Scott Michaux

Sports columnist for The Augusta Chronicle. | ScottMichaux.com

Michaux: College football's playoff system needs fixing before it's too late

Monday, Dec. 3, 2012 2:19 PM
Last updated 6:53 PM
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Georgia and its fans are still suffering to find the silver lining in Saturday’s heartbreaking loss to Alabama in an epic Southeastern Conference championship.

Bulldogs, however, can at least be thankful it’s not 2014.

It seems silly to argue about whether a date in New Orleans with Louisville would be better than a matchup against Nebraska in Orlando. Neither one of them is the BCS championship game that Georgia came just a few yards and seconds from qualifying to play in.

But there’s certainly an argument to be made.

“There’s absolutely no question that we are deserving of a BCS bid,” said Greg McGarity, Georgia’s director of athletics. “I know Florida finished third, and by way of them finishing third in the BCS, that locked out us without any discussion. There’s no question that we played great the last half of the season, and just to see the way that we laid it on the line (Saturday) proved that we’re right there along with the best in college football.”

It seems a shame for the Bulldogs to fall from third to seventh in the BCS rankings after playing to a virtual draw in the greatest championship game since conferences started playing championship games, but it doesn’t really matter right now.

But in two years, it will matter a whole lot.

The aftermath of this weekend’s conclusion of the meaningful portion of the college football season illustrated beyond a shadow of a doubt how insufficient the move to a four-team playoff starting in 2014 will be. If that system were in place today, only one team that even PLAYED for its conference championship (Alabama) would be included in the playoff. No. 1 Notre Dame, of course, is stubbornly independent.

Division runners-up Florida and Oregon would likely fill out the short bracket that would exclude Pac-12 winner Stanford, Big 12 champ Kansas State and a Georgia team that beat Florida and came 5 yards short of winning the toughest conference in the nation.

Can you imagine the howling? It would be brutal. Now imagine it again if you replace Alabama for Georgia in the excluded category. No tree in America would be safe from the rising Tide of wrath.

Perhaps that explains why Nick Saban was so vociferous in his argument that the SEC championship runner-up deserved a BCS bowl berth.

“I watch teams playing that are 7-5 that are talking about they might go to a BCS game because they won their championship?” Saban said after his team’s 32-28 victory. “Something’s not right here. I don’t think it’s fair to the Georgia players, coaches and their institution if they don’t go to a BCS game.”

Saban is right in that not every conference champion deserves a national title shot. If Georgia Tech had won the Atlantic Coast Conference title with a 7-6 record, they wouldn’t deserve to be in the same zip code with Notre Dame much less a first-round game.

But there needs to be more inclusion to ensure that worthy champions get a rightful opportunity. Plucking only four programs from the pool of legitimate contenders isn’t enough, whether it’s the top four in the polls or just the top four conference winners.

Eight is the bare minimum threshold to alleviate for potential grave injustice. Any conference champ (or independent) rated among the top 10 in the final poll should be automatic as well. This year that would include the Irish and Tide as well as Kansas State and Stanford.

Then you’d have four more spots (perhaps three if Ohio State wasn’t ineligible) to argue about.

And it should be an argument and not blind allegiance to any polls. Because the polls this week showed that the system is flawed when three idle teams not even eligible for their conference title games jumped a narrow conference loser and stayed ahead of two other major conference champs.

Let any at-large candidates make their cases to a selection committee. Almost every team from No. 3 Florida (beat four top 12 teams) and Oregon (only one overtime loss to Pac-12 champ) down to No. 12 Florida State (won the weak ACC) and No. 15 Northern Illinois (one point in opener from being undefeated) could make a credible case.

Better yet, make the playoff field 10 teams and have four “at-large” teams that didn’t reach conference title games play for spots in quarterfinals. If you think that’s too much burden on the athletes, get rid of that superfluous 12th regular season game against patsies to make room.

Will there still be complaints? Of course. But the level of collective outrage diminishes the further you get down the polls.

The bottom line is simple. The leaders in charge need to wake up and make an adjustment before it’s too late. Because being excluded from a boutique playoff with real stakes will make getting passed over by an insignificant BCS bowl seem trifling by comparison.

Comments (13) Add comment
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justthefacts
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justthefacts 12/03/12 - 03:30 pm
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What the heck

Let's go 64 teams (forget the playin game). We can wrap this thing up just in time for March Madness.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 12/03/12 - 05:11 pm
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Drop Conference Championship

I'd be in favor of an 8-team BCS tourney if (and only if) the NCAA abolishes conference championship games. They need to insist the conferences choose their champion from the 11-game regular schedule. Those conferences that have grown too huge need either to split or to just choose whichever team has the best conference record after 11 games (in case of identical records, just draw straws or have coin tosses or shoot dice).

