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Who's Number 2?
All I care to know about the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) is that it destroyed the tradition of post-season bowl games, especially the only one I really cared about: the Rose Bowl in which the winner of the Big Ten is supposed to play the winner of the Pac 10. Unfortunately, the tradition also includes underdog Pac 10 teams smoking the Big Ten powerhouse of the year, but that is beside the point. The only other rival for recent mindless trashing of a century of priceless affection and good will is Federated Stores replacing Marshall Field's with Macy's (see here), but that is also besides the point. So what is the point? The point is this column, Who's Number 2? about the controversial choice of Florida instead of Michigan to play Ohio State for the national championship. I found this analysis interesting:
But this year's debate over the merits of the BCS has exposed a more basic flaw, the faulty premise that underlies the entire system. The BCS was created in 1998 with the stated goal of of pitting the nation's top two football teams against each other in a championship game. Michigan partisans, then, are outraged that their team isn't getting another chance to take on Ohio State. The Wolverines are the second-best team in the country, they say. Shouldn't that guarantee them a spot in the title game?

No. The fact that the Wolverines are probably the second-best team in the country doesn't mean they've earned the right to play in the national championship game. In fact, it means the exact opposite: Michigan's No. 2 status is why they shouldn't be playing for the title.

Playoff systems are designed to determine, in a fair manner, which is the single best team in a particular sport. Their purpose is not to pit the two finest teams against each other in a season-ending game. The Yankees and Red Sox do not play annually in the World Series. The Indianapolis Colts will never be given a chance to play the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. When the two best college basketball teams in the country face off, as they routinely do, in a Final Four semifinal or even in the round of eight, does anyone think that the loser deserves a rematch?

Take this example: Does anyone think the Seattle Seahawks were the No. 2 team in the NFL last year? No. Likewise, will anyone think the NFC champion who makes it to this year's Super Bowl is the second-best team in football? Of course not. Will the best team in the NFL still win the Super Bowl? Yes. Even if it's an NFC team! . . .

Do we know if Florida is the second-best team in the country? Of course not. Here's what we do know: Michigan is not the best. How do we know that? By the traditional criterion: They scored fewer points in a football game than Ohio State did. The only team that has the "right" to play in the BCS championship game is the best team, Ohio State. And the only teams that should be scratched without question are teams that have already been determined to be "not the best," like Michigan.
(civil comments only, including those by Michigan fans.)
Crunchy Frog:
I've been of the opinion since Nebraska in 2001 and Oklahoma in 2003 (both got hammered, by the way) that a team that loses its conference title should be automatically ineligible for the championship game as long as we are in this format. Apparently the voters agree with me, one of which went so far as to vote Florida #1, followed by Ohio State and then Michigan.

The sad thing is that a playoff would pull in billions, with a capital B, but then the university presidents and conference commissioners would not get wined and dined and sucked up to as much as they do now, and that's what's really important, isn't it?

<-- bitter USC fan
12.14.2006 12:23am
FantasiaWHT:
IANAFF (I am not a football fan) but it does strike me as really odd, and somewhat annoying from a "I live in the state so I might as well cheer for them" sorta perspective- Wisconsin is ranked #7 in the country (or so I was told) but can't play in a BCS bowl because there are already two higher-ranked Big Ten schools in the BCS bowls, and no more than 2 schools from each conference can play in BCS bowls.

Boo!
12.14.2006 12:26am
Parvenu:
Heh. We could always just do what we did before the BCS and give Ohio State the title automatically at this point as the lone undefeated team; they would have been crowned national champions already in the pre-BCS days.

Then again, I grew up 30 minutes from Columbus and went to Ohio State for undergrad, so it's remotely possible that I'm not entirely neutral here ... 8-)

In the larger picture, however, I think a playoff needs to happen eventually and I think it will because the demand for it among the consumers—i.e., the audience—will eventually get to the point where even the special interest of the university presidents, powerful as it is, won't be enough to prevent it. Even an eight-team, three-week playoff would be better than the current system.
12.14.2006 12:40am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Randy, you've been in DC too long already. All they ever talk about is--

1. Sports. Do not say anything good about the Cowboys, ever, unless you are faster of foot than anyone within hearing. Or

2. Politics, which comes naturally.

On (2), you can usually judge a person's affiliation quickly by how they refer to the fellow in the White House:

"The President" = they are of the same party as the same.

"[Last name only"] = they are not.
12.14.2006 12:50am
Steve:
I'm quite certain there are some people who think that Seattle was the 2nd best team in the NFL last year. And why shouldn't they?
12.14.2006 12:59am
JJP (mail):
Doesn't this argument imply that Boise State should be playing for the national championship?

Michigan is not the best team in the country because they lost to Ohio State. Florida can't be the best team in the country, then, because they lost to Auburn. And so on, for all teams but the two sitting at 12-0.

I assume that Suellentrop does not want to make that argument, since he's arguing in favor of Florida, not Boise State. So what can he say about the Auburn game? He'd have to say that Auburn isn't really a better team than Florida, they just happened to beat them in that one game. And he'd be right. But then he'd have to be open to the fact that the exact same thing could be true of Michigan and OSU. Michigan might be the better team, even though they happened to lose that one game.

In other words, his argument falls apart. You can't rule a team out of the national championship based on one game. Florida still ought to be in the title game, for the simple reason that they beat better teams.

(BTW, the link was mistakenly left out of the post. Marshall Field's is linked to twice.)
12.14.2006 1:03am
Doug Sundseth (mail):
Boise State should be in the "title" game, for exactly the reason JJP adduces: BSU has beaten every team on its schedule. Every other team but OSU and BSU has lost a game. Absent a real playoff system, if there are exactly two undefeated teams in Division 1A, those teams should be the teams in the championship game.

(FWIW, I have no particular rooting interest in either BSU or OSU, or in any other team in either of their conferences.)
12.14.2006 1:17am
Randy Barnett (mail) (www):
Link fixed.

Dave, I haven't spoken to anyone in DC about sports, and have always avoided talking politics with colleagues, or just about anyone else. I try to turn the subject to TV.
12.14.2006 1:22am
Tek Jansen:
Doug: at least 10 other teams would be undefeated if they had played Boise's schedule, and likewise, Boise would have several losses had they played Florida's schedule - remember what happened when Boise went down to Georgia last year? Teams should be encouraged to play tougher, not easier schedules.

JJP has it exactly right.
12.14.2006 1:27am
StevenK:
I thought the point of the BCS bowl is to have the top two teams face each other.

You'll have to pardon the long entry, but here's a letter from social scientist Philip Converse, an edited version of which was published in The New York Times:

The unkindest cut of all for Michigan fans is to read in your august pages this morning a casual recognition that BCS voters leaned toward Florida over Michigan to meet Ohio State in the Bowl Championship, chiefly because "Florida played a tougher schedule..."

While the record is clear that the Florida coach and Athletic Dep't were eager to claim a tougher schedule, one does not expect independent journalists of the calibre of your staff to believe Florida claims without
checking them out against some independent reality, which happens to be right at hand, and shows the opposite.

