I'm going to present a what-if scenario, for the sake of establishing a control in the argument of BCS v Playoff. It has been maintained by some on this board that the best possible post-season for all stakeholders (bowls, fans, NCAA, players, programs, etc.) is a tie-in bowl system, similar to that in place before the Bowl Championship Coalition years.
The Big Four bowl games if there were no BCS, no playoffs, just conference champ tie-ins.
Big Ten #1 v. Pac Ten #1
#6 Penn State v. #5 USC
ACC #1 v. Big East #1
#21 Virginia Tech v. #12 Cincinnati
SEC #1 v. At-Large
#1 Florida v. #3 Texas
Big 12 #1 v. At-Large
#2 Oklahoma v. #4 Alabama
Basically, Oklahoma, by winning the Big XII Championship, gets an autobid to the Fiesta and therefore plays itself out of the Sugar Bowl. From here, there are four things that could happen:
1. Fla. and Okla. win. Both are 1-loss conference champions. The pollsters go the mattresses. The championship is debated ad nauseum.
2. Fla. and Bama win. Florida declared undisputed champ -- maybe winner of PSU/USC game gets some votes. Cue 8 months of insufferable SEC self-aggrandizement.
3. Texas and Okla win. It will be debated...a lot. But I think Texas gets the slight nod for the head-to-head and better bowl opponent.
4. Texas and Bama win. Again, a debate, since neither are conference champs. I think Texas would get the nod, for strength of schedule, but it would be close.
Now, with all possible outcomes, here's how each stakeholder made out:
NCAA, Bowls and TV Contracts: GREAT. The Rose Bowl brought in close to its usual fantastic haul, and two top-tier bowl games received national attention. Down-ticket bowl games were able to fill their seats and promote with an average of 5 to 6 weeks to name opponents before the games.
Fans: OKAY. We end up with a likely disputed national champion, and the potentially strange situation of Oklahoma playing itself out of a matchup with Florida for all the marbles, which, depending on the outcome, could be a moderate inconvenience or a huge scandal. However, three of the four national bowl games were excellent matchups, especially since the teams all had three to six weeks to prepare for each other and get healthy. Those attending the games were able to make plans well in advance.
Teams: GOOD. Those participating were able to use the extra time to practice for their opponents and put their best game forward. Student athletes were able to take their end-of-semester finals and return from their trips in time for the start of the next semester. However, 12-0 Utah and Bosie have a legitimate beef, especially if they win their down-ticket bowls, for not being invited to the party.
Now, let's try this against the BCS:
BCS National Championship
#1 BCS v. #2 BCS
#1 Florida v. #2 Oklahoma
Big Ten #1 v. Pac Ten #1
#6 Penn State v. #5 USC
ACC #1 v. Big East #1
#21 Virginia Tech v. #12 Cincinnati
At-Large #1 v. At-Large #4
#3 Alabama v. #7 Utah
At-Large #2 v. At-Large #3
#3 Texas v. #10 Ohio State
Again, there is plenty of room here for debate, since there were 7 teams with 1 loss and one with none going into the bowls. The BCS's pitting of No. 1 and 2 narrows down the split-championship scenario decidedly.
1. Utah defeats Alabama and/or Boise State defeats TCU. The presence of an undefeated team at the end of the season, even with a weak schedule, puts the question to any 1-loss champion. This is doubly true if Utah fares better against Alabama than did Florida.
2. Cry of the 1-lossers. The winner of the Rose Bowl, Texas if it beats Ohio State, Alabama if it beats Utah, and Texas Tech if it wins its bowl game, all have some claims on the national championship, more or less depending on the winner of the Oklahoma/Florida game. Texas beat Oklahoma and fell to 1-loss Texas Tech. The Longhorns especially have a strong case if all three Big XII teams win -- wouldn't we rank higher a pair of comparable teams the one with the win over the other?
Here's how the stakeholders made out:
NCAA, Bowls and TV Contracts: GREAT. The four BCS bowls had moderate viewership since none really had national championship implications, but that cash was made up for by high national viewership for the National Championship. Down-ticket bowl games struggled to fill their seats and promote with an average of 3 to 4 weeks to name opponents before the games, but most did okay and only a few low-hanging fruit had noticeable lack of attendance.
