Subjectivity is the drug.

This is a lovely ode to why the college football playoff should remain capped at a four-team field.  For all its good intent, there is one hugely ironic paragraph in the middle.

… Take Saturday’s edition of The Game. If both teams knew that, win or lose, they were probably getting into the postseason field, would they have tried any less hard? Of course not. But would there have been less energy in the Horseshoe once that game got rolling, less intensity during the overtime period? Of course. Ask any NFL player or coach who has been involved in a late December game with a division title on the line … and two teams with records good enough that one is going to get a wild-card invite anyway. That’s how the conference championship games used to feel, even during the latter half of the BCS era. Perhaps two would matter. This weekend, they will all be in play, just as they have been during the previous two editions of the playoff.

The irony lies in that Michigan sits at number five in this week’s selection committee rankings, on the cusp of getting in to the playoffs in the event something goes south with Clemson and/or Washington.  I guess it’s a good thing that it wasn’t a lock before The Game was played last weekend, but what’s the message being sent if, in the end, two teams from the Big Ten make the postseason without winning their division, let alone the conference?

The message will inevitably be that the postseason wasn’t inclusive enough.  That’s what you get when you allow the selection process to be an opaque, touchy-feely affair. So, while I don’t disagree in the slightest with this sentiment…

This is supposed to be hard, isn’t it? After all, it is the postseason of America’s second-biggest sport. And what makes this sport so unique, what separates it from the NFL, is a level of passion and a degree of difficulty that exist nowhere else.

As such, is expanding the College Football Playoff field, a move that would inarguably pave an easier road to a postseason berth, going to stoke those fires? Not a chance. It would sprinkle water on them.

… I think it doesn’t matter.  As long as there’s more money and as long as there’s sentiment to make the playoffs more inclusive, there will be incentive to grow them.  As for the excitement, Bill Hancock will still be there selling that; it’s just that the focus will shift more and more to what happens in the postseason.  The passion will slide from four vs. five to eight vs. nine to whatever comes.

Subjectivity in selecting a national champion is both college football’s unique blessing and curse.  It’s to the sport’s credit that, at least for now, it does make a real effort to construct a postseason field driven by regular season excellence.  (Not to mention that a significant part of the fun of being a college football fan is arguing about which teams are most deserving.)  The down side is that it leaves itself open to the irresistible urge to fix any problems of random unfairness in a given year by expanding the opportunity to participate.

And when you take that down side and add to it the likelihood of greater financial rewards to the system for creating new product, along with giving coaches new standards for job security, you’re really greasing the skids.  That’s how you get to a 68-team field (almost expanded to 96, remember) for March Madness before you know it.

Needless to say, I don’t see this stopping any time soon, no matter how much energy is felt in the Horseshoe.

35 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs

35 responses to “Subjectivity is the drug.

  1. ugafidelis

    Every team in a conference, every conference with a championship game. Conference champions advance. Simple.

    Like

  2. Gaskilldawg

    Four is too many, in my opinion.

    The College Football Playoff is not a real NCAA championship. It is not even an NCAA event. It is a NCAA sanctioned event. The NCAA did not create it to determine its championship. ESPN created it to generate ratings.

    The BCS set up was better, in my opinion.

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    • Russ

      I agree with you that 4 is too many. I think I agree that the BCS was the best. Polls alone got a little too biased at times. The BCS amalgam was probably as good as it was going to get.

      Sadly, we’ll be at 8 teams soon. That’s okay. I need to do other things in the fall.

      Like

  3. FarmerDawg

    Rivalries in the pros are made up, in college there are many and they are real. Did the loss to Tech feel any less important this year than it would have in 2002, 2005, 2007, 2012? This passion and loyalty for the alma mater or state school is why regardless of post season each teams season will still matter to its fans. The bigger picture is fans talking about more teams with a chance instead of 3 or 4 ,and my team having a chance makes me excited about lesser games.

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    • Russ

      +100

      In college football, rivalries matter. It’s the traditions that draw me to the game. The NFL lost that years ago.

      Like

    • Chopdawg

      Right. I went to Sanford for GA-Auburn, and experienced more tension & excitement for that game than any game I’d attended for several years. No playoff implications, just UGA playing Auburn, in The South’s Oldest Rivalry.

      Like

    • PTC DAWG

      Agree, it appears that some want to continue clinging to the old ways…more good games are just that, more good games.

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      • Gaskilldawg

        To each his own. I love watching Georgia. I have not been interested enough in watching other teams play in the playoffs. They may be good games but at that point in the season I don’t really care.

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  4. Macallanlover

    Oh please Senator, scare tactics are beneath you. Appreciate that you don’t favor a playoff and were fine with the old systems but even mentioning 68 to 96 as a connected thought for a CFB playoff that has yet to even reach a place for Conference champions is hyperbolic. Also, the continued fear-mongering of the regular season being minimized has no place to truth, just another scare tactic trotted out about other sports which are several times the percentage of inclusiveness being discussed. No one has rested players, or laid off playing hard in CFB, even when given the chance, not once.

