Who's Number 2?
All I care to know about the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) is that it destroyed the tradition of post-season bowl games, especially the only one I really cared about: the Rose Bowl in which the winner of the Big Ten is supposed to play the winner of the Pac 10. Unfortunately, the tradition also includes underdog Pac 10 teams smoking the Big Ten powerhouse of the year, but that is beside the point. The only other rival for recent mindless trashing of a century of priceless affection and good will is Federated Stores replacing Marshall Field's with Macy's (see here), but that is also besides the point. So what is the point? The point is this column, Who's Number 2? about the controversial choice of Florida instead of Michigan to play Ohio State for the national championship. I found this analysis interesting:
But this year's debate over the merits of the BCS has exposed a more basic flaw, the faulty premise that underlies the entire system. The BCS was created in 1998 with the stated goal of of pitting the nation's top two football teams against each other in a championship game. Michigan partisans, then, are outraged that their team isn't getting another chance to take on Ohio State. The Wolverines are the second-best team in the country, they say. Shouldn't that guarantee them a spot in the title game?(civil comments only, including those by Michigan fans.)
No. The fact that the Wolverines are probably the second-best team in the country doesn't mean they've earned the right to play in the national championship game. In fact, it means the exact opposite: Michigan's No. 2 status is why they shouldn't be playing for the title.
Playoff systems are designed to determine, in a fair manner, which is the single best team in a particular sport. Their purpose is not to pit the two finest teams against each other in a season-ending game. The Yankees and Red Sox do not play annually in the World Series. The Indianapolis Colts will never be given a chance to play the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. When the two best college basketball teams in the country face off, as they routinely do, in a Final Four semifinal or even in the round of eight, does anyone think that the loser deserves a rematch?
Take this example: Does anyone think the Seattle Seahawks were the No. 2 team in the NFL last year? No. Likewise, will anyone think the NFC champion who makes it to this year's Super Bowl is the second-best team in football? Of course not. Will the best team in the NFL still win the Super Bowl? Yes. Even if it's an NFC team! . . .
Do we know if Florida is the second-best team in the country? Of course not. Here's what we do know: Michigan is not the best. How do we know that? By the traditional criterion: They scored fewer points in a football game than Ohio State did. The only team that has the "right" to play in the BCS championship game is the best team, Ohio State. And the only teams that should be scratched without question are teams that have already been determined to be "not the best," like Michigan.