Monday, December 04, 2006

We're Number Two!

The Florida Gators reached the BCS championship game this weekend thanks to a win in the SEC Championship game and a change of heart by a lot voters. Coming into this weekend, Florida was the 4th ranked team with Michigan, USC and Ohio St. ahead of them. USC lost to UCLA and Florida won its game, which left the decision as to who would be going to the championship game in the hands of the voters.

The BCS standings are decided by a combination of computer rankings and two polls. The computer had Florida and Michigan tied, but the voters, who last week voted Michigan ahead of Florida, reversed their course. They moved Florida to #2 over the idle Michigan Wolverines. I have heard many reasons in the press for this change from the campaigning of the the head coach of Florida, to the desire of voters not to see a rematch, to the SEC champion should have place in the game after Auburn was denied two years ago after a perfect regular season. It all doesn't make sense to me. If the voters thought that Michigan was better than Florida last week, then why did they change their minds? Was Florida's play so outstanding this weekend that they clearly deserve the shot at the title? Not in my mind. They won the game but actually trailed in the second half. Arkansas played a good game against Florida and might have won if they'd gotten a few breaks. So this leads us back to the question, why? I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but I can imagine that some back room dealing took place this weekend. If USC had beaten UCLA, I cannot imagine that the voters would have moved Florida above Michigan.

There have been three undeafeated and untied teams in recent history that have not had the opportunity to play for the national championship. Penn St., Auburn twice and Boise St. this year. Auburn was on probation for one of those years, so they were not eligible for post season play. The BCS was supposed to take care of all of this. We were supposed to have the consensus #1 and #2 teams play for the national championship. That's all well and good if two teams and only two teams from major conferences finish with perfect records. The system has no good solution if there are four teams from the major conferences with one loss a piece (or two with one loss and one undefeated team as there is this year). It seems very clear to me that there needs to be a playoff system.

I know that the coaches and administrators scream about the added games and the effect that would have on the student/athletes, and that they hate to take away from the integrity of the bowl games, but it just doesn't make sense. Every other division of college football has a playoff. Would it be so difficult to limit the season to eleven games for each school and then have a playoff among the best eight teams in the country? I know that there are going to be teams that are ranked 9-12 who are going to complain that they should be part of the playoff, but at least we won't have an argument between #2 and #3. They would both be in as would #4-#8. The major bowls could certainly serve as the playoff games. As it stands now, only one bowl really counts and that's the one for the championship. Designating the bowls as playoff games would only enhance them, not diminish them. Under this proposal the teams that end up playing for the championship will have played 14 games. That's only one more than they currently play. That doesn't seem unreasonable, does it? There are currently five bowls that are part of the BCS. The Rose, Sugar, Fiesta, Orange and the newly created championship game. If they added two more bowl games (Outback, Cotton), they would have the required number of games for the eight team playoff.

The payoff from a bowl series championship would be much larger than the current system. The excitement generated by a true championship game would be comparable to the NCAA basketball tournament in March. There would be office pools aplenty. I'm not sure whey the NCAA is being so stubborn about this, especially when they already have playoffs at every other level of football. The BCS bowls are already irrelevant with the exception of the championship game, to say nothing of the other 50 bowl games (the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia bowl??? The bowl??? The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl???? (those are all real bowl games by the way) I know everyone is waiting with baited breath for those). Which do you think would be more interesting to watch? Lousiville Vs. Wake Forest for the Orange Bowl trophy or #1 Ohio St. Vs. #8 USC in the Orange bowl with a trip to the semi-final round on the line? If there was a playoff system, then Florida and Michigan would be slated to meet in the semi-finals and we'd be able to see who's the better team, provided they beat their first round opponents that is.

A playoff system is infinitely better than the BCS system currently in place. I'm sure that the NCAA will move to a playoff at some point. The only problem is that while they take their sweet time in deciding whether to make that change, many deserving teams are getting left behind. Making the change should be a no-brainer, which perhaps explains the NCAA's reluctance to do so.



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