Ducks-Spartans Loser Can Legitimize Playoff System
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As long as the Michigan State Spartans don't embarrass themselves at Oregon tomorrow, they should have an inside track to one of the CFP's four playoff spots.
The reason is obvious.
They had the balls to go to Eugene.
The Spartans are doing what needs to be done more often if the concept of an FBS national championship is to be taken seriously.
The move to a bona fidé playoff came because, with each passing season, the BCS format was revealed to be the sham that it was.
For much of the college football public -- all but the homerest of homers -- winning the BCS title was akin to an elderly aunt patting a kid on the head and saying, "That's nice, dear."
It's not difficult to see why. Brand names became a hedge bet on performance. When computer models would toss out data indicating that, say, Texas Christian's credentials were better than Florida's or that a two-loss Stanford's degree of scheduling difficulty was far superior to any remaining undefeated team, the computers' influence was downgraded and replaced by the ever-so-cynical self-fulfilling prophecy that is the eye test.
In reality, that's a term meaning that the likes of an Oklahoma, Alabama, or a Nôtre Dame got a free pass because of who they were, and those proverbial eyes rarely took a deep glance at their full schedules. So the SEC teams could and did sandbag their way to favorable positions and the Fighting Irish could ride the PR trail to a statistically undeserved berth in a championship game where the betting public reaped rewards because they were sure what was coming.
All but the homerest of homers, that is.
Yes, as usual, the only quality non-con on the Crimson Tide's artfully-rigged schedule that year was against a down Wolverine program at a neutral site.
So, Alabama may well have been the best team of 2012, but it only had to prove it in a couple of games instead of a full schedule.
Most top programs use an A-B-C format for their non-cons, with A being a quality opponent, B being a winnable best-of-the-rest opponent, and C being the proverbial cupcake or reasonable facsimile thereof. Money plays a huge role, of course, which is one reason why it's so difficult to get power programs to travel; they can easily pack their house no matter who they're playing.
However, even in the holiest of SEC shrines, fans aren't buying into the no matter who concept anymore.
For all those reasons, full marks to Michigan State.
Hopefully, the Playoff Selection Committee will feel the same way. Not about the winner, but about the loser.
No matter what, the shallow wags will be out in force, chastising whomever's on the wrong side of the score for whatever shortcoming seems convenient. Worse yet, they'll no doubt compare it to a program that didn't have the cojones to match up on a college campus and claim its superiority.
For what? Ducking?
It's virtually inconceivable for a Pac-12 team to run the table in conference games. If any Big Ten team can do it, Michigan State has the best chance. So one of these teams will most likely do well to only have two losses by season's end. And if they do emerge as titlists in their leagues, then at least one two-loss team should be in the playoff field. Maybe even a three-loss team, given how the season unfolds.
By Saturday evening, the stage will be set to see if the College Football Playoff will indeed have any more credibility than the BCS did. If so, it's a step forward for the college game's desire to have a true champion.
If not, then all of the FBS will still be wanting.