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.