It happens every year. Media and fans alike start screaming about the BCS and all the horrible things that “might happen” in the college football postseason. I am amazed at the level of anger over hypothetical scenarios that disappear a week later when an undefeated team loses. It’s currently December, so sports websites will automatically put together futile, basketball-style brackets with 16 college football teams — heck, some even start this silliness in October or November. Like Pavlov’s dogs, callers and hosts fill radio shows every fall with the same tired “I hate the BCS/I want a playoff” chant. Enough already. Everything turned out fine for college football, and we have an exciting title matchup between Auburn and Oregon.
Let me say this, I am not ‘against’ a playoff. However, I do understand the very sound reasons why there is not a basketball-style postseason for college football. The “Plus 1” possibility is intriguing, but it’s hard for me to see a bigger (8/12/16 teams) format being smart for all of the parties involved. The current BCS works well as an ‘agreement’, but there are some issues with the ‘formula’ that should be tweaked. But at the end of the day, I just do not see a 16-team college football playoff as the gridiron nirvana that others believe it would be. I’ll try to cover the reasons for that briefly, although this is obviously a subject that is impossible to summarize in paragraph or sound bite.
One major flaw of the bajillion playoff scenarios suggested each year is trying to use the bowl system as part of a bracket format. Marginalizing the bowls would be terrible for college football as a whole. The fans of the BCS teams could not travel to three postseason games in three weeks, and the experience for players would be lessened by an extended format. For those critics screaming “Who cares about all of these bowls?”, the answer is television viewers. The ratings were up another eight percent across the board last year. There are so many bowls because people watch them—it’s just that simple. Are there a few duds in the group of 35 games? Of course there are, but fans will watch the majority of these games (especially in the late December/early January vacation period) each year. Remember, the presence of bad games in the NFL each week does not stop the public from watching.
A 16-team playoff would also greatly diminish the best and most meaningful regular season in sports. That fact does not seem to resonate with many media detractors, but the reality for college football is that it’s not the NFL. The college game has its own appeal, identity and tradition. Fans in places like SEC, Big Ten and Big 12 country tend to understand this, but many critics in more professional sports areas (New York, Boston, Philadelphia, etc.) struggle with that concept. College football does not need to become more commercialized than it already is and does not need to move any closer to being “NFL junior”.
This season of college football (Stanford-Oregon, Auburn-Alabama, Wisconsin-Ohio State, Oklahoma-Oklahoma State, Michigan State-Notre Dame, LSU-Auburn, Boise State-Nevada, etc.) has been much more compelling than the 2010 NFL campaign. I would hate to think the action and drama was lessened because fans were sweating a hypothetical postseason possibility. The national focus on college basketball tends to be minimal until after the Super Bowl. On the other hand, college fans have appointment viewing and attendance every Saturday of the football season.
As previously mentioned, I am not completely opposed to a small, sensible playoff. I just won’t let a potential postseason change hijack an amazing year on the gridiron. If your college football playoff scenario starts with the phrase “All you have to do is…”, you probably need to analyze it a little more deeply.
Stop the whining; enjoy the football.