The case for why bigger isn’t better.

This is an excellent summary of a point I’ve been trying to make this week.

College football’s postseason is a Rube Goldbergian contraption that’s been assembled from dissimilar parts over the years because the sport has never been controlled by a central entity.  Bowls came into play to serve the conferences and independents.  The sport’s appeal was strongly regional.

Evolution has taken place as national forces (hi, Mickey!) have placed pressure on the system to accommodate them, which is how we’ve slowly gotten a playoff arrangement to supersede the polls that awarded championships after the bowl games.  However, the conferences are still powerful enough to insist on conference championship games and control the structure of the CFP.

The common thread throughout this isn’t a search for greatness, but a quest for dollars.  That’s why the conferences tolerate the rickety structure.  Expansion will come if some or all of the P5 members feel the cash flow is being threatened because of the contradictions in the system, not because of any uneven quality to the teams that make the semi-finals.

It’s not a perfect system because that’s inherent in the design when you have five peer conferences, plus Notre Dame, ruling the roost.  Expansion to eight in and of itself won’t change the underlying flaws; in fact, there’s a strong likelihood those will only be exacerbated with a larger field.

The CFP is an unstable entity.  That’s why I’d rather stay at four, because, warts and all, at least there’s a stronger likelihood that we’re seeing something close to the best teams in the country playing for the national title.

57 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs

57 responses to “The case for why bigger isn’t better.

  1. Go Dawgs!

    I agree with Rece here. Fact is, Georgia is in a national title playoff game on Saturday. We don’t get the month of media attention, we don’t get to wear the special shiny silver Nike swoosh on the jerseys, and we don’t get to ride roller coasters beforehand, but we’re in the playoff. Georgia has earned its position as one of the top 4 teams in the country and we’ve earned 60 minutes to try to knock off the best team in the country. If the Dawgs are going to win the national title, they’d have to beat this team anyway. Might as well do it now and then let the playoff committee decide who’s next. Win and you move on. That’s a playoff game.

    Also, let’s not forget that winning the Southeastern Conference title is a special thing. Let all of the other contenders worry about national crowns this week if they want to. We play in a conference where winning the championship is a big freaking deal. We remember SEC champions down here. Let’s go get it.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Jeff Sanchez

    I’d have no problem if I really thought this weekend was an elimination game for BOTH teams. Problem is, it only is for one of us.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Otto

      I am not sold that is completely true.

      The media points to Ohio St last year and their performance in the Big10 championship game as the reason they weren’t included. However a year ago the same people were pointing to the Iowa game as the reason a 1 loss Bama passed a 2 loss Ohio St. Selective memory or pushing a narrative that’ll get ratings? The playoff selectors do put weight on a conference titles but also overall record.

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      • Clayton Davis

        It would take both Oklahoma and Ohio State losing to get Georgia in with a loss. No way a two-loss non-champion gets in over a 1 loss power conference champion.

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        • Otto

          No kidding my post and Jeff’s did not discuss that.

          My reply to Jeff was stating that I din’t believe Bama is without a doubt in the playoff regardless of the outcome Saturday.

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        • Ellis

          This is my problem. The language that we always hear from the committee is that it will select the four best teams for the playoff. Nobody who has watched any college football this year can argue that OU or Ohio State are better teams than Georgia. Frankly, everyone knows Georgia would dominate either team.

          If Georgia were to lose a CLOSE game this weekend I believe we should still get in. Its not going to happen, but it exposes the hypocrisy of the playoff committee.

          i never expected this years team to get in to begin with, but hopefully if we get screwed it will be motivation for next year.

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    • Clayton Davis

      THIS. I really hate the spot Georgia is in. Win against possibly the best team ever, and know that almost certainly you’ll just have to do it again in a month with one of the most methodical coaches in history spending every waking second to prepare his team for revenge.

      If Georgia loses, it’s almost certainly, “Thanks for playing, Georgia! Have the Sugar Bowl as a consolation prize.”

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      • I love the spot that we’re in. We’re one win away from the SEC title. One win from the playoff. There are 120 teams who would kill to be in our shoes. Quit bitching about what might happen if Georgia wins, and just enjoy it. And if Georgia loses, then enjoy the gd Sugar Bowl. We haven’t been in 10 years. I’m thrilled that it’s our worst-case outcome at this point.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Totally agree. If we happen to lose on Saturday, I really want OU in the CFP because a Sugar Bowl game with Texas in New Orleans would be a pretty darn good consolation prize.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Otto

            Agreed, OU winning does nothing but help UGA.

            If UGA wins Saturday, OU would have avenged their only loss (which was close on a neutral site), and have an argument to be in the playoff.

