Friday, December 01, 2006

CFB Weekend Preview: Last One!
Dare I Defend the CFB System? (Eh...Sort Of.)

Friday Quickie is here (or below). Meanwhile...

Who else is more than a bit sad that this is the last Saturday of non-bowl college football?

Regular readers know that I have argued for a long time that college football's regular season is just one long de facto double-elimination playoff -- and that one loss usually does the trick.

I think it's pretty amazing that over the course of the season, a contenders' pool of 119 teams has been whittled down to, at most, 4 teams (with 2 of the 4 still with a chance to stumble).

One of those teams (Ohio State) is in. USC is in with a win. Florida has an argument if USC loses, but first they have to beat Arkansas (and I'm not sure they can/will). Michigan had their chance but couldn't close the deal (though if both USC and Florida lose, Michigan backs into the title game in the Rematch No One Really Wants To See.)

That's it. Over 15 weeks, 119 teams is down to either 4, 3 or 2 teams, depending on tomorrow's results and your CFB worldview.

In every other sport with a traditional playoff, teams can lose – not just once or twice, but lots of times – yet still get a shot at the title. It produces a decisive champion but devalues the regular season.

Only college football is so exclusively brutal that even a single off week can kill a team's title chances -- and two off-weeks end the season.

It's what makes college football's regular season the best in sports by a ridiculously wide margin – because it's the only one where every game -- every week -- is meaningful.

We can agree that college football should have some sort of playoff system (though I have yet to hear of any system -- from a 4-team playoff to an 8-team playoff to a "Plus-One" after the bowls are over -- that doesn't create as many problems as it solves.)

But we can also agree that the sports world gets a little less intense now that every Saturday, week-in and week-out, won't be its own quasi-playoff elimination round.

Meanwhile, here's where we stand for tomorrow's games:

If USC beats UCLA, they're in the national title game. (And they will beat UCLA. But wouldn't it be deviously fun if they didn't?)

Presuming USC wins, if Florida beats Arkansas, the Gators are in the Sugar Bowl, with a legit (if futile) gripe about their BCS-title-game worthiness. This is the result BCS-haters should be rooting for...

...Because if Florida loses and USC wins, even the biggest BCS-haters have to agree that the system worked this season.

(And again: The worst-case scenario is that both Florida and USC lose, with Michigan backing into the national title game and a rematch that no real fan could possibly think is good for the sport. Actually, no: The worst-case scenario is that USC loses, Florida wins and somehow, Michigan still ends up in a rematch with Ohio State, with Florida shut out. I don't write that as a Florida fan; I write that as a college football fan.)

To sum up:
USC win/Florida loss: Current system works!
USC win/Florida win: Argument for playoff!
USC loss/Florida loss: Sucks for everyone!
USC loss/Florida win: The sport is ruined!*
(* - Presuming UF still can't jump Michigan.)

Plus: There are two conference title games – one official, one unofficial – that are worth watching, because they represent college football's two biggest Cinderella stories of the season:

In the ACC, how can you NOT be rooting for Wake Forest to beat Georgia Tech and claim the ACC's BCS spot.

And in the Big East, if Rutgers wins at West Virginia, they win a BCS ticket to the Orange Bowl and complete college football's biggest Cinderella story since Northwestern went to the Rose Bowl in 1995.

And, in the ultimate rivalry game, you can't beat Army-Navy.

Be sure to drop by the blog all day Saturday for our final College Football Live-Comment Tailgate of the 2006 regular season.

-- D.S.


Anonymous said...

Dan, if you are truly going to argue that the BCS creates a season-long playoff system, then the only logical Championship game is Ohio St. v. Boise St. Everyone else in the BCS top 10 has been beaten by (a) either Ohio St or Boise St, or (b) by someone who lost to Ohio St or Boise St.

CMFost said...

To sum up:
USC win/Florida loss: Current system works!
USC win/Florida win: Argument for playoff!
USC loss/Florida loss: Sucks for everyone!

Hey Dan - What about a USC Loss and a Florida Win? What does that do?

