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College Football Playoffs: 5 Reasons Why They’re NOT Necessary

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It's happened again. The college football regular season has ended, and now the postseason is mired in controversy. This season there were five undefeated teams, yet only two of them (Alabama and Texas) will play for the national championship. For this reason, fans of TCU, Cincinnati, and Boise State are clamoring for a playoff system. In their eyes, all undefeated teams are created equal and should have a shot at the title.

Well, I'm here to tell you why that's wrong, and that a playoff would do nothing for college football. Before I get started, let me just say that I am neither a Texas fan, nor an Alabama fan. I went to Florida, so I love the Gators, and I lived in Fort Worth, Texas for four years, where I found out I was also a TCU fan. Based on my personal allegiances, you'd think I'd want a playoff, but here are the reasons why I don't want one.

1. Polls aren't that bad. One of the biggest complaints among playoff supporters is that the standings are decided by writers and coaches, and in their opinion, "not on the football field." This is wrong. Professional sports writers and coaches watch the games and see the stats; they know what they're doing. Detractors seem to forget that voting is perfectly acceptable in most Olympic sports. Furthermore, personal awards, such as the Heisman Trophy, or the MVP in professional sports, are voted on. The same people that can determine who the best players are can certainly determine which teams are the best.

2. A playoff would water down the regular season. Currently, EVERY week is a playoff in college football. A loss at the beginning of the season can ruin a team's chances at the national championship, or even their conference championship. Also, unlike the NFL, a team's best players can't just sit out the game before a bye week, and there's no letting up at the end of the season simply because a playoff spot has already been solidified. For this reason, you as a fan will watch every single week, and this is great for college football.

3. A playoff would water down the bowl system. Bowl season is the most wonderful time of the year, and the most inclusive postseason in all of sports. TCU, Boise State, and Cincinnati will get to play in high profile bowl games that will bring them loads of money and publicity. Now, I've read proposals that allowed for a playoff to coincide with the bowl system, but they eliminate the best teams from the bowls in favor of the playoffs. If the #1 team from the Big Ten is playing the #1 team from the Pac-10 in the second week of December, then who's going to play in the Rose Bowl? The better question: who's going to care who's playing in the Rose Bowl?

4. There's no guarantee every good team gets included. There's always going to be one or more "deserving" teams left out of the playoffs. Just look at the NBA. Last season the Eastern Conference sent two sub-.500 teams to the playoffs, while the Western Conference had three teams with better records that didn't make it. The same thing happened in Major League Baseball in 2006, when the Cardinals won the World Series with an 83-78 record, despite four American League teams with better records not even making the playoffs.

5. A postseason playoff alone won't solve anything. There are 120 Division I FBS schools, and each team plays 12 regular season games, which means that a team only faces 10% of the entire FBS. Contrast that with the NFL, where each team will face 40% of their league, or in Major League Baseball, where each team will face over 50% of their league. Imagine the backlash when Troy, the 9-3 Sun Belt champion, gets invited to the playoffs over 10-2 Big Ten runner-up, Iowa.

Which brings up issue 5a: uneven conferences. The Big East, Cincinnati's conference, only has eight teams and no official conference championship game. The WAC and the Mountain West, Boise State's and TCU's conferences respectively, only have nine each, and also have no official conference championship game. In contrast, the Big 12 and SEC both have 12 teams and both play in a conference championship game. Thus, not all undefeated teams are created equal. Before a playoff could seriously be considered, the disparity between the conferences would have to be addressed.

Sure TCU, Cincinnati, and Boise State fans are upset now, but they'll be happy for the exposure that comes with playing in a BCS bowl. To play in a BCS bowl will do more for those schools than losing in a ill-conceived playoff ever could.

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About Tamahome Jenkins

  • http://whalertly.blogspot.com Robert M. Barga

    I believe that a playoff would ruin the sport and just create more issues. There is a reason that neither the Cincinnati coach nor the TCU coach are callign for playoffs. Infact,both support the current system

  • http://www.futonreport.net/ Matthew T. Sussman

    Well, damn, you came around on this quickly.

    I don’t know if a playoff would water down the regular season anymore than those FCS games the top 25 teams continue to schedule.

    I would personally like to see the NCAA take more of an interest in forcing teams to play at least one road nonconference game. Both Florida and Alabama played all four in their cushy backyard, and UF had absolutely nobody on their schedule before the SEC. To their credit, Texas had one on the road, while Cincy, TCU, and Boise State all played two away from home.

