I know, I know, another one of these writeups. So what if I’m number 1000. I’ve had to deal with the BCS lovers garbage all season and despite the clear as day problems with CFB’s system, the common reaction is “that’s the best we can get.” Chuck already did a great job going into the playoff concept and what would have to happen for that to come to fruition so we won’t go down that road again. As I was watching the World Series and on Twitter tonight, I couldn’t help but notice the out-cry from so many people that the Cardinals won the World Series and that it was “unfair” because they were a wild card team and blah, blah, blah. The Cardinals, like Uconn Men’s basketball that finished 9th in the Big East during the regular season this past year are more credible champions than any BCS champion that has ever been crowned. The BCS system is a joke that year after year does nothing to prove who the two best teams in CFB are. In fact, we’ll never know if any of the national champs were the best in CFB because they don’t have to prove it nationally. And that’s what this article is about.
There’s a myriad of problems we can look at when going through the BCS and CFB regular season to discredit their crowning of a national champion. However, I’ll limit it to the main ones in no particular order. Some may be repeated in which case I’ll try to explain it in my own way. Others are one’s that I have rarely seen used, but even if they have, certainly should be mentioned much more. By the end, your opinion probably won’t change. Most people are either pro-BCS or anti-BCS. And at this point with all the chatter about a playoff over the years, if they haven’t flip-flopped on that, they likely never will. My biggest problems with this whole “regular season playoff”….
1) It Doesn’t Prove Who the Two Best Teams Are
Year after year we’re told the BCS gives us the two best teams on the field for the national championship game. In cases where there have been unbeaten teams left out, we’ve been told numbers such as schedule strength or poll figures have separated the two best from the rest. That’s a load of crap. Ignore all the BCS formula numbers for a moment. Ignore how many unbeaten teams a given season has. The biggest reason it is flawed is because the only thing the system tells us is which two teams are the most successful relative to their conferences. What the hell does that mean? Let’s just be honest with ourselves for a moment. Most conferences have an identity. The Big 12 is a pass heavy conference with very few good defensive teams. Many games in that league are shoot-outs and having elite QBs and WRs is paramount to success. In the Big Ten, it is a heavy run and defense league. The ACC has very few teams with a strong passing game (part of the reason I believe Clemson has taken the conference by surprise. Their offense is a complete 180 from the traditional ACC offense). Each year we get two teams (most years with at least one unbeaten) who end up playing for the title because they are the two best against their league.
All this tells us is those teams are better playing their conference style than other teams. There’s usually a few marquee out-of-conference games a year but often times elite teams will play some non-AQs, maybe even an FCS, and a middle-tier BCS school so as to not risk a loss. Now for the sake of this example take Oklahoma. Oklahoma has played in 4 national championship games and 8 BCS bowls as a whole. That is the most NCG appearances for any program and 2nd-most BCS bowls. The Sooners are 1-3 in the title game and 3-5 overall. Why? Well, I believe there’s a strong argument to be made that Oklahoma is simply great at playing Big 12 style shoot-out football. They’re better at playing that than most teams are at playing their conference’s type of football. That DOES NOT MAKE Oklahoma a top 2 team in the country. Yet the BCS regularly rewards them with a NCG spot, and they haven’t delivered often. How do we even know they were even better than the Big Ten or ACC champ some of those years (as an example, not particularly)? We don’t. We just know they can win a lot of Big 12 games. Until we get to the point where a team shows it can win multiple games against elite talent against different styles of play, I’ll be hard-pressed to ever say we can be sure the two best teams are in the title game.
2) It Doesn’t Hold Losses Equally
While every sport has different loss totals for its playoff teams each year, CFB is twisted in that unlike the majority of other sports where all losses are equal in regards to record, that simply is not the case the majority of the time. While some can argue a loss to Alabama shouldn’t be held equally as a loss to Oregon St., which I would agree with, my problem is with the timing of losses. Everyone who is a passionate college football fan knows if your team is going to go 11-1 that 99% of the time it is better to have that loss in September than December. For a system that claims it wants to put the two best teams on the field, that makes little sense. Why is a loss in September better than a loss in December? In professional sports, teams get hot and win titles all the time, but their losses are held equally against them as a team’s loss in the final weeks. If the MLB worked like the BCS, St. Louis and Tampa Bay would have coasted to the playoffs because the Red Sox and Braves would have plummeted with their late season losses. Oregon lost in the first game of the season to LSU. I completely understand that is not a bad loss and as I said in the Alabama-Oregon St. example, I have no problem with it hurting them less than other team’s losses. But a loss to LSU in December should be the same as a loss to LSU in September. Yet Oregon has played themselves back up into an outside shot (you can debate how small but there still is an outside shot) at the NCG simply because their loss was in September. Should Oklahoma St. lose to Oklahoma in Bedlam on December 3rd, they’ll almost certainly be out of any NCG shot despite possibly having the same 11-1 record as Oregon and I would EASILY point to a much more difficult Big 12 schedule than anything Oregon plays in the PAC-12. So despite the identical records (potentially) and a tougher road to that 11-1 record, Oregon would in all likelihood be rated ahead of the Cowboys because of the time of their loss. That makes little sense.