CMFost said...

Dan you sneaky little man. Some one calls you out for missing something on the post and you sneak it in there after the fact.

To sum up:
USC win/Florida loss: Current system works!
USC win/Florida win: Argument for playoff!
USC loss/Florida loss: Sucks for everyone!

Modified Post
To sum up:
USC win/Florida loss: Current system works!
USC win/Florida win: Argument for playoff!
USC loss/Florida loss: Sucks for everyone!
USC loss/Florida win: The sport is ruined!*
(* - Presuming UF still can't jump Michigan.)

amr said...

Big 12: Nebraska vs Oklahoma.
Oklahoma can claim a big "refs screwed us out of the National Title Game" with a big win.

CorrND said...

Isn't the only point of the BCS system/formula to decide who should play in the championship game? If USC wins and Florida loses, the system didn't "work", it was simply pointless.

If 1 vs. 2 is obvious, there's no reason to have a formula, correct?

The only reason to have a formula is to decide in situations when it's NOT obvious.

CorrND said...

To expand on my previous point, I find it funny that the only time people get up in arms about the BCS is when it does the only thing it was designed to do.

Jeff, my point is that if you (or a selection committee or the NCAA president or Mr. Shanoff or whatever) want to dictate that Michigan is the best team and should play Ohio St., then you don't need the BCS to do that for you.

Anonymous said...

it's pretty obvious to those of us who did not grow up in SEC/Big10/Big12/Pac10 land why Lou/Rutgers or Boise St. get no traction in the NC debate:
(this has become one of my favorite catch phrases of BCS haters).

Case-in-point: who has SC beaten? An overrated Arkasas team, an overrated ND team (if you don't think ND is overrated, you are blinded by the golden dome), and an overrated Pac-10.
Plus they lost to Oregon St. a team NOBODY has in their top 10, and most don't have in their top 20.

CMFost said...

I hate to get off point but this is the comical story of the day.

pv845 said...

If everyone wants to complain about the BCS now, just think if the unthinkable happens... Ohio State LOSES the BCS championship. YOu want to talk about people up in arms about not getting the BCS championship, think about the arguments for who should BE the BCS champion.

pv845 said...

I guess I should clarify my point that I think it will be an even greater injustice to automatically give the BCS championship to the team that lucked into the Title game and wins.

Dan Shanoff said...

It's going to be quite interesting to see the Michigan fans' reaction when LSU beats UM in the Rose Bowl.

Were Michigan fans this confident/arrogant heading into the Rose Bowl in January '05?

Honestly: It's not my Florida bias (though I know you all don't believe me). I think no one can definitively say that Michigan is better than Florida, given that Michigan has a grand total of ONE "significant" win this season (and that was over a Notre Dame team we all agree is vastly overrated). And please stop offering up Wisconsin as a "significant" win.

Let's be clear here: The most impressive thing that Michigan did all season was lose.

Tony P. said...

How hard is this? Use the BCS to seed the top 8 teams in the country. All 6 Power conference winners get an autobid, and the two highest ranked teams that didn't win their conference get in as well.

Who would love this:
Critics who claim the national championship should be decided on the field.
The conferences whose conference championship games are essentially meaningless right now.

Who would hate this:
Teams that don't play in power conferences would rarely make the tourney. Then again they don't have a chance now either...
Notre Dame would have to win a really competitive wild card spot to get in, and that would drive Golden Domers nuts.

How would it play out this year (possibly)?

#1: Ohio St. (Big 10 Champ)
#2: USC (Pac 10 Champs)
#3: Michigan (Wild Card #1)
#4: Florida (SEC Champs, presumably)
#5: LSU (Wild Card, #2)
#6: West Virginia (Big East Champs)
#7: Oklahoma (Big 12 Champs)
#8: Wake Forest (ACC Champs)

3 weeks, 7 great games, 1 true champ

Natsfan74 said...

Wow -- it's pretty hard to question the USC Schedule when 2 of their non-conference wins are against teams playing in Conference Championships tomorrow. When Arkansas wins, and maybe even Nebraska wins (did you see the UNL/TEX game), will that make them look better?

