Expanded playoffs’ Trojan Horse

Chase Stuart dials up a scenario that’s guaranteed to raise the volume level.

Winning your division = Bad

We saw this last year, when Alabama ended the year as BCS #2 and therefore had locked up its spot in the national championship game, while LSU still had to go play in the SEC Championship Game. In this particular case, I don’t feel too bad about the fact that Florida would be given a free pass to the four-team playoff while Georgia has to go play Alabama, but only because Florida has faced a much tougher schedule.

But what if instead of what actually happened — Florida beating South Carolina, South Carolina beating Georgia, and Georgia beating Florida — the order was reversed, and Georgia beat South Carolina, South Carolina beat Florida, and Florida beat Georgia? In that case, Florida would likely be #2 or #3 in the BCS, while Georgia would sit pretty at 4. And Florida would go play Alabama for the right to win the SEC… with the loser being left out of the playoffs. That’s patently unfair. Being the third best team in your conference could be preferable to being the second best team. This is a lock to happen at some point during a four-team playoff. This is also going to be a bigger problem generally as conferences get bigger, because conference schedules will become unbalanced. [Emphasis added.]  The Big 12 has a round robin where everyone plays everyone, but in a 14-team conference, you can easily see a better team end up with a worse record than an inferior team due purely to scheduling.

Is there any doubt what will happen in response?  Of course not – they’ll just grow the postseason to make sure injustice is served.  If you’re a brackets fan, this is a feature, not a bug.

The best part of this is that it’s totally unplanned.  It’s like the weird bastard love child of conference expansion and postseason revenue greed.  Which of course makes it hard to figure out where it will stop, because the next fix will just create a new set of problems.  Ah, what the hell… it’ll go on until ESPN tells ’em to STFU, financially speaking.


Filed under BCS/Playoffs

51 responses to “Expanded playoffs’ Trojan Horse

  1. Jrod1229

    I think you’re more likely to see a rule that precludes a non division winner from entering the fray unless other option was outside Top 10 in BCS or something similar. Basically a rule that would still of allowed Bama last year, but not precluded UGA this year.

  2. Chris

    I don’t like this hypothetical nonsense. Could a 3rd best team in a conference be in a better position than the 2nd in a playoff? Yes, in a really strong year for that conference, like the SEC in recent years. However, who is to say the SEC won’t be “down” again, and that second best team is sitting on the outside looking in, and will actually be rewarded if they win the Conference Championship Game.

    I understand the inclusiveness of the playoffs brings a lot of skepticism, but the spirit of the playoff is lost in all these hypothetical situations. “Bracket creep”, “slippery slope”, 3rd best team situations are all hypothetical arguments that don’t sound too bad to UF, Oregon, and KSU (if they win against UT) that will all be watching the National Championship Game at home with 1 loss each, as another 1 loss team play for all the marbles.

    The real question is do some people think it is worse to have an “unworthy” team(s) earn a shot at the National Championship on the field, than have a “worthy” team(s) excluded from contention at all.

    • I asked that same question last week, and I think the gist is that, yes, most people who are anti-playoff would prefer to have worthy teams left out for the sake of making sure unworthy teams aren’t allowed in. Which I totally disagree with.

      • Chris

        I’d like to ask those same people if they think a wild card professional team is an illegitimate World Series or Super Bowl champion.

        If you are truly the best, then you shouldn’t have to worry about those “unworthy” teams and take care of business on the field.

        • Rhymer Dawg

          But your argument is established on ambiguity of worth and therefore creates a slippery slope.

          Lets examine worth by your argument. Who determines worth? According to your comments worth is defined as taking care of business on the field. However, since not every team can play every other team worth is a unmeasurable measure. Therefore, your definition of worth is useless when it comes to being the standard by which a champion is determined.

          If worth is defined as being the best, then we have to ask upon what basis are those terms being used. If best is once again equated to worth, by your definition, then it cannot be a substitute for a standard by which a champion is determined because of the constraints on the system.

