Category Archives: BCS/Playoffs

Gotta have a national championship game day post, amirite?

It’s the last, truly last, game of the season.  Who ‘ya like?  And why?

If you’re a betting junkie, this game is manna from heaven.

As for my attitude about tonight, I’m not fatigued by or irritated over the matchup.  But I will be sad waking up tomorrow morning with the realization it’ll be almost nine months before we get real college football again.  As morning afters go, this one sucks more than most.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs

Having their cake and eating it, too

Read this Heather Dinich piece on how the conferences are trying to come to terms with how another round of playoff expansion will affect the fates of their conference championship games and tell me these clowns are going to do anything other than just keep adding.

When asked if he would be willing to give up the ACC title game to expand the playoff, Swofford said, “I can’t really answer that because we haven’t discussed it around our table.”

“Secondly,” he said, “you’d have to know, if the playoff expanded, does that mean you go back to 11 regular-season games? Does it mean we’re not going to have conference championship games? On the one hand, it’s not rocket science. On the other hand, there are significant implications to this if it were to expand.”

MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said conference championship games are too important to eliminate.

“I don’t think any of us are willing to give up our conference championship games,” he said. “They’re too important to all of us. They’re part and parcel of who we are. It’s our identity. We do championships. Winning a conference championship is a big deal. No one is giving that up, so when do you play that first round, and where do you play it? It’d be really tough to try and put that into the bowl system.”

While the value of conference championship games has been clear in the eyes of the commissioners, it has been called into question publicly because the Big Ten champion has been left out of the playoff in each of the past two seasons, and the Pac-12 champ hasn’t finished in the top four since Oregon in 2014.

“Value” in that last paragraph should be taken literally, not seriously.  Nobody’s volunteering to give up a cash cow.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, It's Just Bidness

Today, in stupid narratives

What’s the deal with this “Alabama-Clemson fatigue” thing, anyway?

“I mean, I’m not going to apologize for having a great team and a great program and a bunch of committed guys, and Coach Saban is not, either,” Swinney said at the head coaches’ final news conference before facing each other in the national championship game on Monday night. “I think the objective is to get the two best teams. That’s kind of the way it is. If that’s not best for college football, then why did we even do it?”

I can’t figure out if CFB fans have become that jaded or if Mickey is really that corrupting an influence.  If I had my druthers, better it be solely the latter, but I’m afraid it’s both.

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Today, in excruciatingly dumb takes

What makes the observation “I stand by my opinion that Clemson and Alabama are the best teams in college football this season. But are they truly national champions?” even stupider than it reads is that its author believes playoff expansion is within the NCAA’s purview.

Although I give the Old Coach credit for having enough sense not to use his name.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Media Punditry/Foibles

“What are we doing to the bowl system?”

Relax, everyone.

The 11-person CFP Management Committee (10 conference commissioners plus Notre Dame) and its board of managers (university presidents) will meet Monday in Santa Clara, California, in a regularly-scheduled meeting ahead of the CFP National Championship.

I mean, what could go wrong?

“Right now, it’s [just] talks,” said a source intimately involved in the process. “I don’t think anything is imminent, but I’m guessing we’re going to start digging into it a little bit. If people are expecting us to walking about the door saying, ‘Here we go,’ it’s not going to be that way.”

Several sources mentioned the word “logistics.”

Fuck.  We’re doomed.

These guys wouldn’t know from logistics if logistics walked up and bit ’em in the ass.  They’re fretting over what another round of playoff expansion might do to what’s left of the top tier bowls.  Never mind that this year’s Sugar Bowl prices fell off a cliff, check out what’s happened to CFP ticket prices.

Maybe sticking your premier event in a stadium just south of that rabid enclave of college football known as San Francisco wasn’t such a hot idea, hunh.  But I’m sure it’s paying them well.

I respect the opinions of those who think an eight-game playoff would be good for the sport, but, damn, if you’re paying attention to the idiots calling the shots and quite frankly not feeling a little nervous about that, I think you’re going to wind up being just as dismayed as I am, ultimately.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football

The CFP rent’s too damned high, ctd.

Okay, as a follow up to yesterday’s post about playoff expansion, I wanted to share a few semi-facetious thoughts about a better path.

