Friday, November 26, 2010

Defending the BCS

Sorry DirkNation, I've been slacking in the write-ups, especially for this time of year. Dirkness likes to get out and boogie though, and this Thanksgiving week was the perfect opportunity to do so. Combine that with the fact there was little to say about the Chiefs beatdown of Arizona and here we are. In the meantime, enjoy this article I wrote over at Husker Corner defending the BCS. Yes, you heard that right.

A Sonic-Sized Defense of the BCS (yes, I sold out)

I'm about to take a very unpopular stance on a very prevalent topic in today's world of sports. This activity, unconventional wisdom if you will, is one of my favorite pastimes. I call it my fight against "mothoughtony." After all, conformity is for the weak. But, here goes…

I think the BCS is great. Yep, go ahead and let that soak in for a minute.

We live in a society of discontentment that believes constant complaining is the best way to improve our existence. I'm here to set everybody straight.

I'll start with the most common argument against the BCS, which doubles as the biggest fallacy against the much-maligned system: The BCS is unfair.

First off, an example of what's truly unfair: A team that goes 32-2 in the regular season, yet whose season is ultimately considered a disappointment and a failure, because of one loss. This is exactly what happened to the 2009-10 University of Kansas Basketball team.

Yet, nobody complains about how "unfair" College Basketball is. Sorry Jayhawks fans, but nothing you accomplished during the regular season mattered because your entire season is judged by what you do in the NCAA Tournament.

I've never understood why College Football receives so much ridicule on this topic, while other league's structures are, at best, equally as inept. It's been widely accepted that going all out in the NBA regular season actually hurts your chances in the playoffs, while the College Basketball regular season is even more meaningless. Your team's season can go down in three games after playing a 162 game marathon of a season in the MLB. The NFL? Well, they got some things figured out.

College Football boasts the best regular season of any sport. The implementation of a playoff, which is what most BCS haters want, takes that fact away. Suddenly, big games lack meaning, because a loss wouldn't kill a team's chances at winning it all, a fact that I believe to be underrated in most people's minds. A big upset, while fun for the day, might not have a lasting impact on the season. These are points that shortsighted BCS-haters fail to realize.

I'm not saying a playoff wouldn't be incredibly entertaining because it most definitely would, but it would have just as many problems as the BCS. Include too few teams and someone would be wrongfully excluded just as they are now. Include too many teams and the regular season loses its zest. You will never satisfy everybody.

The absolute beauty of College Football is that you cannot take a week off. Your season could go up in smoke on any given Saturday. Every week is do or die.

For this reason, I cannot ever support putting a Boise St, TCU, or Utah in the National Championship game. They cannot possibly face the same rigors week in and week out as a BCS conference team, making it unfair to the teams that have to face that. And if they want an invite to the big party, they need to do everything in their power to join a BCS conference. I'm sure they'd be happy to have them (after all, the Pac-10 wanted Colorado).

Structurally speaking, College Football is built very differently from all other sports, and is the polar opposite of College Basketball. And that's great. Why do we need all of our sports to be constructed the same way? Variety creates balance.

Now I want to make it very clear that I don't believe College Football, or the BCS, is flawless by any means. There are many problems within the game, but the BCS shouldn't top that list.

Preseason polls are based off nothing more than expectations, yet can easily shape the season's outcome. If a BCS team goes undefeated, they will get to the National Championship Game, with one notable exception (more on that in a bit).

However, if it comes down to numerous teams with one loss, the team starting out the season ranked highest in the preseason polls is the most likely to be selected.

This becomes an even bigger problem when voters use what they call "slotting," which basically means they will not drop a team in the rankings for winning. This makes the preseason polls overly critical. While the problems with the BCS are discussed insurmountably more, the incompetence of the human voting process is a much larger problem in College Football.

Other problems that I would aim to fix before taking down the whole BCS system: The amount of time off from regular season to the BCS bowl games (makes games very sloppy, kills momentum), the inconsistency of conference championship games across the nation (an extra game that is oftentimes the toughest of the season creates an unfair advantage for conferences with the extra affair), and too many bowl games (which encourages teams to schedule soft non-conference games).

The one black eye with the BCS that I cannot justifiably defend occurred in the 2004 season. The Auburn Tigers went undefeated but were left out of the National Championship Game for undefeated Oklahoma and USC teams. This is a very rare feat, and has yet to repeat itself (excluding Cincinnati from the ultra-weak Big East in 2009). Auburn remains the one team to be truly jobbed by the BCS.

Every other year the BCS has accomplished exactly what it was designed to do.

The BCS was implemented to unite the elite conferences, and to take human bias out of the equation in deciding who plays for the National Championship. When humans didn't want to decide between two contending teams, the BCS would. Wrongly considered failure, that is the BCS's sole purpose.

Before the BCS, the top two teams weren't even guaranteed to meet in a National Championship Game. In fact, with conference bowl ties, the top two teams rarely squared off in bowl games. This led to #1 teams playing teams outside the top 10 to conclude their season and wrap up a National Championship. Talk about unfair. There were also multiple years that saw the National Champion designation split between two teams (occurring in 1990, 91, and 97).

So remember the next time you're watching a big game in October, about how the circumstances would change with a playoff system in place. Think about how the loser of that game wouldn't be out of the race for the prize. Think about how that stunning upset earlier in the day did little to change the final outcome of the season. Think about how dominant the NFL would become over College Football, and whether it would remain as relevant, or if it would be relegated to little-brother-status instead. And then ask yourself….

Do you still hate the BCS?

His Dirkness

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