Here's Your Playoff System (Sort Of)

Dan Shanoff writes a weekly college football column for Deadspin. Email him to let him know what you think.

What makes college football so compelling is that despite the worst actual championship system in sports, its regular season is the most meaningful — it is a de facto playoff from Week 1 onward. A single loss and a team is all but eliminated.

Just look at Louisville: Any chance the Cardinals had of surging to an unbeaten season and a spot in the national-title game were lost at Kentucky. Week 3: Season over. Thanks for playing.

That said, even after just three weeks, fans have seen enough to recognize the handful of teams that are legit title contenders. In fact, for you playoff buffs, there's a "quarterfinals" scenario:

• LSU-Florida winner (Oct. 6)
• Oklahoma-Texas winner (Oct. 6)
• West Virginia-Rutgers winner (Oct. 27)
• USC-Cal winner (Nov. 10)

(No offense to the survivor of Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin, but between the Buckeyes' showing in the national championship last season and Michigan's conference-wide taint stain, the Big Ten doesn't have the juice to crack that crowd this season. Plus: Everyone figures they'll knock each other off anyway.)

Now, that doesn't take into consideration one of those contenders surviving their "big" game, yet losing unexpectedly (like USC against UCLA or WVU against South Florida last season) or another unlikely contender emerging unbeaten.

Hell, we'll gladly take either scenario, because — as discussed in the season-opener — four unbeaten teams at the end of the season is BCS Armageddon... which might not be a bad thing if you ultimately want the postseason to be as meaningful as the regular season.

More From This Weekend: Andre Woodson wins the battle; Brian Brohm is still the top QB of next year's NFL Draft... Having witnessed in person: Yes, Tim Tebow IS that exciting... Darren McFadden is the best player in college football, but where was he when Arkansas needed him the most?... Colt Brennan's pinball stats are kind of monotonous... The game you should have found a way to watch: Tulsa 55, BYU 47 (no OT), featuring 1,027 yards of combined passing offense.

This Week's Bandwagon: Shitting on Notre Dame. I know Will covered this earlier, but I must reiterate:

We are living in a spectacular (even unprecedented) moment for those of us who enjoy Notre Dame schadenfreude. The nation's most prominent college football team is, remarkably inarguably, the nation's worst college football team.

(Cripes: Even DUKE has a win. Sorry: Even Duke has scored an offensive touchdown.)

And, yes, it is going to get worse: So. Much. Worse. Analysts look at Notre Dame's next five games (Mich St, at Purdue, at UCLA, BC, USC) and charitably offer that Notre Dame might win one. Might. But they're totally hedging.

"0-8" is exactly the type of perfection we've come to expect from Notre Dame, and the Irish should strive for that perfection: From "Wake Up the Echoes" to just "Wake Up the Oh-fer." (Or just "Wake Up the Eck.")

Charlie Weis has done something spectacular: He has made Bob Davie look like Knute Rockne. It is not unreasonable to suggest that if Tyrone Willingham had started his third year at Notre Dame like this, he would have been fired by Saturday night.

Weis has said, naively and ridiculously, that he's "starting training camp" — in Week 4 of the regular season. (But don't try to call it "rebuilding" or Weis will eat you... then staple you out of his stomach... then sue you....)

How about "starting" to regret the decision to give Weis that 10-year contract extension in 2005, merely seven games into his Notre Dame career? Because the most recent three games say more about his future.

Ranking Rant: Let me get this straight: Arkansas goes on the road and ekes out a loss at unranked Alabama, which both sets of pollsters were so impressed by that they vaulted the Tide from "Unranked" to the Top 20, replacing Arkansas and exiling the Hogs to the land of "Also Receiving Votes."

Meanwhile, Louisville loses on the road at unranked Kentucky, but not only do the Cardinals get to retain their place in the Top 25, but they are ranked AHEAD of Kentucky in both AP and Coaches' polls.

