Hello! It’s your friendly, neighborhood playoff hater here to remind you of a little fact:
For the 2012 season, the BCS worked.
I’d also like to point out something else:
A four team playoff would leave at least two teams at home with considerable complaints – and legitimate claims that they should be playing for the title.
Let’s start with the BCS: the purpose has always been to match up #1 vs. #2 in a winner-take-all Championship game. And while the BCS has definitely struggled with fairly determining who the two best teams are, the consensus is the system got it right this year (just like they did last year).
Notre Dame is 12-0, the only undefeated team. Alabama has one loss (to a pretty good Texas A&M team), but they won the SEC, widely considered the nation’s best conference. While there are other very good teams with one loss, there has been very, very little talk that any of those teams were “slighted” out of a championship game appearance.
But let’s pretend that it is 2014, and the new four team playoff in effect. A still to be named committee will be tasked with picking the four teams, using a still to be determined selection process. Let’s assume that Notre Dame is in no matter what. It still leaves the question: who are the other three teams?
The committee would have a handful of worthy candidates, each with their own pros and cons:
- Alabama. Pros: SEC champs, #2 in BCS. One loss was to a good Texas A&M team. Cons: Not too many. They’re almost guaranteed to be in.
- Florida. Pros: #3 in BCS. Lone loss was to Georgia. Cons: Didn’t even win division; Only beat Mizzou & Louisiana-Lafayette by seven.
- Oregon. Pros: #4 in BCS. Only loss was in OT. Cons: Didn’t even win division.
- Kansas State. Pros: Won the Big XII. Cons: Got blasted by 7-5 Baylor
- Stanford. Pros: Won the Pac 12; beat Oregon; took Notre Dame to OT. Cons: Lost to 7-5 Washington.
- Georgia. Pros: Won SEC Eastern division. Beat Florida. Almost beat Bama in SEC title game. Cons: 28 point loss to South Carolina.
And of course, just picking from this pool of teams leaves out conference champions from the ACC (Florida State), Big Ten (Wisconsin), and Big East (Louisville), as well as 12-1 Northern Illinois*. But for now, let’s focus on the six teams above. Which three deserve/have earned a chance to play for a championship?
*I don’t get the Kirk Herbstreits of the world who are up in arms about Northern Illinois getting into the Orange Bowl through a series of loopholes (being ranked in top 14, being ranked ahead of a BCS conference champion, having a coach who is pure of heart and can remove the Sword of Slive from a stone…),
Is Northern Illinois a weak 12-1 team with a loss to a dreadful Iowa team? Yes. Did they play an impossible weak schedule (Iowa, Army, U Mass, Kansas, among other bottom feeders)? Absolutely. But so what? These are the same people who complained in the past when the non-AQ darlings like Boise State, TCU, and Utah had to scratch and claw and beg and plead to get a BCS bowl bid. Hypocrites.
When picking the teams that get into the playoff, what criteria and rationale do you use to make those picks? I think you could make a case for using one or more of the following. For each one, I’ve put who the four teams would likely be under that scenario:
- BCS rankings. I know, I know, you hate the BCS – especially those blasted computers – but the combination of human polls and computer rankings provides a pretty decent consensus of national opinions and metrics. Notre Dame, Alabama, Florida, Oregon.
- Human polls. Are you going with the AP? The coaches? The Harris poll? Here you’re looking at ND, Bama, Oregon, and Florida. (Ohio State is actually #3 in the AP, but they are banned from the postseason this year. Sorry Bucks! Maybe you can get a tattoo of a championship trophy).
- Conference champions only. You can be in if you don’t win your conference. ND (technically not in a conference, but we’ll let that slide since they’re 12-0), Bama, Kansas State, Stanford.
- Strength of Schedule. Who played the toughest schedule? I found SOS rankings that included Florida, Bama, Georgia, and Stanford. You should note that in both of the rankings I found, ND was not in the top four…
- Best loss(es). The idea here is that a 35-34 triple overtime loss at your blood rival’s stadium is “better” than a 56-9 home loss to Nobody State. This is more subjective, but I’d say the four end up being ND (no losses), Oregon (to Stanford in OT), Florida (lost to Georgia), and Alabama (lost to Texas A&M). Too bad KSU – that Baylor blowout kills you.
- Eyeball test. The most subjective of all: my personal opinion. An opinion that is tainted and influenced by all of the biases (school and conference affiliations, geography, rivalries, etc.) that I possess. My eyeball four would be ND, Bama, KSU, and Oregon as I think they’ve been the best throughout the season.
You’ll notice that pretty much every set of criteria brought back a different four teams, which illustrates my biggest gripe with a playoff: the more teams you have involved, the more teams that will have a legitimate gripe to claim they were snubbed. Folks think a playoff is going to solve all the BCS controversy, when all it will do is shift the controversy from “who is #2” to “who is #4”.
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This isn’t the first time I’ve discussed college football’s post-season….Read more about:
- Why a playoff is a very, very bad idea
- How the Bama-LSU rematch was an example of the BCS getting it right
- How the BCS could be tweaked to work even better
- How to build the perfect 4-team playoff
- A radical plan to blow up the conferences to create a 16-team playoff
And feel free to let me know how right (or wrong) I am in the comments.