2012-11-08 08:02

So I promised to give another shot at the COLLEGE FOOTBALL FOR BEGINNERS approach and here it is.

I did some similar stuff already in the past weeks starting with the preview of week 3, but unfortunately the blog/forum software only allows reading it once more, if you know the post IDs, which I don't have.

Maybe Peter can give us the whole IDs of Block of Granite, I will do a summery on that, then.

So let's do a different approach.

Most of you know the NFL and their system. You know Conferences and Divisions, you know the Big Game at the end, you know playoffs and the 16 game schedule.
It is quite easy to understand, but I doubt ALL of you know the little details in NFL scheduling, or the history behind the situation the league is at the moment.
You don't have to; you only have to understand how they play a season and who becomes champion.

Some might have a problem with the tie-breaker-rules for the playoff seating, but that's the hardest stuff you have to face.

College Football looks more or less chaotic in comparison to that.

Over 500 Institutions/teams are structured in a system, which looks weird on the first (and second and third) view.
The good thing is, you don't have to GET the whole system at once to have fun.

Thanks to the NCAA, the organisation which regulates college sports, those institutions/teams are structured in levels.

The HIGHEST level is most of the time the ONLY level covered in all media available on international level.

Of cause some media do also cover the lower levels of college football, but the focus is always on the highest level.

This level is the level I do cover in my blog, the FOOTBALL BOWL DIVISION, short FBS.

Unfortunately this is the level with the most confusing system.

Still, as you know the NFL-system with Conferences and Divisions, you do find those systems on FBS-level (and of cause on lower levels, too).

So if you focus for a start on ONE Conference, you easily understand the played system, it's basically the same as conferences are played in the NFL.

You don't believe that?

A NFL-Conference does work that way:
4 Division, each has 4 teams, each team play each team in its own division twice, and then 4 other teams from the conference and 4 additional teams from the other conference.
At the end, they have 6 teams in the playoffs and the last team standing is the conference champion.

So what do we have here in terms of competition?

The teams play a so called all-play-all-tournament (also called round robin) twice in its own division and do schedule some more teams from its own conference and from out of the conference. Then they do determine a champion though a knockout phase.
The amount of games and the playoff mode are basically a result of the amount of teams in the conference and some kind of best practice for the playoff system to maximize attention and revenue.
At the moment the NFL has 32 teams and each conference has 16 teams.

The biggest conference (and by incident the strongest) conference in College Football is the SEC, the SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE.
It has 14 teams (since this year) and it's easy to see, if you only look at those 14 teams, that they play almost like the NFL.
OK, they only play 12 regular season games, but those 16 NFL games are only for revenue maximization, there is no real reason in form of competition need to do 16 games.

The SEC is divided in two Divisions (it's hard to order 14 teams in more then two divisions and to keep it simple, try it).
Each SEC team has to play each team from its own division once, which are six games, and two teams from the other division, which are then 8 conference games in sum. They add four more games against teams from other conferences.
At the end of the regular season the two division champions do play a championship game and the winner takes it all.

So we have in terms of competition: For each team there is a all-play-all-tournament once in its own division and some more games from its own conference and from out of the conference. Then they do determine a champion trough a knockout phase.

Sounds familiar?

Yes, it looks different, because there are fewer teams in the conference and they play less games and the shortest knockout-tournament possible, but the system is basically the same.

The NCAA does regulate some stuff, for example the single-game-knockout-tournament.
I'm sure the SEC would like to have some kind of playoffs with four teams or more in it, because they would cash in even more money, but the NCAA does only allow a Championship game.
And they only allow it, if you have 12 or more teams in your conference.

Hence, if you have 11 or less, you have to play that season a bit different.

Those smaller conferences do only have one division, being the whole conference (and then nobody calls it "Division").
They play also an all-play-all-system, but since they usually play only 9 games or less in total inside the conference, they sometimes do not play ALL teams in the conference. (OK, that sound stupid, but it’s true)

At the end of the season, the team which won the most conference games is champion, if more teams than one have the same amount of wins; they all are co-champions, regardless of tie-breaker-rules.
It’s much easier but maybe a bit boring.
But the NCAA does not support a final decision game.

So if you look only at a single conference at a time, the tournament rules are like the NFL or at least quite similar.

The big leap of confusion starts when you look at the big picture of the FBS with 11 Conferences and 4 independent teams, which are not part of any conference at all.

Out of that pool are all non conference games of each team scheduled (and even beyond, they also play teams from lower levels).

