The State of the Game
CFN is honored to get the thoughts and opinions on some of the hot
topics and the overall State of the Game from some of the most talented,
influential insiders in the college football media.
Along with Pete Fiutak and Richard Cirminiello from CFN in the
discussion are ...
- Dennis Dodd, Sportsline.com
- College Football Columnist
- Teddy "Mr. Media" Greenstein, Chicago Tribune - College
Football Columnist, Media Columnist
- Stewart Mandel, SI.com -
College Football Columnist
(You can preorder Stewart's excellent book,
Bowls, Polls, and Tattered Souls:
Tackling the Chaos and Controversy that Reign Over College Football
by clicking here.)
- Joe Schad, ESPN - College Football Reporter
- Part Two
off-field changes, steroids and cheating
- Part Three
Overrated, underrated, 10 years from now, & what fans don't understand
1. If it were up to you,
how should college football determine a national champion?
Dennis Dodd: It's a bit of a conundrum. College football is a
unique sport that doesn't easily lend itself to a full-on playoff.
College basketball has a large enough sample to make a championship
bracket legitimate. In a college football playoff there's always a
chance an 8-4 team could eventually become national champion. I don't
think this sport is ready for that. That means in any given year a 12-0
No. 1 team could lose in the first round. Fair? Neither is that team
winning a titantic struggle within its own conference then being asked
to win four straight games in a playoff.
I'm not a big playoff guy as you can tell. But I'm not necessarily a BCS
guy either. We've been given a glimpse of offseason football in the BCS.
I'm starting to think that the old bowl system might not be so bad. We
could still do that and have a plus-one. But that presents another set
of problems. Which two of the five winners would play for the
championship? Human committee? BCS standings? You have to make sure a
loser can't advance.
what I'm saying is there is no BEST system, and that I need a drink
Joe Schad: I understand some of the arguments for leaving the
system the way it is. And many of those arguments were laid out for me
in a recent conversation with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. He notes
the importance of preserving the tradition of the Rose Bowl. He notes
that with even a four team playoff, up to three teams could be playing
up to 14 or 15 games. He notes that even $40 or $50 million split up
among the BCS schools does not create the type of financial windfall
that make change essential. The bottom line is this: A four team
playoff incorporating the current bowls on a rotational basis will
appease the appetite of the fans. 1) Ohio State vs. 4) USC and 2)
Florida vs. 3) Michigan, quite simply, would have rocked. I respect the
value of preserving the importance of college football's unique regular
season. But this will not dilute the significance of it. Delany and
others believe opening the gate with a four team postseason would
inevitably lead to an 8 and then 16 team playoff. I don't think that's
necessarily true. I think most reasonable people believe at the end of
any given season, only four teams deserve a true shot at a national
championship. And more than anything, it will be TREMENDOUS fun and
instantly surpass the World Cup and Final Four as the best sporting
events in the world. As for the Rose Bowl, set it up so that if one of
the semifinals matches up Big Ten and Pac 10 it is guaranteed to be
played at the Rose Bowl that year.
Stewart Mandel: The bowls would revert to their pre-BCS tie-ins
(Big Ten/Pac-10 Rose Bowl, SEC Sugar Bowl, etc.), regardless of
rankings, then the top four still standing enter a mini-playoff.
Teddy Greenstein: We finally have the right system in place. I
repeat: We finally have the right system in place. I'm probably in the
tiniest of minorities (think: Ross Perot for '08! voters) who think
that, but I'm sure of it. An eight-team playoff would kill the meaning
of the regular season. Last year's Michigan-Ohio State game would have
been all but meaningless.
is less offensive to me, but it still would create problems: Two years
ago, a two-loss Notre Dame or Ohio State team would have had the same
shot for the title as undefeated Texas and USC. Is that fair? Last year,
10-2 LSU would have gotten the fourth seed over 10-2 USC, 11-1
Louisville, 11-1 Wisconsin and 12-0 Boise State. Is that fair?
football has never been more popular. Every game counts, even in Week 1.
