The meaning of a meaningful regular season

A lot of playoff proponents mock the worry I and many others have about how an extended postseason would dilute the significance of the college football regular season.  How can we be serious, they say, about claiming every game counts when each week a powerhouse team takes on 1-AA Podunk State A&M?  Aside from the obvious rebuttal – ask Michigan about that – it’s a distortion of what we’re talking about.  Let Bruce Feldman explain.

The reason why so many people are skittish about a playoff was because they know that college football has, by far, the best regular season in sports. Every game can matter in a way they simply cannot in other sports. And the connectivity that inspires from coast to coast is a very cool dynamic about this sport. Last year’s Oklahoma State-Iowa State Friday night game was a great example of that. That game mattered to a lot of folks outside of just Oklahoma and Iowa. The drama and anticipation kept building as the Cyclones upset bid mounted. People could see the potential of the Cowboys’ dream season getting ruined that night. They also knew how that would impact other programs.

You don’t get that in other sports when you can have a 9-7 team win a Super Bowl.

No one inside the sport wants to risk spoiling that aspect of college football, and if you get too big of a playoff, you will end up with a handful of teams that simply had too many stumbles in the regular season…

Granted, there are many playoff proponents who don’t consider that a bug, and that’s cool.  Just don’t justify an enlarged postseason field by brushing aside my concerns.  The reality is that you risk turning college football into something a little more like every other sport out there when you grow the size of a playoff.  And I don’t want college football to be more of the same.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football

22 responses to “The meaning of a meaningful regular season

  1. Cojones

    Glad you have recovered from your funk. It seemed so dire that I couldn’t bring myself to give sound medical advice for fear it would be misconstrued, but in the aftermath feel that it can be given. Smoke’em if you got’em! It’s an attitudinal cure. I will continue with the free beer cure that really affects us all.

    So much for friendly chit chat. The “risk” to the regular season has grown substantially and still begs for legs of reason based on more than gut feelings. It has now entered the “Oracle” stage. Halleleujah!!(hands raised and with accompanying music).

    We all have concerns that we take upon ourselves, I just didn’t know until now that I had contributed much to your funk. Those of us who wanted to debate an 8-team model are the ones who should be in a funk because it never got past the ‘in my gut” stage to justify 4. Some of us also have a feeling in our guts that 4 games is a tentative step (12 seasons my ass!) to the model that will eventually stop most of the angst toward a NC Playoff without the farce of subjective selection of 4 teams roiling on in arguments for the next half century. An 8-team Playoff will have enough angst without the heightened cynicism inherent in choosing only 4 teams. It’s almost like a punishment (installing 4 selected teams and calling it a “playoff”), having dared to go against the one-party line.

    Hell, I didn’t even know it was an argument. Thought we were blogging to learn from each other and pick up shards of reasoning connected to each blog. I get it that you are concerned (you go through so much material to place choice tidbits before us that one would get a “feeling” about things that the rest of us unwashed couldn’t) since we don’t have a pulse on each other as a group as you do. I realize that you may view such exchanges from us as similar to kids playing with dynamite since we don’t have the nuances of judgement that you display in this Natl Playoff matter, but I sure thought our opinions counted enough to be discussed fully.

    How could we brush aside those “concerns” that you are only privy to since they cover us like a blanket of kudzu? Now I’m in a funk borne from the paucity of reasoning applied to a question in which we all have a stake.

    Bruce Feldman’s words seem specious when he states with finality that we would get teams with a 9-7 record in the top 8 teams of CFB. Pure bullshit for the masses and it denigrates the conversation. His attempt to be an oracle makes him more of a sear. Over 90% of gtp responders have more intellectual acuity than he displays with that sad example.

    • Cojones

      It all seems so made up and flagellant!

    • Hackerdog

      In other words, having lots of teams with multiple losses, ala the NFL, is a feature, not a bug. And anybody who disagrees is just dishonest?

      It’s kind of hard to see how the Senator could possibly hold on to his views in the face of that “logic.”

  2. Always Someone Else's Fault

    What separates Shakespeare from American Idol? Angst. Drama. Narrative. Unknowns. And the occasional messy ending.

