Saturday, January 06, 2007

Saurian Mailbag

In response to my post about Jim Delany and his opposition to a playoff I received the following comment from Senator Blutarski, who in addition to being one of the best characters in any movie ever, also runs an excellent blog called Get the Picture.

Henry, when you write "...despite the fact that you could argue that more playoff teams lessens the importance of each regular season game", you make it sound as if that's a minor thing.

I've got to tell you, from this dinosaur's perspective, it's anything but. College football is the unique creature it is because, unlike any other major sport we watch, the regular season isn't a means to an end.

You mention the NFL playoffs as a good thing to emulate. Let me give you an example of what concerns me with a D-1 football playoff. On the second play of their last regular season game this year, Andy Reid and the Eagles learned that they had clinched their spot in the playoffs. Since that made the game they were playing in essentially meaningless, Reid did the sensible thing: he pulled his starters for the remainder of the game.

How would you feel if Meyer did the same thing in a Florida-FSU game? I know that if a head coach made that decision in a Georgia-Georgia Tech game, I'd walk out of the stadium.

You are right about one thing - Delany is an asshole... he just happens to be on the side of the angels (in my opinion, of course) on this for selfish reasons.
Bluto brings up some points that I think need to be addressed. The distinguished Senator says that the college football regular season isn't "a means to an end." I have to disagree. Every team, except the four independents, begins every year hoping to capture their conference crown. For the Big XII, SEC and ACC teams they play for a chance to get into their conference championship game. So there is already an element of the regular season being a vehicle to get you somewhere else.

The thing is, that as fans, when our team is at the top of its conference we all want to know how much further they could go. If there were no BCS and no bowl games it would be highly dissatisfying (much more than today). You always play to get into a good bowl game. In fact I would argue that the reason every regular game is so important in college football is precisely because it could be the difference between the Sugar Bowl and Capital One bowl, as an example.

I don't think having a playoff (probably within the context of the bowls) would change this much. Yes, in the NFL some teams pull their punches when their playoff seeding is secured. But many teams were playing for their playoff lives on week 16 as well. Plus the difference between the NFL and college is that in the NFL you have a 32 teams vying for 10 playoff spots. In college you have 119 teams and perhaps you'd have 8 or 16 spots. The difference between getting in and not getting in will often be one game. In college, with only 12-13 regular season games, a loss might also radically change a teams playoff seeding if it doesn't bounce them out altogether. In other words OSU would have still had plenty of incentive to beat Michigan.

If we had an 8 team playoff this year, using the BCS standings as our guide, we'd have 2 undefeateds, 4 one-loss teams and 2 two-loss teams. LSU is a two loss team that many folks believe can win a game against any of the other teams. We'll never know because there is no playoff.

As a fan of college football I think one of the biggest problems is the lack of meaningful intersectional play. Teams are allowed to make their out-of-conference schedule. In most cases the out-of-conference games that are scheduled are laughable. The Gators are no exception (Western Carolina this year and Western Kentucky next year). The current system discourages a team like Florida from putting a team like Boise State on its schedule. A playoff probably wouldn't change that but it would compel Florida, or a team like Florida, to play them in the playoff.

The current system only pisses off a different group of fans each year. This year it's Boise fans, a couple of years ago it was Auburn, Utah also went undefeated in the Mt. West a few of years back and wasn't in the conversation for a national title. As each team gets snubbed you are only going to hear more and more of an outcry. Delany himself admits in the article that a playoff is coming. I guess he sees his job as delaying sanity for as long as possible.


JM said...

I don't know if I want playoffs. One of the big attractions of college football is that it is a very regional game, with strong regional ties, rivalries, and loyalties that professional sports cannot emulate. This entire thing about crowning a national champion is overblown; I will be happy if the Gators win on Monday, but, even if we don't, I'm still pleased that we are undoubtedly the best team in the South and have defeated all our rivals. The bowl games are just exhibitions to see how we play against teams from other regions. They're supposed to be fun, not settle things like which conference is better or even which team is nation's best. There isn't even a need for a national champion, it's just something about which we can argue in the idle time of the offseason. The importance of each and every game in College football cannot be overstated, and this simply isn't the situation in any league with a playoff; Michigan and Ohio State would have made any conceivable playoff bracket by the time their game was played, but because the BCS did not guarantee looser anything, there was a sense of urgency going into that game that otherwise would not have existed.
I'm sure logistics and money distribution could be worked out for a playoff, I just don't know if they should. College football is not a professional sport; if I wanted to watch the NFL, I would. What I do want to watch is my classmates and members of my student body compete and have fun while doing so.

Henry Gomez said...

Sorry, but I have disagree vehemently. You say there would have been nothing at stake in the OSU/UM game. Like I said in the post, I think you are wrong. For one thing the Big 10 title would still have been at stake. For another, playoff seeding. But even if you don't buy that, then you could make it so that your rivalry games are played earlier in the season.

