Saturday, November 15, 2008

Why College Football Needs the BCS

Yes, everyone, you read that headline correctly. I'm probably going to get tarred and feathered for this, but college football needs the BCS. Now before the angry mob descends on me with their pitchforks, hear me out, if you will.

College football, as much as most of you will disagree, is better off with the BCS in tact than it would be with this "8-team playoff" that so many seem to be proponents of. Sure, annually there are controversies and debates over who should really play in the national championship game and who's getting shafted by the system, but an 8-team playoff, while eliminating some of those scenarios, brings with it controversies and debates of its own.

Let's look at the first potential problem that a playoff could produce: how would the seeding work? Would you just take the top 8 "BCS" ranked teams and seed them 1-8, 2-7, 3-6, etc.? Because then you would inevitably leave out some big-money conference champions (yeah, you Big East).

If you were to seed the teams by the top 8 standings, you would have 2 SEC teams, 3 Big 12 teams, 1 Pac-10 team, 1 Big Ten team, and then one non-BCS team (#7 Utah). That leaves out two BCS conference champions: ACC and Big East. Those conferences would definitely be getting a raw deal, considering they are two of the six "power conferences."

On the other hand, if all 6 of the BCS conference champions receive automatic bids to this hypothetical playoff, we would potentially have UF-'Bama winner, Big12 winner (could be Texas Tech, Texas, Oklahoma or Mizzou), Penn State from the Big Ten, Oregon State or USC from the Pac 10, any cluster of teams from the ACC, and the same for the Big East. That would undoubtedly leave out multiple teams from this group: UF, Bama, Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma, all of whom are arguably the most talented teams who have been playing the best football all season. That wouldn't sit right with the fans, or those schools, now would it?

If you guarantee the 6 conference champions a spot, who gets the final two at-large bids? There's a plethora of deserving teams that would fall into that category, including the aforementioned teams, as well as Utah, Boise State, Georgia, Ball State, Mizzou, Oklahoma State and Ohio State. Though, in all fairness, Ohio State probably should be banned from this playoff based on recent big game goose eggs.

Now would you all prefer one or two teams gettin the short end of the stick at the end of the season every year, like we see with the BCS, or would you rather have a handful (or two) arguing they got screwed by the playoff system?

I know some of you out there are thinking, "hey, just make it a 16 team playoff then, that would solve everything." Wrong! That would add another four games to the would-be champions schedule. Add that to the 12-game regular season, plus a possible conference championship game (depending on the conference), you have a 17-game season for a team of amateur athletes. That's more than the NFL regular season, and that's just wrong.

While this is one major problem that faces a potential playoff, there certainly are others. Games like last week's Iowa upset over then-undefeated Penn State, and LSU's near upset of #1 'Bama would have lost a lot of meaning. With a playoff system, both of those teams would have already clinched a spot (if you're seeding the top 8 teams), and both would probably clinch by winning their respective conferences. A game like next week's Oklahoma-Texas Tech game would also lose a lot of meaning, they wouldn't be playing for a possible title game shot, they'd simply be playing for a higher seeding in the playoffs. A playoff, as has been argued several times before, would somewhat cheapen the meaning of the huge regular season games we see week-in and week-out.

The final point I'd like to make as for why college football is better off with the BCS is simple. What makes college football so great, and so unique? The answer is pretty simple: the pageantry, the fans, the idea that any given Saturday can shift the national title race. That idea is in large part thanks to the BCS.

If you all want a playoff system, I suggest you stick to watching those guys play on Sundays, because Saturdays are where this game belongs. Saturdays in the fall are unique to any other day, in any other sport, so let's keep it that way.

Besides, if things play out the way they should, with all the top teams winning out (though, it's never that simple), you all might get your playoff this season, at least a miniature one, with the SEC championship being a national semifinal, and the Big 12 title game serving as a play-in for the Big 12 South team (Texas Tech, Oklahoma, or Texas). Sorry USC, but play in a real conference first, then we'll talk about your national title prospects.

Now that I've said what I had to say, bring on the tar and feathers!


  1. I *kind of* like your argument. Since the inception of the BCS, big time college football programs have figured out how to move up in the BCS while still keeping a high winning percentage. If the BCS gave the top 8 teams a spot in the playoffs, and a "super conference" was left out, well tough noogies. Maybe next year they should play some real out of conference games instead of taking on those lovely $45-ticket AA schools (you can tell i am a season ticket holder).

    Your final point, though, really irritates me. The pageantry, the fans, and the idea that any given Saturday can shift the national title race were around long before the freaking BCS was around. And to say that any given Saturday still can't shift the national title race with an 8-team playoff is just ludicrous. It's like saying that the college basketball regular season has no bearing on getting into the tourney. Tell that to all of the team that didn't get in!

    Just come out and say that the college presidents are either too stupid or too shortsighted to see the benefit of a playoff system. I would say greedy but that goes back to them being stupid b/c they would trounce the NCAA Basketball Tourney in revenues if they had a playoff.

  2. My problem with the tournament system has always been that people want 4-8 teams. There are 11 conferences. Why should the MAC even bother playing? Sure, there would now be a playoff, but it still essentially doesn't let anyone who isn't in one of those top three or four conferences in. On that same note, how can a team that doesn't win their own conference say that they have more right to be in a post season tournament than a team that does, regardless of what conference they are in?
    I essentially am against the idea of a tournament because all the ideas out there suck. If we have a tournament, make it an 11 team tournament with all the conference champs. If that's a problem, than redo the conferences so they are more competetively even. Otherwise stick with the BCS

  3. Maybe I should have worded that part of my argument a bit better. I know the pageantry and the fans have been there regardless. But with the BCS, many regular season games have taken on a much larger meaning. Any Saturday can change the season.

