Archive for the ‘College Football’ Category

The BCS Is Perfect

December 30, 2011 Leave a comment

By: Deacon Blues

The BCS: It’s is a joke. It’s a ridiculous system that everybody loves to hate. It’s perfect.


For 13 years, anybody who cares about college football – that is, everybody — has been subjected to a system that has done precious little to do what it set out to do. According to the BCS website, the BCS “is designed to ensure that the two top-rated teams in the country meet in the national championship game.” Does anybody really think that the two best teams meet year after year? What about USC in 2003? Auburn in 2004? Boise State? TCU?

Even according to the organizers of the BCS, it’s not a perfect system. To quote the BCS website again, “Thanks to the BCS, the top two teams have played each other 13 times in 13 years by BCS measurements and 10 times in the last 13 according to the AP poll — including the last seven years in a row.” According to their own measurements, the top two teams meet every year, but even they grant that there is dispute over this. It’s almost expected that there will be disagreement as to which the two top teams are.


Take this year for example. #1 Louisiana State (13-0) is the team most deserving to be there. However, their opponent is not the same shoo-in. #2 Alabama (12-1) already lost to LSU. They didn’t even win their division, let alone their conference.


What about #3 Oklahoma State (11-1)? Other than a double overtime road loss to Iowa State, they murdered their competition, including Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas State, and Texas A&M. #4 Stanford (11-1) lost one game, and that was to #5 Oregon (11-1). That one loss for Oregon was to the horribly underrated – and regrettably ineligible – USC (11-2).


All the while, #7 Boise State (11-1) lost a heart-breaker to the perennial competitive TCU (10-2), and that was that.


In all of this, #6 Arkansas (10-2) is nothing more than a footnote. The Razorbacks lost the only two legitimate challenges they received all year: LSU and Alabama.


Alabama received their berth to the championship game base on a margin of .0086 points – the closest margin in eight years. A couple votes the other way – or even a slightly altered computer formula – and Oklahoma State has the chance to contend for the glass football. A bounce here or there for Oregon, or Stanford, or Boise State, and the landscape is completely altered.


It’s true that every other major team sport has a playoff system, but there are 120 teams in the FBS. Proponents of a playoff, or a plus-one, or something similar think that college football would be benefitted by determining a clear-cut winner. That’s just not true.


Playoff systems are inherently flawed. The only thing they tell us is which teams would win on those days. Often, the best team doesn’t win the championship. The Giants beat the Patriots. Villanova upset Georgetown. The Mariners won 116 games and didn’t even make the World Series. Is there any reason to believe college football would be any different? Of course not.


Coaches, ADs, and the whole of the NCAA have been deafeningly silent on the issue of a playoff system. Why is that? If instituting a plus-one or an eight-team bracket would really benefit the sport, why isn’t everyone pushing for it? Because they know they would run the risk handing the Coaches’ Trophy to Kansas State. A Boise State-Cincinatti matchup would absolutely kill ratings. Outside of the college football wastelands, nobody wants that.


The beauty of the BCS is the ambiguity of it all. With a pool as large as the FBS, everybody benefits from a system that encourages debate. Oklahoma State fans don’t want their team to get destroyed by LSU in the championship game; they want the Cowboys to get “cheated” out of the chance to play, go out and beat Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl, and then have the opportunity to talk around the water cooler about how great their team was in 2011.


Nobody remembers the team that lost; everybody remembers the team that should have been there. Without the playoff system, the regular season is the playoff. Win and you’re still in, but lose, and you’re probably done. The BCS rarely gives out second chances. Absolutely every game matters, and no other sport can say that.


Deacon Blues grew up in Moscow, Idaho, and still resides there with his lovely wife and four savages. By day he is an economist and database expert, but he doubles as a T-ball coach, lacrosse official, suffering Mariners fan, and reader of children’s books. He also makes a mean morning meal and is ever on the lookout for the perfect breakfast burrito recipe. He can be followed on Twitter at @deaconblues42. 


