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May 20, 2008

"Every Game is a Playoff Game"

The mantra of the anti-playoff crowd is that the entire season is a playoff. Ivan Maisel, who seems to crave a playoff, writes about the impact of the BCS on the game in terms of fan interest and TV ratings. Both of which have gone up consistently since the BCS was formed in 1997.

The Big East Commissioner says it best
Take the system itself. At the time of its creation, no one understood how the BCS would galvanize the regular season. If anyone had, don't you think it would have been used as a selling point?

"You go to the opening game of the season, even the announcer is saying, 'Well, if this team loses the game, it jeopardizes its chances in the BCS,'" Tranghese said. "… For example, Pitt played West Virginia in the last [Big East regular-season] game of the year [2007]. Everybody in the country watched the game. It did an incredible television rating. If we were in a full-blown playoff, who would have watched the game? West Virginia would have already won our league. What the BCS has done is, people who used to watch football in isolation -- the conference of their interest, the team of their interest -- are now watching it across the board because all those games have an effect [on the national championship]."
Is it a perfect system? Obviously not. But given the unique structure of College Football (120 teams that only play 12 games each), it's the best "accessible" way of crowning a champ currently.

Which reminds me...I'm completely and totally against a BCS Rule that says "If you don't win your conference title, you're not eligible for the National Title Game."

Why would the SEC, Big 12 or ACC ever sign off on such a rule? Those conference can only have one true champion while the Big 10 and Big East can have two or three champions. Even more importantly, Notre Dame isn't in a conference. If they don't have to win a conference title to play for the title, why should we?

(Note: If you want to insert your bashes of Kirk Herbstreit here, now would be a good time)

UPDATE: Pat Forde's retort is here.

PWD

28 comments:

chris said...

PWD,

I love your research, but you are just wrong. College football fans tune in every week to watch games that don't matter. Almost every thurs ESPN game is moot.

A tournament is just about having a legitimate champion. Do I need to count how many times the BCS got it wrong? How about last year? IF the regular season is a "playoff" then how did LSU, who lost to an unranked Arkansas to end their season, get to the BCS? THEIR LAST REGULAR SEASON GAME! The BCS is votes and opinions. A Tournament is an actual legitimate winner.

What really makes college football great is the rivalries. A tournament will take nothing away from GA v FL. UGA vs. UT. UGA vs. the nerds. Those games will always matter.

The games they do not matter are the non BCS bowl games. How bowl games are there this year? Give me a break...

One last thing. I hate you PWD.

Ray said...

Bravo Chris. So I have always heard that viewership has gone up every year the BCS has been in place. Was the viewership going up the 10 years previous to the BCS?

Ray said...

But I don't hate you PWD.

strick9 said...

Hey Chris, why all the hate for PWD? You make some valid points in your argument, but do us all a favor and leave your personal attacks out of the conversation.

Seth said...

I'm not 100% on this, but I don't think that the Big 10 can have three co-champions, only two co-champions. With the way the schedule rotation works, there aren't three teams who don't play one another in a given year. Maybe the Big East can have 3 co-champs (I think I remember this happening a couple of years ago).

Hobnail_Boot said...

Seth-

1967 - Indiana, Minnesota, Purdue
1990 - Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State (4!)
1998 - Michigan, OSU, Wisconsin

There were also 3-way ties in 1903, 1906, 1918, 1922, 1931.

Brian said...

The Big 10 can have multiple co-champions, even if there are head to head match-ups. As long as they have the same conference record, they are considered co-champs.

In the PAC 10 last season, ASU and USC were considered co-champs despite USC having the head to head victory.

This is the reason the "Georgia didn't even win its division rabble rabble rabble" argument from last season ticks me off. Under the rules of 3 of the BCS conferences, we would have been co-champs with LSU and UT.

C said...

Doesn't anyone get that it WOULD impact regular season games. Most of all, the sense of urgency in the regular season would be lost. Losing one or two games wouldn't really mean that much, as long as they didn't get in the way of your conference title.