As a Buckeye fan, I would love to have the chance to see our defense shut down Mike Hart after his post-game comments, but as a football fan I think a rematch would be the worst thing they could do in the BCS.

So let's all focus tomorrow on the one game that really matters. Go Army! Beat Navy!

Trey (formerly TF) said...

Michigan is a good team, but take away that prevent defense touchdown, would we be saying they are a definitive #2?

I'm being objective here, did anyone seriously doubt that OSU was going to lose that game in the last 5 minutes? No! Had they got the onside...maybe.

Clearly USC is #2, hands down they should be in the title game. However, they knocked the crap out of ND too, so the Michigan ND win is not as special as it was. The Wisconsin win was nice, but Wisconsin has TWO wins over teams with winning records (Purdue,Penn State)

I just don't think Michigan is as CLEAR CUT a number 2 as the talking heads/Michigan fans believe they are.

Joe (Dayton)

Unknown said...

Anonymous said...

The most impressive thing Michigan did this season was two-fold, and it involved Notre Dame:
1) eliminated all of the bitching about a national championship from their fans that we would have heard UP TO last weekend
2) eliminated Brady Quinn from the Heisman discussion, which ND fans would also have bitched about at least up to last weekend, and maybe still

AND, their arguments would have been sorta justified, if ND was undefeated. So, on behalf of Michigan football, a big YOU'RE WELCOME to all non-ND fans.

And, also, Dan, I like your instant history schtick. But, with your assumption that Michigan will lose to LSU, I must say that I am in strong disfavor of your instant future schtick.

PS: We knew that we would lose to USC in 04, and weren't exactly planning our victory parade early against Texas the next year. Might I add, those teams, without much shakeup, won National Championships the next year!

Trey (formerly TF) said...

Jeff said...
So what "significant" win did Flordia have? LSU?

LSU 10-2; @ Tennessee (9-3); Georgia (8-4)

I've seen michigan play, and i've seen flordia play. Flordia wins ugly, but they win. Michigan win's strong and they win.

You mean like Ball State, Northwestern, Minnesota? Michigan really handled those teams who don't have winning records.

Also, why should Wisconsin be a "Significant" win? Because it doesn't factor into your ultimate plan? Any 10-1 team that comes out of a big conference is a good team.

It's a good win, no denying, but you can't ignore the fact that they have 2 wins over teams with winning records. Boise State might have played a harder schedule...seriously.

Dan, I understand that there are a lot of michigan fans that read your blog, and post comments. And for some reason you enjoy being an internet troll to them... hey, maybe it is fun? But sometimes doesn't your reputation have to sit on your shoulder and say "Maybe I shouldn't say that, I know better."

What has he brought up that isn't a legit comment?

Joe (Dayton)

CMFost said...

However, they knocked the crap out of ND too, so the Michigan ND win is not as special as it was.

Except for the fact that Michigan won at ND and USC won at Home. I think makes Michigan's win more impressive.

Anonymous said...

Not arguing his worthiness. I'm just saying that he's a distant second now, whereas he would have been neck and neck with Troy Smith without the loss to Michigan. And, there are a lot of people who would hate to see that happen simply because he's from Notre Dame.

BTW, I never really thought about it from that angle, but you're right that he's carrying that team.

Anonymous said...

Michigan had their shot to be #1 and blew it. Otherwise, in what sense does "every game count"? They lost late in the season in their most important game, they can't be national champions. And they don't deserve a shot.

Trey (formerly TF) said...

Michigan fans are using Penn State, why can't Florida use UGA? Both are 8-4...

Tennessee is 9-3, with a blowout win over Cal, their three losses are to Florida, Arkansas, and LSU...not shabby.

Listen Florida still needs to win tomorrow for this to mean shit. But if they do it will be another good win. I just think it's stupid to discount them if USC loses.

Joe (Dayton)

Dan Shanoff said...