Fans: OKAY. The Texas thing pissed us off, and a lot of 1-loss teams did a lot of arguing. Plus, the non-BCS conferences had a whopper of a complaint with two undefeated teams left out in the cold...again. We got one awesome, stupendous, all-the-marbles football game a week into the New Year, but the other BCS bowls were not as easy to enjoy without national title implications. We had several weeks beforehand to buy tickets and make travel plans, so that was cool. The down-ticket bowls took a hit, too, with most of the teams with national appeal hosting blowouts in the BCS games. Really, the one thing that bothered us most is the BCS system itself -- with very little credibility built up for itself, the system leaves itself open to questioning. Frankly, we're more questioning of the BCS than we were at the polls.
Teams: GOOD. Those participating were able to use the extra time to practice for their opponents and put their best game forward. Student athletes were able to take their end-of-semester finals and most were able to return from their trips in time for the start of the next semester (the national championship game teams had a little trouble there). However, 12-0 Utah and Bosie go home with a legitimate beef, especially if they win their down-ticket bowls, for not being invited to the party.
So between the BCS and the Bowl Tie-In System, there really isn't a whole lot of difference. The BCS provides a more concrete national champion, but hardly devoid of controversy. The old bowl System perhaps would make a bit more money for NCAA, the Bowls, and the TV Networks/Sponsors this year, but this wouldn't be guaranteed to happen every year.
Let's do this one for an 8-team playoff. Suffice to say, a 4-team would include some of the problems from the BCS 2-team playoff system, and a 12- or 16-team playoff would exacerbate the problems of a playoff below.
For our purposes, I used a simple NCAA arbitration (i.e. NCAA says you're here, deal with it) system, no re-seeding.
Quarterfinals: (Dec. 25)
1. Florida v. 8. Texas Tech
2. Oklahoma v. 7. Utah
3. Texas v. 6. Penn State
4. Alabama v. 5. USC
Semifinals: (Jan. 1)
1. Florida v. 5. USC
2. Oklahoma v. 3. Texas
Championship: (Jan. 10)
5. USC v. 3. Oklahoma
Well, this ends the debate. At the end of the day, USC is 15-1 and everybody else has lost (except Boise State, but who would pick 13-0 Boise after USC ran THAT kind of gauntlet?). So the national champion is, beyond any doubt, USC.
Here's how the stakeholders made out:
NCAA, Bowls and TV Contracts: GOOD. Television-wise, the playoffs were HUGE success. Every game received a national audience. That's SEVEN games over 3 weeks with National Championship implications = $$$. The problem, however, came in the lower bowls. Even the traditionally great 2nd-tier bowls, like the Cotton, Holiday, and Gator Bowls, fared poorly, mostly due to having just 3 weeks to recruit high-level teams. The Citrus, which featured Georgia versus Ohio State, was the lone exception, thanks to those teams' traditional fanbases. Where the losses came, however, was in the lower bowls, which tanked with the limited promotional and leave time. And though the TV interest was high, the 2nd round playoff games were not always filled, since fans only had a week's notice to get tickets and fill the massive stadiums. For 2009, it was decided, about half of the lower bowls would not return.
Fans: OKAY. Don't get me wrong, the TV was awesome, and we finally got a good champion. But then there's the poor Boomer the Oklahoma die-hard, who ended up spending $8,000 flying last-minute around the country, only to see his Sooners lose to the Trojans. Many marriages died in these playoffs. Also, the last-minute fielding of down-ticket games while they waited for the playoffs to make their picks killed any chance for MSU fans et al. to get to their games, which they ended up watching on TV. In year two, they'd be lucky if their team even went to a bowl game -- most wouldn't.