    The inclusion of more teams, like you said, would probably temporarily “allow everyone good” to get in, but after a while the gold standard becomes lower. The Patriots went 11-5 last year and didn’t make the playoffs. How can that be!? System’s broken.

  • Sidebar

    The reason the Fla, Ala (and others) play non conference games at their home is driven by revenue. The non-conference teams are guaranteed loads of revenue for their willingness to travel while the home team gets a chance to rally fans and work on their game. Bottom line, EVERYTHING (regular season and bowl games) is REVENUE driven.

  • Dave Siriano

    I agree. College basketball should do the same thing. No Final Four. Let’s just take the top 2 and play it out, cuz no one comes to those games either….

  • Bill

    Really not the best argument I’ve seen. At least you did not go with the “the kids will miss too much class” crap they try to sell.

    Lets look at the arguments one by one.

    1. Polls aren’t bad. Really, this is the best you have? Everyone knows that there are flaws with the Heisman, MVP (see Pedro in ’99), and other awards voting (controversy with CY Young NL this year). And they still can be useful. Let’s say you make a 16 team playoff and have some automatic bids. after that, take the top 8 teams in polls (BCS or whatever) to finalize the group and slot them by their BCS/poll standings.

    2. The BCS has watered down the regular season. Instead of getting playoff ready by playing good teams, they take on FCS teams (like you said) and pad their schedule so they can go undefeated. You will not see games like UK vs UConn like you did in basketball last night, because neither team could afford the lose.

    3. Do you really care about the bowls. They have screwed with the schedule so much that New Year’s Day does not matter. Will you really watch Penn St. versus LSU? But these two teams could play in the playoffs if there were 16 teams. Then you would watch because it would be lose and go home. Every playoff game would be much watch. Ratings would be sky high.

    4. This contradicts #2. If the regular season is so important, than it should not matter if a 10-2 Penn St gets left out since they lost two games. And the teams left out might be ranked around 13-16. Who cares. Its like team #66 in the basketball tourney. They were not winning anyway.

    5. Postseason will resolve things better than the BCS. You are guaranteed at least 2 undefeated teams after the bowl season (winner ALA vs TX and BSU vs TCU). Whos better really. At least with a playoff, you are guaranteed to only have one undefeated team. If you did not win enough to get in, then I guess #2 argument about the regular season is irrelevant. As for uneven conferences, don’t guarantee a slot to a lower level conference.

    Playoffs are the way to go and the colleges would make much more money from the TV revenue.

  • http://everythingishistory.com Tamahome Jenkins

    Bill,

    I think it’s funny that you mention academics. I was going to bring it up, but I realize that most powerhouse programs have turned their players into pro athletes, so they ruined that argument. However, not every program has lost its way. The Ivy League doesn’t participate in the FCS playoffs because it conflicts with academic finals. These guys should be students first, but the powerhouse programs have definitely messed that up.

    Anyway, I respect your opinion, but I have to disagree with you in most respects. Your postseason doesn’t resolve anything if you’re still using polls and you don’t allow certain conferences to have automatic bids. Furthermore, your argument on #2 is false. Teams are only allowed to schedule 1 FCS opponent per year, and not every school takes advantage of that. It’s not like you have to watch Alabama tear through the Ivy League from week to week. As a matter of fact most schools schedule tough non-conference opponents. Georgia vs. Oklahoma St., Alabama vs. Virginia Tech, and Fresno St. vs. Wisconsin immediately come to mind, but there were definitely more than that.

    Finally, there’s no way that colleges would make more money from playoffs. With the bowl system, there are 34 bowls with payouts ranging from $325K-$18M per school. That means 68 schools profit from the postseason.

    And yes, I care about the bowls, as does most of America considering ESPN, ABC, CBS, and FOX make it a point to televise *ALL* of them.

  • Jonathan

    “Professional sports writers and coaches watch the games and see the stats; they know what they’re doing.”

    That is ignorant – professional sports writers aren’t part of the BCS system at all, and coaches very rarely watch any games other than the teams they play.

    “Detractors seem to forget that voting is perfectly acceptable in most Olympic sports.”

    Yes – judging is okay when the judges are right there watching all the competitors perform under the same conditions. Would we like judging in the Olympics if the judges didn’t even show up to the events they were judging? How many college coaches do you think there were who didn’t watch a single TCU game all year, yet still decided that Texas was the more deserving team?

  • Jonathan

    “Currently, EVERY week is a playoff in college football. A loss at the beginning of the season can ruin a team’s chances at the national championship, or even their conference championship.”