    Feldman nails it. CFB right now is the book you can’t put down and never forget. An 8 team playoff, on the other hand, is the beach novel you just flip to the end to see how it turns out, because you’ve read something just like it a thousand times before.

    I get your passion, Cojones. Just try to understand ours.

    • Cojones

      But I do understand yours and have no problem with it. I resent that discussing another model with less problems would be blown into an insensitivity for what you feel is a dilution and will cause less passion for the game. That has not only been unproven, but has led to divisiveness of discussion to approach political encampments.

      My complaint is centered on the negative non-reasoned approach to dashing a true playoff that most wanted. The “Plus-one ” people have had the day and curtailed a discussion of a playoff due mainly (it seems to me) to the paranoia created of money-hungry administrators not careing about our passion. That has nothing to do with seeking the best standard to be used to stipulate that a team is the NC and can beat all comers. To me, selecting only 4 teams is a two-team extension of what we already have. Selecting 8 teams from a top-10 list of best CFB teams in the nation is no dilution of the regular season, plain and simple. If you want to believe 4 teams is a “playoff”, ok, but it is not. It’s an extention of the current system.

      I would hope that you would understand that to some of us, this smacks of the “in” group in an election placing 4 people up for nomination and then quickly closing the nominations. Then, voting to elect without discussion simply because they feel they have the right people and the rest of us don’t deserve or have the knowledge to discuss their judgement. None of you speak for me for what my passion will be for kicking Aub, SC, FU and Tech’s ass into next week during the regular season, kicking the West opponents ass in the SECCG and enjoying a playoff because I think we could kick all their asses. If we lost in a playoff, the other victories would still bring a smile to my face on my deathbed. And you better believe it would be meaningful to the asses we kick.

      Depicting that one more game be played in the playoffs (8 vs 4) will create “The Sky is Falling” mentality is ridiculous. You are setting up the self-fulfilling prophecy of “slippery slope” at the beginning to counter the 8-team model whereas it will fast go there before two seasons of Plus-One are played. I just wanted to get there without the angst, not because an extended playoff partially satisfies what we were seeking. But I’m not the one setting up a Tar Baby to discourage it either.

      If I ever thought that 8 teams in a playoff would dilute or denigrate the regular season, I would never advocate discussing it, but the use of those qualifying words as a reason to have only 4 teams selected have never been reasoned when challenged. It comes down to “feelings” without anything reasoned. You can’t use other sports or the NFL as reasons because the paradigns don’t mesh, no matter how many allude to that as a reason.

      • Always Someone Else's Fault

        There is no “reasonable” neutral position here. The fact that we won’t know the results until we know the results does not confer some sort of equivalency on arguments both for or against an 8 team tournament format. Most 8 team format arguments stem from two premises (equity access, bigger is better) that I find faulty from the get-go with CFB. Even if those premises hold up, the likely benefit from making them the priority positions does not outweigh the likely costs.

        You’re taking a rather Nietzsche-an view about expectations as self-fulfilling: “If we go to 8 teams and it sucks, then it’s the fault of everyone who said it would suck if we went to 8 teams.” Seems rather circular to me, but maybe I’m misreading you.

        Let me ask you this: where in your mind does the post-season structure begin to impact the regular season? At what point do you draw the line? My line is 4. Is yours 8?

        • Cojones

          I don’t have a line. We shouldn’t delude ourselves that 4 is a playoff, rather we should call it “An Extension of Selection” that isn’t decided on the field.

          • Always Someone Else's Fault

            So you would be cool with 32?

            • Cojones

              Beyond 4 doesn’t mean an absurdity. It will end up at 8. I just think we should go to it right off the bat, not as an experiment, but as the finality that it will become anyway. I’m just trying to spare us two years of angst and blame between now and then, that’s all.

  3. DawgPhan

    Right now the CFB market does not necessitate the expansion of the playoff system beyond 4 teams.

    A playoff has been in place since the creation of the BCS system and was a significant improvement over the bowl system.

    The pool of teams that should rightful be granted access to a playoff has not be consistently large enough to support more than 2 teams entering into a playoff prior to this year. I do believe that now the pool has grown deep and wide enough to support 2 additional teams entering the playoff.

