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Quick Responses to a Four-Day Old ESPN Article About Playoffs

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Last Friday, less than an hour after the Leader posted a story under the headline "JoePa: 'Bogus excuses' for lack of college playoff," it followed with a helpful review by Mark Schlabach dedicated to enumerating every one of said excuses. Here I'm glad to stand behind the obviously clear-thinking octogenarian: 

Critics of a playoff insist college football's regular season would be greatly diminished by an expanded postseason. Week in and week out, from September through December, teams across the country play regular-season games that ultimately determine their chances of winning a national championship. Under a playoff format, critics say teams will only have to worry about not losing too many games.

Like, how many games? Like two games? Like National Champion™ LSU? Since the formation of the BCS, here is the list of teams ranked in the AP's top eight at the end of the regular season (including conference championship games) with more than two losses:

1998: Texas A&M (10-3)

1999: None

2000: None

2001: None

2002: None

2003: Kansas State (11-3)

2004: None

2005: None

2006: None

2007: None

Another perfect record foiled.
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In 1998, Texas A&M was just off an upset of No. 1-ranked Kansas State in the Big 12 Championship game; one of its three regular season losses in the books (just in case anyone is looking this up) was a self-imposed forfeit to Louisiana Tech. So, since 1998 (since at least 1995, actually, according to this archive), the only team to finish the regular season in the AP's top eight with more than two actual, on-field losses is Kansas State in 2003, a team that ended the regular season with seven straight wins and a four-touchdown demolition of undefeated, No. 1-ranked Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship.

Here are the one and two-loss teams since the start of the BCS not ranked in the AP's top eight at the end of the regular season (BCS conferences only):

1998: Georgia Tech, Arkansas, Virginia, Notre Dame

1999: Michigan State, Penn State, Mississippi State

2000: Nebraska, Notre Dame, Clemson, Georgia Tech

2001: Texas, Oklahoma, Washington State, Stanford

2002: Washington State, Notre Dame

2003: Miami, Florida State, Texas

2004: Iowa, Michigan, LSU, Wisconsin

2005: West Virginia, LSU, Virginia Tech, Alabama, UCLA, Miami, Louisville, Texas Tech

2006: Wisconsin, Auburn, West Virginia, Rutgers, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech

2007: West Virginia, Arizona State

Every single year of the BCS' existence has produced between 10 and 16 BCS conference teams with two or fewer losses, excluding Tulanes, Utahs, Boise States and Hawaiis. So, bearing in mind the record of the most recent BCS champion, how many regular season losses is too many?

"If Michigan and Ohio State are playing at the end of the year and both are undefeated, whoever wins is going to the national championship," Stoops said. "If you had a playoff, they're both going to qualify and that game doesn't mean a whole lot, does it?..."
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Michigan and Ohio State have met with undefeated records twice in the last 40 years: 1973 and 2006. Since the formation of the BCS, OSU-Michigan in '06 and OSU-Texas the same year are the only regular season games between #1 and #2 in the AP; Nebraska-Oklahoma was a 2-3 game in 2000 and a 3-2 game in 2001; OU-Texas was 2-3 in 2002. Florida-Florida State was 1-2 in 1996, before the BCS. Most of these are annual rivalry games that would become far more meaningful with a playoff at stake in years both teams are "merely" in the top 10 or 12, which is the case about five times as often as when both teams are at the top of the polls. I'll take the slightly reduced national impact of the exceedingly rare Armageddon game for the increased importance of a half dozen other big games every year. Elementary: the more teams that are eligible for the championship late in the season, the more meaningful all of those games will be.

We don't want to be handing out mulligans, after all.
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And why should it matter if Michigan loses to Ohio State if it doesn't matter when LSU loses to Arkansas, or Kentucky, or Ohio State loses to Illiois, or Florida loses to Auburn, or Oklahoma loses to Kansas State, or Nebraska gets waxed by Colorado, or Florida State loses to N.C. State, etc.? If "every game counts," then three of the last five BCS championships should be vacated for the unsightly stain(s) on its winner's ledger.

Another chief concern of a playoff is fans' ability to travel from one bowl site to another -- both physically and financially -- and the logistical challenges of having to move hundreds of players, coaches, support staff and students across the country in less than a week's time.
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I dunno, how do they schedule sites, sell tickets and move people around week-to-week in I-AA? Division II? Division III? The NCAA basketball tournament? The NCAA baseball tournament? The NFL? NBA? MLB? NHL? NASCAR? Every single other sport in America that is not ever considering a move away from a playoff? What do they do, hire people?

College football purists also insist a playoff would diminish the importance of bowl games, one of the sport's greatest traditions. While the current BCS bowl games would likely have to be incorporated into any playoff format, Tranghese isn't sure it would stay that way for long.

If we went tomorrow to a full-blown playoff, what makes anybody think the bowls are going to be preserved?" Tranghese said. "If the Big East or the Big Ten are going to engage in a full-blown playoff, then why the heck am I going to play everybody in their home area? If I'm a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, then come to New York and play in 20-degree weather. You and I know none of that's going to fly."
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I have no idea what Tranghese is talking about. Barry Alvarez, on the other hand...

But Alvarez said eliminating the bowl experience, in which players are wined and dined in the host city for several days, is one of the biggest pitfalls of a potential playoff. Alvarez, who led the Badgers to back-to-back Rose Bowl victories in 1999 and 2000, said he cherished the bowl experience as a player at Nebraska and as a coach.

"Everybody talks about having a true playoff, but they forget about the tradition of the bowls," Alvarez said. "It's still about the kids and the experiences the kids have. I made the decision to go to Nebraska because I wanted to play in big bowl games and to play in the Orange Bowl and the Sugar Bowl. I wanted to have experiences where you normally wouldn't be treated like that. It doesn't have to be the Orange or Sugar bowls. It could be the bowl game in Boise or any bowl because if you're treated special it's an experience you're never going to forget. If you go to a playoff system, you throw that out the window."
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Why do you throw that out the window? Why would we eliminate the bowl experience, Barry? In what way would a playoff infringe upon the exhilaration of the Bowl in a manner that the Bowl Championship Series does not? In what way would the playoff experience, of momentum and excitement on campus building week after week, win after win, be less rewarding for players and fans? And if it's more rewarding, why would we hang on to a hollowed-out tradition just because that's what you did in the sixties?

It's the same old things, mostly: notice the old "academics" defense is such a fluffy light canard it's not even put up to be blown down. Nobody has ever bought that. We've moved on to actual issues of competition, for the most part. And it'll be the same old things over and over again, right up to that point that, as Chris Peterson says, "pressure from the fans and people on the outside" pushes through a "compromise" – another compromise, that is, since the BCS itself is an attempt at compromise to the fans' clamor for a real national championship game following the Georgia Tech-Colorado, Miami-Washington, Nebraska-Penn State and Nebraska-Michigan fiascos – that evolves into a playoff. That is all.