Friday, December 07, 2007

Here's your playoff, sir. Oh yes you did.

That's right. One of these days in the not-so-distant future, the NCAA president will arrive in his office (a female president? Consider the constituency - no chance) to discover that the I-A (you say BCS, I say you're retarded) playoffs are set to begin December X and conclude January Y.

Wise people have been preaching this for years, but now the bandwagon is starting to open to the masses. Austin Murphy of People Illustrated has an article on the very subject this week. (Yeah, I linked to the single-page version. a) SI sucks. b) They don't even provide you with forward and back buttons. c) SI sucks. Why is this on their site? Why am I paying for a subscription? Oh yeah, it's a gift. Move along.) He provides some cogent arguments for a playoff, but fails in his eventual solution. Come now, Austin. Your rivals at The Sporting News proposed a 16-team playoff many, many years ago, and it's still a better idea than yours.

But hey, it's a start, and in honor of that, I shall summarize his arguments and support them. (You'll see that he lists "arguments" for the bowl system and debunks each one.)

1. The sanctity of the regular season.
Murphy: You mean prior to conference championship games, right?

Dude, you're making it too hard. The correct question is "Compared to what?" The current system? The one where at least 75% of I-A has absolutely zero chance whatsoever at a championship, and by season's end, exactly two teams have a shot at a "title"?

I actually read something that claimed that with a playoff system in place, this year's Kansas-Missouri game and last year's Michigan-Ohio State game would have been virtually meaningless. To that I respond, sir or madam, you are nuts, and completely wrong.

I counter with several pieces of "evidence." For example, pretty much every SEC game. Or, for that matter, a large number of basketball games. Resident moron Jim Delany claims that "[t]here's only one game in the country that carries a premium: Duke-North Carolina."

For those of you who don't know, Delany is commissioner of the Big Ten. Apparently he's unaware that his conference plays basketball. As someone who's attended a sizable number of Big Ten regular-season basketball games, I can say that he is wrong. Very wrong. (Of course, he's the latest in a long line of wrong. Keep in mind that for decades, Big Ten teams went to the Rose Bowl or nothing. Why? Because bowls are for sissies. And the rest of the football universe. But not for us.)

If you don't believe games prior to the playoffs matter, watch teams who are on the bubble.

2. Preserving the bowls.
Murphy: People watch the non-title bowls now, and besides, the lesser bowls need to go.

Got to disagree with you, my friend. For one thing, you cite Michigan going to the Rose Bowl as an example of this. Delany just got done telling you how his conference and the Rose Bowl are likethis. Of course Wolverine fans will go to that game. You should have brought up, say, Michigan fans going to the Alamo Bowl.

Uh huh.

Second, those lesser bowls are precisely what middle-tier schools need. You're locking into the BCS mindset, and it's important to remember that they don't represent all of I-A. Sure, maybe you don't think a 6-6 team deserves a bowl bid, and if it's Notre Dame, I agree, but if it's Eastern Michigan or Troy, I don't think you understand.

What you should have said is this: "Preserve what, exactly?" The names? The conference matchups? The dates? The locations? The bowls have already changed all of this themselves every time old Benjamin and his 10,000 friends came knocking.

Besides, what's better? Neutral-site or home games? Sure, the men's tournament kind of has to play at neutral sites, with 6 rounds in 3 weeks and all that, but what's going to draw better: LSU vs. Hawaii in Tucson or LSU vs. Hawaii in Baton Rouge (or on the island)?

If anything, it's the top-tier bowls that need to go. They're whores anyway. Keep the lower tier. We're breaking with tradition. Let's not get caught up in what's left.

3. Effect on academics, blah blah blah.
Murphy: 12 games? I-AA? Baseball? Basketball? Golf?

Best of his three arguments. He left out a few, too, so let's help.

Yeah, what about that 12th game? I suppose that's played during winter break? Or the kickoff "classics" in late August? Or the conference championships? Or the games on Thursday? (and Wednesday, and Tuesday, and Sunday) Or the games against I-AA opponents? Or the cross-country non-conference games?

And yes, I-AA has a playoff, as does every level of every other sport, and nobody seems to kick up too much of a stink there.

Which is more likely to interfere with classes: practice during the week, or games on Saturdays in December? Do you see the NCAA trying to further restrict practice during the week? Me neither.

