Posted: Monday October 24, 2005 8:28PM; Updated: Tuesday October 25, 2005 8:59AM
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And here I suspect that I am one of the very few folks interested in college football (with the provision that I have nothing to gain financially from the incumbent system -- maddening as it sometimes can be) who opposes a playoff.
Now, before you fire off that irate e-mail, let me attempt to head off your arguments at the pass:
I want to see a playoff because I want to see the two best teams play each other for the national championship.
Since '92, when the Bowl Alliance that would later beget the Bowl Coalition that eventually begat the Bowl Championship Series began, a bowl game has featured a No. 1 versus No. 2 (these and all rankings that will follow are from the Associated Press poll) matchup seven of a possible 13 times. That's roughly 54 percent of the time.
Now, let's assess NCAA basketball, which unlike college football, attaches a cool, alliterative nickname (March Madness is so less buttoned-up than Bowl Championship Series) to its method of determining a champion. In those same 13 years, a No. 1 versus No. 2 in the final has happened ... once. That was last March, when No. 2 North Carolina beat No. 1 Illinois.
And that was just the first time in 30 years that March Madness delivered a 1-2 punch in its Monday night finale. Not that anyone complained.
You're throwing numbers at me. I just want to see the two best teams settle it on the field.
And who are the two best teams? Last year, for example, a lot of people thought that Auburn, which finished 12-0, got jobbed by not being invited to play in the BCS Championship Game (Oklahoma and USC, also both 12-0, had that honor).
So let's say Auburn would have played USC instead of Oklahoma, and let's say the Tigers won. Now, you and I have watched a ton of college football in our day. Are you going to tell me that there's no chance that if Oklahoma were to have played Auburn that the Sooners would have won?
College football is not the transitive property of addition. It is not Penn State beat Minnesota and Minnesota beat Michigan, therefore Penn State will defeat Michigan (just ask anyone in Happy Valley).
So when you say, I just want to see the two best teams settle it on the field, I'll be happy to go along with you as soon as there's a foolproof manner of determining that.
Say, for instance, we decided last year that Auburn and Oklahoma and USC were all too worthy not to be invited to the party. So, to keep it a couples' event, we invite Texas (whose only loss was to Oklahoma) as well. Now we got ourselves a Football Final Four.
Auburn plays Oklahoma.
USC plays Texas.
The winners meet for the national title.
The Sooners win. So do the Longhorns. And in the final Texas beats Oklahoma.
So Texas is the national champion, because the Longhorns won it on the field? But isn't that what the Sooners did against the Longhorns three months earlier?
It's like this: I'm going to have turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing with brown gravy and cranberry sauce for dinner this Thursday. I'll eat the same meal four Thursdays from now and they'll call it Thanksgiving. But it's still turkey and mashed potatoes and stuffing ...
Every other sport determines its national champion with a playoff.
So do we. I know it sounds cliché, but it is true; the season is the playoff. When Ohio State beat Michigan State two Saturdays ago, the Buckeyes eliminated the Spartans from national championship contention as surely as North Carolina did its hoops schoolmates in the Final Four last March.
Did you ever stop to think that it's the very absence of an official playoff that makes these September and October games so thrilling? That every Saturday in autumn is March Madness? That MattLeinart's fourth-down toss to Dwayne Jarrett, though it technically occurred in midseason, was no less imperative to USC's championship quest than GrantHill's toss to Christian Laettner once was for Duke?