And at the end of the season, there is no BIG GAME / BIG TOURNAMNENT which does cover all Conference Champions and the National Champions is determined by a nice knockout phase.
No, not on that level, sorry. Lower levels do have such a system (almost, LOL, but not the HIGHEST level, the FBS.

Why? Tradition. But they will do a four team playoff probably starting in 1-2 seasons.
Still, no BIG TOURNAMENT which do cover like 16 teams or more. No.

So how do those conference tournaments, like the mentioned SEC, does fit into the BIG PICTURE?

Ha, now comes the complicated part, where a lot of football addicted fans do stop and say "too much, I'm out of here".

The main problems regarding this BIG PICTURE for the FBS, the highest level of college football, are traditions and the amount of teams.

You probably heard of the so called BOWLs at the end of the season. At the moment there are more than 30 and the numbers are regularly increasing, because of money.

But it all started with a tournament between East (represented by Michigan) and West (represented by Stanford) 1902 (Michigan spanked Stanford 49-0) and that game later became known as the first Rose-Bowl. That Bowl-Series is still played today.

Money was in that time not a big factor. No TV, no big media events, no big attendence (under 9.000 in that first Rose Bowl).

But over time more and more Bowls were created and a NATIONAL organisation of those Now-FBS-Schools was not intended or done.

Regional rivalries were way more important and those conferences were the main driver for winning.

Because of the distances between the colleges from coast to coast, a real tournament with more than 2 teams to determine a national champion was not in scope. The Bowls were supposed to have some kind of comparison, but the more Bowls were created, the more complicated it got.

The press did create Polls to determine the champions (around 1901 was the first one printed ...). It’s still that way today.

When the USA got TV nationally and the games were shown, the tradition of
- Conferences
- Bowls
- Poll-Champions
was so established, that a change was not in scope.

It worked and every institution/team (at least the powerhouses) did benefit of it.
Because there often were more that one National Champion named, by different Polls.

You think that's a big No-Go? Think of reputation and money, and you might see the benefit of having NOT to battle the OTHER hottest team in the nation.
You might lose. A title is a title.

OK, so much for History.

Now let’s focus on the teams.

At the moment there are 124 teams, and the amount of teams in the FBS is increasing.
They are organized in 11 conferences and 4 teams are independent.

How do you put that into a playoff tournament?

Conference Champions should be in, right?

Great you have 11 teams already. But for sure not the 11 toughest or best ones.

So there would be a riot, if you would not add some more.

How many? 5 more to get 16? or maybe some more?

Tough choice, since each round would prolong the season by a week.

The next lower level, the FCS has a playoff system with 20 teams (out of also over 100 FCS teams), but will expend to 24 soon.
But many conferences there do not participate in the playoffs, never, because of academical concerns, or scheduling problems.

So it is not easy to create a fair and short playoff system for that many teams.

Take that note in combination with a over 100 year old grown tradition in Bowls and conferences, with many organisations OUTSIDE the NCAA involved, it's tough to change things fast.

Probably in 2014 we will have a 4-Team-Playoff-system. Haha.

So how does it work then NOW?

We have 120 teams in conferences and 4 free circling teams as jokers. Fine.

Each Conference does find its Championship team and finds a ranking from 1 to the last member. Fine.

There is a rule for the Bowls; it said you need at least 6 wins. Easy to understand.

The Bowl-organizer then s e l e c t by some rules their participants.
Those rules are normally that way: Rose Bowl - Big Ten Champion vs PAC 12 Champion.

Of cause there are exceptions to every rule, but basically those are easy to understand, if you are interested in it. I normally do not care about the motivations behind the Bowl-matchups, I just take them as they come. At least for the smaller ones. Some are nice, some do sound boring. At the end of the day, those games are just the EXTRA after the regular season. Enjoy it!

But what about the BIG PICTURE, the NATIONAL CHAMPION?

Remember the Polls? Done by Newspapers and some other organisations?
They crown the NATIONAL CHAMPION since ages.
There were times where there were 2, 3 or even more teams named NATIONAL CHAMPION.

But with the increasing coverage of College Football in the media the critics of that system did grow.
So the Powerhouses did create the Bowl-Championship-Series, short BCS.

They basically did create a List out of several Polls, to get some kind of ranking for a FINAL GAME, a game between #1 and #2.
The winner then should be clear Champion.

Well, it works, sometimes, but not always.
Instead of having a discussion regarding the National Champion, we now have a discussion regarding the BCS ranking.
If you don't have a chance to become #1 or #2, you can never become National Champion (well, almost never …)

That's the reason behind the 4-team-playoff-system in the future. To let #1 - #4 battle it out.
If this will help at the end, we will see.