The "my team is better than your team" debates are a fabric of the game.
In the NFL, the best teams rest their starters at season's end.
Early-season college basketball games are glorified exhibitions. No one
cares about the NBA until the playoffs.
we mess with college football?
Keep the BCS (with a few overall tweaks to the formula), take the
top four ranked teams that won their conference championship (or Notre
Dame, if it’s in the top four), and play 1 vs. 4 and 2 vs. 3. That would
keep the tradition and spirit of the regular season, while settling the
issue on the field.
While the talk of a full-blown, NFL-style playoff is trendy and fun
for roundtable discussions, it’s also an overkill remedy for solving the
current problems of the BCS. Forget the eight or 16-team playoff, and
start dialing your local representatives and college presidents about
the plus-one format. The plus-one is so seamless and makes so much
sense, it’s absolutely criminal it hasn’t been implemented sooner.
Simply put, you pit No. 1 vs. No. 4 and No. 2 vs. No. 3 in BCS bowl
games on New Year’s Day with the winners squaring off a week later for
the national championship. That’s two more meaningful bowl games,
increased drama at the end of the regular season, and almost no chance
that an unbeaten team, such as Auburn in 2004, gets rooked out of a
chance at playing for a title. All without adding or deleting a single
bowl game. Plus, the school presidents will be happy with the addition
of just one extra game for two programs, as will bowl traditionalists,
teams that realize one loss isn’t a death knell, and the waves of fans
pining for a better way to crown a champion. No system is going to be
flawless, but unless you’re the No. 5 team in the rankings, what’s not
to like about the plus-one?
Considering the BCS is here to stay for the foreseeable future, what
tweaks would you make?
Stewart Mandel: Condense the schedule. I realize the host city
needs a week between its regular bowl and the title game, but there's no
reason the other four shouldn't be played within a day of New Year's.
That would make New Year's Day more exciting and set the title game even
further onto itself.
Joe Schad: Wow. It is interesting that the AP Poll is the most
commonly cited poll and yet not a part of the BCS equation. I'll bet
many fans don't even realize that. I suppose it will be messy no matter
how often you tweak it. Legalities likely prevent this but more than
two teams from a conference (ie. Wisconsin 2006) should be eligible for
a BCS Bowl. And teams shouldn't automatically qualify based on final BCS
standings position. Although I understand this does protect the Boise
States of the world from the Notre Dames (if not Wisconsin).
First, I’d make strength of schedule a huge, huge factor.
That would put the pressure on the better teams to play better
non-conference games. Second, I’d diminish the importance of the human
polls. More on that later. Third, I’d make a rule that only conference
champions can play for the national title. I can’t believe I have to
fight so many people on the fact that if you’re not good enough to win
your conference, technically, you shouldn't deserve to win the national
title. It’s a surprisingly tough concept to grab for our playoff-loving
nation. Fourth, I’d eliminate the automatic bids. If you’re in the top
ten, you’re in. And finally, to keep this in the realm of the realistic
(as opposed to a full-blown playoff system that won’t happen for the
foreseeable future), I’d go with the plus-one format. If you want a big
playoff so badly, then cancel the regular season, come up with one big
playoff, and then you have what you really want. Outside of the NFL, to
a lesser extent, no other sport has a regular season that matters.
College football has to preserve that, but it also needs a better way of
coming up with a champion.
Dennis Dodd: Plus one. See answer number one. Not perfect, but
First off, the one tweak that should never happen is the removal of
the computers from the BCS equation. Voters can be swayed, lobbied or
just generally asleep at the wheel. Computers can’t, which is why
they’re an integral and underrated component of the rankings. Ideally,
the top ten teams would get invites to the five major bowl games, but
there is something to be said for winning your league. However, no one
wants to see a three or four-loss team playing in a marquee bowl game.