Moreover, any playoff with conference champs would dramatically impact non-conference games. Our games against ASU & Tech next year would basically be exhibitions. Sure, the rivalries would count for something, but over time they would get watered down when we decide to start resting our starters to get ready for the SEC title game.

When OSU & USC tee off on Sept. 13, everyone will be watching because it means everything. If we had a playoff, that game would be about as meaningful as the Maui Classic in College Basketball.

A four-team playoff MIGHT be okay because it would leave out conference champ automatic berths, but an 8-team would do terrible damage to the regular season.

The Tailgate Blog said...

You are suffering from the same short-term view as the rest. If you create a playoff system, then teams will still have to win in order to make the playoffs. People say that regular season games just won't matter as much.

Bull. If you are vying to be one of the top eight teams in the country, then every game matters. Even more games will matter since more teams will be jockeying for those spots.

I want to see the best teams playing each other in the end. I don't want to see USC vs. Zookers or UGA vs. Hawaii. The PAC-10 and Big Ten are pushing all the other conferences around in this debate.

Fisheriesdawg said...

Chris, are you really sure the BCS "got it wrong" last year? Not even considering the non-conference champ thing (which I consider to matter, but that's for another argument), let's look at the two seasons as a whole. UGA lost to a horrible South Carolina team and was blown out by Tennessee. LSU lost in overtime at a solid Kentucky team and in overtime to the best player in college football last year.

Unfortunately, advantage: LSU. They got it right last year. I think we could have beaten them had we gotten the chance, but when we lost to the Gamecocks we were at the mercy of the system.

With a playoff which allows wild cards/at-large teams in place, I guarantee you that those games against USC and UT wouldn't have hurt near as much, and our victories against OSU, UF, AU, etc. wouldn't have quite been as elating. I don't want that to change.

Personally, I'd rather just go back to the old bowl tie-ins. Honestly, could a playoff ever really be as exciting as January 2, 1984?

Dawg19 said...

Can anyone name another sport where the playoff system ruins the regular season?

Major League Baseball has 162 freaking games, playoff series that ALWAYS seem to go five to seven games, yet, attendance is going up.

NASCAR is the fastest growing sport in the world, has the dumbest playoff system ever concocted IMO, yet, attendance at "regular season" races is staggering.

Has any sports commissioner ever said, "Boy, we were doing great until we started having playoffs. Damn, what were we THINKING?!!?"

Look at ANY proffesional soccer league around the world (besides the USA). Do the fans get bored with the regular season...EVER?!!? No, because it's about BRAGGING RIGHTS!!

Same as in college football.

The regular season will be fine. Just ask the NFL...

Doug said...

I take issue with Chris's assessment that "almost every thurs ESPN game is moot." OK, I know we all love to make fun of Georgia Tech for "Thursday Night Lights" and blah blah blah, but leaving aside the nerds for just a second, look at some of the games ESPN televised on Thursday last year:

• Your future national champion, LSU, started off their campaign with a 45-0 thumping of Mississippi State (who, incidentally, would finish a surprising 8-5).

• We got our first inkling that Louisville was nowhere near title caliber when they handed MTSU 42 points in a closer-than-expected win.

• We also got our first inkling that TCU wouldn't be crashing anyone's BCS party when they got upset by an Air Force team breaking in a rookie head coach.

• Hawaii got taken to OT by San Jose State, which obviously had major impact on another BCS-buster's hopes.

• Virginia Tech saw their last MNC hopes apparently fade away by losing to Boston College in the last two minutes of the game -- and exactly one week later snuck back onto the BCS radar by absolutely destroying Georgia Tech in GT's stadium (and in their uniforms).

• And in maybe the most meaningful Thursday-night game of all, Oregon saw their national-title hopes snuffed out with one snap of Dennis Dixon's ACL.

So these games do occasionally have an impact, even if it's mainly to weed the pretenders from the contenders -- but isn't that a critical part of any CFB season? Go to a playoff system, though, and there's a very real chance that many of these games would be diluted in importance. The Hokies lost to Boston College? Eh, whatever, they can still make the playoff field. Heck, you make that field big enough -- and make no mistake, some people will be campaigning to make it as big as possible -- and even a Hawaii team with one loss to SJSU might've made it in. Is that something you'd really want to debase your playoff field with?

