Looks like this could be a great year for a four-team playoff, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, there isn’t one.
The first release of the 2013 Bowl Championship Series rankings Sunday night serves as a reminder that this buffer year before starting the College Football Playoff is just an aggravation. We see the future, and it will be better – but first we have to suffer through one more year of nonsense.
[Photos: Top college football images from Week 8]
Because without that four-team playoff, we’re left with a lousy system that makes differentiation between the second-best and third-best teams in America very difficult but necessary.
As of today, Florida State is barely ahead of Oregon for No. 2. That’s a plot twist, because the Ducks have been ahead of the Seminoles in the human polls every week of the season. But FSU’s dominant victory over Clemson apparently has changed the dynamic, and now the argument escalates over who should be Robin to Alabama’s undisputed Batman.
This will, of course, sort itself out one of two ways:
1. Someone will lose. Or multiple someones. They almost always do, and in the process almost always render the first BCS standings of the year moot and meaningless.
2. If none of the top three loses, Oregon is likely to jump over Florida State and gain separation from the Seminoles. The Ducks have upcoming games against BCS No. 6 Stanford, No. 12 UCLA, No. 25 Oregon State and quite possibly a second game against UCLA in the Pac-12 championship. Florida State has a game with No. 7 Miami, and maybe an ACC championship game rematch with the Hurricanes or a matchup with No. 14 Virginia Tech. Advantage, Ducks.Given the current standings, think how interesting a four-team playoff would be. In a word, very.
For one thing, the Oregon-Florida State argument would be settled on the field. They’d be the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds, with the winner advancing to the national title game.
And the other semifinal? Would Alabama-Ohio State carry a little cache?
I’m not sure the Buckeyes have done enough to merit being ranked ahead of Missouri at No. 4 – the BCS computers certainly don’t see it that way, putting the Tigers third and the Buckeyes fifth. But the slot-voting, name-recognition-obsessed human polls wouldn’t elevate Missouri ahead of Ohio State without a court order.
But that would be a question for the College Football Playoff selection committee to answer, if this were 2014. Alas, it’s not.
Nevertheless, play this out and take the BCS top four as a theoretical playoff. Even if Ohio State is an impostor, the fan interest in Buckeyes vs. Crimson Tide would be immense. Nick Saban vs. Urban Meyer all over again. Big Ten’s flagship program tries once again to slay the SEC dragon, after a couple of notable failures in BCS title games. Two fan bases that are slightly pleased with themselves.
Yeah, that would work.
Beyond undefeated records, the top four BCS teams all have one thing to recommend them this season: Each went on the road and prevailed in a game that may have been the been the biggest home game in the history of the host.
Alabama was first, going into Kyle Field and beating Texas A&M 49-42 in a game that featured 35 unanswered points by the Tide. Then Ohio State went to Northwestern and came back to beat the Wildcats 40-30, after trailing in the fourth quarter. Next it was Oregon going to Washington and handling the Huskies, 45-24. And finally, there was Florida State’s destruction of Clemson on Saturday.
But here’s the reality check: Texas A&M now has a second loss, at home, after being upset by Auburn; Northwestern hasn’t won since that loss to the Buckeyes and is 0-3 in the Big Ten; and Washington is on a three-game losing streak of its own, sandwiching the defeat to Oregon between losses to Stanford and Arizona State.
It’s yet to be seen how Clemson responds to giving up the most points in the history of its hallowed home stadium.
So those landmark victories don’t mean as much today as they did at the time. But that’s part of the puzzle of putting together a body of work and then having a formulaic, unsatisfying system declare which two teams are worthy of playing for the national championship.
It will get better next year. For now, we have to deal with one last season of BCS aggravation.