Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Playoff or Plus-One?

Greetings. Happy hump day. Also happy "we don't have to see another stupid negative campaign ad for four more years" day too. Whether your candidate won or lost yesterday, hopefully you got out and voted. Ok, no more politics. Promise.

Well let's take a break from complaining about how Penn State is going to get screwed by the BCS, and talk about everybody's favorite topic this time of year: how college football needs a playoff system. I'm a stats dork and love numbers and polls and data, so I'm often interested when websites run polls. Now I know these are there solely to chart how much traffic is being driven to their site, but they can also serve an interesting purpose, especially those on E!SPN (on Jer and mine's old site, I always typed ESPN with the E! since I believe it's turned into the trashy gossip station for men) because they show poll data from all 50 states.

(This is especially interesting when they ask college football questions, like whether a one-loss Big 12 or SEC team should go to the National championship over an undefeated Penn State? I think they ran this one Monday and I can't find it now, but the poll was close, with a slight edge to to Penn State. However, the people that voted FOR the SEC or Big 12 were, or course, people in those states. And they voted heavily in favor. Again, shows how much people in those states hate the Big 10)

Anyway, the poll this morning was simply whether College Football needs a playoff system, and the results were an overwhelming YES, which was getting 92% of the vote. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone since college football fans have been clamoring for this since oh, I don't know, about ever. The BCS sucks, this we can all agree upon. Will it ever change? I say no, unless Barack Obama makes good on the threat he made on Monday Night Football to put some heat on the NCAA to make it happen. Something tells me he has a few other more pressing issues to attend to before he addresses that one. There's just way too much money tied up in the bowls right now and for the foreseeable ever to make a playoff happen. E! writer Pat Forde makes an interesting case for an 8 team playoff, but personally, I believe all we need is a Plus-One.

College football has the best regular season of any sport because every game means so much. A Plus-one game keeps that completely intact, and would still give us the truest national championship game. Take the top 4 teams, have the BCS #1 vs #4 in one New Year's Day Bowl and the #2 vs #3 in the other (take your pick from the Rose, Sugar, Orange, and Fiesta), and then have the winners play the natty title a week later, just like they do now. No extra games that stretch well into January, it gives four teams (and let's be honest, it usually comes down to about four teams with a legit argument) a chance for the title, and the regular season still means everything. This season, we'd have Penn State, the SEC and Big 12 Champs, and either USC or another one-loss squad from the SEC or Big 12.

Once you go beyond four teams, it just opens the door to water down the process more and more and more. We'll be at a 64 team college hoops style tourney before you know it (and there are proposals on the table from people like Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim for 128 teams in the tournament. Seriously. Hell, let's just hand out an award to every team at the start of the season so everybody can win. God forbid we actually let competition decide things and have consequences for losing), as we've already seen the Little Guys whining about wanting to be included in the BCS, and therefore getting a fifth BCS game added. There's ALWAYS going to be complaints about people being left out, but limiting it to the top four schools says "You want to play for the national title? Win all your games and play in a real conference. Thanks for asking." While it's a nice story to see a Boise State make the Cinderella Run (and their game against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl a couple years back was one of the best endings I've ever seen), the ratings say that people want to see the Big Boys from the Big Conferences. And as the BCS has proven, the Little Guys usually can't hang with the Big Boys, and even with all of the parity right now, I don't see that changing. The best teams in the country continue to come from the BCS conferences, and those are not only the ones that should be given the best chance to play for the title, but also the ones the nation wants to see.

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