BSD Roundtable: PLAYOFFS?!?!

America demanded a playoff system, and America got just that (kind of). (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The BCS was officially laid to rest last night with the announcement of a four-team playoff that will follow the 2014 regular season. So far, the reaction from around the interwebs has been mixed. Some are just plain ecstatic that the current system will be a thing of the past soon, while others have the same concerns about the playoffs that have plagued the BCS. - JS

Adam - Playoffs? Yes please. I don't care about the format. I don't care about the committee. I don't care if Mike Slive and Jim Delany brawl inside a 15-foot high steel cage in order to settle their differences. Any playoff is better than this nonsense BCS system.

For playoff proponents like me, this is all about getting a foot in the door. Start with four teams and work our way to eight. Tweak the system along the way to get the results we want. This will exponentially improve college football - better out of conference scheduling (because strength of schedule will be taken into account), heavily weighting conference championships (forcing a team to actually win its' division and a conference title game), and postseason games that actually matter. Meanwhile, capping the number of eligible teams at four (or even eight in the future) preserves the integrity of the regular season and allows for the continued existence of the bowl season, which will continue to be a reasonable goal for teams that have little shot at winning a national championship. Finally, and best of all, we can all stop calling college football's "best" team the Mythical National Champion. Settle it on the field.

Dan- A playoff. It's what we've been waiting for. Is it perfect? No. But it's a start. Four teams may not be enough. In 12 years, I can guarantee we see eight or 16 teams when the four team field starts to yield as much controversy as the BCS did. My biggest concern is how the selection committee will be put together. Will it be bigwigs with ties to the Big Five conferences or will the little guys be invited to provide input so that a 1998 Tulane, a 1999 Marshall or a 2006 Boise State has a shot of vying for a title? The economics still have to be worked out (i.e. Will so many games away from a team's home stadium cause ticket sales to drop? How will revenue be split among the conferences?). But as a fan, I'm excited to see games that mean something with a renewed importance put on strength of schedule and conference championships. It's Christmas morning in June.

Cari- I think it's an improvement, but it's hard not to have been--especially after the fiasco (both in viewers and amongst non-SEC fans) that was this year's "championship". Until there's more than 4 teams (take your pick of 8 or 16), I think there will always be years where someone that has a legitimate claim will be left out, so I don't think there will be a "true" champion--it'll still be mythical. But it'll be a mythical champion who played 15 games instead of 14. I think the limitations are fairly obvious--you'll inevitably have some team ranked fifth or sixth or seventh who looks to be as good as the third or fourth team to make the playoffs. Most likely, it'll be an undefeated mid-major (Boise's probably too well-known to not make it now) unpicked over a one or even two-loss major conference (read: SEC, B1G, PAC12, Big12) team. And I can see both sides, of why the mid-major should be picked (hello, undefeated!) or why the major conference team should be picked (strength of schedule). And I'm well aware that no matter how many teams are in a playoff, there will always be some bubble teams who claim they should have gotten a bid; but, honestly, if there's a 16 team playoff and you're in the 12+ range, any playoff system is the same or better than what we're used to. IIRC, most teams ranked around 15 at the start of the bowls has 2+ losses anyway--and I'd rather not see a three-loss MNC. But maybe that's just me.

Ben - Have you ever taken a look at those "computer" polls? For the love of all things holy, they deserved to die a painful, hacked, virus-ridden death. Even if the selection committee consists of Bozo, Pluto, Reginald the Monkey, and one of my neighbors cats, it could only be a considerable upgrade. And there'll be four teams instead of Harris Poll dopes influencing the choice of just two? This seems twice as good to me. Particularly if it was 2005. Or if it was 2008. Or if it was 1994. Or 1973, 1969, or 1968. I'm sure 2004 Auburn would agree. The best part about this new format is that it doesn't have games in Beaver Stadium - which means I can bitch blog about how the new system sucks for the next 12 years. Oh hello, complaining commits to interwebs! Who do you suppose the Orange Bowl invites when it isn't in the rotation of games? Or the Fiesta? Love those places...so many good memories, so much money to divvy up (sorry, ACC). BRING ME THE PLAYOFFS!

