Saturday, November 11, 2006

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

How About, Theoretically, A System That's Actually Fair, Instead?

With apologies to Jason, the problem is that college football has too much scope in team play to justify using 1s and 0s. Pure wins work in the NFL, because (most) everyone plays everyone and you have equalitive tiebreakers like division and conference records. Those simply do not exist in College Football. Some conferences have championships, others don't. Some have more teams than others. And consistently, each year there are conferences that are leaps and bounds better than others. In the NFL, the AFC South may be much weaker than the NFC West, but there's still a prayer for the Jaguars and Texans. Such is not the case with the weaker teams in inferior conferences.

When we first breached this topic, our problems were the same as have been stated before. You've got a team that goes undefeated (Boise State) and therefore, obviously, they should get to play in the BCS. But wait, they've played absolutely no one of any consequence, no one with even a pulse, hardly. How can they be selected over teams with one or two losses to top 10 teams?

The SEC is clearly the toughest conference in the land this year. Arkansas, Florida, Auburn, Tennessee, LSU. When Georgia, Alabama, and upstart Vandy are your weakspots, you know it's a tough place to win football games. Those are obviously tougher games than the ones in Big East, even with West Virginia, Louisville, and Rutgers. Or are they?

That's the problem. There's no way of knowing. On top of that, if the Big East is that hard of a conference, it should have a way of not getting screwed by playing each other, considering how unbelievably soft the Big 12 is this year.

And, as usual, don't even get me started on the Pac 10.

But wait, let's start with the Pac 10.

I kept thinking to myself that the Pac 10 kept getting the rub from the polls no matter how soft their defenses were, no matter how small their receivers were. The thorn in that argument was USC. Dominant, overbearing, juggernaut USC. I thought to myself "Why don't we just put USC in a separate conference of its own?"

Hey!

I started formulating an idea for a conference comprised of the best teams in the counry, those that stood apart from their brethren in conference play. A chance to not make the process necessarily easier or simpler, but not convoluted and that produced a clear winner. I didn't just want a way to establish the best team, but a way to add intrigue to the system that didn't make watercooler pundits around the country want to vomit.

I propose the formation of the All-American Championship Conference (AACC). This conference would solve many of the problems of the current BCS championship, in effect, providing a season to season playoff in the form of the regular season. It would be comprised of:

A. One Representative from each of the "Big Six" conferences (ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 10, SEC) as voted by a committee. The committees would be comprised for each of the six conferences of AP writers and coaches (six and six, with conference commissioners having tiebreaker responsibilities). Membership would rotate every two years for coaches, and be voted on by AP writers every two years.

B. Two wild card teams voted in by the entirety of the AACC voters.

Unlike Jason, I feel teams should not be dropped from the ranks of conferences based on their record. Conference rivalries need to be maintained, as does a certain amount of strength in the conferences. Besides, there's something comforting in knowing Duke football will always be crappy, and will be forced to play the ACC power teams every year.

The AACC conference is in effect, a regular season playoff. Each team retains membership in their respective conference, and retain one (2) regular conference games, but the rest of their conference play is replaced with AACC conference play. They are inelligible for conference championships while retaining membership. They are allowed to schedule the same amount of non-conference games as they did before. So the alumni still get to see their favorite team annihilate Southwestern Mississippi Tech State. Then, however, they are required to play the other teams in the AACC. This of course, creates an obscenely difficult schedule, but gaurantess huge money for the AACC participants, as well as the conference of the winning team, which would receive a portion of the money. If a Wild Card were to win, it would receive the total sum.

The wild card entries would be any Division I team elligible for bowl play. The National Championship Bowl would be decided by the two best teams in the AACC based on overall record, with head-to head as tiebreaker. The Current BCS bowls would be elligible to select from the AACC and outside. Only AACC reprentatives are elligible for the national championship bowl. Each year, the committees vote on their representatives and the wild cards. Polls would then vote on non-AACC members, to help with the selection of AACC representatives the following year. There would be no term-limit on AACC membership.

