Opinion piece in today's Wall Street Journal:
Congress To Examine BCS
First, I'm so sick of hearing that the BCS is good for college football because it gives fans "something to argue about". Get fucked. We can have a 4 or 6 team playoff and still have plenty to debate about -- and every single regular season game will still be meaningful, especially if home-field advantage or first-round byes are on the line (which they are, in the system Brian has been proposing).
Second, and I don't want to get into politics or anything (I really really don't), but it's interesting that this guy is ridiculing the GOP congressmen who are working on this when Obama himself (who is a Democrat, last I checked) has been advocating having a playoff system since before the election.
I'm impressed by the force of the logic and rationale you marshaled in opposition to the writer's position.
Wow, thanks for that. Feel good about yourself?
If you actually read the rest of the comment, you'll see that I did use some rationale. It's not like "get fucked" was all I said.
I just think it's a flawed argument that all of a sudden, if we go to a playoff, there will be nothing left to argue about. If we go to a 4 or 6 team playoff, you can bet your ass that there will still be plenty of debating about who should get in and who should be left out. The NCAA bball tournament has 65 freaking teams, and there's still plenty of talking the Monday after the selection show about who got screwed over.
I agree with the majority of people on here that an 8-team playoff is too many teams, and it's probably unfortunately what we'd end up with. But still, at least we can feel confident that the team that wins the title actually deserved it.
After getting stomach-punched by the polls in 2006, I would think that Michigan fans -- of all people -- would embrace a playoff system pretty easily. Obviously we weren't the best team in the country, but you're telling me that you would rather play a de-facto road game against USC in the Rose Bowl with no national title implications than, say, a home playoff game at Michigan Stadium?
It was simple sarcasm. Anyway, instead of getting mad you can now simply dock me a point!
Re: your post, when I think about a playoff I have to do it by thinking of college football as a whole, not what I was thinking in 2006 about our team. But since you asked, back then I thought that we lost our chance to get an NC by losing to OSU and deserved to be out of it and playing SC. I didn't agree with those who said that we should play OSU again in the NC, "mythical" and "paper" though many call it. It's funny, I haven't heard a single player that won one of the "mythical' championships ever once refer to it as such.
Lastly, to be fair, I do agree with you that a playoff will not end all debate.
Fair enough. I'm not trying to get into a squabble or anything here. I guess this is just one issue on which I really don't understand the opposing point of view. Don't get me wrong, I do respect it -- I mean, we all love college football and want it to be the best sport it can be -- but I guess we just don't share the same priorities.
To me, I guess the whole idea of being a sports fan is that you're rooting for a given team to be successful, with the ultimate in success being a championship. With the current system we have, it feels like a true championship is almost unattainable -- because even if you win, someone will be able to tell you that you didn't really deserve it. Even worse, there are deserving teams (like Utah) who truly never have a chance to begin with. There's something wrong with that, to me.
I value the same things that most people who oppose a playoff system do -- every game in the regular season being critical, debate at the end of the year, prestige and tradition of the bowl system, etc. But I don't feel like having those things and having a playoff are mutually exclusive.
You can have a playoff for the elite teams each year and still send everyone who doesn't make the playoffs to bowl games -- and those bowl games wouldn't mean any less than they do today. The regular season would still be important, and there would still be plenty of conversations to be had at the end of the season -- however, instead of bitter conversations about somebody getting screwed over, the conversations could be about anticipation of the upcoming playoff games.
But like I said, I guess not everyone necessarily shares the same priorities. Respectfully agree to disagree and move on, I guess.
I remember Obama advocating for a playoff in that espn interview prior to the election, but I never got the impression that it was on his political agenda. To me, it looked like he thought college football should ditch the BCS in favor of a playoff system, not that he wanted Congress to examine the issue. I don't believe it was ever a part of his actual platform.
Personally, I think this is ridiculous: Congress, at least for now, should have its attention squarely focused elsewhere.
Congress should have their plate full fixing this sucky economy and government. I think they should worry about more important things than college football.
They're looking at it because they want to see if they can tax it. No other reason.
I used to like the "Congress has better things to do" argument, but I have changed my mind. If this actually stopped them from doing what they need to, I would agree wholeheartedly. Sadly, though, filibustering is what keeps the legislative branch from doing all it needs to do.
