Dan Wetzel normally just pisses me off. This time he really just confuses me. He uses the very weak Big 10 as an argument for a playoff in D-I football. Like the swallows of San Capistrano and Terrence Moore blaming everything from Georgia’s penalties to the economy on ‘The Celebration,’ Wetzel takes a good point and turns it into twisted advocacy for a playoff.
On the Big 10, he delivers this damning and true assessment:
The most tried and true formula for reaching the BCS championship game is as follows:
1. Play an easy non-conference schedule.
2. Belong to the Big Ten.
He is right, the Big 10 is a joke and playing in it gives you a good chance recently of playing in the BCS championship. Call it the Buckeye Plan. Yes, I know Penn State beat Oregon State and USC decimated Ohio State, but that doesn’t change two important things. First, there is no incentive for the league to schedule better; and second, there is no incentive for them to schedule a conference championship game. Every other BCS conference either has a championship game (SEC, Big 12, ACC) or schedules everyone else in the conference (Pac-10, big east). The non-conference schedule is just bad, despite the two Pac-10 games.
The Nittany Lions’ best non-conference win is over Oregon State. This doubles as the best non-conference win for the entire Big Ten. The only other contenders are Michigan State over Notre Dame and Wisconsin over Fresno State. That’s it. For the entire league. The Big Ten failed to defeat a single currently ranked non-conference team.
That includes losses by Iowa to Pitt, Michigan State to Cal, and Indiana’s loss to Ball State.
Of course, he uses this as an argument for a playoff system, something he normally does with everything he writes, up to and including his grocery list. That is where he goes astray. His hubris is based on Jim Delany’s ability to sell some outdated notion of the Big 10 as a bastion of quality football. While there are many reasons to decry the human polls, human polls are starting to get hip to the Big 10 thanks to Ohio State’s performance in the last two championship games. Yes, we could see a repeat of 1997 and have the coaches just move Penn State up in a nod to JoePa. If that is the case, then that is the case.
The truly disingenuous part of his logic is exposed in his thought that Penn State could actually win the BCS championship game or any of the other conferences:
This isn’t to say Penn State can’t win the BCS championship game. It’s good enough to win any league.
By his logic, Penn State, who can win any league, doesn’t deserve a bid in the BCS championship game due to the poor league they play in. So they are good enough to win the championship, but not good enough to play in it?
Wetzel has long been a proponent of a 16 team playoff, advocating the inclusion of non-Big 6 conference champions (and at-large teams from those conferences, if they deserve it), to “maintain integrity of the regular season.” Wait, isn’t that just saying the regular season means something currently? If Penn State is a joke and doesn’t deserve to play in the national championship because they play in a weak league, then where would you seed them in the 16 team playoff? How would you decide that? He suggests a secretive group to pick the teams like the NCAA Basketball selection committee. Sorry, that doesn’t seem better to me. Where will those on the selection committee turn for guidance? Polls and old notions of who is good. No, thank you.
The real problem is that Wetzel fails to truly appreciate the value to the fans of the various bowl games and what playing in them means to the teams, yes, even if it is the Meineke Car Care Bowl. He is almost dismissive of the bowl system and trusts the NCAA to run the playoffs. But remember, he also doesn’t trust the NCAA. Amazing.
Finally, he still misses the greatest point about the current system, supposing that any playoff would increase excitement over current levels. Excitement for who? The real problem with a playoff is that there is a definiteness to it that would rob something special from college football. Now, upwards of 30 teams can be champions of something, even if it is the Meineke Car Care Bowl. With a playoff, the best 15 teams that get put in the playoff can hope for is a tight loss to the eventual national champion. That would not be very exciting to me. If you think it would be, ask a New England Patriots fan how they feel about last season.