The Last Straw

Submitted by Brian on January 11th, 2012 at 12:16 PM


people who like the BCS: no people

Would be this: A dull blowout that invalidates the regular season and proclaims a second-place finisher in their own division a national champion when other one-loss teams are shut out because of… stuff. And things. Afterwards, a system designed to protect the sanctity of the regular season above all causes the winners of that blowout to print up shirts declaring "we won the one that counted."

This makes people upset. A foaming Dan Wetzel is still being chased by a helicopter containing men with tranquilizer guns:

Miles even made the case postgame that LSU should be in consideration for the AP title based on its season-long body of work, including the previous triumph over Alabama.

“That’s for the voters to figure,” Miles said.

When the coach of a team that was shut out in the championship game is arguing that he should win the championship anyway, the system is an unqualified disaster.

The sport’s power brokers will meet here Tuesday to discuss the future, and many have predicted significant changes. If there is one positive from this tractor pull, it’s that it should help continue the groundswell toward a playoff, even if it’s just four teams to start.

See also a suicidally depressed Michael Weinreb and a puzzled Brian Phillips.

BCS ratings are collapsing along with attendance in an era when football is thriving. Average bowl attendance hit a 30-year low, and that's based on increasingly fictional announced numbers. Clemson and West Virginia played the least-watched BCS game ever. Moving to ESPN has caused ratings to shrink 21% from two years ago. The BCS has finally pissed off too many people to be permitted to live. So says just about everybody.

Except Jim Delany, obviously.

“There’s a real concern about a slippery slope and what a playoff means to college football,” Delany said.

If he said it again, I'll say it again: you should have thought about that in 1998. It doesn't matter. Now that college football postseason's horrendous structure is hitting the big guys in the wallet, change is coming.


The NYT says "change to the current structure of college football's post season [is] imminent" based on interviews with everyone, with a four-team playoff the most likely outcome. Matt Hayes quotes the usual high-ranking official saying simply "It gets done."

The logistics are uncertain since there are apparently "50 to 60" ways you can structure a four team playoff, and by God these bowl games fleecing us yearly are valued partners. The way to do it is to cut them out of the picture and maximize the piles of revenue by assuring sellouts: home games. On New Year's day, if you like, with Pasadena waiting a week or so later, on an actual Saturday maybe.

That won't happen because the Fiesta Bowl will throw a hissy fit, but whatever half-ass change to the BCS college football's power brokers come up with to prevent the torches and pitchforks from reaching their door will actually, finally be a meaningful expansion of opportunity for the two to three schools that get screwed every year there isn't a USC-Texas matchup, which is 90% of years. It will be maybe three quarters of an ass.

As long as they start detaching themselves from their parasites, this is a major step towards sanity. If the boring regional wank-fest that was the national championship game had been preceded by LSU and Alabama wins over Oklahoma State and Oregon or Stanford, oh well. They earned it. Instead they were handed it. That's a bridge too far for a sport already under siege for being fraudulent.



January 11th, 2012 at 12:24 PM ^

It just continues to feel like college football makes these small incremental steps.  If you're going to do something, then do it right. Sit down, spend some time and figure it out.  Stop half assing everything.  We're going to cure cancer before we have a logical conclusion to a college football season.


January 11th, 2012 at 12:22 PM ^

I've never quite understood why some Michigan fans are against the BCS. We are a direct beneficiary of the system, and have the odds stacked in our favor. Frankly, I don't really give a shit if teams in the WAC or Conference USA feel left out. I see much of the Playoff push as just an attempted money grab by ESPN.


January 11th, 2012 at 12:30 PM ^

I'd rather the system be fair than that it be stacked in our favor. It's unsportsmanlike otherwise.

On a cruder note, I want a system where there's never even the tiniest sliver of truth when Sparty complains the system shafted them because they're Sparty. A fair system forces them to own their failures and stop making excuses.


January 11th, 2012 at 1:43 PM ^


[pley-awf, -of], noun

1.  (in competitive sports) the playing of an extra game, rounds, innings, etc., in order to settle a tie.

2.  a series of games or matches, as between the leading teams of two leagues, in order to decide a championship
Please note the use the of the plural.


January 11th, 2012 at 5:08 PM ^

I agree 100%.  2006 Michigan had no business being in the BCS Championship Game against OSU.  My only beef with how 2006 went down at the end was how transparently the BCS gamed the polling to ensure that a rematch wouldn't take place. 


