Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Trojan War, No More (Or, Coming to a Horseshoe Near You)

The new college football Bowl Championship Series (BCS) rankings are out. With USC’s loss to Oregon State, we are closer to the train wreck that many have predicted since the BCS system was first implemented. That is, a situation in which multiple undefeated and one-loss teams (not just one, as was the case with Auburn a few seasons ago) can legitimately claim that they were unfairly excluded from the official national championship game. This will be true especially if undefeated West Virginia, now ranked #3, loses Thursday night’s game against undefeated #5 Louisville. Even then, West Virginia will face tough games against Pittsburgh and Rutgers. And the computers, unlike the human voters, do not like the Mountaineers –- the machines have them #13.

College presidents, athletic directors, coaches, prominent alumni, the media and blogs like this one from Florida to Idaho –-well, maybe not Idaho –- will scream again about how unfair the system is, and how we need a playoff system to determine a true national champion. But that is a story for another day. The truth, of course, is the forces behind college football love the BCS precisely when it creates controversy. Controversy during the season means publicity –- and money. More than a playoff system, apparently.

That said, week in and week out, it’s hard to beat college football. Especially great rivalry games. Unless there is a major upset in the next two weeks –- and the USC loss is a reminder not to take things for granted – we do know one of the teams that will play for the national title. That will be the winner of the greatest rivalry game of them all. Even better than Duke-North Carolina in basketball. November 18, #2 Michigan at #1 Ohio State.

For you Boise State fans, keepers of this year’s flame for the smaller schools, you are still two spots (#14) away from an automatic bid to another BCS bowl game – with no shot at the national championship game, of course. I am afraid however that your final game at Nevada might end the dream.

A note on pro football: Mike Vick has been scary good the past two weeks. If this is a trend and not more fool’s gold; if he can stay healthy (a very big if); and if Atlanta can continue to use him creatively – the promised revolution in quarterbacking may finally be upon us.

Discussions - 20 Comments

Ha! Even better than Duke-UNC basketball, you say? You Buckeyes do take all!

A lot bigger... Football as a sport is bigger than Basketball... But then I would say that Texas vs OU is bigger than Duke-UNC. I guess it is somewhat regional and I suppose basketball fans are permitted to disagree.

If you ask me West Virginia is weak... when they go to a BCS bowl game and win then the debate can start...give me a one loss Southeastern Conference team over Louisville or West Virginia any day. The Ohio State/Michigan game is going to be a matter who wins. I suppose you could measure the big rivalries by the sum total of crazyness that accompanies them...if the day following a game you find people in a loosing state wearing the opposing teams cheerleading uniforms around the mall...then it is a rivalry of notice. If commercial billboards pick a side of the is a big game(see State Farms "In case you hit a Wolverine" car insurance sign). In Oklahoma I noticed that some republican was even running his campaign using a poster with an upside down Longhorn. Some of the other signs in the yard were for Democrats so I guess the person who put up the signs hated Texas enough to overcome partisanship(or maybe he was just independently minded...but I doubt it). In fact if Republicans want to distance themselves from Republicans at the national level...a big part of going regional would be playing into the college football prejudices. Of course this could backfire...real fans are more or less fed up with rich business people snatching up all the tickets...and not even careing about the game or its outcome(like the SuperBowl and a lot of bowl games have became.) So a politician better not be seen as one of these fair-weather opportunist milktoast types.

West Virginia and Louisville are both nice teams, but I wonder how they would be doing if they were in the Big Ten or SEC, so I can understand the "machines" disdain for them...

Having said all that, how great would it be to have a playoff this year instead of the horribly flawed BCS format? Can you imagine a 16 team scenario with one loss monsters like Texas, Auburn, Tennesee, Florida, USC, California all climbing over one another for their shot. Mix in small but mighty Boise and Ray Rice and Rutgers, and there’s real reason for everyone to get excited about Bowl season. I can’t imagine such a scenario being anything but a commercial and ratings success for NCAA. And while there will still be grumbling about the 17th team left out of the party, it would be far better than questioning who’s number one...

I agree with you Rich, a lot of people think that... but a lot of intellectuals are already starting to question the NCAA about the purpose of its atheletics... how do you answer George Will asking if college football should have extended its season to 12 games, yet alone tacking on more for a playoff system.

In the religion of Buckidolatry, the final signs of the end times are stirring the faithful to a frenzied state of expectation. For lo, the Buckeyes are number one, and the antibucks, Michigan, are number two. Yea and the two shall meet, the fearsome brown nuts and the snarling rodents, on the horseshoe shaped field of Columbageddon. And behold, we shall witness

The Buckeyepocalypse,

the last battle before Woody Hayes returns to destroy the BCS by fire. Buckidolators everywhere are buying canned food and drinking water.