    Now when the inadequacy of the current number is certain to increase calls to fix this warm mess, the antis bring out the same tired arguments. We have a half assed playoff, which is better than the BCS, but still misses the critical point, the fatal flaw. The Committee has a “mission impossible” directive, any legit playoff must include the conference champions at a minimum, there must be a path to the playoffs that isn’t blocked by subjectivity. Thinking we are looking to identify “the best” team is the biggest mistake, no system will ever do that. Let’s just find a valid champion of CFB. At least one, possibly two, whole conferences will feel left out next Senday, and they will have a valid case.

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    • Mac, the same people responsible for the growth in the men’s basketball tourney are the same people managing the CFP.

      Delany has gone from opposing a playoff to opposing a playoff without conference champions to being okay with his conference putting two in the playoff without winning the Big Ten.

      All I can tell you is that time will tell. You are more optimistic than I am.

      Like

      • Macallanlover

        True, I am optimistic that expanding to eight would be overwhelmingly seen as a great solution but that is only an opinion. Putting two in from one conference will be the death of the 4 team playoff, just as two SEC teams in 2011 killed off the BCS so I suppose I should favor it happening. But it is just so wrong. The Selection Committee put themselves into a position to have little option to do otherwise if either Clemson or Washington goes down this weekend. There will be some very mad folks in at least two conference areas. Chaos, it may be just what we need to move the needle but it will mostly benefit the blogs, talk radio, and message boards.

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    • Bob

      You are delusional if you ever think that we will find a “valid” champion of CFB. Too many teams and too short of a schedule. Actually the Senator is 100% right about the CBB analogy. Nobody….NOBODY watches regular season CBB any more. Carolina-Duke games used to draw football like ratings and now no one even knows they are playing till March.

      There was absolutely nothing wrong with the way we used to do it. Shared championships…sure. I had no problem with that. We argue about it anyway. This crap we have now is a result of people trying to make NFL Lite out of the best sport on the planet.

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      • PTC DAWG

        I enjoy regular season college basketball myself. I think you may be surprised at the amount of folks who do.

        Like

      • Gaskilldawg

        I recognize that I am in the minority but I not only watch regular season college basketball but I buy season tickets to do so.

        As a college basketball fan I recognize that the NCAA tournament no longer crowns the best team as the champion it crowns the best team playing during a three week period. Want proof? UConn finishing the regular season 6th in the Big East then winning the tournament.

        Same with major league baseball now that wild card teams have recently been World Series champions.

        Expanded ersatz college football playoffs will result in a team that is not one of the top 2 or 3 teams being crowned champions. I am at the point where I do not care about the ersatz playoffs, I care about how UGA did. Frankly, winning a SEC Conference championship is what I hope for each year.

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    • AusDawg85

      No examples of regular season games being minimized and faith that rivalries matter exist in the current and past structures of CFB. The Senator is absolutely correct to caution what happens when the structure changes. Every sport with expanded playoffs clearly has evidence of regular season games becoming less important. Hell, even in golf the FedEx Cup now has major stars skipping one of the final events if they have enough points to get to the last or next to last stage. NASCAR drivers & teams avoid the lead. NHL…NFL…MLB…NCAA BB…Olympic sprinters during qualifying heats!…I’m hard pressed to find an example (of sports I would follow) where this doesn’t happen.

      I see an 8 team playoff with Georgia headed to the SECCG. Our QB and RB are a little dinged-up but given a 11-0 record, even a loss in the SECCG to Bama probably puts us in the 8 team field…why on earth would you put your stars in against a 2 – 9 GT? Rivalries are important…until they no longer are.

      Like

  5. Go Dawgs!

    Every morning when the talking heads start trying to de-value regular season results like the Clemson-Louisville game or the fact that Ohio State lost to Penn State after Penn State had a week off (the horror! I muttered to myself after looking at pretty much every Georgia-Florida game in the 90’s and 2000’s) it makes me want to get in the speaker’s face and yell THE REGULAR SEASON IS A PLAYOFF, TOO. That’s the beauty of college football and every thing that devalues the regular season lessens the greatness of our game. Our win over Auburn was sweet, and it was made sweeter still by the fact that we ruined Auburn’s chances for anything special this year. Had Louisville not collapsed and ended up in position to potentially replace Clemson in the four team field, that would have been ridiculous.

    The more I think about it, the more I realize that this season would have been better resolved by the BCS. Most seasons would have been better resolved by the BCS.

    Like

  6. PTC DAWG

    5 Power 5 Champs…3 wildcards (use a committee, fine with me) I’m in. First rounds played a home field. Top 4 seeds get home field…must be a conference champ to get home field…that is huge. Get it done.