There are any number of ways to "calculate" schedule strength in sports, and most of them obviously represent only a part of what we would expect of a good measure. Any reasonably complete measure of college football schedule strength is impossible without computer power, as MIT student Jeff Sagarin showed long ago. He produced the computer algorithm which for many years has been the gold standard for such assessments. His last published comparison of 2006 schedules available to BCS voters before Florida was vaulted into second place showed Michigan to have had the 13th toughest football schedule in the country, compared to Florida at #27. It is hard for me to believe that you had nobody on your sports desk who would know that!!

More generally, Coach Urban Meyer's propaganda for his Florida team, after the Southern Cal loss opened the door to Michigan or Florida, was bizarre well beyond the repetitive lie that Florida had survived a tougher
schedule than Michigan. His first published reaction was that it would be unfair to the country's football fans to have a mere "rematch" for the Bowl Championship. Actually, when one sports network polled the nation's fans on Sunday, they reported that a 54-46 margin favored a rematch with Michigan over a Florida intrusion. So either Meyer is remarkably ill-informed about fandom for a million-dollar coach, or there he goes lying again.

In the same remarks he said that it would also be unfair to Ohio State University to be asked to play Michigan a second time, because it is awfully hard to beat a comparably good team twice in a row. The fact he is leaning on here is quite correct. I have a great database for assessing the odds of upcoming football outcomes, and going into the first OSU/Mich match I had odds of 65-35 that OSU would win at home. By the same calculus of relative strength, however, the two teams were closely-enough matched that the odds of Ohio State beating Michigan twice would only be 42-58. But what Meyer makes of this to argue for Florida displacing Michigan is self-impeaching in the extreme. Meyer is a very sharp critic of the Bowl Championship Series format, which has limited itself to a massive effort to arrange a final match between the two top teams in the country. But here he makes it clear he feels that it would be a disgrace to the #1 team to have to replay the actual #2 team in the country, because the actual #2 team would have a good chance of winning. He prefers a system where the Ohio State odds are a good deal higher, by inserting a #3 or #4 instead, if that means Florida. Good grief, Coach, this Big Game is supposed to be a playoff championship: how can it possibly be unfair to Ohio State or to fandom to play the actual #2 team in the country, because that would raise the odds that OSU might lose? (Technically it doesn't in any event, but this is Meyer's given reason for avoiding a rematch.)

Meyer's other "talking point" against a rematch after the claim of a tougher Florida schedule was that a final champion should be decided "on the field," and not by self-serving poll respondents. Well, that seems to be fair onthe face of it. But the first OSU/Mich match took place on a football field, just as he requires, and OSU won by 42-39 at home. Now it is well-known that home field advantage, as long estimated by quantitatively-inclined students of football, and by the Sagarin ratings to this day, rounds to a three-point artificial home advantage. So these teams fought it out on a real first-class football field and the result amounted, for those who understand statistical inference, to be a draw. Had the game taken place on the first-class field at Michigan, the home team would again be expected to win by three, but this would be considered by informed fans to be a draw, also. What better state of affairs for Bowl Championship officialdom: a playoff between the actual two best teams in the country who have already fought to a draw on a real playing field? What more delicious and fair to all than a rematch on the "neutral" field in Arizona. Little wonder that the nation's fans in a poll (admittedly of unknown validity) voted for this treat!!

But Coach Meyer finds such a solution disastrously unfair to the nation's fans in general and to Ohio State in particular. Instead his preferred solution clashes with both central goals: first, the main saving grace of the current Bowl Championship arrangement (selecting the the two best teams); and second, his own requirement that the matter be decided "on the field", and not by back-room plying of BCS poll participants with false propaganda, a piece of strong morality he only starts to believe in, apparently, after he has already lobbied his own team into the final game from off-field.
12.14.2006 2:07am
Sarah (mail) (www):
Isn't the BCS a bit of a joke, anyway? It was supposed to be scientific -- we know exactly who the "real" best team is at the end of this process -- but it all comes down to a poll of journalists and coaches, easily amongst the least "objective" measures, alongside purely random selection and online polling of the general public. At least the old method had the benefit of predictability; there was no need to speculate on the level of annoyance a certain match-up would generate amongst ESPN and Sports Illustrated employees, after the last game of the regular season, to determine who would be playing whom come Christmas week.

I'm a huge OSU fan (just finished my last class for my degree there; my only complaint is that the tuition is far too high ^_^) but even if I were still primarily a USC fan like I was in elementary school, I'd still think an OSU/Michigan rematch idiotic. Each team only plays 10-12 games per year against a pool of well over 50 schools, but we need a second game between two of those teams to figure out which one out of the whole pool is best? Bah, humbug.

Actually, it wouldn't have been half bad, if only because said rematch would anger so many decision-makers that we might actually have a shot at ditching the BCS altogether. Heh. Maybe next year.
12.14.2006 2:28am
Warmongering Lunatic (mail):
Looking at a few loss chains, since they can be considered as a virtual single-elimination tournament . . .

LSU lost to Forida, Florida lost to Auburn, Auburn lost to Arkansas, Arkansas lost to USC, USC lost to Oregon St., Oregon St. lost to Boise St.

West Virginia lost to Louisville lost to Rutgers lost to Cincinnati lost to Ohio State. Texas A&M lost to Oklahoma lost to Texas lost to Ohio St. BYU lost to BC lost to Wake Forest lost to Virginia Tech lost Georgia Tech lost to Notre Dame lost to Michigan lost to Ohio St. Wisconsin lost to Michigan lost to Ohio St.

California lost to Tennesee lost to Florida. Nebraska lost to USC. UCLA lost to California.

That covers the BCS top 25; everybody in it can be shown to have lost in a chain headed by Boise St. or Ohio St (or both). There's no freestanding "tough schedules group" where people only lost within a circle, instead of a chain that leads to Ohio State or Boise State (or both).

Accordingly, at the end of the season, there are two teams left standing with potential title claims based on the actual win-loss record considered as a single-elimination tournament. They should be playing for the championship. As it is, if Florida and Boise St. both win their bowl games, Boise St. shoul be considered the real national champions.
12.14.2006 3:49am
Armen (mail) (www):
...who was in Tremors with Kevin Bacon.
12.14.2006 4:11am
Jim Hu:
My take : http://dimer.tamu.edu/simplog/archive.php?blogid=3&pid=2898

How long have trackbacks been off?
12.14.2006 5:27am
jgshapiro (mail):
Anyone who thinks that a UM-OSU rematch would be unfair must, to be consistent, also oppose any playoff system in which teams that played in the regular season could play again in a playoff. For example, you must oppose the baseball wildcard system, pursuant to which the Red Sox (for example) could lose to the Yankees in the division race but win the wildcard and then play the Yankees again in the league championship series. Likewise, you must oppose regular season inter-conference NFL, NBA and NHL games, all of which could lead to a "rematch" in a playoff that would 'mean more' than the earlier regular season game. Yet few people hold that view.

