Category Archives: BCS/Playoffs

“I miss the BCS.”

Tom Fornelli has a change of heart about college football’s postseason.

All through the BCS era, I was one of the many loud, obnoxious voices calling for a postseason playoff. I yelled about how little sense it made that a sport with over 100 teams competing just picked two at the end of the season and had them play for a national title, leaving so many others in the cold with no hope. While there will never be a perfect way to settle college football’s national title, a playoff seemed like a logical idea that would move us closer to perfect.

But it hasn’t. The College Football Playoff has made the sport worse in a lot of ways. At least with the BCS, there was a cut-and-dry approach to how the two teams that would play were to be determined. It was a combination of computer polls and the Coaches Poll. Put all the numbers in a formula, and that formula would spit out the rankings, and we were done. Every week we’d get an update on them following the games, and we’d get on with our lives.

Now, all we do is debate which team should be No. 4 and whether it’s fair that teams from Group of Five conferences have no chance. Instead of a set of rankings, we have a group of rotating characters with personal biases of their own gathering in a room (or on Zoom) and ranking teams based on whatever criteria fits at the time.

I hear where he’s coming from, although I think he’s romanticizing the BCS more than it deserves to be.  Yes, the CFP selection committee blows, but let’s not forget that a major part of the BCS formula was a Coaches Poll that was prone to bias/conflicts of interest (not to mention coaches who didn’t give a shit about voting in the first place).

The other problem with the BCS?

Now, Jerry’s an Auburn fan, so 2004 is always gonna resonate for him, but it’s still a fair point he raises.  There are enough seasons when three teams are legitimate contenders for a national title to prefer a system that accommodates that scenario.  College football’s postseason problem is that there are almost no years when it goes into a postseason with more than four legit contenders.  (Another problem is that playoff expansion is going to wreck the bowls for good, for what that’s worth.)

I admit this conversation is largely hypothetical, since playoff expansion (and the money that brings) is an inevitability.  We all know that the dollar signs matter more than tradition or the unique aspects of college football that make it the best sport to follow.  But I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t a middle ground that lets the suits make bank while preserving the goal of having the season’s best teams face off for all the marbles.  Let the computers call all the shots?  Play the bowl games first and then pick the top two teams afterwards?

Frankly, as the years pass, I find myself more enamored of a plan a drunk LSU fan posted that I mentioned at the blog a long time ago:  make the postseason field match the results of the regular season.  If it’s a year when there are two clear cut contenders, make it a one-game playoff.  2019?  Okay, four-team field.  And when you get that 2007, once in a blue moon, crazy ending, go crazy with an eight-team playoff.  I used to think TV wouldn’t like that, but when Mickey controls the entire postseason, my bet is this would be something it could work with.

Is it a waste of time to speculate?  Maybe.  (Okay, probably.)  You got any better ideas?  Let’s hear ’em.

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Talent will out.

A reminder of why the same teams make the CFP year after year ($$):

That’s what happened during the 2021 cycle. As of now, 57 of the top 100 players in the country signed with one of six schools: Ohio State, Clemson, Georgia, Alabama, Oklahoma and LSU. And when five-star defensive tackle J.T. Tuimoloau signs, it will most likely be 58. That means just about 60 percent of the most elite players in the country wound up at six programs.

And playoff expansion won’t do a damned thing to change that.  It’ll only make the elite teams play an extra game to get to the semis.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Recruiting

The problem with Alabama

So, Bill Connelly ($$) seeks to determine which program will, in his words, turn out to be the “next Clemson”.  By that, he means a program on the rise that finally cracks through the glass ceiling to become a playoff regular.  The club almost everyone else in D-1 seeks to join is pretty exclusive right now:  Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Oklahoma.

As you might guess, Georgia tops his list.  To his credit, Bill acknowledges that it’s an awkward fit, to some extent:

Should this one even count? Like JT Daniels being the most likely Next Mac Jones for 2021, it’s almost too obvious a choice.

Kirby Smart’s Dawgs indeed made the national title game in 2017, their average SP+ rating is higher than OU’s, they’ve got the top-10 finishes mentioned above and the only team that has landed more ESPN 300 prospects than UGA over the past three years is Bama.

So, what’s the issue holding Georgia back?

