Monday, October 20, 2008

All Work and No Playoff

"Trouble is, once we get 'Plus One' format the college football brain trusts won’t stop until they’ve got 16, then 32, then 64."

That's a quote by Buddy Martin in the article cited in the post below. In philosophy, or logic, he is guilty of either this or this, I always have trouble interpreting which applies, maybe it's easier to just say, "slippery slop fallacy." However, I want to embrace the "absurdum" of it, in other words, 16, 32... yes, please!

Plenty more to dislike about Martin's piece. He mentions the old, "regular season won't count as much" argument. This argument is also guilty of being a phallic, uhh, I mean, a fallacy. I don't have any latin phrases to describe why it's fallacy, though. But I will say that 1) it's not true...why? look at MLB. Years ago, one could, and many probably did, argue against a wild card in MLB because it makes the season less meaningful, or interesting, or intense, etc, because it takes away the excitement and meaningfulness of a divisional race. Well? What Happened? It added the excitement of a Wild Card race, which is better than a divisional race because it includes more teams from more than 1 division and it brings more hope and excitement for more teams and fans by extending the season for otherwise earlier eliminated teams, and it still left intact the excitement of divisional races in general.

Furthermore, it didn't end the regular season intensity of divisional fights and rivalries, it simply extended them into postseason. Remember those Yankee-Red Sox postseason moments of the last decade? Not possible without a wildcard (and yes, there was still plenty of coverage and talk about the regular season series' between the 2). How about last night's Red Sox-Rays game? Not possible without a wild card. How about many of the recent World Series Champions? Frequently wild card teams. 2) Isn't this argument kind of like someone saying "no dessert for you" so that you will treat your meal as meal and dessert? I mean, you still want that meal. You need it. But it's just so patronizing, or presumptuous, for someone to tell you that you would stop enjoying that meal if you got cheese cake after it.

Would Martin, or any of his ilk, agree to take away NFL playoffs and just have an ESPN power ranking select the Super Bowl teams? It sure would make that regular season mean more, wouldn't it? Not really. Last year would have been Dallas v New England. And we would have known it was NE about halfway through the season. And the real Super Bowl Champs wouldn't have even got a ticket to play-- in fact, they (the Giants) would have been eliminated about 3 quarters of the way through the season.

Let's think about a rivalry we love, Florida-Georgia, in the context of a playoff. The type of playoff I support, linked below and in post title (11 conference champs, 5 at-large teams chosing with rankings, bowls still contribute by hosting late rounds, 8 high seeds get home field in first round, losers in the first round and every other team not in playoff could still be eligible for a bowl), would allow a possible Florida-Georgia matchup in the playoffs. So, either the Fl-Ga game will possibly knock 1 of the 2 out of being eligible for the playoffs, since you would need either a conference championship or top 10 or 15 ranking, to make the playoffs. This would increase the rivalry..... INCREASE IT! Not take from it. Or.... Fla and Ga would still both make the playoffs and thereby possibly meet one another in the playoffs or title game. Are you kidding me!?!? How nice would that be? Remember, this happened twice in the 1990s between Fl and FSU, once in the title game and once after the tie. Did those postseason matchups take away from the regular season rivalry? Of course not. Oh yeah, if this hasn't been enough, there would also be a possibility of Ga and Fla playing at each other's home stadium in the first round.

So, the format I would support (details of what bowl hosts what could vary, as well as how the 16 are chosen), would still have bowls, polls, money, meaningful conference championships, rare matchups between classic or competitive teams, with more mixture for teams playing in unfamiliar stadium, and, of course, rivalries would remain. No team would play over 16 teams, and that would only be an elite few playing that many. And, as the post below notes, people don't seems to complain about the plight of student athletes in every other division of playoff, and every other sport, including March Madness.

One (or 3) more point(s), for now: We have a playoff. It's just for 2 teams, or for teams that have a conference championship. If you took away championships and postseason play, you would take away some of the enthusiasm over the regular season. So what happens when you add to the postseason?