The true irony of the Florida selection is that is makes a mockery of the whole point of having a BCS championship game. That point was, simply, to have the top two teams play in one game. Not the top two teams who had not already played or the top two teams from different conferences, but simply the top two teams. Yet hardly anyone outside of Gainesville believes that Florida would beat Michigan on neutral ground or that Florida stands a decent chance of beating OSU on neutral ground. Therefore, the system failed.
12.14.2006 5:55am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
What JJP said, but whichever way, they shouldn't change the rules mid-season. And what jgshapiro said, although I wouldn't mind if they got rid of interleague baseball.

Besides, not every team in the country is even available for post-season play. (There was a loss chain one year where BC upset Notre Dame and Holy Cross upset BC and Harvard beat Holy Cross...)
12.14.2006 7:25am
WJ (mail):
Okay, I am a Michigan-alum. Shooting holes in this argument is too easy however.

The BCS says its goal is to have the two top-ranked teams in a championship game. It does not eliminate teams that played in the same conference or rematches or teams that did not win its conference. In fact it specifically considered that criteria and rejected it. There is a rule of statutory construction for this, but I do not remember it.

The BCS leaves it up to the two polls in regards to what criteria to use to rank those teams. Those polls do not have any criteria except that you can be on probation. The voters can say I will vote for the best team (Michigan) or I will vote for the most deserving team based on strength of schedule (Florida). My problem is with the voters who said no to Michigan because they do want a rematch or that a rematch would be unfair to OSU. These criteria exists nowhere. Scalia and Thomas would never justify their vote this way. Stephens would.

The writer is also wrong about how playoffs work. The Yankees and the Red Sox can of course meet in the ALCS even though they played 19 times in the regular season. The NHL at one time grouped their playoffs from 1 10 16 without regard to divisions to geography. That way you ended up with a finals of New York vs. Philadelphia. Their old system produced much better finals than the current system. The point being that playoffs can be structured anyway and for some sports your finals will produce rematches like Georgetown-Villanova in basketball.
12.14.2006 8:30am
Entropy:
As mentioned in StevenK's comment, OSU beat Michigan by just 3 points at home. This was a close, exciting game that could have gone either way. Played on a neutral field, the result might be different. It would be a great national championship game.

To lose to the #1 ranked team is nothing for Michigan to be ashamed of. Of all the one-loss teams, they are the best based on the quality of the teams that beat them (OSU is far better than Auburn).

To those who don't want to see a rematch, I can't believe that you are serious. After seeing last year's USC-Notre Dame game, did you actually think, "What a great game, I don't want to see next year's matchup."? Rematches are special and even more so when they are between rivals. This could have been one of the most anticipated championship games in a while in Michigan were playing OSU.
12.14.2006 9:02am
The Drill SGT (mail):
Note: I haven't been following college FB this season due to work stuff, but I agree with Randy.

All I care to know about the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) is that it destroyed the tradition of post-season bowl games, especially the only one I really cared about: the Rose Bowl in which the winner of the Big Ten is supposed to play the winner of the Pac 10. Unfortunately, the tradition also includes underdog Pac 10 teams smoking the Big Ten powerhouse of the year, but that is beside the point


I'm a grad of UCD, UCI and UCLA and attended in the late 60's and mid-70's. Back when Woody Hayes' OSU was always ranked number 1 and came to LA for the Rose Bowl each year to play an underdog from UCLA, USC, CAL or Stanford. As I always described it:


Number 1 team comes from midwest in January.
Farm boys meet Rose princesses, sun, surf, dope and on New Years morning,
get introduced to the concept of the Forward Pass.
PAC 8 team wins and folks talk about an unpset.

year after year :)


On a different note, Boise State isn't a new phenom. Back in that time period, Boise and Davis were in Division 3 (or whatever: the NCAA division with no scholarships, no spring practice, players have to attend class and be able to read, write and graduate, cause they won't make the pro's).

Anyway BSU always was a powerhouse and there was a divisional playoff system in place. Davis went once or twice in that period and BSU normally kicked somebody's ass. Good program historically
12.14.2006 9:13am
Preferred Customer:
I'm a Michigan fan and alum, and I will admit that we had our chance. We played OSU and lost. Expecting to get a rematch is asking too much. Plus, what if UM and OSU played again and UM won? Who's champion then? Wouldn't OSU have an unassailable argument for at the very least a shared championship?

Having said that, I agree that changing votes just to keep Michigan out of the BCS title game is total BS. Either UM is the 2nd best football team in the country or it isn't. If it is, it should play in the title game, no matter what the consequences are.

All that said, the only thing I can hope is that a) UM smashes USC into tiny, tiny pieces, and that b) OSU pounds Florida flat.

At least now I have two Big 10 teams to root for in the BCS bowls.
12.14.2006 9:21am
Huh:
I agree with Randy that I thought this argument was interesting and mildly persuasive. But really, the idea that any permitted outcome of the current system is somehow unfair (whether a rematch or a title game between OSU and someone else) is a bit silly.

Although Florida Coach Urban Meyer argued against the legitimacy of a rematch, there's nothing in the rules against it. And it should go with saying that allowing members of a poll to change their votes and affect the outcome of the BCS is fair, because that's the way the system is designed (i.e., that's a function, not a bug).

People who don't like the outcome have two choices: 1) suck it up, like they did in the old days OR 2) argue for some kind of new system that actually avoids these "flaws." Arguing that the current result is somehow illegitimate under the rules as they are today is just silly. If it's allowed, it's fair. Indeed, if it's allowed, it should be expected.
12.14.2006 9:38am
chris s (mail):
The commenter relying on J Sagarin as the final word on schedule strength must want to rely on Sagarin as the final word on who gets to play for the title as well. well, here's Sagarin's current rankings -

1 Ohio State
2 Southern California
3 Michigan

He also has LSU above Fla, though Fla beat LSU soundly. And Cal over Tenn, though Tenn beat Cal by 3 TDs.

Not the final word, by any means.

Either Fla or Mich had a case. Fla got the nod, prob in equal parts due to distaste for a rematch and the sense that the SEC was tougher than the B10. Arguable, but not insane or unfair.
12.14.2006 9:49am
jallgor (mail):
"Playoff systems are designed to determine, in a fair manner, which is the single best team in a particular sport. Their purpose is not to pit the two finest teams against each other in a season-ending game."

I found the whole argument made in Randy's quoted article to be specious but this line is flat out incorrect. A playoff system is absolutely designed to pit the two best teams against each other for one season ending game. That's why we have seeds. The bottom line is that until college football develops a playoff system the whole notion of a "National Champion" is flawed.

