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Friday, November 19, 2004

Football: The Case For a Playoff System 

If it's November, it must be that time of year that every sane person in America, i.e. those that favor a college football playoff, are met with the argument to keep the archaic bowl system alive.

Yes, a playoff would be revolutionary and change the fabric of the game. But it is long overdue, and unlike John Kerry, we actually do have a plan when it comes to this.

The Field: It's simple. You either have 8 or 16 teams, decided by a combination of the human polls and computer polls, with automatic bids given to conference champions. Yes, you will still have arguments from the 9th or 17th team in these equations, but isn't this better than the third best team or the fifth best team in the country griping? You have the griping every year in March, yes, but it dies down by the time the games get rolling.

The Excitement: No, you can't duplicate March Madness. But what you would have is about 15 or 16 games every postseason that matter, not just one. Is the college bowl system exciting as it is? Hell no. You go to a bar during lunch and see the Humanitarian Bowl on TV and ask the waitress if she can switch the TV to Fox News. The system as it is set up puts all of the importance on one game, with even great matchups in the Sugar and Rose bowls and such largely ignored because they simply don't matter.

The Playing Sites: I don't think you could incorporate the bowls into the system. You would have to do home fields. And yes, that opens up some debate, but it seems to work for every other major sport.

The Regular Season Would Be Better: This is the favorite argument of the anti-playoff folks. Somehow they try to convince us that Texas-Rice is exciting because it means something. But what they fail to realize is that a playoff would only enhance the regular season. Instead of scheduling Louisiana Lafayette, New Mexico State and UTEP as non-conference opponents, if you bring back the strength of schedule component, you would have teams scheduling much better. Imagine a USC/Florida State matchup. Or Oklahoma/Auburn. Or Texas/Michigan. And not in some meaningless bowl game in January, but in September. Some college basketball progams schedule ridiculous opponents to get their teams ready and to look more attractive to the selection committee in March. I think you would see the same thing here. Plus, you could have these matchups in January, instead of seeing Texas/some spare ass Pac 10 team every other year.

A playoff system wouldn't be perfect, but it would be a hell of a lot more complete than the current system. There is a reason that every other sport in America lets their championships be decided on the field, not in a mainframe. And that's because the competition is what makes the game great, but with the current system we are more worried about binary codes than we are zone blitzes.


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