Home > College Football > Why I’m Not Sold on a College Football Playoff

Why I’m Not Sold on a College Football Playoff

bcs-logo1I admit, what I’m about to say is about as popular as a third term for President Bush. I know that notinhd.com co-authors Ben and Britton disagree with me on this, but I’m not sold on a college football playoff.  I’m certainly not as sold as President Elect Obama, who seems to think that college football playoffs are one of the more pressing matters in our country. I’ve had this conversation numerous times before, but here are a few reasons why I think the current format could be better than a playoff system.

1) Every game matters.

I first realized just how much every game matters on the weekend of September 7th and 8th, 2008. On Saturday, my Alma Mater, ‘THE’ Ohio State University, beat Ohio University 26-14, in a game in which they were trailing in the second half. For a team with national title hopes and a big game against USC the next week, I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief. A loss against OU would have absolutely ruined Ohio State’s title hopes.

The next day, my favorite NFL team, the Colts, played the Bears in week 1 and lost 29-13.  And to be honest – I didn’t care much.  Peyton missed the entire preseason, and I was surprised that the offense didn’t play well.  And it turned out, I was right in not worrying.  The Colts finished 12-4 and made the playoffs.

A game like Ohio State-USC early in the season means almost nothing if conference winners are given automatic berths into the playoff system (and let’s be honest, a playoff system won’t happen if the BCS conferences aren’t all guaranteed a berth in the playoff. Conferences simply won’t agree to the change unless they have a guaranteed spot.)  Would Ohio State or USC rest their starters so they can win the conference and get a berth? Would they hold back on the game plan, so as not to give away many secrets in conference play? Is this the kind of football we want in September?

This is the most common argument against a playoff, yet I think it’s the best.  As our own Captain Bates has pointed out, college football is the ONLY sport, college or professional, where EVERY game matters. Take a week off in September, and your title hopes could go down the drain.  Sure, December and January might be a little more exciting, but do we want to sacrifice September and October in order for that to happen? I don’t want college football to turn into the NBA. We already know what teams will be there in the second round of the NBA playoffs. Wake me up when we get there.

2) Seasons Can End On A High Note.

January 1, 2007,  Boise State had a miraculous win against Adrian Peterson and the Oklahoma Sooners in what went down as one of the best bowls ever played. But let’s be honest, Oklahoma finished 11th in the polls that year. They were not a GREAT team. If Boise State was in an 8 or 16 team playoff, instead of a bowl game, chances are they would have lost the following week. Same with Utah this year. They beat a good Alabama team, and can now celebrate their undefeated season. If we had a playoff system, storybook endings simply wouldn’t happen. Teams like Utah and Boise State can defeat the occasional giant but, they can’t win four games in four weeks against the beat teams in the country.

3) There Are Still Plenty of Arguments About Who Gets In.  The common argument is that it’s better to be arguing about the No. 8 and No. 9 teams than to have to argue about the second and third best teams.  However, what do you do with the Big 12 this year? Would Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech all get in an eight-team tournament? Let’s look at what would have happened this season if we had an eight-team tournament.

These teams would get in due to automatic berths:  Florida (SEC), Oklahoma (BIG 12), USC (PAC 10), Penn State (Big 10), Virginia Tech (ACC), Cincinnati (Big East).

We have six of our eight teams right there. That leaves two at-large spots.  The candidates:  Utah, Texas, Texas Tech, Alabama, Ohio State, TCU and Boise State.

Who gets in?  In hindsight, we can say Utah is deserving.  But can you take a one-loss Texas team over a one-loss Texas Tech team that beat them?  Can you exclude a one-loss Alabama team whose only loss came in the conference championship game? Is this any easier than debating between the second and third ranked teams?

A 16-team playoff system even further devalues the regular season. Ohio State lost their two biggest games this season, and their biggest win of the year was probably a blowout against Michigan State, yet they would be a lock for a 16-team tournament. In addition, in a tournament that size, teams would be discouraged from scheduling big non-conference games, knowing that scheduling cupcakes and making it through the conference schedule with 1-2 losses would virtually guarantee them a spot in the tournament.  That isn’t good for college football.