January 12th, 2012 at 4:01 PM ^

They do it in basketball... trim down to 65 teams with the same crappy RPI SoS system. They cut 58 teams to 16 for the Hockey tourney with the same crappy RPI/SoS/PWR system. 

Don't they use the same formulas to determine the two teams in the NC game? So now it will "better" if we expand it to say eight teams so we can all feel good about the match-up because it went through a "playoff"? /sarcasm



January 11th, 2012 at 1:03 PM ^

I don't think you can have a completely "fair" system when 120+ teams play 12-14 games each, but I feel a necessary requirement for whatever system is used is that it not have obviously unfair elements. A necessary requirement for the system not being "unfair"  is that it not depend on what half-informed coaches or Harris poll voters had for breakfast the morning they sent their votes in.

I know it's gauche to link to your own blog post, so I apologize for doing so, but I did write something last month about what I think would be a fairer way to rank teams that would be too long to repost here:…

Once we rank teams fairly, we can then argue over whether it's least unfair to have 2, 4, 6, 8, 12, or 16 teams in the "playoffs."


January 11th, 2012 at 4:34 PM ^

Hadn't thought about this aspect.

Even if true, in this one case, it might be fair to say that what benefits ESPN would also benefit fans, unlike the parasite-ridden spectacle that the bowl-driven post-season is today. Ideally, the U's, and not ESPN, would take control of the post-season environment.

The bowl system is an obsolete historical anomaly borne of an era when college football had no national organization (hence "Champions of the West"; no entity higher than the "West[ern Conference]" existed to win in those days). Bowls started with local board-of-commerce promotional schemes in the early days; the match-ups were unlikely exhibitions in the spirit of the old-timey College All-Star Game matching the NFL champ v. college seniors -- itself originally a charity benefit. With time the "charity" functions withered as money and inertia sucked the humanity out of these bizarre organisms.

I really think 2006 UM would have been infinitely better off under any post-season scheme other than the Urban-Meyer-Whiner political sludgefest that that season devolved into. Granted, UM didn't acquit itself in that Rose Bowl, but even if it had, it would barely have helped.


January 11th, 2012 at 12:32 PM ^

Disagreeing with Brian more and more these days.  I'm sorry but this pst make no sense.

"when other one-loss teams are shut out because of… stuff"

Stuff like losses?

"Instead they were handed it."

You mean like you wanted to hand Ok St a shot?

We have a 2 team playoff for the title, whether its 2 teams, 4 teams or 8, we have to choose those teams in some way, and someone is going to get left out.  Just because the team you want gets left out doesn't mean they chose the wrong team.



January 11th, 2012 at 1:26 PM ^

if they had picked Ok St, you could easily say how the hell is the regular season important if a team that lost to a team with 7 losses, beat a team with 6 losses by 1 point and squeaked by K St gets a shot over a team whose one loss came against the #1 team in overtime and destroyed every other team they played. 


January 11th, 2012 at 2:04 PM ^

........., transitive property doesn't work well in cfb, otherwise, we should have beat MSU and had a closer game against Nebraska, if not a loss. Also, if transitive property worked, Oregon never should have lost to USC at home, being that they smashed Stanford who barely beat USC in 3OT's.

Each game is an entity unto itself. Let's say OkSt. makes that fg at  the end of regulation and only beats IowaSt. by 3. Would you still be talking about how close OkSt.'s wins were vs. a team that barely lost to the #1 team in OT?

Better yet, how do you rate a team that high who had an FCS team hang close with them for a large part of the game, and that same FCS team was demolished by eventual FCS champion North Dakota St., who needed a late 4th quarter Int. to keep lowly 3-9 Minnesota from forcing an OT.

I don't discount the possibility, and probability, of the voters having been right this year. The problem is that we won't ever know for sure if LSU and Bama really were the two best teams. In 2006 the voters were proven correct by not including two teams from the same conference that had already played each other in the NC game. This year it's not definitive, and to me and many others, is a mythical NC for Bama. A plus-one format would have changed that, even if it did result in the same NC game that was just played.


January 11th, 2012 at 2:27 PM ^

.....due to the hypothetical of OkSt. beating IowaSt. by a fg, and Bama losing only to the #1 team by a fg in OT, if that had happened, and OkSt. made the championship game, Bama very well could have had an argument for inclusion in the NC game, and I would have supported it.

