Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The BCS applied to the NFL Playoffs

The college football season ended just a few days ago when Alabama shut out LSU 21-0 in New Orleans. Whether or not you believed Alabama should have been their in the first place, it is hard to deny that they dominated the LSU Tigers in a fashion many didn't expect whatsoever.  It is hard to deny that Alabama has at least a claim at being the best college football team in the country right now, though Oklahoma State may beg to differ.

However, there certainly was a good amount of uproar surrounding the final BCS standings when Alabama was placed in the national title game over Oklahoma State, despite not winning its division, let alone its own conference.  Many made the argument that if Alabama wasn't even the best team in its conference, how could they be one of the two best teams in the country.  The biggest argument that the BCS executives had for their system was that the regular season mattered so much, a team had to be perfect to make it to the title game.  That argument was largely put to bed when Alabama was placed in the title game.  The public call for a playoff in college football has grown to its loudest point in recent memory.  Every major sport in the United States, college and professional, operates using a playoff to name its champion, except college football.  I understand the interest in keeping the traditions of bowl games alive, but college football is reaching a point where a playoff system is needed.  In this light, I began thinking of what if a BCS system was used to name the NFL champion and the two teams who would play in the Super Bowl.  The results were very interesting.

To name the top 10 teams I referred to the standings of the entire NFL on ESPN.  Using this the top ten teams of the NFL are:

1. Green Bay
2. New England
3. San Francisco
4. New Orleans
5. Baltimore
6. Pittsburgh
7. Houston
8. Atlanta
9. Detroit
10. Cincinnati

Using the BCS system to determine the Super Bowl champion, this means that Green Bay would meet New England in Indianapolis on February 5th.  Now in reality, we all know what has happened over the last few weeks.  #1 Green Bay and #8 Atlanta have both lost to #12 New York Giants, who will now face #3 San Francisco this weekend, a team who narrowly defeated #4 New Orleans.  Similarly, #14 Denver defeated #6 Pittsburgh in its first game.

The most important thing that I took away from this exercise was the success of the New York Giants so far this post-season.  In the BCS system, the Giants would not have even sniffed the national title.  This year the Giants have defeated both the #8 and #1 best teams in the NFL and will be playing the #3 team in the NFC championship game.  For comparisons sake, that is the same as Baylor defeating Kansas State and LSU to make it to the semi-finals of a playoff system against a #3 Oklahoma State.

The BCS is a flawed system but it is the best system, for better or worse, right now.  At the end of each season we know that the title game will be between the #1 and the #2 team in the country at the end of the night we will be able to crown an undisputed national champion.  However, a playoff system would achieve the same goal, without as much of the subjectivity of the current BCS system.  Who makes the playoffs will be based on wins and losses and who wins the title will be based on the team that can beat everyone else.

I don't mind the BCS.  As I stated above, it is a flawed system but the best one for right now.  For the most part, a team does need to be perfect to make it to the title game.  If Oklahoma State had beaten Iowa State then undoubtedly they would have made it.  It is exciting, over the course of a season, to see a team reach the level of perfection it needs to to make it to the title game.  With that all said, the writing is on the wall for a playoff system.  Most fans want it, many coaches and teams want it, and it is an equally indisputable way to name a national champion.

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