For College Football fans and pundits around the country the impending end to the regular season means one thing: the age-old debate over a playoff system.
Every year analysts and fans debate the merits of dumping, or at least modifying the current bowl system in favor of a postseason similar to college basketball. Until recently, coaches have attempted to remain neutral on the issue, rarely taking a stance on either side. All of that changed in 2004, when a record five teams finished their season undefeated, each with National Championship aspirations.
When Tommy Tuberville's Auburn Tigers were left as the odd team out of the National Championship game, the coach was outraged and spoke openly to the media about the unfairness of the Bowl Championship Series system and the necessity in college football for a playoff system.
This year there are seven undefeated teams and an abundance of one-loss squads that have national championship aspirations, making the debate for a playoff system as relevant as ever. Two teams currently atop the BCS Top 25, Michigan and Ohio State, are set to square off Nov. 18 with the loser likely out of the National Championship hunt. Many feel that these are the two best teams in the country and eliminating one squad taints the National Championship Game.
"I support a playoff," Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr said. I think it would give us the chance to decide a champion on the field."
Carr says he became a playoff advocate last year when the Big Ten voted to add a 12th game.
Some coaches disagreed with Carr's sentiments, including Iowa Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz. "At some point you have to put the welfare of your players first. If we go down the playoff road, then we are not thinking that way," Ferentz said.
"Having a full fledged playoff would be a bit much for the students. Besides, schools need that 12th game to remain financially viable," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said.
However, Tressel did say that the debate over the issue is healthy for the sport and that he would not be opposed to revising the current BCS system.
Penn State head coach Joe Paterno, agreed with Tressel's outlook. "If we get a group dialogue going, I think we'll have a system that's better than the BCS," Paterno said.
Other coaches feel that the current system puts too much pressure on coaches and media experts to watch all of the games.
"You can only catch highlights, scores, and stats to make your poll decisions," Michigan State coach John Smith said. "A lot of rankings are based on status in the league."
Another school of thought worries whether the College Football regular season will lose its level of excitement. The diminished importance of the regular season can be seen in other sports as pointed out by Purdue coach Joe Tiller. "It's kind of like the NBA playoffs, not many people get excited until the playoffs start, and it would be the same in College Football," Tiller said.
The debate over a playoff system is simply ignored by other coaches. Wisconsin's Bret Bielema attempts to keep his players focused on the upcoming game and ignores other teams across the country. He accomplishes this by preaching his now famous "1-0" mantra.
Illinois coach Ron Zook preaches with a similar philosophy stressing the necessity of taking care of your own business before worrying about the National Title picture. Too often he has seen talented teams come up short of their pre-season goals by looking ahead and focusing on things outside of their control.
It seems as though the majority of Big Ten coaches either are against the implementation of a playoff system or in some cases try to avoid the issue all together. For the foreseeable future the dispute over the college football postseason will continue for years to come.