College Football Resource plays caveman to my tinfoil spacesuit in his latest post about the BCS. His post is an excellent argument against a playoff, but one that I can't agree with. He presents two separate arguments which I'll attempt to summarize. Argument one: college football is at least half about the weirdness that composes it, the obsessions, the traditions, the incomprehensible cheers, the old guy who juggles knives and comes back every homecoming. The bowls are a large hunk of this tradition.
That rings very true for me. That's the divide between college in the pros--the chintz of college football has, over the years, morphed itself into something wonderful and genuine. The loudspeaker roar played over the PA systems at is the same at Nittany Lions and Detroit Lions games, but somehow the former doesn't seem contrived. But the assertion that the bowls are a unique and wonderful tradition of college football I only wish I could agree with. I'm as crusty and traditional as your typical Michigan fan. I tend to go on about championships won when trilobites were still wandering the oceans and can regale you with a tale about how the 27 million BC Rose Bowl would have been a triumphant Wolverine victory if not for a meteor craftily sent by Woody Hayes.
But the sight of Ashlee Simpson butchering her way through some song about dressing up like a French maid at the "Fedex" Orange Bowl on January fourth... well, wherever the platonic bowl ideal is a precious tradition of college football, it's clear that we don't live there any more. Insight.com! Poulan Weedeater! Half-time shows with the less talented Simpson sister! How on earth did we get here? The Cotton and Gator bowls are meaningless, January 1 is no longer the Christmas of college football, and for what? A system that is wrong, wrong, wrong more often than not? A system that has left a worthy challenger in the cold, often championshipless, almost every single year that it's been around? A system that fears common sense? CFR says he prefers the "ante-bellum" days of CFB (bonus points for totally awesome word use), and I agree.
The situation reminds me much of the old... well, it's not really a joke, but, you know, the canard where a man asks a woman if he would have sex with him for a million dollars and she says "yeah, I guess." The man then asks her if she would do the same for five dollars and she asks, "what do you think I am?" to which the man replies: "We've already established what you are, now we're just haggling over the price." The BCS and the bowls have already established what they are. Now we're just haggling over the number of teams.
CFR's second argument is one that is also well made and deeply relevant: it would be impossible for a playoff to not lessen the frantic urgency every team feels during every game of the season. In college football, if you lose even once you are depending on other teams to screw up. Every loss is Armageddon. But I believe that the college football season is too focused on not losing. Witness the yearly matchups between national powers and schools you couldn't find on a map. For God's sake, there's no reason for Auburn to play the Citadel. A playoff that let the major conferences' champions in would drastically lessen the pressure on teams to schedule cupcakes and would allow us to see more titanic intersectional matchups like this year's Ohio State-Texas game.
My proposal is eight teams: the champions of the B12, B10, SEC, ACC, and Pac10, plus three teams selected by a committee. One slot would go to a champion of the Big East, WAC, etc. The other two would be at large berths. First and second rounds are at the home field of the higher ranked team. The final is January 1st at the Rose Bowl. The sun sets in the third quarter. Two teams battle for an undisputed national championship.
The bands play at halftime.
Also! Every Day Should Be Saturday has an excellent rumination on the divergent fates of UCLA and Texas since the Bears waxed the Longhorns 66-3 and ran John Mackovic out of Texas.
And Blue-Gray Sky has an interesting post up on Charlie Weis' attendance at a Texas football camp. They highlight this passage:
"He said it would be "wrong for him to go into a recruiting pitch to lure Texas' NCAA Division I football players to South Bend, the Mecca of the universe", as he called it."Violation! Violation! All right. It's just funny. Dangit.