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Carroll: Give Me a Playoff or Give Me Death Another Shot at Stanford, Please.

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Regular readers know that if SMQ has a loosely-defined crusade to justify lobbing virtual Molotov cocktails, it is for a playoff and against the BCS cartel, against which no opportunities should be wasted, no allies turned away. So, in the spirit of la Résistance, welcome to the fight, Pete Carroll:

It looks to me like the BCS system is one that, at the end of the process, designates the team that had the most attractive season based on who they played and what their record is at the end and all of those things that you add up. In my opinion it does not have anything to say about who the best team is at the end of the year, meaning that, who would be the team that would win if you had a playoff, and who's playing the best football?

I'm not saying that's us. But there are teams out there - and we'e one of them - that could arguably be able to beat any team in America when the time comes...We're playing the game to see how far we go and how far we can take it.
[...]
The only way you get it perfect is to play 'em off...There's a lot of time in between these bowl games, you know, and when the season ends. there's a lot of time we wait to play games. There's a few weeks in there now. We could do some playing there, still play some games and then have bowl games.

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(HT: L.A. Times "All Things Trojan" blogger Adam Rose)


Carroll reacts to the BCS: Give ‘em hell, Pete.
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Carroll is a little scattershot here, off the cuff (you would be too, at a short press conference), but touches very briefly on a couple issues we've churned over here for a couple years now, I guess, namely the idea that the "best team" is only the one that survives a bracket with clear, onjective on-field criteria (win and advance) that puts teams on the same plane without arbitrarily hashing out schedule strength and other trivia that could be "settled on the field," to use the cliché. The BCS, because it's comparing lab tests of the chemical makeup of one apple to lab tests of another apple to determine the best one instead of actually tasting them, has no choice but to base its decisions on "all those things that you add up," which is why as long as polls are a factor I will always argue a team is its resumé, and that's all it is; the "most attractive season" is the only possible criteria. Not so the playoff: the resumé gets you in the door, but on level ground, a championship can't be voted. It has to be won. A playoff appeals to Carroll's ingrained competitiveness, and I think he's right.

Mergz at Saurian Sagacity is also right that the Trojans are not playing the best football in America at the moment, having won close games over mediocre opponents Oregon State and Cal before finally, satisfactorily pounding suspicious frontrunner Arizona State last week, and any projections of the grandeur all foresaw at the beginning of the season to majestically unfurl at the end (apparently Kirk Herbstreit falls into this category) are severely premature, and wholly inadequate for atoning for SC's earlier defeat to Stanford, which is every bit as damaging now as it looked at the time. If there is a solid argument against a tournament, that's it: should a team that somehow managed to lose to the last place team in its conference have a chance to re-emerge as a national champion? Pete Carroll obviously thinks so, and if push comes to shove, so do I, given the current alternative. Plowing through the rest of the conference and then a top-tier three or four-game playoff bracket is a hell of an act of penance.

When he starts talking about being "able to beat any team in America when the time comes," though, he should remember that the ability to beat any team and the ability to lose to any team are not mutually exclusive. "The best" is a fleeting concept.