Why I’m Not Sold on a College Football Playoff
I 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.