Look: I too bought into the Saban hype, debuting the Tide at No. 20 in my BlogPoll rankings, but at least I kept Arkansas clinging on at No. 25. Meanwhile, I debut Kentucky at No. 15; we can disagree about where in the Top 25 to put the Wildcats, but — at a minimum — how can anyone rank them BEHIND Louisville?

More Ranking Ranting: After winning at Auburn two weeks ago, South Florida went unranked by both the media and coaches; however, after beating mighty "Idle" this week, USF finally (and rightfully) entered the rankings... Heading the other direction, UCLA earned its punishment, going from No. 11 to unranked, but it begs the question why they were ranked that high to begin with that they could take such a shellacking from Utah.

My BlogPoll ballot Top 10:
1. LSU
Perilloux: CFB's best backup QB?
2. USC
OK, that was very convincing.
3. Florida
Harvin is the payoff-free Bush.
4. Oklahoma
Bradford: Makes fans forget Bomar.
5. Rutgers
Keep mocking, everyone....
6. West Virginia
Is Devine even better than Slaton?
7. Cal
Could be only team to stop USC.
8. Wisconsin
Hill = Dayne 2.0
9. Boston College
Just look at those quality wins.
10. Penn State
Best of Big Ten in a down year.
With UW, top dog of a down-year Big Ten.

Rising: Kentucky (15), Cincinnati (23)
My complete BlogPoll Top 25 ballot this week.

Looking Ahead to Next Week:

Oklahoma at Tulsa: My "Upset Specials" this season have kinda sucked; I might as well keep it up. This is precisely the kind of trap game that will trip up a Sooners team already being talked about as a "gimme" unbeaten. Set the over-under at 100.
Pick: Tulsa.

Penn State at Michigan: If Michigan fans thought the Wolverines righted the season with a win over the worst team in college football, they are sadly mistaken. Here's a guarantee for Mike Hart: Penn State wins.

South Carolina at LSU: For the Ol' Ball Coach to win at Georgia is one thing; for him to shock the world at LSU is another entirely. The Tigers' favorable SEC schedule is showcased.
Pick: LSU

Georgia at Alabama: The new national buzz for Nick Saban will either ramp up with a second straight nationally televised win over another Top 25 SEC rival... or implode along with the Tide's dreams of a BCS bowl.
Pick: Bama

Michigan State at Notre Dame: 0-4. Heh.
Pick: MSU

The Bandwagoneer on the Road:

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — On a swamp-ass Saturday at The Swamp for Florida-Tennessee, I had a chance to meet up with two college football celebrities: Orson Swindle (of the must-read college football blog Every Day Should Be Saturday) and Clay Travis (of the must-read college football book "Dixieland Delight").

I'd like to nominate Orson as mayor of Tailgateville, and Clay — a die-hard Tennessee fan — took WAY too much abuse while I was walking with him (and he noted it was mild compared to what he usually hears). I'm all for mocking opposing fans, but at least TRY to be clever about it. Like design a T-shirt re-naming Cletus Spuckler's 26 kids after former Vols. (Hell, you could just use the Colquitts.)

Meanwhile, my game seats were about 40 feet from Chris Leak, who was standing on the Florida sidelines because it's not like he has an NFL job to keep him busy. Not only was Leak not wearing blue — unlike 90,000 other fans in the stadium, per Urban Meyer's pre-game request — but Leak was wearing jorts (jeans shorts) confirming all of those embittered theories about Gators fans' fashion sense.

I did, however, get a close-up look at CBS' SEC sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson, who performs in the shadow of uber-sideliner Erin Andrews. Wolfson is spectacularly underrated, and — allow the blasphemy — the bigger hottie. Simply put, Erin and Tracy are the Betty and Veronica of TV sideline reporters. (Mr. Weatherbee: Lou Holtz, obviously.)

As always, send any comments, criticisms or questions to danshanoff-at-gmail-dot-com.