BCS vs. Playoffs: BCS is......OK

Ian_InsideTheShoe's picture
March 23, 2011 at 7:01 am

First posted at Inside The Shoe

Ed. Note: This is part 1 of Danny's response to Brady. Part 2 will come next week and will cover more of the financial part of it all.

Moving to a playoff system in the Division formerly known as 1-A is all the rage these days.  Everyone, from U.S. Senators to NBA owners (of all people) has thrown their ideas out into the open.  Now, while the BCS is not a perfect system by any means, I think it has taken some unnecessary heat.  All I would like to do is defend the current system a little bit, so people can stop complaining and whining for a playoff system, and just enjoy the great game of college football.

To everyone that thinks the BCS is the worst thing that has ever happened to college football, what did you think of the pre-BCS years?  There was no designated National Championship Game.  The conferences were very tightly bound to certain bowl games.  Now, bear with me, because conference names have changed a bit, bowl affiliations basically amounted to the Big Ten champion (see: Ohio State or Michigan) playing the Pac-10 champion (also known as USC) in the Rose Bowl, the SEC champion playing an at-large bid in the Sugar Bowl, the former Big Eight champions meeting an at-large in the Orange Bowl, and the South West Conference champions playing another at-large in the Cotton Bowl.  The ACC as we know it now (with Florida State, Miami, and Boston College) was not intact yet.  These at-large teams were either second place teams in major conferences or independent teams that may have played a very weak schedule (PENN STATE).
Under this system, the top ranked teams rarely played each other.  If the Big Ten and the Pac 10 were both down during a season, but USC ran the table and won the Rose Bowl, they could have been crowned national champions easily, even though another conference, say the Big Eight, might have been stacked with great teams and their conference champion had only one loss.  If the teams that were ranked #1 and #2 in the polls met in any bowl game, it would have been considered the game of the decade.  Fast forward to today.  There are still bowl games, and conferences are still affiliated (although much more loosely than before), and the top two ranked teams play in the final game, every single year.

Now, getting to those top two teams, that is a completely different story.  There is the AP Poll, the Coaches Poll, the Harris Poll, ESPN Power Rankings, etc, etc, etc.  Everybody ranks teams.  What the BCS decided to do was take the two biggest polls and average them out with a computer generated ranking to cancel out any bias.  On paper, does that not sound like fantastic idea?  You can’t just take the human polls, because people will vote for who they think is best.  If a reporter covers the Big Ten, how many Pac 10 or SEC games do you think he or she watches every week?  If I was given a choice between Ohio State and a team with completely identical statistics, I would think Ohio State is better every time.

People have bias, whether it is intentional or not.  Computers can’t decide the champion on their own, either.  There is a difference losing a game on a blown call by a referee or losing the game because your team made mistakes.  Humans can judge that, computers can’t.  All computers can do is look at your record and at the records of the teams you beat, to determine if your wins are really all that meaningful.  But, by combining the two you can determine the two teams that the majority  of people think are the two best teams in the country, and then let those two teams settle it on the field.

Again, I want to reiterate that I do NOT think the BCS is the solution to all our problems.  It won’t cure diseases or create world peace.  But what it does do is produce a national champion in college football that more people can agree on than in any other time period in the history of the sport.  And how Ohio State fans, of all people, can complain about the BCS is just beyond me.  The BCS has been kinder to the Buckeyes than it has to any other institution.  Ohio State has appeared in three national championship games and eight BCS games overall.  There are also immense financial implications of switching to playoff system, but that is another post for another time. 

I believe the idea here is that Brady will respond to my post, and then I, in turn, will write another beautifully crafted article with superior arguments to his.  Which is fine with me; the financing of major college football is more than enough for a post of its own.