Let's face it, on any given day, Florida might beat Michigan and vice versa. Football is all about match-ups and exploiting weakenesses. Any abstract talk of who is the better team is meaningless. They both probably deserve a shot and the Wolverines are being penalized for losing to Ohio State in Ohio State's home field which probably isn't fair. Is it any more fair, however, to say that Florida should be out because we just have some vague notion that Michigan is the better team?
12.14.2006 9:56am
WHOI Jacket:
What we're forgetting is that every single other sport in the NCAA has a playoff system. Including DI-AA and DII football. What are they all doing wrong that DI-A is doing right?
12.14.2006 10:06am
Zywicki (mail):
One wrinkle has always seemed amusing and a bit preposterous--a team will receive a high preseason ranking precisely because its schedules is predicted to be so soft. So it can be predicted that the team will end the season with a high ranking, and so it is given a high preseason ranking. It can then proceed to beat all of the easy teams on its schedule, thereby maintaining the high ranking throughout the season. So, ironically, the team's easy schedule can end up resulting in a high ranking, not because of who the team beat but because the preseason ranking creates a path dependency between the predicted season and the eventual season.

Another thing that has always struck me as absurd about the BCS is the love-hate relationship between the polls and the computers. The computers are put in to make the rankings more "objective." Yet some years, as previous commenters have observed, the computer rankings generate a result different from the human polls. The invariable result is that the BCS mavens then change the formula for the computers in order to make the results of the computers come out to be more like the human polls! I seem to recall one year (perhaps after the Nebraska debacle) the computers were told to exclude margin of victory from their formulas (or the value was capped), because it resulted in a difference between the computer rankings and the human polls. Which, of course, defeats the whole purpose of having computers in the first place. It makes no sense to have computer rankings if their validity is measured by whether they confirm what the human pollsters vote.
12.14.2006 10:10am
Mark Buehner (mail):
The BCS isnt set up to pit the 2 best teams against each other. That is what it purports to do. The BCS is set up to provide the matchups the egghead voters think is most intriguing.

Michigan got hosed, plain and simple. They lost to the best team in the nation on their home field by 3 points. And what is the universally acknowledged automatic spread advantage for the home team- 3 points. From a point setters pov it was a statistic tie.

For those who claim Michigan 'had their chance' and blew it, how did Florida not have their chance to beat Auburn and put their claim beyond a doubt?

Everyone knows the system is pointless and arbitrary. That isnt going to change anytime soon, because the people who can change it have no real incentive to change it. They make money either way, and the more outraged people are by the controversy, the more free advertising in essense. If you want NCAA football to change their ways, don't watch the bowl games.
12.14.2006 10:16am
Shawn Levasseur (mail) (www):
This year the BCS got the right answer for the wrong reasons.


The computer side of things ended in a dead heat for 2nd. Fair enough, with that in mind.

Many voters in the two polls either did not vote, or voted in a disineguous manner to "game" the system to get their desired result. For example: voting Michigan of Florida #1 to get them a leg up to get to the big game, and similarly voting the other team well below #3.

Throughout the BCS system, people have been blaming "The Computers for undesired results. With only 1/3 of the final score, they really aren't the problem.

Toss the polls. let the computers rule the day, and apply some additional rules for unique situations. Such as this computer tie for #2. Have a rule if that if one of the #2's has been already beaten by #1, the other #2 gets a shot at the #1 team.

Then again, it's just Amateur sports (or it's supposed to be, winning and losing makes too much of a financial difference for everyone involved for this to be truly amateur.). We should be more concered about the academic programs our institutes of higher learning, than the sports teams. *SIGH*
12.14.2006 10:22am
Zywicki (mail):
And, of course, as a George Mason basketball fan I cannot help but tout the advantages of some sort of playoff system that allows teams to demonstrate themselves on the court/field rather than the subjective assessments of voters (who rarely even see the non-BCS teams play).

It is unlikely that Boise State is the best team in college football, but it certainly seems more fair to allow them a shot to prove this on the field. Recall what happened when Utah played in the Fiesta Bowl a couple of years ago against Pittsburgh.
12.14.2006 10:25am
Lively:
My kid is an Economics Major at Florida. I'll agree that the chance to play is a gift. But I'll take it. Go Gators.
12.14.2006 10:30am
Houston Lawyer:
Rankings will always remain subjective. The team that beat my high school football team in the State finals was ranked fourth in the final poll that came out, behind the team we beat in the semi-finals and behind another team in our district that didn't get into the play offs at all.

I also remember the loss by Phi Slamma Jamma in the semi-finals in 1983.

Sometimes the winner of a game isn't the better team. That's part of what makes it fun to win when you are the underdog.

I think we should do away with the BCS. I like the post-season bickering.
12.14.2006 10:38am
A-ro:
"Here's what we do know: Michigan is not the best. How do we know that? By the traditional criterion: They scored fewer points in a football game than Ohio State did."

What if they had played in Ann Arbor? Or at a neutral site? OSU did not prove they were better in that game.
12.14.2006 10:40am
Don Miller (mail):

On a different note, Boise State isn't a new phenom. Back in that time period, Boise and Davis were in Division 3 (or whatever: the NCAA division with no scholarships, no spring practice, players have to attend class and be able to read, write and graduate, cause they won't make the pro's).

Anyway BSU always was a powerhouse and there was a divisional playoff system in place. Davis went once or twice in that period and BSU normally kicked somebody's ass. Good program historically



I am glad someone else mentioned this. I grew up in Idaho and went to Boise State.

BSU started life as a junior college and worked their way up from there through every level of NCAA Divisions. In every division, Boise State won at least 1 national championship in football. Boise State has always had a good football program. There are a lot of NCAA coaches who have been BSU (or Idaho) staff at one time or another.

I don't think we have a realistic shot of ever winning a National Championship at the 1-A level under the current BCS format. The main reason is its reliance on polls and not a playoff system.

In a playoff system, like the NCAA Basketball Tournament, allows that Cinderella Team of overachievers to rise to the top and take the whole thing. The BCS system places too much emphasis on the history of a program and the perceived quality of opponents.

It's the nature of the system, I can't do anything about it. I will just be grateful for any increased competition and exposure that BSU gets as a result of its performance on the field.

Go Broncos!!!! :)
12.14.2006 10:55am
WolverineFan:
I have to admit, Ohio state is simply amazing, we could not beat them in 100 matchups
12.14.2006 10:55am
SeaLawyer:
The problem with teams like Boise State is that their wins are meaningless when they never play against top teams.
12.14.2006 11:00am
Alan P (mail):
I am strongly in favor of at least an 8 team playoff with no guaranteed slots for conference winners.

(My objections to rankings alone goes back to 1969 when Nixon annointed Texas the national champion becuase they beat Arkansas-then Number 3 ranked- despite the fact that Penn State -ranked No. 2- was still undefeated. Yes, I graduated PSU)

However, I do not believe that just because you have a playoff, the "best" team always wins. What you have is a champion based on who won the tournament. That's fine but it does not mean the best.

Examples, Consier Villanova beating Georgetown in the NCAA championship after having lost twice to them during the season.
12.14.2006 11:00am
NathanD (mail):
WHOI Jacket said:

"What we're forgetting is that every single other sport in the NCAA has a playoff system. Including DI-AA and DII football. What are they all doing wrong that DI-A is doing right?"

