Meeting of the Minds: What could wrong with a college football playoff? Plenty, actually


Ty Hilldenbrandt: As crazy as it seems right now, at the time the BCS was implemented, it was hailed as a great new concept… until it wasn’t and everyone started hating after seeing its flaws.  What are the flaws with this and why will we hate it in 5 years? In other words, what will go wrong with the proposed four-team college football playoff model?

Allen Kenney: For starters, assuming a chunk of the bowls die natural deaths from lack of interest, some mid-tier teams might check out on the games late in the season and just go through the motions.

Second, there are obviously plenty of details left to work out regarding how this playoff will be structured. We do know, however, that it looks as though on-campus semifinal games have been all but cut out of the equation. It seems inevitable that scenarios will arise in which lower-ranked teams end up with more favorable site assignments. For example, No. 1 USC vs. No. 4 Texas (it’s a hypothetical – quit laughing) at JerryWorld or No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 LSU in New Orleans. To me, that’s a problem.

There’s also an unintended consequence to all of this that people tend to ignore: When you infuse this much more money into the system, cheating is bound to go up. It could be especially lucrative for “street agents.”

Is that a fault of the playoff itself? Not at all. It’s just reality, and to be honest, I doubt it will really have an effect on our satisfaction with the system itself. But everyone will probably feel that much slimier if/when scandals start to multiply.

Aaron Torres: Personally, I think Allen hit on my biggest point of contention: The cold, hard cash of it all. Add this much more money into the system, and the same number of hands in the pot, and everyone gets greedier, dirtier, less trustworthy, you name it.

My bigger question is, and always has been, how soon until it gets bigger? And bigger? And bigger? There will obviously be provisions, but does it happen at the end of the first contract? The second? Who knows. All these commissioners can talk a big talk about “stopping at four” and “preserving the bowl system,” but crap, who the heck knows what the economic model will be five years down the road? Who knew the economic model would be where it is now?

Not to mention that as we’ve learned from conference realignment/expansion, whenever more money is infused to the system, wacky stuff happens. Had you asked most college football fans 30 months ago if they expected TCU to be in the Big XII, Nebraska in the Big Ten and Utah in some strange conference called the “Pac-12,” they would’ve looked at you funny. Now conference realignment is so prevalent that the stories don’t even make headlines. It took me two days to find out about San Jose State and Utah State’s move to the MWC, because I’m simply jaded at this point.

So I guess to me this comes down to cold hard cash as well. When, in college football has there ever been enough? And where does it end?

Kevin McGuire: Absolutely it’s about the cash. Always has been, and probably always will. When we reach a point where those who benefit from the playoff idea realize more money can be made from the postseason system, that is when it will expand to eight, and perhaps 16 teams. Heck, why not expand to 20 or 24 teams like the lower divisions will do? Clearly the grid can be rigged to include however many teams you want, and now that the first page is being turned on the whole concept, only time will tell just how quickly the powers that be turn to next page.

Allen brings up a good point as well. The possibility of lower-seeded teams getting a somewhat home field advantage is there, and that will lead to plenty of criticism when it happens (because it will happen). To me though the biggest injustice will again be the first time we get an undefeated team shutout of the championship picture. Let’s imagine a world with an undefeated USC and an undefeated Alabama team in the mix with a one-loss Big Ten champion and one -loss Big 12 champion. Few would argue those teams would be passed over by an undefeated Boise State, right? Sure, maybe the masses don’t care about the Broncos as a whole, but the case will be there yet again that to get a seat at the grown-ups table is a privilege, not a right.

Michael Felder: I’ll be the bad guy here; I don’t care if an undefeated team gets passed. I don’t care if they are from the ACC or the Big East or from a non-BCS conference. The idea that going undefeated automatically grants you “a chance” is absolutely absurd to me. Like the idea that Cincinnati is more deserving to be in a four team playoff than the Florida team that mashed them out in the Sugar Bowl in 2009. I want the best teams in, period.

The problem that I see is the expansion of the field. Never, ever, in the history of ever has their been a time that more than a few teams could rightfully lay claim to being the best. I don’t care about spectacle. I don’t care about what fans want to see; all I care about is putting, in this case, the best four teams out there and having them play for a title. I don’t want “everyone to get a shot” because, quite frankly, everyone does not deserve a shot. Get better at football, not just better at your schedule or in your conference.

A Sun Belt team decides to skip the instant payday of playing a couple SEC schools, schedules some FCS teams, then wins their league to go undefeated and they’re now, instantly, as good as the best team in the country? I’ll pass.

The whole who is number four versus who is number five argument is going to be just as ridiculous as the who is two versus who is three argument. The whole playoff situation did nothing to address the actual problem with the BCS; how the two teams were picked. Now there are just more teams thinking they have a shot at something and the same broken matrix being used to do the picking. Until that is changed I really don’t have much faith in this playoff thing. Just something for people to hoot and holler about until they end up in the five spot and then it is broken again.

Aaron Torres: Mike, let me play a little of my own devil’s advocate here, defend Kevin, and bring it back to the original question (yes, I can multi-task like that. I’m that good.).

Like you, I’m all for the “best” being on the field. Whether that’s two as things currently stand, four in 2014 or 16, 24, 32, 64 or whatever down the road, put the best of the best on the field. It’s why I wanted to see Alabama and LSU play for the title last January. They were the two “best” teams I saw in college football all of last year.

However, I don’t think Kevin’s point was really about who was “deserving” as much what the “perception” would be about them being left out. Which again brings us back to Ty’s original point. This four-team model is supposed to be the be-all, end-all and wipe away all the problems that people perceive college football as having (everyone in this conversation is intelligent enough to know that sentiment is absolutely absurd, but it is still out there). To Ty’s point, it was the same with the BCS in 1998. It was the next “great” system for crowning a champ… until it wasn’t (of course what most people forget now is that it was still significantly better than what was in place beforehand).

Which brings us back to what Kevin was saying: It’s not about whether Boise is deserving or not, just what can and will go wrong, and how people will react to it. I’m with you; I don’t think Cincinnati should’ve played in a hypothetical four-team playoff in ’10, the same way I don’t think Utah was more deserving a year earlier, even though they beat Alabama in the Sugar.

This though, is about what could go wrong, and what will get people riled up. And if an undefeated Boise were to get left out of a four-team playoff, with two of the playoff teams being of the one-loss variety, well, it would get people’s panties in a bunch.

Allen Kenney: If we’re talking about the biggest problems likely to arise out of the new four-team playoff, Aaron and Kevin have actually hit on the key issue here.

The reason we’re getting this playoff really has very little to do with undefeated mid-majors getting snubbed in the past. The suits want it now because it will be cool to watch, which means they will make lots of money off of it. The access/inclusion argument is a Trojan horse for us to convince ourselves that this represents progress and fairness and yada yada.

Everybody is happy now, but we know that people really want to see eight or 16 teams. When undefeated Akron or Louisiana Tech get left out, we’ll start the “fairness” cycle again.

About Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres works for Fox Sports, and was previously a best-selling author of the book 'The Unlikeliest Champion.' He currently uses Aaron Torres Sports to occasionally weigh-in on the biggest stories from around sports. He has previously done work for such outlets as Sports Illustrated, SB Nation and Slam Magazine.