College Football vs. NFL…Counterpoint

September 24, 2011 2 comments

By: Aaron Booth

A few weeks back Sports Smithy contributor Britton Norris laid out his case for why the NFL is better than NCAA football. Saying the NFL is better is a bit of a stretch. The NFL is not better, nor is it worse. It’s different, but that’s okay.

Norris argued that college football is about big schools beating other big schools, while in the NFL it’s “about the game.” The NFL, he says, is about particular players and matchups. There’s another way to look at this: college football is about the name on the front of the jersey and the NFL is about the name on the back of the jersey. In fairness, the nature of the NFL game is that a fan will get to know players over a longer period of time. I certainly see the appeal of that. NCAA by its very nature is transient. The players come and go. That’s just how it works. If having decade-long attachments to players is important then college football isn’t for you, but complaining about it is like complaining about bicycles because they don’t have enough wheels.


I do agree that college football is corrupt at many levels. If, however, you are running from the NCAA to escape corruption, the NFL isn’t exactly the place to find sanctuary. The NFL in its professional honesty embraces thugs and criminals, slapping them on the wrist with fines and suspensions when they feel it will help their image, but getting them back on the field as soon as possible because, after all, it’s “about the game.” Again, I totally agree that the NCAA is a mess with corruption, but what we have here is pots and kettles, not sinners and saints.


The NFL has playoffs and the NCAA does not. This subject has been hotly debated in print and on the airwaves for a long time. I hope to treat this subject at length another time, but that will have to wait. In staying focused on the arguments in the previous post, I would like to make a few quick points: 1) The NCAA does not employ computers alone to determine their championship game. Computers are a part of it, but they are not all of it. 2) The NCAA, to my knowledge, makes no claims that the bowl system is better than the NFL playoffs or that it is the most ideal system for crowning a champion. They would say that the combination of the rankings and BCS system is the best way to crown a champion in a league with 119 teams that can only play 11-12 games a season. By the way, having 16-game schedules wouldn’t fix this problem. 3) Some universities do “schedule games to win” but this rarely results in a shot at the title. The strength of schedule, or lack thereof, is precisely why Boise State and TCU have not played for the title. LSU has 12 regular season games – seven against ranked opponents, including two in the top 10, and neither of which were or will be played at home. The good conferences make it impossible to simply schedule garbage. A sweeping generalization that all teams fill their schedules with cream puffs simply isn’t true.


I would like to offer this defense of the BCS as compared to the NFL playoffs: The team that goes home with the glass football more often than not really is the best team in the league. That claim is a lot harder to make about the Super Bowl. Were the 10-6 Packers really the best NFL team in 2010? Were the Giants really better than the Patriots in 2008? The BCS isn’t perfect, but on the whole, it produces a credible champion. The Super Bowl gives us an entertaining spectacle between two good to pretty good teams that happened to have the right combination of luck and health in January.


The NFL compared to other sports leagues is fantastic as an organization. The NFL gives the fan a feeling of consistency and certainty that college football can’t match. College football is too big, with too much history, and too many different authority figures. Short of a complete dismantling of the structure, college football will never rival the NFL in this area. In spite of this, college football gives fans some things that the NFL doesn’t.


At the top of college football there is urgency every single week. Every team is not playing a marquis game every week, but some teams are playing marquis games every week. There is the possibility to an upset – even a big upset, but that’s not the most important or dramatic part of it. Because losing even one game in college football can end a team’s shot, every game matters. The great college teams don’t rest starters in the final weeks of the season. They can’t. The games in November are must-win. This isn’t about noble college coaches playing the stars out of a sense of pride while NFL coaches rest their lazy stars; it’s just the nature of the two leagues. The last two games of the season in NCAA are urgent for the top teams while the last two in the NFL aren’t (for the very best). This can be a problem in college football if you are only interested in your own team. Sometimes for that one team the dream ends early (sorry Mississippi State). The story of the NCAA season is far from over, and something that happens in this Saturday’s games could very well shape how it all turns out. In the NFL, provided your team’s star player doesn’t go out for the season, a win or a loss this Sunday means very little for your playoff hopes.


Urgency doesn’t make college football better, but it is an element I particularly enjoy and it doesn’t really exist in any sport. There are pockets of urgency in other sports, but no sport delivers urgency from start to finish like college football.