    Any regulatory manipulation to artificially create more playoff teams would certainly lead to adverse changes to the market participants through the resulting deflation of the value of a regular season game. You can’t just keep creating playoff games and think that there will not be deflation of the value of regular season games.

    Expanding the existing playoff model to 4 teams and modifying the system for selection still maintains the gold standard of regular seasons.

    • Cojones

      Four vs eight wasn’t the point. I too was happy with the old system, even if the NC was a declared one (I was in the seats at Sanford in the 50s and 60s) . I also was happy with the BCS selection system. I am happy for an extended selection system. Each one is about creep in some minds. If the BCS was about playoff, why did approximately 85% of CFB fans vote last year in differing polls to have a natl. playoff? Please address that and the fact that we have hashed over a NP for nearly two years.

      I mentioned that I liked them all although we have been “diluting” the regular season since before the SECCG was established (that would be the bowl games). CFB hasn’t lost one bit of fan passion or verve in that time, in fact, it has grown. We have experimented with the “slippery slope(ss)” and found none exists. I read a recent article that caught my attention that had the conf commissioners and others concerned about the “ss”. These guys, who are the “lamebrains that sold CFB from under us” and “only care for the money”, used that “ss” choice to say 4 was enough. They feared for the sport and compared what had happened in bball, baseball and the NFL. Really? I think those sports lost the national passion because CFB was a greater pull. Sure 32 and 64 teams are a true dilution. Why the hell did they contemplate that many teams to begin with? Because not enough fans gave a shit. Sorry. Their fan numbers are insignificant when compared to CFB. That’s why it is different in CFB. They didn’t really lose me through the years, its just that I just watched them as a contest and never with a passion.

      Why was Delany so happy about it? Maybe he thought that, in limiting the teams to 4 the BiG10 didn’t look so bad not represented in such a small number. Go to 8 and you still might not get representation from there because the SEC/BiG12 teams are capable of having the only representatives plus an ACC team and/or a Boise St.. I firmly believe that is what he was so happy about at the end; – because he has kept his Camelot in Ca along with the weak PAC12 and that’s supposed to be their strongest claim for not having weak conferences; they can still claim they play in the Granddaddy of them all. Sometimes I write facetiously.

      I didn’t come on here for the sake of argument , but instead to find some of those 85% fans who can say, with reason, why we shouldn’t go to 8 teams to start a National Playoff in CFB. I think that is what will prevent a “ss”, not 4 teams. College Football has already shown that the regular season has remained viable for the last 60 yrs of change in games played and the way they are played. TAMU split from the BiG12 because Texas has become the big kid who arrogantly wants to run everything . They decided between them not to keep their game out of petulance, whereas the Red River Shootout is still a choice between teams. If we had lost the Auburn game, I’d still be walking around with a sign cursing the powers that be, but at no time could I blame the Playoffs. If people don’t want to fight for signature CFB games, then don’t be blaming anyone but yourself. If it’s more important to you , then (through your CC) vote down a CFB Playoff.

      Just don’t call this a “playoff”.

  4. Slaw Dawg

    Bottom line is that CFB does indeed have “by far, the best regular season in sports.” Why? A few reasons, I think: (1) Every game matters. (2) Decades long rivalry series, with their own unique histories. (3) The college setting, each venue and campus with its own customs, and a “shared experience” feel for students that follows them when they become alums. And the 3 are linked. Because each game matters, we and our major rivals have cost each other titles, which feeds the history and the intensity of the rivalries. Diminish one thing, and you diminish the other things. That’s what bothers me about the assault on the ancient rivalry games. Consider for a moment the abrupt loss of, for example, the Lone Star State Shootout. A game that mattered more than any other year in and year out to hundreds of thousands of Texans, feeding the rivalry, must have been a significant part of the shared experience and therefore the character, of the teams, the student bodies, the towns, etc. You cannot tell me that any other game will matter as much; or that future Aggie and Longhorn students won’t have different campus experiences and therefore student identities without it. You cannot tell me that an aging Cornhusker wishes deep in his soul that his grandkid could someday witness a game that had the passion of the epic OU clash of ’71–#1 vs. #2, no turning back, no second chance, against your blood rival!