So, in layman's terms. Here's a scenario for you, heading into next year (assuming Ohio State wins National Championship, which is far from decided).

AACC Conference Representatives:
ACC: Wake Forest
Big 10: Ohio State
Big 12: University of Texas
Big East: Rutgers
Pacific 10: USC
SEC: Florida
Wild Card 1: Notre Dame
Wild Card 2: Boise State


So, next year, you would have these teams face each other, with the best two teams playing in the AACC Championship. From a financial standpoint, what's going to make more money, Texas vs. Kansas State in an off year, or Texas vs. Florida?

Here's a simulated Texas Schedule for next season (regardless of what they are currently contractually obligated to). AACC games marked by *.

Sam Houston State
Rice
New Mexico State
Louisian-Monroe
Rutgers*
Florida*
Oklahoma
Boise State*
Wake Forest*
USC*
Ohio State*
Texas A&M


Wowza. If Texas went undefeated through that schedule, would there be any doubt they deserve to play in the National Title Game? Any? Texas gets to still play A&M and the Red River Shootout (or replace those games if they become meaningless in the future).

Now, let's take a look at how the voting would work. Let's do a theoretical Florida schedule first.

UCF W 42-14
Florida State W 28-10
Southern Miss W 38-6
Western Carolina W 42-7
Tennessee L 17-14
Texas L 35-10
Ohio State L 28-13
Georgia W 24-14
Rutgers W 31-20
Notre Dame: L 16-3
Wake Forest W 21-17
Boise State L 38-35


And back in SEC land, Tenn goes undefeated, including win over AACC rep Florida, and wins the SEC title. So after the '07 season, you have florida at 7-5, and Tenn at 13-0. So the SEC voters replace Florida with Tenn, and Tenn is in the AACC for the following year. Notre Dame is not given any conractual automatic bids. If they finish 11-1, but there are two other teams that are 11-1 and the voters feel they are more worthy, they go and Notre Dame has to go back and try to get in the following year.

Advantages of this system:
1. A clear national champion. Even if a non-AACC team went undefeated, they would not have proved themselves like the AACC champion would have. If a team wins the AACC by going 8-4, they will still have played ten times the schedule of Tenn, even with the hard as nails SEC schedule.
2. Exciting title games. Imagine if Texas goes 11-1 (5-1 in AACC play) and Ohio State goes 11-1 (5-1 in AACC play) and they didn't play each other? And even if a non-traditional major conference team was repping in the AACC, it would make for a great story. Imagine Oregon State making the AACC title game as a wild card, playing USC? Or how about Boise State getting to finally make it's case versus a juggernaut like Texas?
3. Keeps debate high. The polls are still in use and help the voters determine who should be voted in the following year. The system makes it pretty easy to figure out who deserves to go and who doesn't. Right now, let's say that Florida's one loss this season was to Georgia, a HUGE rival, and not to Auburn. They would have no chance to make the title game on account of their one loss to a bad team. But if they were in the AACC, and went 11-1 with their one loss to Georgia, they'd still be in the hunt, and most likely in the title game, and have earned it. It helps figure out what games were flukes and what games were legitimate defeats. Also, the wild card makes for fascinating debate. Who deserves the Wild Card, a 2 loss SEC team that finished strong or an undefeated non-major with a cupcake schedule that creamed everyone, including their major conference bowl opponent? Good times for the sports writers.
4. While separating teams from conferences, it keeps conference pride high. You're playing for a chance to rep your conference in the AACC. If you win, your conference reaps the benefits. Knocking off the AACC rep in a regular conference game is of HUGE , rush the field importance.
5. Gives teams that were left out of the title race for non AACC membership a chance to prove it. So, let's say you're a recovering Miami Hurricanes team. And you ripped through the ACC, went undefeated, won the ACC championship game, but didn't happen to be scheduled against AACC rep Georgia Tech. However, the Rose Bowl committee considered your team to be so impressive, it selected you for the Rose Bowl against USC, who you crush. You may not have made the national championship, but next season, you're a lock to either get the conference rep spot or a wild card.
6. Doesn't screw power conferences. The wild card means that if both Auburn and Florida go through a tough as nails SEC conference with only one loss, and the AACC rep and one of the wild cards go 6 wins or worse, there's a good chance that both of those SEC teams will be in the AACC the following year.
7. Keeps the rivalries alive. The two conference games are maintained to ensure that Ohio State-Michigan still happens, the Red River Shootout still gets shot, and the Iron Bowl is still in effect. It ups the stakes, really, because if Auburn is in a three way tie for 2nd in the AACC going into the Iron Bowl, how much would Alabama love to spoil their chances, while improving their shot at a bowl. The upsets are still there, and mean more than ever.
8. Let's see how you do against the big boys. There may come a time when the Pac 10 just is stacked with solid, tough, high scoring, defensively monstrous football teams. Until that time comes, I would LOVE to see them play teams like Texas, Auburn, and Ohio State every year. It would help sort out the polls as well, since the Pac 10 teams have been skating by a lot of recent years based on the strength of their juggernaut USC.
9.It lets good teams in bad conferences succeed. On the flip side, if USC is that good, and they come from a crappy conference, they still deserve to show how good they are. If their conference sucks, but they run to a one or two loss season in the AACC, they've clearly shown they deserve to be there, even if the rest of their conference doesn't.
10.One good year is not enough. This promotes long term success, versus getting lucky in a handful of games and having a weak schedule. What if Oregon had won the Pac 10 this year, with that Oklahoma game on their record? Voters would be able to make a decision with those kinds of things in effect. This allows for the circumstances surrounding a season to be upheld.

