Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Bring On Round Two

I understand that when presented with the possibility of an Ohio State versus Michigan rematch in the national championship game, Florida head coach Urban Meyer suggested that if such a game took place the NCAA should immediately institute a playoff format for this year. I hate to rain on Meyer's pity parade, but does he really think a playoff system is going to eliminate rematches? I've got some bad news Coach, a playoff format will only increase the odds of second encounters.

To provide an example, let's Meyer's idea into action. We will assemble the top ten teams in the land for a playoff. For the sake of this discussion, I'll use the Associated Press poll, but use any poll that makes you feel better. You've got OSU, Michigan, USC, Florida, Arkansas, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Louisville, LSU and Wisconsin. Now, we know the Buckeyes and Wolverines have seen each other once. Michigan has also played the Irish and Badgers. Notre Dame is about to face USC and the Trojans beat up Arkansas months ago. The Razorbacks are going to run into Meyer's Gators in two weeks. The Gators and LSU have already met and WVU and Louisville butted heads weeks ago.

Do you see a (very literal) repeating theme here? There are eight potential rematches in this proposed playoff system. It doesn't help if you include a few more teams, either. If you sneak down the polls a bit further, you also open the door for schools like Auburn (who has seen Florida, Arkansas and LSU in person), Oklahoma and Texas (who play in a pretty big game annually themselves). A playoff format doesn't diminish the odds of a Round Two. In fact, it would seem to increase the odds of second chance encounters all over the place -- including, by default, the title game.

In addition to Coach Meyer, I'm surprised so many in the media are against this possible rematch in the championship game. If this were college basketball's greatest rivalry going to a second meeting, would anyone really be complaining? Again, just for the sake of my post, let's say Duke/North Carolina is the hoops version of Ohio State/Michigan. The Blue Devils and Tar Heels collide twice a year in the regular season, right? That's no problem. They often meet in the ACC Tournament. If they were the top two ranked teams in the land and played Volume III in the conference tournament final, would anyone be lamenting it?

Then, just to finish the thought, if Duke and UNC advanced to the National Championship Game, having gone through the regular season ranked 1-2 and having faced each other three times, would anyone mind seeing a fourth encounter? Okay, the folks at NC State, maybe not so much, but wouldn't the mainstream media be cranking the hype machine up full blast for Round Four of Duke and UNC?

The media big boys love the Yankees and Red Sox match-ups, no matter how often they run into one another. Same with the NFL. Teams like the Patriots and Colts can run head long into one another two or three times a year, sometimes for several years in a row, and it's the story of the weekend, but Michigan and Ohio State twice in the same year? Oh, no, can't have that.

In the end, I suspect neither the wide spread complaining or my confusion over their objections will be worthy the energy. USC will probably drop Notre Dame and UCLA and surge past Michigan in the BCS standings giving them the opportunity to play the Buckeyes for the national championship. Hey, wait a minute. Hasn't USC played in the championship game the last three years in a row? Didn't they lose to Texas last year? Do we really want to see them, again? Why should they get four shots at the title?

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