Division 1-A football has a meaningful regular season - that's what they're doing right.

For instance, that Michigan-Ohio St game. There was always a sense that that game was for the right to play for the national title - it was always a longshot for a rematch. Accordingly, it got a buildup as a "Game of the Century". It was huge.

Now imagine we had a playoff system in place. Suddenly, that game no longer matters - both teams are in the playoffs, and don't really care. The starters might play a half, but neither team would really be trying all that hard. That's suddenly a very boring game - think the Colts from the end of last year.
12.14.2006 11:13am
WHOI Jacket:
That example is a bad one for two reasons: 1) Michigan/Ohio St. is a rivalry game and thus will always be "a big deal". 2) The game was also for the Big Ten (11) Championship, so there was a conference title on the line as well.

Right now, the regular season resembles a mutated double elimination thing. Take USC for example, they have two losses and are thus out of the "title hunt", their first loss was to Oregon St., second to UCLA. Now say that they only lose one of those games. If they lose to Oregon St. but beat UCLA, they play in the title game. If they beat Oregon St. but lose to UCLA, they don't play in the title game because of the final drop in the polls. Same final 11-1 record, but it leads to two totally different outcomes of the regular season. And to me, that's messed up.
12.14.2006 11:23am
The Drill SGT (mail):

SeaLawyer:
The problem with teams like Boise State is that their wins are meaningless when they never play against top teams.


Then why is a playoff system in basketball with "Cinderella Teams" legitimate? George Mason didn't beat a bunch of the top 10 schools until they went to the NCAA playoffs.

Don Miller: There was a misleading and short horizon article last week in USA Today that seemed to imply that FB was discovered at BSU ten years ago rather than 40 years ago (my time frame)
12.14.2006 11:39am
Jake (Guest):
I believe the point was that Boise State is not being held down by The Man, but by their creampuff conference (not their fault) and their creampuff out of conference schedule (completely their fault). If they had played Arkansas, Nebraska, and Notre Dame and gone undefeated, they would probably be going to the title game.
12.14.2006 11:59am
rarango (mail):
I think many of you are laboring under the mistaken impression that the BCS is about determining who the best team is--A playoff could do that--the BCS is about maximizing TV revenue for the NCAA and its partners in crime.
12.14.2006 12:13pm
Jim Hu:
Boise State slaughtered Oregon State early in the year. Oregon State, as those of you who actually follow college football know, beat USC, which slaughtered Arkansas. etc.

Are wins against patsies more meaningful if you play top teams and lose to them? Apparently (see Notre Dame).

Since I don't really expect people to follow the link above: I don't follow IAA, DII or DIII. But looking at their playoff systems, they go 4-5 rounds. Looking at the IAA results at: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/standings?groupId=81, the range of games played by a iAA team is between 11 for the eliminated and 15 for the finalists. To get meaningful amounts of nonconference play, the conferences are smaller on average. Early rounds are not on neutral fields.

These playoffs, and basketball derive legitimacy from giving automatic bids to all conference champs in additon to adding the at-large teams. To do that in IA you'd need 11 conference champs, so we're looking at either a 12 or 16 team field. 4 rounds. Regular season would drop back to 10 or 11 games, and would lose some significance.

These thrilling playoffs probably would start with something like Ohio State vs. Middle Tennessee. Color me unimpressed.

In basketball, there are 64 teams and 2 rounds per week. With 4 regionals, you don't have to watch the 1-16 and 2-15 blowouts and the network barely shows them. They also get those out of the way on work days, Thurs and Fri. By the first weekend, there are games that are interesting. Even then, the network switches away from blowouts to alternatives.

IMHO, trying to replicate March Madness for IA football would result in December Drudgery.
12.14.2006 12:21pm
WHOI Jacket:
Because a playoff system for football has failed miserably for the NFL...
12.14.2006 12:37pm
SeaLawyer:

Then why is a playoff system in basketball with "Cinderella Teams" legitimate? George Mason didn't beat a bunch of the top 10 schools until they went to the NCAA playoffs.


I am not saying that having a tournament with cinderella teams is not legitimate.
When talking about the BCS, Boise State has done nothing to prove that they belong in the title game or the other BCS Bowl games.
12.14.2006 12:47pm
Steve:
Boise State is not being held down by The Man, but by their creampuff conference (not their fault) and their creampuff out of conference schedule (completely their fault).

Apparently Boise State does not need the consent of another school to put them on the schedule. How interesting.
12.14.2006 12:53pm
Jim Hu:
WHOI Jacket: "Because a playoff system for football has failed miserably for the NFL."

Well, yes, actually, by the standards of the Michigan complainers. There are many years when playoff teams from weak divisions are worse than teams that get left out and where the best two teams meet in the AFC or NFC championships, not in the Super Bowl.

The divisions themselves are much smaller than IA conferences, the seasons are too long, and the schedules are artificially manipulated to get parity. So you want to rearrange the conferences to fit the playoff schedule? Feh.
12.14.2006 12:56pm
Parvenu:
To those who don't want to see a rematch, I can't believe that you are serious. After seeing last year's USC-Notre Dame game, did you actually think, "What a great game, I don't want to see next year's matchup."?

That was a rematch the following year, however. I could be thoroughly excited about next year's OSU-UM game and still not want to see a same-season postseason rematch. The last time that happened between two major schools was the 2003 Orange Bowl with Florida State and Miami, and I thought it was decidedly lackluster.
12.14.2006 1:08pm
Doug Sundseth (mail):
"Doug: at least 10 other teams would be undefeated if they had played Boise's schedule, and likewise, Boise would have several losses had they played Florida's schedule - remember what happened when Boise went down to Georgia last year? Teams should be encouraged to play tougher, not easier schedules."

You mean like Notre Dame (previously noted)? I happen to like the tradition of ND playing the service academies, but with a very few notable years, it's just a way to add three wins to their record.

There's a traditional way to prove what you are claiming -- actually playing games. Nobody has beaten BSU; somebody has beaten FSU. We know that BSU was better than every opponent; we have no idea how much better. We also know that FSU was not better than every opponent.

Play the game.

(BTW, I suspect BSU has a very difficult time scheduling name opponents, simply because they are very good but not well regarded by the "brilliant minds" in east-coast sports journalism. And deep and abiding cowardice lies at the heart of scheduling for name schools.)
12.14.2006 1:08pm
OK Lawyer:
Apparently Boise State does not need the consent of another school to put them on the schedule. How interesting.

Well, if they were so interested in a tough schedule they could simply agree to play the other teams on the road. They always want (for right or wrong) a home and home series. The big schools don't want that, so BSU does not get the marquee names on its schedule very often, except for Georgia last year who pummeled BSU.

I would have no problem with BSU v OSU for the title, both are undefeated conference champs.