          Additionally, the term worth or “best” by your statements seems to be applied selectively. Generating teams worthy of the playoff system by an ambiguous standard is what creates disparity and problems that the playoff system is trying to avoid. The dual worth system is problem. You cannot isolate worthy teams by ambiguity without disappointing other teams. As a result the concept of a playoff is a slippery slope on top of a slippery slope.

          Also, the idea of illegitimacy should not be used when trying to establish examples of support for a playoff. For what is worth does not equal legitimacy and neither does unworthy equate to illegitimacy according to your definition of worth or best teams.

          The whole point of this is that you need to find a better definition from which to establish your premises. I am neither pro-playoff or anti-playoff in this discussion, I am just pointing out how the discussion from either viewpoint needs to be more precise.

          • Chris

            Perhaps my tongue in check use of apostrophes on “worth” didn’t come through in the intent I wanted. The ambiguity of perceived “worth” is clearly subjective, and is the very premise of an inclusive playoff, which is the universal standard for post season play for every other sport in the world.

            The degree of inclusiveness is obviously the hot point issue of the debate, and should be carefully evaluated considering the unparallelled money-grabbing going on by TV networks in CFB. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean a fair and balanced playoff cannot be organized, despite these fears of bracket creep, slippery slopes, etc..

            We currently only have 2 teams in the country that are deemed worthy to play for a championship by computer algorithms and polls by non-objective coaches that are further influenced by media and regional bias. On top of that, there a numerous variables such as conference strength, OCC scheduling, in conference scheduling quirks, preseason poll positioning, etc. that affect the perception, or “eye test”, of teams.

        • FisheriesDawg

          “I’d like to ask those same people if they think a wild card professional team is an illegitimate World Series or Super Bowl champion.”

          Absolutely. They’re not the best team in their division (as proven over a large set of games), but they’re the best team in their entire league (as proven over a much smaller set of games)? Get out of here.

          • Chris

            Bama wasn’t the best team in their division last year, but ended #1. Bama was the best team at the end of the year just as the Giants were as they displayed in the Super Bowl. I think I’ll stay.

            • Always Someone Else's Fault

              Alabama didn’t have the best record by the end of the regular season, but they were clearly the better team, as evidenced by the 21-0 spanking in the final game. You’re equating the two. They are different criteria.

        • Hackerdog

          A wild card professional team, such as the 2007 NY Giants in the NFL, isn’t illegitimate. They won in the system of determining an NFL champion.

          But that doesn’t mean they’re the best team. They’re just the champion. The Giants won 63% of their games in the regular season. Early in the season, much of the Giants fan base wanted the coach fired. But they got hot at the right time and won the four most important games.

          The Patriots went 16-0 in the regular season (including beating the Giants) and were almost unarguably the best team in the NFL. But, they lost a close game in the most important game of the season, so they’re a footnote.

          So, is a championship about identifying the best team? If so, the NFL gets it wrong by inviting inferior teams to get hot and knock off superior teams. Or, is it about creating an exciting playoff atmosphere where upsets happen and everybody can get excited about a second season? If so, the NFL does that very well.

          I want college football to crown the best team as the champion. Not the team who limped into the playoffs and then caught fire.

          • Okay, me too. But the college equivalent of a 9-7 NFL team isn’t going to happen in a 4 team playoff. It’s doubtful that a 2 loss team even makes it in.

            By your standards, it’s impossible to determine the best team unless we have a round robin style where every single team plays every single other team. That’s not practical, nor will it ever happen in CFB.

            • Hackerdog

              I don’t need as rigorous a system as a universal round-robin. And I agree that the top 4 teams in BCS rankings would be a good playoff. But almost all playoff proponents are saying that 8 teams is a minimum. And I agree that #1-8 in BCS rankings would be some good football. But nobody is proposing that system. We’re talking about 5 conference champions, plus 3 other teams. So, it’s possible that 7-6 GA Tech, as ACC champs, or 8-5 Wisconsin, as Big10 champs, get in the playoffs.

              And, we would be right back to arguing about how unfair it is that, if UGA were to lose to Bama and GA Tech win the ACC, that UGA will sit home and watch the team we embarrassed play for the MNC. And the solution to that problem will be even more playoff games.