Still some questions? How do these rankings happen?

You remember the games against other conference teams?
Those are 3-5 games per team, depended on the conferences.

THESE games give the pollsters a chance to rank teams from different conferences against each other.

Some mathematican/physican did calculate that because of those who-played-which-team-which-played-which-team-relations all teams can be linked after a few gamedays.
So after 12 regular season games we have a very good data foundation to determine which team did play better than the other ones.
It only is a matter how to interpret the data.

And that's the flaw of the system, since there are many different ways to value wins and losses.

Yes, the system has flaws and it IS a bit chaotic, but on the other hand it is rich of passion and tradition.
You will never see such in the NFL.


Basically there are four weekends left in the regular season.

So now it's getting to the endgame of this season, it's time for teams to get the last needed wins to play a Bowl, to get the last needed wins against conference woes to get into the best possible position for Bowls and eventually Championship games.
Some teams do game the toughest games ahead of them, some do have only pushovers left.

Be assured, it won't get boring.

#11 Oregon State @ #14 Stanford
Stanford did really play better than anticipated, at least in my book.
The lost their star QB Luck and basically did lose only a half step on offense by that.
The Cardinals did only lose twice this season so far, both on the road, against Washington and Notre Dame.
Both very close games, that Notre Dane game in OT.
Oregon State is at the same level and did only lose once so far, against Washington on the road, in a close game ...
Sounds familiar ....
I'm expecting a close game and I'm leaning toward the Cardinals.
That's a not disrespect against the Beavers, only respecting the home strength of Stanford.
After that game we will have a better picture of the PAC 12 power rankings.
So ... cardinals win in a close game.

Penn State @ #16 Nebraska
Nebraska won against Michigan State last week but so far did not secure the Big Ten Legends Division so far.
The are ahead of Michigan, because the have beat them, but if the Huskers might lose THIS game against Penn State, they might drop too deep to climb back on their own.
Penn State did so far only lose one game in the Big Ten against Ohio State at home.
No they face one of the better teams of the Big Ten on the road.
The Nittany Lions will have to bring their A-game to beat the Huskers at home and I doubt that will be enough.
Unless the Huskers beat themselves by some stupid actions.
But nobody is safe against such gameday blackouts, so I don't count that stuff in.
I'm expecting a close game and a Cornhuskers win.

#15Texas A&M @ #1 Alabama
Ok, on paper this is already done. Alabama is the favourite (13.5) and plays also at home.
But Texas A&M might be the last bigger bump for Alabama before the SEC Championship game.
After that Aggies game does only come a FCS-Opponent and then the in-state-Rivalry against Auburn (the Iron Bowl) which will be a joke this year, since Auburn is 2-7 and 0-6 in the SEC.
Of cause it COULD happen that Alabama loses against one of those teams, but it's very very unlikely.
So, if anyone can do it BEFORE the SEC Championship game, it's Texas A&M after an Alabama-LSU-matchup in Death Valley.
Unfortunately it's played in Bryant-Denny-Stadium, so that lowers the chance for an upset a tiny little bit.
Like a mile .....
So I'm expecting a clear Crimson Tide win, but have a close eye on that game, a miracle might happen.

#2 Kansas State @ TCU
Tough situation for Kansas State.
They have a hurting QB, even if it looks like he will play against TCU, and they face a TCU team, which won last week against West Virginia on the road.
TCU is NOT on the same level as a full strength Wildcats squad, but they are not full strength and TCU is on a high note and play AT HOME.
Good news for KSU is, that the TCU-home-advantage is not that great this season, they already have lost two at home and only one on the road.
I give KSU my pick; because this coaching team did do wonders the last two seasons and they won't stumble over a rebuilding TCU team.

Fresno State @ Nevada
Let's do some Mountain West Conference coverage.
Fresno State is now, as three other team, in the position to win the Mountain West, after Boise State did lose last week.
And the Bulldogs have to play against Nevada on the road.
Fresno State did this season so far only lose on the road.
Good news for them is, that Nevada is not THAT good at home, they lost against San Diego State at home two weeks ago.
And they also lost last week on the road.
So bad news for the Bulldogs, since a team on a losing streak, coming home again, playing a very meaningful match ... this can get ugly.
The experts do expect a close win by Fresno State.
Might happen.
I believe in an Upset by Nevada.

‘Til next time

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