Il playoff

Defying the skeptics, college football’s twelve wise men have brought in a new postseason format ahead of time (we’ll have to wait and see if it’s ahead of budget).  There may be a consensus on the overall structure, but there are a lot of matters left to hash out.

… While the B.C.S. commissioners did not announce the details of how they would pick the teams for the four-team playoff, a source with direct knowledge of the decision said the plan is for a selection committee to “more than likely” pick the four best teams.

There will be a preference given to conference champions in the selection, but how much is yet to be determined. Strength of schedule will also be strongly considered. There have yet to be any discussions about how the finances will be split among the teams.

The selection committee will subject a sport steeped in regional biases to a different type of controversy, although one that will likely die down a bit now that there will be semifinal and final games. The two semifinal games are expected to be played within the bowl system and the national championship will be bid on like the Super Bowl.

Judging from the initial reactions I’ve seen – “We’re going to have a college football playoff. The rest is gravy.” – the commissioners and presidents can expect a honeymoon with the fans that only a shiny new toy like this can bring, at least until the first controversy hits, but if I can play The Wolf for a minute, I’d like to unpack the decision a bit.

  • Easily the best thing about the decision is that they managed to dodge the plus-one bullet.  Yes, I know the presidents could override that call, but it’s hard to see where the votes are for that.  Harvey Perlman gets attention for his stance, but outside of his conference there doesn’t seem to be that much hardcore support for it, unless you think there was something more to the Pac-12’s posturing on the plus-one.  Anyway, the plus-one would have been a cynical dodge that likely would have turned into a disaster down the road.
  • The second best thing, although it remains to be seen if it becomes a reality, appears to be that college football is prepared to ditch the biased farce that is the Coaches Poll.  If that really happens, cheer.  It’ll be a real improvement over the old system.
  • I think Ivan Maisel absolutely nails this:  “Now that the FBS commissioners have agreed to recommend a four-team, seeded playoff to the committee of university presidents who will meet next week, the vigil must begin. For years, the presidents and BCS proponents have told us that it is a law of nature that playoffs expand, that four teams will become eight; eight will become 16. If you think this is a good idea, you haven’t paid attention to the state of the college basketball postseason, which is, of course, the very problem with the health of the college basketball regular season.”  There are going to be many temptations to expand over the next few years – money; the last team in, first team out controversies; coaches lobbying for increased access to the playoffs as career validation; etc. – and the question will be whether the commissioners are sincere about protecting college football’s uniqueness.  I have my doubts, but we’ll see.
  • The big winner appears to be Mike Slive.  He may not have handled SEC expansion smoothly, but it looks like he’s more than made up for it with the postseason.  He’s managed to preserve the SEC’s ability to place more than one member school in the playoff field, at what appears to be a minor cost, if that, of the participants being chosen by a selection committee.  The forging of an alliance with the Big 12 with the Champions Bowl turns out to have been a masterstroke as it leveled the field between him and Jim Delany.  If I’m hedging here, it’s because we don’t yet know how the new money will be distributed and we know little about how the selection committee will function (more on that below).  But all in all, Slive did quite well for the SEC.
  • I don’t think Delany is the big loser, believe it or not.  He fought hard for what he could get and it’s not as if his constituents aren’t going to be well rewarded under the new regime.  No, the honors for that go to the bowls.  For all the talk of preserving the special role of the Rose Bowl and electing to run the semis through the bowls and not on campuses, the reality is that for the first time ever, a college football champion will not directly emerge from a bowl game.  That’s huge.  So is the reality that the schools are going to dictate the composition of the matchups in the semis, overriding the bowls’ traditional preferences.  Add to that the out-of-the-blue creation of the Champions Bowl and it’s hard to avoid concluding that the bowls’ postseason influence has been severely diminished.  (And I doubt the schools are finished.  Let’s see what happens with those mandatory ticket purchases, for example.)
  • There’s still a huge, gaping hole at the center of this, and it’s a crucial one:  the selection committee.  It may be hard to take the commissioners’ blather about transparency with a straight face, but it is important for there to be a structured set of criteria that the fans can accept.  The more kept hidden, the more likely it is that the ultimate call deciding the makeup of the field will be challenged for its subjectivity.  They’ll have enough problems with the inevitable 4 vs. 5 debate not to make things even tougher.  Which is not to say that logic dictates they’ll do the right thing.  I suspect that most of the attention going forward will be on the money fight, but to me, this is the most important issue they’ll have to resolve.