WVU and Louisville are both underrated above. The winner of that game, if it goes on to finish the season undefeated, should play for the national championship. WVU has not really been tested yet, it’s true, but the talent is there and it will show in the Louisville game.


The BCS is only a train wreck if deciding the undisputed national champion is an important thing. The great thing about college football is that every week there is a couple of "national championship" games, and we often do not know it beforehand (OSU-USC this past week, e.g.). The playoff system would ruin--or at least diminish--that uniquely important regular season. Conservatives should embrace tradition and the lack of certainty and argue for a return to the older, pre-BCS bowl system before arguing that we should chuck the BCS in favor of a playoff.

And as for the BSU Broncos. Go Blue and Orange~! We’ll beat Texas in the Fiesta Bowl (well, I exaggerate).


I think it’s a bit silly to say that conservatives should have any particular opinion on the BCS, syen. One can have a respect for tradition regardless of one’s political philosophy.

But the bottom line for me is that championships should be decided on the playing field, not via a shady voting system or computer models. A playoff system is long overdue. I think even an eight-team playoff would be adequate. Of course the selection process for those eight teams would always be open to criticism and there would undoubtedly be situations that would arise whereby a seemingly deserving team would be left out, but the end result would be hard to argue with.

I fail to see how a playoff system would ruin the importance of the regular season. It’s not like it’s terribly easy for a team to crack the top 8. A team would have to have an impressive regular season in order to make the playoff. With only 12 games per year before the playoff would begin, two losses would almost certainly lock out most teams, regardless of pedigree.

Taking my tongue out of my cheek, I would respond that the OSU Mich game is more dramatic and important every year precisely because it is a quasi-playoff game (as is Notre Dame-USC; OU-Texas and countless SEC games); but adding a playoff would make them less important because there would be a re-do for these teams. The championships ARE decided on the field --games are played for the BCS rankings. The rankings are, in the scheme of things, not arbitrary nor are they ridiculous, neither were they ridiculuous when there was straight voting. Our dispute concerns what we mean by decided on the field. I say that the BCS shaped regular season works like the electoral college. It ensures us that with a moral certainty that two of the best teams will be vying for the national championship. That is good enough for me! Best,sey

Hey John....WVU beat an SEC team in a BCS bowl just last year. It might have been Alabama or Florida, but I’m not sure at the moment. While I think the Big East is terribly weak, I don’t think it’s much weaker than the top heavy Big Ten when you compare the entire conferences. Remember, UC gave OSU a better game than most of the Big Ten has done.

WVU beat Auburn in last season Capital One Bowl. UC played Ohio State for half of a quarter. It is difficult to judge the quality of a team by comparing them to how they did against a common opponent when both were beat badly. "More of a game" is a strecth.

I disagree with syen. NCAA div. III and div. II have well-established playoff systems and yet the regular season is highly competitive, conference championships are the intitial goal of all teams, and rivalries remain in tact. Even with less fan fare, games between Ashland and Hillsdale or Ashland and Findlay, as well as games like Saginaw Valley St. v. Grand Valley State, Northwood v. Saginaw Valley St., and North Dakota St. v. South Dakota St. are consistently important, hard fought battles, normally resulting in close scores regardless of team records that year.

Good teams get left out of the equation. Last year Ashland University was 9-2, with a four point loss to eventual national champion GVSU. The winning score came on a 45-yard pass with just minutes left in the fourth. Ashland didn’t make the playoffs. It was disappointing and they were probably a better football team than some teams that made the playoffs in different regions, but they certainly couldn’t argue that the best team in the country won in the end. They had their chance (I know this confirms one of your points).

On the other hand, two years ago GVSU (I think) lost to SVSU in the regular season, but also beat a team that beat SVSU in the regular season. They met in the playoffs and GVSU won.

The idea of a "do-over" as problematic is inaccurate when it comes to college football, especially when teams are very familiar with one another. Being familiar with the other team is probably the third most important weapon in college football behind team chemistry and talent. I would say even more than coaching, except that team chemistry is normally a reflection of a part of coaching. That is why conference games are never a sure thing (ask Wisconsisn (squeaker against Illinois) and USC), while non-conference games are at least more consistent picks.

The biggest flaw with your assessment is revealed in your conclusion. You say:

It ensures us that with a moral certainty that two of the best teams will be vying for the national championship.

I don’t want to be assured that two of the best teams will play, I want the two best teams to play. An eight team playoff would do that, no questions asked. A bowl system never would.

Also, to follow up on the conservative angle, tradition is a strength where the answer is at least reasonably uncertain or assumed. Neither of which exist in the case of college football.

West Virginia beat SEC-champion Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Wisconsin easily beat Auburn in the Capital One Bowl.

Last year’s West Virginia team did not lose anybody. They won’t beat OSU, but as far as I am concerned, they are the reigning SEC champions.