Doug said...

dawg19, as for your baseball example, when was the last time you sweated bullets and bit your nails over a midseason MLB game because your favorite team's world-championship hopes hung in the balance? Granted, it has more to do with there being 162 freakin' games than anything else, but as big a Braves fan as I am, any Braves game I have on before mid-August or so is pretty much just background noise, because I know it doesn't substantially affect their playoff chances on its own. And I'm even less interested in any other teams' games. But not only am I glued to the TV if Georgia plays Vanderbilt, I'm glued if it's Florida playing Vanderbilt, because a shocking upset there might help out the Dawgs.

And who cares if the commissioners aren't expressing buyers' remorse over implementing playoffs? Their only concern is making money, so as long as playoffs=money, they're happy. But I'm not a commissioner, I'm a fan, so I want what makes the fans happy. And an 89-73 Houston Astros wild-card team limpdicking their way into the 2005 Series just so they could serve as chum for the White Sox doesn't make me all that happy.

C said...

Dawg19 & Tailgate Dawg, it just seems to make sense that the regular season would be hurt. Any -- ANY -- 8-team playoff would include conference champions, which would essentially mean that UGA could go 9-4 every year and make the playoffs, losing every non-conference game and running the table in the SEC and in Atlanta. Does that sound like that's good for the regular season. App. State crushed Michigan's title hopes last year. In an 8-team playoff, that game means almost nothing on a national scale other than proving Michigan to be over-rated.

Were the Giants better than the Cowboys & Packers last year? No, they were better for 2 weekends in January, and we handed the Lombardi trophy a few weeks later to the hottest team during the playoffs and not the best team of the season. Basically, the 10-6 Giants record was viewed equally as the 16-0 Patriots record. The regular season only served as a qualifier for the equalizing playoffs; thus, individual games are not nail biters until later in the season.

This would happen in college football. MLB teams that are wild cards regularly win the world series, decreasing the value of winning the division. If college football had neutral site playoff games (which no college or pro football playoff has), the regular season would mean even less because going undefeated wouldn't even give you a home game, so why not rest starters if you've got the conference/division locked up? Essentially, 12-0 would be the same as 10-2, so better to go into the playoffs rested and healthy.

A 4-team playoff could work, but we have to realize that an 8-team playoff would RADICALLY alter the landscape of the college football regular season. As it stands now, our trip to Tempe means everything. In an 8-team playoff world, it wouldn't mean much more than a tune-up and good challenge. If Knowshon were banged up after the Cocks and we had Bama the next week and you know you have to win the conference to make the playoffs, do you rest him then? I just don't want that kind of thought process happening in college football.

Dawg19 said...

Look, Doug, I feel the same way about baseball.

I hate the wild card in MLB. It rewards teams who couldn't get it done during the regular season.

My point was: a playoff in college football wouldn't have any effect on the regular season. Wouldn't you still pull for Vandy to upset Florida? Of course, because it affects the conference standings. Wouldn't you still pull for the Dawgs to beat Georgia Tech and Arizona State? Of course, because it's about bragging rights.

Baseball is too damned long, yet, attendance (read as: interest in the regular season) is growing.

For me, attending a Braves game is still fun but I lost interest in watching it on TV a few years ago. I got sick of them winning the division and then tanking EVERY YEAR in the playoffs. Plus, the Braves stopped winning the division after Mazzone left. Coincidence? I don't think so.

The Braves are like a good looking girl who keeps flirting with you but won't date you. After a while, you move on. It's not like being a Dawg fan. The 90's were torture for any Dawgs fan but we stuck with them. Why? Because we have some kind of tie to the school whether it be as alumni, our parents went there, our friends went there, etc. It's easier to be more passionate about it. But when a bunch of millionaires consistently brick in the playoffs, you move on. If the Braves organization decided to move to Vancouver tomorrow, would you still be a devoted fan? Jerry Seinfeld has it right. When it comes to proffesional sports, you're basically pulling for laundry. (Because players change teams so often)

Also, switching gears, if a two-loss team can win the MNC, isn't the regular season already somewhat irrelevant?