So there you have it.  I’ve followed this issue almost from the inception of this blog and I have to admit there’s a part of me that’s surprised they’ve gotten this far.  I just hope like hell they don’t manage to screw up a great thing.  It’s the least they can do for us.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs

43 responses to “Il playoff

  1. Boz

    Does this mean that the BCS ranking system is done?

    • Ed

      Yeah, probably not. In fact, it’s most likely going to go back to the way it used to be at the beginning of the 2000’s and have SoS components, hopefully margin of victory, etc. The selection committee is going to be looking to cover their asses well in advance, so the more they can coalesce around another “system”, the more they’ll be able to claim transparency for their decisions. I agree that the first thing that needs to go is the coaches poll – that thing has been a thorn for too long.

      • Macallanlover

        Agree. One of the most troublesome things to me is the same group that has allowed the Coaches Poll to survive this long is now going to decide the selection process.

  2. Lrgk9

    Better than expected – less than ideal.

    Betcha the Bowls have to play a little friendlier with all the hidden $$ and director comportment.

    But – this committee behind the curtain smacks of smoke, cards from the bottom of the deck, and backroom entertainment, i.e. a wonderful environment for the Lord Peter Baylish styled behavior known as the WWL.

    As with so much of life – Time Will Tell.

    • Nate Dawg

      “Time alone, oh! Time will tell. Think you’re in heaven, but you’re living in hell” – Bob Marley, then later Chris Robinson.
      How many heartbreakingly bitter ways will UGA get screwed by this? That’s my main concern.

      • Skeptic Dawg

        If they simply win the games on their schedule, there will be no problem. Continue to average 4 losses a season like this program has done the past 6 years and they will not be close to the top 4. This program has a long ways to go before anyone needs to worry about getting left out. .

        • Mayor of Dawgtown

          Come on SD. Look at UGA’s schedule. The Dawgs are favored to win EVERY GAME next year. Give it a rest for Pete’s sake.

          • Hilton Head Dawg

            I was merely replying to Nate Dawg’s concern of getting screwed. There was no prediction of 4 losses. Run the table and there will be nothing to worry about Whereas if you drop 4 games you will be out of the picture. Our schedule is favorable this season. Yet this program is not yet ready to jump into the top 4 in the nation. Boise, SC, LSU and MSU were enough to prove that last season. While 2012 is a new season, many of the same questions remain, and a few new ones: running game, O-line, silly turnovers, suspensions and the DB’s. NOTE: I only mention losing 4 games because this program is averaging 4 losses over the past 6 seasons.

            • Mayor of Dawgtown

              Thanks for the explanation but I reiterate the program does NOT have “a longs ways to go before anyone needs to worry about being left out.” With a little luck UGA will play in the SECCG next season undefeated or with only one loss. And yes, I worry about UGA getting screwed over by the system which is a reality based concern given what happened as recently as 2007.

            • I didn’t catch your using a double moniker – including this brazen example of sockpuppetry – until today, so you get one fair warning from me. Stick with one posting name going forward, or I’ll have no choice but to ban you.

        • Dog in Fla

          We’ve got a cornation* next week, for Pete’s sake, we can’t let predictions of a four loss season bum us out!

          *”The meeting in Washington next week is viewed more as a coronation than a discussion, however.”

  3. I wanna Red Cup

    The top 25 polls need to come out after at least 4-5 weeks and not start from the beginning of the season. The SEC needs to go to 9 game conference schedule since strength of schedule will count for something. I can see UGA having a problem in 2012 because of poor strength of out of conference schedule and relatively weak conference schedule and not get chosen as one of the 4 teams. So we better win the SEC or we will be the ones on the outside of the dance looking in.