Obviously the talent level in the NFL is much higher than NCAA and that produces a certain kind of satisfaction for fans. An NFL play is fast and powerful and precise – no margin for error – very fitting for the highest level of the sport. In contrast college football produces excitement in a way the NFL can’t, and it is because the overall talent pool is lower and the gap between the best and worst players is larger. College football lends itself to a lot more highlight real plays. Trick plays work in college. College teams convert 4th downs. Those things happen in the NFL too, but not often. Women’s tennis is as exciting – maybe even more exciting – than men’s because they are not as fast and strong as the men. In much the same way, the difference in talent between NFL and college creates a different product on the field, and that’s a good thing. The guy that thinks of himself as the high and mighty “true” fan might cringe at this thought, but the wide talent pool in college makes the game a little more cartoonish, and that makes for a satisfying product.


I personally enjoy college more than NFL, but I really like both. I don’t necessarily believe one is better than the other. I believe they are different – preferring one or the other isn’t a matter of which is better. It’s burgers one day and pizza the next – everybody wins.

Aaron Booth lives in Monroe, LA with his wife a five children. He makes his living in the real estate world, which gives him the opportunity to listen to a lot of audio, including a fair amount of sports radio and podcasts. Aaron loves his i-devices and 24-hour sports media, but also fondly remembers the days when he calculated his fantasy standings from the newspaper. You can follow him on twitter @da_booth.

College Football vs. NFL

September 4, 2011 3 comments

By: Britton Norris

It’s finally here: the football season of 2011.  What a great time of year for sports.  Not only do we get the National Football League back in action, we have college football to sprinkle in as a treat.  And here’s where some may take sides.

Which is greater, college football or the National Football League?

Let me preface everything with the fact that I enjoy college football.  Well, I enjoy good college football.  Sometimes “good” is few and far between, but a classic fall matchup like this year’s Alabama at Auburn showdown in November or the Red River shootout between Texas and Oklahoma are competitive sports at their finest.  A fresh cool front in October on a Saturday is quite the atmosphere for football and the melodies of the Notre Dame Victory March are enough to get any red blooded sports fan wound up.  College football has an uncanny ability to gather the hard core stats fan and the grandma and have them both cheering equally as passionately for their team.  It’s tradition.  Who cares why Ohio State hates Michigan, but they are the bad guys and they’re going down!  College football is fun.  And when your team is ranked in a desirable spot in the top 25 and there’s a competitive game on the television, things are peachy.

Here’s where I want to make a point.  The NFL is better.  A lot better and here’s why I think so.

The NFL is about the game of football.  Contrary to what you’d think, college football is much more about big schools beating other big schools than about the actual game and individual contests.  Everyone talks about the rivalries; they talk about why Oregon’s athletic program is better than USC.  In the NFL, it’s about the game.  People care immensely how Drew Brees is going to fare against the Packers defense opening night.  Will Josh Freeman’s offensive line get bulldozed by Ndamukong Suh and the Lions? All I hear about on the college side of things is if LSU can hold on to their top 5 ranking and thoughts about Texas A&M moving to the SEC.  College football can’t see the trees for the forest.  The big picture is so important, the end goal so vivid that we lose the journey along the way.  To me, a true fan of football wants to study the individual players and compare the strengths and weaknesses of matchups.  The X’s and O’s of football are one of the main reasons it’s so delicious.  Listen, I know there’s some of this in college football.  I know some of you know exactly who’s lining up out there at left tackle and what he has to do to beat his opposition’s bull rush.  But that’s not the focus of college football.  A great example of this is how quickly fans move on.  A new freshman running back is tearing it up and last year’s Heisman trophy winner is old news.  It doesn’t matter the face or the name on the back of the jersey, the Sooners are going to win!  Sure, there’s loyalty in the NFL, loyalty at its finest, but when Steve Young retired, 49ers fans took a long introspective look at their fandom.  I’m not suggesting that fans would turn their backs on their teams just because certain players aren’t there any more, but it does make one pause in a moment of nostalgia.  After all, they’ve been watching these guys play for years.  In college, good players might have 2 or 3 years and they’re gone.  You just can’t get attached to guys in that short time frame.

