Federally-Mandated Playoff Opinion Post

Submitted by Brian on June 28th, 2012 at 12:12 PM

The federal blog oversight committee has threatened fines if I do not expose my opinion on the recently officialized playoff. I comply. I also comply with their demand for a picture of Jim Mora.



Yes to committees. A common complaint has been about the committee, which is as of yet an amorphous entity that Barry Switzer has volunteered for. Tony Barnhart points out that at least the committee will try to fight this year's war instead of screwing up, then changing the rules so that they don't make that mistake again, then making a different mistake:

2000: Miami beat Florida State head-to-head in the regular season and both finished with one loss. The Seminoles went to the BCS championship game ahead of the Hurricanes. Tweak.

2001: Nebraska didn't win its division of the Big 12 because it got hammered by Colorado 62-36 in its final regular-season game. The Buffs beat No. 3 Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game. Nebraska was No. 4 in the two human polls, Colorado was No. 3 and Oregon was No. 2. But when all the numbers came in, Nebraska played Miami in the big game and got embarrassed. Tweak.

2003: Southern California was ranked No. 1 in both human polls but the BCS standings put LSU and Oklahoma in the BCS championship game. USC was awarded the AP national championship, the last time the title was split. Tweak.

Those events devolved the BCS formula into the poll troika that has clattered along the last half-dozen years or so. You know, this one:

  • THE USA TODAY MASSIVE CONFLICT OF INTEREST POLL: In which football coaches vote for teams they haven't seen play to determine whether their school will acquire prestige.
  • THE HARRIS "YEAH WE'RE SURPRISED THEY'RE NOT DEAD EITHER" POLL: In which 90-year-old men in suspenders keep voting for Bowdoin.
  • THE COMPUTER AMALGAMATION: In which computers are blindfolded, told every game ends 1-0 to the victor, and are asked to stop hitting themselves.

I'll take a small number of men who are personally responsible for explaining their thinking to pitchfork-toting mobs over that.

Trying to slap a bunch of different factors into a formula that selects teams has been a total failure, and will be again. You can have a BCS-formula-ish matrix you present to humans to help guide their decision-making process, because humans will remember that team X lost 62-36 to Colorado in its most recent game. You can't apply arbitrary weights to your factors, smoosh them into a cube, and expect it to be foie gras. It's going to taste like embarrassment and pain.

Inevitably this will lead to situations where the #4 team and #5 team are a matter of preference since there will be zero common opponents and very little to distinguish between their resumes, and team #5 will shake its fist until the sun envelops the earth. But what struck me was how rarely it happened if you go into things treating conference championships as a tiebreaker, as Matt Hinton did over at CBS. He went back to '06 and found just one year where serious complaining occurs: 2008, when undefeated Boise State, undefeated Utah, and 11-1 Big Ten champ Penn State get left out. But that was also a fiasco then, and at least a four team playoff only spits out an unsatisfactory conclusion once in the time frame presented instead of four or five times.

It's clear a committee is necessary to smooth over poll idiocies like Stanford over Oregon, and you can make their job straightforward enough by prioritizing conference champions in your selection process.

BONUS: Think of the money you could make by turning the deliberations into a two-hour Jersey Shore-styled reality show.

It's going to expand/this is temporary/soon we will have 48 teams/college football is going to die. Yeah, probably. No one's been able to come up with a reason that a college football playoff has to stay small that isn't easily overwhelmed by money money money. I think this is a comprehensive list of anti-playoff arguments:

  • Think of the academics.
  • Think of the brain damage.
  • Think of how the players actually playing in these games get not one nickel more from exposing themselves to the brain damage.
  • Think of the Rose Bowl.
  • The New York Giants.

No one who makes the decisions actually cares about the first three or we wouldn't have a 12th game and we wouldn't have a four team playoff. The Rose Bowl is living on borrowed time. Sooner or later, Jim Delany will go to the great Jim Henson laboratory in the sky and the Larry Scotts of the world will consign the Rose Bowl to a cool consolation prize. The Giants problem isn't nearly as much of a problem in college since the way schedules are designed makes it almost certain that whoever wins a playoff will have the best resume in the land.