Teams: MEH (changed from BAAAAD thanks to LJ's analysis). First of all, the late travel plans made it tough to impossible to use the bowls as recruiting tools. For teams going deep in the playoffs, injuries mounted up. Fortunately, little class time was missed -- students weren't home for Christmas but didn't mind THAT much. Only two teams went into the following semester. A few extra injuries hurt the teams. But the last-minute travel, the poor fan showing at the games, the loss of recruiting time, and a few spotty injuries were rough on the bowl participant teams. Boise State still complained it was left out, and bitterly too, since they ended the season undefeated but STILL weren't invited.
Author's note: This was originally written as a response to a board question on why Notre Dame has such success recruiting, even when a Brontosaurus is running the show. If you read it there already, congratulations.
My grandpa's favorite joke (like he would slide it in whenever he could) was whenever someone mentioned Shakespeare, he'd say "you mean Bill Shakespeare, the quarterback at Notre Dame?" Yes, the Domers had a QB named William Shakespeare back in the day.
In that day, however, that was probably the least exotic name on the ND squad, at least according to the sensibilities of what constituted a majority of Americans. Back then, an Irish name was treated by many Americans with a similar contempt that is shown today for some African language-inspired names for blacks.
Even a generation later, in Detroit, and other big cities, it was common for the Jewish boys like my father and the Catholic (mostly Irish, Italian and Polish) kids to be living in the same neighborhoods. However, each group generally segregated themselves, and had distinct sets of stereotypes.
The Catholics, it was said, were the rough-and-tumble guys. They're the ones who'd as soon knock you down as speak to you. They were the toughs. They were the bigs.
These are all century+old stereotypes, of course. But they were powerful, well-known stereotypes that persisted well into my parents' generation, a time when being Catholic still meant being not mainstream.
It's hard to imagine today, but Catholics, and Irish Catholics in particular, were in much the same position then as African Americans are today, i.e. they had the presidency, but they were still somewhat marginalized, still the victims of prejudice from holdouts of different times.
Teenagers of any persuasion are known identity seekers. As such, they tend to latch on to stereotypes, even going so far as to transform themselves to meet them. If society said a Catholic boy at a boarding school in LaPorte, Ind., was going to be a tough guy (according to one such fella*), that kid would make himself a tough guy.
Football loves tough guys.
Being a football tough guy is something you can learn. Not everyone with athletic prowess can play, or chooses to play football. Mentality is a big part of the game. As with any sport, early commitment to the game is a big part of success.
On the day Jack Kennedy was sworn into office, it was Catholic boys who were filling the rosters of college football programs well beyond their statistical population footprint. It was Catholic boys who were being told when they were teens that toughness was their ticket out.
It was during that period, from my grandpa's childhood through my father's, that Notre Dame built itself into a premier program. For all that time, its lifeblood was these Catholic boys. At a time when many Catholic Americans had few ways out of a predestined life in the working class, playing football for Notre Dame was the pinnacle of many of these boys' dreams.
Thus, the school at South Bend for two generations had a direct pipeline of premier football tough guys all across the United States.
The ND national recruiting model later became modern recruiting. But by nature of getting there first, ND still has the inside track on many traditional high school football programs which themselves were built on the backs of Catholic boys. The halls of St. Thomas Aquinas et al. all across the country are filled with photos of star alumni in their golden domes. ND is as much an institution in these schools as the fight song.
They no longer have the automatic draw, especially as Catholics in this country have, for the most part, completed their transition from margins to mainstream, meaning some oncologist of our generation might have, in a different time, made a fine defensive tackle for Notre Dame.
Today, it's African Americans still in transition from the margins to the mainstream, still fighting vestigial and institutionalized disadvantages, and thus more open in their teenage years to the kind of commitment needed to succeed in sports. And likewise, college football programs around the country have benefited from filling their rosters with today's tough kids, who learn life's tough lessons early in Pahokee and show up to play football with a hardness few kids in Birmingham could ever imagine.
And likewise, schools ideally situated to bring these kids in are today's rising powers. Meanwhile, the traditional powers maintain their institutional advantages for bringing in the creme de la creme.
