College football came to its grand crescendo last night with Alabama shutting out LSU 21-0 in the National Championship game. While the game was decisive enough that it should make Alabama the clear Champion, there seems to be more relief from fans that changes are promised to be coming soon.
Commissioners from all 11 major conferences, plus the Notre Dame Director of Athletics are meeting to discuss the possibility of changes to the current BCS system that most hope will bring a playoff of some form.
Currently, the BCS ranks the teams based on their strength of schedule along with some highly-technical mathematic formulas to sort out the best two teams and set up the National Championship game. Many have argued that this does not give a clear enough picture and allows for too much ambiguity, a system that takes in account too many factors or not enough factors or at least, not the correct factors.
Many assume a “plus-one” format would at least give some other teams a chance to “decide it on the field”. One proposed plus-one idea would seed the top four teams and have a playoff of sorts. This season that playoff would have had the top four teams in the final rankings (1. LSU, 2. Alabama, 3. Oklahoma State & 4. Stanford) play each other to decide who would play in the National Championship matchup. Stanford would play LSU, Alabama would play OSU and the winner of each would play in the final. Simple right?
If that happened this season, LSU would have entered the playoff undefeated; the three other teams would have gone in with one loss. The question becomes, would the playoff actually settle all the disagreements about the title game? If the top two teams win, you would have had the same matchup, and some would be appeased because it was finally “settled on the field”, however, it’s not that simple. It never is.
What if, LSU loses to Stanford, a team that lost in the bowl game to OSU? Now you have Stanford, the #4 seed, playing #2 Alabama in the National Championship game and it’s all ok because it was “settled on the field”. In that scenario, one-loss Alabama would play one-loss Stanford, while one-loss and previous #1 LSU would be out. Does that seem settled? Not hardly.
Just for the sake of the argument, let’s consider that instead of Stanford at #4, Oregon does not lose a close game to USC and Oregon ends up #4. Same results, Oregon beats LSU and advances to take on #2 Alabama. You would then have two one-loss teams playing for the National Championship and another one-loss team, LSU out. The reason that particular situation would be tricky, LSU would have beaten both those teams. So, two one-loss teams playing for the title and the team that beat BOTH of those schools is eliminated because they had a bad game “when it counted”.
None of this even takes into account teams like Boise St, who also played the full season with only one loss or Houston, who suffered a loss late, but still only had one. These teams are not even considered, because the experts tell us they play too weak of a schedule to be considered one of the “big boys”.
As the conference heads gather in a room to decide the new rules the schools will play by, they would be wise to get input from all the voting sources. Specifically, they will need to address the AP writers.
Since December 2004, the AP poll has not been a determining factor in the BCS rankings. This happened when the AP writers demanded their poll be taken out of the BCS calculations following two consecutive controversial years.
By taking themselves out of the BCS, the AP gained for itself a renewed power. The power to buck the system, to vote their consciences and to throw rocks at a “mathematical” system that is imperfect.
College football fans view that abstention as a badge of honor, of doing what is right for College football, even though that is not hardly the case.
It is interesting to note, that following last night’s National Championship game, 55 of the 60 AP voters voted Alabama #1, four voted Oklahoma State #1 and one voted LSU #1. Really?
So, the big 12, heads of major conferences, meet to decide what to do next. How to fix the system that is apparently broken or simply to adjust the current system.
The BCS system is not perfect, but the adjusted system won’t be perfect either. What then?