- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 7, 2014


If the Bowl Championship Series has to go, it sure picked a fine way to say so long.

A playoff at college football’s highest level is finally coming, starting next season. So Monday’s thriller between Florida State and Auburn was the end of the BCS era and what an ending it turned out to be.

Florida State recovered from a bad start to win its second BCS title, 14 years after it defeated Virginia Tech for its first. In a season when Auburn has had a few miracle finishes of its own, it fell to a team that scored the winning touchdown with 13 seconds to play.

It is impossible to argue the wrong teams were in the game or the Seminoles aren’t a deserving champion even if they don’t play in the mighty SEC. They beat the SEC’s best in a classic.

So maybe it is the lingering buzz over that gem of a game that is clouding the thinking, but here’s a question that needs to be asked: Are we expecting things to be better in the brave new world of a playoff or just different? Because different we’re going to get and, while that’s not a bad thing, it doesn’t necessarily mean better.

SEE ALSO: Champion Seminoles will enter 2014 favored to repeat

It will be different because more teams will be involved with an “expanded” field of four. More fan bases fired up and dreaming of a title. Another round, so another chance for an upset of the sort that makes these playoffs fun.

But one of the myriad complaints about the current system is it is flawed and convoluted, though in spite of that the right teams seem to have been chosen for the one-game playoff almost every year.

Here’s a flash: Controversy over the chosen field, be it two teams, four, eight, 16 or any multiple, isn’t going to go away. The fifth-best team next year is going to feel like it got a bum deal. Team No. 9 in an eight-team field complains. And so on. That’s how it has worked every time the ultra-successful NCAA men’s basketball tournament has expanded has expanded. That’s how it will work here.

Any system that uses a committee of humans to select its participants has a chance to be flawed because we’ve seen time and time again that people can look at the same thing and see two different things. Who is to say a committee is going to get it any more right than a bunch of computers?

And this committee is gigantic. It is made up of 13 people, including such football notables as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. That’s more people than pick the men’s basketball tournament that includes 68 teams. They’ll meet several times during the season, release rankings so teams know where they stand and ultimately decide which four teams will get to play for the national title.

This year, using the final BCS standings, the four best teams were Florida State, Auburn, Alabama and Michigan State. Stanford was fifth. Florida State and Michigan State would have played one semifinal. Auburn and Alabama would have played in the other. The winners would have then met for the championship.

It seems simple enough, but here’s where human tinkering has a chance to make a mess of things. The committee wants to avoid rematches when it can, though not if it means messing with the integrity of the seedings. Well, Auburn and Alabama met in a regular-season game this season that matched the FSU-Auburn finale for drama. Play it again, Sam, or have Michigan State take on Auburn while pitting FSU against Alabama?

Either way, someone is going to scream. Why should Auburn have to beat a powerhouse like Alabama twice? Why should FSU have to first play a team that won three of previous four championships?

There is no perfect answer, under the new system or under the old one. Which is just another reason to wonder if this is a change that is really necessary or just a change for the sake of making a change.

It is really broken?

The whole college football season is sort of like one big playoff. That’s one of the things that makes it unique. Some years, you can slip up once like Auburn did against LSU this season and still have a chance to play for the championship. Other years, you can go unbeaten like Auburn did in 2004 and still be left out. Southern Cal and Oklahoma also went unbeaten and played for the title while Auburn was “relegated” to the Sugar Bowl.

A four-team playoff would have helped the Tigers that year, sure. But what about years when there are five one-loss teams, or five NO-loss teams? Some team is getting left out. Under the old system. And under the new system.

It will probably work out fine almost every year and be issue-free. The right four teams will be chosen most years and we’ll all have a blast.

But we’ve had that in the current system, too. The right two teams have been chosen and most years, we’ve all had a blast.



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