            If UGA doesn’t win OU likely gets in the top 4, and UGA plays Texas in Nawlins. I’d rather play Texas than OU.

            Whatever happens, as posted yesterday, What I want to beat Bama and see those National Title rings, I am enjoying the moment of UGA football, and very enthusiastic about the future.

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        • Russ

          Exactly! This is what’s wrong with playoffs, it’s spoiling a great season. We’re defending SEC champions and playing for a consecutive title this weekend. Our worst case is the Sugar Bowl? Poor us.

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    • Greg

      Yep…..in the meantime Notre Dame sits their asses at home and watches. Should be playing Clemson….not their fault though : > )

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  3. DawgFlan

    Great points by Rece. I still think ND (or any other non-P5 contender) needs to be playing someone decent this weekend. Make them play 13 games to get into the CFP like everyone else.

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  4. Otto

    A more “perfect” system (larger playoff) will eventually result in lower rating, and you don’t get a 2 hr rankings show every week with clueless bobbleheads discussing scenarios.

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  5. WH

    I like 4, it’s not perfect, but no system will be.

    I really dislike 8, for all the reasons you’ve set out in this blog, Senator.

    But you and I both know expansion is coming, and I think 6 is clearly better, and might actually stave off the inevitability of going to 8.

    6 teams finally allows for objectivity because you can take the P5 conf champs (I know, I know) and one at large team. If that at-large is an unbeaten UCF, fine. If it’s a 1-loss Bama after the SECCG, fine. Either way, it minimizes the subjective crap down to a max of 1 cherry-picked team, whose presence may help correct for having the “occasional” mediocre conference champ in the mix. Do the play-in games after the conf champ week or around Christmas and change nothing else.

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    • Otto

      Top 6 in ranking get in, conf. champs not guaranteed with the top 2 getting 1st round bye weeks.

      It would put emphasis on the regular season, and resume on signature wins while insuring plenty of debate on who the top 2 are.

      P5 Conf champs getting an auto bid eliminates strong out of conference scheduling. Why play ND, or Texas if it has no impact on the path to the playoff other than increased risk of injury?

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      • WH

        Sure, legitimate objections. Again, no system is perfect, and we’re all essentially debating which problem to solve. I’m suggesting the subjectivity is the first bug to fix now that we have a legit playoff.

        Obviously, you still have to rank the conf. champs in order to seed the bracket, so there’s still incentive to schedule well. But, if we’re just checking off wishlist items here, then yeah, let’s also eliminate/minimize cupcake games with eligibility requirements for conf champs.

        For example, no FCS opponents (sorry, payoff recipients) and either of:
        • 9 conf games plus 2 P5 non-conf games
        • 8 conf games plus 3 P5 non-conf games

        Is this crazy? I mean, I’m just dreaming here, I don’t actually think they’ll implement this.

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        • Otto

          1st round bye, I believe will take care of the OOC scheduling.

          I would still be in the camp of an 8 game SEC schedule and 2 P5 non-conf games and 2 cupcakes.

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    • I was an advocate for 6 until I really started thinking about it. There are 2 big problems with expansion beyond 4.

      1) The “play-in” games (3v6 and 4v5) would be the next weekend right before most schools have final exams for fall semester. If the schools really want to be able say they are about the STUDENT-athlete (not yelling), this would be totally hypocritical to have them playing games 2 days before finals.

      2) Bowl selections could not be made for another weekend. That delay would make it more difficult for fans to make travel arrangements. The play-in losers (and fans) would probably have zero interest in those games making it more likely that those with NFL potential sit out.

      Of course, none of this matters if Mickey makes the check large enough.

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  6. Bright Idea

    4 is enough IMO but ultimately the $ will prevail but no system will be perfect and they will never ask the coaches and players who survive 15 games what they think. As for conference champs getting automatic berths everybody assumes the Northwesterns and Pitts of the world will always lose which is no way to plan a playoff.

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  7. Thorn Dawg

    If it does go to six, play the first two games in early December, therefore giving them a few weeks to get healthy… and oh yeah, study for exams…

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  8. Nashville West

    Younger readers of this blog may not realize that there was a time when the two major polls, AP (writers poll) and UPI (coaches poll), picked their number 1 team at the end of the regular season. AP started the post season final poll in 1968 followed by UPI in 1974.
    The 4 team playoff is an improvement over the past. I don’t think that expansion makes sense. Football is a different game from basketball or baseball. That’s why they only play once a week rather than daily and why football all star games almost always suck.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Otto

      Is it really an improvement?