Anyway, Murphy presents us with an eight-team playoff. (To his credit, he points out that if I-A dropped that 12th game, they could play a 16-team playoff like I-AA. He did not, however, point out the 16-game season in Pennsylvania high school football. Probably because Pennsylvania understands more about football than the BCS.) The top 7 teams and Hawaii. (Yeah, that's pretty weak. What are your criteria again?) Tolerable, but let me help you.

Zlionsfan's Wonderful, Beautiful Playoff Idea
  1. 16 teams: 11 conference champions and 5 at-large berths.
  2. Why? Several reasons: you ain't havin' no playoff without the non-BCS conferences, uh-uh. They'll shoot it down faster than you can say Congress. Plus it's an NCAA title, and in case you hadn't noticed, everyone gets a dance card.
  3. First- and second-round games at campus sites.
  4. Cut down on travel costs. That'll be vital. Plus you've got to get the big schools on board, and if the playoff itself doesn't do it, the prospect of an extra home game or two certainly will. Ask the ADs in Delany's conference (or in the Pac-10, headed by fellow idiot Tom Hansen) if they'd like the chance at two extra home dates on national television against a (most likely) ranked opponent, and if they say no, they're lying.
  5. Blah blah bowls blah blah rotate blah blah Final Four.
  6. Honestly, I don't know that this is necessary any more. Maybe it's better to play the games in one location so there's less travel. Anyway, screw the bowls. Except ...
  7. Keep bowls for teams finishing out of the playoffs.
  8. Because, you know, a lot of teams will.

Yeah, that's the most important part of it, and let me tell you why.

They're stupid.

Why? Because they were initially designed to determine relative strengths of teams, but every time they disagreed with "people", they were changed to be more like what the "people" thought. Anyone with half a brain would see that an objective system can actually rank teams fairly accurately, even if you don't like how it's done, and a person can't possibly rank 10 teams accurately, never mind 25, given one day to absorb all the games on a standard football Saturday.

So do what college basketball does: make your own formula THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH POLLS, use other components, and then sit in a room and pick the best five teams that didn't win their conference. Seed 1-16. End of story.

This year, for poops and laughs, we'll do it this way ...

1. Ohio State (11-1): Big Ten champion
2. Oklahoma (11-2): Big 12 champion
3. Virginia Tech (11-2): ACC champion
4. LSU (11-2): SEC champion
5. Kansas (11-1): at-large bid
6. Missouri (11-2): at-large bid
7. Georgia (10-2): at-large bid
8. West Virginia (10-2): Big East champion
9. Florida (9-3): at-large bid
10. USC (10-2): Pac-10 champion**
11. Arizona State (10-2): at-large bid****
12. BYU (10-2): Mountain West champion
13. Hawaii (12-0): WAC champion
14. Central Florida (10-3): Conference USA champion
15. Florida Atlantic (7-5): Sun Belt champion***
16. Central Michigan (8-5): MAC champion
Navy (8-4): Independent champion*

*Sorry, the Navy thing was my own little joke. Only the BCS and the Gator Bowl think that you can act like a conference without being in one, not that Navy does, of course. It's just that this spot, ordinarily reserved for a Notre Dame joke, was spoiled by ND's inability to beat pretty much anyone. That Weis guy is a genius.

**Further evidence Hansen is a moron: the Pac-10 plays a round-robin schedule. This is a good idea according to about five people on the planet. Come on, even the Big Ten knows better. Playing additional conference games does not help you establish how good you are with respect to other conferences.

***Apparently they don't care who wins it right now. I pick FAU because they beat Troy.

****Over South Florida because they were conference co-champs.

So you get this:
Central Michigan at Ohio State - I flipped CMU and FAU (about equal) to keep them closer to home. Less travel, remember?
Florida Atlantic at Oklahoma - Howard will love this game.
Central Florida at Virginia Tech
Hawaii at LSU - hey look, my hypothetical example!
BYU at Kansas
Arizona State at Missouri
USC at Georgia
Florida at West Virginia - lookit! Runnin' QBs!

You probably don't want to mess with seeding too much, not with only 16 teams. If ASU and USC meet in the first round, so what?

Is it the best way to do it? Yes, so don't argue with me. Okay, you can argue a little, but if you think the BCS is better, well, no.

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