    Except that plenty of undefeated teams can’t get in to the NCG some years no matter how good they play, while 1 and 2 loss teams from other conferences will get in other years. And last year having an early loss didn’t seem to eliminate Florida or Oklahoma, even though undefeated Utah was left on the outside looking in. Some “every game playoff” that is.

  • http://everythingishistory.com Tamahome Jenkins

    Jonathan, your last point speaks to the unbalanced nature of the conferences. Oklahoma and Florida both had to play an extra game to earn their spot in the title game.

    Also, let’s not forget the importance of the bowls to those teams from mid-tier conferences. Utah got $18 million and primetime exposure in the Sugar Bowl. This year they went 9-3 and are in the Poinsetta Bowl, which nets them $750K. If there was a playoff system, Utah’s season would be over and they wouldn’t get the money or exposure of a bowl game.

  • http://www.whalertly.com Robert M. Barga

    @5
    academics are extremely important. Look at how OSU refused to cancel classes (i had to work with profs to go to the games) and makes sure that their students have strong scores. To remain on the team, you must be the same as all other students

  • http://etierphotography.blogspot.com/ FCEtier

    The lack of parity between the conferences is probably the key.
    Of course, I’m biased towards the SEC and with 10 of their 12 teams in bowl games it will be interesting to see how they fare.

  • nyjamaican

    lets start with #5. From the looks of it all you are concerned with is the money. Do you really think TCU fans would prefer to see their team playing Boise instead of Texas? As for your example, if The Big-Ten runner up was to be excluded out of the playoff brackets then wouldnt the regular season games matter?
    As for #4 who had the best record in baseball this year? Who won the championship? What about the year Boston came back from 3-0 deficit and won it all. Are you saying that the Yankees and Boston were not the best team in baseball those year? If a team is great then they should have no problem beating teams that were worse than them. In every professional sport winning the most games in a season means home field advantage. I am sure that if a SEC team went 10-2 and was not included in the playoffs it is no different if they lost two games to unranked teams and didnt make it to a big bowl game. This just means they try harder next year in the regular season.
    #3 how is a playoff watering down the BCS. Once again you are showing that the big conferences should get preferential treatment than the lower conferences. The BCS could be used throughout the season and just like how they have it now you can pick two bowls yearly where the winners will then play for the national championship. This would leave the champtionship to be determined on the field. How is that Division II can have a playoff system but not Division I? This is just Rich getting richer and keeping the poor people down.
    #2 Are you serious? Do you really think a team will purposely lose two or three games and say we will wait until the playoffs to play better? Come on now all you have to do is say the top two teams with the best record gets home field advantage or some other incentive like they do in MLB Allstar game. The bottom line is the rich want to keep getting richer while the poorer schools cant compete.

  • Jeff

    If a non-BCS team wants to have a better shot at the title why dont they just choose to play better teams? If TCU or any other non-BCS team thinks there the best team in the league then they should choose to verse teams like Texas, Oklahama or Ohio State. Wins over teams like this would get them in the top 2 and in the championship game

  • Rich B

    Whithout a doubt in my mind,the BCS will be just the tip of the iceberg in the greatest sports scandal/fraud in the history of our country.The corruption that’s in place to keep the status quo is overwhelming to get the present system changed! Even the media outlets that cover the sport have a stake in it!Disney owns ABC & ESPN! Check out the broadcasts the announcers aren’t allowed to utter the “p” word for fear of announcing their last game.60 Minutes wouldn’t touch the subject with a ten foot pole!Too much mud.Urban Meyer quit last year-and than miraculously returns the following day!His physical health was fine(not sure about his mental health though)that was his little way of throwing a hissy fit for having to settle for a #2 Bowl!He only un-quit when someone,somewhere told him to cool his ass out!He damn well knows there should have been a playoff instituted 15 years ago. Not ten.Not five. How can you have a situation like the one in Cincy last year?They go undefeated-best record in school history-and they’re told “Sorry best we can do for you is this nice #2 bowl over here.”Notre Dame comes in,goes “You go undefeated with us coach we’ll garan-damn-ty you won’t get a #2 bowl.” Off he goes with them-leaving his team before the biggest game in school history.Somebody ought to tell Notre Dame There’s a commandment about that! I think it’s Thou salt not covet thy neighbor’s football coach!A playoff would avoid that and better yet Notre Dame wouldn’t be involved in either!Notre Dame and that coach deserve each other!You wouldn’t have Wisconsin having to roll the score up relentlessly on everyone!The Cam Newton situation,coaches locking players in janitor’s closets,and most of the slime that surrounds this once great game would cease!(this excludes Urban Meyers criminals)