On Playoffs, Part II

The final BCS standings came out yesterday with no surprise among the top 2, top 5, or even top 10. It was another predictable season of college football. As usual, everyone outside of the moneymakers are clamoring for a playoff system – the new annual tradition – and this season may have solidified the BCS opposition even more. The debate focus on a 4-team, 8 team, or 16-team playoff. Here is the final standings, and how those three tiers would look:

1. LSU (13-0)
2. Alabama (11-1)
3. Oklahoma State (11-1)
4. Stanford (11-1)

5. Oregon (11-2)
6. Arkansas (10-2)
7. Boise State (11-1)
8. Kansas State (10-2)

9. South Carolina (10-2)
10. Wisconsin (11-2)
11. Virginia Tech (11-2)
12. Baylor (9-3)
13. Michigan (10-2)
14. Oklahoma (9-3)
15. Clemson (10-3)
16. Georgia (10-3)

When you see the top teams broken down this way it crystallizes the tiers of teams, making the decision that much easier. Most fans would say a 16-team playoff is too many extra games and the regular season already separated the LSU’s from the Georgia’s.

The difference between a 4-team, 8-team playoff is less simple, more debatable. In a 4-team, you have 1-loss teams or perfection from the most difficult conferences. In a 8-team, you have the best remaining 1-loss and the only remaining impressive 2-loss teams.

I would not need to be sold on switching Wisconsin with Kansas State, as the Badgers had an impressive year in winning the inaugural season in the New Big Twen. No matter the call, there will always be deserving teams on the outside looking in.

However, including 8 and leaving out #9 seems much more fair, easier to swallow than leaving out #3, or #4. But this is not a bold argument to make, as most players, coaches, and fans want a playoff system. The debate is how many teams, but there is near unanimity among those that don’t make hoards of money off the B_S Championship and the overall bowl system.

However, while I support a playoff system, I have a more bold answer to this problem and this season, like no other in college football, proves the point:

There is no need for a playoff system.

I am fully aware that this directly contradicts the logical argument I’ve made about what sports should and what sports shouldn’t have a playoff system from a few weeks ago. Head-to-Head deserves a playoff race. However, with the way that conferences are set, the number of teams that are legitimately competing for the title, and the way teams schedule games — NCAA football was already set up like a season-long playoff.

Actually, it still is. I casually follow this sport, so I can’t be the only one that notices that the four teams everyone expected to be in line for the B_S Championship game are the top four teams at the end. If you schedule the right games, take care of business, and start the season ranked high — you are in line to play — whether it’s 2, 4, or 8 teams.

In all reality though, is there any doubt that LSU is already the champion? I guess if Alabama comes out and win 52-0 it could change, but that won’t happen. If Alabama squeaks one out, LSU is still the best team.
If you let the Vikings play the Packers, they would win at some point. It might take them 49 weeks, but it would happen. That’s sports.

I’m not a huge fan of basing everything on the strength of schedule, but LSU and already been through a playoff, and no one else even comes close:
(Numbers by teams are AP rank at game time, BCS rank at end of season)

1. LSU – 8 games against ranked teams (8-0)
Alabama (2, 2)
Oregon (3, 5)
Arkansas (3, 6)
Georgia (12, 16)
West Virginia (16, 23)
Florida (17, –)
Auburn (19, 25)
Mississippi State (25, –)

2. Alabama – 4 games (3-1)
LSU (1, 1)
Florida (12, –)
Arkansas (14, 6)
Penn State (23, 22)

3. Oklahoma State – 4 games (4-0)
Texas A&M (8, –)
Oklahoma (13, 3)
Kansas State (17, 8)
Texas (22, 24)

4. Stanford – 4 games (3-1)
Oregon (6, 5)
USC (20, –)
Washington (22, –)
Notre Dame (22, –)

5. Oregon – 4 games (2-2)
Stanford (3, 4)
LSU (4, 1)
Arizona State (18, –)
USC (18, –)

6. Arkansas – 5 games (3-2)
LSU (1, 1)
Alabama (3, 2)
South Carolina (10, 9)
Texas A&M (14, –)
Auburn (15, 25)

7. Boise State – 1 game (1-0)
Georgia (19, 16)

8. Kansas State – 3 games (1-2)
Oklahoma State (3, 3)
Oklahoma (11, 14)
Baylor (15, 12)

Outside of the “quarterfinalists”, Wisconsin and Clemson were the only teams with impressive records against ranked teams. If they don’t lose to unranked opponents, they would deep in the fray of this discussion. Either way, it doesn’t really matter. For all the talk of the “Big 6” conferences in college football, it’s all a joke. No one competes with the SEC. 3 of the Top 10 teams hail from one division in the conference.

I listed the games like this for one reason: The regular season is already a survivor mode, playoff format. Every contending team knows that going into the season, to compete for the national title, they will need to go undefeated — or have one minor slip with some extra luck around them (I’m looking at you, Nick Saban). These schools make their schedules around this format. Boise State, in trying to get added attention, has added ranked opponents the last two years to make up for their cake conference schedules. Mediocre teams, in trying to get a bowl game with a 6-6 record, will schedule cake non-conference teams to pad their horrendous ‘Big 6’ 2-6 conference records.

Then you have teams like LSU. Knowing that they will play five ranked opponents in their conference schedule, including Alabama and Arkansas (#2 and #3), schedule 3 additional ranked opponents in their non-conference schedule. Most top 10 teams played about 4 ranked opponents and lost a game. LSU played twice as many ranked games and won them all.

It’s an athletic version of Survivor — and there is one team standing. From here on out, it’s simply about making money.

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About Creed

I often ramble. What some people can eloquently say in 10 words, when most people would take 25, I will intentionally take 100. It's always been this way. This blog is mainly to spare my friends, family, and co-workers from my epic long rants.
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One Response to On Playoffs, Part II

  1. Pingback: On Playoffs, Part III | Ramblin' Rhetoric

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