              I’m not suggesting that the BCS is perfect, or that a 4-team playoff is perfect. But the 8-team playoff is moving a long way toward an NFL, MLB system where inferior teams get a shot at the championship.

              • Macallanlover

                “8 teamis moving a long way toward an NFL, MLB system…..” Directionally yes, but hardly a long way. Top 8 of 120 is a pretty exclusive club relative to the precentage of particpants in the others. I get the fear factor of going further, but 8 teams doesn’t get me to “inferior”. I could live with 4 teams IF the feeder system that gave us the four were different. For instance, with four 16-team conferences sending their champs, four would be enough. Under the curren tsetup, it just doesn’t do it for me.

                Tech is in the title game by default, and they could beat a hangover impacted FSU team, but 3 round playoff would not allow a team as awful as GT to ever win a national championship. The past systems did though, there were many teams claiming national titles who never got tested by teams outside their conference. (Look at the number of conference titles Michigan and tosu have collectively, over 85 I think. How tough was that to earn, maybe beat one comparable team of athletes? Remember how the only Big 10 team that played in a bowl was the champ and that was against the PAC10 winner? Bogus is the word that comes to mind. How about ND? They set their own schedule and then sat at home ALL of the bowl season. My guess is some of those teams would not be in the Top 10 at the end of the current process, or a true playoff.)

                • Hackerdog

                  If you are assuming that the top 8 teams would get into a playoff system, then you’ve completely ignored my post and every realistic playoff proposal put forward over the last several years. I could go over the drawbacks again, conference champs and whatnot, but I expect you would just ignore it again.

                  If you’re satisfied with allowing a 6 loss team access to the tournament, then I’ll just say that I’m not. I consider 6 loss teams to be inferior and undeserving to even have a chance to get in a championship playoff.

                  And if your defense for adding GA Tech to a possible playoff is that they couldn’t possibly win, then why the urge to add them? I mean, I agree with your premise. I very much doubt that GA Tech could win the championship. That’s why I don’t think they deserve the chance to do it.

                  As for the old system ignoring strength of schedule, I agree. That’s why I prefer the BCS to the old system. Under the pre-BCS vote, over the 28 seasons from 1970 to 1997, the SEC won 5 MNCs. After the BCS put strength of schedule into consideration, the SEC has won 8 MNCs in 14 seasons.

              • This is what my nightmares are made of.

          • Chris

            The Patriots had the best regular season. The Giants were playing the best football at the end of the year. I’d choose to reward the later, just like every other sport in America, professional and college.

            • But, this isn’t every other sport in America. This is college football dammit!

            • Hackerdog

              Fair enough. But you’re not just arguing for a better selection process for determining the champion. You’re arguing that we should fundamentally change what we think of as the college football champion. I respect tradition too much for that.

      • FisheriesDawg

        I agree with that statement, given the caveat that I think only one “worthy” team has ever been left out by the BCS (2004 Auburn). If the chance is so unlikely, I’ll take it over the guarantee that you’ll have at least one unworthy team getting in every single year.

        • Man, I love the SEC as much as most guys on here, but the fact that you think Auburn was the only team “worthy” is laughable. 01 Oregon, 03 USC, 06 Michigan? In the land of the subjective national championships otherwise known as the BCS, all of those teams had a valid argument.

          • FisheriesDawg

            Were those teams really worthy, though? At best, they were equal to the teams that got in (and Michigan had just lost to one of the teams playing in the championship game, so they don’t belong in this discussion at all). They certainly didn’t have an argument that they were better than the #1 team. My philosophy has always been that you should win all of your games or be forced to play the cards you’re dealt. Undefeated teams are the only ones that have a legitimate gripe in FisheriesDawg’s opinion. This keeps the onus on winning every single game. Sometimes you’ll get back in, sometimes you won’t, but the only way to stay out of the roulette wheel is to keep winning.

    • I dislike this hypothetical nonsense too.

  3. The other Doug

    The only solution is to go to 8 teams in the playoff.

