Sunday, December 6, 2009

Should Texas or TCU Play for the National Title?

The assumption seems to be that Alabama will play Texas for the national championship. And, when the final polls are announced, I'm sure that is how it will play out.

But I disagree with the conclusion, and I think it shows the need for a college playoff system.

If you're going to select two teams to play for the national title without the benefit of a playoff system, I think Alabama deserves to be one of those teams. The Crimson Tide just finished spanking the defending national champion in the SEC title game and had to beat LSU, Ole Miss and Arkansas to get there. Alabama also opened the season with a win over Virginia Tech. Those are quality wins.

But I think Texas is being rewarded for the reputations of teams it faces every year that have been strong in the past and, most likely, will be strong in the future but were not strong this year — like Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Texas A&M.

When you stack Texas' schedule up against TCU's, I'm inclined to think TCU is more deserving of a berth in the national title game than Texas — or, at the very least, it is not conclusive.

It is not easy for me to say that I believe TCU is more deserving than Texas. I grew up in the Southwest Conference at a time when TCU was widely believed to be one of the worst football teams on the planet. But times have changed, and strength of schedule says a lot.

Based on recent rankings, TCU played and defeated three teams in the Top 25 — Brigham Young, Utah and Clemson. Texas played and defeated two teams in the Top 25 — Oklahoma State and the team the Longhorns barely defeated for the Big 12 championship, Nebraska.

One team, Wyoming, played both schools. The results were nearly identical, but, again, there was a slight edge to TCU. Wyoming lost to Texas, 41–10. TCU beat Wyoming, 45–10.

I've heard various proposals for playoff systems. Among supporters of a playoff system, the big question seems to be how many teams to include. Some folks think it should be four or eight. I think it should be at least 16, but that is a detail that can be worked out once it is finally agreed that a playoff system is really the best way to choose a champion.

I'm not talking about something as huge as the NCAA Tournament. But if one of the concerns is the preservation of the bowls, why couldn't the bowls, most of which are in warm–weather locations, be used as the sites for playoff games?

It seems to me that being part of a playoff system would broaden the appeal of each bowl — under the current arrangement, every postseason game after the conference championship games and before the national championship game are primarily of interest only to each school's fan base and student body.

One of the drawbacks, certainly, would be less time to promote the matchup. But the appeal would more than make up for it, since it would be well known that the winner would advance to the next round of the playoffs.

And a playoff system would give other unbeaten schools, like Cincinnati and Boise State, the chance to make their cases for being included in a national championship game.

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