  4. Nate

    If the playoff stays at four teams, it’s hard to envision a future that doesn’t involve the development of four super-conferences. I wonder how many years in a row the ACC will sit around and watch the SEC, Big10, Big12 (or SEC runner up) and Pac12 champs in the playoffs before FSU or Clemson jump ship. Once that happens I would think the dominoes would start to fall.

  5. JG Shellnutt

    I have to admit, I’m pretty excited about this. I think we can say this is better than expected (with some details still left to be developed). A perfect scenario would have been 4 team playoff and no hidden formula computer rankings determining those 4…and I think we got that, to some extent.

    I would love it (never gonna happen) if the selection committee’s meetings were televised. Imagine the viewership. There would be so much talk about the talk.

  6. I concur about the Committee. They will need to have some public guidelines as to who gets selected. Does division runner-up Stanford at #4 get in at the expense of conference champ Oregon at #5? Conference champs will get some deference, but how much? If Oregon is #8, does that still trump #4 Stanford? These sorts of things will need to be sorted out in advance, and not decided in a back room on the day of judgment.

    • Puffdawg

      Based on this alone, you can pretty much rest assure this baby’s expanding MUCH MUCH sooner than later. Won’t be long now, folks.

  7. David

    I agree, the selection committee could really do some odd things. If the Big 10 champ has 2 losses and is ranked 8 or 9 in the AP poll and someone like West Virginia has 1 loss and is ranked 3rd but played a semi-weak Big East schedule, who do they pick? Or say the SEC west runner-up Alabama with 1 loss but “didn’t even win their division.” They REALLY, REALLY need the transparancy here. Like a rule of BCS top 4 with the formula known to everyone.

    • tludlam

      It would have to be someone “like” West Virginia playing a semi-weak Big East schedule, because “actual” West Virginia will be playing a semi-weak Big 12 schedule.

  8. The white smoke video is particularly fittting.

  9. The ATH

    I don’t get all the celebrating for Slive. As I said earlier in these discussions, this selection committee will just be a “screw the sec” committee. I’m thinking we see two sec teams (and never more than that) once every 5 years (only when the evidence is overwhelming like last year). We would’ve been better off under a 3+1 model purely from bcs rankings (for all the bitching, those have treated the sec pretty well).

    • Marshall

      I don’t know about that. I truly feel that UGA would have been in the final four in 2002 and 2007 had a 4-team playoff been in place at that time. I think there’s been some years recently where the SEC shouldn’t have had 2 teams in.

      • tludlam

        In 2007, a hypothetical selection committee might have given us the nod into a semifinal, but I doubt it. The final polls each had us at #4, while our computer average of #6 dragged us to overall BCS #5. I imagine if the difference between #4 and #5 had been truly meaningful at the time, the backroom boys would not have been keen on putting a 2-loss East division runner-up into the bracket over any of the 4 conference champions who finished in the BCS top 4. Ohio State was a clear #1 as the only 1-loss champion. We obviously were not going in over the actual SEC champ LSU. Oklahoma had just pounded the incumbent #1 Mizzou. Our best shot would have been to take the place of BCS #3 Va Tech, whom the polls had at #5 and #6 respectively. The computers really credited VT’s rematch win over Matt Ryan’s BC team in the ACC championship, vaulting the Hokies’ average computer rank from #6 to #1. Georgia’s computer average fell from #4 to #6 by committing the sin of being idle. Looking back, do we really think our wins over Florida and Auburn, no matter how solid they were, could overcome the ugly losses to two unranked teams and give us a better resume than VT who, aside from their freshly avenged regular season loss to BC, had only lost to #2 LSU?

        • The problem is you’re using the old system as the basis for your hypothesis on how the “new” system would have worked in 2007. It’s not going to be the same.

          • tludlam

            It’s all academic, but I was simply pointing out that if the “new” system had been in place in 2007, we would have been part of a bubble controversy and likely left out of the bracket. While Richt and many fans that year unsuccessfully argued our case for being #2, we probably would have also lost our argument for #4. I included the details of the polls/computers merely for reference. In 2002, however, I definitely think we would have made a four-team field.

  10. Dog in Fla

    What could possibly go wrong with a Peabody/Vanderbilt* guy honchoing the Legends Committee?