    • Chopdawg

      Well, yeah. Or maybe 16 teams. In the final rankings–to determine who gets into the playoff–don’t include the conference championships, which are worth now what they’ve always been & always will be worth. (So this year’s Georgia Tech team, & Louisville or Rutgers or whoever wins the Big East, might not make the playoffs, too bad, they’re not among the best teams in the country.) Take the best 16 teams, start the playoffs in the Sun Bowl & the Liberty Bowl and include whichever bowls want to be part of the system.

  4. UFTimmy

    Well, you just crushed my soul. Thanks for that.

  5. David J.

    I think the better solution is one college ball would never embrace – four (or 8 if we want to go expanded) conferences of 14. Each conference plays a round-robin schedule (losing the OOC games). Four champions play off in a “battle of champions.”

    Keeps focus on regular season – you must win your conference. Still provides an incredibly competitive playoff.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      4 conferences, 16 or more teams each, 2 divisions per conference. Each division has a champ (8 teams). The conference championship games are the first playoff round and go on from there. It’s the only way that makes sense.

  6. Coweta Dawg

    It’s not planned? I don’t know if I believe that. Seems like an easy way through the back door if the real intention was expanded playoffs all along. If Chase Stewart sees it coming, I strongly suspect he’s not the first one who thought of it.

  7. Big-G

    4 16 team super-conferences each with 4 divisions. 16 team playoff incluces conference semi final rounds, conference championship rounds, and then a final four w/ the conference champs.

    • James

      I see this on mgoblog and there are a ton of problems with it.

      1. Only three games in your regular season matter. Each division has 4 teams, so you beat three of them, you win your division and are into the semi/CCG/final four. That’s 9 games that don’t matter, which also means you could be 3-9, win four in a row, making you 7-9 an a national champion. You can’t do standings based on overall conference record (like the Big Ten does now) because the schedules are insanely unbalanced, which ruins the whole concept of a clean process.

      2. Chances of 3-way ties are wildly high. We’ve already established there aren’t any good tiebreakers in college football. So you could potentially be 2-1 in your division with 2 other teams, but get the birth based on some nutty forumula or having a soft “out of division” schedule. So now you’re 2-10, potentially the third best team in your 4 team division, and four games away from a national championship.

      • Big-G

        7 games would matter: 3 against your division and 4 against another division that everyone in your division round-robins against (this year SEC east plays SEC north, then it rotates). They all count the same as far as your division standings go and everyone in the division has the SAME schedule for calculating the standings
        You would have an 8th conference game that lets you preserve rivalries in year’s you don’t play the rival in one of the above division games. It’s up for debate as to whether this would count towards division standings as everyone would have different teams on the schedule and some will be stronger than others.

  8. Brandon

    This is exactly the problem with Congress also, even with good intentions their “solutions” just create
    more problems and after several generations of them at work the last state of the problem is worse than the first, that is why I for one never complain that they should “get stuff done”.

  9. DawgPhan

    I just figured that the SEC would drop the championship game when it goes to a playoff. No sense in creating a game where you are basically eliminating one of your teams from the playoffs. W/O the SECC most years the SEC could have 3 teams in the top 4.

  10. I tell you what Senator, I was skeptical about all this slippery slope stuff, but now i am onboard. Listening to the radio this morning, they were all talking about how important the K state and oregon loss was and that SEC people were watching those games with a vested interest.

    Then without hesitation they turn around and talk about how absurd it is that we don’t have a 8 game playoff. What?

  11. I was impressed (and surprised, to be honest) to hear Mike & Mike on ESPN Radio stumble into this topic a few days ago. They were discussing the volume of outstanding early-season college hoops matchups but were honest enough to admit that the games were meaningless because all of these teams will be in the tournament anyway. They recognized the trade-off that it would be great to see a comparable slate of games in CFB, but teams didn’t want to risk losses. I don’t think they quite made the leap all the way to the risks of an extended CFB playoff, but they at least acknowledged that the playoff-uber-alles format has its costs in terms of regular season interest.