Excellent points, though not decisive in my judgment There will never be certainty that the two best teams will play for the national championchip. Even the NCAA basketball tourney doesnt accomplish that. That tourney depends on match-ups in the tourney, where one is ceded, and what not. The regular season is the playoffs in Div. 1 college sports, and the play is consistently exciting and each game is fraught with naitonal championship implications. USC was eliminated this week from consideration--in all liklihood. Notre Dame was eliminated by their loss to Michigan. These are all mini-playoff games, and adding a second chance for these teams strikes me as reflecting a utopian hope for a perfect solution to the problems of human life (I exaggerate again).

My preferred solution is the old bowl system, but the BCS is good enough. Baseball has suffered due to the expanded playoffs, in my judgment. In part because it offends the just God of the universe to deny the team that wins a 162 game season an automatic bid in the WS. In part because there are too many playoff games. When it comes to playoffs, fewer games is more. When the regular season means so much, I do not think it wise to detract from it.

That being said, if Boise State is denied a BCS chance, I favor a playoff!!:)



thanks for the correction. I agree with your assessment of West Virginia. Also, if Louisville wins, I’d like to think they are a worthy opponent for the Bucks (they already stomped a Miami team that was supposed to be national championship caliber...but of course their "swagger" has been revealed for what it is...though FIU did start the a player, I would have initially tried to stop the fight, but I know that as soon as I got hit I would have joined in the fray...any thoughts on that incident Mr. Garrity?) However, if the Michigan game is a good one, I say let’s do it again (forget the illusion of "objectivity").


good points. They’ll take more time to reflect on...considering a "just God" is implicated. I’ll have to get back to you. An initial thought, however. The Steelers or the Colts were the best team in the NFL last year. They played in the playoffs and the Steelers won. Yet, the Steelers were 10-6 and a wildcard team.

This may further prove your point, but with the Cardinals domination of the Tigers, despite their medicore regular season record and existence in the weak National League, in addition to their obviously enhanced performance in the playoffs and the WS, what say you?

What would Churchill say to the baseball team that wins 162 games and gets dominated in the first round of the playoffs despite being healthy? I have an idea, and sympathy wouldn’t be involved.


The whole idea of conferences (in college fb) and leagues (in baseball) adds an irrationality into the system. The weak national league did not truly deserve a world series team (based on the inter league records), but that is an irrationality I am happy to live with because it produces, with a moral certainty, two really good teams playing for the world series. In recent years, I believe that Seattle got screwed when they won 116 or so games, but had a pitching staff designed for 162, not a five game series against the Yankees. The Braves are in the same camp. The same holds true for college football. the second best SEC team is almost always excellent, but often gets screwed by rankings and bowls. That is the price that team plays for having a great conference. It is not fair, nor is it rational. But that is life and it is beautiful.

Compare it to college basketball. People do not watch much bb because the regular season is meaningless, but the tourney is everything (and great sport, too). I do not want that to happen with football, where the season is so meaningful.


I would like to weigh-in in favor of syen. While the playoff system in the rest of college football (div I-AA, II, III) is often held up as obviously superior, it is in fact far from obvious that the system rewards the best team "on the field" or produces the best championship game. In the last three years, for example, in I-AA the #1 seed was eliminated early and the eventual champion never had to play them. Nor is it the case that the championship games themselves are more exciting or competitive. The playoff system rewards the team that gets hottest (or gets the luckiest draw) for a three or four game stretch. The current system in I-A rewards excellence over the course of an entire season. I also argue that syen is the truest conservative, alive to the unintended consequences (such as less meaningful regular season games) of rationally reforming a beautifully imperfect system.

I would add that the only thing syen gets wrong is suggesting that Boise State could beat Texas.

What’s wrong with rewarding the "hottest" team? In football (and life for that matter) there are many variables, and the best teams must rise above their obstacles and setbacks. When two teams take the field, the results are never certain (if they were, we wouldn’t be interested in talking about it). So I’m less interested in "rewarding" the best team of the regular season, than I am in seeing several worthy squads bash it out on the gridiron...

I suspect you will all get your way and we will end up with a college football playoff. I hope, however, that you remember syen’s posts when we have a two-loss champion (second in their conference) who win the tournament without ever facing the previously undefeated team who beat them in the regular season. Decided "on the field" indeed!
Doesn’t anybody remember the championship game that the "flawed" BCS brought us last year? In a 16 team playoff, either Texas or USC might have stumbled against an inferior team along the way.

Maconwaves is maconsense as we stand athwart history yelling "stop" to the utopian ambitions of the perfectionist progressives! Alas, I too fear that a playoff is inevitable.

BTW, Maconsense is macon one error, though I made it first. He is assuming that Texas will make the Fiesta Bowl; it will only if it gets by A & M, which it won’t. BSU vs. USC in the Fiesta Bowl. BSU beat ORegon State; USC lost to Oregon State; therefore, BSU wins Fiesta Bowl. (Talk about utopian ambitions!)


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