Why 9 conference games isn’t working
As a PAC12 season ticket holder, I was happy, hell I was excited, when the 9 conference game schedule was announced. It felt right. It looked great on the future schedules. I got an extra solid conference game at home every other year. I knew it made the PAC12 look better, stronger and wiser under the glare of BCS voters and mathematicians. That is what I thought was going happen. Or rather that is the reality I hoped would come to fruition. I took the blue pill and I was wrong.
- “You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe.”
It’s time to stop taking the blue pill Mr. Scott. The reality for the PAC12, and all the football fans talking about their conference switching to 9 conference game, is that it is a bad idea under the old, current and future system. This system, the one that has been in place for decades, must be changed before conferences change their scheduling.
It’s changed you say? You think this new ‘playoff’ system that has been put in place is a change? You are wrong. Stop taking the blue pill. I am not arguing this point from emotion, experience or conjecture. It is no different than the AP Poll used for national championships before 1997 and it is no different than the BCS ranking system in place.
The ‘new’ system is going to be run by humans that don’t play the games. Run by mathematicians and their non-transparent formulas. We will be told that SOS counts, just like the current system, but like the current system there is no good formula for SOS and it will not be utilized.
The box may be bigger and the ribbon is shinier, but I have already shown that the current system, controlled by voters and computer programmers [Read BCS Top25 Unplugged 1.0] , and the old system, controlled by voters, are all based in just two numbers, total wins and perceived conference strength. [Read BCS Top25 Unplugged 2.0]
How it could hurt the PAC12
I say just the PAC12 because I have their numbers over the last 6 years of 9 conference games. The Big 12 certainly defied this idea for one season with 5 teams in the final BCS top 25 in 2011. However the PAC12 has seen 4 of the last 6 years end the regular season with just 2 teams in the top 25. We know that the PAC12 has been a favorite of the voters and mathematicians [Read BCS Top25 Unplugged 3.0] when they have 1 or 2 losses. They take a hit at 3 losses but in part of the 43 teams that finished 9-3 and in the top 25, only 2 were from the PAC12. How many 8-4 or especially 7-5 that were a win, any win short of getting ranked.
Another argument to the idea is coaching quality. Has it been more a lack of quality coaching at teams with top 25 total wins talent the last 4 years that all have net negative coaching Washington, Cal and UCLA, the 9 conference games or both? I say a mix of both. UCLA has a new coach but the issues appear more deep and systemic (like Notre Dame and Texas A&M) as they have had talent for years but keep turning over coaches. Cal is going to go wherever Tedford takes them with his forever contract and the school’s lack of interest in BCS bowl aspirations. And Sark is a One Star Hot Seat for 2012. There is too much fan pride, history and talent to have 7-5 and sub-par bowls an acceptable norm in Seattle.
Maybe I am just wrong. Maybe the PAC12 fans don’t care about national perception, playing to a system and winning more games with a lesser schedule. It may not matter to you, but it could matter to other conferences.
The SEC is an easy one for three clear reasons. 1. They, unlike any other conference, understand the system and what it takes to win within that system. 2. They have built a winning is everything culture. You don’t just want to win the ‘big game’, you want to win them all. 3. They don’t have to. The voters have made it clear that they see the SEC as the best conference. Ranking tie breaks go to them. So until the system changes, 8 conference games and a pile of dust is the SEC direction.
For the ACC and Big Ten they are clearly in the #4 and #5 spots for voters and computers for conference strength. We know strength will get built with more teams with more wins and 9 conference games defeats that purpose. Based on the trends in the 3.0 article, I feel that the ACC is one solid coaching season away from getting right back into the perception of national respect. They could put 4 or 5 teams in the BCS final top 25 in 2012.
The Big Ten is much further away. Ohio State is trying to get back to where it should be at 10+ wins a year. Penn State is questionable about their mental abilities to focus. Illinois has recruited itself into the ground. I see the Big Ten as another year or so away from getting the win totals to start the trend up the human perception meter.
9 conference games. Lip service. Cut out one or two bad OoCs and put up a 8 or 16 team playoff. Put teams in control their destiny to make the playoffs and not some guy taking 10 minutes looking at win/loss records. Take the steps to make real change and level the playing field for conferences. Then, you will see more conference games and a better weekly brand of college football.
Why all conferences having 9 games is a bad idea
Why not require all conferences to go to 9 games? Makes sense. Doesn’t it? I don’t think so. First, I want less not more NCAA dictatorship. That’s like sitting back and wanting bigger government. Maybe for you, not for me. There are enough rules and the conferences and respective teams can make that choice. But the real reason for not having 9 conference games in the ACC, SEC, Big Ten and the Big East (if they get to 10 team and still have AQ status) is, again, the system.
In a total wins based system, especially in the BCS computer age that further promotes lack of SOS, going to 9 conference games for all AQ conference would most likely result in declining overall win totals for those teams. However, the very best non-AQ teams would still have to play an near empty schedule to get to 10+ wins. The computers would just toss out more 5 loss AQs and insert more 9 win non-AQs. It is the system.
Fans were excited about the PAC12/Big Ten home and home. Why can’t fans get jacked up for a Big Ten/MAC or BIG12/MWC home and home? That’s not exciting? You wouldn’t look forward to those games? Oh, you think those are too easy and not a lot of fun or challenging. Yet at the end of December an undefeated or 1 loss team from any of those conferences is in the top 15. You know where I am going, you just don’t want to admit it. Take the red pill. That’s the way the system works.
Level the playing field
It’s not going to happen with the current system. Whatever you want to call it, yesterday’s system is today’s system and will be tomorrow’s unless you make real change. Until that happens, conferences can play to the rules of the system are going to have a greater perception of success and power. 9 or even 10 game conference schedules are playing against the rules of the system.
Until you remove the fear of losing a big out of conference (OoC) game in September and allow players and coaches to control their destiny without the fear of losing, the reality is 4-0 against FCS teams in September is going to go further than 3-1 or worse, 2-2 with a tough OoC schedule (hat’s off to Clemson for tradition & values over Ws).
I wish I could see quality non-conference games with greater frequency. I look forward to the time when there is a playoff, not BCS 2.0. When teams, like in every other sport in college, actually get the freedom to play without fear of not winning and controlling their fate in getting to a real playoff. Until then, you can keep waking up, take your blue pill and believing your team plays in a system that really rewards for more than just wins and the conference flag flying at your athletic department today. The reality is that 9 conference games may hurt more than help a conference and it’s national football reputation. Play to beat the system on it’s rules, or you risk the system beating you.
- Dave Bartoo, The CFBMatrix & your Anti-Homer Follow @cfbmatrix