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Joseph: Playoff still needed (Nov. 14)

Allan Joseph | Sunday, November 13, 2011

It’s the perfect weekend for opponents of any sort of playoff system in college football. No. 4 Stanford lost to No. 7 Oregon, ending the Cardinal’s hopes of an undefeated season, and with them, any realistic chance at a national title. No. 5 Boise State fell to TCU, and the Broncos will be waiting another year for the long-hoped call to the title game. As the season goes on, teams keep dropping games, and hopes` for lifting that crystal football keep fading

It’s the “regular-season playoff” so many traditionalists vouch for. Though the season began with a wide-open field racing toward the ultimate goal, just three teams have realistic shots at championship-game berths: No. 1 LSU, No. 2 Oklahoma State and No. 3 Alabama.

So this proves we don’t need any sort of playoff system, right?

Let me answer that question with another question.

Are you kidding me?

Of course we need a playoff. In fact, we need a playoff this year more than ever — and not just any playoff. We need the craziest, biggest playoff we can get: the 16-team playoff proposed by Yahoo! Sports’ Dan Wetzel.

Wetzel essentially says there should be an automatic entry from each and every Football Bowl Subdivision conference (nine when he counted, but who knows how many that actually is given conference realignment), and then filling out the field with at-large bids. He argues this system would give the regular season value: the No. 1 team at the end of the year would get to play a weak Sun Belt champion, while the No. 6-ranked team would have to play a much stronger opponent. He suggests that every game save the title matchup be played at the home stadium of the higher-seeded opponent, giving added value to the regular season.

All of that is fine, and it’s a pretty nifty design for a playoff system. But the best part of Wetzel’s proposal is pretty simple.

It’s a whole lot of fun.

You can’t tell me you wouldn’t tune in to watch Oklahoma and LSU duke it out for a spot in the national championship game. You can’t tell me you wouldn’t watch Oklahoma State-Nevada in hopes of a Cinderella-style upset. You can’t tell me you wouldn’t watch Alabama and Stanford battle to just get out of the first round. Even better, all of the Boise State, TCU and Utah fans out there would get to ride their bandwagon all the way to the championship game — if their teams earn it.

Yeah, a playoff would be fun. Even better, it would help us really determine the best team every year. It’s pretty obvious that Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Oregon and Stanford are the best six teams in the country — most would agree that a matchup between any two of those teams would probably be pretty close, especially if those teams have already played this season.

But only two of them can play in the title game.

So why not open up to a playoff system? Let the best team earn that shiny Waterford crystal. But once it’s a plus-one system or a four-team system, you’re just cheating the fans — you might as well make it 16.

But for this year, at least, we won’t get the answer to the question of who the best team in the country is. We’ll just be left with one resounding question: What if?


Contact Allan Joseph at [email protected]

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.