As a Purdue alumnus I really don't have any pipe dreams wherein I see the Boilermakers going to the national championship game...um, ever. Hell, we only win the Big Ten every thirty years or so. Thus, I don't really have a personal interest in any system that's in place. Just thought you should know.
It's getting to be a lonely club; those of us who don't hate the Bowl Championship Series. Now in its ninth year, the system that was supposed to cure the ills of college football's ranking system has become the most convenient whipping boy (with the possible exception of Pete Rose) in all of sports. Of course what people often neglect to mention is that there's only been one split championship (Auburn and USC in 2004) and a lot griping from teams who feel slighted. But surely the entire system can't be dismantled simply due to a bunch of whining, can it? Wouldn't that just be encouraging Jay Mariotti?
Let's get it out of the way: no system is perfect. Whether you favor a four team or eight team (or even the clinically insane 16 team) playoff there still will be unavoidable controversy. There are a lot of people who love the NCAA basketball tournament and have managed to convince themselves that it's the perfect system. Guess what, it's not (more on this later). While the idea of striving for perfection is noble, the BCS has accomplished what everybody wanted and expected. It created a Super Bowl of college football. And, nobody misses that game (except for my mom, but she's more of a pro football fan). The matchups have been complelling and entertaining, and generally more fun to watch than the Super Bowl. Sounds like a system that's working to me.
So, why are people completely obsessed with the concept of a playoff? Best I can tell, we have a playoff in every other American sports league and people don't know any other way. But, hasn't anybody noticed how we've completely undervalued the regular season? The Steelers won the championship from a Wild Card and the Cardinals squeaked into the playoffs in the middle of an almost-epic backslide with a barely better than .500 record. I probably don't even need to mention the NBA, but let me remind you that over half the teams make the postseason. In the NCAA basketball tourney, fourth and fifth place teams from some conferences get in every year.
We've created an atmosphere where it's not the team who plays great all season who is lauded as the best team, but rather the team who gets hot at the right time. I, for one, like the idea of that early fall game between Notre Dame and Michigan having the potential to make or break a season. This is why it's so goddamned exciting. Plus, there's the argument that in the Ohio State and Michigan game this year, both teams would have already qualified for a playoff and thus could have rested players and not had to give 100%. How sad would that be for a game with so much tradition? I kind of like the idea of every game being for all the marbles.
Then, of course there's the money. You've probably heard it all, but basically the current bowl system is insanely profitable for the NCAA, the host cities and particular the participating schools. Fans seem to travel regardless of the status of their team's bowl (for example the Champs Sports Bowl in tropical Orlando, Florida). Everybody is fat and happy right now. Do I think that a playoff could potentially make everybody just as much money? Probably. It's like your one buddy who's been at the same job even though he's had other opportunites that could probably make him more successful. You keep asking him about it and he just shrugs and says "yeah, but I'd have to learn a whole new job and I might even have to move." Hard to argue with, really.
Finally, at the end of the day everybody controls their own fate. Think you deserve to be in the big game, Michigan? Maybe you should have won that game in Columbus. And, there's still the reasonable subjective qualities of the coaches' poll in play. Living in SEC country I get force-fed a lot of Florida games. And, realistically, anybody who has watched the Gators barely edge out South Carolina and a crummy Florida State team in recent weeks cannot reasonably think that they are the second best team in the country. Beat FSU by four touchdowns and then we'll talk. What I'm trying to say here is: if you want to be considered in the top two teams in the country, go out and play like it.
In the end, I'd like to think the designers of the BCS had two (at least somewhat) noble priorities in mind when designing the stystem. One, have one game to determine the national championship. And two, do so without completely dismantling the current system. I'd say they accomplished said goals. Now let's not ruin it Fox by letting Joe Buck announce the game.