Monday, December 11, 2006

Are We Really Any Closer to a BCS Playoff?, by Kevin Parker

With Troy Smith winning the Heisman Trophy we can finally put an end to this year’s college football regular season. Which means, of course, that our thoughts can now turn to candy canes, latkes, and zawadi*. But alas, before we can settle into the holidays we have to first have our annual debate about that great quagmire of college sports – The BCS System. This year, like so many others, has us left with one clear #1 but no clear #2. How then do we decide who should play in our BCS Championship Game?

It looked like it was going to be easy. USC, after rolling through a Notre Dame team that thought itself in the championship hunt (for more on that read here), looked destined to go to its third straight BCS Championship Game. The week after beating up on the Irish, USC jumped Michigan in both polls to go to #2 and had a virtual lock on a spot in the BCS Championship – all they had to do was beat their six-and-five cross-town rivals, UCLA. But, in decidedly non-USC fashion, USC stumbled and left us with a bit of a problem. In the wake of USC’s collapse who would play OSU now? One-loss Florida (who had just won the SEC Championship) or one-loss Michigan (who hadn’t played for the last two weeks)?

When the final polls came out we got our answer. Once again, Michigan fell behind a team when they didn’t even play a game, losing a shot at the BCS championship in the process.

Of course this much we all already knew, and writing up a history of the last few weeks of this year’s football season wouldn’t make much of a column. The question that is interesting is this – Does this mean that we should reexamine the BCS and finally have a playoff? Plenty of people think that Michigan may well be the second best team in the country, shouldn’t they then get a chance to play the consensus #1 in the National Championship? The pollster said no, you don’t get a second bite at the apple. And they were right.

I don’t think that anyone can complain about the outcome of this year’s BCS slate (with the possible exception of wondering what Notre Dame is doing playing in the Sugar Bowl). OSU-Florida will be a great championship game. Furthermore, USC-Michigan has the chance to be an even better game. The Granddaddy of Them All has a matchup more than worthy of its storied tradition. Sure, Michigan would rather play in the National Championship Game, but these kids have also all grown up with dreams of playing in the Rose Bowl as well.

Yes, a playoff would be great. There have been years when I have been furious with the BCS (Oregon's 2001 snub in particular comes to mind). However, it was a result of that 2001 year that the BCS was reweighted in order to give more preference to the polls. And this year the pollsters did their jobs. Like a good NCAA selection committee they looked at the body of work, the matchups, and gave us a good championship game. That is something that we can all enjoy.

* Gifts that are “enriching” and part of a Kwanzaa celebration.

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