Bring Back the BCS!

Some preliminary thoughts on the inaugural college playoff system.

college-football-playoff-2015-nike-uniforms

After an exciting few days of college football, we’re down to an Oregon-Ohio State matchup for the national championship. With my Alabama Crimson Tide eliminated, ironically from a seeming inability to play defense, I offer herewith some preliminary thoughts on the inaugural college playoff system.

1. Just in Time: Most years, the NCAA got lucky with the old BCS format. With rare exception–notably the 2004 season, when five teams, including three from major conferences went undefeated—the regular season sorted things out, making the selection of the two teams to compete for the championship fairly obvious. This year, we’d have had an absolute mess, with four highly-deserving major conference teams left on the outside looking in. Granting that Big 12 “co-champions” TCU and Baylor were still snubbed even under the current system, we’d have had a crisis with two teams that had just won championship games, likely Oregon and Ohio State, left out.

2. Ironic/Perverse Results: Relatedly, neither of the teams who’ll play for the championship this year would have been in the game under the old system. Alabama, which lost narrowly to Ohio State,  and Florida State, which was blown out by Oregon, would almost certainly have been pitted against one another. I think Alabama would have won that one, adding a fourth championship in the Saban era.

3. West Coast Bias: My only real complaint about last night’s festivities—aside from Bama’s loss—was the scheduling. There were two playoff games:  At The Rose Bowl, played in Pasadena, California pitting #2 Oregon against #3 Florida State and the Sugar Bowl, played in New Orleans pitting #1 Alabama against #4 Ohio State.  Why on earth wouldn’t you schedule the Sugar Bowl—played in the Central Time Zone and pitting two opponents from the Central Time Zone—for the 5pm Eastern/4pm local slot and the Rose Bowl—played in the Pacific Time Zone with the top seed also from that time zone—in the 9 Eastern/6 local slot instead of vice versa?  Having one of the two games end at 1 am on a work day in the Eastern Time Zone is a fiasco to begin with. But it just makes sense to at least align the schedule with the time zones in which the bulk of the host team’s fans live in.

4. SEC West: For years, the debate has raged about whether the Southeastern Conference gets too little or not enough deference by pollsters and those who decide playoff matchups. This year in particular, the SEC’s Western Division has absolutely dominated the rankings. But the conference and division suffered an epic collapse during the bowl season. After getting off to a good start with the West’s bottom teams, Arkansas and Texas A&M winning, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi, Mississippi State, and Alabama all lost.

5. Strangest Postseason in All of Sports: Whether it was the bowl system of my youth, the just-ended BCS era, or the new playoff system, major college football is the only significant American sport with a huge gap between the regular season and the postseason. It simply makes no sense for the top teams to take as much as six weeks off between their last regular season game and their bowl game. In the bygone past, the bowl games were simple exhibitions and weren’t even factored into the mythical national championship equation; the pollsters crowned a champion at the conclusion of the regular season. But that was four decades ago and the practice has continued.

Additionally, despite the emergence of a playoff system—first the one-game “playoff” of the BCS era and now the two-game playoff—the bowls remain as meaningless exhibitions to which people assign meaning.  Indeed, for some bizarre reason (okay, it’s money) there are actually still some exhibition bowl games this weekend despite the playoff being underway.  Because of this oddity, I’m not sure we can make much of the performance of the SEC West or Baylor, all of whom had great regular seasons but were flat in their bowl games. Psychologically, it simply has to be difficult to get motivated for these games, unless you’re the underdog. Alabama has been horrible in bowl games in years when they lost their bid for a national championship in the last regular season game, whether the Iron Bowl or the SEC Championship.

Relatedly, aside from the loss of momentum created by the long hiatus, it simply changes the nature of the contest. Normally, teams get a week to prepare for their opponent and have to deal with the injuries that have mounted during a grueling season. With the bowl system, it’s almost like starting a brand new season.

5. No perfect system: While I think the four-team playoff is an improvement over the BCS, which was itself an improvement over the polls-after-the-bowls system—and would prefer to see the field expand to eight teams—there’s no perfect system for crowning a national champion. This year, a six-team playoff would have been ideal.  In 2010-11, where my Alabama team beat an LSU team that had already beaten Alabama on our home field, simply crowning LSU the champion after it won the SEC Championship Game would have been the fairest system.