College football will prosper in talent so long as American teenagers feed themselves to it. The only thing that changes is which teens decide to take that plunge. As our society continues its slow march of integration, the faces of those teens and the name on the back of the jersey will likewise change. But if that name be Hernandez, Williams, Mienkewitz, O'Malley, Dimatello, Klausen, Levine, or as Anglo-Saxon as William Shakespeare, he's still, essentially, the same boy.
*Chief Justice John G. Roberts, who once thought playing for Notre Dame was about as high as any man could go.
I had this dream last night.
I was watching Michigan play Ohio State on Saturday. It was deathly cold. Threet was starting. I was watching the game from on my old porch on East William in Ann Arbor. Yes that's weird. It's a frikkin dream, okay?
On the first kickoff, some unheralded guy put a lick on OSU's returner that would make a Mack Truck jealous. It was on.
Jamison came around the edge and forced Pryor to throw early, and this time Brown caught it.
Herbstreit, doing analysis up in the booth, said Michigan wouldn't be here if they didn't have to be. Someone threw him out of the press box. Not the nice way.
On a seemingly innocuous run, Moundros plowed into Laurinaitis. Replays couldn't show what happened -- too many guys in on the play. But when they finally got James up, there were stains on the seat of the silver pants.
Ohio State's offense scored. A tight end came across and Pryor hit him for a big gain, and Wells did the rest from the 5 yard line.
Michigan returned it to the 50. They started running it again. For 4 and a half minutes. Threet sneaked it in for the tie.
This is a dream remember -- it flashes forward worse than those replays on the Big Ten Network.
Michigan gets a gift -- for once the other team finally doesn't have safety help and 22 breaks for a long, perfectly executed TD.
Now it's late in the game. Graham plows through the offensive line. He hits Pryor so hard the stadium is immediately silenced. Michigan is up 22-7 and time is ticking off the clock still, and there's Graham atop his prey, right in Pryor's facemask. The frozen world outside those facemasks does not exist. It's Graham looking right at Pryor. He spits on his face. He says
And he never does.
That was my dream.
The other dream I had last night my girlfriend made us convert to Orthodox Jews and I had to grow my sideburns out. But that wasn't nearly as interesting as the other dream.
Michigan Now Just an Average Program
By DREW SHARP • FREE PRESS COLUMNIST • October 18, 2012
When Michigan and Michigan State face off this Saturday in Ann Arbor, it will be a meeting of two programs going in opposite directions.
While Mark Dantonio has established consistency and attitude in leading the Spartans to a 4-1 start, the sheen on Rich Rodriguez's back-to-back Big Ten championships and 2011 National Championship appearance has obviously worn off.
The sounding bell for Michigan's trip back to mediocrity was last week's debacle at Indiana, which dropped the Wolverines to 3-2 and 1-1 in the Big Ten this year.
That the legendary Wolverine program could fall to the perennial bottom-dweller of the Big Ten is anathema in Ann Arbor.
This latest loss may be the worst in Michigan's history. Appalachian State, which has won every NCAA Division I Football Championship since, was a good team that snuck up on them, while Toledo in 2008 could be chalked up to the inevitable attrition of instituting a brand new offense. Indiana, however, was a clear sign that the NCAA has caught up -- and passed by -- Rich Rodriguez's spread offense.
The Hoosiers knew everything the Wolverines were going to do before they did it. They pounced on every football. They showed up intense and ready to play, something that cannot be said for Rodriguez's squad.
Even when the Rich-Rod era was reaching its apex -- before Nick Saban's Crimson Tide proved in Miami that high-tech SEC football is far superior to the cavemen of the Big Ten -- the end of the Spread Option was in sight, as Ohio State limited Michigan's vaunted running game to just 86 yards.
The losses this year are a reflection of a team falling apart. We've heard grumblings from players about disjointed leadership in the locker room. Their motivation has been called to question. The resounding victory over an overrated Notre Dame team is a forgotten memory. This was the real Michigan, failing epically when not showing off for a national audience.
Now, with Superman Sam McGuffie and Tate Forcier playing in the NFL, Michigan has struggled to find offensive life against real defenses. And Rodriguez has taken the heat for this latest embarrassment, with many Michigan faithful ready to move on without him. Following the loss this year to Indiana, the website www.firerichrodriguez.com reported a record number of hits.