I don't think it's crazy to suggest that the most impressive thing Michigan did this season is lose by only 3 at Ohio State (though everyone who watched the game agrees that it wasn't as close as the score indicated...yet I'm willing to give Michigan credit on this).

I feel for Boise State. They had one signature win -- clobbering a team that beat USC. They're like the "Transitive Property Pac-10 Champions." But you can make a case that "head-to-head, once-removed" they deserve a spot in the title game ahead of USC. No one will believe in that logic, but there it is.

Say this for the system: At least they created this fifth bowl so that non-BCS teams like Boise State can get to a marquee game and (a) get some national exposure and (b) get a ton of money. But even if there was an 8-team playoff, as long as you were using a human poll, coaches' poll and computer poll aggregate to determine your field, Boise still wouldn't make it. I'm not saying I agree with it, I'm just pointing it out.

I can't really get into the flaws of the various playoff suggestions here. I think once things are settled next week, I'll have time/space to do it.

(By the way, you've got to allow me to mix it up with you -- and potentially say asinine things -- in the Comment area. I enjoy it. It's a place for me to try out arguments. It's a way for me to be a little more informal or get into the meat of specific arguments that I can't do in a regular old blog post. If I'm sometimes an idiot, I can only hope that I sometimes say things of even minimal value.

And, of course, I always welcome your rebuttals and challenges to my arguments. I enjoy the being proven wrong far more than I enjoy thinking I'm right.

Anonymous said...

I'm sick of hearing "they had their shot." You can argue that they are not as good as USC, or Florida, or LSU. You can argue schedules, team rosters, stats, or whatever, but don't just say that they are disqualified because they lost an away game by three points (I know, it wasn't as close as the score, but they did win that second half). 1995 Florida proved empirically that the statement "They had their shot" is invalid.

You put both of those defenses on a field that doesn't resemble a bad toupee experiment, and you'll not only get a good game, it'll be completely different than the first one. BUT, I'm not going to argue in favor of a rematch, because the UM-LSU game looks good, too.

Trey (formerly TF) said...

Eric said...
1995 Florida proved empirically that the statement "They had their shot" is invalid.

It was 1996, and Florida had to have like 5 or 6 things go their way.

- They lost a close 1 v. 2 classic to FSU @FSU 24-21. The Bowl Coalition at the time had the deal where 1 v. 2 in the poll played in a de facto National Title game so long as they weren't Big 10 or Pac 10 (because they wouldn't agree to give up Rose Bowl spot).

- They fell to 4th in the poll behind Arizona State (undefeated) and Nebraska.

- Nebraska lost their conference title game to Texas, Florida moved to 3rd behind FSU and ASU.

- The Bowl Coalition, by contract had to take the top two teams eligible for their agreement (which was Florida and FSU). The Rose Bowl pitted Arizona State and Ohio State the day before.

- ASU lost to Ohio State, making Florida/FSU for all the marbles. UF won.

Florida had no shot at the National Title until 24 hours before their game kicked off. Florida was selected because the contract required it. NOT because the game at FSU was such a classic that it was clear Florida was #2 in the country.

Joe (Dayton)

Anonymous said...

All I'm saying is that Florida WON their rematch. If they had lost, there would be no empirical evidence that a rematch works, but they won. I'm not arguing that it takes a bunch of circumstances to get the game to happen or anything.

john (east lansing, mi) said...

Aight, Dan, I get the point; I'm outtie.

Natsfan74 said...

Not that I like defending the most overrated conference in sports -- what others call the SEC, but they did have a national chamion win the BCS just 3 years ago. It was when USC was number 1 in BOTH human polls, but LSU got to play Oklahoma in the Championship game -- despite Oklahoma losing to Kansas State in the Big XII Championship.

That's what I like best about SEC BCS winers (including the President of Florida at the moment). Their revisionist history allows them to complain about Auburn but forget about LSU and not even wait until Florida wins this week-end....

Anonymous said...

Here's an idea... let's get Ohio State and Michigan to meet next week on a neutral field.

We'll call it: "The Big Ten Championship Game."

Travis said...