On top of that, that notion isn’t even consistent. We’ve seen Nebraska and Oklahoma both get blown out in their conference championship game or the last regular season game and still play for the title. So unlike these other sports where a team’s record is a team’s record and depending on where their record sits, they will or will not definitively play for the title, we can’t even have a consistent impact on a late-season loss. While the records nation-wide will impact that from year to year, it completely kills the argument that you have to show up and win when it counts to play for the title because as we’ve seen, sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t have to show up late in the year to play for the title.
3) In What Other Playoff Can You Win Every Game and Not Get a Title Shot?
This one goes out to 1998 Tulane, 1999 Marshall, 2004 Auburn, 2004 Utah, 2004 Boise St., 2006 Boise St., 2007 Hawaii, 2008 Utah, 2008 Boise St., 2009 TCU, 2009 Boise St., 2009 Cincy and 2010 TCU. You know this story, it’s been used 100 times and probably argued better than I’ll argue it. And frankly, I completely agree that IN THIS SYSTEM, there’s a strong argument that none deserved a title shot because of the schedule they played. That’s a flaw with a system, not the team. Under the BCS, these teams need to play tougher schedules, no question about it. But stop calling the regular season a playoff then. It is not. Not even close. You CANNOT have a playoff where a team wins every single game and is neglected from a shot at the title. That is a contradiction to what a playoff system is. You want to call it something other than a playoff? Go ahead and this argument can be dropped. But as long as we’re going to live in a world where people believe we play a “regular season playoff”, then we’ll have to live with this major flaw.
In some instances these teams were clearly exposed. 2004 Boise, 2008 Boise and 2009 TCU all lost their bowl games and in the case of 2007 Hawaii and 2009 Cincy, the two of them were blown out in their BCS games removing any doubt to their argument for a title shot. You know what? I’d be surprised if any team on that list, including last year’s TCU team who beat a damn good Wisconsin team, could win 2 or 3 straight games against the best of the best. But you know what? We can’t say that for certain and even the remote possibility that a team who wins all its games COULD HAVE won the national championship but wasn’t given the chance is a major problem. We don’t need all of these teams to win it. If just ONE of these teams would have won a national title when given the chance, then we’ve made a major mistake with crowning a national champion. Under the BCS, the Larry Johnson/Stacey Augmon/Greg Anthony UNLV Runnin Rebels might not have gotten a title chance some years because their computer numbers in the weak Big West conference might have hurt them despite their dominance throughout the season where they regularly beat top-rated teams.
College Football is the only sport in America where a team can have ZERO CHANCE before the season starts. We know this to be true because if a team starts low enough in the polls and are from a weak conference, they have no chance. Houston can win all its games by 60 points. No matter if they’re one of five unbeatens or if they’re the ONLY unbeaten, we know they won’t play for the title. Again, is that fair? Under this current system it probably is. I couldn’t fathom putting this team in a title game when they have beaten nobody of note and at best will have only 1-2 decent wins. But again, it’s a fraudulent system when this team never had a chance to begin with. Twenty years ago people would have said a team from the Horizon League in Men’s Basketball could never make a Final Four, yet Butler just did it two years in a row. Even the smallest of NCAA conferences in Men’s basketball stand a miniscule chance at winning a title, but come the start of March Madness, they’re 6 wins away from a title just like everyone else. Their chances might not be great, but they GET A CHANCE, which is more than we can say about 99% of the non-AQ teams in D-1 College Football.
4) The Two Best Teams Can’t Be From The Same Conference
Maybe this is the year the BCS finally kills this argument but I still wouldn’t bet on it. Anyone who has watched college football this year would probably agree that Alabama and LSU are the two best teams. But to not be hypocritical, I’ll refer back to my first point and concede that all we know is Alabama and LSU look better against SEC teams than other top teams look against their league. With that said, the fact LSU and Alabama play in the same conference (in fact same division) in all likelihood will negate the loser from having a shot at the national championship. Fair? Perhaps, but consider the scenario where the winner of that game is the only unbeaten team. The loser likely doesn’t get a chance to play for the title over a team who lost to most likely an inferior opponent so as to avoid a rematch. In a playoff system, these two teams could potentially prove superior to everyone else and the loser could win a rematch like we see all the time in professional sports. Why should a team be punished simply for the fact they play in the same conference as the #1 team?
