their schedule as they play 9 conference games and they always have ND. They are going to play at Syracuse and then Hawaii to fill those. Neither of them are world beaters, but they are both much more compelling than the dregs SEC teams fill their schedule with. I’m not sure that any SEC teams are playing more than 1 BCS conference opponent out of conference, and they all have at least 1 more spot to work with.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      I am not so sure that the current Hawaii team is better than Buffalo or FIU, which went to a bowl last year?

  7. Heathbar09

    I love your blog. I skimmed over most of those articles yesterday and really couldn’t draw a conclusion from them. Thanks for the hard work you do to make it easier on us un-edumacated people. I’m upset I found this blog only a year ago.

  8. The “woe is me” attitude the coaches and administrators have toward the nine game conference schedule reminds me of their reaction to the conference championship game two decades ago. Not only is it poor rationalization, but it seems that it is poor business sense as well. A greater inventory of games would generate more television revenue. And, you don’t have to pay cupcakes $1M to come get beaten. The additional game would be a cross-divisional game, which generates more fan interest (on tv and live) because it is an opponent or matchup you don’t see very often. The only potential downside is the team that might miss a bowl because they get an extra loss in conference instead of a cupcake win. Is the loss in potential bowl revenue greater than the increase in TV dollars seven extra conference games could bring? I doubt it.

    If the playoff takes the top four conference champs so long as they are ranked in the top 8, with at-larges for the next-highest-ranked team(s) if the first criteria does not produce four teams, with a component for strength of schedule (not just non-conference, but for the total schedule) and margin of victory taken into consideration, then the SEC champ will be in the playoff 99 times out of 100. The last time I can remember the SEC champion finishing outside of the top 8 at the end of the regular season was when LSU upset Tennessee in the championship game in 2001. The odds are pretty good that the SEC will have a representative no matter the format. If getting two teams in is what Slive is working for, then the only way that happens is to keep the status quo.

  9. Sanford222View

    That Ted Miller is a local guy to Georgia originally. He was two years ahead of me in high school in Atlanta. Played a pretty mean LBer back then.

  10. Always Someone Else's Fault

    USC’s schedule is stronger because their cupcakes are chewier? Seriously?

    Playing an away date with Syracuse helps who, exactly? Syracuse and Syracuse’s media partner. Not Georgia. Georgia has to pay to get there, alumni have to pay to travel there, and Syracuse collects all the dough. Georgia collects a W and a red-ink entry on the balance sheet. Oh boy, where do I sign?

    I’d rather have two home dates, alumni spending their money in Athens rather than Delta Airlines, and media people with the cojones to tell the Hustons of the world to stuff it. SEC homes dates on average are VASTLY more valuable economically than outposts like Oregon State or bubbles like the Carrier Dome. I’ve been to Syracuse – because it was business, and I got paid. And that’s the only reason I would ever go back.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      +1. UGA is in a box on scheduling because we play Tech as a traditional rival home and away ever year (an OOC game) and play Florida in Jax every year, effectively losing a home game each season. That limits the number of tough OOC opponents UGA can afford to play because those teams want a home and away deal and we don’t have the slots to do it–period. That’s why you pay a cupcake–to come to Athens without a return engagement requirement so you get enough home games. What some of the posters on this blog are really advocating would call for us to only have 5 home games some years and we would actually LOSE money on such an arrangement.

      • AusDawg85

        Bingo! That’s the heart of the issue. Maybe we go back and add Clemson too, since the away game is not all that far away, and we get a great match-up and better SOS than with the cupcakes.

  11. Macallanlover

    It is the whole “path” thingy that screws up the opportunity for better match-ups. Give the 6 power conferences a seat, then the OOC won’t deny them a pathway to a playoff. The “check and balance” would be the two highest rated teams that do not get one of those six spots. An impressive win out of the conference could trump the mid-majors and prevent a weak team from getting in.

  12. AusDawg85

    To the point I believe the Senator’s post is raising…no way should Slive compromise with Delany right now. The SEC has a superior product. Mike’s holding all the cards, and everyone knows it. Best the others can do is stall/boycott any real compromise and hope the tides of conference dominance change. That seems to be the Big1G and Pac12′s strategery.

    And may lighting strike every damn one of them when they cover their arguments with statements like, “it’s for the fans” or “it’s for the student-athletes”. Such B.S. should be unlawful.