I say semi-facetious because we all know what college football’s Jed Clampetts and Mickey are going to do, no matter what, and so any suggestions to the contrary are basically pissing in the wind.  That being said, there is a certain freedom in wind pissing that I appreciate.

So, let’s start with this basic premise:  as a general rule of thumb, there aren’t four teams worthy of national title consideration in a given season.

Or, to put it another way,

There just aren’t that many teams built to win national championships. Just because there’s a playoff with X number of teams doesn’t mean that they all are good enough to win it:

Over the past 25 seasons, every team that has won or shared a national title has had an S&P+ rating in the 95th percentile or better, with rounding. The worst was 2002 Ohio State at 94.8 percent. However, all but three teams (four, if you include UCF in 2017) were in the 98th percentile or higher. Usually the elitest of the elite earn the ring.

As I wrote yesterday, one of college football’s unique aspects is that it boasts less parity between D-1 teams than any other major competitive sport in this country.  There simply aren’t that many great teams in a given season.  Which is why I think this conclusion is a stretch:

The Playoff semifinals are weed-out classes. The best teams almost always get through, but they’re good for ensuring the best teams really are the best teams.

So far, it’s worked. The four national champs in the Playoff era have finished first, first, second, and second in S&P+. Bama and Clemson are in the top two spots heading into this season’s title game. It’s time for the final exam.

There really hasn’t been much weeding out.  As Matt Hinton pointed out, only two of the first ten semi-final games have finished with single-digit margins between the participants.

In other words, a four-team playoff hasn’t really been needed for the most part to separate the two best teams from the pack.

There is a but, though.  Here’s my second basic premise:  to the extent that there is any real tension behind the drive to expand the college football playoffs, it comes from years when there are three teams with legitimate claims to earning a national title.

Those sorts of season aren’t the standard, but they crop up often enough to be an issue.  The problem is that a mandated four-team (soon to be eight-team) format is a cure worse than the disease, if the goal is to reward the very best in college football, given the likelihood that teams unworthy of that final goal are being incorporated into the process in an attempt to make sure the worthy teams are given their place.

Let me extend that medical metaphor one step further.  The reason the cure is worse than the disease is that an expanded playoff creates a new symptom.  A watered down playoff field not only makes the playoff itself less entertaining, but it also makes the top tier bowl games less entertaining because those match ups are diminished by bracket creep.

As crazy as that seems, what’s even crazier is that the only solution the powers that be appear to have for the problem is to introduce a larger playoff field, something that will only exacerbate the exact problem they’re trying to fix, or, more accurately, the problem they claim they’re trying to fix.  The real problem for the suits is leaving money on the table for their product.

It’s a broken system.  How, then, could the patient be cured, or at least nursed back to health, so to speak?  Well, one way would be to level the playing field a good bit through re-engineering scheduling or roster size, but that’s an even bigger pipe dream than holding back the tide on playoff expansion.

If it were up to me, here’s where I would go.  First, outsource the selection process to the folks with no skin in the game, the bloodless types who run Vegas sports books.  They have no inherent bias or conflict, other than avoiding the loss of money.  In one fell swoop, you would eliminate a factor that was introduced with the shift from the BCS to the CFP, the consideration of spreading the wealth between the P5 conferences.  (That factor being, of course, the primary motivation behind expansion to a quarter-finals.)

Vegas power ranks programs.  Let Vegas come up with whatever games involving the top teams would result in setting lines of less than, say, eight points.  If there is only one game that meets that criteria, so be it.  If there are three teams that are on that level, then fashion a semi-finals that includes the three and winds up with the top team getting to face the fourth best.  Nobody deserving is left out in that situation, and we’ve still got a decent shot of having at least one competitive game worth watching.

Yes, I know it’s a proposal that’s DOA because there’s no way Disney would be happy booking that level of uncertainty.  (I said this was a semi-facetious post, remember?)  For what’s it’s worth, though, I think that’s actually a little overstated.  ESPN could still come up with a whale of a show setting up how the playoff would look every season and — here we get to the second part of my mad scheme — the remaining games would be more competitive, more entertaining and, hence, more valuable.

