Big 10 Divisions

When I heard the Big 10* was splitting into two divisions that would culminate at the end of the year with a single playoff game between the two divisions to determine a Big 10 winner, I was undecided. Would the Michigan-Ohio State game get lost in the shuffle? What if it wasn’t the end of the season? Would we all die???

Turns out the divisions do not suck and I find myself mildly pleased. Not overly enthusiastic because I am mourning the loss of the UM-Penn State game — YOU PENN STATE PEOPLE KNOW WHO YOU ARE — but it is far less a bag of suck then what usually comes out of college football. The divisions are:

* Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota and Northwestern.
* Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois, Purdue and Indiana.

I liked the addition of “protected games” although some of them are a little contrived. I also realize everyone wants Michigan to play Nebraska every year as a big marquee game. They kept the Michigan-Michigan State game and the Little Brown Jug game. I think it works out. Sure, no more UM-Penn State, UM-Purdue or UM-Wisconsin games, all staples of the schedule, but I think we’ll live.

I also suspect this has been engineered to absorb Notre Dame and Missouri. No one has made any particular secret that the dream is to expand the Big 10 into a 16 Team Supergroup**, sort of like a Velvet Revolver of College Football. Or maybe Them Crooked Vultures — it has Dave Grohl. But that means Notre Dame and Missouri have to sign up. I bet they will — it makes the Big 10 huge and the ad revenue on TV will be even more astronomical, astronomical-astronomical, than it is now. The lure of filthy lucre will pull Notre Dame, forever going ‘I will not be seen with those stinky State Schools***’ into its ugly orbit. And Missouri will want to play Nebraska. But what do you do about the Michigan-ND rivalry since the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry is protected? Complications!

The only big hitch? This entire system is all predicated on Michigan not sucking. And that, my friends, is hilarious.

My points:

1. I am not horrified by the Big 10 divisions.
2. But I am a bit sad at the lack of some of the staple games I look forward to every year.  And the yearly mockery.
3. I look forward to a glorious 16 team future! Where there are 16 teams! … or at least 14.
4. I like the playoff game to determine a Big 10 Champion. Now if we can have interconference play between other conference champions that built up to some kind of, oh, I don’t know, playoff system at the end of the season, all the better.

Update:

Eric points out that the addition of Missouri and Notre Dame would make the Big 10 the Big 0x10.  They are all engineering schools, right?

* Now with 12 team action!
** Mysteriously still called the Big 10. State schools save ND, and we don’t count gud.
*** Unless it’s college hoops.

In Defense of Playoff Systems

Paul the Psychic Octopus predicted Spain’s Win in the World Cup. Don’t mess with Paul. He’s psychic.

An admittedly fantastic World Cup Tournament ended with a terrible Holland vs. Spain game involving cleats to the chest and long stretches of nothing much happening. But no one can deny, with psychic octopuses and vuvuzelas and terrible calls and worse ESPN commentators, that following the tournament was fun. You can say anything you want about that final game — those two teams on the pitch were the best teams. No one feels cheated or robbed. Spain won fair and square, and we walk away feeling a champion was crowned.

It was almost as fun to follow as an earlier tournament this year: the Olympics Hockey Tournament; a tournament which packed in enough drama in two weeks for a full Shakespearean reprisal of Macbeth. A tournament full of highs and lows and screaming at the TV and some rough hockey and blood on the ice. And eventually Canada won that one, but it was worth watching.

Even March Madness was entertaining this year until Duke ran away with the tournament. Then it became ho-hum Duke, but it was what it was; there’s a reason they call it March Madness.

Tournament Play answers the core question: What if team X and team Y got together and actually played? It’s better for everyone: better for the fans, better for the teams, better for the advertisers, better for everyone. And hey, look — we all actually watched soccer! Lots of soccer! For hours and hours!

This ends with me pounding my fist into a table and asking: where is a college football tournament? Why are we still locked in a terrible Bowl Game system? FIFA World Cup tournament is three weeks long and they have to play essentially what the football conferences already do all season: round robin tournament to forward winners to single round elimination. Then in two weeks it marches through semi-finals, quarter-finals, and final games. Now that college football is marching toward forming “super-conferences,” that first round of round-robin play is done in the season.* And then instead of waiting an entire month of six weeks for the kids to become complacent, go into December and do the tournament! 4 weeks, end right on New Year’s Day.

Anyway.

1. Lame randomly picked “winners” based on random polls and “the computer” suck.
2. Tournaments with single-game elimination are fun to watch.
3. Tournaments cough up actual winners of sports. Gasp!
4. People who normally will not follow the normal season (Soccer, College Basketball) tune in like fiends to watch the tournament.
5. Advertisers win! Vuvuzela manufacturers win!**
6. Fans win!

And thus, I am strongly pro-tournament and anti-whatever the crap it is that people do at the end of seasons that are not tournaments. That’s my official Political Position and I am Sticking To It.

To tag this post — is it sports?  Politics?  RELIGION?  HMMM.

* I know about all the problems with an Idaho St. or a Hawaii who may go unbeaten all year and lose a spot in a tournament, but no one can tell me the current system is anything that approximates fair for anyone.

** If someone brought a vuvuzela into the Big House… well, I just don’t want to think about it. I watch True Blood, and I can think up some gruesome things.