I really don't want to take either party's side on this, because I don't feel mgoblog is the correct place to do so, so I will blame the lobbyists who pour money into the pockets of Congressmen and Senators to keep the things that really need to be done from being done if they keep big businesses from extracting excessive profits from the American people.
As long as the US remains a de facto oligarchy, Congress and the Senate have plenty of time for issues like the BCS and it won't affect their performance on issues we like to cite as "more important" in the least.
And the image of a bunch of pompous BCS/FBS nabobs being "put in their place" at a Congressional hearing is just too entertaining for me to not want it to happen.
It's that they shouldn't be TAKING the time. The BCS doesn't matter as a national priority worthy of Congress taking action unless someone has no perspective in their life. If someone really cares enough that they want Congress to fix things so a football system has the "right" playoff system--in any direction, pro or con, I feel sorry for them.
Playoff supporters tend to fall into one of two camps on this:
- "Whatever it takes to get rid of the BCS"
- "I want the BCS gone too but don't they have better things to do?"
The fact is they ought to be trembling in their boots. If Congress is allowed to push this through all the way to its playoff-y conclusion, they will cock it up so hard and we will be left with the worst of all possible playoffs. Obama wants an eight team playoff, and frankly I think of all possible configurations, that is the worst. Congress would probably follow suit. Once Congress is done making a giant mess of things, you bet your ass the scenario I described in the comment section on last week's post will come to pass in short order: "This isn't what we wanted!"
You're right, if a playoff system does come to pass, I'm sure it will be a half-assed, poorly thought-out setup that still leaves something to be desired.
... but I still don't see how that could possibly be worse than the system we have now.
...to Sir Winston Churchill's famous quote about democracy.
"Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."
"Being drunk is the worst feeling of all, except for all the other feelings."
Because the system we have now has two things that a lot of college football fans still hold in high esteem: A regular season better than any other sport, and prestigious bowl games.
A poorly-thought-out playoff would destroy both and still have as many flaws as the current system. It is absolutely not true that just any old playoff is inherently better than the BCS. It's just not.
It is too bad people dont bother to look at the flaws of playoffs.
I guess I'm in Camp #2 but I've been told that this is, in fact, the best possible way Congress can spend its time. I won't say I don't care what format college football eventually takes, but I do feel that the structure matters less than its general existence. In other words, I'm just grateful college football exists. Low standards, man, they will lower blood pressure better than any medicine.
I like to say that if you have low standards, you can never be disappointed: either your expectations are met, or they're exceeded. Either way, you're a winner!
Obama wants an eight team playoff, and frankly I think of all possible configurations, that is the worst.
I happen to disagree with you completely. Four is too small (five teams finished unbeaten in 2004, and I don't think you can legitimately leave out a team that has overcome every obstacle in their path to that point). I'm not sure if eight is the best (Brian's six-team plan might be better), but if not it's a close second - if handled properly (home field for the first two rounds, no auto-bids).
That said, I do share your distrust in Congress's ability to not make a royal mess of it. It doesn't help that the variations most likely to be implemented (8 with auto-bids for the six BCS conferences, or 16 with auto-bids for all) have major flaws (namely, there's no way in hell a random 9-4 team from the ACC belongs ahead of 12-0 Utah, and there's no way in hell an 8-5 Sun Belt team belongs in the discussion at all), but even those are an improvement on the two-team playoff we have now.
Yes, Congress is probably going to screw it up. But unless they're actively trying to do so, they can't actually make it worse than it already is - things can only get better, even if they don't hit the optimal solution.
is completely wrong. There are too many ways to list that would be worse than the current system. And Congress can't make it worse than it actually is? Try looking at about 50 different laws that made situations far worse than the impetus for the law was.
Believe me, I have complete faith in the ability of Congress to implement cures that are worse than the disease - in the general case, where corner cases and unintended consequences are frequent. This is one instance where I don't think they can pull it off.
There are worse playoff plans than the BCS (expand to 128 teams and run single elimination the whole way through, for instance), but none of them are remotely realistic. The two most realistic scenarios - eight with BCS-conference autobids or 16 with autobids for every conference - are vast improvements on the current situation even if both are flawed.
