College Football Playoff: Perils and Pleasure

Oregon meets Colorado

Mike Merrell’s Three-and-Out

To nobody’s surprise, the present four-team playoff system is proving to be at best a Band-Aid to stop the bleeding until a real solution is in place to crown a national champion in Division I-A football. Right or wrong, there seems to be a semblance of consensus over the top three teams, but it’s a train wreck of disorder at the number four spot.

Even before teams hit the field for the first championship series, coaches are in favor of changing to at least an eight-team format. One coach is even in favor of a 64-team playoff. (You have to hope he isn’t serious.) But for now, the four-team format is what we have, and the perils and pleasures of a four-team playoff is the subject of this week’s Three-and-Out.

No "second chances" for second place teams.

Google Images

No “second chances” for second place teams.

1.  The first peril – Buying into the SEC Superiority Myth. Human consideration is an improvement over the garbage-in/garbage-out computer programs that told us that you could come to objective conclusions based upon subjective input. Four teams having a chance is better than two teams having a chance, and at this point the Oregon Ducks are the primary beneficiary of the new system. Under the old system, it would have automatically been the SEC champion against an undefeated but unimpressive Florida State. Four teams is a major improvement — especially for Oregon — but the fact remains that the selection process still considers placing a second SEC team in the final four at the expense of two entire conferences.

It isn’t that everybody is afraid of the SEC. It’s just that every team in the SEC has a chance to win the national championship by first winning the SEC championship. The runner-up team will have had its chance and it will have blown it. So why give it a second chance before you give other conferences’ champions a first chance?

This makes as little sense as deciding that the World Series should be between American League powers Kansas City and Baltimore, because somebody thinks they’re better than anything the National League has to offer. Congratulations on winning the National League, Giants. Too bad you didn’t make the cut.

It is bad enough to leave out a champion from one of the power five conferences, but to leave out two starts to take the “National Championship” flavor out of the whole thing.

tOSU is on the cusp, having lost by 14 to a team that couldnt get a touchdown against Wake Forest.

Google Images

tOSU is on the cusp, even though it lost by 14 to a team that couldn’t get a touchdown against Wake Forest.

2.  The Second Peril – The Dog Show. In the next two weeks, the entire top ten could end up shuffled. But for now it’s all about the number four spot, and the arguments for whom that spot should go to demonstrate just what a dog show it is. Mississippi State, Ohio State, TCU and Baylor are all arguing it out, and if a Pac-12 South team slips by Oregon in the conference championship game, it will join the fray.

No matter what happens, there are some teams that are not going to get the opportunity to settle it on the field, because the illustrious panel of judges is going to say “Poodle” instead of “Terrier.”

So the lobbying has begun, with arguments ranging from feeble to sound. One of the feeblest arguments – if not THE feeblest — is from ESPN’s ACC Blog’s David Hale, who seems to be trying to pump up the ACC by promoting Ohio State, whose only loss came to ACC also-ran Virginia Tech.

Hale makes the argument that Ohio State should be on equal footing with Oregon, largely on the basis that Va Tech (which beat Ohio State by 14) is on equal footing with Arizona (which beat Oregon by 7). Therefore, Ohio State is on equal footing with Oregon.

Va Tech (5-6, ACC) = Arizona (9-2, Pac-12)? Why? Because Arizona has had four narrow wins and Virginia Tech has had four (Oops, make that five now.) narrow losses, and Narrow = Narrow.

Lost somewhere in Hale’s logic are the facts that four close wins are better than four five close losses … That 9-2 in a tough conference is better than 5-6 in the wussiest of the five power conferences … That losing by 7 to a ranked team isn’t as bad as losing by 14 to an unranked team … That the Big 10 has stunk it up pretty regularly in nonconference games against Power 5 foes.

If there has ever been a case of selective memory skewing the marginal-to-start-with transitive property, this is it. But as long as it’s a dog show, we’re going to have this sort of argument, and it is a pity.

3.  The Pleasures. For now, Oregon fans can take joy in the fact that the Ducks are on the inside track and have only themselves and whomever they face on the field to concern themselves with. Nothing is a given, but for now Oregon has a relatively attractive path to the championship game, though with everything except this weekend’s showdown against Oregon State subject to change.

Marcus Mariota speeds past a Colorado defender.

Craig Strobeck

Marcus Mariota speeds past a Colorado defender.

If UCLA makes it past Stanford, for the Pac-12 Championship Game the Ducks will face a team they’ve already beaten in a new stadium where they are the only college team to win a game.

As things now stand, Oregon’s first round game would be the Rose Bowl against Florida State, again in a stadium (and time zone) familiar to the Ducks, but unfamiliar to FSU. And despite holding the nation’s longest winning streak, the Seminoles have been living on borrowed time all season, eking out one narrow win after another against teams that the Ducks would easily take down by four or five touchdowns.

However it ends for the Ducks, what a season it has been! It’s a classic story line – everything’s fine at the start, things get turned upside down, and then the good guys battle back. We still don’t know how it ends, but here it is late November and the Ducks are still in the running for both a Heisman and a national championship – and while we want it all, that in itself is cause for joy.

Top photo by Craig Strobeck

 

Print Friendly

 Volunteer Position Openings:

--Media Management/Supervisor:  We are looking for someone beyond college age who can help manage students and mentor in a number of different departments. Expertise is not required as organizational skills and interest in guiding others.   --Assistant Football Analyst: Love college football and enjoy watching it for hours? We need associates to view games and find the techniques/teaching points we identify for them in advance.  You will be recognized in publications, and could have the opportunity to move to full Analyst.   --College Football Analyst: We are looking for Coaches, or retired coaches to help create analysis videos (we do the video part) that will be viewed by thousands, and will help young football players as well as fans understand the game much better. The national recognition will help your resume' as well as make an impact upon the game we all dearly love.   --Video Specialist: We are looking for help in the Eugene/Springfield area to assist with the shooting and editing of analysis videos.   All Positions: Send a resume' with full contact information and any writing samples you have to charles@fishduck.com  Again, these are volunteer positions donating five hours a week each.

Mike Merrell

Mike Merrell

Mike (Editor-in-Chief) is a 1970 graduate of the University of Oregon where he attended the Honors College and received all-conference honors as a swimmer. After college, Mike ran for the Oregon Track Club and narrowly missed qualifying for the US Olympic Trials in the marathon. He continues his involvement in sports with near-daily swimming or running workouts, occasional masters swim competition (where he has received two Top-10 World rankings), providing volunteer coaching to local triathletes and helping out with FishDuck.com. Mike lives on 28 acres in the forest near Sandpoint, Idaho, where he has served as a certified public accountant for most of his working career. His current night job is writing novels about Abby Westminster, the only known illegitimate daughter of Britain's finest secret agent who has to bring down arch-villains plotting dastardly deeds. And, yes, Abby is also a DUCK!