Hello everyone! Seven months ago, following the conference championship games, I posted the following at Alligator Army. I am reposting it here because it is pertinent to much of the current offseason chatter surrounding college football. I hope that this sparks a civil and thoughtful conversation on the subject of postseason play. If you're interested in the topic, please follow me below the fold.
"I am not necessarily a BCS proponent, I just play one on this site by defending it against arguments that I feel are flawed or unfair. One of the most frustrating and perhaps baffling aspects of this ongoing debate is that the supporters of a move to a playoff system never have to defend their own "solutions". Potential shortcomings of the BCS are constantly paraded without end during the season and, on the rare occasion that there still exists a viable one when it's all said and done, they are trumpeted as definitive proof that it is an epic failure that needs to be scraped. Playoffs are hailed as clean, fair and absolute, but they're never tested, while twisted hypotheticals are used to point out the precarious nature of the BCS. So, let me flip the script and put the playoffs to the test; I think you'll be shocked by the chaos that ensues.
In a four-team playoff, Oklahoma and Florida would receive the top two seeds, but which of the following pairs of teams get left out: Texas and Alabama (despite being ranked in the final top four, they failed to win their respective conferences), USC and Penn State (highly regarded one-loss BCS conference champs - like the Sooners and Gators - ranked outside of the final top four), Utah and Boise State (undefeated non-BCS conference champs outside of the final top four)? In other words, instead of just Texas (and possibly USC) having a legitimate gripe with the BCS, at least four schools would have been screaming bloody murder at the end of this season if college football employed a four-team playoff to determine its champion.
In an eight-team playoff, Oklahoma, Florida, USC, Utah and Penn State would be guaranteed their spots, but which of the following groups of three teams would fill out the bracket: Texas, Alabama and Texas Tech (despite being ranked in the final top eight, they failed to win their respective conferences) or Boise State, Cincinnati and Virginia Tech (the three best conference champions ranked outside of the final top eight)? If you went the "conference champions" route (as would likely be necessary for such a system to be adopted), then what about all of the teams that had better seasons than four-loss VT (at least ten would be left out) or arguably two-loss Cincinnati (at least five of the ones already pissed about VT)? A minimum of three schools would have been shafted under any variant of this system and most likely many more than that would join in on the argument.
Playoff proponents often like to attack the BCS, but rarely defend their solution to the so-called cancer that plagues college football. If we had a plus one this year and Oklahoma won it by beating Penn State and Florida/USC, but Texas defeated Alabama in a non-playoff bowl game, would there still not be questions about whether or not the Sooners were better than the Longhorns or if they even deserved their playoff slot ahead of UT? And if you went with just the top four and we had a rematch between Bama and Florida or Texas and Oklahoma that went the opposite way as their regular season match-ups, would anything really be resolved since they'd just be 1-1 on neutral fields against each other with no significant point differential? What if Utah and/or Boise State completed their undefeated seasons with quality bowl wins? If it was an 8-team tournament and the same thing happened with OU and UT, UF and Bama, etc. would it not be the same?
The bottomline is this: playoffs are another, equally flawed in my opinion, answer to the question of how college football should determine its ultimate champion. If you want to argue that they're more fun for fans (though it will certainly take away from the intensity of the regular season), that's fine and I accept that. But to say that they're more fair, cleaner or produce undisputed champions is simply not true. Again I ask: does anyone think the New York Giants were a better team than the New England Patriots in the NFL in 2007? You can point to a Super Bowl that went right down to the wire and I can point to another close game on the final weak of the regular season that went the other way to prove that they were pretty evenly matched teams. For you baseball fans out there, were the Cards the best team in MLB in 2006 and were the Rockies the best team in the NL in 2007 or did they just get hot at the right time and take advantage of a system that rewards games late in the year over those played earlier?
Feel free to prove me wrong on any and all of these counts. As always, I aim to start a healthy and civil discussion with you all because I respect your opinions and intellects, as I hope you do mine. Thanks for taking the time to read through this rant and I'd especially appreciate any comment or questions you may have. Cheers!"
Since the time of this writing, several of the teams refered to above may have been expose while others were revealed, but you have to block out that information because it wouldn't have been available at the time of playoff seeding. I've never taken the time to apply this logic to other seasons, but I wouldn't be surprised if it resulted in equally messy resolutions.
Moreover, I have seen reasonable arguments for 6- and 12- team playoff brackets, but I haven't been swayed all the way. I've also been intrigued by the concept of a selection committee as a possible arbiter. Again, my more fundamental position is that playoffs should be pushed on entertainment and financial grounds because the more popular claims of fairness, simplicity and absoluteness are simply not true. And on that note, have at it guys!