DoubleB and I were/are engaged in a spirited debate under Brian's post regarding the home site concept being dead. Our debate is about whether or not to require entrants in the national title game to win their conference.
I believe the conference championship requirement is an important one for fairness and for preservation of the regular season. If you take a straight top four, you render many of the best regular season games (like Alabama-LSU last year, Michigan-Ohio State in 2006, USC-Notre Dame in 2005, etc) meaningless. Instead of being the biggest moments of the season, they are the least important. That, to me, is a crime against college football, where the regular season is more exciting than the playoffs of most sports.
DoubleB has made some good points against that idea, but he inadvertently introduced a piece of evidence that completely destroys the position: The 2008 college football season.
Here is the final BCS top ten from 2008:
1. Oklahoma (11-1)
2. Florida (11-1)
3. Texas (11-1)
4. Alabama (12-1)
5. USC (11-1)
6. Utah (12-0)
7. Texas Tech (11-1)
8. Penn State (11-1)
9. Boise State (12-0)
10. Ohio State (10-2) Terrell Who?
The final tallies of the AP and Harris polls had the same top four; the coaches poll ranked USC ahead of Alabama.
A four-team playoff constructed using BCS ranking criteria, taking the top four teams only, would give us a semi-final round featuring only Big 12 and SEC teams. It would probably look like this:
#1 Oklahoma vs. #4 Alabama
#2 Florida vs. #3 Texas
This would be met with cries of injustice, bias, and corruption. And the first two critiques would be spot on. In this scenario USC and Utah are left out in the cold so that the "cool" conferences can get their second members. The problem is that the rankings here are just plain wrong. How do we know?
2008 is a classic example of poll bias; pundits that know about as much as you and me watch football, think they know who looks good and who doesn't, and fill out polls that reflect their opinions. In 2008 everybody believed that the Big 12 and the SEC were the two best conferences. There seemed to be no question about it.
And everybody was wrong.
Now it may be that Florida was the best team in the country, but it's impossible to know for sure--Utah beat Alabama more convincingly than Florida did, and USC was absolutely unstoppable by the end of the season, as they were every year at the height of the Pete Carroll era. Unfortunately, we never saw the USC dynasty play a top SEC team during the mid-'00s. They did humiliate Auburn at home in 2003, but that Auburn team was a serious disappointment.
For all we know, USC was the best team in the country that year. Their only loss was early, on the road, to a talented Oregon State team; the next week they beat Oregon 44-10 in a game nobody noticed at the time, but looks a lot better now that we see that Chip Kelly was (as OC at the time) building Oregon into a powerhouse. This is the USC team that crushed Ohio State in Los Angeles 35-3; Texas needed every minute of the Fiesta Bowl to escape the same team. They defeated Penn State handily in the Rose Bowl. They were very good.
In the other direction, the Big 12 was already well on its way to becoming the defense-free league that nobody respected when Oklahoma State was begging for a Championship Game bid. It was a lot weaker than anybody wanted to believe, because they didn't have all the information.
And, of course, nobody believed Utah was good because they didn't even play in a "major" conference. No way they'd be able to handle the Big, Bad SEC.
Here's why it matters: There is no way to fairly rank teams based only on results, because there simply aren't enough results in a season where each team plays four non-conference games. There are biases that are present in the mind of every selector, every voter, every pundit.
Right now, for example, everybody believes that the SEC is far and away the top league; that may be right now, but it's not necessarily always true. And as much as they believe that, they have looked down on the Big Ten for decades. Even seasons when the B1G demonstrates its superiority on the field (1999, 2002) the story is buried because it doesn't fit in with current biases.
By requiring entrants to be conference champions, you help insure against those biases by preventing a love affair from a single conference from infecting the selection.
Would it work? Any time you test a theory like this, it's useful to apply it to past seasons to see how they would resolve. Let's apply it to the final 2008 standings and see what we get. Teams are selected based on ranking with teams that aren't conference champions disqualified:
1. Oklahoma (11-1)
2. Florida (11-1)
3. Texas (11-1)
4. Alabama (11-1)
5. USC (11-1)
6. Utah (12-0)
For a final seeding of:
That's much better. Fair. Just. Accurate. Compelling.
DoubleB adeptly provided a counterexample to the conference champion argument, that if LSU lost to Georgia in the SEC championship last season it's possible that neither of the best teams would be in the playoff. That is a legitimate criticism, but to fix the problem the SEC needs only to reform its championship structure to eliminate divisions and allow Bama and LSU to play each other. Alternatively, a compromise is available: Exchange the "Conference Champion" requirement for a "One team per conference" rule. That rule would preserve 2008 as I have adjusted it.