  12. Cojones

    I think Chase Stuart is spot on. We are about to be Dawgpolled if we lose the game we fought to get to and represent our division. Not only is winning your Div bad, but how can you be penalized for playing an extra game? If we look at the loser as having 2 losses straight out and don’t add in the extra game , how can they compare W/L records? The extra championship game should be factored in as extra-scheduling and the loser should represent the SEC in the Sugar Bowl. Outside of the scheduled year, we should be playing for the winner to go to the NC and the loser representing the SEC in the Sugar Bowl. since the champion is playing elsewhere.

    I think some fans see this as a blessing in disguise this year since filling up the Sugar Bowl is not as attractive as it would be if our economics were different. Since FU doesn’t represent one of the champions and it is a matter of economics, why not invite LSU to fill the Superdome? Could Kent St be the other team? Competitively sad.

    • Ty Webb

      “The extra championship game should be factored in as extra-scheduling and the loser should represent the SEC in the Sugar Bowl.”

      Careful, you just completely agreed with Nick Saban.

      • The only problem with that is when one side of the league is down during a season. Two years ago, you would have had South Carolina going to the Sugar Bowl over many more deserving teams in the West.

  13. Connor

    There’s no cure for bad playoffs other than more playoffs.

  14. Let’s just make everybody vote for the champion! Wait a minute…

  15. Macallanlover

    There is no system in existence, nor will there ever be, that can determine which team is “the best”. You can detrmine who won on the day they played but there is certainty that a similar result would occur on a different day, at a different site, with different weather, etc., etc. That will always be a point of debate with fans, and a playoff will not change that if there are 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, or all 120 schools involved. But there can be a champion, one that earns a ticket through perfomance over a full season, and then works it way through the minefield of the best of the rest over the whole of the country.

    Nothing wrong with that, at least that team can lay claim to being unbeaten in the “2nd season” against representaives of the best competition that could be determined. That would make for truly legit “national champion” and would be acknowledged by all….but they would never be a unanimous “best”.

    • Always Someone Else's Fault

      Legit in some people’s eyes, illegit in others. It will always be that way. Is a 5-seed champion in an NCAA 64 team a “legit” national champion? Not in my eyes. They got hot at the right time. They’re the champions of March Match-Ups You Hope Work in Your Favor And A Favorable Officiating Crew Would Be Nice And Oh A Key Injury To The Opponent Would be Sweet Tournament. I enjoy the NCAA basketball tournament, but I consider it a more random exercise than what we have now. It just depends on which variables you want to focus on.

      I would have preferred going straight to UNC-Kentucky last year. Letting Creighton determine the national championship with dirty play hardly makes UK a more legit 2012 champ. Note the “more.”

    • Hackerdog

      Boy. Your constant, “only my preferred method can ever be legitimate,” tripe just never gets old.

      For the record, there is a championship system in place. It’s understood. Every team in the country plays under it. If GA wins the next two games, it will be champion. Ditto for Bama.

      To insist that they wouldn’t be legitimate because you didn’t get to fill out some brackets is just stupid.

  16. 69Dawg

    I thought the Selection Committee was going to pick the 4 best. The screwing of the 2nd best team in a conference is now the fact that they lost more games than the 3rd or 4th and the bowls don’t offer them. If the selection committee truly believes the SEC number 2 is good enough they will get in.

  17. Rhymer Dawg

    Consequently, the discussion of selection seems to be the point of contention. For if we could clearly delineate the four or eight best teams in the country then what would be the argument for not having a playoff. But if those lines of delineation could make that distinction then we would be able to know how to rank the top 4 or 8 teams and therefore be able to determine the number 1 position without a playoff.

    As a result of this inability to determine who is best, “worthy” or whatever, we are arguing over the best way to win a subjective argument. Whatever is decided in being able to establish the subjectively best team I will always and forever be pro-UGA.

  18. hodgie

    Senator, I’ve said it before. I will say it again. You better enjoy CFB now. In less than ten years the game will be utterly fubar by the money grabbers and we won’t even recognize it anymore.

  19. There are two immutable laws in the universe. one is this…the law of unintentented consequences and the second is …p*ssy is undefeated.