Monday, November 26, 2007

Trying to figure out college football

(still under construction)

For several years now, the argument of whether or not NCAA football (Bowl Subdivision) needs a playoff. Some people have called for a simple four team bracket and others for eight teams to be involved. But even though there have been some controversial issues in the past, this season more than any other demands a new system.

Many coaches, college officials, and analysts have been rejecting a playoff for a long time. They always use the same excuses: it would be too time consuming, too difficult to figure out, not fair to the players, it would make the regular season less important, etc.

First of all, many of these excuses are just ridiculous. A playoff would be too time consuming? Fine, so great teams are forced to schedule less games against terrible opponents. Yes, it's a shame that a team like West Virginia will get less chances to blow out someone like Western Michigan or William and Mary. Fans are definitely missing out on those classic contests. A game like Michigan vs Appalachian State can still happen where a stunning upset can occur, but the opportunities just won't be as often.

The playoff wouldn't be too confusing, either. What's really confusing is the BCS formula. Some of the matchups fans have seen over the years have been terrible and haven't correctly had the right teams play each other. There's no better way to determine that than to actually have the teams play each other and determine their own fates instead of leaving the choices to a computer. No more confusing co-champions like in 2003 with LSU and USC.

A playoff would definitely be fair to the players as well. Teams may be forced to play a tougher game or two, but then again, certain teams already play uneven schedules. Put Ohio State in the SEC and see if they still come out with only one loss. It's not fair to have certain teams play soft schedules and still get into a big BCS game. Hawaii may have a smooth ride through its regular season in the future, but if there's a playoff, fans would get to see them matched up against an LSU or USC and then see how they'd really fare. The Bowls could also still be used as a reward for teams who played well, just not well enough to make the playoff.

And finally, the biggest myth of all is that adding a playoff would negate much of the importance of the regular season. Just about every other major sport has a regular season and a postseason, and the entire sequence is important. Teams want to do well in the regular season so they can get a better seed and more of an advantage if possible. If teams don't play well to begin with during the regular season, then they don't get in the playoff anyway.

Though these are just some of the reasons some people have used to argue against having a playoff, they only get in the way of what's really important -- that millions of people want to see a playoff system. People are intrigued to see what would happen if college football added a playoff format at the end of the season. Sure, it would force the NCAA to change the way it does the Bowl games, but there definitely wouldn't be any money lost (since that's usually the main concern for those in charge.)

Even if cinderella teams, like Hawaii and Kansas currently, were to get blown out in a playoff game, they would earn the right to be there. Many people would pay to see those games just to see what would happen. Instead certain teams usually just get one chance against another team that didn't quite reach the top of the standings. Even though some Bowl games turn out to be outstanding battles, there has to be some limited motivation when teams know they can't be number one, just number four or five.

In the end, the dilemma basically boils down to one main issue -- I'd like to think fans would rather see a playoff format where four or eight teams meet to earn the right to be in the championship game by actually beating the other top teams rather than the Bowl atmosphere where there's one championship game and the other Bowl games only serve to prove where teams rank after number one and two.

In this case, fans should get what they want. They're usually right anyway.

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