    (a.) Offspring Tot@Akron may soon have a place at the table;
    (b.) Bobby may not withstand R.C. Slocumb/Gene Stallings coup attempt;
    (c.) Barry Switzer; or
    (d.) Bobby not man enough to keep Pat Dye off Legends Committee


  11. ben

    I’d just like to say I’m surprised we’re mentioned in the same breath as LSU, BAMA, FU in this article.

  12. David

    Another issue is when it comes down to deciding in a closed room between Ohio State and say, Louisville or some other small market team that had a good year, which way do you think they’ll go?

  13. MGW

    Just for the record. I still don’t believe TCU, Boise State, or any other non-big 6 (at the time) has done enough to be given a spot in the four team playoff. A shitty schedule wasn’t deserving of a spot in the top two, and still isn’t worth of a spot in the top 4.

    If they start letting teams that coast through trash schedules in just because they’re undefeated, watch as everybody but the top few teams in the major conferences go independent and schedule a bunch of nobodies.

  14. Cojones

    Guess that forces UGA to begin a scoring campaign with this year becoming the lead-in for positions next year. Some of you “foot-on-the-pedal” advocates will now have a reason to cheer for it. We will see. I’m going to propose an O vs D watch to include ability to stop a td matched when UGA scores a td; allowing no series to complete on D vs every series completed by the O.

    Skip Bayless got his wish (at least a 4-team playoff); now we wait for Smith’s (8 teams in playoff). Eight teams cut the griping and unfairness by a high % I would imagine. With 8 teams you only get a modicum of nit-pickers with no impetus for heading for a 16-field field. The glare of inequities toward members of lesser conferences is reduced sizeably with the top 8 teams and gets the SEC in position to place more than two teams in the semifinals. What’s best will be watching Delaney and Big 10 squirm while that happens fairly and openly, much to their chagrin.

    • Always Someone Else's Fault

      “cutting the griping”: Show me a sport with no griping, and I’ll show you one no one really cares about.

      “modicum of nit-pickers”: Then who will be left to argue with? That’s half the fun.

      “glare of inequities”: Not as worrisome as the glare of iniquities currently, but apparently the B1G is determined to do better moving forward. I wish them luck.

      Regular Season. Post Season. CFB was the last sport in which the regular season held post-season intensity. Maybe that magic can survive 4, but I don’t think it has a chance of surviving 8. Once that Post Season exists, it starts sucking the oxygen of the Regular Season environment. And the bigger it gets, the worse it gets. Show me a sport where that isn’t true.

      Current argument in the NBA: Less regular season games! Cut the schedule! But keep a playoff system that includes 16 of 30 teams and lasts for 60… freaking… days.

      It’s our sports culture, and CFB has been remarkably resistant to it. I hope it embraces its uniqueness and stays at 4.

      Because I’ll say this about the gripers: They come back next year. They care. Maybe it’s the “always leave them wanting more” thing, I don’t know.

      • Cojones

        Thanks for the reply and your reasoning. Would agree on 16 and 8 concerning the “magic” , but we won’t know until we try it. The top 16 could be paired (and seeded) in bowl games to validate the teams playing for the NC. It gives us a chance to beat on some of that ACC, PAC12 and Big10 ass. Good for CFB because the competition of bowl games would go up and make them “must watch”s.

        I liked “the glare of iniquities”, whether a mistake or purposely done. A lot of that glare comes from our western-bordered state.

  15. AusDawg85

    The pressure the WWL will bring to setting the table for who the committee “must” choose, then fueling controversy (which generates eyeball viewing) by disagreeing with the selections can not be underestimated.

    They’ll invent a whole new channel just for this.

  16. Connor

    I don’t really get the excitement. They basically decided to move forward without coming to a decision on the impossible problem of any playoff: which teams do you pick? So now it falls to some committee to parse what “best” means. Because every objective metric pisses off some segment of the football population they have decided to apply none. I predict a massive level of discontent with the first selection. And there’s only one cure for playoffs that leave people unhappy. More playoffs.

  17. adam

    Still bummed that the semi-finals won’t be played on the campuses of the higher-seeded teams. That would be incredibly cool.