Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Why Not Create "Fall Madness?"

Illustration for article titled Why Not Create "Fall Madness?"

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


With all four BCS unbeatens surviving the weekend in "prove-it" wins of varying satisfaction (in order: BC, Arizona State, Kansas, Ohio State), it's a convenient moment to revisit an annually thorny issue:

Why a playoff system really doesn't work.

Whether you favor the ludicrous "Plus-One," a 4-team or an 8-team (or even an 1-AA-style 16-team) format, this is not the year for you.

If you think it's hard to pick two teams to play in a national title game from among, say, a handful of worthy teams, how the hell in a year like this do you pick a playoff field of 4 or 8 or even 16?

There's an insane alternative that I described a year ago. I remain obsessed with it. Here's how it works:

• Start by promoting 8 worthy teams from 1-AA to give 1-A a nice, bracket-friendly 128 schools. (You can already see where I'm going.)

• Play six regular-season games: Three non-conference games (to generate revenue) and three conference "rivalry" games. Week 7 is a national bye week.

• A Selection Committee seeds all 128 teams into a bracket on the basis of their first six games. Everyone is in: No "bubble," no trouble. Because of that, the best teams have an incentive to schedule an extremely competitive first six games to prepare themselves for the rigors of the tournament. (The incentive to win? Seeding and game location, same as for basketball.)


• In Week 8, you would hold the first round. 64 teams move on, 64 teams head to a loser's bracket. (Consider the amazingness of a mid-season Saturday when all 64 games are consequential.)

• Keep playing each week, using the bracket as the guide and winnowing the field. (Along the way, teams that lose are sent to an increasingly complex loser's bracket to fill out their usual 12-game schedule. But they're losers: Who cares?)


• Five weeks later (Week 13 of the season), you're down to two teams, who would then play in the national title game a month later, in what will have been established as the fairest, most scandal-free (and most dramatic) championship system in sports. Rather than what we have now.

(What happens to everyone else? The 30-some remaining bowl games out there participate in a wild open free-market to fill their various openings.)


In its favor, the system creates a true playoff and excitement unmatched in sports (even March Madness). There isn't anything out there that isn't better after being put in a bracket. Meanwhile, the regular season still ends in Week 13, as it does now.

Going against it, you would circumcise the traditional conference season, which some purists would hate even more than they hate the BCS. Plus, fans who schedule their game travel a year in advance would be totally screwed. And I would need a PhD from MIT to contemplate both the home-away scheduling fairness and the loser's bracket.


Regardless, it will never happen. It's my own personal (crack-)pipe dream. But this is the time of year when people start to talk about the mythical college football playoff solution that would somehow make everything better — but just won't realistically work, certainly not in a year like this.

So why not try an unrealistic idea?

(Seriously: Could it be any more unrealistic than the so-dubbed "Mississippi Miracle?" I'm sure you've all seen the Trinity-Millsaps game ending by now. If you haven't, here it is. This is why YouTube is one of the Top 5 fan-friendly innovations of our time.)


About that Georgia Penalty... I have to tip my hat to Mark Richt for the most classless — and effective — coaching move of the season, all but ordering his team off the sidelines and into the end zone en masse after the Bulldogs' first TD. It was such a gallingly unsportsmanlike display that I actually respect him for it, particularly since it obviously inspired Georgia to its win over rival Florida.


If the only penalty is a single "unsportsmanlike conduct" penalty, hell, I'd have my team do it after every single TD. I know the refs were completely baffled by the situation, but the flaccid penalty just didn't seem to fit the massive scale of the offense, which has the potential to spark imitators. God: Can you imagine Michigan doing the same thing against Ohio State next month? (No, but still...)

More From This Week: How soft is Ohio State's schedule? It is arguable that LSU's opponent last week ("Idle") was as tough as any team Ohio State has played this season ... I know Cal isn't the same team it was a few weeks ago when the Bears won at Oregon, but you simply can't rank Oregon ahead of Arizona State now that the Sun Devils have beaten Cal... The same goes for West Virginia and UConn, now that the Huskies have beaten 'Eers-pinning South Florida... I will never mock the name "Knowshawn" again...


This Week's Bandwagon: "Jayhawk and the Fat Man." I finally got my first chance to watch Kansas play a lot on Saturday night, and here was my biggest impression: Wow, Mark Mangino is a house.

I'm not one to make something out of personal appearance, but Mangino makes Ralph Friedgen look like the "dorm fridge." He makes Charlie Weis puffy p.f. look like Gisele Bundschen. I don't know whether Mangino has tried to diet or being "larger than life" (literally) is part of his schtick. Whatever it is, his appetite for winning seems matched only by an appetite for seconds.


(And more power to him: If college coaches tend to mimic successful peers, look for Urban Meyer to put on 100 pounds next year. Now we finally understand why Charlie Weis sucks: He lost all that weight.)

Bowl Clusterf*** Series Update: Four BCS-league unbeatens and six 1-loss teams remain legit contenders. Looking down the road, only BC, Ohio State and LSU don't inevitably run into one of the other 10. BC and Ohio State seemingly have the inside track; their limp schedules are, ironically, their No. 1 strength. (Will the SEC East's cannibalism kill LSU's argument that a 1-loss SEC champ deserves a shot at the national title over an unbeaten with an easier schedule?)


My BlogPoll Top 10 This Week
1. Boston College
Everything's coming up Jagodzinski!
2. Ohio State
Looked good beating merely OK opponent.
3. LSU
Needed idle week to prep for Saban.
4. Arizona State
Short-lived if they don't beat Ducks.
5. Oregon
Easy: Beat AZ St and move up.
6. Kansas
If jersey said "Texas," in Top 3
7. UConn
Who needs a program history?
8. West Virginia
Sitting behind...UConn?
9. Oklahoma
Poised to surge late.
10. (tie) Missouri, Georgia, Michigan
Michigan is back.
See the complete ballot here.

Looking Ahead to Next Week's Schedule: It's all about those 10 BCS-conference teams with one loss or less.


Game of the Week: Arizona State at Oregon. A quasi-playoff game! The winner might merit being in the Top 2; the loser is effectively out of the national-title picture.
Pick: Oregon

More Unbeaten-Watching:
Wisconsin at Ohio State: Will Buckeyes fans have the chutzpah to claim this as a "quality" win? (They did for Penn State.)
Pick: Ohio State.


Florida State at BC: Any chance the Eagles suffer a let-down? Not at home with 10 days to prepare against the negligible Noles.
Pick: BC

Nebraska at Kansas: What will it take to earn the Jayhawks some respect? Probably not a win over the mess known as Nebraska.
Pick: Kansas.


One-Loss BCS Contenders:
LSU at Alabama: If anyone can figure out how to beat LSU, it's the Tigers' former coach.
Pick: Alabama.

Texas A&M at Oklahoma: The Sooners keep rolling along to the Big 12 title game.
Pick: OU


Rutgers at UConn: UConn is the new South Florida is the new Rutgers. And the deep Big East is apparently the north's SEC.
Pick: UConn

Missouri at Colorado: Mizzou needs a pinball shot - win out, including a regular-season win over Kansas and, in the Big 12 title game, winning a rematch with Oklahoma. Plus everyone else losing.
Pick: Mizzou


Got any questions, comments or complaints? Email me at danshanoff-[at]-gmail-[dot]-com.