That said, conference champs with automatic bids should only qualify if
they finish the regular season ranked in the top 15 of the BCS
standings. Oh, and margin of victory? It absolutely, positively does
matter, and belongs as a component of the computer rankings. Consider
this: On Sept. 8, LSU turns an early season showdown with Virginia Tech
into a four-touchdown rout, ending the Hokies’ thoughts of a national
championship. Don’t you think many voters in the human polls would
consider the lopsided final score as justification for bumping up the
Tigers? Of course they would, so why shouldn’t the computers be able to
factor in the same data?
Teddy Greenstein: I would kill the
no-three-teams-from-a-conference rule that prevented Wisconsin from
earning a berth to a BCS bowl game last season. The Badgers should not
have been penalized just because Ohio State and Michigan had fantastic
also make sure that strength of schedule has a dominant influence in the
computer polls. I want teams to have incentives to play captivating
What’s the single biggest problem facing college football right now?
Dennis Dodd: Performance enhancers. The sport has been left out
when it comes to scrutiny. These guys are bigger, faster, stronger. They
have the same access to drugs that the pros do, maybe more considering
the size of some of the strength coaches I've seen.
Joe Schad: Agents. I mean, if not the playoff issue. Agents serve
a great purpose and benefit. But those who act illegally and unethically
create NCAA violations tarnish the game and championships.
Stewart Mandel: The recruiting circuit is rapidly deteriorating
into a replica of the sleazy AAU basketball scene. With the creation of
ESPN's new all-star game to compete with the one in San Antonio, you can
just see the day coming (if it hasn't already) where various middle-men
fight over players the way the sneaker companies do for their summer
events in basketball. And the text-messaging ban was just a horrible
idea -- my guess is coaches will try to get around it by starting up
text-messaging relationships with the player's family and friends.
The polls. I can’t stress this point enough; the coaches have no
clue about the ins and outs of college football beyond their own
conferences. How many ACC coaches can name three Oregon State Beavers?
Who’s the starting quarterback for Boise State? How good is the Georgia
Tech linebacking corps compared to the Texas Tech corps? The coaches are
too busy to know the answers to any of these questions, yet it’s their
poll, along with the Harris Poll, that’s basically deciding the national
During the season, forget about it. The coaches don’t have time to watch
any games outside of their own. Do you really believe Bobby Bowden sits
down to watch that big TCU – BYU game after his Noles play? Like Jeff
Tedford spends the morning of gameday analyzing all the ACC showdowns.
College football needs to set up a committee, like the one that puts
together the NCAA basketball tournament pairings, to do nothing but
watch, debate, and analyze the teams on a full-time basis, and then have
them rank accordingly. I vote for all the Experts here to be a part of
Of all the major sports in America, none has fewer serious problems
these days than college football. While not perfect, the product is
outstanding, and that’s reflected in unwavering fan support across the
nation. Baseball has its steroids albatross, the NFL is battling
off-field public relations nightmares, and now the NBA has been thrust
into a high-profile gambling scandal. And the NHL is still on strike,
right? College football? Yeah, there’ll always be the occasional
improprieties and rogue players, but it never seems to dent the strong
outer shell of the game. The biggest problem these days is a BCS system
that’s had a way of becoming larger than the games themselves the last
few falls. The debate over how to crown a national champ is not
good for the game. When an SEC team can go 13-0 without even getting a
crack at a title game, there’s a big problem. When there’s a split
championship in a system that’s designed to avoid that very
circumstance, there’s a big problem. When the bowl season begins, more
than two teams need to be playing for a crown, if for nothing, so we can
spend more time talking about the games and less about the BCS.
Teddy Greenstein: The over-emphasis on winning. Purdue fans turn
on Joe Tiller, quickly forgetting the guy gave legitimacy to a lousy
program. Same thing happened with Joe Paterno. Programs are going to
slip and slide from time to time. Deal with it. This is not life and
over-emphasis is also why Nick Saban will earn $4 million this season.
What a joke. Does Alabama even realize the message that sends to its
- Part Two
off-field changes, steroids and cheating
- Part Three
Overrated, underrated, 10 years from now, & what fans don't understand