Dawg19 said...

C...

If Georgia tech went 9-2, had their ACC division wrapped up, and then "layed down" against UGA to get ready for the ACC championship game, do you think their fans would understand?

Yeah, right.

How about Alabama? If they had the West wrapped up heading into the Auburn game, do you think they would "lay down" to rest the starters for SEC championship game?

Not just "no"...HELL NO!!

Why? Because the fan base would riot. Fans may not have much say in the BCS but they DO have a lot of say in who their coach is.

I will concede that an AD might think twice about scheduling a grueling non-conference game anymore. But, hey, they do that NOW!

Understand, under the 8-team playoff system, their would be two at-large bids. The chances of one non-BCS team going undefeated is fairly rare, much less two. So BCS teams could still get in based on ranking. So every game is STILL important.

Doug said...

Not if every other team in the country except for two (i.e. Kansas and Hawaii) finish the season with at least two losses themselves.

C said...

Like it or not, those rivalries would become more regional and less important over time, just like college basketball. Even Duke/Carolina is meaning less and less each year because the only thing that matters is getting to the Final Four.

The fans would really riot if their shot at a national title for the first time in 30 years went out the window because the QB goes down w/ an ACL in a game that ultimately meant nothing more than bragging rights. If it happened once (and it would) every coach in America would get gunshy with their starters.

And wow, I bet all those Dallas Cowboy fans are really glad they have those NFC East division bragging rights this year and are hanging that banner in Texas Stadium. In the meantime, they'll hang a World Champions banner at the Meadowlands. Glad the regular season really means something in the NFL.

I'm not saying a playoff wouldn't be fun and couldn't work, even. But, these are the realities of sports with playoffs and they are realities of what playoffs would eventually bring to college football. Admittedly, we'd get a cleaner looking champion at the end, but we'd sell a little bit of our soul in Sept, Oct, & Nov. I see the playoffs, just for me, personally, I'm just not sure I'm ready to make that trade off.

I truly believe we have other immediate issues that would clean up the process much more: mandating or outlawing conference championship games across the board and mandating BCS schools to schedule a certain number of other BCS schools. That would fix a lot and needs to be addressed long before we do anything about playoffs. Just my 2 cents.

Dawg19 said...

" Even Duke/Carolina is meaning less and less each year because the only thing that matters is getting to the Final Four."

What?!!?

Do you watch ESPN? That game IS college basketball. Take that nonsense to Mike Krzyzewski or Roy Williams. They get PAID to win that game. Ask Matt Daugherty. Don't ask Dick Vitale...he already talks about it non-stop.

C...let me ask you something. Have you ever heard of Bill Curry? He coached Alabama to an 10-1 record and a share of the SEC championship in 1989. But he went 0-3 against Auburn. Granted, Alabama didn't fire him. But the new contract they offered wasn't very sweet, so he bolted for Kentucky, knowing that the Auburn game was the only one that mattered. Had he beaten Auburn even once, they would've made a better offer. Twice or three times and Gene Stallings would've never gotten the job. The Bama fans hated Curry. Do you think that if Curry's excuse would have been that he was saving his team for the playoffs that it would have won him favor with the fans? Riiight....

How many of us said the following on October 28th last year:

"I don't care what the Dagws do the rest of the year...at least we beat Florida."

It will ALWAYS mean something...

Also, it's my opinion that ACL tears are part of the game. Whether it happens in a game against a Division I-AA team or in the MNC game, it's going to happen. You recruit players to play the game. You think a doctor will ever say to a coach, "Gee, if you hadn't played him against Western Carolina, that ACL would've held up another couple of years."

I can understand resting a player when the game is in hand. But I still haven't read a decent arguement for not wanting to win every regular season game when a playoff awaits (Based on the 8-team playoff that includes two at-large teams).

C said...

Dawg19, great points. And I'm fully aware of Curry situation. Rivalries will always mean something, but even Duke/Carolina doesn't have the punch that Texas/OU does in football, no matter how much Vitale talks it up. We care about it in the southeast, but college basketball is about March.

