Saturday, February 28, 2009

BCS, Playoffs, and UW Football - Thursday, November 13, 2008

I've been asked about the BCS and playoffs and I thought that this would be a good opportunity to actually look at the problem and see if I could find a solution. I think I have one. Of course, this will never see the light of day, and it’s possible that this very scenario has been pitched to the NCAA, teams, TV networks, and dispensed with. I’m sure I’m not being revolutionary here, but I do think that I have some decent arguments and some historical data to debunk some of the common “arguments” against a playoff.

Here is the gist of it:
  • 8 team playoff, with the BCS rankings used to determine the top 8
  • 7 total games (first round, second round, championship game)
  • 3 games are the most that any team would play (put another way, only 2 more games than any bowl-bound team would play)
  • The remaining bowl-eligible teams will play in the other non-BCS Bowl games; there would be no change for those teams.
  • First Round (Friday, December 12 and Saturday, December 13)
  • Orange Bowl (two games; one Friday Night; one Saturday Night)
  • Rose Bowl (two games; one Friday Afternoon; one Saturday Afternoon)
  • Second Round (Saturday, December 20)
  • Fiesta Bowl (one game; Saturday Morning – winners of the Friday games)
  • Sugar Bowl (one game; Saturday Night – winners of the Saturday games)
  • Third Round (Saturday, December 27 OR Saturday, January 3)
  • BCS Championship Game (one game; Saturday Night) - this game was added a few years ago to allow for “BCS Buster” teams a chance at these games. This game is held at one of the BCS game sites and I see no reason to change that.

Seems like a pretty good plan to me. Here are some of the arguments I’ve heard and my answers to each:

Arguments Against Playoff

1. A playoff system would diminish the regular season and those games would no longer matter. College football would become college basketball where everything is about the tournament and nothing is about the regular season.

First, I’ll address the comparison to college basketball. College basketball teams play well over 30 regular season games while college football teams play 12-13 games. The college basketball tournament includes 65 teams. A college football playoff would include 8 teams. The margin for error in college football is tiny as compared to college basketball. It’s not even close. A team can lose 1/3 of its games and still make the tournament in college basketball (e.g. a team from a good conference that goes 20-10 is going to make the tournament). If a college football team loses 1/3 of its games it won’t be in the top 8 and will miss the playoffs (e.g. a team that loses 3-4 games will not be in the top 8. No team has been in the top 8 with more than 2 losses, see below).

Second, as I sort of already mentioned, teams have a huge incentive to win every game that they’re in because staying in the top 8 is very difficult, so seeding matters. Right now, Alabama is 10-0 and ranked No. 1. It’s possible that Alabama could lose two games (to Auburn and to Florida in SEC Championship game) and tumble out of the top 8. It’s also possible that a team like Missouri with two losses could jump in to the top 8 with wins in its remaining regular season games and a win in the Big 12 Championship Game. That’s drama and it’s drama all the way to the end of the season. It’s a preposterous argument that a playoff situation would diminish the regular season. It’s not easy to remain in the top eight, in fact, it’s extremely tenuous. I looked back at the BCS standings for the 2005, 2006, and 2007 seasons starting at week 9 and saw that teams fell in to various categories; teams that:

i. debuted in week 9 and stayed in the BCS top 8 for the last BCS ranking
1. 2005 – 4 teams
2. 2006 – 1 team
3. 2007 – 3 teams
4. Total – 8 teams

ii. debuted in week 9 and fell out before the last BCS ranking
1. 2005 – 4 teams
2. 2006 – 6 teams
3. 2007 – 3 teams
4. Total – 13 teams

iii. debuted in later weeks and were in the BCS top 8 for the last BCS ranking
1. 2005 – 4 teams
2. 2006 – 4 teams
3. 2007 – 4 teams
4. Total – 12 teams

iv. debuted in later weeks and were not in the BCS top 8 for the last BCS ranking
1. 2005 – 0 teams
2. 2006 – 5 teams
3. 2007 – 0 teams
4. Total – 5 teams

v. debuted in week 9, fell out of the BCS, got back into the BCS, did not appear in the BCS top 8 for the last BCS ranking
1. 2005 – 0 teams
2. 2006 – 0 teams
3. 2007 – 1 team
4. Total – 1 team

vi. debuted in week 9 or 10, fell out of the BCS, got back into the BCS, and appeared in the BCS top 8 for the last BCS ranking
1. 2005 – 0 teams
2. 2006 – 2 teams
3. 2007 – 1 team
4. Total – 3 teams

vii. debuted in the last BCS ranking
1. 2005 – 0 teams
2. 2006 – 1 team
3. 2007 – 1 team
4. Total – 2 teams

