No, this isn’t an in depth look at the issue with amateur athletics and the propriety of colleges making so much money on the backs of athletes. There is nothing that I can add to that conversation. This is about the general problem with competition in college football, and more importantly, the fact that it won’t get fixed with a 4 team playoff structure.
The Gophers had a great season on all counts. The debate on the team is actually over which coach on the staff is the best. Is it Jerry Kill? Tracy Claeys? It’s a good problem to have. The team won two more games than last year and had their first 4 game conference win streak in 40 years. They have a first round draft pick in Ra’Shede Hageman, and they finished 4th in the “Legends” conference, 6th overall in the Big Ten.
The reward for a greatly improved season? The same Bowl game as last year against a significantly less challenging opponent.
How does this happen? Michigan, who finished behind the Gophers in the standings jumped the Gophers (and Nebraska) as the 5th choice among bowl organizers, and the Gophers were the last eligible Big Ten team slotted for bowls. Michigan is a better “brand” and the preconceived notion of Michigan football is more favorable than that Minnesota as a lure for TV viewers and game attendees.
The Gophers were punished because they are the Gophers, despite the fact that the 2013 version is significantly different than versions in the past. Their reward wasn’t based exclusively on this season’s body of work.
It’s not just an issue with the bowl allocation either. Take a look at this national championship game. There is no doubt that Florida State should make it to the championship game. They were undefeated in a major conference and were the only team that can make that claim. But what about their opponent, Auburn? Sure, they won the SEC, but what about Baylor, who has just as many losses, and looked dominant in most of their wins? Or Michigan State, who would likewise be undefeated if they hadn’t been hosed against Notre Dame? The common consensus is that the SEC is the best conference in the country, but shouldn’t they have to prove that on the field every year?
Oh, the 4 team playoff coming next year is nice in theory, but it doesn’t solve this problem. If the playoff were based on this year’s BCS standings, the games would be Florida State-Michigan State, Auburn-Alabama. No Baylor, who has done nothing different than Auburn, but would be trumped by Alabama, mostly because of the preconceived opinion of Alabama.
That’s the real problem with competition in college football. Too much is decided based on opinion, and a 4 team playoff doesn’t solve that problem. Minnesota was screwed out of a better stage because of the opinion on Michigan, and the SEC is consistently rewarded because of the favorable opinion of their conference. I’m not saying that the SEC isn’t a great conference, I just wish there was more done to ensure they prove it on the field every year.