Verdict: In a four-team playoff, only conference champions should be admitted; or, at the least, only one team per conference.
Dear Mr. Woodson,
I see your name in a headline, in today's Detroit Free Press. It probably isn't what you had in mind.
Before saying anything else, however, let me thank you for your great years in Ann Arbor and all of the thrills we saw on the football field. Thanks for all of your hard work. Thanks also for all the time you've devoted to Mott Children's Hospital. You've done so much good, through the hospital and through your foundation.
I presume that as you have been getting ready for the annual Mott Golf Outing and assorted fundraisers, the outreach people have been talking to your agent, and arranging for you to talk to reporters, to promote the event. I presume that that is how Mark Snyder of the Free Press got some of your time in a private telephone interview. As much as you'd like to promote Mott events, it was a mistake on your part to talk to Snyder.
Because while Snyder is willing to throw in a few lines about Mott fundraising, you should have known what would happen; Snyder would ask you all about Mott, get your guard down, and then ask you about Rich Rodriguez. And whatever you gave him, Rodriguez (and not Mott) would become the day's headline.
That is part of the reason that Brady Hoke and David Brandon are not doing any private interviews with Snyder. Your interview with Snyder tore up that page of the Michigan playbook. The other very large part of the story, as you really ought to know, is that Snyder was part of the tag-team that did such damage to the football program. Your Michigan football program. Michigan's NCAA investigation was a wholly-produced effort in which Snyder played a big part. After the harm that was caused by Snyder, why you would give someone like that a private interview is almost unbelievable. There are other ways to get out the news of the annual Mott Golf Outing; in fact, the way that the Free Press goes about its business, it is almost guaratneed to distract from those good works.
There has not been much harm done, by one interview; so that much is no big deal. But put yourself in Snyder's position. He will be at the golf course and the clubhouse that day for the meetings and the dinner, and he will be looking for interviews and stories. You and your fellow football alumni should not give him anything. You all should know that the story that he wants is "the bad old days of Rich Rodriguez" story. He wants to use you guys, to essentially support his story from 2009. You don't have to give it to him. You don't have to talk to Snyder. And if you do, you can say, "All that I have to say about those years, is that the Free Press was awful to this football program. You want me to go on?"
If anyone wants to say, "Hey let's forget about the past; let's move on," that's fine. Just be assured, that when you are talking to Mark Snyder, his idea of "moving on" is by delcaring that Rich Rodriguez was a personal disaster, because that is what his paper is invested in. If you think it is time to "move on," then think about making that your answer when Mark Snyder asks you for an interview. Because that is the message that Brady Hoke and David Brandon are interested in. Ask them, if you are unclear about this.
Quit. Talking. To. Mark. Snyder.
All of the key players (conference commissioners, bowls, TV) seem now to agree that some kind of four-team playoff is coming to college football. The challenge now turns to exactly how the four participants will be selected.
Three main options have emerged: 1) Polls; 2) A Selection Committee; or 3) Autobids for the four best conference champions. I'd like to explore the pros and cons of these options and suggest the likely outcome.
There are also hybrid options, which I'll get into below.
Polls would be the most straightforward extension of the system we have now: instead of the top two qualifying, the top four would qualify. This is not to say that the BCS standings would be computed as they are today, only that some combination of computer and human polls would determine who gets in.
A Selection Committee would be a system similar to basketball, where a small group of experts would weigh the candidates and choose the best four.
Autobids would take the decision almost entirely out of human hands: the four best conference champions would qualify for the playoff. Of course, you'd still need polls to decide the four best, but the influence of the polls would be greatly minimized. For instance, last season the rankings of the six BCS league champions were 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, and unranked. I doubt that any rational observer would have had a serious argument with that order.
A few Hybrid proposals have been widely circulated. For instance, Jim Delany has suggested autobids for conference champions, but only if they're ranked at least sixth. This system would enhance the value of winning your conference, but would eliminate weak champions from playoff consideration. (Last year, UCLA had a shot at winning the Pac-12 with a 6-6 regular-season record.)
The pure "Autobid" option seems to me highly unlikely to be selected, because it would allow weak conference champions into the playoff. One could argue the relative merits of Oklahoma State and Alabama last year. But in a system where four teams qualify, could anyone but a Wisconsin fan really claim that the Badgers, despite winning the Big Ten in a down year, had a better season than the Crimson Tide? Seriously?
