What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
This episode is exactly what you would expect from the title. Given what happened in college football in the last night which seismically shifted the College Football Playoff discussion, its time to address several messages in the inbox here at Dubsism which have the same theme: Am I ready to admit I was wrong about the College Football Play-Off?
Before I answer that, allow me to refresh what I originally said about the concept of a “play-off.”
[The idea of a college football play-off is]…More wizardry from those who would like to see college football become merely a Saturday clone of the NFL. One of the great things about FBS college football is the regular season actually means something. College football is now free of those train wrecks where a team rolls through the regular season only to be defeated by a team who got into the post-season thanks to a monstrously bloated playoff system.
College sports contains the classic example of how a playoff system can destroy the meaning of the season. The NCAA Basketball Tournament, while being one of the great events in all of sport also makes the regular season pointless. All a team from a “power conference” has to do is win enough games to qualify for the post-season. Usually, this means all they have to do is win a majority of their non-conference games and maybe play .500 ball in the conference schedule, and it March Madness here we come.
I’m not saying the BCS is an acceptable alternative, in fact it is far from it. Yet, as long as there are “power conferences” that have contractual obligations to certain bowl games, there is too much money at stake in the current system to expect a real change.
In other words, I said there would never be a “true” playoff in college football. Comparing what is happening today to that statement means I’m not wrong. I’m actually exactly right. If you doubt that, consider the following.
1) The De-Valuing of the Regular Season
You don’t even have to wait to see how this season is going to end up; just look at what happened last year. Penn State beat Ohio State head to head, won the B1G Ten East, won the B1G Ten Championship game, and the Play-off Committee decided Ohio State was the “better” team. Whether or not that was true, it proves the point that a committee of subjective decision-makers can obviate the objective of what happens between the lines.
If we must, look at the scenario shaping up this season. Until last night, the narrative was there was no way a B1G Ten team was going to make the play-off. That’s bad for business because the B1G Ten has huge fan bases and they travel to post-season games in massive numbers. Face it, if you live in Madison, Wisconsin, a trip to Arizona in January has a larger level of appeal than a mere football game. But now that Georgia got nut-sacked by Auburn, the ghosts of Notre Dame football went back to the grave, and Alabama needed a late touchdown to de-cowbell Mississippi State, the play-off picture now has more permutations than Jerry Jones has liver spots.
Just try to wrap your head around this. What does the Play-off Four look like IF…Oklahoma wins out, Ohio State (who lost to Oklahoma) trucks Wisconsin in the B1G Ten Championship game, Auburn (who gorilla-stomped Georgia) beats Alabama in the “Iron Bowl,” then loses to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, and Clemson (who beat Auburn) crushes Miami in the ACC Championship game.
2) Why This “Play-off” Isn’t a Play-Off
Think about it. The only thing that has changed since the BCS days is the addition of two games. Instead of a subjectively-determined “1 vs. 2” championship game, the NCAA simply added a layer of semi-final games, both of which have participants which are still largely subjectively determined. That’s why we are already hearing a lot of conversation about moving this to an “Eight-Team” model, which to me means two things. First, the NCAA has yet to find the number at which the first teams left out can’t really complain. There’s enough money in this so-called play-off that the team at #5 has a reason to make a beef about being excluded, and they are close enough to the top to give that complaint some legitimacy.
To contrast and compare, the NCAA found this number for basketball at 64; team #65 couldn’t really make a plausible claim about being denied a reasonable shot at the title. Does that mean 8 is the magic number for college football? I’m not the Tootsie Pop Owl; I don’t know the number. Personally, I’m not biting at 8; I’m on record as being in favor of a complete overhaul of college football which results in a 16-team play-off just like every other layer of college football. But I’m also practical; my solution is too radical, but this also sets up the “dirty little secret” nobody wants to admit…
3) The “Four Team” Model Has Already Failed
Like I said, the NCAA collectively would rather have an anesthesia-free root canal than come clean about what the “Four Team” model was supposed to do. We here at Dubsism were the first ones to point out the conference re-aligning which happened a few years back made the College Football world resemble the classic board game “Risk.”
When you look at the conferences in terms of “regional empires,” and you stop to remember that as these tectonic shifts were occurring, the formative discussions which resulted in the “Four Team” were well underway. At the time, the dissolution of the Big 12 was an impending reality; Texas A&M and Missouri had already defected to the SEC, and the rumors were swirling about a departure of Texas and Oklahoma for the Pac-12. Even today, it doesn’t require the super-computer at NASA to figure out once the Big 12 loses either the Longhorns or the Sooners, the result would be a “Gumball Rally ” for the remaining conference members to find new homes.
Such an exodus likely results in four “super-conferences,” all with two divisions and a championship game. Once such a structure is in place, two things happen. First, the “Four Team” model play-off is a cinch as it’s tailor-made for the four championship game winners. Second, it does something I’m sure a lot of folks at the NCAA would love; it forces Notre Dame to join a conference “for real;” not this “just the tip” arrangement it has with the ACC.
Given all that, you can’t tell me the conversation never happened in which somebody postulated that accelerating the dissolution of the Big 12 was good for the overall business of college football from a play-off perspective. You’ll also have a hard time selling me on the idea that as you are reading this, someone somewhere in the bowels of the beast that is the NCAA isn’t seriously considering the “Eight Team” model. That means they know what they have now doesn’t work.
But this is not about predicting the NCAA’s next move; this is about my being asked if I was wrong about the college football “play-off.”