The NBA and NHL have the best playoff systems for choosing the best teams. A long series of best-of-seven contests eliminates flukes and ensures that the best team almost always emerges as league champion. They’re also the most tedious playoffs in all of sports.  Conversely, the NCAA basketball tournament, where 64ish teams face each other in single-elimination matches, is far and away the most exciting but also the dumbest possible way to pick a champion. Basketball is a game of streaks and flukes, so a single contest between teams tells us little.

Because it’s so physically brutal, football doesn’t lend itself to best-of series. We’re accustomed to a playoff system, so the NFL’s path to the Super Bowl, which “settles it on the field,” seems right. But that system does little to reward strong regular season performance. This weekend, for example, the 11-5 Arizona Cardinals have to face the 7-8-1 Carolina Panthers on the road as equals. But, Since the playoff is only four games, a team that’s been mediocre all season can get hot at the right time, catch a lucky break or two, and win a championship. The New York Giants have done that twice in recent years. They did so the first time by beating four teams with better records, all of whom had beaten them in the regular season. Nobody cared, though, since that was the system in place and they “won it on the field” when it mattered.

Had the BCS still been in place this year, there would rightly have been a lot of complaints about the teams that were left out. But the winner of the Alabama-FSU game would have been recognized as the rightful champions by all but the fanbases of Oregon, Ohio State, Baylor, and TCU.  This year, only the Baylor and TCU—especially TCU, given their impressive bowl performance—will have any complaint about the results.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Sports
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mu says:

    Still fighting the war of northern football aggression, I see

  2. Guarneri says:

    “This year, only the Baylor and TCU—especially TCU, given their impressive bowl performance—will have any complaint about the results.”

    And it looks like FSUs smoke and mirrors act finally got exposed. TCU should have been in, but the only way would have been to deny OSU. Anyway, it will be interesting to see if a fast gadget play team can take down a big bad NFL feeder program.

    However, who really cares? The Capitals beat the Hawks on a gd rigged TV ratings call against Toews those mf no good refs …blind mice if you ask me….just wait until the finals if the Caps get there…….

  3. James Joyner says:

    @Guarneri:

    And it looks like FSUs smoke and mirrors act finally got exposed.

    Maybe. Or maybe Oregon is just that good. Or it was a bad matchup stylewise for FSU.

    TCU should have been in, but the only way would have been to deny OSU

    TCU had the worst case of the six teams for entrance into the playoff. Baylor beat them, after all.

  4. Guarneri says:

    I don’t follow college football that closely. I’ll take your word for it. But when I saw TcU earlier this year they seemed just as good as the other day. Oregon seems better and more athletic than the Boise state model but OSO / Oregon will be about the lines. OSU is big AND fast.

    Now, about those Hawks…..

  5. rodney dill says:

    With my Alabama Crimson Tide eliminated, ironically from a seeming inability to play defense

    ….against a third string quarterback.

  6. Kevin Brown says:

    I was not surprised by any of the New Year’s games. The SEC whiners, er cheerleaders..cause the rest of the USA to laugh.

    Alabama’s Saban opens the door for Mich State’s Dantonio. The Spartans showed the right attitude of how to get past previous mistakes against a tough team. I won’t be talking for the days…no voice left.

    My prediction? Oregon 35 – OSU 21

  7. In 2010-11, where my Alabama team beat an LSU team that had already beaten Alabama on our home field, simply crowning LSU the champion after it won the SEC Championship Game would have been the fairest system.

    Nevermind giving one-loss Oklahoma State or Stanford a shot at LSU. Clearly only an SEC team could be the champion because OMG, SEC SPEED!!!!1!!!

  8. TCU, given their impressive bowl performance

    Beating up Ole Miss isn’t that impressive. The real question is how a 4 loss team managed to be ranked #9 and get into that bowl game to begin with.

    Oh that’s right, it’s more of the circular SEC is AWESOME because the play so many SEC teams joke.

    ESPN has a huge financial stake in the SEC and has been flogging the SEC superiority storyline all year, and even after the dumpster fire they had this bowl season, people are still buying it.

