Saturday, January 03, 2009

the bcs system and the need for a playoff

It has become an annual rite to demand that college football establish some kind of playoff--even the President-elect has gotten involved--but this year makes the point even more than most. Yesterday Mississippi, which wasn't even the second best team in the southeastern conference, beat Texas Tech, which was in the BCS running until the very final stages. The Pac 10 (or 12), whose teams were underrated because of the perception that it was a "weak" conference, has apparently won all or nearly all its bowl games. Utah breezed over more highly rated Alabama. This comes on the heels of the last two BCS "championship" games, in which Ohio State was clobbered both times, leaving a clear impression that somebody else should have been there.

The argument against a playoff--aside from sheer inertia--is that it would ruin the regular season and lead an also-ran to claim a fictitious title. There's something to this: the NCAA March Madness does indeed have something of this effect in basketball, as do the Major League Baseball playoffs. But March Madness has 65 teams, I believe, and Major League baseball allows about a quarter of its teams to participate, with even higher percentages in basketball, hockey, and other sports. By contrast, no one is proposing that more than eight teams participate in a college football playoff, out of a couple of hundred that play in Division One. The current system already makes the regular season irrelevant for all but the handful of teams at the very top, and ruins most of the remaining bowl games in the process. As someone in the locker room put it, "you don't make no champion on the computer." From his mouth to the BCS's ears.


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