Don’t look now, but the BCS is delivering a remarkable season

NCAA Football: Alabama at LSU

It happens nearly every year. The evil BCS during the time from mid-October to late-November seems to be plunging us toward chaos. The worst thing that can happen in sports is an ambiguous result. It’s why we leave ties for sports like European soccer (for the most part). During the second half of the season, we always believe we’re heading towards a result where there won’t be a clear champion. And, along the way, it pretty much always works out.

Two weeks ago, we figured we would end the season with four undefeated teams. Two of them would unfairly get left out of a chance to play for the national championship, and one of those two would be the iconic brand of Notre Dame.

Now, only Notre Dame is undefeated. They are the the unanimous #1 in the latest AP poll.

Over the course of the last two months, we have seen the best that this sport has to offer. This season has been incredible both inside the SEC and out. For three straight weekends, I’ve been staring at my television screen in awe of what the world of college football was showing me. The best teams across the country were fighting tooth and nail to survive to keep a championship dream alive. The nation’s best young athletes were giving their bodies and their emotion to win games that could alter their careers.

Stop talking about a lack of a playoff. We have a playoff. It’s called the season, and it doesn’t get any better than this.

The Alabama-LSU game in Baton Rouge three Saturdays ago took our breath away. Last weekend, a speedy freshman from College Station knocked off the top team in the land while still requiring a goal line interception from his defense to secure the win. And last night, we watched the disciplined Stanford Cardinal take down the flashy Ducks in overtime in Eugene, Oregon.

Stop talking about a lack of a playoff. We have a playoff. It’s called the season, and it doesn’t get any better than this.

There’s no tougher task than going undefeated over the course of a college football season. Asking 18 and 19 year old men to be disciplined enough to prepare diligently and bring their best every week for a full three months is challenging to say the least. Preparing for a team and environment like LSU and Death Valley just to get back to work in order to prep for someone named Johnny Football days later is nightmarish.

Last year the New York Giants were sitting at 7-7 two weeks before the season ended. They went on to win the Super Bowl. That would be like Baylor getting hot from its upset of Kansas State last night to go on and win the national championship. Nonsense.

The regular season and the BCS system work hand-in-hand to deliver the best product and select the top two teams in the country to play for it all come January. The system works very well.

The media has blasted you for a decade on the evil nature of this system. When learning of the move to a 4-team playoff, ESPN’s Rick Reilly said the following:

One will play Four and Two will play Three. Are you listening? The four highest-ranked teams have a chance! That’s a 100 percent improvement on what we have now, which is dog meat!

Excellent analysis. I’m waiting for Reilly’s columns in 2015 to blast the 4-team playoff as dog meat, advocating for an 8-team playoff.

What is fascinating to me is that the anti-BCS folks think the playoff means more drama because more teams have a chance. This is incorrect. Drama is at its maximum and in more diverse forms when the regular season is the playoff. If you’ve been paying attention these last three saturdays, college football is delivering maximum drama and excitement.

Nothing creates drama like the absolute must-win nature of the college football regular season. A 4-team playoff will never replace this, but it will diminish it.

Critics to this argument tend to point to last year as an example that the regular season isn’t really must-win. If Alabama and LSU can play in a rematch, then it rendered their regular season game irrelevant. Did you watch that first game? It was absolutely must-win.

The BCS often puts a one-loss team in the BCS Championship. This doesn’t mean that some games aren’t critical. It’s the assumption that every single regular season game has to be won to get into the title that drives the drama. Every time a team loses their first game, they assume that their championship dream is over. It was that way when Alabama lost to LSU last year in the regular season, it was that way when Alabama lost last week to Texas A&M and it is that way this morning for the Oregon Ducks. You lose, you’re done…

…until another team gets upset.

This nature of the system fuels the drama. You see Alabama fans were going crazy last Saturday because they lost to Texas A&M. They then were again on full alert last night near the end of the Oregon-Stanford game knowing they might be back in the picture as a result of an upset. Same thing for Georgia fans. The structure of the BCS drives this.

Twitter was going nuclear last night because Oregon was about to have their championship run ended. It’s the equivalent of the Patriots being knocked out of the AFC playoffs. Last night was a playoff game, but even better because we don’t know which games are playoff games ahead of time. Maximum drama.

Would there be drama in the same scenario in 2014 when Oregon is essentially losing their #1 seed to drop to a likely #4 seed in the playoff? Sure, but if you think it’ll be the same, you’re nuts.

