Take your playoffs and get off my lawn. (Warning, NSFW language in clip)
I know that I am in the minority about the evolution of a college football playoff, and most people can't see why a playoff is a bad thing.
And I'll even concede to the playoff proponents that the tradition of the Rose Bowl, or the tradition of bowls in general, which is usually one of the pillars that form the anti-playoff argument, has already been pissed on when the Rose Bowl joined the BCS, and the bowls in general became nothing more than corporate advertising that just happened to have a football game attached to it..
No, my problem is that with evolution, things continue to evolve, and what we have today won't be what we have in a few years. Be it 10, 15, or 30, it's going to change, and not for the better.
After the jump.
Now, before you decry that I'm just a stodgy old guy that can't stand change, well, you're partially right. Or I obviously wouldn't be writing about my opposition to a playoff. I do think some change is good, like the B1G moving to 12 teams, adopting divisions, and holding a conference championship game. All of that has been fantastic, both for the game and for the conference.
Luke Zimmerman, one of the best writers not only on SB Nation but in sports today, did a tongue in cheek post about how a playoff has ruined college football, just like things such as the line of scrimmage and the forward pass did...which they obviously didn't. But that got me thinking about how the game evolved, and I think in this instance, the continued evolution will not be for the betterment of the game, unlike the things Luke mentioned in his post.
Right now, the BCS is reviled as a way of picking a 'true' champion. Whether it's the bias in the polls, comparing strength of schedules for multiple one loss teams, or continued slighting of non-AQ schools, almost no one is happy with the BCS process.
My, how times have changed. Just 14 years ago, when the BCS was announced, it seemed to be the perfect solution. All the major conferences with automatic bowl tie-ins would release their conference champion to play a #1 vs. #2 to decide a 'true' national champion. People hailed this as something that would once and for all remove all doubt as to who the true champion would be.
Fast forward to today. No one is happy with the BCS, because most years, we have trouble coming to a consensus on who the best two teams are, and that's because there are usually two or three teams that can lay claim to the #2 spot.
So, the thought goes, expanding to a four team playoff solves all the problems, and people are hailing this as almost the perfect solution. We'll have a national semifinal, then a championship game, and by God, now there won't be any doubt as to who the best team is.
Really? Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, I guess.
All this will do is expand the list of teams that think they should be teams #3 and #4. I just see this as nothing more as rehash of the same arguments we currently have, only on a much bigger and messier scale. With a four team playoff, you'll now have six or seven teams arguing that they should be in the semifinals.
And with the advent of school conference television networks and the revenue they'll provide, ESPN and the mega contracts they are churning out, and the absolute insane money a playoff promises, these arguments will only get more intensive and cut throat going forward.
And the only solution, the talking heads will proclaim, will be further expansion, just like they are now.
Stewart Mandel just did a column talking about how great New Year's Eve and New Year's Day will be again, with all 12 seeded teams playing each other.
Yeah, there are going to be teams seeded 1-12...to help determine the best bowls outside the semi-finals, but including the top 4 teams. Noooope, doesn't sound like the groundwork for a playoff expansion is already being laid down. Not at all:
So what they're doing to determine the teams...is exactly what they're doing now, basically. Oh, it will be by a selection committee, but they will be using largely the same factors that the BCS uses to determine the current rankings.
And NO ONE LIKES HOW THEY SELECT TEAMS RIGHT NOW. How does this solve anything, again?
And Mandel, trying to gin up excitement for this new system, gives a hypothetical schedule of what we'll see, using last year's teams and bowls. But in so doing, he makes my argument for me:
Dec. 31, 1 p.m. Chick-fil-A: No. 11 Clemson (10-3) vs. No. 13 Baylor (9-3)
Obviously, it's impossible to say exactly how the committee's rankings would have differed from the BCS standings, but I elevated Oklahoma State (from No. 3 to No. 2), Oregon (No. 4 to 5), Wisconsin (No. 10 to No. 8) and Clemson (No. 15 to No. 11) for their conference championships and/or head-to-head wins over similarly ranked foes and downgraded Boise State (from No. 7 to No. 10) for poor strength of schedule. We also don't know if there would be an at-large selection order or a teams-per conference limit (the SEC placed four in this lineup).
And Mandel makes his arguments as to why he changed teams around. Why is a 10-2 Oregon chosen over a 10-2 Kansas State or Wisconsin? Yes, I know Oregon beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, but before they played, which would've been the point in time when this schedule was made out, you could make an argument that Wisconsin was just as deserving--BCS conference champion, 11 wins, potent offense, just like Oregon. For that matter, Stanford was a 1 loss team that won the conference Oregon was in, why not them? Oh, and Boise State, at 11-1, suffered their annual screw job.
See what I mean?
So the next logical step...evolution, if you will...will be to say 'hey, let's just take these 12 teams (or 16, or 8, whatever) and make an X team playoff. And you're still going to have controversy as to who is in and who isn't.
And one of the unintended consequences, I fear, will be a gravitation towards four or five 'super conferences', which will ostensibly be to help minimize the wailing about who the final four teams are. But I think many people, at least here on OTE, took a step back when expansion ended for us. At the time, we were kind of caught up in the moment about a 16 team super conference--it was fun to think about and speculate on. But upon further reflection, 16 teams would be too big. With 12, certain rivalries are already on a semi-hiatus (Wisconsin-Iowa), but that seems to be okay, especially since Nebraska will develop some great rivalries in the B1G over time.
But 16 teams? You're going to have the long time rivalry dilution without any serious back-fill, regardless of who the B1G might add. Sure, Notre Dame (assuming they would join, and that's no guarantee) would be everyone's rival, but what about the other three teams? Would their addition...whoever they are...make up for the loss of a Minnesota-Wisconsin type rivalry? It seems foolish to think that these sacrosanct rivalries wouldn't be played on an annual basis, but with 16 teams, it's almost certain that one long standing rivalry will be sacrificed 'for the greater good'. But it's not for the greater good.
And to those of you that say 'well, they'll never expand past the four teams', I'm going to ask you to do a little research, because I have and haven't found it: Find any major North American sport that hasn't expanded their playoff format, and tell me if it was for the greater good of the game. The NFL still has the best sports product in the world, but a 10-6 wildcard team can sneak in on the last week of the regular season, get hot, and win it all. No one, except the most ardent fans of the NHL and the NBA gives two hoots in hell about those sports until the playoffs, and after the first weekend of the NCAA tournament, the only people left caring are fans with teams left standing.
One of the things I love about college football is the uniqueness of the bowls, but I understand that the original purpose has been overtaken by money and corporate sponsorship, and that with the huge amount of money at stake, it's never going to go back to the way it was.
And that's a shame, in many different ways.
Now, all of you playoff proponents, get the HELL OFF MY LAWN.