Greg Cote supports a non-playoff format

Colt McCoyGreg Cote of the Miami Herald thinks the BCS format in college football is just fine and that a playoff wouldn’t be any better than the current system.

Instead it looks as if we will be getting an Oklahoma Sooners team that would be 12-1 against either a 13-0 Alabama or a 12-1 mighty-hot Florida. Sounds like a legitimate championship game to me. Sounds like if you don’t agree, you are either insane or turning sour grapes into whine because your beloved Texas Longhorns just missed. The odd-team-out always claims an entitlement that does not exist.

True, we should get a good game this year in the national championship. But nobody is debating that.

A playoff is impractical because it would require a significantly shorter regular season, which would fail to win support from schools and conferences, if only for financial reasons.

No problem. Take Michigan Technical School for the Blind off of Michigan’s schedule, Reading Rainbow Camp off of Texas’s schedule, ITT off of Florida’s schedule and every other no-name program that the bigger schools play twice a year and that frees up two weeks. Start conference play Week 1 or Week 2 if you’re worried about having enough time at the end of the year.

If you had a four-team playoff based on the current BCS rankings, you don’t think No. 5 Southern California and No. 6 (and unbeaten) Utah wouldn’t be crying foul?

Make it an eight-team playoff, and how do you think No. 9 (and unbeaten) Boise State would be feeling right now?

An arguably deserving team always will be left out, whether it’s whatever playoff format you choose or whether it’s two teams in a championship game.

The BCS works because, in effect, it is a playoff to reach the championship. Teams in the top six or so are in it every year, and it kicks in around mid-October, when the BCS rankings begin. The way the format works is, don’t lose late. Period.

So if teams will be left out no matter what, why not give college football fans (essentially) two playoffs? Teams would be fighting to get into the eight-team playoff in October (which, in Cote’s words is like a playoff), and again when the actual eight-team playoff starts. What’s the harm in that? And at least teams that potentially could be left out (teams like Boise State and Utah) have a better shot to play for a national title in an eight-team playoff than they do in the current system where they have zero chance.

The absence of precise black and white is college football’s unique, enduring asset. The BCS maintains the tradition of bowl games while ultimately deciding the champion on the field, not by polls.

You get a recognized champion and you get the inevitable debate. That’s the best of both worlds — and that’s what the pro-playoff crowd never seems to get.

The bowl games are a joke. And if crowning a champion and getting to bitch about the current BCS system is getting the best of both worlds, than I must be missing a few brain cells because it’s not fun to watch this mess take place every year. What would be fun is a damn eight-team playoff. What would be fun is watching USC come from a 6 seed and knock off a 5 seed and then a 3 seed and on and on.

Cote’s idea that it’s fun to debate about this crap system every year is ridiculous. Debating isn’t part of the fun – it’s part of the frustration.

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What would a college football playoff look like this year? (Part 3)

(Be sure to check out Part 1 and Part 2 of this series.)

With Oklahoma vaulting ahead of Texas in the BCS standings, it is a clear reminder that the BCS system is horribly flawed. Each team has one loss and Texas beat Oklahoma on a neutral field. Texas’ only loss was to a good Texas Tech team on the road, and it shouldn’t outweigh the Longhorns’ win over the Sooners. Oklahoma did have two great non-conference wins (Cincinnati and TCU), while Texas didn’t really play anyone out of conference. Still, should a strong non-conference schedule outweigh Texas head-to-head win over Oklahoma? Apparently, USA Today and the computer rankings think so. (For their part, Harris Poll voters had Texas #3 and Oklahoma #4.)

This brings me back to my proposed eight-team playoff that I introduced a couple of weeks ago. Here are the assumptions.

1. There will be an eight-team playoff, with the six BCS-conference champs getting an automatic bid.

2. If a conference champ is ranked lower than #15 in the rankings, they give up their automatic bid and it becomes an at-large bid. (This rule is to ensure that the regular season keeps its meaning and only the elite teams make the playoffs.)

3. Seeds and at-large bids are distributed based on the current BCS standings. Certainly, these rankings can be tweaked, but they are fine for now. If an at-large team has a better BCS ranking than a conference champion, they will get a higher seed.

4. There will be three rounds of playoffs. The first round will be held at the home stadium of the higher-seeded team. The semifinals and the final will rotate amongst the four BCS cities (Miami, Pasadena, Tempe and New Orleans).

So how does this weekend’s action affect the playoff field?

8-seed Cincinnati @ 1-seed Alabama
A 30-10 win over Syracuse puts the Bearcats at #13. Cincy still has to beat Hawaii to stay playoff-eligible. Meanwhile, Alabama has a date with #4 Florida in the SEC Championship Game this Saturday.

