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The BCS Works! Everybody Gets What They Want!

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We've been hearing the chant for a playoff system from nearly every direction for a while now, and the Big 12 South division is the newest exhibit in the pro-playoff arsenal as to why the BCS is the single greatest disaster to ever hit college football.  The chant for a playoff has been going on for so long, that many are probably calling for one without even understanding why they do so.  So while we're in the heat of the moment and everybody's emotions are overriding their logical senses, let's take a step back and ask one question:

Is the current system really broken, or is that simply what we've been told to think?

If you're willing to set your pride to the side, allow your current perception to be challenged, you'll probably be surprised to find that the system is not broken.

Again:  Not.  Broken.

How Do You Figure?

I'm glad you asked!  Let's break this down just a bit.  We'll start at the top.



It's quite simple, really: have the winner of the SEC championship game play against Oklahoma if they beat Missouri, or have the SEC winner play Texas if Oklahoma loses. That wasn't so hard now, was it?

But Texas should have the shot at Missouri!  45-35, donchaknow?

First things first: we're talking about the national championship here.  Nobody else cares about the Big 12 championship game outside of those teams actually involved.  And besides, the playoff system doesn't help resolve that problem in the first place.  Even if we had a playoff in place, you'd still have this little issue of a three-way tie in the South to deal with.  So that's a no-go.

Second: the head-to-head between Oklahoma and Texas has already been considered!  Yup, if you look at the progression of tiebreakers in the Big 12, you'll note that the head-to-head games are very explicitly mentioned.  The Big 12 is using the BCS standings because all of their other tiebreaking metrics have failed to pick a team.  So 45-35, 39-33, or 65-21, it's all moot now.  Please spare the rest of the college football world the in-house problems you may have with your own conference.  It's kinda like going to a restaurant and getting stuck in the table next to the family that fights with each other through the whole dinner.  It just ruins things for everybody else.  (As I recall, nobody was complaining about the system before the year started.)

Third, and more relevant to Texas, you are already being rewarded for your win against Oklahoma!  How, you ask?  Simple!  You are now no longer burdened with the risk that the extra game brings.  Think about it: a loss against Missouri, and an Oklahoma team with 13 games will stand no chance at the national championship game compared to a Texas team with 12 games.  Not only that, but you don't risk getting any of your players injured.  Heal up, plan up, and let Oklahoma take the hard chore.  If OU wins?  Well, you still have a chance!  If Florida ekes out a win in a disappointing game against Alabama, the BCS tally may favor a rematch against Oklahoma.  That'd mean that the Big 12 championship game would have been an audition for Oklahoma to have the right to play you!  So by not playing Missouri in KC, you actually get two chances at the championship game, while Oklahoma only has one.  Nice work if you can get it!

So you're saying there's a chance! (via RudyFamily)


(By the way, Texas: could we trouble you to use a thesaurus for a while?  A lot of people are interested in your opinion, but it seems that NetNanny is more concerned about protecting their children.  Much appreciated.)

But what about Texas Tech?  They're 11-1 and tied, too!

Shhhhhh!  Don't let the Texas fans hear you mention that; it ruins their mantra!  Besides, the Tech fans and players are far more willing to accept the results of the predefined system in place.  Sporting chaps, those desert pirates.

But what about USC?  Or Penn State?

These two are easy to handle, if you stop and think about it.  First, let's look at the PAC-10 and Big 10 in general:

Always remember, USC's and Penn State's imminent Rose Bowl matchup is what they wanted all along!  Do you really think they wanted to go to Miami?  Or to a Fiesta Bowl game?  Not at all!  USC would have had a shot at the Fiesta Bowl only if Oregon State had won the PAC-10 and was going to the Rose Bowl.  And the utter height of football eliteness - in the eyes of a PAC-10 or a Big 10 team - is to go to the Rose Bowl.  Set the time machine back to the Bowl Alliance.