4) It WAS decided on the field when you lost.

I’m tired of teams who have losses complain that the championship needs to be decided on the field. I’m sorry, but it WAS decided on the field when you failed to beat your opponent. I only have sympathy for teams that win all their games and are still excluded from the championship game. If you lose a game, you lose your right to say you’re the best team. If enough teams lose that you get a second shot at the championship, then consider yourself fortunate, but you can’t cry about life being unfair if you didn’t win all your games.

5) The All-or-Nothing Mentality.

This goes along with No. 4.  Remember when conference championships meant something? Remember when 10-2 was a good season? Now, you have 15 or so programs where anything short of the National Championship is a failure. You can have a good season without being the National Champion. Teams can build on winning a conference championship and then a bowl win over another elite program. There is nothing wrong with that. A playoff system devalues everything but a national championship.

6) Let’s Be Honest, We Like the Arguments.

Utah fans can currently argue that they have the best team in the country. If there was a playoff, they’d have ceased talking by now. Texas can argue that they beat Oklahoma by just as much as Florida did, so they should split the title. College football is the only sport where arguments matter. It’s the only sport where, as the season ends, there are arguments about who is better.  Does UCLA care if they’re a No. 2 or a No. 1 seed in March Madness?  Not really. Do Gonzaga fans feel the need to explain why their program is as good as the major programs? No. In college football, rankings are important.  Arguments in September about who is No. 1 are important. Arguments over who is the top dog, just don’t seem to take place in the other major sports. In college football they start in August and continue all year. It’s one of the things that makes it such a popular sport.


That said, I don’t think a college football playoff would ruin it’s popularity by any means. It would be exciting to see, I admit. But the question isn’t if it would be good; it’s whether it would be better than what we currently have. I don’t think it would be an awful idea, but there are legitimate reasons for wanting to stay with the current system.

  1. Alf
    January 11, 2009 at 8:38 PM

    this has to be the dumbest article ever written. How do you know boise state would have lost the next week? how do you know utah couldnt have beaten florida? why was USC’s lost on the road in Oregon st worse then Florida’s at home? Team’s can only control their out of conference schedule and SC’s was far tougher then Florida. It’s a joke. Plus nobody cares about finishing on a high note.

  2. Dan Miller
    January 11, 2009 at 9:31 PM

    1) as I pointed out, Oklahoma was not a great team when Boise State beat them. And Boise State barely pulled that game out. Even if Boise State could have beaten other top teams given a shot, chances are they couldn’t do it four weeks in a row. I simply don’t think that a mid-major has the depth to do that (including Utah this year)

    2) I don’t think USC’s road loss was worse than Florida’s. I have no idea where you got that idea, or what you’re talking about. You did read the article, right?

    3) I disagree that nobody cares about finishing on a high note. But it’s not something that can be proven either way.

    You stay classy.

  3. Jeremiah
    January 11, 2009 at 11:56 PM

    Holy crap who let Alf know about this website? Really, I don’t care to read what this douchebag thinks because he is so full of crap. Unfortunately, I do have to agree to extent that the idea of the BCS staying intact is wrong. But Alfy, Dan does not write dumb stuff. You do. Enough jibber jabber

    Dan, I know we’ve had this discussion before I can disagree with you more. Take college basketball for example, 64 teams in the NCAA are invited to play in a tournament to see who is the real champion. Why can’t football do the same? It’s stupid to think that a team like Utah to beat 6 teams who went to a bowl game and thrash an Alabama team who was number one just a month prior to the game and go undefeated and not be invited to the National Championship. It’s ridiculous!!

    All the bowls that they have now are pretty much irrellevant unless your team is involved. So why not implement those bowls into a tournament? This would make college football that much better.

