538 article on how to do away with conference title games, divisions

Submitted by Vasav on January 6th, 2017 at 11:00 AM
http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/make-college-football-great-again/ Didn't see this on the board yet, and thought it was a clever idea. I'm sure there are some MGoDebateTeamers who can comment a bit more on the format. Overall the worst thing about it to me is traveling to late season away games, and I'd want the rivalry games to be week 9 not 7. But otherwise it's a nice alternative scheduling idea.



January 6th, 2017 at 11:09 AM ^

Here's another thing that will never, ever happen.

Fun water cooler discussion fodder, but all decisions that matter in this country are made by old people that value tradition and tend to be set in their ways. Once you understand that, you understand everything.


January 6th, 2017 at 11:10 AM ^

This improves the quality of the games, so TV networks would love it.  And if TV networks love it, they can start to influence the schools with $$$$$.

Robbie Moore

January 6th, 2017 at 11:20 AM ^

...just because you don't like Nate Silver because he is either...

a Democratic stooge or

said Trump had a 30% chance of winning the election...

does not mean he "sucks." I think this idea is brilliant. Maybe the details need to be worked a bit but the concept is outstanding. Would make for a MUCH better football season.


January 6th, 2017 at 1:09 PM ^

Both statements are completely misunderstanding the probability model the site uses. It's not a prediction model and trying to read it as such is really missing the point. That goes for both the "correct" 2012 models and "incorrect" 2016 models.


For the record 538 got most states "right" (if you incorrectly interpret it that way) in 2016 too - but then again most states are very easy to "get right". The swing states were the ones that mattered most, and those were "wrong".


January 6th, 2017 at 11:15 AM ^

The reason nothing like this will ever happen is that people plan to travel based on games, so schedules have to be locked down before the season starts. Imagine if you're a player from Purdue and your family wants to all come support your shallacking of the Boilermakers in Ann Arbor -- how are they gonna plan for it if they can't start before the season? (At least that how my family's planning works)


January 6th, 2017 at 12:19 PM ^

Do people not go to the B1G championship game even though they cant plan in advance?

There would be 2 home games every season where the opponent is unknown in advance. It would be mildly annoying for fans who are trying to see a particular opponent, but I think people would adjust. 


January 6th, 2017 at 12:42 PM ^

Well if I'd bought tickets in advance this year I would have been PISSED (even though it was a fun and good game, seeing the 3rd and 4th best teams in the conference play for the championship gets me all riled up). And that's why I didn't buy tickets, because I didn't know who it would be.

Eat Your Wheatlies

January 6th, 2017 at 1:08 PM ^

This argument doesn't make sense here. We won't know who we'll be playing, but we definitely will be playing. We know this ahead of time, so people will just wait for the matchups to be announced to make a decision.

You're not buying tickets and finding out your team didn't qualify.

Besides, you didn't but tickets (for the championship) based on WHO we would be playing...you bought them in case we made it. Most would have went to the B1G Championship Game regardless of who Michigan played.


January 6th, 2017 at 1:53 PM ^

I'm not thinking of home fans here. I just think it would completely eliminate travelling for away teams. If you are a Michigan fan who lives in New Jersey, are you really going to want to wait until the results of a late game on Saturday to find out whether or not you're going to be playing Michigan next week at Rutgers so you can see the game? Or would you want to be able to buy that ticket months in advance?


January 6th, 2017 at 11:17 AM ^

This works for debate tournaments because all the competitors are there in one place and logistics required for last minute pairings are minimal. This is not the case for NCAA conferences that span multiple states over a thousand miles and millions of fans who buy tickets.


January 6th, 2017 at 11:31 AM ^

By having home and away pools it eliminated the logistical concerns for the teams and home fans.  It makes it harder to travel as an away fan but if that is the only cost to create a more balanced schedule its worth it.

Schools would still know which weeks they are traveling and fans/towns would still know which weeks are home games. Every school could designate an away team hotel where rooms are blocked off and it would be incredibly easy.


January 6th, 2017 at 4:18 PM ^

Also, unlike debate, home field advantage actually means something in football. Although you could argue the current home vs. away configuration is completely random, at least you can plan for it. Knowing you are going on the road next week but you don't know where and against whom puts the road team at a much larger disadvantage.