Remember that the Bowl Alliance (the proto-BCS) was the first attempt at this whole "undisputed national championship" concept.  All of the major conferences were more than willing to sign on, except for two:  the PAC-10 and the Big 10.  They and the Rose Bowl stubbornly held out.  After all, the Rose Bowl is the highest honor in college football.  They weren't going to share the title glory with lesser bowls, like the Orange, Sugar and Fiesta.  Nosirree; unless they had the rights to dictate the terms of the games (and selectively pick their teams), the deal was off.  After all, the Rose Bowl is the Great-Great-Grandmother Twice Removed (or something like that; I'm not too good at genealogy).

Now, about USC in particular.  USC clearly does not want any part of the BCS championship game.  I can safely say this for two reasons.  First, they have no interest in building a BCS-worthy resume throughout the year.  How else do you explain a schedule with more bye weeks than anybody else?  Having played 2 fewer games than most teams for most of the year?  You just can't judge USC next to everybody else, man!  The baseline isn't even there!  How do you compare a 6-game performance to a 4-game performance?  Even now, when the conferences who actually care about the BCS (i.e. the Big 12 and SEC) are gearing up for championship games, they're finally getting around to ending their season.  Also, how else do you explain the glitz and glamorThe actors?  Which brings me to the second point...

USC isn't even interested in leaving Hollywood in the winter.  The school that brought you Spielberg (if you didn't know that, don't worry; they'll remind you a billion times or so during the Rose Bowl) cares about drama.  Don't you get it?  They're all actors, and the field is but a stage.  The grips in L.A. spend all year making sure the Rose Bowl is in tip-top shape for their New Year's matinee performance; did you really think the Trojans would scorn all that stage prep and makeup for a road show?  All that stress, the untrained fans, the requests for photos and way!  For the Fiesta Bowl?  Are you kidding?  That desert air is murder on the complexion!  That's just not the USC way.  Spend the fall figuring out the lighting and getting the makeup right, toss in some teaser drama - losing to Oregon State will do nicely - and be sure to show up in time for curtain call.  Remember, Traveler is a horse, not a football player.  And the first Traveler's dead.  That oughta tell you something.

As for Penn State:  it's been a while for them, so they're much easier to explain by analogy.  Consider Ohio State.  When you play your last game before Thanksgiving, do you really think you're going to be interested in waiting a quarter of the way into January for a bowl game?  Good grief, that means practicing throughout half of the winter!  Oh, no, get that bowl game here sooner!  Waiting for the Rose Bowl is bad enough, but it's worth it just to see girls wearing something besides parkas in January.  Sure, you can get that in Miami, but why wait the week when it's guaranteed?  Because you know that USC wants a Midwestern team; it shows diversity.  They care about the flyover people.  No, really!  Don't you believe them?  They're actors, they're serious!


Oh, baby, show some cheek! (via emutree)

At any rate, the Big 10 schools know that their best interest is to get into a bowl game as fast as possible.  After the 50th day off, they just don't feel like playing anymore.

So USC and Penn State are perfectly happy in the Rose Bowl, thank you very much.  But they'll go ahead and feign insult.  It's great drama and it plays well on TV.  You know, just in case something opens up on House.

Ok, but what about the mid-majors?  3 are undefeated!

Yes, three of the midmajors are undefeated.  If we were to institute a playoff system, you would have one midmajor team (Utah, but Boise State is oh so close) with an actual chance at winning the thing.  (A 16-team field would give Ball State a chance too, but the argument doesn't change over that.)  Right now, they have none.  However, it's not in their interest to win a tournament.


True!  Winning the tournament isn't in a mid-major team's interest.  Well, not in the sense you think.  Naturally, winning a tournament would be in any team's interest, but only for the sake of winning the tournament.  It still doesn't address the core issue in the debate for midmajors - that no midmajor can possibly be ranked #1 by the end of the season, or at any time during the season!  Think about it for a second.  In NCAA basketball, even the small teams have a shot at a #1 seed.  They get opportunities to play the big-name schools and prove their case.  If a small school plays through an undefeated season with some marquis wins to draw attention, they're most likely going to get the nod for a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament - possibly even THE #1 seed.  Why?  For two reasons: (1) the season has more games, so the small school can prove sustainability, and (2) people inherently believe it's actually possible for a small school to be #1. 