Jared - I'm not doing celebratory cartwheels over this announcement (not that I could if I wanted to). In the end, the champion will still be selected by lobbying and subjective polls. Who do you think would get the final spot between an 11-1 Texas and an 11-1 Baylor or Texas Tech (or an 11-1 Northwestern, Oregon State, Virginia, etc.)? I'm guessing the name program gets in every single time. Also, the #5 team will always have a gripe. When is there ever major separation between the #4 and #5 teams? The #5 team will be able to make the argument that they had a legitimate shot of winning it all, and in most years they will be right. Conference championship games will continue to create havoc. If a team can fall out of the top four by losing a conference championship game in favor of a team that didn't win it's division, what does it say about the legitimacy of this format? The new system creates a lot more questions than answers. However, it's a step in the right direction. I will take pleasure in watching it every year, and if Penn State is in a game where they either win and advance or go home, I will probably get so excited I'll forget to breath. But for the life of me, I'll never understand why every other level of football can have a 16-team playoff except for the big boys.

Mike - I'm taking this playoff format with a grain of salt. It was going to be a tricky path to follow, trying to keep some sort of connection to the bowl games AND insert a playoff system. But for now, it'll work. I'm not crazy about the 12-year window college football will be locked into, particularly if the system is a dud or serious problems arise. Then again, that's what happened (2001) with the BCS less than five years after it's formation, and again (2003) and again (2004) and again (2007) and again (2011), until now we finally get some sort of "hey, ya know, maybe we should try to fix this for realz this time" from the college football ruling class.

In terms of the on-field product, it is definitely an improvement over the BCS-era bowl system. Believe it or not, I would have rather college football return to the old free-for-all bowl system in place before the Bowl Alliance or any of the BCS-like crap, than keep said BCS-like crap. My own preference would be for an eventual 8-team playoff--rarely does a team outside the top eight deserve a shot anyway. But I can very easily live with this 4-team system and give it a fair shot. Of course, that will be all fine and dandy until Penn State finishes No. 5 and gets left out by the selection committee.

Galen - I think for most fans this system is A) a step in the right direction but B) not enough teams. For me an eight team playoff is right around the sweet spot and I think we will end up there eventually. For college football to get to the 8 or more-team playoff we'll need to see the perfect storm of an undefeated mid-major getting picked for the last slot over a 1-loss SEC team. That happens and you'll see the playoff change in a hurry. The 12-year deal is a bit of a head-scratcher, why on earth would they think this is the end-all, be-all system and lock it down for more than a decade? I hate that they gave the SEC everything they wanted, but I guess we have no choice. I would still love to see Alabama or Florida come north and play Michigan or Wisconsin in late December. The SEC loves to brag about how well their teams play in the southern heat, I'd LOVE to see how well they play when it's 33 degrees and raining. Getting hit on a hot day is one thing, taking a bone-crunching hit when it's freezing out is a completely different experience.

Devon - I really don't love it. Here's the way I look at it: 4 teams is too few to ensure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the best team would get in. I'm looking over some past seasons right now, and it was only 3 years ago that 13-0 Boise State entered the bowl season ranked just #6. Selecting only the top four teams, as decided by some sort of selection committee--which, like all establishment committees in college football, will be undeniably biased towards power conferences--doesn't help the little guy or the cinderella nearly as much as it should. There's still going to be a ton of controversy, especially over that 4th team.

Let's go back to 2008, when, after the regular season, you had Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, Penn State, USC, Texas Tech, Alabama, and Boise State with one loss, as well as an undefeated Utah team. Tell me that picking four of those teams, as opposed to just 2, makes the crowning of a champion any more than marginally fairer. It's a better system, in most years, but it's still so far from perfect. If you're only going to go through the motions by adding one more game, then give me a plus-one. Why? Because it's one more week of meaningful game. That year, for instance, we would've had one more game to judge the relative merits of those nine teams, and we largely would have seen them play amongst themselves, against another elite team. We could preserve the tradition and integrity of the Rose Bowl. Most importantly, we open the door to more than just four teams. And we could really have five or six or seven or eight teams going into Bowl Week thinking they have a shot at playing for the championship, depending on how well they play. You're essentially having one giant play-off week which, short of an 8-team playoff, is about the best scenario I can think of.


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