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Post If it walks like a playoff…

Thursday June 5, 2008

I was reading this post at CFR that was, at face value, just another innocent-enough post about the playoff discussion ("jeez – he’s about to make another playoff post," I hear you say). One sentence in particular took me off on a tangent.

The Plus One is effectively the gateway to — shudder — a real playoff in college football.

I’m probably (almost certainly) not the first to raise this question, but is the "plus one" the point of no return or did we already pass the playoff event horizon with the introduction of the BCS?

We hold the regular season sacred, but why is the national champion not named immediately after the regular season? That’s not a ridiculous question; until 1968 the final polls were released before the bowls. The interim between 1968 and 1998 moved the focus of the national title to the bowls, but there was still very little formal structure in terms of determining a consensus champion. The Bowl Coalition and Bowl Alliance attempted to put some framework around the postseason, but the introduction of the BCS in 1998 was the biggest shift to create a single championship game between the nation’s two best teams.

What is the BCS, then, if not the mechanism behind a two-team playoff? Is the current discussion a question of playoffs vs. BCS, or does it all just boil down to resistance against the "bracket creep" of expanding our current two-team playoff to four teams or more?

I don’t ask these questions as gotchas for those who consider themselves playoff opponents. Truth is, there aren’t only two sides on which to come down on this topic. Unless you’re for a return to the ’80s-era bowl free-for-all or a wide-open 64-team tournament, there’s a ton of middle ground with plenty of tradeoffs to talk about. But asking "how big do we want our playoff to be" versus "do we want a playoff at all" are two very different questions, and the time to have that discussion might have been ten years ago.

2 Responses to 'If it walks like a playoff…'

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  • Hobnail_Boot

    June 5th, 2008
    1:36 pm


    What is the BCS, then, if not the mechanism behind a two-team playoff?

    Glad you asked. By definiton, a playoff is:

    1. (in competitive sports) the playing of an extra game, rounds, innings, etc., in order to settle a tie.

    The BCS is a system deveoped to determine the 2 most deserving teams to play for the championship. It is not a playoff, as it is not an extra game that is played after bowl season.

  • I know we’re into semantics, but the BCS championship *is* a new game created outside of the bowl system. Whether we take the results of the regular season and seed a 64-team bracket or a two-team bowl game, isn’t the only difference in the number of teams involved?