Tuesday, December 9, 2008

College football: What could have been

Last year I presented my plan for a sixteen team playoff. (Last year's final bracket is here, including links to each week's brackets.) To summarize the sixteen teams will consist of the eleven conference champions, plus five at large teams. They will be seeded by their BCS ranking. Here's what this year's playoff would have looked like:

1) Oklahoma (Big XII)
16) Troy (Sun Belt)

8) Penn State (Big Ten)
9) Boise State (WAC)

4) Alabama (At large)
13) Virginia Tech (ACC)

5) USC (Pac-10)
12) Cincinnati (Big East)

3) Texas (At large)
14) East Carolina (Conference USA)

6) Utah (Mountain West)
11) TCU (At large)

7) Texas Tech (At large)
10) Ohio State (At large)

2) Florida (SEC)
15) Buffalo (MAC)

Missed the cut (BCS rank):
Oklahoma State (13)
Georgia Tech (14)
Georgia (15)
BYU (16)
Oregon (17)

I addressed issues such as season length, game sites and the fate of the lesser bowls in the initial post last year, so let's look at the benefits for this season. Like last year, this one has shaped up to be a prime candidate for a playoff. There were eight one-loss teams, plus undefeated Utah and Boise State. How can we distinguish among these teams other than a playoff? Anything less than that is a mockery of the game, full stop.

Opponents to a playoff still bring up the tired argument that it would dilute the regular season. As I said last year and as this bracket demonstrates, that is simply not true. Look at those who missed the cut. Oklahoma State is the thirteenth best team in the nation according to the BCS, but they did not make the playoff. Georgia, a near unanimous pre-season favorite, did not make the bracket. Would they say their regular season didn't matter. In fact, it is the current BCS format that de-emphasizes the regular season. Texas beat Oklahoma, but what good did it do them in December? Eight teams did as well or better than OU and Florida, but are ignored. Is this what they call "meaningful"? I respectfully disagree.

With a playoff, the best of the mid-majors gets the chance to prove they are worthy. All season, playoff opponents complain that teams like Utah and Boise State play inferior competition, and in most cases, they are right. However, this doesn't mean they aren't good teams, so give them a chance to put up or shut up on the field. You think Penn State would be happy about playing Boise State in the first round? Or Texas wouldn't be a little nervous about a second round game against Utah or TCU?

Finally, opponents of a playoff often cite the need to protect the tradition of the bowls. Tradition? Did you know that 34 bowl games will be played this year? Did you know that the traditional Peach Bowl has morphed from the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl to simply the Chick-fil-A Bowl? Did you know that the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, Papajohns.com Bowl, Brut Sun Bowl, and magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl will all be played this season? And people dare to cite tradition in reference to the bowls?

It is time for common sense to prevail. Do not confuse controversial for interesting. Just because people are arguing over the BCS does not make it legitimate--that's what they are arguing over. Please, give us a college football playoff, where the winner has to prove it on the field.

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