  9. James Joyner says:

    @rodney dill:

    ….against a third string quarterback.

    I’m not sure it matters, especially in light of 5 above. With a month to prepare as the starter, it’s not the same as, say, Texas’ quarterback going down in the 1st quarter of the 2009 championship game. And, heck, OSU had its best offensive performance of the year with this kid under center.

    @Stormy Dragon: Alabama had lost by 3 points in overtime to clearly the best team in the country in a game where it missed several easy field goals. Oklahoma State had lost a stunner against Iowa State. Stanford got stomped by two Oregon late in the season.

    @Stormy Dragon: ESPN also owns the Longhorn Network and has contracts with all the Big 5 conferences. If anything, there’s more money to be had in promoting big market teams.

  10. @Guarneri:

    TCU should have been in, but the only way would have been to deny OSU.

    I think the Big 12 was being punished for not having a clear champion. I think the playoff committee basically wants to use the conference championships as an unofficial first round of the playoffs.

    What will be interesting is how Notre Dame’s “sort of in the ACC, but not in the ACC” game plays if there’s a year where they do well but don’t play in the ACC championship game.

  11. @James Joyner:

    Alabama had lost by 3 points in overtime to clearly the best team in the country in a game where it missed several easy field goals. Oklahoma State had lost a stunner against Iowa State. Stanford got stomped by two Oregon late in the season.

    I don’t think it was clear. In any case, we’d have been much better served by pitting LSU against another conference champion, rather than giving Alabama another bite at the apple when they didn’t even win their own division.

    ESPN also owns the Longhorn Network and has contracts with all the Big 5 conferences. If anything, there’s more money to be had in promoting big market teams.

    The SEC Network revenues are orders of magnitude larger than the Longhorn Network. The SEC Network is 12% of ESPN’s revenues, and their bias toward the conference is obvious to anyone who’s not a total homer.

  12. al-Ameda says:

    Yesterday’s games were good, entertaining.

    What was clear to me was just how great a venue the Rose Bowl is, a great setting. The Superdome is a toilet, I think they should have the title game at the Rose Bowl too.

  13. wr says:

    The Rose Bowl is a day game.

    And I’m sure that ESPN would have preferred your schedule. But the Tournament of Roses has been around a lot longer than ESPN, and they and the city of Pasadena are not going to let them mess around with a century-plus ritual for the convenience of TV watchers on the East Coast.

    It’s the same way it’s still the Rose Bowl — not the Tostitos Bowl or the Mountain Dew Bowl or even the Citibank Rose Bowl.

  14. Hal_10000 says:

    I called this a few years ago. The SEC’s dominance peaked in 2008 and has been slowly eroding. The culprit is defense. When the SEC was at their best (such as in 2008, when they went 7-2 with two BCS wins and a title), they dominated because they were the only conference that played great defense. Year after year, overhyped offenses from Oklahoma or Ohio State would be stopped cold by an SEC defense.

    The last few years, that has faded. We’ve seen a lot more shootouts in the SEC as they have shifted players over to offense. As a result, they’re not the force of nature they once were. The Big 10 and especially the Pac 12 have caught up with them. In fact, the Pac 12 is probably the best conference right now.

  15. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    The SEC Network revenues are orders of magnitude larger than the Longhorn Network. The SEC Network is 12% of ESPN’s revenues, and their bias toward the conference is obvious to anyone who’s not a total homer.

    I didn’t know the brand-new network was that big a chunk of ESPN’s revenues. I don’t dispute that ESPN analysts generally think the SEC is the top football conference, easily, in the country. But I listen to and read a lot of sports commentary and that’s been the consensus view for a decade or more. I don’t think ESPN is any more SEC-enthusiastic than its competition.

    @wr: That’s a fair point. And it makes sense when it’s the Rose Bowl as Rose Bowl. Last night, though, it was just the rotating participant in the College Football Playoff. It ought to be made to get in accord with the schedule or be ousted from the rotation.

    @Hal_10000: It’s hard to say, since we have so little inter-conference play. I think the SEC is typically deeper than the other conferences and that the top teams from the SEC are typically as good as or better than any in the country. But the winning streak of the top SEC schools in the BCS system created this false sense than average or below-average SEC teams would be powerhouses in other conferences. That was just silly.

