Playoffs versus Polls - Week Seven
Oh this would have been a fascinating year for a playoff! Florida State lost in an agonizing way, blowing a 16-0 lead; LSU lost in an agonizing way, showing the rest of us they are incapable of tabulating points in any reasonable manner; Georgia lost in an agonizing way, getting stomped by a conference rival who is not nicknamed the Crimson Tide; Texas lost in an agonizing way, falling just short of out-Geno-Smithing Geno Smith. Thus, we are down to just five “teams” for four spots. Let me explain the quotations. The five competitors are Alabama, Oregon, Notre Dame, the best SEC East team (South Carolina or Florida), and the best Big 12 team (Kansas State or West Virginia). That’s it. No one else will be challenging for a final four spot. And the toss-up pairings here will work themselves out since South Carolina has back to back games against LSU and Florida coming up while Kansas State and WVU face each other October 20.
By the first of November there will only remain, at most, five viable teams to make the playoffs…although, to say this would be a perfect year for a playoff is, perhaps, shortsighted. What if Notre Dame loses to Stanford or Oklahoma (two opponents they face before November even starts)? And what if Florida beats USC but loses another game they shouldn’t? Suddenly our impressive slate of playoff teams becomes a weak crop of three elites and one who doesn’t belong.
With Ohio State ineligible and, subsequently, the entire Big Ten conference ignorable, there are fewer competitors for the crown. Throwing in the fact that the likes of TCU and Utah are no longer undefeated outsiders but rather just pedestrian insiders, and the numbers dwindle even more. There may not be quite enough worthy teams in 2012 to fill a four team playoff, as odd as that looks at the moment. Of course, there will certainly be more than two good teams; a simple triumvirate will be plenty to bring the BCS-haters to the forefront. “How can an undefeated Big 12 champion not have a chance to play for the National Title!?” they will scream from their sofas and swivel chairs.
And although I keep running circles around myself this week, isn’t that scenario of three deserving competitors the point of the playoffs? While the BCS always (always!) pitted the two best teams against each other for the title, it never gave a lesser team a chance to pull an upset, and that is what Americans want. Every other sport offers this, some to an unseemly degree. An undefeated Kansas State team would not qualify as plucky underdog conquering Goliath if they bested Oregon. However, at the moment, no one thinks the Wildcats are better than the Ducks. (One person in the USA Today poll even thinks the Crimson Tide is not better than the Ducks.) So the BCS will get a satisfactory pairing in January this year, like every year, but with someone left out. The problem with the Bowl Championship Series was never that it gave us an inadequate champ; the problem always was it only gave two schools the chance to be champ. It is looking like there could be a couple schools this year with a gripe.
AOTM Predicted BCS Top Two:
(1) Alabama vs. (2) Oregon
AOTM Predicted Playoff Top Four:
(1) Alabama vs. (4) Kansas State; (2) Oregon vs. (3) Notre Dame