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 2:01 PM ^

I feel as if the committee is just the stopgap while the ACC and Big East finish imploding.  Well really the Big East is already done.  At this point all we need to do is move the cream of the ACC over to the B12 and then the playoffs are just the four conference champs.  FSU, Miami, and VT need homes in a BCS conference.

In the mean time while that sorts itself out, we get the committee in case the ACC actually does manage to produce a good team and we need to seed it in at the expense of a different conference who is having a down year.  

Basically we can't quit manage to quit the polls cold turkey, so we're doing little baby rehab steps.  


June 28th, 2012 at 2:08 PM ^

"Sooner or later, Jim Delany will go to the great Jim Henson laboratory in the sky...."  Hilarious. He totally reminds me of Beaker.




June 28th, 2012 at 2:10 PM ^

I think the deck is getting stacked to avoid LSU v. Alabama III. Having said that, I do think that the committee will prefer a 4th conference champ over the runner-up from another one, simply for the money going to that conference. And I think that makes it harder for the independants/mid-majors to make it in. I just expect it to be Big-10, SEC, Pac-12, Big-12 more or less every year.

In 2011, the Big 10 would have been shut out of a large pile of money. But I think we'll see a lot of situations like 2010, where I predict that Wisconsin gets in over Stanford, simply because the Pac-10 already has a team in the playoff. Or 2008, where it could very well be Oklahoma, Florida, USC, Penn State just to spread the teams around.

Once the mid-majors combine into a big enough conference to raise enough of a stink is when we'll see the next change (to 6 or 8 teams, or a play-in game or something).


June 28th, 2012 at 2:22 PM ^

"...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."

This is precisely why an 8 team playoff is needed.  Once you get to 8 teams, the probability of any team having even a remotely legitamate argument for being the best/most deserving team in the country is essentially 0.  All possible contraversy solved.

I mean seriously, there are many tough problems in this world.  The right number of playoff spots isn't one of them.


June 28th, 2012 at 9:17 PM ^

Yes I do.  Read Connolly's article and you see how many quality teams with merit get left out.

Eight teams just about ensures that no team that can realistically win the championship gets left out, and lets you throw a bone to a high-ranked Mid Major pretty consistently.  Keeps congress from sniffing around your "arrangement".


June 28th, 2012 at 4:11 PM ^

... between them, and the more legitimate gripes you get.  From that perspective, the right number of spots is the one with no subjectivity e.g. all teams with a winning season (not 6-6, but 7-5) make it in, and we'll seed them from there.  Then you get seeding gripes ...

At any rate, we can all remember seasons where there were more than 8 0/1-loss teams that could make a reasonable case as the best in the country.


June 28th, 2012 at 3:15 PM ^

Re ". . . 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 """". ."\"

The only way I can remember what stupid-named division we are in is to remind myself that it is the one that is not in our fight song.  Somehow that makes no sense, but all the sense. 


June 28th, 2012 at 5:20 PM ^

I'm OK with this as long as the Detriot Metro area has a chance to bid on the championship game and we can hold it at the Big House.


June 28th, 2012 at 9:18 PM ^

How many years does ND get passed over in favor of a conference champion before they join a conference? That is, assuming the "return to glory" ever actually comes off.


June 28th, 2012 at 9:44 PM ^

My concern is not enough years.  A one-loss Notre Dame is always going to get a good long look, even with a weak schedule, selection committee or not.  It's not fair, but that's the way it is.

If I'm Notre Dame, I stick to USC and Michigan on the schedule, along with a few mid-level BCS teams like Purdue and Pitt, then I schedule all creampuffs.  

If I go 11-1, I know they will find every damn excuse in the world to let me in.  I'll give them just enough of a flimsy schedule to hang their hat on . . . "well they did play USC and Michigan, and they did beat some BCS schools . . . "


June 28th, 2012 at 9:35 PM ^

Because of the way they structured it within the existing Bowls, the Four Team Playoff system is actually not that far off stylistically from a Plus-One.  

With a Plus-One, you play all the Bowl Games by New Years Day, then the top two go to the Championship game.

With the Four Team Playoff, you play all the Bowl Games by New Years Day, then the top two go to the Championship game.

The only difference is that you are pre-determining which two Bowl Games get to send their winners to the Championship game.  And of course you are pre-seeding the alleged top four teams into those 2 Bowl Games.

It doesn't really look like an FCS-sstyle multi-week playoff.  It looks more like the old Bowl system with an extra Championship game.  I think this had a lot to do with being able to get it sold to all the traditionalists.


steve sharik

June 29th, 2012 at 9:22 PM ^

I like how the Michigan HS Ath. Assoc. does it.   An analagous NCAA playoff:

  • 120 teams in D-1A, 16 playoff spots
  • 60 teams in 6, 10-team Class A conferences (e.g., B1G, SEC, etc.)
  • 30 teams in 3, 10-team Class B conferences (e.g., Mountain West, WAC)
  • 30 teams in 3, 10-team Class C conferences (e.g., MAC, Sun Belt, Big East (j/k))
  • Each team plays 12 games--all 9 conference opponents and 3 non-conf.
  • Point system; no polls incorporated--this allows for all the people who love to talk about polls to do so ad nauseum to their hearts' content
  • 80 points for beating a Class A opponent, 64 points for beating a Class B opponent, 48 points for beating a Class C opponent, 32 points for beating an opponent not in D-1A
  • 8 points for each win by an opponent you beat
  • 1 point for each win by an opponent you lost to, except for your game with that opponent
  • 9+ wins = auto-qualify
  • If less than 16 teams qualify, add the teams with the most points who aren't auto-qualifiers
  • If more than 16 teams qualify, eliminate the auto-qualifiers with the least points
  • Playoffs are seeded 1-16 by points
  • Higher-seeded team hosts 1st round

The following is not analagous to the MHSAA, but they're personal suggestions:

  • Quarters, semis, and finals are neutral sites
  • Cities, bowls, and/or corporate sponsors blind bid for the title game.  Highest bid gets the title game, 2nd and 3rd highest bid get the semis, etc.