Bama’s in the same league. And if the Crimson Tide aren’t in the way, a historically great LSU is (in 2019). Dan Mullen’s Florida was good enough to end the Dawgs’ three-year SEC East title streak in 2020 as well. Nick Saban’s success has distracted us from the fact that, for everyone else, it’s really hard to consistently stand out in the SEC.

And that’s the rub here.  Nobody in the club plays Alabama in the regular season.  In fact, three of those four tend to ease their way through a regular season with few serious roadblocks, if any.  (Hi there, Clemson!)

Perhaps the pundit class doing all these cusp pieces on Georgia’s postseason chances ought to change their analysis to include looking at the SECCG as a CFP entry game.

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UPDATE:  Just gonna put this smug take out there…

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Georgia Football

Saban wants to go big.

Speaking of Nick Saban, he starts off with a valid complaint about what the CFP has done to public perception of college football.

“I’ve always been one that bowl games and playoffs are going to have a tough time coexisting together,” he said. “Bowl games have always been a positive thing for college football players because a lot of people get a lot of self-gratification for having a good season. Maybe you didn’t win a championship or whatever, but you get a chance to go to a good bowl game and have some fun. It’s a really good, positive reinforcement for college football players.

“When we had a two-team playoff, if we made a four team playoff, that’s going to take away from the bowl games and all the people are going to talk about is the playoff. My issue is not with expanding the playoff, it’s the more you expand the playoff, the less important bowl games become. Nobody talks about bowl games now. All they talk about is who’s in the playoffs and who are the four teams. That’s it.”

True dat.  It’s his solution that’s a head scratcher.

“You don’t even hear about the other games and all that stuff,” he said. “That’s always been my issue with the playoff is that bowl games sort of get put on the back shelf. If we want to expand the playoffs, that’s OK. I don’t think you can have bowl games and do that as well. I’ve always been one that, if we are going to have playoffs, why don’t we make the bowl games a part of that.”

Everybody gets a playoff berth!  Seriously, what are there, over thirty bowl games?  So Saban is proposing that the playoffs go to 64 or so teams?  That’s ESPN’s wet dream.  Not sure it’s mine, though.  Or that it solves the real problem Saban acknowledges.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Nick Saban Rules

TFW the journey is more important than the final destination

The idea that, in a sport governed by less parity than any other, playoff expansion will blissfully lead to a time when Cinderella cracks the national title game barrier is pretty stupid.  But apparently that’s the story they’re gonna tell to deflect from the real goal behind postseason growth.

Count Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick, one of the strongest voices in the playoff discussion, among those changing their tune. He wants the playoff to expand, and for many schools it can’t come soon enough.

“I don’t think sport is hurt when there are really strong programs,” Swarbrick said on The Paul Finebaum Show on Wednesday. “You want the Celtics and the Lakers good in professional basketball, you like the Dodgers and Yankees good in baseball. So I think when the Alabamas, the Georgias, the Notre Dames, the USC’s, whoever they are, get in periods where they are really good, I think that’s great for college athletics.

“What we can’t have is the sense that the other schools can’t make it in. And we’ve gotta make sure that the opportunity is real and schools feel like they can get there. So eventually an expanded playoff will hopefully create that greater opportunity.”

Sanctimonious twaddle.  Making Alabama play an additional game against the eighth-weakest team in the CFP field is some opportunity there, Jack.  But you’ll be cashing a bigger check, so it’s all good, I guess.

When they don’t say it’s about the money…

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Fill in the blank

No, it’s not Tennessee.

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“Levels.”

Here’s a fun piece from David Hale, ranking this season’s playoff contenders by tiers.  He’s got Georgia in the top group, albeit with a caveat.

The wild card in the bunch is Georgia. While the Bulldogs don’t crack that 80% barrier and have made just one playoff appearance (2017), they also hold the fifth-best record of any Power 5 program during the playoff era (.783) and return a roster that screams “now or never” for Kirby Smart. QB JT Daniels appeared to have finally provided the missing piece in Georgia’s offensive attack, averaging better than 10 yards per attempt in three of his four starts — a mark UGA hadn’t hit against a Power 5 opponent since 2018. Add in the return of wide receiver George Pickens, a deep corps of running backs and a ferocious defense, and there’s a lot to like about Georgia in 2021. But beyond that, we’re believers that talent eventually wins out, and UGA will likely finish with a top-three recruiting class for the fifth straight year, giving the Bulldogs as talented a roster as there is in the country.