I completely disagree that the OSU - Mich game would have turned out differently regardless of where the game was played. the 3 point difference did not reflect the total domination by OSU. Mich was never seriously a threat to win.
12.14.2006 1:30pm
UMich Supporter (mail):
Here's the deal: there is no requirement in the BCS that a team win its conference (championship) in order to play in the BCS title game. The BCS was only set up to make sure that the best 2 teams in the country played each other to decide a true national champion. This didn't happen this year, as Michigan is the second best team in the nation.

For those that loathed the possible rematch, or those that said Michigan didn't win its conference, you need to familiarize yourself with the BCS requirements.

For the last 8 weeks of the season, Michigan was ranked higher than Florida, and regardless of what Florida was doing in the SEC, it wasn't impressive enough to bounce them ahead of Michigan. So why the 80-point swing in voting at the last poll? No one wanted a rematch.

On the other hand, there's no way college football can scrap the BCS or bowl system for a playoff. Prof. Barnett is right, the bowl system is what defines college football; it is the game's heritage. There weren't any fewer problems under the bowl system (i.e, sharing national titles) than there are under the BCS system (i.e., deciding who actually gets to play in the title game). The problems are just of a different variety and degree.

Regardless, make no mistake: Ohio State would have beat Michigan again, my guess would have been 24-13. But, Ohio State rolls Florida, 38-10, on January 8.

P.S. Urban Meyer is a crybaby.
12.14.2006 1:38pm
WHOI Jacket:
Urban Meyer is doing his job to advance his team. If "style points" are what it takes to get to the title game, then expect to see coachs politicking the heck out of coming seasons.

Coach Meyer didn't do anything that Mack Brown @ Texas didn't do 2 years ago.
12.14.2006 2:02pm
David W Drake (mail):
Like Preferred Customer, I am a U of M alumnus (two degrees) and a lifetime Wolverine football fan. Like Preferred Customer, I concur that we had our chance and lost.

In my opinion (and I know as UMich Supporter points out that that the B ..S does not require conference champions), but in my opinion, if you're not your conference's champion, you're not the best team in the country.

I agree 100% with the initial post. Wish we could put this back the way it was before: Big 10 and Pac 10 champs in the Rose Bowl (hey, we won sometimes), SEC champ in the Sugar, etc. That was Tradition. Now we have money trumping everything,

I used to spend New Year's Day watching the bowls. This year, I'll watch the Rose Bowl and, earlier, what used to be known as the Peach because UGA is in it and I taught there and live in Atlanta. Won't watch tO$U v Gators because I have to work Tuesday morning. And won't watch the rest because---who cares? What a pity!
12.14.2006 2:05pm
Dan Simon (www):
I'm quite certain there are some people who think that Seattle was the 2nd best team in the NFL last year. And why shouldn't they?

Because Seattle was obviously the best team in the NFL last year, and would have easily won the championship, had officials not literally stolen it from them and handed it directly to Pittsburgh by making a long, stunning sequence of flagrantly incompetent and/or biased calls.
12.14.2006 2:07pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
Too large a tournament can be just as problematic as too small. An undefeated Auburn getting left out is bad, but so is a twelve loss basketball team being crowned champion (IMHO).

A few points:

-The BCS is a playoff; two teams get in.

-Expanding the field increases the chance that deserving teams won't be left out, and the chances the "best team" won't win the championship.

-In an X team playoff, the team ranked X+1 will always complain that they were wronged, and oftentimes they'll have a strong argument.

I think the optimal number of teams to include in a single elimination tournament/playoff is the minimum number that would result in the inclusion of every team that had an argument for being ranked #1. Some years this would be one (2000 - OU), some years you could make a case for four (2004 -OU, USC, Utah, Auburn). It seems impractical to determine the number of teams that get in on an ad hoc basis, so it would have to be predetermined. I suspect that if six teams got in, it would be very rare for the seventh team to have had an argument for being number one. There should be a panel of people/programs chosen to pick and seed the six teams (AP poll/computer rankings would work fine), and the coaches poll should be dispatched (you could hardly think of a system with a worse conflict of interests). The top two seeds get byes, and the higher seeds always play at home. This system wouldn't overburden a clear #1 at the end of the regular season (they'd have to play one extra game, against the 4th-6th ranked team, at home), fan bases could attend the games, and you'd still have the teams for the final picked well in advance.
__________

I think I'm in the minority, but I have always thought of the basketball tournament as a bit of a farce. I don't see much difference between the national champion and the winner of the pre-season NIT or Maui Invitational. I'm somewhat sympathetic to the small schools who get a chance to prove themselves, but how is the seventh-place team from the Big XII deserving of a chance to be the "National Champion." I'd much rather see am eight team playoff with multi-game series.

One question for you lawyers... what right did the AP have to forbid the BCS from using their poll in it's computation? I mean, the poll is published in papers? Did the BCS just comply with the AP's wishes because, "You can't fire me, I quit!"
12.14.2006 2:11pm
nunzio:

Ohio State should play and beat Wisconsin in Madison before they really claim to be the Big Ten champs. Of course, they would probably win.

Of course, Wisconsin would trounce Florida, in Gainesville.

As for Michigan, they will lose to USC in the Rose Bowl.

And as long as Urban Meyer is complaining about "re-match" games, after Ohio State trounces Florida by four touchdowns, Florida should hand over its 1996 "national championship" to Ohio State as well.

Finally, I'm for a playoff system. But I am also for the NCAA setting the non-conference schedules of perennial powerhouses. I, for one, am not impressed with Florida's non-conference work.
12.14.2006 2:23pm
WHOI Jacket:
Get rid of the 12th game. It's done nothing but dilute schedules with most likely a D1-AA opponent.
12.14.2006 2:31pm
GMS (mail):
Does no one appreciate the irony of Florida arguing that you shouldn't have a rematch in the national championship game? I seem to recall something about 1996 ...
12.14.2006 2:34pm
Ken76 (mail) (www):
I'll get the obligatory "Go Buckeyes" ;-) out of the way and move to my main point. I would support a D-1A playoff (four teams, after the major bowls), except for one thing: When I ask myself "qui bono?", I remind myself that the answer would include the fine folks whose business model includes getting other people to put down Benjamins on the outcome of sporting events. I'm a little hesitant to finish the job of turning D-1A into the NFL...hotel games and all.
12.14.2006 2:59pm
BobH (mail):
This entire discussion begs the question, by assuming as the foundation for the argument that (1) there CAN be such a thing as a "national champion," and (more important) (2) there SHOULD be such a thing. With respect to (1), such a thing would require that every team be required to play every other team at least once. With respect to (2), who cares? I mean, why is it imprtant?

And in any event, year in and year out the best college football team in the country plays in the Pac 10 -- often, but not always, USC (and don't cry for me, California). If only folks east of the Mississippi, and particularly on the east coast, could see a few more Pac 10 games, they would understand this. But nooooooooooo...
12.14.2006 3:11pm
Tom in LA (mail):
If the Big 10 wasn't a bunch of wussies they'd have a conference championship game like the SEC, and we wouldn't have to hear Michigan whining, since they would already have had their rematch on neutral ground.