A playoff that fails to select the four best teams is not credible. Conference champions aren't necessarily the best, except perhaps in their own league (and sometimes not even there). And in any event, the SEC would never agree to that—and no proposal will be adopted that the SEC doesn't support. That's the political reality.
Another political reality is that you need a system that accommodates Notre Dame. Irish-haters may say, "Let 'em join a league." But no one with any actual authority in the matter is trying to freeze the Irish out: ND Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick is a full voting member in the BCS negotiations. And the various interested parties (bowls, television) won't accept a system in which the Irish can't qualify. Whatever you think of them, the Irish are a big draw. So there needs to be a system that accommodates highly-ranked teams that didn't win a conference.
The pure "Polls" option is the easiest to understand: reach the top four, and you're in. But it can lead to some anomalies. Last year, for instance, Stanford was #4 in the BCS standings, but the Pac-10 champion Oregon Ducks, who beat Stanford in the regular season, were #5. The Delany proposal, which gives priority to conference champs, as long as they're in the top six, would correct for that. So would a rule that allows conference runners-up only if the conference champion also qualifies.
Wisconsin Athletic Director Barry Alvarez favors a selection comittee, which he feels is more transparent: if you don't like the result, you'd know exactly who was responsible. This differs from the current BCS standings, where most people don't even know what algorithms the computers are relying on.
But where would you find a committee of manageable size, whose loyalties wouldn't be in question. Alvarez is apparently unaware of the irony, when he suggests Kirk Herbstreit as an ideal member of the committee, saying the former Buckeye "is neutral, is on top of it, [and] talks to coaches around the country."
Can you imagine the uproar if there's a close call between #4 and #5, and Ohio State is one of the two teams? Or if it's Michigan? No one would believe that Herbstreit was neutral in that transaction. And of course, as ESPN's #1 booth analyst, he'd be helping to decide the participants in the very game he was going to broadcast. It's hard to imagine a more obvious conflict of interest.
This is not to single out Herbstreit. I can't imagine who you could put on that committee, who would be accepted as truly neutral. There is hardly anyone in college football who doesn't have some allegiance (real or perceived) to a particular school or conference.
I do realize that the NCAA has a selection committee for basketball, but it's a completely different situation. The lowest seed ever to win the tournament was #8 Villanova in 1985. The lowest seed ever to reach a Final Four was #11 (which has happened twice). So none of the teams that get left out, the so-called bubble teams, have any realistic shot at winning it. Narrowly missing the tourney is no doubt frustrating to the fans of those particular schools, but the rest of the country doesn't care.
In a four-team football playoff, the difference between #4 and #5 is immense. You might not like the BCS standings (Barry Alvarez clearly doesn't), but there are so many inputs to them that there is no one person you can blame if you don't like where your team is ranked. On any committee, there invariably would be a backlash in close cases.
That doesn't mean the BCS formula is perfect. For instance, the coaches' poll ought to be dropped: it's a clear conflict of interest. And the computer rankings that participate today are not the best ones. But the basic idea of a ranking based on some combination of computers and human polling is the right way to go.
There's a lot of talk in college football about "honoring" the regular season. It's a bunch of hooey. Under any of the suggested formats, your team will have to have a very good regular season to qualify for the playoff. Either you'll have to win your conference, or be ranked in the top four to six, or some combination of the two.
In short, what I think we'll wind up with is some kind of hybrid qualification model, which will favor conference champions, but with a provision for wild cards, and/or a requirement that conference champs be rated at least sixth. And I think the rating mechanism is more likely to be a combination of polls and computers, not a committee.
This isn't exactly an exhaustively researched report, but there has been nothing in the diaries lately, and I thought I'd bring up a foreboding bit of Michigan history for you all. As we prepare to enter the 2012 season, I got just a minor sense of foreboding thinking of a few parallels to another well known season.
The year is 2006. Michigan football rebounds from an extremely disappointing 7-5 2005 campaign that sees losses to OSU and the bowl game to have a breakout year. The juniors on the team finally seem to gel completely and Michigan storms to an 11-2 record, including playing one of the most epic games in one of the most storied rivalries ever.
The following season, the pundits say, if there were ever a Michigan team that was primed to make a big run, it was the 2007 Wolverines. A truly gifted senior QB entering his 4th year of starting, who looks poised to make that leap to true stardom. A lockdown left tackle clearly produced by the NFL's most crack genetic engineers. A tailback that had emerged from a rash of injuries the previous season to prove a star, and a defense that had lost a few pieces but had improved so vastly from the seaon before that an upward trajectory could only be expected to continue.