We just want a more fair, inclusive, and rigorous (and entertaining) system. The one I support (again, below), would allow smaller conference champions, which would create, I argue, even more parity in the long run, and set out a path that could be attained by every team in the country regardless of schedule strength and conference exposure, etc. It would also have some space for the 2nd and 3rd best SEC teams, or Big 12 teams, for instance. And the ranking would have allowed, for example, an obviously better Ga team to be selected over Tenn last year, even though Tenn won the East.

I'd like to address everything that is wrong with Martin's "80%" comment... but... maybe next time. (A hint: It's something like saying "a little bit of corruption demands us to conform to total corruption.".... also, his number is wrong. It's not that obvious 80% of the time. Moreover, you can't know how things would develop differently under a playoff scenario-- for example, if Ohio State had played Michigan or USC in 2006, Martin would have to say that the system got it right, because if Ohio St won, it would have seemed obvious they were best, and if a USC or Mich won, much like Fla did, they would have been declared the right and deserving BCS pick. A playoff creates more different kinds of matchups that will reveal varying strengths and weaknesses against different types of teams.... more of a decathlon type obstacle to complete.)


Dave said...

I wouldn't support the 9 conference champions getting automatic bids. Maybe just the top 16 period. Or, conference champ and top 25 ranking or something. For instance, Troy won the Sun Belt last year.. but they finished 8-4 and probably weren't close to the top 25....I don't think that team should get to go to the playoffs.
The only reason to consider it is to even out some of the weaker conferences... but any playoff system is already going to do that in theory..... because then the BCS busters have a shot at the title... which is impossible now.

If it was 32 or 64 teams it would be okay. But 16 teams is too few to designate 9 spots for conference champs. In pro sports it works because they have a strict setup that makes the conferences pretty even... but college football doesn't have that.

Anyway, its still a lot better than the current system.

Dave said...

Another point is, right now we don't see many big out of conference match ups. Since the in season games mean SO much right now, teams aren't willing to take any risk as far as schedule is concerned.

Sean said...

Actually, I thought it was 11 conferences, so you must really not like that idea. I think we can't know how strong conferences are, so even though we might think a smaller conference team isn't worthy, the same could happen to a really good conference with lots of parity. In other words, if we didn't give automatic bids to conference champs, then a conference where everyone has at least 3 losses, even a good conference, might only get 1 team in, when they may have good enough teams to have 2 or 3. I think its got to go through conference champions-- we don't have to think that champion is one of the 16 best... cuz that just gets us into the errors of the bcs-- it's like basketball it's an automatic bid. The 5 at-large picks, if there are 11 conferences, or the 7 at large picks, if there are 9 conferences, are a good amount for making sure the top 10 is at least in. So winning your conference, or finishing in the top 10, seem to guarantee a spot. Every year a different mid-level conference steps up with a few good teams, so we can't know which is legit-- the polls can't gauge it that well. If there is a problem with the conference champs going, then its the ncaa division I that needs fixed, cuz they are theoretically a collection of equal teams in many respects. They need to half it or whatever if that many teams don't deserve to compete if they win their conference. But I think it would be like basketball in that more smaller teams and conferences would compete and get better at competing. Also, I think that the conference champs should be a ground-level principle. In other words, it should be the 9, or 11, and some at larges, and if SEC teams, or whomever, are getting slighted for Troy, then 32 teams should be added, like you said, instead of doing 16, and then adding conference champs only if 32 teams are eligible. I like the 16 team idea right now, though. Cleaner and more easy to get my head around. Also, the version I support punishes a team like Notre Dame, because it gives them fewer slots to fight for, because they only have 1 recourse to get in, without a conference.

Sean said...

Having the conference champ get in might not help with the problem of parity I mentioned, because if you only have 5 or 7 at-large slots, it's not any more likely that those and 4 loss teams from a good conference are going to get in there. But teams with 3 and 4 losses always have some big enough flaws where it wouldn't be so bad if they miss. I almost like your idea of letting in the champs but requiring a top 25 ranking, but if you win a conference, you are usually at least in the top 40 or 50, and I wouldn't want to give a cutoff where a 27th ranked conf. champ is left out. The conference champ inclusion is the most radical break from the BCS, I think, it strikes at the real problem with it, as opposed to just expanding the BCS from 2 to 16 teams. However, the idea I support does have to select at-large teams, so I guess I'm not against keeping some of the BCS elements--- even basketball is like that though, a bunch of selections with some automatic conf champ bids.