The point about a playoff is to more definitively determine a cfb NC. Will it ever be a perfect system? No. Will there still be arguments about who is included and who isn't? Absolutely. However, a playoff with more than two teams will reduce the number of arguments about who is the best team from a certain year. IMO, four is the best number, as that is the closest number historically to the number of teams in a given year that have a legitimate argument for inclusion in the MNC game.

I want a more definitve conclusion to the season. That also leads to more football being played between top teams which is always a plus, and IMO, will create more drama for the last few weeks of the cfb regular season, rather than diminishing the importance of it. For example, considering this season, the last few week's games of many of the top rated teams would have had more on the line, including Oregon/USC, OKSt./OU, and even the Houston/USM game, as all could have had an impact on who is one of the four teams in the playoff. This season it was pretty much a given that if LSU beat GA that it would be LSU/Bama in the NC game, meaning none of the other games, and particularly the beatdown of OU by OkSt. had any impact on the NC game.

panthera leo fututio

January 11th, 2012 at 12:42 PM ^

It's true that regardless of whether you have a playoff of 2, 4, 8, or 128 teams, there are going to be decisions on the margin that will bum some teams out. As true as this is, it's a very weak argument against going to some sort of expanded playoff system. Yes, if you have a 4-team playoff, teams 5-10 might be able to make a plausible argument that they should have been included. But it's less likely that those teams will be able to make a plausible argument that they are the best team in the country. The more teams you include, the worse the marginal teams are going to be, and the less unfair their exclusion is going to be.


January 11th, 2012 at 1:23 PM ^

to be clear, I am not in any way arguing against a larger playoff, I think an 8 team playoff would be awesome.  But today we have a 2 team playoff, and people make stupid arguments about why their choice for those teams is better than someone else's, notwithstanding of course that the large majority of coaches and media chose differently.


January 11th, 2012 at 2:47 PM ^

That is, college football teams are usually distributed like the far right side of a bell curve.  Placing the team at the top spot requires considering, say, 3-4 teams.  Picking the 6th best team requires considering 5-8 teams, and it gets worse from there.

For example, Michigan finished above MSU in FEI and one poll; below them in the other.  To an observer not using maize-and-blue or green-and-white glasses, it's not trivial to pick between their end-of-season-incarnations - and they played each other once.

If you want simpler decisions, restrict the number of teams.  If you want the decisions to have less consequence (be less important), increase the number of teams.



January 11th, 2012 at 12:43 PM ^

Sounds ridiculous to me. Especially when one of the teams finished second in their division. With a 6 or 8 team playoff it's highly unlikely that anyone outside of those teams would have a legitimate gripe about being left out. At least I can't recall seeing a team ranked 8th at the end of the season and thinking they got shafted out of the MNC.


January 11th, 2012 at 1:49 PM ^

IMO, an 8 team playoff is the perfect number.  A team has to win 3 games to win the championship.  Has there been a season in recent memory where the teams ranked #9 and lower could make a reasonable argument that they would emerge the winner in that format?  No matter how many teams you let in, someone will always say they got screwed if they were the last team on the bubble.  Look no further than the NCAA basketball tournament for proof (every year).


January 11th, 2012 at 2:56 PM ^

Good point.  Just like in the NCAA hoops tournament, the more teams you let into the playoff, the more teams will gripe that they got screwed, by being left out.  

If you look at this year, the 9, 10, 11 teams from the final polls are teams like Michigan, MSU, South Carolina and Wisconsin.  

The #8 team in the AP poll is Boise State.  The next teams (9 South Carolina, 10. Wisconsin, 11. Michigan State, 12.  Michigan) would all have a decent case against jumping Boise for the #8 spot.  

In the USA Today poll, Boise's a little insulated because they're ranked number 6, ahead of Stanford and South Carolina.  The arguments for 9. Michigan, 10. Michigan State. 11. Wisconsin don't stack up as well against Stanford or South Carolina.  

Compare that scenario to this year, where the only team with a real argument (albeit a good one, in my opinion) is Oklahoma State.  

Having said (umm typed) all that, the argument against each of those teams would most likely be - if you'd just not lost that second game (or third...cough, cough - I'm looking at you MSU), you'd be in.  


January 11th, 2012 at 12:51 PM ^

Alabama lost too, as many times as Okie State, and Stanford. So why do their losses negate their chances for two but not the other? Is a  season defined by losses? Or is it defined by all 12-13 games?

