Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Playoff$ Payoff

My friend Terry hates college football.
Makes fun of it.
Laughs when I try to talk about it.
Somehow works the word “BORING” loudly into the
conversation anytime the topic comes up.

Terry is from California, so maybe that explains part of his disdain for the college game. There’s no passion for college football in California. Sure, they’ll follow USC or UCLA when times are good, but nobody’s painting their face blue and gold or getting buried in a casket adorned with a Trojan helmet.

Terry’s pretty logical though, and can see the fallacy in “voting” for a winner. “Voting? Don’t they play the game on a field?” He’s right about that. There’s no logical reason to “vote” for a national champion in Division I college football. They play it off in every other sport and in every other football division. But in the biggest money maker and the one with the most exposure, the champion is left to some sportscasters and sportswriters who are well versed in one team and clueless about most others and coaches who have their Sports Information Directors vote so they don’t have to worry about it. Or worse, vote prospective opponents higher than they deserve so their own team can look better by beating a higher ranked team. The logical thing is to play it off. But logic plays just about no part in college football.

It’s about passion, blind loyalty, and money.

Sweating in the late summer, and pouring your guts out every Saturday should be rewarded with more than a vote. It’s a silly way to determine anything outside of an election and who gets kicked out of the fraternity house.

Believe it or not, there’s a faction in the NCAA that holds onto the vote because of its ambiguity. It sparks conversation they say, keeps the interest high. That’s baloney, self-serving and unfair to just about everybody. Try and tell Alabama fans how the vote will help them now that they’ve dropped from third to thirteenth in the poll after one week. The Tide followed the wishes of their fans and stopped scheduling Whatsamatta U for the first two games, and decided to go home and home with some recognizable opponents. The problem is, recognizable usually means potentially good, and that can hang an early loss on your record. Not good in these days of soft out of conference schedules and undefeated teams meeting in the so-called national championship game at the end of the year.

If you’re ranked out of the top seven at the beginning of the year, it’s virtually impossible to win the national championship. Too many teams in front of you, not playing each other, and all capable of running the table.

Why is there a poll before the season starts anyway? Did somebody go around and scout the teams to determine who had the best returning squad? Of course not. Everybody was sitting around, listening to everybody else, voting for their favorite coach, color or Heisman winner from 30 years ago. Nebraska yelled long and loud about being the best team at the end of last year. Loud and long enough to last until this summer when the “experts” voted the ‘Huskers #1. Why? Did Florida State look undeserving in their media guide? Did Bobby Bowden not smile right at the right reporter in order to get his vote?

The whole idea of “pre-season” polls is ridiculous. Votes are made based on ignorance and deceit, leaving traditionally powerful programs near the top no matter how good they are and a team without a ‘name’ no chance of playing for it all. Who decided Penn State was a good team, good enough to be ranked in the top 10 when the season started? Losses to Southern Cal and Toledo knocked the Nittany Lions out of the poll in the first two weeks.

Is Alabama’s willingness to travel cross-country for their first game and lose to somebody who’s potentially good worthy of a ten spot drop in the poll? Did the Crimson Tide leave some players on the West Coast? Did Keith Jackson not say “Whoa, Nellie” enough times?

Florida and Georgia put up lackluster performances at home against overmatched opponents, yet moved up in the voting, because there was a slot open in front of them. If nothing else, somebody ought to put a moratorium on pre-season polls. Start ’em on October 1st after everybody has played a few games.

One of two things has to happen before the voting goes away. The “old boy” network that makes up the conference commissioners and the bowl game directors has to get out of the game. They’re pulling the purse strings, deciding what conferences get the most money and keeping the bowls in the picture without including them in a playoff. Not all bowl directors are a part of it, but enough are happy with the status quo and the money they direct to keep the gravy train going. Either that, or the big schools, about thirty-five of them, have to break away and form a “super conference.” A group of teams willing to play each other all year long, and play it off in the end. That’ll bring enough money to the table to start turning heads and stop breaking hearts.