The NFL is competitive.  The University of Texas is hosting Rice Saturday night and they are going to mop the field with those poor Rice athletes’ bodies.  We could see 72-7, folks!  You college football purists will be quick to suggest the argument of a great upset.  “It’s so exciting to think of a no name team beating a top 10 ranked powerhouse!”  No its not.  99% of the time the game is unwatchable and when the upset does happen, a perfectly good top-ranked college team has its season go down the tube because of a fluky early September loss.  I’ll tell you what’s exciting, the Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the Baltimore Ravens on a Sunday night; the Houston Texans taking on Peyton Manning and the Colts, trying to make claim to the division.  If one loses, it’ll just make the storyline more intriguing when they face each other again in the latter part of the season. There will be some lopsided games in the NFL, but every single player on each team is collecting a salary.  Every single General Manager had drafts picks in April’s NFL draft.  Every single team has an equal salary cap.  This isn’t so in college football.  When Alabama plays Georgia Southern they’ll be playing a team that isn’t even in the same NCAA division level.  Is this a joke?  Is the NCAA really trying to sell me this crap?  Am I supposed to enjoy this competition?  Please give me the fall classic Dallas Cowboys vs. the Washington Redskins.

College football is corrupt.  I could write for hours on this, but I just want to hit a few main points.  I hear people tell me all the time, “The NFL is just a bunch of greedy owners and athletes, please give me amateur college football where everyone just loves the game”.  This is the biggest load of bologna I’ve ever heard.  The NFL is a professional game and admits as such.  Every single players salary is available to the public.  College football on the other hand hides behind amateurism while grabbing at cash behind everyone’s back.  The University of Miami has recently come under heavy fire about student athletes receiving money and benefits illegally.  Do you remember why they took Reggie Bush’s Heisman trophy?  And this is just the illegal part.  All of these college players are playing to be seen by NFL scouts and get drafted so they can have a pay day.  Is this intrinsically wrong? Of course not.  But don’t kid yourself, these aren’t sweet little football purists playing for your university.  You’ve all heard how the conference commissioners pull and position the schools in ways to funnel money into their own pockets.  Schools take BCS bids because of obligation even when they are losing money.   I’m sorry, I’ll take the NFL.

The NFL has playoffs and a glorious championship called the Super bowl.  College football has the BCS bowl games and a national championship.  It’s really as dumb as it sounds.  Computer’s rank the teams and choose the “best” two to play for a championship.  Others get to play in “important” bowl games for, well, I don’t know, nothing.  And somehow the BCS has convinced us this is great and for some of you better than the NFL.  You’re delusional.   I’ve heard the arguments, “every game in a college regular season is a must win game!”  No it’s not.  If you lose your first two games, everything else is meaningless.  We don’t really crown a champion every year.  We crown a bogus team that has a good record.  The computers calculate who gets to play for a championship.  So, what do the universities do?  They schedule games to win.  These super powerhouse teams love scheduling cream puffs.  They guarantee a win and give their team a much greater chance of an undefeated season.  It’s ridiculous and it should bring out wrath from all sports fans who respect competition and fairness.  I’ll take a 16 game schedule where the teams who are the best get to play each other in a playoff and the last team standing wins the championship.  The NFL does this the right way and keep the integrity of the sport intact.

So, as we welcome glorious football back to our lives here in the fall of 2011, let’s have a little treat on a Saturday afternoon, but the big boys meat and potatoes aren’t coming till Sunday.

Britton Norris is a loyal Texan. He and his wife live in Fort Worth, TX and enjoy traveling anywhere in the world. He’s a proud Dallas Baptist University alum and works as an oil and gas landman. It’s on his to-do list to observe a frigid Packers game at Lambeau Field and see a Yankees game at Yankee Stadium. During Dallas Cowboys games you’ll likely find him with a mug of strong cold beer and his serious football game face on. You’re welcome to follow him on twitter, although he does more reading of tweets than tweeting – @brittonnorris