Well, first off, as I've said, there are a lot of things that people like about the current system that would be lost in a half-assed playoff scheme. I don't believe for one minute that any playoff at all is better than this. That would assume that the sole reason behind playing all these games is to determine a national champion. It is not. I assure you Western Kentucky did not join I-A under the illusion it would compete for a national title, and if you think that's because of the "unfair" system, NJIT did not join D-I basketball under the illusion it would compete for the national title either.
And the argument that if you win all your games, you should automatically have a national title shot, I have never liked. It's a terrific argument in favor of shitty scheduling. If you know you have a guaranteed playoff bid by going undefeated, why in God's name would you ever schedule anyone better than SMU? In fact, the logical conclusion to this whole thing is that the best move is to drop out of the Big Ten, join the Sun Belt and beat the shit out of everyone there, and schedule four MAC teams out of conference. Is that what a national champion looks like, even if they do go undefeated doing that? Obviously even if that were a path to the title, Michigan would never do that, again proving that there's more to these games than the NC.
Let me tell you why eight is the worst of all numbers. Eight is the number that is most likely to screw the largest number of "deserving" teams. There are always less than eight teams that are properly in the title hunt at the end of the year, but once you expand to eight, you add a new level of second-tier teams which almost always brings about ten teams into play. Eight is large enough to ruin the regular season and small enough that the bottom teams, 6-8 or 7-8, are not noticeably better than 9-12, and expansion would be on hand in the not-too-distant future. At four and six, you can almost always be sure of inviting the teams that should be there and leaving out those that shouldn't, though the problem with six is it becomes eight very quickly. At 12 and 16, the argument that you shouldn't have lost if you wanted to get in becomes much stronger and you can more easily dismiss the snubs. Eight is the worst of both worlds.
I realize the "Hawaii 2007 path" to the playoff would be a potential issue, but at the same time I don't think it's at all fair to have a team that's effectively eliminated before the season starts. Given that the Sun Belt isn't likely to let any teams with consistent national title hopes into the conference, I doubt there would be any flagrant abuse of that possibility - and if you can beat three top-8 teams in a row after an unbeaten regular season (even against a poor schedule), is it really likely that someone has a better argument than you?
Regarding eight being the wrong number: the 30th-40th potential at-large teams in basketball aren't noticeably different either most years, yet no one takes any complaints about them getting left out seriously. It's far more common that it's difficult or impossible to distinguish among the top three, sometimes even the top 5 (seriously, could you have established a clear pecking order among Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, USC, and Utah this year?). And I don't see why this "ruins" the regular season - a two-loss team (or even four of them) getting in doesn't seem like the end of the world, especially when it's already happened in the BCS, and there's no guarantee of it happening any particular year. It certainly wouldn't have last year.
I don't think you really start to let in too many undeserving teams until you hit 12-16; while some two-loss teams get in, if they can win three in a row against the top teams they've probably got a better overall resume than those teams once it's over. I also don't think the snubs are too difficult to dismiss at 8 - at most you leave out a single one-loss major-conference team (and that only about half the time, usually a Big East or ACC team). It seems logically inconsistent to argue that too many undeserving teams get in and the snubs usually have a good argument at the same time; that would only happen if the selection process is picking the wrong teams (which is entirely possible but a separate issue).
Well, I think the Sun Belt path wouldn't happen not because the Sun Belt wouldn't allow it but because nobody would try. As I said, there's other reasons to play the games besides the national championship.
As for the eight teams thing, let me put it this way. You nominated Florida, Oklahoma, USC, Utah, and Texas as the top five; I don't disagree, let's run with that. We need three more teams: I'd say we're choosing between Texas Tech, Alabama, Ohio State, Penn State, and Boise State.
- We could probably eliminate Ohio State from the discussion thanks to their two losses to PSU and USC. In which case, great: I have more ammo to use on those who say a playoff would encourage better scheduling, because OSU just scheduled its way right out of playoff contention. Lesson learned: schedule Northern Illinois next time and be 11-1 instead of 10-2.
What if we eliminate:
- Boise State? No: they went undefeated, and one of the roots of the playoff argument is that an undefeated season automatically deserves a shot.