Okie State's great season devolved to "they lost to Iowa State". And the decision to put Alabama in over Okie State was "they only lost to LSU". That's a decision based on two games, over 24 games of comparison. So...thats the stuff.

Alabama beat...Arkansas. After that?  Penn State? Who lost to Houston? And almost lost to Illinois? Strong resume you got there Alabama. 

Top to bottom, OSU's resume was better. Yes, including their loss. 

How is it "fair" for the Big 12 to be viewed as "all offense, no defense" but the SEC is viewed as simply "all defense" with no regard for the level of offense? Alabama played teams that averaged 92nd in the country on offense. Did you see LSU's offense in the NC? 5 first downs? Fricking PENN STATE did better than that, without even knowing who their QB really was yet!

At least let there be a system that lets both of these teams have their fair shot. They both earned it equally as much. I hate hate HATE the argument that we should keep it the way it is because "somewhere along the line someone will be shafted". Yes, it happens in college basketball too. Does that mean they should forego March Madness and simply declare #1 and #2 as worthy of the championship game? Even if can you argue that shafting the #3 team is equally as bad as shafting the #5 or #7 team?

Every sport. Every other damn sport has some tournament with greater than 2 teams in it. Every single one. Especially sports with significantly more games than college football. 


January 11th, 2012 at 1:30 PM ^

again, I'm fine with a larger playoff, bring it on.  But your statement that OSU's resume was better is completely subjective, not wrong just subjective, your opinion.  I happen to disagree and obviously the coaches and media did too.  My problem is with the outrage about the choice of alabama over Ok St.

coastal blue

January 11th, 2012 at 3:21 PM ^

from the precedent set in 2006: No rematches, even if you think the two best teams are two that have already played. Especially if they are from the same conference. 

The whole argument that got Florida into that title game was that Michigan "already had their chance". Well, in 2011, Alabama "already had their chance".  It doesnt matter what happened in the bowl games, that was the argument then and it should have carried over to this season as well. 

Thus, Oklahoma State - whose loss came on the road in OT after a school tragedy - should have gotten a chance to play LSU since they had the same record as Alabama. 

On a sidenote, the argument for LSU to make the national championship game in 2007-08 was based on their 11-2 record coming with two OT losses to 8-5 teams. 

So since we've established that if you've already had your shot and if your biggest competitions only loss comes in OT to a weaker team, the other team should get a chance to play for the title. Especially when you compare the wins of two teams, in which Alabama has Arkansas/Penn State and Oklahoma State has Oklahoma/Kansas State/Baylor wich favors Oklahoma State. 

But reality is, we should have a 4 team playoff. Simple as that. 


January 11th, 2012 at 10:53 PM ^

Agree.  This was brought up in an article a while back and it's been on my mind ever since.  But we now look at the Losses of a team now-a-days instead of their Wins.  At what point did this start happening?  Sounds like a simple question, but being in my 20's, I can certainly remember when CFB was more about the Wins (who you beat) and not as much Losses (who you lost to).  Case in point.  Alabama's LOSS vs Okie St.'s LOSS, instead of both teams wins and overall schedule; probably Okie St.


January 11th, 2012 at 12:55 PM ^

ccdevi, maybe I'm reading this the wrong way, but it sure seems like your argument is, "We have to choose the teams who make the playoffs no matter what, so its pointless to increase the size of the playoff because we still will need to choose the teams." 

You've been on the war trail for a few days now with this argument.  What are you trying to accomplish by this?  You say we currently have a two team playoff, and that is correct, I don't think anyone would disagree with that.  But there are very serious problems inherent with a two team playoff, mainly that, when lots of teams all have 1 loss, it is very difficult/subjective to select the 2nd team.  So inevitably the 3rd, 4th, and maybe even 5th best teams all have an argument and say "Why not us?" 

If you increase the playoff from 2 to 4 teams, then the process is still going to be flawed because the teams fighting for that 4th spot will probably still have very similar resumes.  Then you will be left with the 5th, 6th, and 7th place teams all having an argument saying, "Why not us?"

Every time you increase the amount of teams in the playoff, you will still be left with this problem of similar teams all being on the bubble, and some subjective decision will need to be made to determine which ones to include.  I mean, you even see this argument show up in the NCAA basketball tourney which includes dozens of at-large bids.  And every year we hear a small outcry about the bubble teams that got left out. 

