College football playoff hopes have bigger problems than getting Big Ten's blessing

BERRY TRAMEL COMMENTARY — We may be moving toward a four-team college football playoff, but we're not moving anywhere close to fairness in college football. Too much opinion. Too many subjective decisions. Too big of a beauty-contest factor.
by Berry Tramel Published: February 18, 2012

The Big Ten, a conference which moves with all the speed of a glacier and thinks with all the decisiveness of that sculpture with the guy holding his chin, has declared that it's comfortable exploring the possibility of a four-team college football playoff.

In the Big Ten's world, that's the equivalent of a revolution.

Now we know for sure that an expanded playoff is coming. Big Ten schools would burn down their libraries before they would mess with their Rose Bowl relationship. If the Big Ten is getting on board, the ship is sailing.

But before the playoff crowd takes to the streets in revelry, be forewarned. A four-team playoff, in any format, bowls or no bowls, will not solve the fundamental problem of college football.

The opinion problem. The subjective problem. The beauty-contest problem. The problem that has plagued this sport since leather-helmet days.

College football relies on what people think. And that's bogus, no matter what kind of playoff format you unleash.

It's a cultural curse that is dang near impossible to shed. We see that not just with the sport's clinging to the polls, but the fortification of the polling process. The polls mean more than ever.

A four-team playoff in 2011 would have been no better. Including anyone's level of satisfaction.

The insipid BCS produced an LSU-Alabama national title game in the two-team playoff format. A four-team BCS would have changed nothing and solved the same. Stanford, a team absolutely undeserving of consideration ahead of Oregon, playing at LSU. Oklahoma State playing at Alabama, an unjust death sentence for the Cowboys based on locale.

Assigning teams home playoff games based on opinion is unjust. College football pollsters are at best lemmings and at worst blockheads. Very few show tangible evidence of intermediate thought.

The AP voters, who don't matter anymore, don't know beans from squash. But at least they're cleaner than the coaches, who vote their bias with indomitable consistency. And the Harris voters are worst of all; those guys couldn't find Boardwalk if you spotted them Park Place. The computer programmers are only marginally better.

And yet we're going to let them decide where the OSU-Alabama game is played? We're going to let them declare that Stanford is better than Oregon, when the opposite has been proven true?

This is why the eternal quest for a college football playoff staggers. We keep trying to fit a playoff into this culture of polls and opinions. Scrap the polls, scrap the opinions, then proceed.

Look to the great post-season formats and why they always deliver.

* The NFL. Pro football is merit-based. You win your way in. You win your way to special consideration, like playoff home games. The NFL seedings are determined by the clarity of numbers, not the cloudiness of human minds.

Gripe all you want about the 9-7 Giants making the playoffs and streaking to another Super Bowl. The rules were set, the policies in place. The Giants earned their way. The only earning currently going on in college football is the automatic berth to a BCS bowl by conference champions, which is routinely criticized.

The NFL, of course, has the blessing of centralized scheduling. The G-Men did not get to select their schedule. Compare that to college football, where as much as one third of a particular team's season is absolute exhibition and where schedules are nowhere close to uniform.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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