Coaches, it seems, have a short shelf life in today's win-now environment.
In that paradigm, MSU's Dantonio, who took over the program way back in 2006, is the exception. Dantonio, who won a national championship at Ohio State in 2002 (something Rich Rodriguez has never accomplished), has stuck around by preferring substance to flash. Under his direction, Michigan State has focused on building its foundations with a power running attack and a tough, in-your-face defense, and with a win in the Big House Saturday, could emerge as the new power in the state.
Michigan State has had a decided edge in the battle for in-state recruiting in recent years, holding a 3-to-1 advantage in Top 20 in-state talent. Dantonio has eschewed the exotic speed demons of Florida that Rodriguez favors, instead choosing to build his team by establishing strong relationships with in-state coaches. The dividends of this long-term investment are now paying off, starting with State's home-grown 'lighting' and 'thunder' tailback duo of Edwin Baker and Austin White. This week, they hauled in yet another highly regarded athlete, gathering a commitment from the Free Press' No. 13 in-state recruit, linebacker Damien Hirst of Birmingham Seaholm.
The recruting differential tells the story: in-state high schoolers are already looking at Michigan State before Michigan even extends an offer.
It starts Saturday. If the Spartans can roll into Ann Arbor and dispatch Rodriguez's flailing Wolverines, it could signal the beginning of the end of Michigan dominance in this state, and a return to the days of Biggie Munn and Duffy Daugherty, when Spartans dominated the rivalry and competed every year for the national title.
MORE DREW SHARP COLUMNS:
>Red Wings' Season Over Before It Began
>Leyland Should Take Blame for 2nd World Series Disappointment
>Time for Wings to cut ties with Datsyuk, Zetterberg and rebuild
>Young Pistons Looking to get Back to Playoffs
>Lions Should Bench Stanton, Look to Future
MORE ON FREEP.COM
>In Times Like These, Remember We All Love Each Other -- Mitch Albom
>Presidential Candidates Missed Opportunity in Last Debate -- Desiree Washington
>Michael Vick Released from Prison, Lions Deny Interest
>Construction Alert: Every Single Square Inch of Freeway in Southeast Michigan
This season reminds me of one of those books where the author attempts to bully readers with one gruesome plot twist after another, until you give up on a happy resolution and just pray the story only gives the characters a merciful end. As is my policy with such novels, I defiantly skipped to the end of the The Rebuilding Year to see how it ends...
"After torching Michigan for a total of 387 yards -- 180 on the ground -- and scoring all four OSU touchdowns, Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor revealed to reporters that he decided to be a Buckeye months before signing day, but was urged by coaches to hold off his commitment in order to keep Michigan from pulling in a Plan B.
...[skip part of article replaying key Pryor scores]...
INJURY NOTES: Running back Sam McGuffie (arterial cruciate ligament) did not play, and is not expected back until late next season. D-lineman Brandon Graham (leg amputated) was on the sidelines in a wheelchair providing encouragement to his teammates. Strength and Conditioning coach Mike Barwis was back with the team after a four-week hiatus to attend a court-mandated sensitivity training seminar. Quarterback Steven Threet returned from a shoulder injury that sidelined him since the Toledo game, but was replaced by Nick Sheridan after two plays in which Threet was in obvious pain. Defensive backs Donovan Warren and Boubacar Cissoko did not return after a 1st quarter collision that led to Ohio State's first touchdown.
Michigan players wore maize wrist bands and dedicated the game to Shavodrick Beaver and Tate Forcier, two highly regarded Michigan commits who are suffering from nondescript upper body injuries after a tragic accident Thursday when a Beaver canoe carrying Forcier and Virginia Tech commit Kevin Newsome crash-landed on Beaver's pool deck in Wichita Falls, Texas. The Wolverines held a get-well-soon service for all three players on Thursday, similar to the service held two weeks ago for the entire offensive line, which sustained lower body injuries in a freak water balloon accident earlier this month.
Dammit! Seriously, who told Arthur Miller he could write this?!?