    And, yes, I think you’re right on defense. I don’t know how much of that is an erosion in the quality of SEC defenses and how much is a sea change in the landscape of college football. I think it’s mostly the latter.

    Just three years ago, Alabama was dominating teams defensively. Nick Saban was a defensive genius and Kirby Smart was his right-hand man. I don’t think Saban and Smart have gotten dumber or stopped recruiting quality defenders. But, suddenly, they’re having to win shootouts most weeks. The same has been true in the NFL even longer. Rules changes have made it much harder to defend the passing game and new offensive schemes have spread the field and defenses haven’t quite adjusted.

  16. T says:

    @James Joyner:

    they’re having to win shootouts most weeks.

    And what has Saban (I’m sorrry, SA-BEAR!) been doing? crying. bitching. moaning to get the rules changed so the offenses cant move as fast…

    and so glad that scumbag paul bryant is out of the BOT after this year, a loss in the playoffs is well deserved after the board’s shameful actions towards UAB.

  17. superdestroyer says:

    Considering that Alabama was basically playing a home game, the loss is even worse. Consdering that the SEC refuses to play a ninth conference game, refuses to schedule non-conference games against other power conferences, and refuses to travel for non-conference games, it should be easy to understand why the SEC always looks better on paper than in person.

  18. wr says:

    @James Joyner: “Last night, though, it was just the rotating participant in the College Football Playoff. It ought to be made to get in accord with the schedule or be ousted from the rotation.”

    Yeah, we went through this with the BCS, too. First time around the BCS Championship replaced the Rose Bowl game, and that pissed off enough people that when it rolled around again both were played…

  19. JeffM says:

    Why on earth wouldn’t you schedule the Sugar Bowl—played in the Central Time Zone and pitting two opponents from the Central Time Zone—for the 5pm Eastern/4pm local slot and the Rose Bowl—played in the Pacific Time Zone with the top seed also from that time zone—in the 9 Eastern/6 local slot instead of vice versa?

    FWIW, Ohio is in the Eastern Time Zone.

    Also, I think the networks saw the Ala. v. OSU game as the marquee matchup, so wanted that one in prime time.

  20. T says:

    @superdestroyer:

    and refuses to travel for non-conference games

    IIRC, Auburn traveled to Manhattan, Kansas to play K.state this season.

  21. James Joyner says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Alabama was basically playing a home game

    Not hardly. Tickets are evenly distributed among the schools and Louisiana is LSU territory, not Alabama’s.

    Consdering that the SEC refuses to play a ninth conference game

    Nick Saban has been lobbying for that for years. But I don’t see why it’s an issue.

    refuses to schedule non-conference games against other power conferences, and refuses to travel for non-conference games

    That’s not even remotely true. The SEC doesn’t mandate schools do these things but most do. Alabama has played in a neutral site game against another Big 5 conference school every year in Saban’s tenure. We started this year against West Virginia, WVU had a down year but did beat Baylor. In the past they’ve played Michigan, Clemson, Virginia Tech, and other powerhouse schools. Next year, it’s Wisconsin. LSU schedules a big game every year, too.

    it should be easy to understand why the SEC always looks better on paper than in person

    The SEC won nine national championships in the sixteen years of the BCS, spreading those wins out among five teams; Alabama (3), Florida (2), LSU (2), Tennessee, and Auburn. They lost two other games, one of which pitted two SEC teams against one another. Alabama lost a narrow one against Ohio State last night. That’s actual, on-the-field performance.

    @JeffM:

    FWIW, Ohio is in the Eastern Time Zone.

    So it is! Because it’s in the Midwest, I think Ohio is further west than it really is. That bolsters my underlying argument, though.

  22. superdestroyer says:

    @T:

    Alabama specifically refuses to travel because Saban would rather schedule Western Carolina. Mississippi st refuse to play a true road game. Ole Miss played a Boise St in Atlanta. LSU managed to travel as far as Houston, Tx for a road game against Wisconsin.