As for resting players, it's called the NFL. It happens every year. Teams rest their starters, and it has become more frequent as the field has expanded to more teams. At least in the NFL you are highly rewarded (bye) with being much better during the regular season. Every 8 team playoff I've seen in college football pretty much makes the #1 equal to #8. The only difference is you get to pick which color jersey you wear.

Granted, the at large bids would make games involving those teams very interesting at the end of the regular season, but the teams locked up for the spot would begin to focus on the playoffs. Moreover, we'd start hearing things like we heard about the Pats: would it have been better if they'd lost one along the way?

The BIGGEST reason that I think this wouldn't work in the long-run, though, is the fans. Hear me out. I go to every UGA game, home and away. I break the bank to go to bowls. BUT...I can't afford to follow us to Dallas one week, Miami the next, then to Pasadena for the championship. How many college football fans can? The games would end up looking like the ACC championship game in Jax, in half-filled stadiums. Fans would hold out to see if their team made the finals. This would especially be true of teams that are in the hunt every year, as their fans would begin to get "used" to being in that first round.

Moreover, nobody has addressed the issue of team #8 getting bludgeoned in a high pressure playoff game while team #23 gets a week in the fun & sun at a bowl. Yes, you get a shot at the title, but is that really a post-season reward?

It's just all very complicated. It would solve some problems, but it would create more as well.

Cash Mag-Direct Mail Ads in Savannah., GA said...

Here's what I think. The regular season is too damn important. Too many teams, year in and year out have similar resumes and one because of a computer or what Kirk Herbstreit says doesn't get ranked quite as high. Also, this is a "league" of 117 teams . To nail it down to 2 is asinine and not comprehensive. Somebody gave props to Kentucky who beat LSU. Yep, good for them. I saw that same team get absolutely dismantled by the same South Carolina team that beat us.

I just can't imagine any scenario where an 8 team playoff would not be a better deal and, here's the kicker...make the regular season MORE IMPORTANT for MORE TEAMS. Jockeying for 8 spots inherently makes the regular season about 4 times as important as it does the competition for 2 spots.

Anonymous said...

BCS ratings were down this year. There is a reason: the BCS bandwagon has a lot of people jumping off.

Without a playoff, the team that won it all last year had TWO losses. Why is that any more interesting than a team that actually separates itself in a playoff and finishes with two losses as well?

Those that are BCS supporters are just a bunch of old-fashioned, narrow-minded conservatives that do not see the big picture.

Anonymous said...

The CFB playffs would be nothing like the NFL playoffs. Stop using that irrelevent example. 8-4 teams would rarely make CFB playoffs and if they did, they would almost always be waxed off the field. Just look at the 8 team playoff fields from the past 10 years.

So lots of people watched WVU vs Pitt to see if they made the final 2? That viewing increase could be doubled/tripled/etc if there were more than 2 spots. If more legit teams have a shot, more interest will be there.

Paul Westerdawg said...

anon 12:34 am,

The BCS ratings were down because they watered down the product with the addition of the 5th game.

Take out the 2 worst BCS at-large teams (Illinois and Hawaii) and look at the BCS bowls with natural tie-ins and without the riff raff. It would've been:

NC - OSU vs. LSU
Rose - USC vs. Missouri or Kansas
Orange - VT vs. WVU
Fiesta - OU vs. Arizona State
Sugar - UGA vs. Clemson

The ratings for that would've been better across the board.

Even if you keep UofI in the Rose, a UGA vs. ASU, Clemson, KU or WVU game would've brought the ratings higher than the joke Hawaii game.

Dante said...

Paul, we have no idea what the ratings would've been. Even if we did, the BCS added the 5th game and set their own selection criteria so they have no one to blame when ratings are down but themselves.

Like I've mentioned many times, I don't care as long as good teams play good teams on a consistent basis. And while I generally disagree with c on every other point her makes, this one is solid:

"I truly believe we have other immediate issues that would clean up the process much more: mandating or outlawing conference championship games across the board and mandating BCS schools to schedule a certain number of other BCS schools. That would fix a lot and needs to be addressed long before we do anything about playoffs."