So yes, this is an intermediary step towards a larger playoff I'm not sure how I'll feel about (I think six is the best number, and don't think it'll ever be six). That step will take a while to get here since the contract is expected to run a whopping 12 years. Once that's done, though, the conceptual leap from four to more is a lot shorter than from two to four.

This is still not a huge problem since whoever wades through three elite opponents at the end of the year will probably have had the best season. No 9-7 teams are ever getting into a college football playoff.

Have-nots are fine. Dennis Dodd:

A playoff probably lessens access for the sport's unwashed. At least makes it more uncertain. That selection committee? Its composition will have to reflect that the Big East is no longer considered a BCS-level conference. The ACC has become less of a factor. That Big Four -- Pac-12, Big Ten, SEC, Big 12 -- are calling the shots. To be precise, the commissioners of those leagues are calling the shots.

There might be not a thing wrong with that. Those 46 schools predominantly play the best football, win the most championships, make the most money. They have the most invested in this playoff. In the coming age, there are more of the have-nots who will matter less, if that makes any sense. And it should. The incredible windfall from a playoff -- estimated at $500 million per year on the high end -- essentially means those have-nots will trade money for access.

Hush money in shoulder pads.

First of all, true have-nots: go away. You are burning millions of dollars for no reason. San Jose State, what do you think your end game is in D-I football?

Anyway: when Boise or TCU-equivalent or Utah-equivalent goes undefeated and knocks off a good BCS team in the nonconference and annihilates all of its weaker opposition, they might get picked. Bill Connolly ballparked what four-team playoffs would look like* if run by a selection committee with Bill Connolly's brain and came out with five have-not bids (2 TCU, 1 Utah, 1 Cincinnati, 1 Louisville). Hinton got one fewer. "Might" may not sound good to snubbed Boise State, but 1) make your chip shot field goals against Nevada, seriously, and 2) five bids are five more than a two-team playoff provided.

If a Sun Belt team has that resume, they'll get picked. It will never be a Sun Belt team because they don't belong in D-I. If you are asking me to have sympathy for teams that exist to take guaranteed beatings for guaranteed paychecks… no. No, I will not. WKU won a I-AA national title a few years back, and now they've traded that for perpetual obscurity and head-beatings. I can't stop you but don't ask me to care about your plight.

*[While reading that post take the opportunity to figure out how many years look better with six teams than four. Or just read Seth's post on the matter. Six is the winner.]

Dump the computers. I'm a numbers guy. I like numbers. 7.56 was one of my groomsmen. So I say this as a man who could probably remember how to turn a number into its twos complement representation if you let him google a little: it's time to evict computer rankings from the equation entirely. They are operating with so little information—who won X game and nothing else—and offer so little information about themselves (five of six don't release their calculations) that they are a fancy way to flip a coin.

Returning MOV to the equation would help somewhat but not enough. There's not enough data unless you let computer models go over every drive, every play, to try to whittle down the noise. That's a radical step I can't see the squinty-eyed powers that be making. Short of that, computers have got to go.

Down with the acronyms. Bill Connolly:

when exactly will the Football Bowl Subdivision be getting a new name since it, like the Football Championship Subdivision, will also have a championship? Can we just move back to 1-A and 1-AA please?

Yes please. It still takes mental processing to figure out what division someone deploying FCS or FBS is talking about, and that's after a decade. (This is an ominous sign for Legends and Leaders, which will still require you to remember that Michigan isn't in the one mentioned in its fights song ten years from now.)

Yes! Lack of home games aside, this should be fun as long as the title game rotates to the north some after its inevitable first year in Dallas. The main screwup would have been a plus-one, which has not occurred, and they've gingerly started removing the bowls' looting from the equation by bidding out the title game. While it could be better, it is a lot better than what we had before, and all it took was two teams in the same division having a rematch to get it.