In college football, however, none of the mid-major teams can get ranked #1.  There aren't enough games for an undefeated midmajor to overtake all of the big-name schools in the polls, and people simply refuse to believe it's possible.  Even after Boise State beat Oklahoma in that Fiesta Bowl, did anybody seriously assert that Boise should be in consideration for #1?  No.  Some talking heads briefly mentioned it for the sake of drawing attention (conflict!  Arrrrrr!), but it wasn't meant to be believed.  A pollster or two might have tossed a #1 vote their way, but only because they knew it wouldn't matter.  This year, neither Utah nor Boise State had a chance at #1.  Even if Michigan had been decent this year and Alabama had lost a game or two, you'd see everybody champion either Florida, Oklahoma, or Texas (45-35!  Arrrrr!).  Utah would be 4th at best.  So there's just no way for a mid-major to be seen as the best team - even to be seen as the team with the best year.

But if a mid-major won the tournament, they'd be #1!

True.  Sorta.  They'd be the tournament winner, which might have the added bonus of a mandatory #1 ranking, but it doesn't mean anybody would consider them the #1 team.  If a 5-seed won the NCAA basketball tournament, would anybody really consider them the #1 team in the nation, or would the #1 team simply have had one bad game and been eliminated somewhere along the way?  Winning a tournament may help a #1 argument, but it does nothing concrete to that matter.  It just means you won a tournament.

Ask yourself this:  if we had a playoff system, could a mid-major possibly be the top seed in the playoff?  If you answer "yes", how far do you have to push the mental gymnastics to come up with a scenario for that to happen?  This year alone, an undefeated Utah would need (a) a good Michigan, (b) Alabama with 2 losses, (c) Florida with 1 more loss, (d) Oklahoma with 1 more loss, (e) Texas with 1 more loss, (f) USC with 1 more loss, (g) Penn State with 1 more loss, and possibly even (i) Texas Tech with 1 more loss.  A couple of those will/may happen this weekend, but in a season with only 12 or 13 games, do you realize how difficult it would be for the remaining events to happen?  You're not simply asking for more losses, you're asking for them to be distributed among a lot of teams - teams that play 3-4 games against creampuffs, 2-4 in-conference cakewalks, and about 4-6 games where they may actually be challenged.

So a playoff has no effect on the crux of the problem for midmajors.  Nobody will ever credibly view a midmajor as a #1 team, and winning a playoff would only add to the cynicism (But that's just a playoff win.  Such-and-such is still the better team, but they didn't play well one night.  It happens.)  But that's alright, because they have something better.

Midmajors have a vendetta!  These teams will always have that axe to grind, that bone to pick, that [insert appropriate metaphor] with the system.  They're the underdog, the ones who are discriminated against.  They have something to prove.  That's what makes the midmajors so awesome!  They have a story.  When they win, there's added interest.  At the end of the day, a #6 Utah can crow about their team and how they're better than people give them credit for.  They go home feeling good about themselves, knowing that it's merely a system that doesn't give them a chance.  Their coaches get picked up for higher-paying jobs while their players get sweet stories to tell their families and friends.  The need for vengeance drives the mid-majors!

Revenge is a dish... (via chargr2004)

Remember, it's all entertainment.  In the rush for a playoff, you get a few more games.  (In an 8-team system, you go from 4 bowl games for those 8 teams to 7 total playoff games - a net gain of 3 games.)  So for those 3 games, you throw away everything that college football has built up.  All the stories, the identities, the intrigue are gone.  All you have left are ... games.

And remember, these schools want these identities.  The midmajors want to be the underdog!  USC wants its made-for-TV script!  The Big 10 wants a chance to appear on the Tonight Show and to gawk at Song Girls on January 1st!  The SEC and Big 12 want a chance to duel for conference bragging rights!


(Ok, be honest.  How many of you clicked on the link for girls wearing something besides parkas?)