    Every team has mental laspes, even your beloved Ohio State Buckeyes (who seem to lapse everytime they are on national television) have rough patches. Wouldn’t you like to see your team have the shot of being in the running to make it to the championship eventhough they may lose to Ohio in the early September? I would if I were you cause my beloved Washington State Cougars seem to have mental lapses on a weekly basis.

    A playoff would end all this bitching of who should be in the National Championship and we would really see who is THE best college football team in the nation.

    C’mon Dan, jump on the bandwagon! We love you, even if you are a Buckeye.

  4. Britton
    January 12, 2009 at 12:31 AM

    Oh my gosh… I had no idea you were still alive. Welcome to the blog, Alf!

  5. Doug
    January 12, 2009 at 3:16 PM

    “Every game counting” is retarded. If that was the case, you’re basically saying the regular season is a playoff (a la pool play) and the BCS is the bracketed aspect of a tournament. If that was the case, why even play the season? Just make the entire season a single (maybe double) elimination tournament, winner take all. The BCS isn’t all crap though. They should completely remove any ties to any conference and use an RPI like system to determine who is the best (like it currently does). Then, take the top 16 teams REGARDLESS OF CONFERENCE and have 16 play 1 (in one of the pre-Christmas bowl game (Mieneke Car Care Bowl or some crap like that). Then, we have 8 winners who qualify for the next round (Holiday, Cotton, Gator and Fiesta Bowls), the final four play in the Orange and Sugar bowls with the championship game the Rose bowl. Use the final 7 bowls on a rotating schedule since they are all warm weather cities … (NOLA, SD, Pasadena, Houston, Florida, AZ ….

  6. Dan Miller
    January 12, 2009 at 4:10 PM

    The problem with using RPI systems is that BCS conferences don’t have enough games against each other in the non-conference schedule to get a real feel for what conferences are stronger. Most teams in BCS conferences schedule one non-conference game against a BCS opponent.

    This breaks down the non-conference football schedules this year. http://bleacherreport.com/articles/44682-toughest-non-conference-schedule-in-2008it-looks-like-sec-or-pac10

    College football has over 110 teams. It’s not like the NFL, where you can get a feel for the better teams and conferences by looking at head-to-head matchups and records. There simply aren’t enough big games played to get a real feel for who the best teams are.

    And if the regular season is ‘pool play’ – then how is it different than any other sport? Isn’t EVERY sport pool play? Isn’t that how the Chargers got into the NFL playoffs to begin with?

    Taking away conference ties will not work, as I said. BCS conferences are guaranteed too much money in the current format, and they will not agree to a playoff unless their conference champion is guaranteed a spot. There’s too much money at stake.

  7. recoveringhumanity
    January 17, 2009 at 1:23 AM

    First a quick response to 2 through 6…

    #2 Would you say the NIT basketball tourney winners end their season on a higher note than the 16th seed teams? Or do they really care about that? The season ending high note is the invitation to the playoffs.
    #3 Granted – there will always be the bubble. So this argument really works neither for nor against.
    #4 For BCS teams it was decided when you lost. For other teams it was decided when you remained in that conference this year, but agreed, the best way to stay off the bubble for BCS teams is to win and be the best throughout. 
    #5 Granted we need to appreciate a 2 loss season, but that’s just the nature of championships. I mean how much do you thin kthe Bills really appreciate 4 consecutive AFC Championship victories?
    #6 We can still have plnety of enjoyable arguments with a playoff.

    However, since you consider reason #1 to be the best, that’s
    the one I’ll focus on, and when I’m done, well, in a few years when the playoff system exists as such
    the norm that we can barely remember the old system, and a footnote in history says that the idea
    that changed the shape of college football first appeared in a posting on a blog called “Not in HD” … you can thank me

    Now when reading your post, Dan, one might really think you actually believe every game counts. With the bold every and all cap EVERY. Captain bates, every game in college football doesn’t matter.

    Despite the emphasis, you obviously, you don’t literally mean EVERY game. After all when Boise State beat Idaho State in their season opener, national title hopes were neither kept alive nor dashed by those teams.

    You must simply mean every team involveing a BCS team.