Qustions:
1. It creates an "upper class" to college football. Outside of the 8, all other teams in the country have no hope for a national championship. It prevents the cinderella teams and the teams that have played their hearts out from even being able to dream of a national championship. How can a system be fair if a team goes undefeated in the SEC and doesn't play in the National Championship?

Response: So, if Arkansas goes undefeated in the SEC, having beaten Florida, Auburn, Tennessee and having only one loss in the first game of the season against a much-better-then USC, and they don't have any hope of a national championship, how is it any different? The current system leaves teams out. This at least applauds them for their season, and allows them into the mix the following season, and they still get the BCS bowl and BCS money. The only difference is Arkansas wouldn't have to worry about starting off at no. 25 the following season. Let's be clear. The current system only allows a certain number of teams to have a shot. At least this way, Boise State won't have to have the same thing happen to them year after year.

2. How will the non-AACC teams be able to compete in recruiting, if the AACC teams can gaurantee they'll be in contention for a national championship the next season?

Response: If you're a freshman, you don't care what happens your freshman or junior years, because you're more than likely not starting. You still care about the long term health of the program. Sure, USC would be able to say they were contending for a title the very next year, but Cal would be able to respond with "We have a great history at your position (QB), we're going to win the PAC 10 next year undoubtedly, and we'll be in line for AACC membership just as you're entering your Junior year. Plus, it gives them an easier schedule to prepare for the big time.

3. The schedule will KILL the kids. The injuries will be immense.

Response: This is the cost of a playoff. And if you ask the athletes what they would rather do, protect themselves from injury versus major teams and get little or no exposure, or be able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt how good they are in major games week after week, you know what the competitors will say.

4. What happens if the AACC teams are all crappy?

Response: This is highly unlikely, considering even when there are many good teams, one or two teams always separate themselves from the flock. The SEC is a good example of this. And when most of the teams are shitty, the best always shine brighter. The Big 12 is a good example of this. Even if all the ACC went 6-6 (3-3 in AACC play, impossible given the schedules), all you'd have is the best teams all playing at the same level. And it would make for some intense tiebreaker scenarios. Plus, if they were all that bad, the next year they would get flushed and you'd have a whole new slew of AACC members.

