Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Playoffs Are Coming! The Playoffs Are Coming!

Yesterday was a historic day in the history of big time college football. The BCS Commissioners have all agreed to a four team playoff that will start in 2014 with the four teams selected by a committee. This is epic. This is monumental. This is only the beginning.

A four team playoff is just going to be a gateway to a larger playoff. Remember that the NCAA Basketball Tournament started out with only 8 teams participating in it and has now ballooned to 68. True the change was a gradual one in the beginning but we've seen it expand 8 times since 1978. That's an average change 4 years. This is going to open the doors to an eventual 16 team playoff. I guarantee that the playoffs will expand at least twice in the next ten years because they will want more teams in and more television revenue. I think they need to stay at 4 teams and not dilute the playoffs with a team that happens to get hot at the right time like we've seen in the NFL and MLB Playoffs as well as the NCAA Tournament. The more teams you put in, the more likely you will have this occur.

I am glad that we will finally be able to settle it on the field between the top 4 teams in the nation as long as we stay at 4 teams. My only concern is that a selection committee will screw this up royally. I understand that a block of commissioners (Big Ten, Pac 12, and Notre Dame) all wanted to have non-conference schedules and conference championships weigh more than conference reputation. I think the strength of schedule should be factored in not just non-conference games. Some conferences are much harder than others. Would you really argue that an undefeated Big East champion deserves a bid over a one loss SEC team?

Another problem with the selection committee is how are you going to select who is on it? Everyone has a bias whether they will admit it or not. Mike Bellotti doesn't like Oregon State. Gene Stallings doesn't like Texas or Auburn. Voters tend to have regional biases. Don't believe me? Check out the 2009 Heisman voting. The human element would exist and allow a group of individuals to collude to screw a team out of a shot at playing for the national title.

I have said it before and I will say it again: The computer rankings work better than the human rankings but you will need to make the formulas transparent. When the error was found in Wes Colley's BCS formula it was because it had been made public. Now the results didn't affect the top 2 at all but it did switch a few teams around.  Because of this transparency people felt more comfortable with Colley because he was held accountable. That's all I ask for from the other 5 computer polls. I think more people would be okay with the computers selecting the top four if they knew this. Computers don't have a bias towards their alma mater. Computers don't get upset when a player goes to a university after some shadiness. Humans are incapable of being objective. Computers only do what they are programmed to do.

I'm glad that we will finally see a playoff and avoid situations like 1994, 2003, 2004, 2006-2009, and 2011. This is much needed progress. I am only scared that the powers that be will turn this 4 team playoff into a 32 team mess that rivals that of the basketball tournament. Will they? Probably. But let's be happy with what we have right now and worry about the future later. Right now we should all be screaming from the rooftops, "The Playoffs are coming! The Playoffs are coming!"

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