Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Sit ’em or play ’em?

Wednesday December 26, 2007

The Senator raises today one of the downsides to a playoff. We’re to the point in the NFL season where coaches are deciding which starters to rest before the playoff run. It’s even worse in baseball where the best teams have 15-20 games to kill between the time they clinch a playoff spot and the start of the postseason. Get ready to see a AAA lineup.

I understand the concern, but I guess I’ve watched too many Duke-Carolina games at the end of a basketball season to wrap my head around this possibility. We can debate the bigger meaning of a Duke-Carolina game when the conference tournament wipes the slate clean the following weekend, but each meeting still carries the full emotional load of the rivalry even when both teams are assured of a postseason bid. I couldn’t imagine Georgia fans overlooking an otherwise meaningless loss to Tech or Alabama fans content with playing the B team against Auburn even if they were still alive for an SEC and national title. Irrational, maybe, but rationality has never been a trait of the sports fan.

For teams that don’t end the season with a rivalry game, there are still some other reasons not to lie down. Chief among them is seeding, and this factor keeps college basketball from dealing with meaningless final games. The pros slot the postseason positions based on record, and these positions are often decided well beforehand (as is the case this year). A seeding system means that you are auditioning right through your final game, and your last few results are often the most meaningful. Would you rather play West Virginia or Southern Cal in the first round?

With so few games in the college football regular season, conference titles are often still in question entering the final week. Only the Big East was settled before the final week this season. Though several teams might feel comfortable that their playoff invitation is in the mail, it’s reasonable that many teams will still be playing towards a conference title down the stretch of the regular season.

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