Around the Watercooler - Playoff

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Established October 31, 1996
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Last updated: 05/28/2012 5:12 PM
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Around The-Ozone Watercooler: Do you agree with Big Ten athletic directors desire to use the BCS bowls in a four-team playoff, ?
By the-Ozone Staff

Change is coming in 2014 with a likely college football playoff, which means we have quite a bit to talk about and quite a bit of time in which to talk about it.

In other words, I think we're gonna need a bigger watercooler.

A college football playoff is one of the top-ten watercooler topics in sports, provided you don't live in the east or the west. Often times the topic is avoided altogether because productivity is reduced to nil and the fist fights are generally bad for office morale.

But there are no such dangers at our watercooler because we are surprisingly civil to one another, and our discussions actually turn into productivity. It's sort of like a perpetual motion machine. We are essentially Big Oil's greatest fear.

Tony Gerdeman – I had long been in favor of playoff games being played at home sites, and when Jim Delany came out in favor of it as well, I was excited. However, the more I thought about it, the more it became a “be careful what you wish for” type of scenario.

Obviously, 97% of the people reading this would love to see a semifinal game played in Ohio Stadium, but you also have to ask yourself, would you rather play a semifinal game against Alabama in Tempe or Tuscaloosa?

Yes, we would all love to see SEC teams come up north and play. Even Urban Meyer said it would essentially be an unfair advantage, but in the last ten years, the Big Ten would have hosted a total of three semifinal games. The SEC? Seven.

In reality, this wouldn't be an advantage for the Big Ten as much as it would be further advantage for the SEC. Now, if the Big Ten had better teams in it, sure I'd side with home semifinals, but how many teams do you see in this conference vying for the top two in the BCS ratings year in and year out? You can count them on your right thumb.

So then, the other option is simply to use the BCS bowls, which I am completely on board with. Don't get me wrong, I don't buy Gene Smith's line about on-campus stadiums not being able to handle one playoff game, or hotels not being able to house these people. They somehow manage to do it a half-dozen times per year, so I'm not sure why they wouldn't be able to do it once more. But the BCS bowls do provide great golf venues, so it's understandable to see why the athletic directors love them so much.

I'm also with Delany when it comes to the method to choose the four teams. He has suggested a hybrid model of conference champs plus BCS (or whichever agreed upon system) rating. Basically, I'd be okay with an at large team getting in provided that they are ranked in the top four. I'd be in favor of more than one getting in provided there are no conference champs in the top six to fill the slots.

No slots should be guaranteed. Conference champs get picked first, and then at large teams after that. If conference champs fill the top four spots, then hooray for them.

While I don't think you need to be a conference champ to make the playoff, if a conference has divisions, I absolutely believe a team should at least be a division champ. If a team isn't a division champ, then they had an easier conference road than the division champs, and that's not fair to the two teams that just faced off in the conference championship game.

Conference championship games are voluntary and come with inherent risks. Those risks should come at a price.

Brandon Castel – Even if I agree with the Big Ten athletic directors that college football is better off using the current bowl system in place as the framework for a four-team playoff, I cannot imagine what they had to gain by publicly supporting it.

The one major issue of inequality throughout the years has the been the fact many southern and western teams get the advantage of playing important bowl games in their own backyard. How many times did Woody Hayes take a team to the Rose Bowl, only to play USC or UCLA?

Even Ohio State’s most recent trip to Pasadena paired them with an Oregon team that is only a 14-hour drive from Los Angeles. The loss to Florida in the BCS National Title game was out in Arizona, but their loss to LSU the next year came at the Superdome in New Orleans.

It hardly seems fair. If the NCAA is really looking to find the best four teams in college football every year, and then pair them in a winner-take-all tournament, they need to start with making sure all four teams are getting an equal chance.

That’s why on-campus sites seem to make the most sense. If Ohio State is the clear-cut No. 1 team in the country during the regular season, why shouldn’t they get a chance to host a semifinal game at Ohio Stadium rather than playing LSU in the Sugar Bowl or USC in the Rose Bowl.

They may not be home venues for those schools, but it’s a lot easier for them to fill up the stadiums, not just with fans, but with energy. That does make a difference. The only real problem with having on-campus sites for the playoff is that it could create serious seating issues.

If schools like Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan are hosting semifinal games, they could easily make it work with the size of their stadiums. Even a school like Wisconsin, which can hold 80,000+ at Camp Randall Stadium could host a game of that magnitude, though almost seems unfair to make any team play outdoors in Wisconsin in December.

It seems unlikely, but what if a team like Purdue or Northwestern were to sneak into that 4-team playoff as a host site? It’s not going to happen any time soon, but not many people saw Utah cracking the BCS back in 2004 either.

Personally, I think the Big Ten athletic directors should have kept their opinions to themselves so they could offer the on-campus sites as a trade-off to keep from having to face teams like Miami in the Orange Bowl.

Ultimately, however, I enjoy the pageantry, history and importance of the major bowls, and I think there is something to be said for having a neutral site host such an important event.

Only if it truly is neutral.

Ben Axelrod – I know in this day and age that it’s popular to rip Gene Smith and NCAA figureheads over just about anything, but I personally don’t see what the big deal is about using the current BCS bowl system as a four team playoff to determine a national champion. In fact, even from a pro-Ohio State perspective, I think that it makes sense.

I’m aware that just about every Big Ten fan is obsessed with forcing SEC teams to travel north to play in cold weather playoff games, but using home sites as hosts for these playoff games far from guarantees that.

In fact, given the SEC’s recent dominance, it’s more likely that home playoff sites would force the Buckeyes or Wolverines to travel down south to Tuscaloosa or Baton Rouge to play in an away game, rather than a home or neutral site game. And while I’m well aware of the “what fan base is going to travel twice in two weeks?” argument against using the bowl system as a playoff, if any fan base was going to do it, wouldn’t it be the one that just drew 80,000 people to its spring game?

There’s really no good way to choose just four teams to play in a playoff. If you use the BCS standings, that leaves the process open to criticisms it’s faced over the past decade. If you use conference champions from the Big Ten, Big 12, PAC 12, andSEC, you’re eliminating the mid-majors’ shot at a national title, which is what got the cry for a playoff started in the first place. And if you use a selection committee, you’re going to be open to the same criticisms that the basketball selection committee faces, only it will be multiplied given the value of the four playoff spots.

When it comes to determining the four teams who should play in the four-team playoff, your idea is as good as mine. The fact of the matter is, that instead of arguing over which third place team got screwed out of a shot at the national title, we’ll be spending at least the next few years arguing over which fifth place team got screwed out of a shot at the national title. That’s progress, but is it really enough?

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