Wisconsin’s bowl fate may be certain, but the rest of college football is probably in more limbo than it has ever been heading into December. Not only is the Bowl Championship Series picture entirely up in the air, Championship Saturday itself won’t even resolve the uncertainty, now that the SEC title game has been moved back a week.
But be sure football columnists won’t waste any time performing their annual ritual of claiming to be baffled by the BCS and advocating a ridiculous playoff system.
I beg your pardon, but I heartily disagree.
Bowls have too much tradition: Let me make this clear. I am not a fan of the BCS (though I do entirely understand its relatively elementary formula). If it were up to me, we would go back to the days when national championships were won on New Year’s Day afternoons, when teams sometimes entered bowls with title hopes but no control of their own destiny. In other words, when all bowls mattered.
Once, bowls were exciting trips — rewards for players and fans at the end of the season. A bowl win was a badge of honor, whether it was Copper or Cotton. Bowls still are, ostensibly, college football.
A playoff would either: discontinue extemporaneous bowls, somehow incorporate the venues into bracket sites or play them as meaningless contrails to the real tournament.
I can’t think of anything more damaging to the tradition of the game. March Madness is college basketball’s trademark and bowls are football’s. Fooling with that just isn’t good mojo.
And while we’re at it, can we get rid of overtime and bring the tie back to the college game?
A playoff would demean the regular season: Just recall last weekend. Would Colorado’s upset have had half the meaning if all it meant was Nebraska’s seed in the tournament would merely drop from first to fourth (what the Huskers are ranked in the current BCS standings)?
Imagine college teams that have wrapped up playoff spots resting starters in the last few weeks of the regular season, like their NFL counterparts do. It’s stomach–churning.
The only advantage I can think of is that top teams would be more willing to schedule top–flight competition in the non–conference schedule, like basketball teams now do. It’s tempting, but the late–season consequences are too appalling. College football is still the only sport where every game is a must–win.
Would a playoff really be fairer? A significant complaint about the current system is that teams which seem to have a legitimate claim to play will be left out of the 1–2 final. Last year, a one–loss Miami team that beat FSU certainly had as much a claim as the one–loss Seminoles. This season, it appears, a multiplicity of teams will be stacked at the top with one loss. I’m just waiting for a year when three teams end the regular season undefeated.
But all a playoff does is extend the also–ran spot from No. 3 to whichever rank falls just under the cutoff. Whether a four–, eight– or 16–team playoff, who is to say that Nos. 5, 9 or 17 don’t deserve just as much a chance to play as the team just a few votes or computer–points ahead of it? If you say those teams would have no chance to win anyway, why bother including so many teams (i.e. why bother with a playoff at all)?
A playoff would do nothing to eliminate controversy. Besides?
Controversy is good for college football: A No. 1 vs. No. 2 championship format may have been inevitable in the long run, but when Michigan and Nebraska shared the national title in 1997, it set the wheels in motion that created the BCS as we know it. The NCAA was embarrassed not only that its respected polls could not agree on a rightful champion, but that it didn’t have a system in place to make sure those teams met at the end of the season. At least neither undefeated team was swindled out of a title like 12–0 Penn State in 1994, a much bigger black eye for the NCAA.
Nevertheless, we got stuck with the BCS. But college football’s governing body failed to realize that the split championship gave fans a wonderful subject to discuss at work, in bars, on the street ? for years to come. Controversies are what make sports entertaining.
A playoff, obviously, would go further to eliminate any argument over the champion, but I can hardly call that better. No one debates that the Diamondbacks and Marlins have won World Series’, but we can sure regret it.