5. It eliminates all the hard work of a good year.

Response: No, it just demands that you validate a good year with a great year. Any inferior team can go on a tear. That doesn't mean they're among the best teams in the country. Plus, it means that one loss is no longer the death of your hopes. West Virginia with a very talented team went from title contender to afterthought after one loss to a very good Louisville team. How good are they, especially considering the Louisville loss to Rutgers? There's no way of knowing. But it's gauranteed that WVU would have gotten the Big East bid this year. Then they would have played in the AACC, and even if they had lost to Louisville in their representative conference game, they would have still been in contention for the title. If WVU had lost to Louisville, but beaten Texas, Notre Dame, Boise State, USC, Florida State and Florida, don't you think they deserve a crack at OSU?

6. It will hurt smaller rivalry games.

Response: Not likely. Most teams have two good rivalries, and those will be the two conference games. But all it does for the lesser rivalries is build the bad blood and momentum. Let's take Arkansas vs. LSU as an example. Say LSU goes on a 3 year span of repping the SEC in the AACC. Their conference games are spent on Florida and Auburn, both because of the rivalry, and because of the money. Now, three years down the line, another SEC team knocks off LSU, but just barely. Now LSU is trying to get back into the AACC, and they have to play Arkansas, who's building it's own case for the AACC, and they've been waiting three years to get their hands back on LSU, who kept them out three years ago. Texas vs. Arkansas is a huge rivalry, and they're not even in the same conference, and they've only played a dozen times. Rivalries don't fizzle out, they just build up steam. On the other hand, you've also got new rivalries being formed. OSU and Texas are in the AACC for four straight years, playing each other 3 out of the four years, twice in the title game. How much fun would that kind of hatred between juggernauts be? It'd be like moving the Patriots into the AFC South for four years.

7. What about the Heisman? Isn't that going to be hard?

Response: Do we care about the game, or do we care about the award. Allright. The best players show up in big games. If Troy Smith had played ehhhh against Texas and played eehhhh against Michigan, would we give him the Heisman over Brady Quinn who was lights out versus USC and Cal? A Heisman should not be decided over I-AA teams.

8. Oh, God, what if Notre Dame wasn't in consideration? Oh, God!

Response: Calm down, Domers. The Wild Card virtually assures that as long as you schedule your share of tough opponents, you have a great shot at the AACC every year. Beating Michigan, USC, and Cal means you're going to a BCS bowl, and it would be near impossible to deny Notre Dame over a second "Big Six" school or lil' Boise State. However, if you get creamed in the AACC...

9. Wouldn't this make every conference championship pointless?

Response: Far from it. It's actually an impovement from how it is now. Currently, you don't need to win your conference championship or even play in it to be considered for the big dances (hello, Auburn.). Under this system, carrying that conference championship banner would take you a long way in getting the voters to vote you in and your struggling representative out. If a Republican an election by only 4%, and going into the next campaign the Democrat wins his Primary by 35%, that's a pretty strong statement, no? Apples and organges, but you get my drift. You're trying to build a case for the voters as to why you deserve your rival's spot. Winning that conference championship can make or break that case.

10. What if it doesn't work?

Response: What, like it's working now?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Since a playoff is simply too logical

With Boise State poised to go undefeated yet shut out of the national title picture, many fans will wonder what might have been. Would they still be undefeated if they played in a BCS conference? Would they even be bowl eligible? As long as they stay in the WAC they'll never get a fair shot, so why not let them into a BCS bowl? Hell, why not let any team that wins its "lesser" conference move into a BCS conference the next year to prove their mettle? It works for soccer.

With apologies to Matt, here's my idea - you'll probably get his take as soon as he reads this, anyway. Start with stratifying the conferences in I-A: the six BCS conferences are the top tier, then the WAC, MAC, Mountain West, Sun Belt, and C-USA as the second tier. The conference champion of each of the lesser conferences and a wild card team go to a BCS conference the next year and the bottom team from each BCS conference goes to a lesser conference.

It doesn't solve the problem of one conference being stacked while another doesn't deserve a BCS bid (cough:ACC:cough). I'll let Matt give his two cents on it first.