5-seed USC @ 4-seed Florida
Since the Gators still have to play Alabama, this matchup probably won’t happen since Florida will likely move up or down in the BCS rankings depending on how they fare against the Crimson Tide. A bad loss to Alabama might knock the Gators out of the playoffs since the #7 and #8 seeds are conference champions, and Boston College might very well move into the playoffs with a win over Virginia Tech. If that were to happen, and USC were to leapfrog Florida, the Gators could very well miss the playoffs.

6-seed Utah @ 3-seed Texas
Utah remains the only non-BCS conference representative. With wins over #11 TCU and #18 BYU, they have the best resume of the three non-BCS schools in contention. (Boise St. and Ball St. are the other two.) The Utes need to root for a Virginia Tech win over Boston College.

7-seed Penn St. @ 2-seed Oklahoma
OU still has to beat Missouri in the Big 12 Championship Game to remain the 2-seed. If Alabama loses to Florida and the Sooners are convincing in their win over the Tigers, they could move up. They could also fall completely out of the playoffs with a loss to Missouri.

Since Cincy moved into the BCS Top 15, they earned a berth in the playoffs. The lowest ranked at-large team – Texas Tech – were pushed out of the playoffs. #17 Boston College could conceivably move into the Top 15 with a win over #25 Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game, and in that case, Utah would likely be the team to be knocked out of the playoffs. (And that would be a shame.)

Of the teams that are on the outside looking in, only #9 Boise St. and #12 Ball St. don’t have losses to teams that made the playoffs. #10 Ohio St. lost to USC and Penn St., #11 TCU lost to Oklahoma, and #14 Oklahoma St. lost to Texas and Oklahoma. So, despite what the anti-playoff crowd says, the regular season still matters with this playoff system.

Since it looks like Boise St. and Ball St. will miss the playoffs, and a Boston College win might push Utah out, it might be interesting to have a four-team playoff amongst the best non-BCS teams to see who has the right to make the playoffs. Of course, this would add two games to the schedule and it might just be easier just to go to a 12-team field (though most of those extra slots could easily go to BCS schools like Texas Tech and Ohio St.)

Check out Part 4 now.

The bottom line to the BCS/playoff debate

I’m not afraid to say that I am a casual college football fan.

During the regular season, I will watch a handful of games, usually those that feature matchups between two top 10 schools. I don’t get too invested in the college football regular season because I know that it’s probably going to come to a disappointing conclusion. There will be a BCS Championship Game that will pit the top two teams in the country against each other, but there is always a debate about who truly belongs in that game.

That’s the only postseason game I’ll watch. At that point in the season, I only really care about teams that still have a shot to win the national championship, and that late in the game, it’s down to two teams. I couldn’t care less about the other BCS bowls because they have absolutely no impact on who will be the national champion.

College football purists probably look down their nose at guys like me, but I don’t really care. Fans like me are the ones that could take the sport of college football to the next level.

If there were an eight-team playoff, I would sit down and watch every single one of those seven games. If the BCS-playoff debate is about money, then I don’t see how doubling the number of games that the casual fan watches can do anything but increase ratings (and ad revenue).

Also, knowing that the college football season would come to a solid, undisputed conclusion, I would find these late season play-in games a lot more interesting. Under the current system, I’m not going to watch #12 Oklahoma State try to knock off #3 Oklahoma. But if the Cowboys were to have a shot to make it the playoffs (and to knock the Sooners out), then I might tune in. The same goes for the Florida/Florida St. matchup.

Suddenly, a casual fan that used to watch 5-10 games a year is now watching 20 or more. How is this bad for college football?

What would a college football playoff look like this year? (Part 2)

I debuted this feature last week, but now that another week’s worth of games are behind us, it’s wise to take another look.

First, my assumptions:

1. There will be an eight-team playoff, with the six BCS-conference champs getting an automatic bid.

2. If a conference champ is ranked lower than #15 in the rankings, they give up their automatic bid and it becomes an at-large bid. (This rule is to ensure that the regular season keeps its meaning.)

3. Seeds and at-large bids are distributed based on the current BCS standings. Certainly, these rankings can be tweaked, but they are fine for now. If an at-large team has a better BCS ranking than a conference champion, they will get a higher seed.

4. There will be three rounds of playoffs. The first round will be held at the home stadium of the higher-seeded team. The semifinals and the final will rotate amongst the four BCS cities (Miami, Pasadena, Tempe and New Orleans).

