Monday, February 18, 2008

The Delusion of the BCS National Championship

I hesitate to make this the first post. The underlying theme of this blog is certainly not specifically sports related, but rather any random topic of intrigue, controversy, or other intellectual stimulation for reader and writer alike. This just happened to be something I've mulled over for awhile and which culminated about the same time as we formed this blog.

There is a huge controversy regarding the current BCS football system. Before I begin to elaborate, let me state that I’m definitely in favor of a playoff system. Currently there is something like 21 non BCS bowls and 5 official BCS bowls. Information regarding both can be found here or here Basically the non BCS games constitute teams that had alright seasons, but were most likely not conference powerhouses. BCS bowls loosely follow the following

Unless their champion is involved in the BCS National Championship game, the conference tie-ins are as follows:

  • Rose Bowl - Big Ten champ vs. Pac-10 champ
  • Fiesta Bowl - Big 12 champ
  • Orange Bowl - ACC champ
  • Sugar Bowl - SEC champ

The Big East champion takes one of the at-large spots remaining (Wikipedia).

It seems glaringly apparent that since the strength of any specific conference or the number of prominent teams therein can vary from year to year, the best teams may (and most likely) will not be playing for the glory of a BCS title. Take for instance the 2007 Big 12 conference. Missouri was for a short time ranked #1. All things considered, at the end of the regular season they were the highest ranked team in the nation. However, since they lost to another top 10 team (Oklahoma) in the Big 12 Championship game (an extra game played in the Big 12, SEC, and others that slip my mind), they lost their number one spot going into the bowl games. In fact they were removed entirely from any BCS bowl. They went on to an absolute victory against Arkansas in whatever diminished bowl they played in. Two things seem wrong here. First, how can a team who played 13 games (Missouri) be ousted from their spot in the national championship by a team who only played 12 (Ohio State). Especially since a win for Missouri in game 13 would have been inconsequential while a loss would (did) devastate a stellar season. This argument is spurred as much by suspicion of the accurateness of the rating system as it is for the need of a playoff format. Lets say there wasn’t a Big 12 championship game, then the 2007 season would have finished with Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas all in the top 8. Missouri would have been in the national championship game while Oklahoma would have snatched up the other BCS spot. Kansas, who was a #1 team for a brief time, would have been ousted from the BCS in the same fashion Missouri inevitably was. At the end of the regular season, both Missouri and Kansas had only one loss while Oklahoma had 2. Something seems inherently wrong with eliminating Kansas (or Missouri) from a BCS game. Ironically, Oklahoma lost their bowl game while Kansas and Missouri both won. Clearly, the Big 12 fostered 3 of the best teams in the nation while only 2 got to play in the big games. The same could be said for the SEC if LSU hadn’t won the extra game over Tennessee for the SEC championship. In that case Georgia would probably have been eliminated from a BCS game…or who knows, they might have been in the National Championship.

Second, what about teams from less competitive conferences that have shown potential for greatness. For example, as seen in 2006 in the miraculous win by Boise State over Oklahoma in the fiesta bowl, a WAC team finished a perfect season with a win over an established team. Of course Hawaii was unable to follow the following year as they got blown out by Georgia.

Even though I have my doubts as to the validity of the rating system, there is definitely a need for it. Clearly every D-IA team cannot be in a playoff. For this reason an assessment of the worthy teams must be made. For lack of a better system, I do not object to the current one. To amend the current computationally based rating system, I propose removing conference championship games from the rating system (and maybe the season). Also, team stats tallied into the ratings need to be those accumulated during regulation play; not the inflated stats that overtime provides. My proposal for the tournament system would add between 2 and 4 extra games for the top rated teams in the postseason. Here are two suggestions for an 8 or 10 team system based on the 2007/2008 season.

In this type of playoff, only the national champion can have the chance of a perfect season. Perhaps it’s only my perspective, and honestly I feel like it probably isn’t as decisive as I would like it to be, but it seems to promote a clearer national championship if there is only one undefeated team. If all conference championships are eliminated, then we are considering 4 games beyond the regular season at most. The season would need to end by the end of November. Finals for football players would be the first weekend following the first full week in December. That way the students have ample time to study. The first tournament game will be held the second weekend in December. I won’t say 100% since I don’t feel like looking up all possible weekends in the month of December, but I feel confident in saying that 2 weekends can host games during December. I feel it’s important for the students to have Christmas off. If for nothing else, it will give them an one to two weeks to recover from the bumps and bruises of the regular season. Games would start up New Years day. That day would host all the multitude of lesser bowls that are always held on New Years as well as some of the new BCS tournament games. The later of the BCS games would be held the second week of January as has been customary for the national championship in past few years. I’ve found it atrocious that Ohio State two years in a row played in the national championship after having such a long and unnecessary break. Take that from an LSU (and Tennessee…I have a Master’s of Science from UT, but a soft spot for LSU) fan. I wanted LSU to win hands down. As long as a Big 10 team sits that long, it’s always in question. It’s a glorified form of “icing the kicker.”

I don’t really understand the opposition from the NCAA or schools alike. The addition of more, not to mention post season, games will undoubtedly bring about more revenue and recruiting. The question seems obvious: why wouldn’t there be a playoff? It would pacify the fans, increase revenue, maintain the prestige of the BCS bowl games, give the students opportunity to heal and prepare for professional careers, all while making it possible for the most deserving teams to win a national championship regardless of the strength of their individual conference.

and now, a deep thought

-at what point will the players, coaches, and fans alike realize that their dreams for football greatness will always have an asterisk marking what could have been or should have been?

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