Thursday, January 9, 2014

No More BCS ... But Problems Will Remain

The BCS is over.  A playoff is coming.

I wasn't a fan of the BCS and wanted a playoff.  Still, a lot of what was wrong with the BCS will haunt the new playoff.

For years, proponents of the BCS used to always say "it was better than what we used to have."  That was sort of true.  Before the BCS, we used to have co-National Champions.  We couldn't guarantee that the two best teams in the nation would face off in a bowl game and that two teams could claim a spot as the champs.  And what happened if both those top teams lost their bowl games?  Who among the rest is the champion?

In that aspect, yes, it was a better system.  We actually got a game on the field that was for all the marbles, whether you thought those two teams deserved to be in that game or not.

Now a playoff comes and a lot of the problems may still rear its head.

Obviously, it will be much harder to decide who is in a 4-team playoff than it is to pick two teams to face off.  If there are two undefeated teams left, it is easy to say that these two should play.  But who among the one loss teams (or even two loss teams) deserve to join them in a postseason?  The fight over the last team in and the first team out ... just like the NCAA tournament ... will be much more hotly debated than which two teams deserve to play in the BCS title game.

This is where the logic forks.

See, the thing about the BCS championship is usually the best teams are playing for it and the winner is usually regarded as the best team this season.  In a playoff, that's not always the case.  Even in all the other sports where the playoffs are king, we don't get that.  I mean, if we had a BCS in the NFL, we'd see the Seahawks and Broncos playing for the Super Bowl.  It is rare that the two best teams square off in the NFL's premiere event.  Were the Baltimore Ravens the best team in the NFL last year?  Not really.  But they are Super Bowl champions.

It happens in pretty much all sports.  Baseball.  Hockey.  The NBA usually can say that their champ was the best team of the season, but not always.  And certainly not the mother of all postseason playoffs ... the NCAA Tournament.  But we except all of that because we understand the playoff is another season from the regular season.  You qualify to get there and then you are on your own.  Whatever happens, happens.

This is a grand departure for college football.  Remember that we used to crown National Champions before the bowl games were even played.  Then we had them after the bowls ... and they were voted on.  Then we tried to have them play each other but it wasn't a given.  Then we mandated they face off if possible.  No matter what, a team that had a fairly dominant season tended to end up as the sport's champion.

That may not be the case anymore, and college football fans need to get used to that.  I mean, a playoff probably would have had Florida State, Auburn, Alabama and Michigan State as their four teams (Michigan State could have been replaced by Stanford, and there's where the fighting starts).  What if FSU, the lone undefeated team, lost in the first round of the playoff?  What if Alabama beat Auburn, then Michigan State for the title?  Then Alabama didn't win their division or conference yet won the title?

That happens.  Wildcard teams with the Super Bowl.

If you've read my blog over the last 10 years, you know I've been big on a 12-team format.  I can see a 6 or 8 team format realistically happening.  In those formats, the best team doesn't always win.  And that's okay.

That's what you get with a playoff.  Ask 1983 NC State's basketball team.  Ask the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers.

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