I was walking through the mall this past week, doing my Christmas shopping, when a young woman came up to me trying to give me a pamphlet supporting world peace. As I took it, I told her
"You know, it's always easy to advocate for something you know is never going to happen. Besides, I'm against world peace.", I said.
"No, not really..... But I am against a college football playoff."
With that, she punched me in the face.
Okay maybe it didn't really happen that way (I do my Christmas shopping online), but with the vast majority of college football fans screaming for a playoff, it's not so improbable to get socked in the nose for something so seemingly inconsequential.
World peace and a college football playoff have something in common - everyone is for them, but no one knows how to get there. The details are pretty difficult, but that doesn't stop people from coming up with unworkable solutions.
Playoff solutions abound. They're as cheap as t-shirts, but the problem is that most leave out the logistics. They concentrate on having four, eight or 16 teams and how those would fit into the existing schedule. Those that deal with logistics typically recognize the fact that the bowls have way too much clout to be thrown away, so they incorporate them into their playoff system.
That, as they say, is the crux of the problem. Including the bowls would require cold-weather teams to play consecutive weekends away from home, giving an inherent advantage to warm-weather teams. No cold-weather team would stand a shot at a national title. If you're a fan of a cold-weather team and you advocate this kind of system, I have to believe you're not considering the details.
A better system would be the same one used by the NFL and non-FBS colleges use based on home field advantage. That would mean teams like Texas, Alabama, Florida, and USC could come to Columbus, Ann Arbor, Happy Valley, or Lincoln and play in the snow at the end of the year.
You know this isn't going to happen. The current bowl system has too much power, and those warm-weather places have made too much money over the past 50-100 years to give it up easily. Keep in mind that university presidents love taking their families, their entourage, on paid vacations to places like San Diego, so there is little incentive to change the current system.
My other problem with the constant screaming about a playoff is that fan anger is being misplaced. The BCS has become too easy a target, the big boogeyman that symbolizes all that's wrong with college football.
Yet there is another issue that is much more sinister and much easier to fix.
Five teams ended up undefeated at the end of this season. Five. Those teams didn't end up undefeated because the BCS arranged their schedules. It's because teams like Texas didn't play anyone of substance during the non-conference. Texas played the school of the deaf, the blind, the Long John Silver Impersonators and a group of Asian girls that really wanted to play lacrosse, but were forced into football prostitution because they needed the money. Oklahoma played a tough non-conference schedule and it cost them dearly. Given the outcomes between those teams, what incentive is there for anyone to schedule tough games?
The BCS could demand that strength of schedule play a more meaningful role in determining who gets into the big games and who doesn't. Look back on this season and ask yourself how many weekends you wondered where the big games were. Now realize that this problem will only get worse as college football try to make up for recessionary budget shortfalls. Powerhouse teams will schedule more patsies in order to ensure home game receipts, while body bag teams look for big payouts to keep their programs solvent. The result is more lousy college football. A playoff won't change that.
What's unfortunate is scheduling wouldn't be too difficult to fix, yet no one is screaming for the change. It's more convenient for pundits and politicians to rail against the big, bad boogeyman BCS. Why would they advocate for an easy fix that would make college football better when they have the potential of losing their platform?
The BCS isn't going away any time soon unless the government legislates a college football playoff system. And even they won't do that. They'll do what everyone else does - leave out the details, the logistics, and we'll end up with a solution put together by bureaucrats who want to make everyone happy.
In the mean time, the BCS could tweak their system to make college football better, but they're too busy worrying about public relations. When next season rolls around and fans will get treated to more body bag games. With some pressure, that could be fixed, but not if everyone keeps focusing on a problem that can't be solved.