Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Now, About That BCS Playoff System
(Why a 4-Team, "Plus-One" Won't Work)


See earlier posts:
My Final CFB Top 10! (Scandal!)
Tuesday Quickie: Gator Mania!

CFB Playoff in the future? The SEC commish and BCS coordinator Mike Slive says he's open to a four-team playoff that results in a "Plus-One" title game. However, this year serves as a cautionary tale:

Which four teams would you have picked to be in this so-called playoff that determines the champion "on the field?" Ohio State, obviously. Florida. Then who: Michigan? LSU?

See, in hindsight, looking at Michigan's final AP ranking (8th), it is ludicrous to think that they would have deserved to be in a four-team playoff. Not just deserved to be, but a LOCK -- the 3-seed! After the bowls, the more accurate answer for those other two teams are LSU and USC, but even then: What about Boise, who finished 5th, a mere handful of poll points behind USC and with a vastly better record against the only common opponent Boise and USC shared?

Here's my point: A four-team playoff doesn't solve the problems. Not when the No. 5 team is as worthy as any of the two ahead of them in any given 4-team field. Not when picking those 4 teams is so loaded with problems. Let's sum it up with the label "The Michigan Problem."

Michigan's seemingly "obvious" place in a 4-team playoff this year (on Dec. 3) would have screwed either LSU or USC -- the omission of either of which would have been a travesty (not to mention the omission of Boise State).

Simply put: A 4-team playoff* just doesn't solve the basic structural problem with the system. And, as everyone barks for it in the aftermath of the BCS title game, they can't even explain how it would have worked THIS season. At least fairly. Or accurately.

-- D.S.

(* - Even if we had an 8-team playoff this year, it would have been problematic. Start with the assumption that any 8-team field must include the 6 BCS conference champs as automatic bids. You get two "at-large" picks, so tell me which team you're going to screw over: Michigan, LSU or Boise State?

Again, we have a Michigan Problem: On Jan. 9, everyone can agree that Michigan has no business being picked ahead of either LSU or Boise. But on Dec. 3, no one would have listened to you about that.

And, consequently, one very viable team -- a team that turns out to be better than Michigan -- would be left out, while Michigan would have received what we all now know would have been a patently ridiculous 3-seed among the 8 tems.)


Richard said...


(The 11 conference champions and the 5 highest ranked teams after that. This idea is so stupid that it would actually get the NCAA to approve it!)

Hende said...

If commishes are starting to warm up to the idea of a playoff, why make it harder to accept by throwing huge logistic problems at them? Instead of demanding a 16, 64, or 128 team playoff now, let them start small with a 4 team or Plus One. It's progress.

If you want to exclude cases like Michigan, only allow conference winners into the 4 teams. Had there been a 4 team playoff this year, USC, LSU (and Florida) could have eliminated the Michigan problem by not losing during the season. There's the de-facto playoff you like to quote.

Natsfan74 said...

I agree that a four team playoff isn't enough and it isn't going to settle anything. I think that for all of its problems, the BCS is still the best we can hope for.

An 8-16 team playoff is unreasonable to expect. It would be logistically challenging, and it would completely destroy the bowl system which so many other teams would still rely on. One other thing about a tournament is the number of games a team would have to play. That will inevitably favor the bigger schools who have more size, strength, and most importantly depth. I think we would all agree that Boise State was fading fast in the 4th quarter/ OT of the Oklahoma. Heck, they knew it too or they wouldn't have gone for 2 on the very first overtime (I even thought they might at the end of regulation after the way OU moved the ball so effectively in the 4th quarter). Now take that same undersized team that doesn't have the depth of the big boys and make him do it again a week later. If the SEC teams complain about beating themselves up week in and week out, now picture a Cindarella Team trying to run that same gauntlet. Florida had the depth to replace Wynn and Harvin early in the season when they were hobbled. Would BSU be able to replace Johnson as easily? A one and done championship game gives a lot more hope to a non-BCS conference team than a tournament ever would.

Unknown said...

hindsight is always 20/20.
It'd be nice if the games were played closer to the end of the season...or can the season be pushed back a few weeks?

CMFost said...

Only way it works is a 16 team playoff. That is it anything else opens up to much room for conterversy

Tim said...

Even if team 5,6,7, etc.. were left off, wouldn't you feel better with a team that won more then one game to claim the title of national championship?

If Florida beat Michigan and Ohio State in a four team playoff, that would be as convincing of a champ that I have seen...

Anonymous said...

So basically, what we are saying is, there is never going to be a playoff system that works, so why make a playoff system, so why not keep the BCS' imperfect title game scheme as it stands now?

You will NEVER make the loud minority (or silent majority) happy, so stop trying.

Anonymous said...

Hey, OSU got blown out by more and earlier in the game than Michigan did.