    Season value is still there, with no guarantees of a fall back position without a Championship.

    Like

    • Macallanlover

      Dead-on, but no one is listening. Would make the regular season mean more, provide a path for teams to control there own destiny, and declare a true national champion for the first time ever…not necessarily the best because that is impossible to ever guarantee, but true national champ. One modification though to your comment, one of the three spots has to be reserved for a non-Power 5 team, the highest rated. That makes it like a US Open, everyone has away to get to their dream.

      Like

      • Napoleon BonerFart

        Since you acknowledge that the goal of an 8-team playoff would not be to identify the best team in college football, can you define what a “true” champion is, besides the winner of an 8-team playoff?

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        • Macallanlover

          Not just the 8 team playoff, but any playoff. The Super Bowl, NCAA BB, World Series, BCS title game, etc, etc, never declared anyone the BEST. They were the champions, winner of the process to determine a champion. That is all this is about, getting a process that puts worthy teams against one another until a winner emerges. We will always argue about who was really the best, but it will always be subjective…even when the 4 of 7 winner is lifting the trophy. We can all agree on who is the champion, we will never all agree on who is best.

          Like

  7. Chopdawg

    I haven’t seen an argument against a CFB playoff yet that didn’t leap to the comparison of CFB with the NFL, or college baketball (and one of the problems I have with McGee’s column is the assumption that CFB is the nation’s “second biggest sport,” behind the NFL I guess).

    Since I don’t think such comparisons are valid, I reject the argument that CFB would somehow be ruined by a playoff system that expanded to 8, 12, or 16 teams. You think playoffs devalue the regular season? CFB’s regular season is already diminished by games like UGA vs Nicholls (if that’s a playoff game, I guess it’s #50 seed vs #200, maybe?). You think football teams can’t play 15 games a season? Champions in the NAIA and the FCS play multiple postseason games, so it is possible for college football teams to play multiple games, and even travel to several different sites, after the regular season ends. You think conference champions must be included in any playoff? Expanding to 16 teams should do the trick; if not, a conference champ that’s not in the top 16 shouldn’t be in the playoff (some year it will happen, a Florida will beat an Alabama).

    No offense meant to anyone who’s opinion is different; but for once I wish we could have this discussion on the merits of an expanded playoff alone, without demeaning CFB by comparing it to other sports.

    Like

    • Napoleon BonerFart

      When considering whether to expand the college football playoffs, it’s very useful to examine the results when other sports expanded playoffs. It’s very convenient to insist that those results must be ignored because college football is singularly immune to those.

      That’s like a teenager arguing that, sure injecting heroin into your eyeball might be bad for some OTHER kids, but I’m special and invincible. I’ll be just fine.

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    • Chop, the same people who decided to expand the men’s basketball tourney are the folks in charge of the CFP. How is their track record not relevant to the discussion?

      Like

      • Chopdawg

        Because college football is not college basketball, the results of playoff expansion wouldn’t affect college football in the same way.

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        • Well, with impeccable logic like that, you have me.

          Although at least you’re not denying the possibility that these guys won’t follow the same pattern of expansion they’re familiar with already.

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          • Macallanlover

            No, that would be my role. I will say there is no possibility CFB will ever get to a 64 or 96 team playoff. Although, that might give me CFB year around so I may have to change my promise that I would never support an expansion beyond 8.

            Like

  8. NCDawg

    I just don’t get how they rank teams. How does Auburn come in at 14 and Pitt at 25? Pitt has wins over #3 and 6. Auburn has LSU win. This thinking puts AU into Sugar.

    Like

  9. Gaskilldawg

    To REALLY “settle it on the field” and have “a true champion” the solution will be to expand FBS to 128 teams, have 64 games the first week, the winners then play in the 32 games the next week, then those winners play in the 16 games the next week, then those winners play in the 8 games the next week, then those winners play in the 4 games the next week those winners play in the semi-finals and the winners play for the trophy. Voila! That gets the issue of who “deserves” to be in the playoff out of the way. If your team loses the first week, don’t worry, there are 125 more great games to watch!

    Like

  10. Uglydawg

    This is football…a very physical, contact, and dangerous sport when compared to BB or BB….By the end of the season, teams and individuals are beat up and tired.

    Keep it like it is with four, or have a computer tell you which teams are the two best and let them play it..(the BCS without human bias).

    After the two teams are identified by the computer, every college football coach in America gets to vote if it’s fair. Up or Down..yes or no.. Done on computer in their home or office. They have 4 hours to vote.. Contacting anyone else concerning how to vote will be an NCAA infraction…If 70 percent or more of the coaches that choose to vote say “no” , the third team is thrown into the second teams place. If 30 percent or more say “yes”..game on. NO input from the commercial sponsors or TV.

    Like

  11. CB

    3 of the 5 championship games are meaningless. They were never more than money grabs in the first place, and they rarely prove anything.

    Like

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