Of course, we all know how that went.
Consider the 2011 Wolverines. Fresh off an extremely disappointing 7-5 campaign that sees losses to OSU and in the bowl game, the Wolverines put together a breakout year. The team seems to gel and Michigan storms to an 11-2 season including playing in one of the most epic games in one of the most storied rivalries ever.
For the 2012 season, Michigan will feature a truly gifted senior QB entering his 4th year of starting. He seems primed to make the leap from extremely talented to true stardom. Michigan features a lockdown left tackle seemingly produced by the NFL's most crack genetic engineers. We even have a tailback that emerged from a rash of injuries last season to prove a star, and a defense that made a stratospheric leap that bodes extremely well for the future.
Now, I'm not saying that Michigan 2012 is Michigan 2007. These teams are extremely different. But, it is the middle of the off season, and with Hoke heading things up, it's all sunshine and lollipops. What fun is that? Maybe it's good to be a little scared?
(Click the image to view full size)
That time of year. Keep reading in the next few weeks to see what
kind of job Glenn has lined up for his youngest son, and the
adventures that will follow as a result.
On Thursday we'll catch up with young Charlie, still struggling
with his recent Involuntary Spartafication.
THE BLOCKHAMS™ runs (typically) every Tuesday here at MGoBlog, and at least
every Thursday on its official home page. Also, don't forget to check out our newest
feature, Friday Roughs, a spontaneous low-end comic based on trending
Michigan events, available on Twitter and Facebook every Friday.
Via U-M Media Relations:
Michigan to Host N.C. State for 2012 Big Ten/ACC Challenge
May 14, 2012
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- In conjunction with the Big Ten, the ACC and ESPN, the University of Michigan men's basketball team announced Monday (May 14) that it will host N.C. State for its 2012 Big Ten/ACC Challenge match-up on Tuesday, Nov. 27, at Crisler Center.
All Challenge games will be televised on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU, with platforms and times being announced at a later date. After expanding to a 12-team event last year, following the addition of Nebraska to the Big Ten, the 2012 Challenge will be played over a two-day period, Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 27-28.
Each day of the Challenge will be split evenly with three home and three road contests for each conference. The first day of play will feature U-M's home contest against N.C. State, Minnesota hosting Florida State, and Indiana facing North Carolina. Big Ten road games will be Northwestern traveling to Maryland, Iowa heading to Virginia Tech, and Nebraska going to Wake Forest.
The second day will feature Illinois hosting Georgia Tech, Penn State playing Boston College, and Wisconsin taking on Virginia in Big Ten home games. The three remaining games will be Ohio State traveling to Duke, Purdue at Clemson, and Michigan State heading south to face Miami (Fla.).
The Big Ten has claimed the last three Commissioner's Cups after an 8-4 series win in 2011. Overall, the ACC has won 10 of the 13 Challenges.
2012 ACC/Big Ten Challenge
Tuesday, November 27th
Minnesota at Florida State
North Carolina at Indiana
N.C. State at Michigan
Maryland at Northwestern
Iowa at Virginia Tech
Nebraska at Wake Forest
Wednesday, November 28th
Purdue at Clemson
Ohio State at Duke
Georgia Tech at Illinois
Michigan State at Miami (Fla.)
Boston College at Penn State
Virginia at Wisconsin
Michigan in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge
1999 -- vs. Georgia Tech (W, 80-77)
2000 -- Wake Forest (L, 71-60)
2001 -- no participation
2002 -- no participation
2003 -- N.C. State (W, 68-61)
2004 -- at Georgia Tech (L, 99-68)
2005 -- Miami (Fla.) (W, 74-53)
2006 -- at N.C. State (L, 74-67)
2007 -- Boston College (L, 64-77)
2008 -- at Maryland (L, 70-75)
2009 -- Boston College (L, 58-62)
2010 -- at Clemson (W, 69-61)
2011 -- at Virginia (L, 70-58)
Big Ten/ACC Challenge Results
1999 -- ACC (5-4)
2000 -- ACC (5-4)
2001 -- ACC (5-3)
2002 -- ACC (5-4)
2003 -- ACC (7-2)
2004 -- ACC (7-2)
2005 -- ACC (6-5)
2006 -- ACC (8-3)
2007 -- ACC (8-3)
2008 -- ACC (6-5)
2009 -- Big Ten (6-5)
2010 -- Big Ten (6-5)
2011 -- Big Ten (8-4)