This system would lead to an increase in the champion being determined by the luck of the algorithim deciding what "peers" you played at home vs on the road. 


January 6th, 2017 at 11:21 AM ^

It's a nice idea, but it will never ever happen.

What is less likely to happen is to scrap the 9 game conference schedule.  Play 3 OOC games and play your 6 divisional opponents.  Then play cross divisional games, using a World Cup formula, East #1 plays West #2.  West #1 plays East #2.  Then vice versa.  Best 2 teams from each of the P5 Conferences play for a Conference Championship and berth in to the CFP (6 teams, 5 autobids and 1 at large).  

It keeps the importance on the regular season, and greatly strengthens the end of season and keeps the tradition somewhat.


January 6th, 2017 at 11:39 AM ^

You realize that he got his start doing sports analysis, right? And that his site is funded by ESPN? The OP is both relevant and interesting. I'll never understandw why people get offended by a data nerd whose site spends most of its time covering non-political topics when not in the middle of an election cycle.


January 6th, 2017 at 11:31 AM ^

My point is simply this: Conference championships, as currently devised, don’t make much sense. Because of imbalanced divisions, championship games often don’t pit the two best teams in a conference against each other (Big Ten championship participant Wisconsin was probably the fourth-best team in its league, for instance).

I definitely agree with him here - they don't make a lot of sense in that they don't put the best teams in the conference together on one field and you can see situations where these games could effectively be useless for ranking purposes in that one or both teams may not move much barring a fantastic or unexpected result elsewhere on Championship Weekend. 

It's an interesting idea that he proposes, but the logistics of it, when magnified to the logistics of college football and moving teams around week to week and so forth, would be rather difficult to manage, I think. 


January 6th, 2017 at 11:38 AM ^

Silver is only looking at it from a TV revenue perspective and not considering schools like Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State having to sell 100,000 tickets without knowing who the opponents will be.  Purdue will sell their 6,000 season tickets regardless, but other fans are a bit more discriminating.


January 6th, 2017 at 12:01 PM ^

Are the logistics that much harder than the conference title game? That's a one off where the location is known - but both teams and fan bases only have a week's notice to prepare for travel and accommodations. In this case, locations and half the participants are known, and the other half know they are traveling. Fan bases have two weeks out of the year where on a week's notice they have to decide whether or not to go to a game. It looks tougher on the fan but easier on the schools.


January 6th, 2017 at 12:37 PM ^

Right, the logistics of figuring out who plays everyone is easy (if some high school english teachers and their assistants can work it out in less than hour on the weekend then so can the Big10...) but it's the downstream impacts that make this potentially problematic:

  • Fan travel - Late season Flex away games would be heavily home fan favored with only 1-2 weeks prep (you can figured it out in some cases before the week). It works in HS debate because at most during non-break rounds the people watching are scouting and it is all within a single school, set of schools, or other contained area.  it would be incredibly more difficult moving across the country/region.
  • School travel - this wouldn't be too hard to figure out - maybe the host school sets a hotel that gets rooms reserved for the later flex games. 
  • Crappy school's games - bad teams would rarely get paired with good teams, which would hurt their ticket sales. Most of the times those programs' best selling game is UM, OSU, etc. They'd lose those sales, which hurts their program finances, which hurts them competing on the field and getting to play UM, OSU, etc. If the economic impact of those games is as big as I think it is, it could be a potential death spiral for bad programs. 
  • Preserved rivalry games would be an issue - This works in debate tournaments because there are no set rivalries (only those annoyed as hell on having to face yet another DeDev K from me!). Keeping OSU v UM (and other rivalries) hurts some of the concept of power pairing.


I love this idea, but think it's a cool idea and nothing more. I can't see it actually happening.


January 6th, 2017 at 11:47 AM ^

That's the main issue I have with an otherwise interesting ideas, the logistical changes involved and required flexibility would be insane.  I wouldn't mind seeing the SunBelt or someone try it out as a test case first, but if you tried this with the Big Ten, Pac-12, etc. it would die in the crib.


January 6th, 2017 at 11:51 AM ^

This feels like a solution in search of a problem. 


If you ask me the real solution is to go to 10 conference games for all P5 conferences, eliminate divisions, eliminate conference championship games, eliminate pointless bowl games, and expand the playoff to 8 or 16 teams.  But that is probably way too radical.