Will the 1 vs 4 and 2 vs 3 semifinal games be exciting? You bet it will be. But at what cost? I’ll tell you what cost. The last three weeks of the college football season will change from must-watch football to simply exciting football. The NFL delivers exciting football on a semi-regular basis. It’s a good product. But if you watch college football every week, you know there’s a difference. We’ve already articulated that difference. If you don’t believe it, then you have an agenda.

The 2012 season has been and continues to be simply remarkable. The excitement inside the SEC is off the charts. We legitimately have six SEC teams that could be in a BCS bowl. A 10-1 Florida team has a chance to knock off the likely ACC Champion next week. South Carolina gets a chance to knock off the likely 2nd best ACC team next week. Texas A&M is right in the thick of it and might bring a Heisman Trophy to College Station. LSU might be capable of beating anyone in the country right now. And best yet…

…The BCS looks to be giving us an SEC Championship Game with a one-loss East champ and a one-loss West champ to play for a spot in the national championship. It’s a de facto semifinal game that will rival any future semifinal game in the playoff.

The difference is the process that leads to that semifinal game.

It’s the current system that turns mere exciting football plays into legendary moments.

McCarron had to execute a legendary drive in front of 90,000 plus crazy LSU fans in order to gain that spot in the semifinal. Jarvis Jones had to strip the ball from Florida’s Jordan Reed as he hurled into the end zone at the World’s Largest Cocktail Party. This fails to mention the moments outside the SEC involving teams like Oregon, Stanford, Notre Dame, and Kansas State.

It’s the current system that turns mere exciting football plays into legendary moments. It’s the current system that turns exciting football into edge-of-your-seat, must-watch, must-win football every week for three full months. It’s the current system that causes Alabama QB AJ McCarron to burst into tears after beating LSU during week 10 of the season. Go and try to find that elsewhere. It doesn’t exist.

I love this sport. I love the system that makes this sport unique and endlessly exciting. I mourn the departure from this system and the move toward conformance with professional sports. I resent the talking heads that have made it their career’s goal to overthrow this system which will make nights like last night less exciting.

Enjoy it while it lasts, because the 2012 season is as good as it gets.

Photo Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

COMMENTS

You must be logged in to post a comment. Please sign in or register

  • Nice article. I love this system. Every game is important, unlike the NFL system, where teams can throw away some regular games. That’s not possible in the BCS system.

  • This year and last year have just been crazy. I dont know what it is about it but to me they have been better then the previous years.

  • Great article Kevin always. So true. When the system works, which it usually does, it’s the best in all of sports. Every single game is so important. Rather than just surviving the season and getting hot in the playoffs you’ve got to perform all year long. It’s like watching a movie that keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish as opposed to one with a real cool ending.
    On a personal note, I’ve been reading your articles via thedawgbone.com for a while and my dad just pointed out that you are the son of one of his best friends growing up. Too bad you’re a Gator :) Go Dawgs!

  • I don’t see it… Until last week this year has been really really blah, one of the more boring years.

  • So what happens when you have three unbeaten teams like you did in 03 when Auburn didn’t get a chance to play for the title? The only reason they didn’t play was because OU and USC started out #1 and #2 in the preseason rankings and never dropped a game. Auburn had a magnificent team that year in Jason Campbell, Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams but they never got the chance to prove it. Do you still think that it’s the perfect system that you say it is?

    • It’s not a perfect system. I just think it’s the best. And the benefits far outweight the once a decade situation where there are too many undefeateds.

      • The question that’s most important is whether a 2 team playoff is better than a four team playoff. We already have a system that matches teams in “seeded” final where they spend the entire season playing for a seed. I would argue that including 2 additional “worthy” teams is better than whatever minor dilution of the games toward the end of the season with 4 vs. 2 in the playoffs.

        As it is, During the last few weeks of the season, there are relatively few games that matter for the national championship in the status quo. That wouldn’t change all that much with four teams in the playoffs. Consider yesterday’s games that mattered: Bama v. Auburn ; GA v. GT, and ND v. USC. All three of those games continue to matter in a four team playoff because a loss by any one of those teams would endanger their ranking in the top four (Or whatever system will determine who plays in the game.) I’ll grant you that ND-USC would have been somewhat diminished, as ND could probably have stayed in the top 4, but that too is a relatively rarity.

        I’m not going to make the case for four teams for the playoffs based on the years with three undefeated teams. Instead consider the SEC self interest: In a conference that rarely churns out undefeated champions, I’m a lot more worried about the selection process getting the right one loss team than having too many undefeated teams.