But then the tournament happens, and soon everyone forgets about the snubbed bubble teams.  This is partly because the tourney is freaking awesome, but it is also because it is much easier for most people to swallow when its a potential 12 seed getting snubbed (ie in the bball tourney) than one of the one seeds getting snubbed (ie ok st/stanford/oregon this year in football).

So in conclusion, I guess I feel like your argument doesn't have much to do with the price of tea.


January 11th, 2012 at 1:28 PM ^

sorry, I clearly wasn't clear, I have no problem expanding the playoff, I would love to.  My problem has been with the irrrational arguments being made against Alabama out of pure bias.  I can very easily construct a scenario for next year involving us to illustrate that.


January 11th, 2012 at 3:53 PM ^

I find it ironic that you're accusing opponents of basing their opinions on "pure bias" whist simultaneously supporting a system that realies heavily on coaches voting for their own teams and ranking teams they've never watched. Yeah, I'm sure Saban's decision to rank OSU #4 had nothing to do with self-serving bias.

Greg McMurtry

January 12th, 2012 at 12:34 PM ^

over the anger people are feeling with the subjectivity of the BCS is mind-numbing and irrelevant to the subject of the BCS and its shortcomings.  People are passionate about sports.  Your opinion is what it is and isn't the only possible opinion.  What don't you understand?  Your argument is basically "stop being mad, because you're wrong and I'm right, and I'll gladly show you how right I am." 

cooler 517

January 11th, 2012 at 1:31 PM ^

When was the last time the #5 team in the country, had a real arguement, that they should be in the  National Championship game?  Colorado, like 15 years ago, when they ended the season hot?  4 teams are pleanty.


As for this year, LSU and Alabama were the best 2 teams all season, OK State and maybe Stanford deserved to have a say, other than that, what are we argueing here?

French West Indian

January 11th, 2012 at 1:50 PM ^ that there are:

1.) 120 teams in the FBS division

2.) those teams are in conferences of wildly differing strength

3.) strength of schedule varies siginicantly across FBS

As long as perception is still playing a major role in determining the participants, then you run the risk of, for example, 3 of the 4 teams being SEC teams.

Until every team is operating under the same rules (regarding scholarships & scheduling) and all have an equal shot as of opening day of making and winning in the playoffs, then 4 teams is just not enough inclusion to crown a national champion any more legitimately than the BCS already does.

cooler 517

January 11th, 2012 at 2:06 PM ^

What if 3 of the best 4 teams are from the SEC?  Should they be punished?  S. Car. and Arkansas were better than Michigan or Va Tech this year, and got snubbed from the BCS, because they could only take 2 teams.


I'd love to see the 4 best teams, (using common sence and the eyeball test) slug it out, no matter where they're from.  Even Boise.


The equal shot that you are looking for with every team could be accomplished by getting rid of pre-season polls, and through the coarse of 13-14 games, we all usually know who the 4 BEST teams are at the end of that period.


No matter how it gets sliced, if there is only one winner, it's going to seem unfair


January 11th, 2012 at 2:26 PM ^

Just because you have a good conference does make you entitled to a spot in a playoff. Common sense doesn't really come into play. Look at march madness, it never makes sense. I hate crossing sports, but there is a reason we don't play games on paper or screens  (excluding video games). At the end of the day, the only way to prove beyond reasonable doubt that one team is better than other is having the 2 teams play one another. Did you ever play sports? If you did, I'm sure you lost some games you weren't supposed to and won some you weren't. Look at it this way, the SEC wins all the bowl games. All the bowl games are in the South. Would you feel more comfortable playing a game in a state say 2 hours from your home or in Alaska? Having a game in your region makes it easier to win. The weather is similar, the culture is similar, and people can focus more on the game instead of the new environment going on around them. 


January 11th, 2012 at 2:26 PM ^

Just because you have a good conference does make you entitled to a spot in a playoff. Common sense doesn't really come into play. Look at march madness, it never makes sense. I hate crossing sports, but there is a reason we don't play games on paper or screens  (excluding video games). At the end of the day, the only way to prove beyond reasonable doubt that one team is better than other is having the 2 teams play one another. Did you ever play sports? If you did, I'm sure you lost some games you weren't supposed to and won some you weren't. Look at it this way, the SEC wins all the bowl games. All the bowl games are in the South. Would you feel more comfortable playing a game in a state say 2 hours from your home or in Alaska? Having a game in your region makes it easier to win. The weather is similar, the culture is similar, and people can focus more on the game instead of the new environment going on around them.