      Part of the fun of college football is the debate, the mythic games. It was 3 games being played on New Years with National Title implications, and all of the scenarios which could happen. It was unique, other sports have playoffs and are not discussed year round.

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  9. Tony Barnfart

    You could satisfy everybody if you turned the SEC’s traditional cupcake week into a yearly rotating conference vs. conference challenge weekend. This would be asking everybody to cede control of 1 of their precious non-conference games to the CFP committee. All logistics of road/away and the rotation between conferences would be known in advance—everything but the opponent. Late the Saturday before, the committee would release the pairings.

    You would need Notre Dame to play with a conference for rankings / pairings and you would need to rank and combine the top 7 in each of the AAC / MWC to have a 6 group so that everybody has a pairing each year. Not sure what you do about a 14 team league vs 10/12 team league as far as pairing your bottom 4 SEC teams. It would be inconsequential but you could probably solve it with a couple of stand-alone contracts with cupcakes who would be more than happy to sign up for a set road game in SEC country with a payout from the conference coffers.

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    • Tony Barnfart

      **meant to say Notre Dame would need to be PAIRED with a conference for scheduling. The tricky part is the Big12 makes the most sense except that ND plays a defacto ACC schedule. I suppose you could leave the “15th” ACC team out in a similar cupcake deal.

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  10. Sattwater Dawg

    I’m with Rece on this one, except I don’t think Bama should get in the CFP if they lose the SECCG.

    Let’s say UGA and Clemson win on Saturday. Then these teams are in:

    Clemson
    UGA (2 or 3)
    ND (2 or 3)

    This leaves Bama, OK, OSU (assuming wins) as likely for the 4th spot.

    Unless you place Bama in 2nd or 3rd, then the very next game would be a UGA/Bama rematch. I think this factors in, I think the excitement of a round 1 playoff game drops if it is a rematch of the very last game played by both teams. I understand the stated marching orders of the committee (find the best 4 teams), but I still think the distaste of an immediate rematch will factor in.

    There is an argument for Bama in 3rd, that they are still better than an undefeated ND, so maybe that happens to avoid the immediate rematch.

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    • AusDawg85

      I’m seeing this a lot and don’t think the whole “rematch” thing is correct. I believe #1 (Clemson in this scenario) plays #4 Bama and UGA gets ND. Only potential for a rematch is in the final…correct?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sattwater Dawg

        You are right, 1 vs 4. I was on a complete brainfart on that one.

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        • AusDawg85

          Not just you. Guys on ESPNU were talking about it and said how weird or wonderful it would be for an immediate rematch. No matter the outcome, that definitely won’t happen.

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  11. PNWDawg

    Expansion just means we’re arguing about who is ranked 9th vs arguing over the 5th spot. Plus, the narrative keeps changing every time the format is changed. I.e. Regardless of the playoff size the UCF’s and Boise State’s will continue to be just outside while the traditional powers feast. I like 4.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Uglydawg.

    Of the four…three face the peril of getting knocked out this Saturday.
    One is already sitting at the table.
    That’s not right.
    ND should be required to play Florida (as the highest ranked, third place major conference team in the polls) this Saturday…or whoever was there when the last ranking was announced. It would be a GREAT boost to CFB, get tons of coverage and generate a lot of money. Plus it would probably be the highest watched game of the year so far. Good for the conference that furnishes the opponent and good for ND as it makes them some cash and gets the “privileged” monkey off it’s back.
    Why not? Seems very logical and fair to me.(Of course the opposing team would have to understand that they aren’t getting into the final four unless they happen to be sitting at five or so…ND would get to keep it’s berth if it won) Why not? Build in the rule…ND, if ranked in the top four, must play the highest non-champion major opponent to get in.

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  13. Bulldog Joe

    #14 vs #5 followed by #4 vs #1 should be an entertaining afternoon of football.

    Move Michigan to the Big10 West, put Notre Dame in the ACC, and the night games become entertaining, too.

    That’s how New Year’s Day used to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Hey Senator… been a while. I wrote a thing. Thought I’d leave it here for you, because I doubt the aggregators catch my ol’ blog anymore.

    http://dawgsview.blogspot.com/2018/11/but-can-you-beat-them-twice.html

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  15. Rchris

    “we’re seeing something close to the best teams in the country”. And you know what? If the system by some chance leaves out the best team, there’s nothing stopping the AP from naming them #1. So even in a worst case scenario, we’re no worse off than we have been. With an 8 game playoff, we WILL eventually have 3 loss national champs. Nobody but their fans would feel good about that.