Dan, why dont you be the first sports repoter on the national level to actually take some time to write about the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) While I know they dont attract the crowds the big boys in the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) but atleast they play for championships on the field.

This weekend the playoffs continue with the quarterfinals. Yes guys thats right after this Saturday theres still 2 more weeks of non bowl college football.

And guess what! New Hampshire..remember them? they the kids that went into Northwestern and put on a clinic. Well there still playing while those Wildcats of the midwest are done for the winter.

This weekends quarterfinal matches are...

Montana State @ Appalachian State

Illinois State @ Youngstown State

New Hampshire @ Massachusetts

Southern Illinois @ Montana

Anonymous said...


There, I feel better.

Travis said...

ya im rooting for the Salukis too cause then when UNH beats up on UMass UNH should host S Illinois next week. though UNH is 6-1 on the road so i suppose a road game is better.

Jen said...

I'm glad I'm a Buckeye fan, and they are undefeated and headed to AZ in January. ;)

Anonymous said...

To offer up some sure-to-be-ignored closure on the idea of matching Michigan and Ohio St again:

yes, I know Michigan could win that game. I'll even say it's a good matchup. I think you've already mentioned that championship Florida team in another post. I'm aware of that.

That's part of my point, too. Michigan doesn't deserve a second chance, Ohio St. deserves another team, and other conferences deserve their shot at a championship. I'm sorry it upsets Michigan fans to think that some other team could lose a game that they might win.

I don't know if Florida will win (this weekend or in the future), and I'm certainly no booster (I'd cheer for Syracuse if they had a Div-I team...badoomboom). I just want minor league football with a real playoff system, or at least a mathematical, unbiased ranking system. I don't care which system, just get a real system where people can't coast through to bowl games without any real challenge.

Is that so much to ask?

BLUE said...

The truth is, you have to feel for the players/kids at a school like Boise State. You'll never get a George Mason in college football because of the system. Over the last few years, Utah, Auburn and now Boise State, have all finished undefeated yet don't get any kind of recognition that perhaps they are a "special" team. It's ridiculous, and why I hate the bullshit championship series.

Trey (formerly TF) said...

Overrated conference? As an SEC fan I'll admit, we do get the benefit in most years. However, how the HECK is the SEC overrated this year?

We're 9-6 against the BCS, while the Big 10 is 7-6.

We're 40-7 out of conference, while the Big 10 is 33-11.

We've got 4 teams with 10 wins.

Big 10 has 3.

We've got 9 bowl eligible teams

The Big 10 has 7.

We've got 8 teams with WINNING records.

The Big 10 has 5.

Our worst bowl eligble team, ranked 9th in conference (Alabama) beat Hawaii

The 5th ranked team in Big 10 (Purdue) lost to Hawaii.

We have 0 losses to D-IAA

The Big 10 has 2.

Now where exactly is the SEC overrated this year?

Joe (Dayton)

Travis said...

Yes Biff. Also the playoffs could occur during the later parts of December like the Bowls and not effect school at all as they are out for winter break.

And the NCAA can even keep the money generating bowls by having them sponsor the game of each round the premier bowls (Orange, Fiesta, Rose, Sugar) can sponsor the later rounds and alternate the championship game every 4 years.

PS its not I-A and I-AA anymore its now FBS and FCS (Football Bowl Subdivision and Football Championship Subdivision) these names went into effect the day following the former I-AA regular season.

Steve said...

Some people (me) don't give a shit about the armed forces: either the soldiers or their football teams. Army and Navy are both irrelevant and have been for 40 years. The Army-Navy game is just as irrelevant. I have never once in my 30 year lifetime said boy I can't wait to watch Army-Navy. Nor have I watched more than 5 minutes of this 'rivalry' in my lifetime.

This is definitely the most annoying thing about 9-11, the media force feeding us patriotism at every turn. Give it a fucking rest already, the whole world doesn't revolve around the U.S. and its armed forces.

Anonymous said...

Steve, really, keep it up and maybe you'll inspire us to re-instate the draft. At least for you.