    Notice that SEC teams never get out of the south but all schedule Div I-AA (old term) teams for cupcake blow out road games.

  23. superdestroyer says:

    @James Joyner:

    Alabama is playing Wisconsin in Dallas and then plays the next three games at home. Alabama also managed to put Charleston Southern on their schedule late in the year. More SEC teams are eligible for bowl games because they play only eight conference games. If the SEC played nine conference games this year, Arkansas, Tennesse, and Florida probably would not have been eligible for cheapy bowl games.

  24. James Joyner says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Alabama specifically refuses to travel because Saban would rather schedule Western Carolina.

    Again, Alabama travels every year to a neutral site game against a big name opponent. The exception were the two years they played a home-and-away with Paterno’s Penn State.

    Notice that SEC teams never get out of the south but all schedule Div I-AA (old term) teams for cupcake blow out road games.

    I don’t like the practice, but it has nothing to do with padding the resume—it hurts, actually—but because it generates a ton of revenue. Further, it’s next to impossible to schedule big name opponents for home-and-away games, anyway, because every other conference is doing the same thing. To its credit, the Big Ten is forcing its teams to do that. I suspect it’ll be the norm at some point in the near future.

  25. superdestroyer says:

    @James Joyner:

    Alabama does not travel to road games. It schedules a game to be played in Dallas. That is not the same as playing another Power 5 school on their home field. Look at how Oregon benefitted from giving Michigan State a home-and-home series versus Alabama handpicking an opponent to play at Jerryworld in Dallas.

    I doubt if the SEC will go to nine conference games because it would be impossible for every school to have seven home games every year. I also think the way the SEC schedule conference games is stupid because it allows Alabama to avoid the best teams in the Eastern Division of the SEC.

  26. Franklin says:

    I say this in every thread about this system:

    College football doesn’t have to be like everything else. To me, it’s always been better than anything else. The 4-team playoff is enough, the only reason it wouldn’t be is if there were 5 undefeated teams, which is exceedingly rare. If you lose once and don’t make it to the playoff, that’s your own fault as far as I’m concerned. If you lose once and make it, consider yourself lucky to get a second chance.

  27. Guarneri says:

    When will people wake up and force the NFL to invest in their own farm system instead of using the nations university system? Talk about corporate welfare…………

  28. James Joyner says:

    @Guarneri: College football long preceded the NFL and had a far bigger fan following until the 1960s. While there’s a certain symbiotic relationship, the NCAA in no way does what it does for the benefit of the NFL but rather for the perceived benefit of their member institutions. There’s no sense at all in which it’s “corporate welfare.”

    Now, the various public subsidies for professional stadia and the like . . . .

  29. Pinky says:

    Meanwhile, Pitt fans experience…what Pitt fans always experience.

  30. James Joyner says:

    @Pinky: Oh, c’mon! You guys just won a championship in, what, 1976?

  31. Pinky says:

    @James Joyner: Not “us guys”. Them guys – including some bitter, bitter friends of mine. I’m afraid to call them.

  32. DC Loser says:

    That’s an interesting graphic you used. Since when was the University of Oklahoma in the top 4?

  33. James Joyner says:

    @DC Loser: Ha. I didn’t analyze it that closely, obviously. That’s odd: the other teams are right, so it’s clearly just a logo error. OU was ranked in the top 4 preseason but never once the rankings came out. And the pairings are off even for the other 3!

    I found a replacement image.

  34. Carlos says:

    Of course the thing that the old system (even before the BCS) stress better than the playoff system is that “every game counts.” You don’t want to be on the outside looking in? Don’t drop a game early in the season to a team you “should have” beat.

    Yes, the playoff system means the “hot” team, not always the “best” team wins the championship. Actually, if you had the system of “the best 2 play” along with certain requirements (like the Big 10 requiring games against other Power 5 conferences), then every game would be important. Now, it’s possible you can “play back in” (that’s always been possible, but staying undefeated was more important. That’s why teams scheduled soft opponents. Take that away, and you have something.

    Better would probably be an 8 team playoff, guaranteed slots for the Power 5, a slot for the highest ranking non-power 5 conference champ, then 2 al-large bids. I would also make a case for “relegation,” for the weakest Power 5 conference losing their automatic bid the year after and having to “play back in.”