Everybody knows that OSU can beat Michigan, you don't know if they can beat Florida, regardless of all your trash talking. Everybody knew that Miami was going to hammer Alabama in the '92 championship game too. That's why they play the game.

No team with a blue football field needs to be taken seriously.
12.14.2006 3:26pm
Too damn angry to think:
The solution is obvious.

Michigan and Ohio State ought to play again. However, Michigan's offense and OSU's defense will play on the same side, as Michio State. OSU's offense and Michigan's defense will team up as The Ohchigan U. Coaches and cheerleaders will be assigned by coin toss.
12.14.2006 3:59pm
Stormy Dragon (mail) (www):
>If the Big 10 wasn't a bunch of wussies they'd have a
>conference championship game like the SEC

It's not about being wussies, the NCAA only allows championship games in 12 team conferences. And given Notre Dame's repeated refusals to join the Big Ten, there's not really any schools available that would fit in to the Big Ten as a 12th team
12.14.2006 4:07pm
Gordo:
I think the whole BCS nonsense should be scrapped. And I also think any idea of a playoff system should also be scrapped. This is a TRUE conservative position - traditions are most important, even if they are inefficient and sometimes maddening.

Like Professor Barnett I loved the annual Rose Bowl matchup between the Pacific 10 and the Big 10, only, being a west-coaster, I was quite a bit happier with the predictable annual results than he was (the one Rose Bowl I actually attended in 1984 saw the 4-loss UCLA Bruins destroy the 1-loss Fighting Illini, led by a 5-10 substitute quarterback named Rick Neuheisel).

This year's Rose Bowl will feature the Big 10 vs. the Pac 10, but neither team would rather be there. It's sad, really. At least Pete Carroll is putting a great game face on it - I haven't seen or read about what Lloyd Carr is saying.

I would love to see Florida beat Ohio State and then see Michigan beat USC if only to have another wonderful "split national championship" as we saw in 2003.

As for the Boise State problem, before the BCS was a twinkling in anyone's eye, the 1984 BYU team went undefeated, and after winning the Holiday Bowl was crowned national champion, despite the grumbles and groans of Barry Switzer (although his hopes were dashed in the Orange Bowl by the Washington Huskies and the Sooner Schooner - Oklahoma needs to stop playing Pac 10 teams if it wants to keep up the pretense that it is a great football school :).

So away with the BCS, and back to TRADITION.
12.14.2006 4:21pm
Gordo:
As for Boise State's schedule, they soundly thrashed Oregon State, headed for the Sun Bowl and victors over USC as well as their Duck archrivals. No creampuff there.

The Big 11 could add Pittsburgh, now that it's added Penn State. The Panthers can't be any weaker than Indiana or Illinois.
12.14.2006 4:25pm
Stormy Dragon (mail) (www):
1.) Pittsburgh isn't an independent, they're already in the Big East
2.) The last two times Penn State had to play in Pittsburgh, they had players and spectators hospitalized as a result of the schools complete failure to control its audience. Pitt will never be in the Big Ten as long as Penn State is.
12.14.2006 4:40pm
John M. Perkins (mail):
The Big 10 lost it's luster when Chicago left after Michigan started highering professional players.

Boise State needs to be in the playoff. If it's a 2 team playoff, then they need to play the other OSU.
12.14.2006 4:54pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Not being much of a fan of the NFL's minor leagues I hadn't followed the BCS before this post, and didn't understand it until I read about it here. I'm still stuck on


4. Notre Dame will automatically qualify for a BCS bowl if it is in the top eight of the final BCS Standings.


Wouldn't that be a like a rule that says "The Yankees will automatically qualify for post-season play, except in years when they really suck"? (Come to think of it, MLB may already have such a rule.)
12.14.2006 4:55pm
Toby:
I'm hoping that Florida stomps OSU so hard that I never have to hear this argument again. And that Michigan oges down in its bowl, too.
12.14.2006 5:08pm
OK Lawyer:
The ND rule is completely absurd. Many, many, rules and aspects of the B_S are absurd. Like only 2 teams per league, conference champs don't matter, etc.

It would not shock me if Fla beats OSU. OSU had no chance against Miami, OU had no chance against FSU, USC 2005 was the greatest team ever, oops. Fla has a ton of talent, a top coach, a seasoned, steady QB, mental toughness from its schedule
12.14.2006 5:17pm
Jay (mail) (www):
The Rose Bowl was 45 years old before the "tradition" began of pitting the Big 10 champion against the Pac-10 (née the Pacific Coast Conference) champion. If you take a broader view of history, the BCS has sort of returned the Rose Bowl to its earlier tradition of pitting two very good teams against one another.
12.14.2006 5:40pm
jgshapiro (mail):

Plus, what if UM and OSU played again and UM won? Who's champion then? Wouldn't OSU have an unassailable argument for at the very least a shared championship?


The champion would be the winner of the playoff (Michigan, in the hypo). There would be no greater claim to a shared championship than if the Superbowl winner lost to the Superbowl loser in the regular season. If Seattle had beaten Pittsburgh last year in a regular season game, should they have shared the NFL crown?

Now imagine we had a playoff system in place. Suddenly, that game no longer matters - both teams are in the playoffs, and don't really care. The starters might play a half, but neither team would really be trying all that hard. That's suddenly a very boring game - think the Colts from the end of last year.


If this was a true concern, no team in any sport would be able to play a contender in a playoff that they had previously played in the regular season. So, no interconference NBA, NFL and NHL games and no interleague MBL games until the playoffs. No NCAA tournament game between teams that played in the regular season. Etc.

Of course, that is silly. What makes a playoff game special is not only that you know that it is for more marbles than any regular season game, but also that it (at least in football) is played on neutral ground. The regular season game is not meaningless, because its result is relevant to whether you get into the playoff. But certainly, the regular season game means less than the playoff. And so it goes in every other sport, college and pro. The result should be no different in Division 1, where you essentiay have a one-game playoff.


The BCS isnt set up to pit the 2 best teams against each other. That is what it purports to do. The BCS is set up to provide the matchups the egghead voters think is most intriguing.

That's the real issue: misrepresentation. And it is the reason why the bowl system was a better system. You could have whatever matchups you wanted, but no game was billed as the championship game, and it was left to pollsters at the end of the bowl season to express their opinion as to what team was #1, #2, etc. If people want to see OSU play Florida, fine with me; just don't pretend that they are watching #1 vs. #2, or that the winner is the consensus champion.
12.14.2006 6:18pm
Al (mail):
>>If people want to see OSU play Florida, fine with me; just don't pretend that they are watching #1 vs. #2, or that the winner is the consensus champion.

So, if OSU beats FL, it wouldn't be the consensus champion?

Or, if FL beats OSU, then somehow Michigan, after losing to OSU in its last game of the year, should receive a share or all of the national title (assuming that they find a way to beat my Trojans)?