June 28th, 2012 at 12:25 PM ^

I'd like to open the floor to nominations for committee members.  I hereby nominate:

1. Lloyd Brady

2. Yoda

Who would you like to see on the committee?


June 28th, 2012 at 12:25 PM ^

First off this is sort of a funny day to title your post "federally mandated."  Not sure if on purpose.

Second, it hasn't really been ten years since they changed I-A to FBS, has it?  If so, holy crap.

Third, "the New York Giants" doesn't sum up the argument well enough.  The point is that the bigger the playoff, the more mistakes you can make in the regular season, and the more mistakes you can make in the regular season, the less the season matters.


June 28th, 2012 at 1:17 PM ^

At first, it sounded like I was going to have to strike down this title. But there was some confusion, because I actually decided that the title was fine.



June 28th, 2012 at 1:00 PM ^

Honestly, I have never understood the difficulty that some claim to have with distinguishing these acronyms:

FCS = Football Championship Subdivision; meaning they settle their championship on the field in a playoff.

FBS = Football Bowl Subdivision; meaning they play a bunch of useless bowl games and then blindly determine the champion.


June 28th, 2012 at 12:32 PM ^

Dear Leader, Mr. LaRouche is on the red line and would like his snark back.

Now to my two cents: as long as Mr. Holtzss, Mr. May, Mr. Dagummit Bowden and Mr. Millen are not selected I am fine.

French West Indian

June 28th, 2012 at 12:33 PM ^

...keeps advocating the demise of the Rose Bowl, it will be difficult to take anything they say seriously.  They clearly don't understand Michigan and probably secretly dislike college football too.


June 28th, 2012 at 1:05 PM ^

1. I don't see Brian advocating the demise of what the Rose Bowl once meant, so much as stating it's a fait accompli in the new (and truthfully, the current) system. In both of those systems, the paeans to the RB as the sport's ultimate game were mainly rhetorical. Everyone knew that the championship game, and now the playoffs, was the ultimate goal.

2. Given the new system, how should the game be regarded in the years its not hosting a semi-final? Is there any way to regard it as anything other than a consolation prize?

French West Indian

June 28th, 2012 at 2:11 PM ^

Is Wimledon a consolation prize?  Is the Kentucky Derby a consolation prize?  What's more prestigious, winning the PGA Championship or winning the Masters in Augusta?

The appeal of college football is it's traditon and history.  These are things that make it unique.  That any self-respecting Michigan Man would argue for the demise of such things in favor of the shiny new toy is a travesty and a betrayal to the spirit of Michigan football.  But yeah, more $$$.  Well, fuck the money.  That's not why anyone ever gave a damn about college football to begin with.  And yeah, a clear cut (maybe) national champion. But fuck that too becuase nobody ever cared about national championships either (except Notre Dame and thankfully we are not them).

In another five years when when people are wondering why they can't sellout M Stadium anymore don't feign surprise.  The writing is on the wall.

This blog is an excellent source of information but it's editorials are almost unbearable sometimes.  The inconsistancy of fighting for the traditional uniforms, the marching band, no advertisements, etc on the one hand just doesn't jive with the consistent Rose Bowl dismissals.  Going to the Rose Bowl (and even the losing to USC part) is Michigan football. Change that and it is game over. Polls, naitonal championships and everything else be damned.  


June 28th, 2012 at 2:49 PM ^

You are saying that Brian, by stating the fact that the Rose Bowl will be reduced in importance in the future (which is undoubtedly true) is "advocating for the demise of the Rose Bowl."  I think you are wrong:  I have not seen any instance where this blog has ever "advocated" the demise of the Rose Bowl.

Note that you can think this playoff is a good thing (it is) while still regretting the obvious fact that the Rose Bowl will be reduced in importance (it will). 


June 28th, 2012 at 3:36 PM ^

The ironic thing is that Delany and the ADs, who spent so much time articulating the protection of the Rose Bowl as the Big Ten's first and foremost concern have essentially undermined its meaning three times.