    BTW, James, you have one piece of speculation you are missing. Had we been in a BCS type system, where there would be more computer rankings and calculations, 1-2 could have likely been FSU-Oregon, with your Tide on the outside. Just sayin. 🙂

  35. Carlos says:

    @James Joyner: The original graphic you used was set at the beginning of this season. Those were the top 4 teams. You are right, they were not when the first official rankings came out, but the graphic was used to advertise the whole system from week 1.

  36. @Carlos:

    along with certain requirements (like the Big 10 requiring games against other Power 5 conferences)

    The Big Ten played 17 games this season against teams from other Power 5 conferences:

    Big Ten: 17
    ACC: 17:
    PAC-12: 11
    SEC: 11
    Big 12: 10

  37. JohnMcC says:

    Proud alumnus (’73) can’t help himself right now:

    Wish I was down on RockyTop down in the Tennessee Hills!
    Ain’t no traffic jams on RockyTop ain’t no telephone bills.
    RockyTop you’ll always be home sweet home to me
    Good ole RockyTop WHOA! RockyTop Tennessee.

    There’s more! Anybody want me to sing a few more?

  38. Moderate Mom says:

    @T: And Ole Miss opened their season playing Boise State in Atlanta. I can’t remember the exact details, but I think in 2016 all SEC teams have to play at least one non-conference game against a Power 5 opponent. Ole Miss will open the 2016 season playing Florida State in Orlando.

  39. CB says:

    Hockey is way better than football.

    ::Briskly exits building::

  40. Guarneri says:

    @James Joyner:

    It was a wisecrack aimed at the obsession of most of your commenters. At least I didn’t succumb to the temptation to use the hackneyed “can SEC players read” jab.

  41. Brian says:

    Bring back the BCS? Bright idea. Next, let’s get rid of the NFL playoffs and have four bowl games featuring eight teams; we can call the bowls the Vince Lombardi Bowl, the George Halas Bowl, the Al Davis Bowl and the Lamar Hunt Bowl. Then we’ll poll the media and coaches and determine who the NFL champion (or champions) is (are). After all, the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl tarnish the regular season and this would make much more sense, right? (sarcasm) The two semifinal games on New Year’s Day were fantastic and the other bowls have been entertaining as well. Don’t fix something that is working well so far.

  42. Dave D says:

    @superdestroyer: Well Bama has decided to travel as far as Arlington next year to open the season off against the Badgers. So take it back that they don’t travel, that is three states away….That said in 2016 LSU will travel to Lambeau so that is a neutral site that requires the team to be out of the South.

  43. superdestroyer says:

    @Dave D:

    In 2016 LSU is still playing 7 home games, is still playing a Div I-AA (old term), and is still only playing 8 conference games. Is the SEC added a ninth conference games and stopped playing Div I-AA teams, there would be 14 more loses on their total record, the schools would not look as good and they probably would lose a little bit of their edge in recruiting. But I suspect that SEC jock sniffers always have an excuse for why the SEC cannot adopt the same policies as the other power conferences.

  44. superdestroyer says:

    @Moderate Mom:

    Ole Miss also has Memphis, Wofford, and Georgia st at home in 2016. The SEC needs to be ridiculed for still scheduling Div I-AA creampuffs. The wins against cream puffs should not be considered when evaluating the teams for rankings and bowl games. Schools should be ridiculed until they stop paying cream puffs for blow out wins. The fans should be ashamed of themselves for being shakeing down to pay to attend a game against Wofford.

    I thought ESPN could do us all a favor by refusing to report the scores or show highlights or count the person statistics of Power 5 conference Schools when they play non-Power 5 conference schools. Maybe there would not be as many NFL draft busts if everyone stopped considering the stats from creampuff games.

  45. James Joyner says:

    @Brian: The headline was a joke, in that my Alabama team would likely have won the national championship this year in the BCS format, since I think we’d have been matched up with Florida State. But, actually, yes I think the NFL system is flawed if legitimate. There’s no way a 7-8-1 Carolina team should be hosting a home playoff game while several times with losing records are excluded. There’s no way Carolina should be facing an 11-5 team as equals in a single-elimination tournament.

