On Playoffs. “PLAYOFFS?”

Posted by: Avinash on Monday, December 3rd, 2007

There is going to be a lot of debate about who deserves what after the way things ended this season about how to decide a national champion. That there should be a playoff because this season of chaos has not revealed a clear-cut two teams that stand from teh pack. More importantly for Golden Bear fans, Cal’s shortcomings in 2004 for a title would have been negated by a second chance they would have received through a playoff, although considering the outcome of that season, it might not have made a difference.

I used to be one of the big proponents. After this season though, I might be turning to the dark side.

If you really enjoyed this college football season, then you should realize that a playoff system dilutes the importance of the regular season. Pitt upsetting West Virginia and Oklahoma upending Missouri would have meant far less to those two teams; they could just say, “Oh, we’re still in it, we have a playoff!” LSU losing to Arkansas wouldn’t have looked so devastating. Could you imagine the mere possibility of crowning USC after losing to Stanford because they go on a two-three game run? The only thing a playoff creates is the possibility for more upset and discord over the crowning of the winner.

The bowls are for show and sponsors anyway–the season is six weeks apart from the championships; this situation doesn’t really exist in any other American sport. It’s an entirely different animal than the NFL.

There are a few methods I’ve heard, and none of them seem totally satisfying.

Plus-one. I’m okay with this one, just because adding one more game seems entirely manageable. The top four teams have generally had good separation (other than this insane year), and you would probably get a representative from four of the competitive big conferences (Ohio State, LSU/Georgia, USC, Oklahoma/Kansas). It’d be an ultimately satisfying scenario to have these four duke it out; you’re just going to have to ask Tom Hansen to kindly shut the hell up. Of course though, this would almost certainly exclude the mid-majors from a chance at the title. And in 2007, someone would be left out of the mix.

The bracket idea: Terry Bowden once proposed this December madness idea, only forgetting that college football is not college basketball. It’s absurd. Imagine the maddening holiday travel logistics for the winning teams and fans, who would have to make THREE trips from anywhere West Coast to East Coast in three weeks. It isn’t cheap. Plus that plan seems to exclude the mid-majors like Hawaii and Boise State from last year. The teams would have to play in their home stadiums for at least a first round game, just like the NFL.

Wetzel’s pretzel: Dan Wetzel’s idea of dumbness (what is it with Yahoo Sports columnists?). Think Bowden’s idea made stupider. He wants the national champion to play FOUR GAMES to get there. Doesn’t that sound great?

But other than that, the regular season is what makes college football special, with an occasional awesome bowl thrown in (Boise State last year, Texas the year before, etc.). EVERY regular season game in college football feels like a playoff game. The upsets abound. You have tailgating and hot college coeds everywhere in sight (well, maybe not in Berkeley). You have rivalry games and something at stake when all is said and done. The regular season is what makes college football special. The bowls are just a yummy appetizer for the alumni and the rich students who can afford it.

The only feeling you get like this in the NFL is upsetting an unbeaten team or a clash of titans, and that happens only once every five weeks (it was why the Patriots-Eagles game was so entertaining). The schadenfreude is fantastic.

Look, I think the BCS is pretty retarded. I’d prefer something different from good ol’ tradition, because things are not the way they were for our fathers or grandfathers. Mix it up, like slating the toughest conferences against each other in bowl games, this year being the SEC and the Pac-10. Instead of the slaughterfests by USC against Big Ten teams, place them against a Les Miles-type foe and let one of them prove who’s better. Have the ACC and the Big Ten engage in a ticklefight. Let the MAC and the MWC duel it out in a stance between slopball and whitebread convention. Instead of worrying about what’s fair, create matchups that are compelling. The sticking to tradition has made many previous bowl games utter duds.

But really, the best part of the season is already over. We’re back to bowls and conventionality now, where there are no upsets or mayhem, just games to be played to prove your worth over the past three months. There was a lot to look forward to on every Saturday; now we’ll be back to the mundane and the obtuse until September rolls around once again. Outside of Cal’s problems, I’m going to miss this year. Here’s hoping next year is even more maddening.

Your thoughts on the playoff system versus the BCS? And what would be your solution?

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