- Alabama? Well, their only regular season loss was to the eventual national champion. Leaving them out would lend instant credence to the idea that a playoff ruins the regular season: you can go undefeated in the same 12 games that everyone else played (and lost one) and be left out because of your conference. That sounds exactly like what left Utah out; in Utah's case, it's because their conference isn't very good, in Alabama's, it's because they held a conference championship game that others don't.
- Penn State? Well, they lost one game by one point, and beat all common opponents between them and USC - which USC did not do.
- Texas Tech? In this case the playoff has changed nothing. Texas wants a playoff now because they feel they should have gotten the chance instead of OU - what changes if Texas gets in but TT does not? Nothing. That whole situation is a great counter to the idea that you can always "decide things on the field." UT/OU/TT did play it out. It made things worse, not better.
The thing is, "deserving" means two things. The larger the tournament, the more teams will be "deserving" of getting in based on who did and who didn't, but the less anyone cares about the snubs, because they aren't "deserving" in the other meaning: deserving of the national title shot. If we're going to have a playoff based on all these arguments about Auburn and Utah and what not, it must include every team deserving of a title shot otherwise nothing has been solved and much has been ruined. If we must change it up to a playoff, better to be too large and let in a few undeserving teams (and in the process "create" more "deserving" ones by comparison) then to half-ass it and leave out teams that actually could be national champions. An eight-team playoff will be guilty of the latter nine times out of ten. A four-team playoff would too, but it would still be extremely hard to get into and thus probably continue to make every regular season game vitally important. (Note: the major problem I have with six is that it would be outlandishly tempting to expand to eight in very short order.)
That's a UVA education at work. Brilliant.
That was worded and explained perfectly. Probably the most concise and accurate description of the situation I have seen.
+1 to you sir.
I'm not convinced I can fairly call it concise given that it wouldn't fit on my screen even if the screen was twice as tall. But I do kinda like the post, will probably reproduce it at some point whenever the argument comes up again, and happily accept, with thanks, your compliments. Also jabberwock's below.
I appreciate that you've clearly given this some thought and are arguing reasonably; too often things like this devolve into shouting matches.
For last year, I would have left out Ohio State and Texas Tech. I think those decisions are pretty easy to back up, on the basis of OSU going 0-2 against contenders and Tech losing by 40+. Even with OSU beating Random Awful MAC Team instead of getting stomped by USC, I don't think they make it - they wouldn't catch PSU (head-to-head loss, worse or equal SOS). (USC dropping OSU from their schedule, on the other hand, might knock them out for Texas Tech by eliminating their signature win.) I will admit, though, that had Tech lost a close game to Oklahoma instead of getting blasted, things would be very difficult. Among Tech, USC, and Penn State you would have three one-loss teams, each with one big win (Texas, OSU, OSU) and nearly identical SOS, and only two spots among them.
It's fairly unusual for there to be such a small gap between #1 and #9, though. And the larger you make the playoff, the more likely it is that you have a team who could win it all without having the best resume at the end, which is the big fear of most of the opposition. In an eight-team bracket, a two-loss #8 winning at #1 and #5, then beating an unbeaten #2 in the final, is probably close enough to get the benefit of the doubt with the head-to-head win. A three-loss #12 seed winning at #5, at #4, at #8 then beating an undefeated #2 (who had beaten #7 and #3 en route to the final) probably isn't.
I still think eight teams would work just fine, on the basis that situations where the ninth team really has a legitimate argument for claiming the title are quite rare. Even last year, I find it difficult to believe Tech or Ohio State has a legitimate case. But 12 seems reasonable too.
Indeed, it's ironic that two people of rivaling fanhood persuasions can have a perfectly civil debate....on a message board....attached to a blog....when the MSM schmuck that we read today courtesy of Brian's link can't write a BCS article without name-calling and accusations in every paragraph.
Anyway, I definitely agree with playoffs potentially producing a lucky champion who just happened to get hot. This is why, if we must have a playoff, I favor the Big East model, in which not only would the bottom eight teams have to win five games while the top four have to win only three, but the bottom eight teams also could not possibly play each other in the second two rounds. It eliminates the possibility of two first-round upsets breeding a low-seed matchup in the second round. The people who argue that a playoff would create more meaningful games at the end of the season ought to sport a big ol' woody over this idea, because there's four tiers to aspire to (two byes, one bye, first-round host, first-round visitor) and even seeding games would have some honest-to-god meaning to them.