Sorry, I know that's a lot of numbers but historical trends say that two things are going to happen: (1) teams that are in the BCS top 8 early, won’t be there at the end, and therefore they won’t make the playoffs; (2) this obviously parallels no. 1, but teams that are not in the BCS top 8 early will be there at the end, and therefore they will make the playoffs. I think this absolutely kills the argument that the regular season will be cheapened. It’s enhanced. Each win counts because when the final BCS rankings are released, there are never any teams in the top 8 with more than 2 losses. Teams are in big trouble if they lose one game because they might tumble out of the top 8 and with 2 losses, it gets even worse. In 2006, LSU was in early and didn’t make it into the top 8 until the last poll. That counts as “drama” in my opinion. Also in 2006, Louisville debuted early, got bounced, and then crept back in for the last poll… same with Virginia Tech in 2007. As noted above, 13 teams, over ½ the field each year, starts out in the BCS and gets bounced. I think that is dramatic and the fan interest would be just as hightened, if not more, by a playoff system. As it is now, the only game that is worth anything is the championship game, and even that is flawed. The way the bowl system is set up now the other games are so uninteresting unless you’re a fan of the team in the game. Who cares about Georgia v. Hawaii? Or Utah v. Pittsburgh? Those games make a lot of money, but I think that they could be worth so much more with a playoff system because interest/drama would be high.

2. Adding a playoff would be a burden on teams and student athletes because they would be required to play too many games.

Another bad argument. Teams currently play 12-14 games per year, depending on conference championship games and if the team goes to a bowl game or not. If a playoff system is implemented, 8 teams will play first-round games. Those 8 teams will play the same amount of games that the rest of the bowl-bound DI teams. Four teams will play one more game as they move to the second round of the playoffs. Two teams will play two more games. So 3% of teams will have to play more than the rest of DI football, and 1% of teams will have to play two more. It’s a stupid argument that makes absolutely no sense.

3. Currently there is a huge amount of interest in college football, so we must be doing something right. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Preposterous. People argue and discuss college football incessantly because they really like the sport of college football. The non-playoff system is hated nearly universally, and just because you talk about something all of the time, does not mean you like it. For instance, George W. Bush is discussed ad naseum and his approval rating is in the 30s and 20s, so there you go.

4. The best team during the season doesn’t win.

Um, so? Every other sport decides their champion through a playoff system and the winner is decided this way. I’m not sure why college football wants to essentially be little league soccer where everyone is a winner. Why not hand out orange wedges at halftime?

5. Playoffs would be a burden on fans and travel/accommodations would be difficult.

Right, exactly how March Madness makes travel and accommodations difficult. Fans of teams and the teams themselves have NO idea where they’ll be headed until the Sunday before the tournament starts. That’s not exactly a lot of advance notice. I see no reason why this wouldn’t work in much the same way.

6. Bowl organizers won’t have enough time to prepare for a specific fan base of a team.

They do the same exact thing for whatever team is participating in their bowl. The only thing that they’ll change are the names and some colors in the hotels.

7. Bowls won’t be well-attended and local economy will suffer because fans of those teams won’t make their reservations in advance.

Well, the BCS selection happens about 4 weeks before the actual BCS games are played. In my scenario, this would happen in about 1 week, but could be extended, easily. Also, if a fan’s team is in the playoffs, there is no way that that fan won’t attend if he has the means and most people don’t spend the whole week at the game’s location. They may come for the weekend, which is exactly what will happen in a playoff scenario.

8. This system will lose money for schools, conferences, and TV networks.

I can’t see how, I really can’t. I can’t see how they wouldn’t double their money at a minimum.

So there you go. All questions answered. A playoff system would satiate fans, teams, conferences, TV networks, and pockets of all involved. It’s sheer buffoonery that this hasn’t already happened.

The Next UW Football Coach
I think that Fresno State’s Pat Hill might be a good person to get the job. His teams have always been undermanned from a talent perspective, but they’ve always played tough and they’ve either beaten teams they shouldn’t have beaten, or they’ve come close. I like what he can bring to the table. I don’t know if they’ll go after him, but I do like him as an option.

I don’t like Lane Kiffin as an option, though. Not because he got ousted from Oakland, because that’s not his fault, but I do fault him for taking that job in the first place. He’s a little too big for his britches if you ask me. I don’t want him around the program. I don’t think he’s the right guy.
I understand that people are excited about someone like Missouri’s Gary Pinkel, and with good reason, he’s taken them from absolutely nowhere to serious contenders in the Big 12. I wouldn’t mind him as the choice, but I wished that they would have gotten him four years ago instead of Willingham. I don’t mind his age, he’s 58 I think, but I’d like someone closer to 40 than 60… of course, Pat Hill is 57 and I want him, so what the hell am I talking about?