The other example of this that became much less relevant after the Buckeyes were blown out in the NCG was when Florida went over Michigan. At the time of the final BCS poll, most felt the pollsters wiggled their ballots to get Florida in and avoid a rematch. It proved wise as it was clear Ohio State wasn’t better than Florida but who knows if Florida was better than Michigan? The other glaring problem I have with this is LSU travels to Tuscaloosa next weekend. If they were to lose and given a rematch with Alabama on a neutral field, maybe they win. An Alabama win wouldn’t necessarily tell us they’re better than LSU. Say for example they win by two points on a two-point conversion stop in 3OT. Perhaps the 90K+ fans backing them on that play had something to do with that. Any other team who would get a shot at Alabama under that hypothetical would get to play them on a neutral field. Anyone who thinks “a game is a game” and doesn’t think playing Alabama in Bryant-Denny is more challenging than playing them at a neutral site should probably take a trip to Tuscaloosa on a Saturday. Look no further than this year’s Cardinals tonight proving that just because you don’t win your division doesn’t mean you can’t be the final team standing, ESPECIALLY in a sport like college football where the QB breaking up with his GF on Friday Night could mean the difference in an efficient, focused QB and an erratic, wild one. We’ll see how the November 5th game plays out but if it is a classic, I’d LOVE to hear a reason why they shouldn’t be given a second-chance to play a rematch in New Orleans (which ironically would even the score a little bit with regard to location of the games.)
5) It Has Too Much Unaccounted For In Ultimately Selecting Two Teams
The FBS is the ONLY sport in America where its championship is picked by people and not played out on the field entirely. While BCS proponents would argue the regular season is where it plays itself out (though we’ve gone to great lengths to disprove this), at the end of the day a national champ match is still heavily determined by opinions. All 4 of the major professional sports in this country have a cut and dry method for determining how its playoffs will play out. Win your division or have one of X best records after that and you’re a playoff team. That is cut and dry. Even NCAA Basketball, NCAA Baseball, NCAA Soccer, NCAA Hockey etc. use similar systems to the BCS to determine their tournament field, but ultimately, there is still a playoff system that 100% determines its championship match. A field is selected but games won get you there. In NCAAF, you simply are a national championship participant on the collective opinion of voters and computers.
We’ll start with the pollsters. It is widely assumed and sometimes even comes out that coaches don’t fill out their own ballots. Considering the coaches ballot along with the Harris is the polls used in the BCS, who are filling out these coaches ballots? Hell, even if coaches are filling them out, explain to me how they’re able to judge the performance of Clemson for example when Clemson is playing at 3:00 and their own team kicks off at 3:30. You honestly expect me to believe that coaches put a ton of their free time into their ballots to make sure they’re giving an accurate portrayal? I’d being willing to bet some coaches don’t even check boxscores on games before they fill out their ballot. Most probably find out if the team won or lost and who they played and adjust accordingly. If they have assistants or workers filling out their ballots for them, then are their rankings even reflective of the coaches’ opinion and who doesn’t think a coach of a contending team would shake up their polls to give their team help?
The computers are just as bad if not worse. A computer can merely tell you who teams beat and lost to. They have NO FEEL for the actual game. Now we’ve already discussed how unlikely it is most coaches get to watch enough games to make an accurate judgment on the positioning of teams. Yet, another element of this “system” can’t judge a performance. In the computer’s mind, a 28-21 win where the team erases a 21-7 deficit at halftime to win by playing lockdown defense is the equivalent of a win where a team is thoroughly outplayed for the majority of the game yet gets a couple lucky breaks to pull out a win. The computers also can’t account for injuries. A game where a team benefits from the loss of a star player is an example. If Texas A&M were to beat Oklahoma next weekend with Ryan Broyles tearing his ACL in the middle of the first quarter and Landry Jones getting knocked out with a concussion in the 2nd, yet still struggles in route to victory, that wouldn’t be factored in at all. In the computer’s eyes, its no different than Ryan Tannehill and company going toe to toe with a 100% healthy Oklahoma team and winning.
So we have a computer system that can’t judge the difference between one win and another relative to how the games played out. We have coaches who likely don’t invest the time to watch other games to fill out their poll or even worse have someone else fill it out in their name who also probably doesn’t get to watch enough games. And yet, we add these two with a Harris poll, spit out some “calculated numbers” and that is our formula to determine the two best teams after our “regular season playoff.”
Right…..I’ll take the other thousand examples from sports at all levels in this country who know what a real playoff system is.
You can keep your fancy numbers and mythical national championship games. The BCS is simply a joke. There’s really no other way to put it.