PhiloPublius
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PhiloPublius 12/03/12 - 05:20 pm
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Win the games on your schedule and quit your whining.

If Georgia is so good, then why did they lose 2 games?
Everyone needs to Quit their whining. If teams can't win the games on their schedule then they don't deserve to get a fancy bowl game.

Don't give me this garbage that the SEC is the dominant Conference either. There are tons of reasons why they tend to have better records in bowls and I have a feeling that is going to come to an end soon.

1. SEC has had less down time between their last game and the bowl game

2. SEC schedules have had bye weeks for years (For example the big 10 just recently added a bye week)

3. SEC teams get to play a Wofford, or SC State, or Florida international around week 10 or 11, usually after their bye week. This gives them almost 2 full weeks of rest and practice. I'm Not saying Big 10 teams don't play the occasional pushover, but not in week 10 or 11!

4. SEC games are rarely played in snow or below freezing conditions.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/03/12 - 06:32 pm
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Does sliding around in the

Does sliding around in the snow make you a better team?

It's impossible for large conferences to declare a champion without the play-off game. The flaw with UGA getting the sucky bowl was the last poll along with the two teams from one conference rule. How do y'all thinks LSU feels having to play Clemson? Bad I hope because that means Clemson can sneak up on them.

walrus4ever
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walrus4ever 12/03/12 - 06:45 pm
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Ive grown used to Scotts Bama

Ive grown used to Scotts Bama bashing but the "tree" reference is just plain offensive. Hes right that Bama fans are passionate, but one crackpot incident doesnt rate labeling their followers as potential lawbreakers. At least Saban has a personality.

shrimp for breakfast
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shrimp for breakfast 12/04/12 - 05:32 am
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Gamecock fan here but...

Georgia got ripped off. They're better than 7th. Gamecocks are better than 10th. Florida beat USC. Georgia beat Florida. USC beat Georgia.
Alabama nipped Geogia.
USC lost back to back away games to LSU, Florida.
ARRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!
I think there should be an eight team playoff. The reason it wont happen is that the No. 8 th ranked team in the polls might win.
They can't have that.
The BCS has really been a clunker I know that much. I also know that there is no way in the world they can come up with a system that's going to please anyone. I've resigned myself to that fact.
Scott I have to agree with Walrus about the "TREE" comment.
Because of the actions of one ignorant, bat poop crazy, knuckle dragging pond scum the whole Alabama fan base shouldn't have to suffer.

wayne2410
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wayne2410 12/04/12 - 06:43 am
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Here is one you left out
Unpublished

Here is one you left out Philo, the SEC has won six straight BCS title games. I don't think that is an accident and I doubt you do either. And you accuse them of whining?! Oh the irony

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 12/04/12 - 08:52 am
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Impossible?

Riverman posted:

It's impossible for large conferences to declare a champion without the play-off game.

Come on, RM. It's not impossible. I posted some solutions above, such as drawing straws. Of course, some fans would whine and complain about drawing straws for a conference championship; but look around today. Those same fans are whining and complaining about the results of conference championship games.

Whining is what fans do.

justthefacts
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justthefacts 12/04/12 - 09:51 am
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Pretty funny

"Don't give me this garbage that the SEC is the dominant Conference either." LOL, OK, I'll bite. Which conference can claim to be better? The Big 10? Please. The conference champ lost 5 games! If soon to be 7 National Champions in a row doesn't give you the right to claim superiority, I don't know what does.

justthefacts
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justthefacts 12/04/12 - 09:54 am
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The truth

All BCS games should have a SEC rep. SC, UGA, LSU, FL, and of course Bama.

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/04/12 - 09:55 am
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At least 3 teams in the

At least 3 teams in the Southern Conference would have winning records in the Big 10.

justthefacts
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justthefacts 12/04/12 - 10:08 am
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River

River, you're kidding, right. Only three SEC teams would have winning records in the Big 10??? Who?

Riverman1
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Riverman1 12/04/12 - 10:17 am
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JTF, ha, read carefully.

JTF, ha, read carefully. SOUTHERN CONFERENCE. ie Ga Southen, Wofford, Furman, Applachian State...geez, that's 4.

justthefacts
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justthefacts 12/04/12 - 10:18 am
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Opps

Cut me some slack..........just got off a very early morning flight.

soapy_725
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soapy_725 12/04/12 - 10:51 am
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Notre Dame wanted to play the best (-: God answered.
Unpublished

Roll Tide !!!!!

14 National Championships
27 SEC Championships
34 Bowl Wins
9th All Time Winning Percentage
Winning Record Against Every SEC Team
61 Bowl Appearances *NCAA Record
23 Ten Game Win Streaks *NCAA Record
16 Season with 10-0 Starts *NCAA Record
32 Ten Win Seasons *NCAA Record

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