I know I’m in the minority here, but I am not a proponent for a playoff. People argue that college football is the only major sport without a playoff, and they’re correct, unless you count the season itself, which winds out like one long playoff to reach the championship. No, a playoff isn’t needed in NCAA football, but I’ll concede that a better system for determining who the National Champion is. The plus-one system is the best I’ve heard so far and I’d wholeheartedly support it, but beyond that I don’t want it. I want the best team in the country to win the National Championship, not, as happens with other teams who win their sports’ respective championships, because a team got on a hot streak when it mattered most. No.
But the current method, the BCS, is too heavily influenced by opinion polls, as both the Harris Poll and the Coaches Poll count for a third of the calculation apiece. The remaining third is compiled via six computer polls, throwing out the highest and lowest score for each team and averaging the remaining four. The computer rankings do not account for opinion, they calculate based on record and strength of schedule, unless you consider the fact that the computer rankings are based upon opinion polls. Originally the BCS used the AP Poll, but the AP withdrew their permissions. So the NCAA created another poll to replace the AP in its calculation.
So why not get rid of the polls?
Because the polls are fun. 90% of the questions from fans on College Football Gameday concern the polls (“Why isn’t (insert team name here) getting more respect from the polls?”). A lot of people argue that no polls should come out until later in the season, at least week four or six, and I’ve even heard some argue that the polls should be done away with entirely. But this isn’t realistic at all (–this is my nice way of saying get real, dumbass), and besides, as I said, the polls are fun. And, more importantly: the polls are popular. Extremely popular. People eagerly await the first preseason poll and the consult the polls regularly throughout the season. But that’s exactly my point: the polls are fun. Sometimes they work, sometimes not, but so long as they’re based on opinion they will be flawed when it comes to determining the National Champion or even for determining who should have the honor to play in the championship game. The first step in building a better system will be to remove opinion from the formula, and derive the results from performance, which is exactly what the computer ratings are designed to do. I’m not going to argue that the computer polls are perfect–I’d personally like to see quality losses hurt a team a little less than it does, and I’d also like to see strength of schedule count for more–but at least they aren’t opinionated.
The AP can still award its popular choice for National Champion, as they have since time immemorial, but the official champion should be awarded based on performance alone. Which is why I would like to see the computer polls be the deciding factor to determine the unbiased NCAA Football National Champion. Let’s face it: they’re already separate awards anyway. LSU won the BCS title in ’03 while USC won the AP. So why incorporate their rankings at all if not for popularity’s sake? There is no other reason that I can think of. But the method is not popular, regardless, and may never be until a playoff (which will likely never be) is instituted. So get rid of the polls, determine the players in the National Championship game by the computer averages, add a plus one if needed, determined on a year-by-year basis (sometimes it’s unnecessary), and let it ride.
Now, if you really want to fix the system, look here.
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