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  16. MGW

    How bout a playoff that’s flexible so the teams with legitimate claims to being one of the two best get in? This year that could include as many as 6 if Georgia wins, and OU, OSU, and Clemson take care of business. Most years its going to be 2 or 3 teams, hell this year its really Bama, Clemson, and Notre Dame if Bama and Clemson both win.

    But teams with no real argument for being one of the two best teams in the country getting left out isn’t really a concern for me. “We’ve got an argument for being #4” isn’t an argument that you deserve a shot at a title. Going all the way to 4 really just makes sure that third team that sometimes has a claim to be top 2 gets in. The 4th spot should and rarely will be clear cut, but the last spot or two in any size playoff is going to have that problem. I’d personally rather just give the 1 a bye, let 2 and 3 play for the opportunity to play 1, and screw all the teams claiming to be a worthy 4 (if there are only 3 teams with a legitimate claim, like will probably be the case this year).

    Then there’s the curious case of undefeated UCF. So people think they deserve a shot for being undefeated… so we go to 8 so teams like that get a shot. Well, if that happens, don’t be surprised when lesser P5 teams start going independent or joining lesser conferences so they can dominate garbage schedules and get into the playoff. You think West Virginia, Kentucky, Washington State, Purdue, etc. wouldn’t have absolutely crushed UCF’s schedule this year? You think they wouldn’t rather the reward for once a decade seasons be a spot in an 8 team playoff instead of second or third in their division?

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  17. Debby Balcer

    Have you seen the report that Coach Johnson is retiring?

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  18. Cojones

    The 8 top-ranked teams in the country deserve to play for the championship. Arguing for 6 teams to stave off the inevitable is ridiculous in the complexity of reasoning that’s added. Same for arguing to stay at 4. Eight top teams in the poll(s) has always been the number that can be reasoned in a field such as we have today.

    I could argue for 2 teams to be selected by a committee before selecting 4 teams. This difference of opinion is silly considering you can argue down as well as upping the number of teams. The eight best teams judged by their schedule and wins against weighted teams is the best way yet to decide the participants and this year is a good example.

    If this blog would argue 8 teams instead of trying to convince that 10, 16, blahblahblah is inevitable, we could probably have a good discourse here. At least the “slippery slope” phrase and other lead-by-the-nose memes have stopped, but to set up a discussion of 8 teams by implying it is a wrong number from the start is plumb foolish as an argument.

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    • Macallanlover

      Welcome back. Whatever the hell was wrong with you it didn’t affect your football thinking. Deflection and misdirection has always been the purpose here. No sane person is proposing 16, and certainly not 32. Bringing that up inflames the masses while they chase down non-existent theories (I see a pattern with other actions in our society.) Not hard to fool them, they have an answer for a question no one has even asked. Don’t do the right thing because we may screw it up later, genius. Don’t get the number right because we cannot control ourselves, how dumb of an argument is that?

      And now recey comes riding in and makes exactly no point except to support the system CFB fans are throwing mud at, for good reason. Did he have a an actual thought? 4is great because it is hard to get in, so 8 is a gimmee. Got you, 4 isn’t enough and 8 is 6% so no one will work hard to make that field. I am sure most teams begin the year thinking they can lay down and make the Top 10 every season. recey has really got a handle on this, why don’t we put all coaches’ contract bonuses on making the Top 10? How many years since the AP poll began has UGA finished in the Top 10? And we are going to lop 20% off of that. And that is for a Top 10 all time winning program. If you don’t like 8 fine, support your 4 team playoff, but don’t confuse the facts, 6% is an exclusive club, more so than any other playoff in sports.

      You designed a flawed format and now wonder why folks are POed and say it doesn’t work. Of course it doesn’t, it was doomed from the start. And interest in CFB would be growing, not declining, because the regular season and conference championships would mean something. But why have that? Four more quality matchups is certainly not something football fans would want. Nah.

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  19. I agree. Leave it alone.

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  20. 92 grad

    Every year at this time (playoff era) I’m just inclined to ignore it all. Why must there be a “consensus “ national champion? It’s a fools errand. Promote the conference champs and set up great bowl games. Eff all this “only way to make it right” crap.

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  21. Down island way

    The more this week wears on, more i kinda say”should roll tiders lose in the SECCG, let ’em fall from grace”, next team up (conference winner) be in the CFP…..top 3 (all conference winners) plus one media darling……let’s get it on…..GO DAWGS!

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  22. Mayor

    What makes for the whole problem is the subjectivity added into the mix the committee knowing who the teams are and each person having his own biases. Use the same polling/computer selection system that the BCS used, only pick 4 teams instead of 2.

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    • Macallanlover

      Computers have been awful. I expected them to be the answer, was disappointed as they have their own subjectivity built in.

      Like