Off we go…

#8 Penn State (11-1) @ #1 Alabama (11-0)

#5 USC (9-1) @ #4 Florida (10-1)

#7 Texas Tech (10-1) @ #2 Texas (10-1)

#6 Utah (12-0) @ #3 Oklahoma (10-1)

In this case, since likely conference champions #16 Cincinnati (Big East), #17 Oregon State (Pac-10) and #20 Florida State (ACC) are not in the top 15 of the BCS rankings (and are therefore not one of the “elite” teams in the country), they give up their automatic berths.

Compared to last week, with the institution of the “Top 15 Rule,” Cincinnati would no longer get a berth, but since the Bearcats are at #16 and still have two games to play, they could still finish in the top 15. Right now, Texas Tech would be the first at-large team to lose its spot, and given the drubbing they took this weekend, that makes sense.

With Cincy no longer qualifying, #6 Utah moved into the playoffs. Undefeated Boise State is currently ranked #9 in both human polls and the BCS rankings. Their computer ranking (.630) just doesn’t measure up to Tech’s (.890).

Other than Boise State, the teams that are on the outside looking in — #10 Ohio State, #11 Georgia, #12 Oklahoma State, #13 Missouri and #14 TCU — all have losses to teams that made the playoffs, so the regular season still matters, despite what the pro-BCS crowd says.

So, how does it look?

Pro-BCS’er Jason Whitlock knows best

We took a poll last year and 90% of our readers said that the BCS should be trashed in favor of a playoff system. It takes guts (or something) to stand up against that kind of popular opinion, and Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock is the latest to take up the mantle, using President-elect Barack Obama’s pro-playoff stance as a starting point.

Like I did with similar arguments from Tim Cowlishaw and John Walters, let me respond to Whitlock point-by-point…

I realize I’m one of just a handful of American men unpleased by Obama using the weight of the presidency to pressure college presidents to disband the BCS. He knows this, too. It’s probably pretty much all he really knows about big-time college football. Fans — Republican, Democrat and Libertarian — are dissatisfied with the current system. There’s virtually no risk in bashing the BCS.

Why is that? I’m not one to argue that the majority is always right, but when 90% of the populace agrees on something, we should probably go ahead and give it a try.

President-elect Obama doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about, and he diminishes his high office and invites other politicians to join him by foolishly entering a debate that has life only because “Joe the Sports Writer/Broadcaster” can’t wrap his brain around sports issues of substance.

Now Whitlock claims that anyone that is pro-playoff “can’t wrap his brain around sports issues of substance.” Mind you, he hasn’t yet made an actual point, but he is already declaring that anyone who doesn’t agree with him just simply isn’t as smart as he is.

Yeah, by lending his name to this non-issue, Obama has pleased every Bubba in America and pretty much ensured that big-time college football will continue an escalation toward professionalism and exploitation of “amateur” athletes.

Okay, here’s the big windup…

Let me quickly repeat the argument I introduced in the mid-1990s:

Division I-A college football has the greatest regular season in all team sports, and a playoff system would ruin that distinction. For decades, coaches and players focused on winning conference championships and were quite satisfied with a “mythical” national championship decided by poll voters. The advent of ESPN and sports-talk radio created the fallacy that the lack of a playoff system scars athletes, fans, women and children, contributes to global terrorism and delays Santa Claus’ delivery run on Christmas Eve.

There’s nothing wrong with college football on the field. It is America’s healthiest sport in terms of consistent entertainment value. This is not even remotely debatable.

So Whitlock’s argument is that the college football regular season is perfect as is, and that it was sports-talk radio that created a “fallacy” that the sport needs a playoff. Assuming this is correct, sports-talk radio was successful in convincing 90% of college football fans that the current system – the very system they were supposedly “fans” of – was broken. Wow, sports-talk radio must be really powerful. How often do 90% of Americans agree on anything?

He also declares that it is “not remotely debatable” to say that any other sport is as consistently entertaining as college football. I know a few million NFL fans that would beg to differ.

There’s a lot wrong with college athletics. Many football and basketball players are funneled through the system without receiving much of an education. Coaches and administrators are paid salaries that invite questionable ethics. Too many athletes arrive on campus completely unprepared to be educated and solely interested in the development of their bodies. The use of performance-enhancing drugs is out of control within most athletic departments.

These and other issues are worthy of discussion at the presidential level.

Who’s No. 1? How to set up an eight-team playoff format?

Leave that to the idiots.

This is a classic debate tool. Distract from the real issue by making points that almost everyone can agree with and then act like you’ve won the argument. Just because there are other issues to deal with in collegiate athletics, it doesn’t mean that Obama shouldn’t help to facilitate something that 90% of college football fans want to see.

He didn’t say why a playoff would ruin the regular season, he just stated that it would, as if it were a fact.

I guess that’s just one of those “sports issues of substance” that we mere mortals just can’t wrap our brains around. Jason Whitlock says he knows best, and therefore he must.

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