I miss the BCS. It’s not a feeling I ever expected to have, but it’s there, and I can no longer deny it.
All through the BCS era, I was one of the many loud, obnoxious voices calling for a postseason playoff. I yelled about how little sense it made that a sport with over 100 teams competing just picked two at the end of the season and had them play for a national title, leaving so many others in the cold with no hope. While there will never be a perfect way to settle college football’s national title, a playoff seemed like a logical idea that would move us closer to perfect.
But it hasn’t. The College Football Playoff has made the sport worse in a lot of ways. At least with the BCS, there was a cut-and-dry approach to how the two teams that would play were to be determined. It was a combination of computer polls and the Coaches Poll. Put all the numbers in a formula, and that formula would spit out the rankings, and we were done. Every week we’d get an update on them following the games, and we’d get on with our lives.
Now, all we do is debate which team should be No. 4 and whether it’s fair that teams from Group of Five conferences have no chance. Instead of a set of rankings, we have a group of rotating characters with personal biases of their own gathering in a room (or on Zoom) and ranking teams based on whatever criteria fits at the time.
I used to get angry with the CFP selection committee chair, but now I just feel sorry for them. They’re paraded onto television every Tuesday night to dance around questions in a way that would make your local Senator blush, all to help fill time on a television show. There are no answers they can give that will satisfy everyone, and they can’t just come out and tell you the truth because it would only make people angrier.
The College Football Playoff has made the season one four-month-long debate show in which people yell opinions they don’t really believe back and forth at one another and just hope enough people are attracted to the sideshow that the checks continue to roll in. And I hate it.
The BCS wasn’t perfect. It should never have included the Coaches Poll in its formula. First of all, the conflicts of interest there are incredible. Secondly, coaches don’t watch everybody. They watch their team and the teams they have to face. It’s unfair to ask them to rank everybody, even if they “know football.”
But you know what? While the BCS wasn’t perfect, it was a better product overall. By only having the two best teams play, we got better title games by and large. Oh, sure, there were plenty of blowouts. There always are, but look at how BCS games played out compared to the CFP. The average margin of BCS games was smaller, and the rate of blowouts (3+ score margins) was lower.
College Football Playoff
CFP Championship Game
I broke up the CFP (21 total games) and CFP Championship (seven) for a reason. Notice how the title games tend to be a lot closer? That’s because, like the BCS, when you get to the title game, you usually have the two best teams in the country. That’s the other dirty secret that most of us either didn’t realize or didn’t want to mention while we called (and continue to call for) playoff expansion.
While there might be 130 FBS teams, there usually aren’t more than two great teams in any given season. The BCS did a pretty good job of figuring out who they were without requiring us to watch a round of blowouts (the average margin of 14 CFP semis has been 20.93 points per game) first.
If we went back to a BCS system, I wouldn’t miss the semifinals.