In high school you have to win your district to get into the state tournament. If you don't your road is much harder. NOBODY claims that the regular season in High School football is not important.

Your argument that this fraudulent system somehow makes the regular season more important doesn't make sense to me. Under the current system, lose one game and you have severely damaged any chance of playing for the "national title" Basically then college football becomes a game for 5 or 6 top programs each year and everybody else is just watching on the sidelines.

If we're not going to have a playoff then get rid of the BCS and stop teams from claiming national titles. Nobody has a right to call themselves National Champions. But if they continue to claim that a national championship exists then they should take steps to legitimize it.

A playoff is coming. It's just a matter of time. And in 10 years when it's been the way for a while everybody will look back and wonder why it took so long, why something so easy was so hard.

Mike said...

I am for a playoff, but it all comes down to money as Delaney says. I am also for intersectional scheduling, which Ohio State does better than any other school. The reason most schools schedule the Central Floridas and the Bowling Greens of the world is because the conference schedule is so tough year in and year out that you have to have those games to get your team in tune (notice I didn't mention a late-in-the-year scheduling mystery like Western Carolina? hehe). Schools like OSU also schedule in state opponents at the urging of the Ohio Legislature, hoping to keep the dollars the Buckeyes generate in-house, so to speak so those are kind of out of their control.

I think teams should get two softies at the beginning of the year, then have the NCAA schedule two other intersectional games for them. OSU had a home and home with Texas and have Washington, Miami, and USC on the schedule in coming years. If we can do it, everyone else can as well, they just choose not to.

I also agree that a playoff would not minimize the importance of the regular season. If it's an 8-team set up, the goal is to get into one of those 8 spots. You can't do that by losing a late season game, just as such a loss today would cost you a BCS birth. Use the BCS model and make the top 8 your playoff qualifiers.

It all seems simple... :)

Senator Blutarsky said...

Henry, I think this is one of those "agree to disagree" discussions that we're not going to resolve.

But I do want to make two points in response to your post.

First, with regard to the regular season as a "means to an end", you're right that every team begins a season with a goal or goals. That wasn't my point. Florida played in the SECCG this year as an organic part of winning the East during the regular season, not as the result of an additional process of playing tournament games to have that opportunity. My larger point in the context of this season is it's unfair to require OSU to prove itself worthy through a post season tournament to play in a national title game - that's already been accomplished.

There is no playoff system that's going to be completely fair to every team in the country. You're kidding yourself if you think an eight team tournament is going to end the complaining.

But that's not the only thing you're kidding yourself about here. There's no way an extended playoff format will wind up with merely eight or sixteen teams. The financial math doesn't work. There are lots of reasons for that: the loss of revenue from the twelfth regular season game and conference championship games that will inevitably be eliminated in the wake of a playoff, the fact that the BCS conferences will have to share the wealth with all D-1 teams with an NCAA tournament, and the lack of profitability of the BCS games for the networks (ABC walked away from the TV contract this year because of that).

The end result will be a ten game regular season, sixty four team tournament set up. That's an awfully big change to make so that Tommy Tuberville won't whine once a decade about how his team got screwed by the BCS.

Henry Gomez said...

Yes there will always be controversy about who makes the tourney or not. But you have to admit that an 8 team tourney right now is more likely to contain the best team in America than the current 2-team format.

And it's a big stretch from an 8 or 16 team tourney to a 64 team tourney.

You're right we're gonna have to agree to disagree.

And Mike, the reason teams schedule weak sisters for out of conference games has less to do with fear of losing than it does with $$$$. Let's take the Gators as an example because that's the case I'm most familiar with.

They play a 12 game schedule. 8 of those games are conference games. 4 home/4 away. That leaves 4 dates open. Every major program wants to make as many of those dates home dates as possible. In the case of the Gators, we play in-state, out-of conference rival FSU every year. So every other year that's a lost home date. In a year when we play FSU on the road you need to play 3 teams that are willing to come to Gainesville without requiring a return game at their place. What types of programs are willing to do this? You know that the answer is cash-poor programs looking for a pay day.

Now the Western Carolina remark is a cheap shot. As you know schedules are made years in advance. When the NCAA added the 12th game you have to find an opponent that not only meets the criteria above but that has on open date on the date you have open. Even with the WCU game the Gators had the toughest schedule in the country according to the NCAA and the 18th according to to Sagarin (OSU 40).

Mike said...

Yes, the Western Carolina comment was a cheap shot, but I take them when I can get them... :) And I am well aware of schedules being made years in advance and the value of the dollar. Hell, we got a 2-1 deal from San Diego State only to have them ask to shift their one home game to OSU if we sweetened their take because they couldn't sell enough tickets. We did, so we got 3 home games out of them. Those things happen but I see one major flaw in your argument for Florida's weak OOC scheduling...
"In a year when we play FSU on the road you need to play 3 teams that are willing to come to Gainesville without requiring a return game at their place."