But take a look at the BCS right now: ten teams get in. I think in an eight-team playoff, any team, including the first one or two out, would be capable of beating any team. As proof, I point out that the BCS for years has always had at least one snub, one upset, and one curb-stomping. That's all the proof I need that an eight-team bracket would be a total crapshoot. That would make for an interesting bracket to be sure, but waste the regular season.
Eight is kind of a fantasy IMO anyway. One of the root arguments is that the NCAA decides every other sport with a tournament, including the lower divisions of football. They all also have conference autobids, so why would the NCAA say to themselves, "hey, we decide all the other national champions with a tournament, why not do the same with I-A football?" and then do it totally differently?
Yes, and the current system at the lower levels satisfies everyone at the table. I'm not sure why people insist on living in their fantasy world where the NCAA takes the fans opinions into account when picking a playoff... 16 is the perfect number to include everyone that could be called deserving.
accept my humble offer of one (1) gently used MGoBlog Point.
Yes, that would suck if Obama designed the playoff. Not only would the structure suck ass, but every higher rated team would have to give their opponents 1/3 of the points that they score.
"When Ohio State meets USC this coming September in a nonconference game, each needs to take that game seriously if it wants the national title. It's the exact opposite in college basketball."
I feel like the 'exact opposite' would be more like the two teams giddily dressing up in Sailor Moon costumes and playing flashlight tag.
Just because NCAA basketball has a playoff doesn't mean the regular season nonconference games are meaningless. Just look at Michigan last season against UCLA and Duke.
Because, for example, if USC loses at Ohio State by one and runs the table, but if Ohio State loses at home to Minnesota by 20 but wins all its other games, who has the better resume?
USC has a "good" loss, and its BCS ranking would be strengthened by its only loss being to a 11-1 team. Ohio State would have a "bad" loss to a 7-5 or 8-4 team.
USC would play for the title, most likely.
Now, if the teams were #1 and #2 and playing in late November, the author would be right. In September, though, teams can make up a loss (heck, LSU made up for a post-Thanksgiving loss in 2007 and made the title game).
The way the BCS computers work is that they give more credit to a team for "quality wins", which is considered a win over a top 10 opponent.
The polls are all about when you lose (advantage USC in this scenario) and where you started the season in the polls (ditto).
Besides that, I'm not even sure that's true for most of the computers. Colley (the only one whose formula I'm very familiar with) doesn't consider that at all, unless I'm misremembering - a win over #10 and loss to #100 count exactly the same as a loss to #10 and win over #100. And judging by Billingsley's descriptions of his system (and past results) it tends to match the human polls to an astounding degree.
If what you just said there is true; wow.
It's true of most simple computer rankings in any sport. (I just checked, and it is true of Colley's method.) The RPI (without home-road adjustment) in basketball and hockey makes no distinction between two teams who play the same set of opponents and have the same record no matter how they got there, nor does KRACH (an alternative hockey ranking which is conceptually similar to Colley's). All of those have essentially two components treated independently: your record and your strength of schedule (the RPI uses opponents' records and their opponents' records, the other methods use opponents' ratings themselves).
Pomeroy's ranking method for basketball is a bit more complex (the offensive and defensive rating for each game is adjusted for the opponent's ratings before averaging), and I haven't actually worked through whether there's any difference, but I suspect the difference is small if any. The one simple test case I ran through (just two games, one against an elite team and one against an average team) produced slightly different offensive and defensive ratings when the results were switched but the same overall rating.
It just seems like they would factor in for quality wins/losses.
It's just that a quality win and bad loss (or "quality loss" and cupcake win) virtually cancel out, and there's no arbitrary cutoff for deciding what a "quality win" is. A system that gives a bonus for a top 10 win means that the tiniest change in an opponent's fortunes (maybe they end up 10th by a fraction of a point, maybe they end up 11th) can have a large impact on your own. Watch the kinds of crazy things that happen in the college hockey Pairwise as teams around the "TUC cliff" shuffle around and you'll see what I mean.