1. When they agreed to join the BCS.

2. The recent playoff negotiations, which make the Rose Bowl one of six semi-final bowls and reduce the chance of a Big 10-Pac 10 matchup ...and, in what hasn't gotten near enough attention, and

3. in declining to pursue the Plus 1 four years ago.

The Plus 1 was actually the chance to really preserve the Rose Bowl's special qualities and allow a playoff. Had Delany and the ADs gone along with a plus one along with a return to the traditional bowl structure, it would have accomplished both the protection of the Rose Bowl while guaranteeing Big Ten teams ranked 1 or 2 after the bowls access to a championship game. (I'd actually prefer this system to the playoff, but seems like it was a non-starter). 


June 28th, 2012 at 3:41 PM ^

I agree with you in that I don't think Brian or the blog is advocating for or wants the Rose Bowl to go away. But I do think that his well established position (which many here do agree with though I personally disagree) that the bowls on the whole are either A- corrupt, because they take money that would go to the schools, and a couple of them have had financial shenanigans, or B- unnecessary obstacles in the way of a playoff, is responsible for this guy and maybe others believing that. To his point: it will be very dificult for the Rose Bowl to remain in it's current pre-emminent position if we deliberately weaken the other major bowls and bowl system.

the Glove

June 28th, 2012 at 5:30 PM ^

Really, because I'm pretty sure we hang banners for championships and not the number of rose bowls that were played. I find it interesting that you're comparisons are sports that do not have a build up to the end of the season and crown an overall victor. No the rose bowl is not a constellation prize for a team winning the big 10, but it does fall short of a national championship. I believe you're still in the mindset of pre 1997 where there wasn't a chance of putting the top two teams against each other. The rose bowl was the championship for them, but now that is not the case. If you were to ask the Michigan team from 2006 which bowl game they would have rather played in, I promise you it wouldn't have been the rose bowl.


June 28th, 2012 at 5:41 PM ^

if somehow 1998 and the BCS and now the playoffs had never happened, I would be quite happy with the Rose Bowl as the prize, the only prize, and the national title as a nice, non-official voted on bonus to a great season. And I wouldn't care one bit that we never tried to name a "true" champion. And I think a lot of people feel the same way


June 28th, 2012 at 12:41 PM ^

Just playoff the winners of the ROSE, SUGAR, FIESTA and ORANGE. Take the winners of these bowls and have a semi-final and final game.  The bowls should keep their tie ins, as long as the teams are BCS bowl eligible.


June 28th, 2012 at 12:55 PM ^

Alright, can anyone explain this particular snippet from our intrepid leader to me:


Sooner or later, Jim Delany will go to the great Jim Henson laboratory in the sky...

Usually, I can work these odd/obscure references out, but this one has me stumped.


June 28th, 2012 at 1:18 PM ^

I have to question this statement: "It's clear a committee is necessary to smooth over poll idiocies like Stanford over Oregon"

Isn't a "poll" just the results of a large committee? Why do we think that a smaller committee will be less idiotic than a larger committee?

I also don't like the 6 team playoff idea, because why should the #2 team get a bye, but not the #3 team, when the #2 team may not even be better than the #3 team. It's only the decision of some committee that ranked #2 ahead of #3, and what if they are wrong? Then you've given a large advantage to team #2 that is not warranted. Let the teams decide it on the field. That said, I'm not sure if 4 or 8 is the right answer, but I know 16 teams is too much.


June 28th, 2012 at 1:48 PM ^

Isn't a "poll" just the results of a large committee?

Nah. In a poll you have a bunch of guys sitting down by themselves and figuring out a list all on their lonesome.  In a committee they all sit together which presents the opportunity for one guy to convince another why he's wrong - or at least convince the rest of the committee.


June 28th, 2012 at 1:25 PM ^

about holding committee members publicly accountable. I'd love to see a requirement that each member submit a paragraph or two on their decision and have it posted publicly with the selection results.