So, in a year when you do play FSU at home, why can't you do the back half of a home-and-home at say, USC if they come to your place in a year you go to FSU? You still get two softies at home, plus FSU and all is well. Problem is, Florida won't schedule USC like we do. I do know that UF has tried very hard to get Miami back on the schedule and Miami won't do it. But I also know Ohio State made major pushes for a home and home with Florida in the past only to have Florida fall back on your same flawed arguement about home games.

Again, if Ohio State can schedule, Texas, USC, and Miami, ANYONE can, they just don't do it.

Henry Gomez said...

Because you are looking at the glass half full. The Gators would take 8 home games (out of 12) every year if they could get away with it. Anything less (as is the case when we play FSU on the road) is revenue lost. They lose a home game every other year. What you are suggesting is lose a home game every year. Let's be real, you know that the football program is responsible not only for funding itself but also a large part of the Gator athletics programs that don't generate revenue. It's a cash cow that has to be milked to the last drop.

Oh and by the way here's an argument for those that don't want a playoff. How is it that in 100 years of football that this is the first time the Gators will ever play the Buckeyes? That's a real shame. With a playoff you'd see pairings that you wouldn't normally see.

Mike said...

"How is it that in 100 years of football that this is the first time the Gators will ever play the Buckeyes? That's a real shame."

It's a crying shame. Having lived in Florida for 28 years, I have begged for tomorrow to happen for as long as I can remember. Problem is, I will have to soak it all in tomorrow because I may die before we see them play again.

These games shouldn't have to happen at the rare chance the BCS spits them out as opponents. If two teams are in the Top 8 every year, such a game should be regular occurrence, not the exception to the rule.

See, we can agree on something... :)

Henry Gomez said...

That's my whole point. A playoff would compel meaningful intersectional play like we've never seen before. As great as college football is now with its regional rivalries etc, it's not as great as it could be if you had teams from different regions, with different styles duking it out for something more important than say the sugar bowl trophy.

Senator Blutarsky said...

If "meaningful intersection play" is your goal, why do you need playoffs to accomplish that?

One quick way I can think of to help achieve that during the regular season would be to no longer permit 1-AA games to count towards a school's bowl eligibility.

Another would be to follow the PAC-10's lead and mandate that all conferences require their member schools to play nine conference games. That has the indirect benefit of creating more scheduling (and revenue) continuity so that ADs can be a little more creative in their out of conference scheduling.

Heck, you could allow schools to add a thirteenth regular season game if it met certain criteria in scheduling opponents.

There are a lot of creative things you could do without having to use the post season as a vehicle.

I think this is a little overblown, anyway. Georgia, which has similar scheduling concerns to Florida, has managed to line up the following schools over the next few years: Oklahoma State, Arizona State, UCLA, Clemson and Louisville. I don't think it's that hard to accomplish if the AD is of a mind to do it.

Mike said...

"One quick way I can think of to help achieve that during the regular season would be to no longer permit 1-AA games to count towards a school's bowl eligibility."

If that happened again, we wouldn't be able to laugh at Miami for playing a December bowl game on blue turf!

"Georgia, which has similar scheduling concerns to Florida, has managed to line up the following schools over the next few years: Oklahoma State, Arizona State, UCLA, Clemson and Louisville."

Agreed, which was my argument with Florida not doing it. Ohio State has USC, Washington, and Miami on the schedule in coming years. If we can AND Georgia can, then anyone can. Florida just hides behind the money issue as its scapegoat.

Henry Gomez said...

I don't see how playing an additional conference games helps the situation at all. In fact it's been the increase of conference games from 6 to 7 and then from 7 to 8 that caused Miami to be dropped from UF's regular schedule. The conference games you have the less incentive you have to play tough out of conference games because of the economics I outlined above.

As far as 1AA, again with the shot. Like Georgia has NEVER played a D1AA team? Like it could never happen? FYI there are some 1AA teams ranked higher on the computer polls (the same ones used by the BCS) than some 1A teams.

As far Georgia's future schedule goes. I could argue that Southern Miss at 9-5 (who the Gators played) is a better team this year than Oklahoma state (7-6) Arizona St. (7-6) and UCLA (7-6). The fact is we don't know where any of these programs are going to be in 1 or 2 years. Louisville could become mediocre really fast now that Petrino is leaving. My point is that you can't claim a "National Championship" if you don't play anyone outside your conference that isn't hand-picked. As you know we have a big problem with Championships that are claimed rather than won.

Senator Blutarsky said...

Henry, your point about additional conference games would seem to be refuted by the PAC-10 schedule for '07. It's clearly more difficult than the SEC's.

I wasn't taking a shot at UF with my 1-AA reference - that would be hard for me to do since the Gators and Dawgs flip the same 1-AA opponents in '06 and '07. I don't like any D-1 school playing those games.

As for your final point, you seem to be arguing that the only "meaningful" nonconference opponent a team can play would be a playoff bound one. Since I'm not in favor of an extended playoff, I can't really debate you on that...