Nothing particularly thought provoking there, right?  What’s more interesting to me is his comment about Cincinnati, which he lists as a Tier 3 program (“Teams we’ll spend a lot of time making a case for who won’t actually make the playoff”).

The Bearcats finished the regular season undefeated in a COVID-19 year, but didn’t sniff the playoff. The reason was the conference. Never mind that the AAC was every bit as good as the ACC, which produced two playoff teams. There’s a stigma to playing outside the Power 5, and the committee has made it quite clear with its rankings of Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina in 2020 and UCF in years prior. But perhaps 2021 really is the year that stigma can be overcome — at least for Cincinnati. The Bearcats return star QB Desmond Ridder, have an exceptional defense, have the preseason pedigree that comes with nearly upending Georgia in the Peach Bowl and, most importantly, can actually prove something on the field in 2021 with road trips to both Indiana and Notre Dame. Think it can happen? We doubt it. The committee hasn’t shown a willingness to take a Group of 5 team seriously…

Maybe he’s right.  Do you think the selection committee keeps a 12-0 Cinci out of the CFP semis?  If the committee does, prepare yourself for another round of screaming for playoff expansion.

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Two words: a simple narrative

Is Georgia a contender to make this season’s CFP field?  Heather Dinich boils it down:

4. Georgia Bulldogs

Statement game: Sept. 4 vs. Clemson. This is the kind of win that can help Georgia finish in the top four even if it doesn’t win the SEC. If Georgia can manage to win the East, but loses in the SEC championship game, a win against the ACC champs could go a long way in the committee meeting room.

Reason for optimism: Continuity on offense. One of the biggest differences for Georgia in the second half of the season was the offensive progress with JT Daniels at quarterback in the final four games. He completed 67% of his passes for 1,231 yards with 10 touchdowns and two picks during that span, and Daniels will have eight projected starters returning around him.

Cause for concern: A loss to Clemson. No, the Bulldogs won’t be eliminated from the CFP with a season-opening loss to what should be a top-five team, but it would change the picture and put enormous pressure on Georgia to win the SEC.

Storyline to watch: Can Kirby Smart put it all together to win it all? He has won the SEC. He has made it to the national championship, only to lose to Alabama in overtime on Jan. 8, 2018. Georgia has a schedule conducive to returning to the SEC championship game. On paper, Georgia is in a better position than Florida, and the Bulldogs don’t have to worry about a regular-season trip to Tuscaloosa. It seems inevitable, though, that the path to winning a national title will go through Alabama. If they meet in the SEC championship game, can Smart find a way to beat his old boss?

I hate to say it, but that’s pretty much it.  It’s quite likely Georgia is going to face Clemson and Alabama along the way, and if the Dawgs want a shot at the playoffs, it’s at least going to have to split those two games.

Which of the two seems more feasible to you?

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Dennis Dodd means well.

There are going to be a lot of “how can college football’s postseason be improved?” thought pieces this offseason, not that any of them will be worth a damn unless they’re penned by the P5 commissioners.  Dodd’s got one, and it’s well-intentioned, I suppose, but this paragraph made me chuckle:

3. Reduce the playoff-or-bust mentality: All of the following may happen organically, but if not, options begin with reducing the number of bowl games, which creates more demand. With the expected, eventual addition of name, image and likeness rights, allow sponsors, apparel companies or even the network to pay star players bonuses for participating in non-playoff bowl games. That may help stave off massive opt outs only reducing those to potential early first-round picks.

Yeah, player compensation might stem the tide of opt-outs to some degree, but how you can talk about a playoff-or-bust mentality without mentioning ESPN, by far the worst offender in that regard, is either craven or a surrender to reality.  Players sticking around might be nice, but as long as viewers are tuning in to the bowl games — most owned by the network, remember — in sufficient numbers, Mickey ain’t crying.

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Reason #8759 for playoff expansion

The threat is real and it’s verified.  Copy that.

I haven’t figured out the angle yet — would Alabama beating the crap out of some relatively hapless number eight team really move the ratings needle? — but I have no doubt they’ll find one.  ESPN cannot let this aggression stand, man.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, ESPN Is The Devil