…ladies and germs, I give you the Utah Utes.
What? You think that other game going on tonight [Note: posted in the 3rd quarter] has any bearing? Really? Why, because a computer and national perception told us so? Sure, Florida and Oklahoma are mighty good teams. So is Texas. So is USC. And all those teams have one thing in common: a single loss. Unlike the Utes.
If only there were some way, some fashion to have the top teams play a sort of tournament (like every other college and professional sport in this country) to name a national champion. Some kind of playoff… How novel!
Even beloved Pres-Elect Obama has publicly endorsed a playoff! What more do you need? At the same time, the pundits and pseudojournalists have not taken up the hue and cry. All you hear about is plus-one. An extra bowl game between the perceived best suitors at year’s end. OK, then who do you take this year. Who plays the winner of Oklahoma-Florida the next week. Texas? Nah. USC? Maybe, if they didn’t get the advantage of playing their bowl game in their back yard every year. No, the answer is clearly the Utes.What – you want to argue because they play in the WAC? Well, the WAC is better than the ACC and at least as good as the Big East. But since the East Coast hardly ever sees the WAC on TV, who would know? Hell, the WAC’s probably only a little behind the Big 10 at this point…
What the Playoff would look like:
If you’ve paying attention, you have a good indication as most of those teams have played each other. In an eight team system, USC has defeated Penn State, Utah has defeated Alabama, and Texas has defeated the undeserving Ohio State Buckeyes. Let’s throw a bone to Virgina Tech and the ACC (wouldn’t matter, they’d be the 8-seed and stomped by anyone else) and replace OSU with them. Close enough. So your second round of playoffs would feature, say USC v. Utah and Texas vs. GatorSooners. Utah with the stunner over the Trojans; Texas gets revenge. Then the Utes shock the nation and the Horns in a true national championship. How cool would that be?
So what’s the hold-up?
Money, obviously. The bowls make lots of money, because there’s just so damn many of them. The bowl people surely fear that a playoff would remove any remaining luster from the middle and lower tier bowls. They’re probably right. And it would probably only be a matter of time before you had 12 and then 16 team playoff. The other problems…
- The Big 10 conference. Yes, we’re Big10 country, born and raised, here in Beemsville, and we know they are a big problem. The Commissioner is old school and resistant to change. And why would he want change? The Big 10 has consistently placed two teams in the higher paying BCS games, though that second team has rarely if ever been deserving (yes, Illini, that means last year’s Rose Bowl). The Big 10 likes it, because with no conference championship game, the system is set to reward sacred cows Ohio State, Michigan, and maybe Penn State with a National Title shot if they go undefeated in the conference. The Big 10 likes the system because it maintains the status quo and helps keep pesky upstarts like Illinois, Iowa, or Wisconsin in their place.
- Conference Championship games. Other than the Pac 10 and Big 10, the other conferences have their big payday championships a week or two after the regular season. This serves to needlessly extend the season, cutting into a playoff timeline. It also means you have a team or two taking a most untimely loss at the end of the year (see Alabama). It also means you have the possibility of a weaker team pulling the upset and getting in (imagine if Mizzou had somehow beat Oklahoma).
- Weak-ass Eastern Football. The Big East and ACC have been and continue to be lesser football conferences. Yet they’re automatic BCS entrants. They would no doubt insist on automatic playoff status. This would be bad. Almost every year the 2nd SEC or Big 12 or Pac 10 team is more deserving than the weaker of the ACC/Big East champ. And some years, you have a Utah or Boise State who’s more deserving.
- Notre Dame. Yes, many of college football’s woes can be placed at the feet of the South Benders and their gilded NBC contract. Despite entering a second decade of mediocrity, ND still has a powerful voice, and they would certainly be on the outside of this kind of playoff system. Hopefully they can continue to suck and lose what remains of their ‘special’ status. Then their vote wouldn’t matter much.
How might it come to pass? In one possible scenario, the Big 10 leadership finally wakes up or are forced into it by everyone else. Notre Dame (or Pittsburgh) join the Big 10, giving them enough teams for two divisions and that big championship payday. That might be enough of a change to get it started. Once an 8 team system is in place, it would have to expand to 12 relatively quickly, incorporating wild card scenarios to deal with the weak ACC and Big East as well as contenders from the WAC and MAAC.
Then you might see decidedly fewer cupcakes in August and September as teams try to build resumes and prepare for their confercences. Then we wouldn’t have to depend on computers and sports writers who can’t possible know all the teams… Hey, we can always hope, right?