    @superdestroyer: Again, while I don’t like the scheduling of creampuffs, they in fact don’t help the teams out. The I-AA/FCS teams don’t count toward bowl eligibility and are looked at poorly by the selection committee. It’s why TCU went from 3rd to 6th in the final week—they were playing lowly Iowa State while everyone else was playing a conference championship game. Ohio State’s 49-0 trouncing of a good Wisconsin team catapulted them into 4th while TCU’s 55-3 shellacking of Iowa State impressed nobody. And that’s just the vagaries of scheduling; Iowa State is a I-A/FBS conference opponent.

  46. steve says:

    ” But, suddenly, they’re having to win shootouts most weeks. The same has been true in the NFL even longer. Rules changes have made it much harder to defend the passing game and new offensive schemes have spread the field and defenses haven’t quite adjusted.”

    They gave up 281 yards to the run. OSU passed better than expected with their third string QB, but everyone knew they would want to run if they could. Alabama supposedly had the best run defense in the country and got run over. That was the surprise of the game. It’s not like OSU had Melvin Gordon the backfield either, though he also ran over an SEC team.

    Steve

  47. aFloridian says:

    I guess we’ll both have to keep dreaming James, but I believe that FSU matched up better against Bama than Oregon and could have won that one. It was painful watching FSU essentially beat itself with careless turnovers, but Oregon is obviously very good and capitalized off the ‘Noles’ mistakes. I also am certain (if he stays out of trouble, which I think he will) Jameis will be a far better NFL QB than Mariota and the Bucs would be stupid not to take him #1.

    That said, whatever happens next year, as guilty as the SEC is of scheduling FCS creampuffs, and as wrongheaded the “FSU doesn’t play anyone” arguments were this year compared to highly overrated SEC West teams (even Alabama to some extent, but not as much as the others, especially the Mississippi schools) I am deeply troubled by FSU’s OOC for next year. They could go undefeated next year and I’m not sure I’d be as made at talk of leaving them out of the playoff. Texas State, USF, Chattanooga, and the Gators.

  48. @James Joyner:

    I don’t dispute that ESPN analysts generally think the SEC is the top football conference, easily, in the country.

    There’s a difference between arguing the SEC is the top conference and arguing, as Paul Finebaum did on ESPN earlier this year, that the playoff ought to be FSU and three SEC teams. ESPN’s treatment of the SEC has almost becoming the “unskewed polling” version of sports journalism.

  49. James Joyner says:

    @steve:

    They gave up 281 yards to the run. OSU passed better than expected with their third string QB, but everyone knew they would want to run if they could. Alabama supposedly had the best run defense in the country and got run over. That was the surprise of the game.

    While the “third string QB” argument isn’t compelling given an extra month of preparation, the running effectiveness was something to behold. The 85-yarder on a broken coverage skewed the numbers a bit but it was still impressive. The QB also ran very effectively. It helps that he’s bigger than most NFL running backs.

    @Stormy Dragon:

    There’s a difference between arguing the SEC is the top conference and arguing, as Paul Finebaum did on ESPN earlier this year, that the playoff ought to be FSU and three SEC teams.

    First, Finebaum is pure entertainment. Second, a lot of people were making that argument in October and early November when the SEC had half a dozen teams in the top 10. It was availability bias, not SEC bias. Nobody was seriously arguing that a second SEC team should have displaced FSU or Oregon in the top 4 and the discussion for the fourth slot was entirely around Ohio State, Baylor, and TCU.

  50. @James Joyner:

    First, Finebaum is pure entertainment.

    1.) He’s being presented as a journalist. When a journalist does a terrible job, passing it off with the “well he’s just entertainment” excuse doesn’t reflect well on either the journalist or the organization employing them.

    2.) Is there an equivalent guy bouncing around ESPN for any of the other conferences? Why not?

  51. DC Loser says:

    Hey, you’d have to be pretty naïve to not know that Finebaum’s main gig is on the SEC Network, and that’s the conference where he built his name. Anybody who watches Finebaums’s show regularly will know that there are commentators (Joey Galloway, anyone?) who regularly trashes Alabama and other SEC teams.