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Academic: The Yin Blog
Screwy things about this college football season
By Tung Yin
I'm one of those who thinks that college football should have a limited playoff -- perhaps not as extensive as that suggested by Death to the BCS, but certainly something like the top 4 teams, which right now looks like it would be LSU vs. Stanford, and Alabama vs. Oklahoma State, right now, and then the winners against each other. I'd be okay with an 8 team playoff, but it doesn't appeal to me as much because the teams get less deserving. 16 starts to let in a bunch of teams who, in my mind, have no business being in the discussion. (Why Michigan is still in the running for a BCS berth boggles my mind, considering that the Wolverines lost to Iowa. I mean, I root for the Hawkeyes, but really, they are a 7-5 team that lost to Minnesota. And they beat Michigan. That should disqualify Michigan from any kind of BCS bowl. But whatever.)
Anyway, BCS obstruction of playoffs aside, there's a lot about this college football season that's really screwy. Consider:
1) UCLA "wins" the Pac-12 South Division and gets to be slaughtered by play Oregon in the inaugural Pac-12 championship, despite finishing the regular season at 6-6 on a 50-0 shellacking by USC (who would have won the South but for being ineligible). So if UCLA were somehow to beat the Ducks, it would go to the Rose Bowl. But if it loses, it will be 6-7 and ineligible for any bowl game absent a waiver. How screwed up is that?
2) But wait, UCLA will be 6-7 only because it will lose the Pac-12 championship game that it doesn't deserve to go to. Had Utah simply beaten Colorado, a team with an abysmal 2-10 record going into that game, then given Arizona State's loss to Cal, it would be Utah who would be offered as a sacrificial lamb to Oregon. In that event, UCLA would be 6-6 and eligible for a bowl game. So somehow, UCLA will be worse off for being given the "honor" of representing the Pac-12 South.
3) Then consider that right now, LSU is ranked #1 and Alabama is ranked #2. They happen to both be in the SEC West, so LSU goes on to the championship game against SEC East champ Georgia. It seems unlikely that Georgia will win, and even if Georgia does win, supposedly LSU will probably stay ranked #1 or #2. But that would mean that LSU and Alabama would play for the national championship even though neither even won its own conference! Fortunately, it's rather unlikely that LSU will lose.
4) So consider the current bowl projections that have Michigan in the Sugar Bowl. Sure, Michigan is 10-2, but remember, one of those losses was to Iowa -- not a bad team by any means, but not a great one either. This would mean that Michigan would jump ahead of either Wisconsin or Michigan State, whichever one loses the Big Ten championship. Huh. So Michigan was unable to win its own division (Leaders? Or Legends? What silly names, who can keep them straight?) but it will end up a better record than the loser of the conference championship, only because that team had to play an extra game, and one against a team considerably more formidable than Iowa! Why should Michigan get rewarded for having missed out on the championship game and hence the risk of a third loss? And if it's Michigan State that loses to Wisconsin, why should Michigan go ahead of Michigan State when Michigan State beat Michigan already??
I'm not saying that a playoff would solve all of these problems. Indeed, under current rankings, with a four team playoff, neither Wisconsin, nor Michigan, nor Oregon, among others would have a shot. Maybe that argues in favor of eight teams. But the current system has all kinds of messed up outcomes, particularly with the non-championship BCS bowls having the wrong incentives (teams that travel well, ahem, Michigan) getting preferred over teams with better on the field performances.
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