To enhance that possibility, I would let the bowls do the one thing they were good at in their heyday, which is to let them have free rein in assembling the participating schools.  End the mandatory conference tie-ins; hell, make things more Wild West by letting the bowls bid for teams.  (For schools that just whiff on making the playoff, that could make for a nice consolation prize.)  Top tier bowls selfishly want games that generate fan interest.  Let them have those again.

Okay, so that’s all I’ve got.  I know it’s a waste of bandwidth, but I feel better for typing that.  (It sure beats what’s coming.)  Now I’ll go back to my college football death watch.  Just give me those five good years, please…

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football

The CFP rent’s too damned high.

After yesterday’s games, I know the popular take in these here parts is Notre Dame no, Georgia yes, but it’s not the right lesson to learn.

This is.

The essential reality of the 2018 season is that there weren’t four teams worthy of national title consideration before yesterday’s games were played.  Don’t take my word for that, either ($$).

On​ rare occasions,​ we​ sportswriters actually predict​ something​ correctly.​ Not​ that​ this one was​ particularly challenging.

That​​ Alabama would meet Clemson for the 2018 national championship seemed ordained before the teams even reported to camp. They were ranked 1-2 to start the season. They were 1-2 in every edition of the College Football Playoff rankings…

Frankly, we didn’t need a Playoff this year. The old BCS formula would have sufficed. Alabama and Clemson were the best teams all season, which should not be surprising, seeing as they’ve been the best programs in the sport for the past four seasons.

There’s a reason Vegas established ‘Bama and Clemson as heavy favorites, you know.  Yet most of us were willing to buy into a mass hallucination, aided and abetted by Mickey, that these were going to be competitive matches, that Notre Dame and Oklahoma weren’t mere cannon fodder.

Suckers.  ESPN and the people running the college football playoffs push the narrative because there’s money to be made.  We buy it because we want to be entertained.  It’s a fool’s errand, because we ignore the statistical evidence.

Matt is being too generous with his “small sample size” gesture.  The essential nature of college football, particularly in the last two decades, is two-fold:  one, it boasts less parity than any other major organized sport in this country and two, its excellence is also unbalanced, geographically speaking.

None of this should come as a surprise.  College football’s uniqueness comes in large part from its regional nature and from the ability of a select few programs to accumulate talent in significantly greater numbers than the bulk of their peers.  The flaw in the current drive to expand the playoffs in an attempt to nationalize the appeal of the sport is that it eradicates the former factor while ignoring the latter.  That is why playoff expansion for college football, as it continues along its current trajectory, is doomed to failure.

We’re already seeing it now.  Mandel’s column hints at it, but Dan Wolken’s “here we are now, entertain us” piece really hits at it.

Every year now, college football fans and administrators have to ask themselves: Would they rather the selection process be about evaluating seasons or personnel? Georgia has better players than Notre Dame. But by no measurement did two-loss Georgia handle its schedule as well as the undefeated Fighting Irish.

When those two things don’t line up, you get mismatches. And boy have we had a lot of them. Will the cycle even out someday? Or has the romance and intrigue about what a real playoff would look like given way to permanent drudgery? If that’s the case, change is needed ASAP. Such a beautiful sport can’t be allowed to become a bore.

Yes, college football’s two best teams facing off for a national championship is a drudge, a bore.

This is the next argument you’re going to hear for playoff expansion.  I admit there’s a superficial attractiveness to it — surely four vs. five will have a certain level of competitiveness to it, right?  And don’t forget the Cinderella factor that ESPN will flog to death.  But if Alabama and Clemson beat the selection committee’s third and fourth best teams by double digits, are we really supposed to expect that numbers seven and eight are going to put up better fights consistently?

Don’t be ridiculous.

If playoff expansion is inevitable as I believe it is, then we can either expect one of two outcomes.  The first is that the current trends I mentioned above are exacerbated by an increasingly watered down field and we’re treated to more and more lopsided affairs until we get down to the championship game or the sport takes steps to reduce the lack of parity that defines it.

With regard to the latter of those, given that those kind of steps would involve making moves like restructuring the nature of scheduling or roster size reduction, all of which would be rightly seen as serious threats to the very college powerhouses that sit atop the sport today, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

In short, I hope you enjoy three-touchdown blowouts in the postseason, because there are plenty more in our future.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football