    As for the college basketball analogy, of course their regular season means something, but they play far more games than a college football season. When you have fewer games, the scope of each game is undoubtedly greater.

    The point I was trying to make by that statement was that some late-season games would turn into NFL-esque week 16 and 17 games for teams who have clinched their conferences, and they would perhaps, rest their starters or something along that line. Those games could potentially lose meaning.

    As for your last point, I agree that it would undoubtedly trounce March Madness in terms of revenue. But just because it makes more money, doesn't make it the best idea.

  4. Well put. I think a lot of people often lose sight of the fact that, for all of its problems, the BCS created two of the best national-championship games in the history of the sport (USC-Texas in 2005-6 and Miami-Ohio State in 2002-3). Neither of these match-ups would have happened in a non-BCS environment. Another thing to point out with regards to the March Madness comparison is that millions of people tune out college basketball until the NCAA Tournament, which cannot be good for the sport. Surely there exists a happy medium which salvages the importance of the college football season while sorting out the mess of declaring a national champion, but until someone finds that solution, we could do a lot worse than the BCS.

  5. You seem to be all about inclusion, saying that a top-eight playoff -- or any playoff -- would leave out deserving teams, but then you blow it all in the last sentence by saying that USC doesn't deserve to be in the race because it doesn't play in a real congerence [sic]. In saying that, you proved the point of everyone in favor of a playoff: two arbitrarily selected teams playing one game for the title is not inclusive enough because the best teams do not get a chance.

    And I don't buy into the argument that an eight-team playoff would diminish the importance of regular season games. First, the only way a playoff would ever happen is if every BCS conference winner were guaranteed a spot (plus Notre Dame if it finished in the top whatever), so throw the strict top-eight argument right out.

    Now... Penn State lost to Iowa and dropped to number 8. Why would that not mean anything? If a playoff started today that took BCS conference winners plus two at-large teams, PSU would probably be on the outside looking in. (Cincy, Florida State, USC, Texas, Texas Tech, Florida, Alabama if it ended today most likely.) One loss won't sink you but one BAD one -- or two for sure -- could really kill your season regardless.

  6. @ girardi party: In the scenario you give there, Penn State wouldn't be on the outside looking in, if you are guaranteeing a birth to the bcs conference champs. They still lead the Big Ten at the moment. So their loss to Iowa last week would simply affect their seeding.

    As for my comment about USC, that's just showing my personal biased. I recognize that they are among the most talented teams in college football and would fare much better than Ohio State did the past two seasons. But look at their schedule, their best win is against a Beanie-less OSU, and their worst loss is against current Pac-10 leader Ore St.

    Also, "if it ended today" as you said, and they seeded the conference champs, USC would also be left out, as of now, with Oregon State leading the Pac-10.

  7. I ignored tiebreakers in the Pac-10 and assumed that USC will probably win the conference -- I know OSU gets the tiebreaker if they both win out, but that's a pretty big "if". And you're right about PSU, they'd be in "today," chalk that up to bad counting.

    Basically, I hear people say that they want the games in the regular season to still mean something, and my response would be that they still would! It's not like basketball where 10-12 loss teams can get at-large bids. We're talking 2 losses and you're basically out -- one and you're "on the bubble," especially in conference. Penn State's Iowa loss is the difference between getting a weak Big East team or a juggernaut in the first round! That would be a huge loss!

    And besides... even if the regular season meant slightly less, think of how much MORE the post-season would mean than it does now. For instance, the Rose Bowl last year. Did anyone really care, outside of LA and Illinois, who won last year's Rose Bowl? Sure, we all watched, but it was an exhibition game that had nothing to do with crowning a champion that season. Same with every bowl besides the BCS Title Game the way it's set up now.

    Now imagine sitting down on New Year's Day to watch, instead of a Big Ten/Pac-10 exhibition, THE FINAL FOUR of the college football playoffs, with the four best teams playing two great games, every year.

    You made a pretty good argument, Tomas, but nobody will ever convince me that wouldn't be amazing. Either we go back to the old bowl system, or move to a playoff.

  8. 8 teams is still too many - I can't remember any team ranked below #5 ever jumping into the title picture, and that #5 was Notre Dame in '77. In fact, since #4 Miami made the leap 25 years ago, nobody's ever come from below #3 to win a title. Letting 5-8 in is just asking for trouble...and the fact is, every year, there's some conference whose champion doesn't deserve a BCS bowl, let alone a seat on the title starship.

    4 team playoff. Add one game (which they've practically already done). Done and dusted.

  9. There's a simple solution to all this.

    Winner of the 6 major conferences get a spot in the playoffs, with 2 at-large bids.

    No "big money" conferences are left out.

    Those deserving teams you said would be left out if we include all the conferences (UF, Bama, Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma) didn't even win their own conference, so why should they get a shot at the national title?

    The two at-large bids will obviously be a matter of debate, but this is where the BCS and polls come into play. Instead of them arbitrarily deciding the top two teams in the nation, they're now arbitrarily deciding the teams that will play the top 2 teams in the nation in the 1st round. I'm much more comfortable with the argument over who should be included as the 7th and 8th seed than I am with who should be included in the National Championship Game.

    I do agree however, that 16 teams is unrealistic.

    This also allows upsets to retain their worth (albeit only if they are intra-conference games). A loss may not be SEASON-ENDING as it is now, but I'd argue that conference games would mean even more now, as both teams are likely battling for that coveted playoff spot.