1. This guy is right, the BCS sucks.
2. Also correct, our congressmen suck.
3. I don't believe this will bring about a playoff that will make us very happy...
4. Our politicians have a few more important things to worry about than football at the moment.
5. I don't understand all of the GOP bashing (even if deserved) in an article about football. Especially when the leader of the free world, a Democrat, is on the same bandwagon as these Republicans...
I hate the "it gives fans something to argue about" argument, too. That is beyond stupid. Fans don't want something to argue about. They want a freakin' undisputed champion!
I don't like the proposed eight team format, however, because that will leave way too much argument. Like every other college sport, I believe every conference needs to be represented. Thus, a 16 team playoff format.
There are 11 conferences. Every conference champion gets an auto bid. The other five bids go to at-large teams, to be determined by your BCS standing or whatever computer ranking system they want to implement.
Use the BCS standings (or whatever) to seed teams #1-16. The eight opening round games are played at the home team's field. Maybe play the four second round games at neutral sites (i.e. the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl), ditto the semifinals and championship game. It's a four week tourney, so for instance if they were to start the tourney this December 12, it would lead right up to the January 2 weekend around when they would normally hold these games, so the timing works out fine. As for teams that don't make the tourney, put them in the usual bowl games and let them get their payout.
Part of the issue right now is that smaller conferences don't get a fair shake in the BCS, so under this scenario every conference gets a crack at the championship (something that WOULDN'T happen under an eight team format).
11 conference champions, five at-large bids, four weeks, one true national champion.
I hate the "it gives fans something to argue about" argument, too. That is beyond stupid. Fans don't want something to argue about. They want a freakin' undisputed champion!
No, you're wrong. Not ALL fans want an undisputed champion. At least not under those terms. Plenty of fans want to discuss more than just stats and standings every week. I don't like the BCS either, all they have done is grafted a "decider" onto the ever-mushrooming gravy train that was the Bowl system. 8 team playoff, maybe. 16, no way in hell. The problem is Brian and the MGoBlog community don't get to decide. Greedy athletic directors and groveling political hacks do.
Maybe it's because I'm a bit older than the average MGoBlog poster (I'll be 44 this summer), and I grew up before much of the professional sports franchises expanded so rapidly (needing more playoffs). College football was about the student athlete (or so we liked to imagine) and it honestly wasn't that important who was the most awesome on the entire planet. There weren't 147 Bowl games either; now every .com, muffler shop and pizza joint have one; I think it's insane, and I can only compare it to a pet peeve of mine: Urban Sprawl.
I hate to go all "Back in my day", but when there was only a handful of bowls, the process (although severely flawed and most likely ripe with corruption) was simple. It just wasn't very fair because the polls sucked in so many ways. Sports writers had favorites and ton's of outside pressure, coaches often did nothing more than check the standings of other conferences etc. I have no problem with an INDEPENDENT, neutral party choosing which 2 (or more likely 4) teams will compete for the championship, I'd just like political pressure, $, and other outside influence removed. There are usually never more than 4 teams with a valid argument for playing in a championship, can't a rotating committee of football experts WITH NOTHING TO GAIN choose the best few teams to play at the end of the year?
Of course they can't. Because, according to the non-BCS schools, public perception and institutional power would weigh too heavily on their decision; and according to the BCS schools, a totally uninvolved entity can't do the job right.
Except for the AP, but they realized it hurts more than it helps to even try.
undisputed champion!" Where is all the evidence in support of this view? TV ratings are never better. Bowl attendance has never been higher. Media coverage has exploded to the point that College Football is arguably just behind the NFL as the country's biggest sport. There is more advertising and fan money involved then ever before. If the majority of college football fans were really as worked up with righteous indignation as many on this blog and elsewhere are, would that really be the case?
Look, the sports media and many fans feel as you do, granted. And I don't like the BCS myself. But I don't think a critical mass of opinion exists to even approach a majority.
Congress has far more important matters to occupy its time than a non-critical subject whose consideration will lead to huge amounts of pompous grandstanding and very little of anything substantive.
Polls only contribute to create argument, based upon perspective. The only way to solve the "argument" and resolve the interpretation/subjective nature of polls..... is to resolve the matter on the field.