Saturday, November 26, 2016

The Big 10 playoff jumble

This turned out to be quite the mess. In no particular order, consider the following:

In a game most of the country watched closely, Ohio State, at home, barely squeaked by Michigan. The contest could have easily gone either way, given it took 2 overtimes to decide, but for the sake of argument let's say the best team prevailed. After all, the bookies had OSU as a 5 point favorite going in.

But the Buckeyes didn't even win their own division in the Big 10. That's because they were beaten on the road by Penn State earlier in the season.

Conversely, Michigan had hammered PSU weeks ago. So who's the best team?

Just last week, OSU eked out a victory at Michigan State. The Spartans are awful this year. They aren't even bowl eligible. Yet it was a game the Buckeyes could have -- likely should have lost.

Meanwhile, Michigan had semi-convincingly defeated MSU -- at MSU -- just a couple weeks ago. But the Wolverines dropped a game at Iowa a few weeks back. True, it was a nail biter, and again could have gone either way. But UM came up short. This loss has come back to haunt UM in the playoff picture. Any team purporting to be national championship contenders isn't supposed to drop a game, regardless of venue, to an unranked opponent. Period.

Michigan got by Wisconsin at home.

The Buckeyes beat them on the road.

Both were hard fought close contests, and these are the only blemishes on the Badgers' record. Other than that, they've pretty well rolled after an opening narrow win over LSU, a quality team.

But as things worked out, neither Michigan nor Ohio State will even compete for the Big 10 conference championship. That honor will go to Penn State and Wisconsin -- both ranked below UM and OSU. Weird, huh?

As it stands, Alabama and Ohio State are in regarding the Final Four. Likely too is Clemson. The fourth spot is up for grabs, and Washington out west can make a legitimate claim to it. But wait a second, they got hammered at home themselves a couple weeks back by unranked Southern Cal. That's not supposed to happen. So do the Huskies deserve a spot? Maybe, maybe not. But if not them -- who?

Michigan is likely out, though could arguably be considered among the best four teams in the country.

Of course, even Bama and/or Clemson could lose their own conference championship games next weekend. Not likely, but possible. How would that jumble the standings for the selection committee? What a nightmare.

Would UM get back in by default? Or might they be chosen anyway, even given the close, but fresh loss at OSU? Also possible.

Meanwhile, Ohio State's in the catbird seat. They don't even have to play next week, hence no chance of a loss, but are a virtual lock to be in the Final Four. While other teams, technically better qualified than the Buckeyes slug it out, OSU gets a free pass into the playoffs. Does that make sense?

The current four team playoff system is certainly better than the old ways, just two schools being selected to play for the championship -- and far more desirable than even further back, a mish-mash of various bowls, not always featuring top contenders squaring off. A champion was crowned by a vote, rather than being decided on the field. It's looks so dumb in hindsight, but the powers that be have always been resistant to change. Unless it means more money -- lots of it -- they'd just as soon sit on "tradition", which could quite possibly result in a very questionable outcome regarding a national champion.

The solution? Though it righteously should have been this way all along, this particular year begs for it.

Expand the playoff format to eight teams. Sure, numbers 9 through probably 12 would likely squawk they were underrated, hence jobbed, but the line has to drawn somewhere. And it's highly unlikely anybody not ranked in the top eight at the end of the year is worthy of a championship shot anyway. And heck, it's just one more Saturday of games. After the conference championship games, the teams in the hunt have over a month off to sit around. They'd love to play an extra match and the participating schools would get another huge payday. On that note, spare me the argument that this would cut into the studying time for the precious "student-athletes". Good grief, a lot of the poor dears at huge collegiate football factories likely couldn't pass a seventh grade algebra exam. Who's kidding who?

This would also solve the dilemma of this year, and likely in the future. Take the following eight teams, and put them in a three game playoff.

Ohio State
Penn State
And throw in Colorado. Though flying under the radar all year, the Buffs appear worthy as well.

Better yet, don't seed them where #1 plays #8, 2 versus 7, etc.

Draw the potential matches out of a hat and let the chips fall where they may. But nobody gets to play a game in their home state. Match them up to various bowl sites accordingly. How cool, not to mention fair, not to mention inclusive, would that be?

And isn't inclusivity the latest rage in America?

Well then, make it so when it comes to the playoffs.

And all the above mentioned items about team A beat team B, B beat C, and C beat A -- so who's best wouldn't have to be arbitrarily chosen for the chance at big time glory.

It would be decided on the field, with every worthy contender getting a chance.


Heck, every other sport does it that way, both in college and the pros. Have since forever. Even the lower divisions in college football have a better playoff system. Just not the big boys. How the hell can that be?

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