Sean said...

You could also have a problem with BCS conferences if you didn't give automatic bids, like the ACC champ has borderlined on a 16th ranking recently, and it would seem a mistake for them not to go if they are ranked 17, and a second PAC team, for instance, gets in. Also, if we left in a top 25 requirement, we could still be putting in teams ranked lower than teams that didn't make it. One issue I see is that the loser of conference championship games will maybe be punished since they are getting a late loss against a good team in a game that a lot of other good teams don't have to play. But this isn't such a burden, since last year, it would have been good for Ga to get in over Tenn if there was a playoff. Also, the real solution is everyone getting a conference champ game, which is much more likely if there are automatic bids for the winner of that game.

Michael Arnold said...

How about this?
16-team playoff with six conference champions from the ACC, SEC, Big 12, Pac 10, Big Ten and Big East divisions. Then you can have 10 at-large teams, which means the strongest teams can still get in even if they don't win their conference. And there is plenty of opportunities for the BCS busters to sneak in, even the ones who have a loss.

Also, with 16 teams, you can still maintain a decent regular season schedule and have playoffs and award bowl games to those outside the playoffs.

We should still maintain some type of rating system like the BCS has now to determine the other 10 playoff teams. And because we want to encourage teams to play tougher schedules, they need to weight it so the teams who play a harder schedule get credit for that schedule. I have no problem with 2- and 3-loss teams making it into the playoff.

Dave said...

I mentioned it earlier about a playoff in general, but The automatic conference bid would really support more big out of conference games... because as long as you still won your conference you'd still be okay. In either system it doesnt seem like there'd be much room for complaints... if you let in all conference champs and someone was denied, they would have done bad enough to not win the conference and not be one of the 5 best remaining. Or, if you take the top 16, you'd have to be 17th or lower.. which means you probably lost at least 3 or 4... or had some pretty bad losses.

Dave said...

I do think its important to try to even out the conferences though. Its not in the best interest of the Gators, but I like it.

Sean said...

I think the automatic bid could help level the conferences a bit. Also, they change anyway from year to year, and we have seen other conferences get more competitive. All conferences in Division I are technically equal. There is a gap in money and enthusiasm, which creates real differences, but those Tuesday night games on ESPN would start to matter for the playoffs, we would talk more about, and get to see or know about more teams and conferences, revenue would get shared better (remember, the inequality is partly due to the fact that BCS bowl teams get big pay checks for being there--- in a playoff, the money would be distributed to these other conferences. Better players would go to those teams cuz they could have a legitimate shot to be a playoff team. Also, we could talk about lopsidedness, but even in the NFL, we recently saw a period where the NFC won the Super Bowl 13 straight times--a WAC or MAC or USA or Mid American team could win, or get to the title game in 13 years. Your out of conference point is a really good one. The conference bid makes it where teams are not punished for having a creative schedule... also, teams are not punished for having a weak schedule they didn't really control-- schedules are picked ahead of time so teams don't know what they are getting (like we didn't know Hawaii and Miami would both be weak). But if you do get tough competition, and it doesn't cause major injuries, you could be better for having faced the competition. One thing about these "lesser" conferences is that they are forced to always play at Fla and other places. We never play at Troy or wherever. I know it wouldn't matter much immediately on us winning or losing those games, but we have had close games to some of these teams over the years. It's pretty traumatic to play in August Fla heat for a lot of teams. We never have to play in snow. In fact, I don't think we have played outside of Fla, in a non-bowl, non-conference game since 1991 when we lost at Syracuse. In the playoffs, at least in my version, top seeds would get home games in the first round, so we would still likely be hosting those teams unless we are ranked a little lower and we end up having to play at USC, OK, or wherever. I would seed by ranking, not be conference champs, i think, this retain the excitement of rankings but not make them the be-all, end-all.