    Will adding a play off diminish the “every game matters” factor and further erode the flavor of our favorite sport? Some say that a 4 game play off will not; some say an 8 game play off will not; inevitably others will say if we can do 8, why not just go to 16? I don’t know with certainty that the play off will diminish the “every game” factor, and therefore the intensity of the rivalries and the nature of the campus experience or not. But it might. So why do it? What’s the point? What problem are we trying to solve? We have a wonderful, glorious, tradition rich sport. Nearly everything else done to it the past 10 years has diminished its richness. Let’s stop the damage!

    • Cojones

      Those rivalries went away because they changed conferences. They could still play each other as we play GT. They didn’t fight to keep it by both’s consent. Shame on them!

  5. Timphd

    While we may not agree on the correct number of teams in a playoff, I for one do like very much one thing this discussion has led to: the playoffs and major bowls will be played on New Years Eve and New Years Day. Only the championship game won’t, but it will be played on the first Monday after New Years (at least 7 days delay). I for one really miss the “good old days” when you could sit down on New Years day and watch the Cotton, Sugar, Orange and Rose bowls back to back. Hopefully we will get back to that.

    As for playoff creep, I admit I hope we never go more than four. I would hate for Richt to rest his starters in the Tech game because he knows UGA is a lock to get a seat in an 8 or 16 team playoff. I want that game, as well as all the others to count for everyone. I also don’t want a 9 and 3 team to win the Crystal ball, even if it were the Dawgs. Cheapens the process. Just my opinion.

    • Cojones

      We already rest starters in games. It hasn’t diminished my joy a bit because we already are beating the crap out of the other team. If the game was in doubt, no coach would rest their players in CFB. You would hear from Vegas on those moves. I consider that is made up stuff, not something viable in a discussion.

      How many times in the rankings have you looked at teams ranked above the Dawgs and thought, ” We can beat most of those guys if they would ever match us up. The ranking system stinks. The inequities borne from such a system makes me want to have a National Playoff.” Well, now you could with the top 8 teams. If we were 9-3 with 7 teams ahead of us, I wouldn’t mind at all beating the hell out of them in a playoff because there would have to be some atrocious records among them if we were ranked 8th. You mean to tell me that you think it wouldn’t be worth playing if a team from a weaker conference had a better record and someone put them above us when our 3 losses were to two SEC East teams and one West team in the SECCG? Get outta here! You’re pulling my dick, aren’t you?

      • hodgie

        did lsu rest their starters against us in the seccg? they were assured of the bcscg right?

      • How many times in the rankings have you looked at teams ranked above the Dawgs and thought, ” We can beat most of those guys if they would ever match us up. The ranking system stinks. The inequities borne from such a system makes me want to have a National Playoff.”

        Never. I tend to think “if only our guys had taken care of business in the XXX game, they’d be there.”

      • Hackerdog

        You want an expanded playoff, like the NFL. But, you don’t believe teams assured of playoff spots will rest starters, even though NFL teams do?

  6. IveyLeaguer

    Feldman is right Senator, and so are you. You SHOULD be concerned. The people that cry for a multi-team playoff don’t have a broad enough, or deep enough, perspective, IMHO.

    We might get away with a 4-team thing for a while without harming the game. But it won’t last long. And when it happens, it will be a slow deterioration. And then one day, 8-10 years from now, people will wake up and say, “what happened to our beloved game”?

    There was a time when a Div.I college game was an event in itself. And that was the beauty of college football. One school playing another school, at a high level.

    We’re barely hanging onto that as it is. That will go fast, and even games that had a lot of meaning traditionally will be reduced to prospects of playoffs. We’ll wonder whatever happened to the romantic side of the game we love so much.

    But it’ll be too late to save it, for there’ll be no putting the toothpaste back in the tube. The SEC will be back in the same position it was 30 years ago, on a level, opportunistically, with everybody else, even though it has the best teams 10-12 deep. But there’ll be no opportunity to prove it.

    It’ll be parity, marketing, and equality .. just like the NFL.

  7. I did not read everyone’s comments…don’t have time… but expect I could predict who is on what side of this issue but I did just want to say to the Senator…AMEN