November 23, 2012

Playoffs? You're Talkin' About...Playoffs?!?

By - Keith Smith

For the past 20 or so years, people have been screaming for a college football playoff system, and I've been at the front of the line, devising, planning, and prophesying to anyone who would listen.

Now that we are less than 2 years away from an answer to our life-long quest, I only have one thing to say -- do we really still want to do this?

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I know, I know...let someone win it on the field. Don't let a bunch of artificially intelligent computers (or artificially intelligent sportswriters, for that matter) decide who the national champion should be. Line up the teams, set up a playoff, and let 'em go!

A part of me still feels that way, too. But another part, deep down inside, looks at what has happened over the past three weeks to the top four teams in the country and realizes that, once a playoff is here, none of the thrills, the upsets, and the near upsets will matter very much anymore.

There won't be nearly as much to lose with a single loss. The drama, the thrill, the excruciating, burning pain down in the center of my skull when one of the teams that I really want to win (or lose) is down in the final seconds, will all but be gone.

Three weeks ago, Alabama was #1, Kansas State was #2, Notre Dame was #3, and Oregon was #4. The Irish, coming off their biggest win of the season, had a let down game against Pitt. They had to go to three overtimes to eek out a victory. They dropped to #4 behind Oregon, and it looked like their BCS dreams were dashed.

Two weeks ago, Alabama was coming off their biggest win of the season, getting pushed around by LSU for over 3 quarters before pulling out a late win. Then they ran square into the oncoming train of Johnny "Football" Manziel and his Texas A&M Aggies, falling behind 20-zip in the first quarter before eventually losing by 5. The Crimson Tide dropped to #4, and their BCS hopes were (temporarily) gone.

One week ago, then #1 Kansas State didn't look both ways before crossing the street, and were flattened by a gigantic bus called the Baylor Bears. A short time later that night, #2 Oregon was shocked by fellow-Pac 12 rival Stanford. As a result, Oregon dropped to #5, KState to #6.

Yes, Georgia and Florida jumped ahead of Oregon and Kansas State. But Florida, with a partially healthy QB, is a road underdog to Florida State this week, and Georgia plays Bama next week in the SEC Championship Game.

So it is very possible that in about eight days, those same top four teams from three weeks ago will still occupy the top four slots, just in an entirely different order. Which means, if the playoff system were in place this year, all that excitement of the past three weeks (and whatever excitement may come in the next two), would have meant absolutely nothing.

Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Still think a playoff system is a good thing?

I'm not so sure any more.

I've grown accustomed to these late season losses by teams that shouldn't lose, to teams they have no business losing to. It adds an element of excitement that, quite frankly, we may not see until that new playoff starts at the end of the season.

Yes, there may still be some late season shuffles when the playoff is here, pushing someone into that fourth and final spot. And inevitably, that late qualifier will, sooner or later, win the big one and become the champion. We'll just have to wait and see if it renders the majority of the regular season moot or not.

Of course, on the plus side, I won't have to stock up on the ibuprofen until January of 2015.


  1. You have a point here.....

  2. I agree somewhat, but look at it this way; in the end, FOUR TEAMS will have a legit shot to win the championship, as opposed to only TWO. The goal will now be to get one of the top FOUR spots in the rankings, not just the top TWO.

  3. Worthy and interesting thoughts, but I still think a playoff is clearly the most fair and logical way to determine a champion. What doesn't match up, however, compared with pro sports, is that humans are still making important decisions about who are the top 4 teams, leaving much room for error in deciding, for example, who's No. 4 versus 5 or 6, which can be minimal. In the pros, on the other hand, it's all about the math. You get the wins, you get the spot you deserve, well, almost always. A college playoff is still a compromise, but I think it's the best compromise on the table at the moment.