Does that mean they don't belong either? Hindsight is 20/20. The fact is, you can get blown out in the postseason, and still have a regular season deserving of that spot. Let's not pretend that the future in any way affects the past.

Jason said...

Playoffs are more exciting. See the NFL put the NCAA in the dust with regards to the postseason. The BCS is in place to make the Championship game the Defacto Bowl game of the season. But that wasn't the case this year - BSU/Ok was.

Do away with the conference champ games and institute a 16-team playoff. This year sorta worked out (though talk to BSU, Louisville and Wis - all 1 loss or less teams) about deserving. A playoff settles everything. Heck, even a plus 1 would; just implement that the plus one is used if the top 2 teams (using BCS rankings) finish tied with losses AND they did not play each other.

Craig said...

You also have to figure the Notre Dame factor. If they got into a BCS game this year, you can't tell me they wouldn't get into a BCS playoff system somehow.

Geoff-Detroit said...

Based on Michigan's regular season they would have deserved a #2 or #3 seed. You can't suddenly say they weren't worthy because of what happened a month and a half later. It's not a "Michigan Problem" it is a "College football horrible scheduling problem". And why don't they deserve to be ahead of LSU? They have a common opponent that they both handled equally well, and in Michigan's case they did it on the road where as LSU did it at home.

But you don't like Michigan and you are purposely trying to stir shit up. Bravo.

amr said...

If it were an 8-team playoff this year, the at-large bids surely would have been Mich and ND.

amr said...

Actually, the best way to do this would be for some dudes to look at the standings and polls at the end of the season and determine what the playoff schedule is.

At the end of 2003, you have three majors with one loss: USC, LSU, and Oklahoma. Either throw out Oklahoma because they didn't win their conference, add Michigan or one of these minors: Miami (OH), Boise, Texas Christian. Actually, this would be a good year for a 6 or 8 team tourney.

At the end of 2004, you have four undefeateds. USC, Oklahoma, Auburn, and Utah. There's you're 4-team tourney.

At the end of 2005, it's obviously a two-team, one-game playoff, as there are two undefeateds and both are from Majors.

At the end of 2006, I'm maybe putting Florida, Boise, tOSU, and Louisville in. (Win your major with one loss or less or be an undefeated minor.) YMMV.

Dave Rothgery said...

I'm not a big fan of the plus-one model (especially in the 'play the traditional bowls and then pick a #1 vs. #2 game' version), but a 4-team playoff is an improvement over the two-team playoff we've got today. So if the college presidents, ADs, and conference powers that be will go for it, and won't go for the sixteen-team model (as per the first comment here) which I think is the minimum needed for rational playoffs or an eight-team playoff, then let's go ahead and do it.

Sure, it's unlikely that there will be a clear-cut top 4, and sometimes an iffy #4 will upset an obvious #1. But that happens in the current system -- and did last night, when an iffy #2 (before the bowls, was there any rational reason -- besides the SEC superiority complex -- to believe Florida was any more deserving of being in the BCS title game than Michigan, Louisville, or Boise?) upset a clear-cut #1. A four-team tournament would pretty much ensure all major conference unbeatens get a shot, and would at least let a few other contenders in when there's some contraversy over who's #1/2.

Jeff said...

Using your logic Oklahoma shouldn't of been in a BCS game, Ohio State shouldn't be in that playoff either since they lost so big. Who cares about the regular season? Since OSU and Michigan both got beat badly in their bowl games that OBVIOUSLY means it would be rediculous for them to be in a +1 format if it existed.

Since New York Giants lost in the NFL playoffs that obviously means that Green Bay should of went.

See the problem with your logic? Even more so when you are the biggest proponet of "The regular season is the de facto playoff." So, dan, if you ever want to be taken seriously as a sports writer (which sometimes I question if you do.) Stop being a hypocrite and stop being so biased. Think before you type things.

Nathan said...

i would rather fight about who should be in a 4 team playoff than who should be in the top game.

It is much better to exclude one or two teams from a 4 team playoff than the final game. At least you have 4 teams worthy, playing for the championship.

Unknown said...

The argument is ridiculous. No matter how many teams are selected for a playoff, there is always some criteria used. If N teams are selected then the N+1st team is always griping. Tough. You have the rest of the season to make sure you qualify. If LSU doesn't like being left off, then they need to win the SEC. If Boise doesn't like being left off, then they need to schedule a couple of kickass opponents.

Even in the NFL, in the case of the 1,000,000:1 shot that 2 teams are tied, they use a coin flip. Can you tell me that the Giants making the playoffs over the other 8-8 teams or KC over the other 9-7 teams is more than just a selection based upon rules that really don't select the best team?

With unconnected 12 game schedules, there is no way to know. Use the current BCS rankings, grab the top 4,8, or 16 and be done with it. The last team out will always bitch about the system not being fair.