Georgia's schedule is seen as a tough mo-fo this year but it's the kind of schedule major college programs should be scheduling. If good teams went out there and scheduled more out-of-conference losable games, we'd have a lot better idea of who should be ranked where. Instead we have a bunch of teams afraid to schedule tough outside their conference so all we know is how each team stacks up within their conference. Personally, I think all BCS bowls should have entrance requirements based on schedule. And part of those requirements should be scheduling out of conference BCS schools on a yearly basis. That alone will take a considerable amount of wind out of the playoff support sails.

Xon said...

This argument about making money and keeping attendance up is a red herring. Nobody against a playoff is saying that attendance or revenues would necessarily go down. We have a growing population in an age of general economic expansion (yes, still). People have a lot of leisure time to kill and they always will. College football will still be fun and interesting on some level and the numbers (attendance and $) will still reflect that.

But the quality and the intensity will still be diminished, whether or not the attendance and $ numbers suffer. You playoff advocates have to stop trying to counter an argument the skeptics aren't making.

The same goes with complaints about the BCS "getting it wrong" last year with LSU. On the one hand, yes, I would have preferred that UGA get consideration moreso than they did and I find the "don't win your conf then you're out of luck" argument maddening given the inequitable circumstances under which conf champs are determined. But the truth is that the best anyone can really have on this is an inkling: there is no obvious way to say that LSU was the WRONG choice. I agree with someone above who pointed out that LSU's 2 losses were actually better than our 2 losses if you really look at it. And, as for them HAVING 2 losses, that is no big deal when EVERYONE w/ a reasonably difficult schedule also had 2 or more losses. People talk as though there was some undefeated BCS conf team waiting in the wings but LSU was unjustly put in ahead of them...Last year was a crazy year. Everybody (virtually) lost at least 2 games. So, surprise surprise, the #2 team that makes the BCS champ game also had 2 losses. Honestly, what's the problem here?

The fact that fans will still follow their teams and care about rivalries still doesn't mean that the intensity and importance would not diminish. If people can't see that then it's hard to know what else to say. If college baskeball's obvious example of the very thing the skeptics are worried about is just shrugged off or outright denied (i.e., "UNC-Duke is still teh awesome just like it always was!!!1!!"), then it's hard to know what else to say.

Forage ahead with your brilliant plan to "change" things up. And then when you don't like the results, make sure not to be around to get any of the blame. Someone above compared playoff skeptics to "conservatives"--well then in the interest of goose-gander parity, you playoff advocates are a bunch of raging progressive do-gooders who will ruin entire nations with policies that sound good (to you) on paper, but will then blame the obvious failures on others and move off to your next project. You're like high school Marxists who need to take an Econ class, or something. :-) You're also calling uber-hip-liberal Doug a "conservative," which he probably finds hilarious.

Xon said...

Oh, and one more argument that is plainly fallacious:

"Intensity and importance of reg. season goes UP with a playoff, b/c there are 8 slots to fill instead of only 2."

By that argument, why not have a 120 team playoff? Where are the brakes on this argument from proportion?

C said...

xon is a smart man. It's fun to have these discussions, but the truth is just in what he said: something element of why we love college football would be lost, and I'm not sure I'm willing to give that up.

It's not that there aren't positives to playoffs, but once we lost that elusive element that only college football has, we could never get it back.

I fully believe that a 4 team playoff could accomplish both, as it would solely be based on merit and not winning some lousy conference. Losing even 1 game could be deadly, because you never know if it's going to be 2004 (Utah, Auburn, USC, Oklahoma undefeated) or 2007 (where everybody loses a bunch)

Moreover, there are usually good arguments for 3-4 worthy teams, but never 7-8. But, if you go to 4, how long before it's 8 teams or 16 teams. And I still can't get over the travel issue.

Even great programs struggle to send fans to great bowls sometimes, can you imagine the struggle to sell tickets 1,000 miles away after your team has been in the semis for 3 straight years. It's an issue. Using the bowls for semis would be stupid. Home field advantage should be a part of the equation. But I don't trust those in charge to get it right or stop it into ballooning into something that ruins the intensity of Sept-Nov.

 
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