I’ve heard good things about Dave Christensen, Missouri’s offensive coordinator, but I’m more partial to a defensive coach though if possible. Usually defensive-minded coaches bring a tougher mindset to the game, they want to control the ball on offensive and beat the hell out of opponents on defense. I like that. I really didn’t enjoy watching Cody Pickett and Reggie Williams back in 2002, it was nice seeing the ball in the air, and they won some games, but if passes aren’t connecting the offensive goes nowhere. I like teams that can run the ball effectively because I view running the ball as imposing, physically, a team’s will upon its opponent. It gives linemen the opportunity to be the aggressors and I like what that does for the mentality of the team. That said, I love seeing a team throw the ball too because balance is a good thing. Having balance will keep the opponent unbalanced. I like watching a team that is able to dictate the game. From a defensive side, the same principles apply. I want my teams to be relentless and aggressive and to dictate to the opponent what they can do. I want my teams to be able to stuff the run and cause its opponent to be one dimensional. Anyway, as boring as it can be, I like teams that can dominate on the line because it can kill the will of an opponent when they’re getting manhandled.

So Texas’s D coordinator, Will Muschamp, is a guy that I’d like to have. I think that it’s highly, highly, highly unlikely that they’d be able to land him though, especially with jobs at Clemson, Tennessee, and possibly Auburn open. He’s a southern guy and has no roots in Washington, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t want to see him here.

I’m not enthralled with Chris Peterson at Boise State because I view that team as sort of gimmicky… perhaps that's what he needs to do at a place like Boise, and he’s been successful, but I don’t think I’m down with their style of play. Same goes for Mike Leach at Texas Tech. I think it’s fun to watch that kind of game, but I don’t think that I want to see UW running those schemes. I guess the same goes for Utah’s Kyle Wittingham because they run the spread there, but I think he was a D coordinator before he got the head coaching job, so maybe he wouldn’t bring the spread here.

Anyway, I think I’m drawn to Pat Hill for these reasons:
1. He’d probably take the job and be thrilled to be offered it
2. He’s tough, or at least his teams play tough, and UW needs that, badly.
3. He sort of looks like Jim Lambright, and I liked Lambright. They should have never gotten rid of him.

The Mealy Apple Cup
I consider myself a UW fan and I cannot stomach watching these games. I DVR them for the most part and sit down and watch and see something very bad on the TV. It’s unreal how horrid this team is. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t even know when the game is on or if it is home or away, it has never been that way for me. (It’s like that for the Hawks as well… sadly). So when I do think to DVR the game. I do that, but then I end up watching Alabama play LSU instead and I feel better about being a fan of college football again.

That said, I’m looking forward to the Apple Cup. How often do you get to see two equally horrible teams battle it out in a rivalry game? There has to be some pride in these players to not be thought of as the absolute worst team in DI football, right? There are some talented individuals on each team and the defenses are historically bad so big plays will be inevitable. I’m looking forward to it. Sadly, it’s not the last game of the season for either team, which is just stupid. But nothing about this season makes sense for these teams, I guess.

I predict the following: Washington State 38, Washington 27. The pain continues…

Marcus Vick
For some reason I thought of Marcus Vick the other day, so I googled him and, SURPRISE! he was in trouble with the law. He was found guilty of a DUI less than a month ago. He has been a complete moron for quite some time. He also ran a 40 in the low 4.3s… at least he didn’t waste his talent.

Speed Story from the Beach
Here’s a very random story for you guys. This past summer, a bunch of friends went to the Ocean for what we hope will be an annual family trip. There were six couples and a few kids and some dogs. Remember, I’m older than you guys, so this sort of thing is acceptable. Anyway, we were tossing the football around at the beach, tearing the last remaining shreds of cartilage in our shoulders. One of my friends, Peter, was near me. He played RB at PLU and was really quite something. During college he was 5’10 and 190 or so and was very fast and very strong. So we’re out there playing catch and you know how you slip into rolls while playing catch… one guy becomes the WR and the other guy becomes a DB and the third guy tosses the ball… well, Peter was the WR in this scenario… he was trotting along and I was running along side him when he put on the jets and flew past me like I was running the other direction. He’s acceleration made me feel like a chubby girl. I’m a vain man, as you may already know, and I fancy myself as somewhat athletic, but that little burst of speed he showed me smacked me in the face and told me, “Scott, you are a marginal, at best, athlete.” Of course, Peter is exceptional, but still. He has a muscle on his upper thigh that I don’t think most people have. It looks like a bicep where a bicep shouldn’t be. We call it his “Horse Muscle.” I’m pretty sure that’s where he gets his speed. I went to college with him, so that’s why I know the whereabouts of this muscle, not that there's anything wrong with that...

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