Fight On.
12.14.2006 6:59pm
Gordo:
Jay, you are correct - the Big 10 didn't go to Bowl Games at all until 1946. Before that it was the west coast champion vs. whoever. But I'd say going back to 1946 is tradition enough for me.

Speaking of bowl games, the fate of the Cotton Bowl is a sad one to see.
12.14.2006 7:50pm
jgshapiro (mail):

So, if OSU beats FL, it wouldn't be the consensus champion?

Or, if FL beats OSU, then somehow Michigan, after losing to OSU in its last game of the year, should receive a share
or all of the national title (assuming that they find a way to beat my Trojans)?

Wouldn't or shouldn't? I am arguing shouldn't.

What happens if OSU beats Florida by one and UM beats USC by 40? Essentially, #1 would have beaten the #3 by a nose, while #2 team would have beaten #5 by a lot. So when you vote for national champion, you are asking what would happen if #1 played #2 on neutral ground and the issue is: You still don't know.

Or even more importantly, what happens if Florida beats OSU by 1 and UM beats USC by 40? In the latter case, why shouldn't UM and Florida share the championship? That's what should happen, but it won't.

I don't think it matters whether UM lost in its last game of the year. They were #2 and lost on the road by a field goal to the #1 team. If they played at home, they probably would have won by a field goal. If they played on neutral ground (e.g., Phoenix), who knows?
12.14.2006 9:28pm
Russ (mail):
I know I will likely get flambeed for this playoff suggestion, but here goes - there are 11 major conferences that play in the BCS system. Take each ones' conference champion and allow for one "at-large" bid(this gives the independents a chance, or the occasional wierd year where another conference team, ala Michigan, might be able to claim the mantle of being a legit national title contender).

Give the top four seed a first round bye. Then the first round winners play the top four seed in quarterfinals. The semis, to a championship game on New Year's day. That way it is decided on the field, and you have a chance for a true cinderella like George Mason(anyone remember Villinova in '85?).

I know most will say that someone out of the Sunbelt Conference, for example, has no business playing in the national title game, but how do we truly know until it is settled on the field? My biggest problem with the current system, outside of the question of who is the "real" champion, is that only big schools can win. At the beginning of each year, we ALWAYS know that the national champion will be named one of the following:
Florida, Florida State, Ohio State, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, USC, Tennessee, Auburn, LSU, or Miami. If we want to go back a few years, maybe we could add Penn State or Notre Dame to the list. This eliminates any real suspense for fans who have one of the dozens of other schools as their favorite.

Big schools - if you're so good, schedule these folks and prove it on the field. But they won't, or they risk embarassment(see Stanford v. UC Davis from last year, even though I know UCD is not a Div I school in college football).

The next thing a playoff like this would solve is my second biggest complaint - the time lag between the season and the bowls. I mean, come on - do they really need a 5 week bye?
12.15.2006 12:19am
Jinnmabe (mail):
The biggest problem I find with these arguments is that the definition of "best team" keeps changing, many times mid-argument. Does "best team" mean A)"team that won the games required by the sport’s format, in the fashion dictated by the rules of the sport" or does it mean B)"team that the laws of probability/popular opinion/my own opinion decrees should win"? I think most of us are schizophrenic on this point, which is why watching the St. Louis Cardinals win the 2006 World Series was so discomforting for a lot of folks. The cognitive dissonance of calling them the "best team" involves "they only won 83 games during the regular season, including two 8-game losing streaks" versus "yet somehow they managed to win the games required by the MLB playoff system". (See here for one man's attempt to explain the dissonance.) We expect the system to produce B, yet it keeps producing A. Yeah, sometimes A and B are the same team, but when they’re not, we think there’s something wrong, instead of realizing that obtaining “true” B is impossible, by definition.

That’s how someone can make a comment like this :

"Here's what we do know: Michigan is not the best. How do we know that? By the traditional criterion: They scored fewer points in a football game than Ohio State did."

What if they had played in Ann Arbor? Or at a neutral site? OSU did not prove they were better in that game.


This fellow believes in B with all his heart. Such that he is willing to say “winning a game does not make you a better team.” That such an attitude is common should tell you about the use and validity of the term “best team.” It’s functionally meaningless when you can change the definition of it mid-argument, mid-season. Apparently scoring more points than the other team is no longer good enough, now you need to outscore the other team by 13 or more points or "look crisper", or have won the game on an odd-numbered day when Jupiter and the moon were aligned, etc. And where are these new rules for "best team" found, you ask? Why, right in the heart of every fan, where they vary from person to person. Any argument that uses "best team" is doomed.
12.15.2006 1:42am
Patrick (mail):
Taking a strong position on abortion will likely draw fewer comments than a post on the BCS system, which by the way completely screws the Wisconsin Badgers out of their rightful position in a BCS game, in favor of the Drunken Fighting Irish, apparently based on the incorrect belief that the Irish will bring in more money generate more interest. Hmmm. Don't get me started.
12.15.2006 11:27am
jgshapiro (mail):
Wisconsin was kept out of the BCS by the rule that says no more than 2 teams from one conference can be in a BCS game. Since OSU and UM were ranked higher, Wisconsin got screwed. As a result of that rule, I don't think the BCS had the discretion to invite Wisconsin over Notre Dame, regardless of how much interest (or money) Wisoncin would generate in a BCS game.

The rule, of course, is silly, since it is certainly possible that 3 of the top 10 teams could come from one conference, especially one of the better conferences. But this goes back to the point that the BCS is designed to set up matchups that people want to see, not to pick the 2 or 10 best teams. This rule comes from the same crowd that argues that two teams from the same conference should not be in the championship game, even if they are the two best teams in the nation.
12.15.2006 2:24pm
Ken76 (mail) (www):
As for the "Big Ten doesn't have a league championship" nonsense, anyone who thinks that league championship games are about anything other than money needs to think again.

Everything else aside, this thread has done a fine job illustrating (illuminating?) the stupidity that is the BCS. I would like to see either an actual playoff or a return to the old system: play the bowl games January 1, the voters vote, and then we all argue about it until pitchers and catchers report.
12.15.2006 3:16pm
Jon Kay (mail):
The BCS rules!

OK, now what's the purpose of the BCS (or any playoff system)? So simple, to get the best game at the end of the season, between the two best teams.

Is a football playoff the best way of figuring that out? Absolutely not, because there's just one per game per decision, which means there's too much chance involved. How often does the NFL really come up with the best teams? Personally, I'd rather miss the Superbowl than the BCS top bowl.

The BCS is better because of superior statistics. Winning a whole season is a much better indicator than getting lucky in two big games.

Disclaimer: Longhorn fan writing here. But was the Superbowl as good as that little 'Horns game in the Rose Bowl last end-of-season?

People who grumble about the BCS because of tradition (like my wife) should be ashamed. The Rose Bowl games were mediocre on average compared to today, and football is about GAMES.

Oh, but the TRADITION! Sigh. Lemme just go take off my huge, black, ultra-heavy, high-glare, '70s glasses. They're hurting my ears and my eyes are aching from the glare.
12.15.2006 5:23pm