    Another opening week example Michigan vs. Utah. I mean after that game what do you have left? A one loss Big Ten team and an undefeated MWC team. Certainly the national title would never include a one loss Big Ten team when you could have an undefeated MWC team? Oops. So by every maybe you don’t even mean every game involveing a BCS team.

    So you must mean every game involving 2 BCS conference teams. Like Texas and Oklahoma. Wait a second. we might get ourselves in a trouble with that one.

    So what do you mean by every? I know what you mean. You mean something different than every, but you aren’t sure how to define it. There was a time in history, where tragicall the word “all” in the phrase “all men are created equal”  did not mean all. History can give us some guidlines here to get us where we want to be, though. When the question came up of how to number slaves in population counts in distributing the number representatives in the House, a compromise was reached. The three-fifths compromise. It is tragic that conditions such as slavery existed creating the need for such a travesty as couting a person a 3/5s  person, but even still, it was step in the right direction until slavery was eventually abolished.

    I suggest that a great intermediate step to get us where we need to be – all Division I teams and games created equal then we need to use the 3/5 ratio as the stepping stone to a better college football world.

    It’s this simple. Wins earn you playoff points. Win against a BCS team… get one point. Beat a team in a non-BCS conference earn 3/5 a point. Lose a game… get a goose egg.  Create your schedule to be as long as you want. If you have the endurance play 17 games against the Ctitadel? Go 17 -0 and get 10.2 playoff points. Rather play 10 tough SEC games. Win’em all and get 10 points. Get into the playoffs by quality or quantity. Top 8 point getters enter the playoffs. Tie breaker is last AP poll before the playoffs.

    Now every game counts. And everyone has a shot.

    PS All that talk about “they might beat the occasional giant… but they can’t win four games” … horse crap. Let the playoffs begin, and let the games be played. After all, why do they still play #1 vs. #16 seed games in March after 100% of the same result year after year? Because “that’s why you play the game.” Because it’s still possible. Because Cinderalla is real. Because Jimmy V. would want it that way.

  8. Dan Miller
    January 18, 2009 at 7:12 PM


    I agree that the current system is unfair to non-BCS conferences. However, I don’t think a playoff system would solve that. Do non-BCS conferences get automatic bids? If so, a 16 team playoff won’t end arguments. There was talk of 3 teams who aren’t in BCS conferences getting into a BCS bowl game. Even if there is a 16 team tournament, all three teams would not have gotten in. In addition, if non-BCS conferences are given automatic bids, you’ll have 10-2 teams from the WAC getting in over 11-1 teams from the SEC or Big 10. If undefeated teams from non-BCS schools get automatic bids, those teams will have no incentive to schedule major programs. Again, in a situation like the Big 12 this year, do all three teams (texas, texas tech, oklahoma) all go to a 16 team tournament?

    As an Ohio State grad, I’d be nearly assured that my Buckeyes would be in a 16 team field. They haven’t lost more than 2 games since 2004, and 2004 would have been the only time since 2001 that they wouldn’t have gotten in a 16 team tournament. That just screams ‘wake me up when the playoffs start.’ I don’t want a college football season like that.

    I disagree that teams would rather lose in the first round in the NCAA tournament than win the NIT. I think teams from small conferences would rather go to the NCAA and lose in the first round, but I think teams on the bubble (for example, Ohio State last year) would rather win the NIT than lose in the first round of the NCAA.

    I still don’t believe a non-BCS team could win a tournament. College basketball is much different than college football. Because teams only have 12 players, teams can’t stockpile talent like they can in football. Imagine that every college football team – USC, Florida, Oklahoma, Penn State, etc. – could keep their 12 best players and cut everyone else loose to go to other schools. Suddenly, there would be a lot more talent in smaller schools. That’s why teams from smaller basketball conferences can compete more than teams from smaller football conferences.

    I don’t think the bowl system is perfect, obviously. But I think there are some good things about it. A playoff system would offer new positives, but also add new negatives. I don’t know if the trade is worth it.

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