By Michael Felder
If you've followed In The Bleachers here or on the twitter I'd hope that you know I'm not of the "playoff persuasion." There are some folks I really respect that swear by a playoff and ultimately it is just a difference of opinion on what one wants to see determined. Personally I fall in the "champion of the regular season" category where the two best teams after 12 or 13 games play each other to crown a champion.
That's honestly all I want. That's it folks. I'm not really interested in "giving everyone a shot" to win a championship. There's never been a time period where 8 or 16 teams "could" all be the best team in the nation. Never. While I understand the logic of "the number one or two teams has to prove it by winning" the fact is the way I look at these playoffs is you're putting #7 and #8 OR #15 and #16 the exact same position as the #1 team.
As a compromise I've said time and again after exhausting all other possibilities I'd be open to a plus-1 game. A four team playoff where the top four play in a national semifinal. So there's that, I'm just not open to more than four teams, that becomes less about who is actually the best team and more about spectacle for the fans and television.
They've done it all season, 12 or 13 games, all I need is one game for all the marbles between the two best teams. So basically what I'm saying is; in theory I'm a fan of the BCS's goal.
Unfortunately I, like many playoff supporters and bowl game fans alike, do take issue with the actual execution of the process. The computers need a tweaking, making strength of schedule a legitimate player instead of an ancillary piece of the algorithm. Scheduling itself is something that we'll tackle later this week but that isn't the first and easiest step to be taken.
That's the polls. We discussed it a bit at the start of the season with some folks and now that the final coaches poll is out now is as good a time as any to revisit the steps that need to be taken to actually lend some credibility to the cogs in the system.
The coaches poll, or as so many refer to it the SID poll, is the first of many failures here and as we get into the "why" be sure to take a look at the breakdown we linked above and some trends picked out by the fine folks over at Team Speed Kills.
We all know how the college football week goes for most fans. Maybe you watch the Tuesday night game if there's some Sun Belt or MACtion goin on and your favorite shows aren't scheduled for the same time. Wednesday perhaps more MACtion if that tickles your fancy the way it does mine. Thursday night is the big boy affair that has grown in the last decade and a half, we all tune in to see one of the power conference square off in prime time. ESPN's hit a home run on Friday nights all year, batting damn near 1.000 with great finishes, intriguing match ups and showcase games for teams ordinarily masked by Saturday action.
Then Saturday comes and we sit glued to our screens from the moment we wake up until early Sunday morning watching game after game. Multiple televisions and computer screens streaming games as we flip channels and watch halftime shows that put the highlights right into our eyeholes.
If you go to a game you watch Sportscenter to catch up OR if you're like me when I take my routine pilgrimages to Chapel Hill then your DVR and ESPN3 get going as soon as you get back to the homefield to catch up on what you've missed.
Being the football junky that I am I go a bit further. I like to watch ESPN3. A lot. Like all week. All the time. Sunday I don't watch much NFL, if any, because I'm watching and re-watching college football games. Games that I missed live because I was intrigued by the big match up. Games that weren't on television but were available online that I didn't get to dial into during the day. I also rewatch the late games via DVR and ESPN3 because I like to be a man about town on Saturday nights.
The reason I get into that is to say if there's a team that plays FBS football then that is a team that I've seen play plenty. As a guy intrigued by the nuance of the game; alignment, disguised coverages, scripted plays, middle third quarter 3rd and medium decisions and the like, pouring over taped games is what I do all day Sunday to Friday.
Enter the coaches and their poll.
A coaches life is not like yours. We'll start with the beginning of the week, Sunday. After a long Saturday they head into the office and their teams either practice Sunday OR they practice Monday. If you're a Sunday practice guy you're in for a long day working your kids out, correcting issues from the previous day's game, checking to see who is injured and how severe. Then you're in the office staring to look at the opponent for the upcoming week, trying to pick them apart and put together a gameplan.
If you don't practice Sunday then you're in an office reviewing the film from Saturday, making the points that you need to address to fix issues from the past performance. Then all eyes turn to the upcoming game. Pouring over the next opponent. Strengths and weaknesses. What do they do in any given scenario? How can you attack their scheme? Where do you have a clear advantage? Do they have a player you need to attack? What will you do Monday with your scout teams to mimic the strengths of this team? What script do you want to run out there? What will this team try to do to your guys?
There is a lot on their plate on Sunday. It is coffee, food, football and more football. Keep in mind this doesn't even include the necessary evil of updating their recruiting board, figuring out what all their targets did on Friday during the high school season and making sure the kids who visited Saturday's game had a good time.
Mondays, you practice or you don't. If you do practice that means you've got meetings. Meetings with the whole staff. Meetings for the offensive staff. Meetings for the defensive staff. Meetings with the training and strength staff. Meetings with the special teams staff. Meetings with the entire team. Meetings with your side of the ball. Meetings with your position group. Meetings with scout team. Meetings. Meetings. Meetings. Then you practice. Walk-thru the looks you want from scout team. Walk-thru the script and plays you want to be featured to beat this week's opponent. Walk-thru your defensive checks and alignments along with responsibilities.
If you don't practice then this is your gameplan day. You're doing those thing that guys who practice on Monday normally do on Sunday. Gameplan Day is the day that you start the process of winning that week's game.
Now we're at Tuesday folks. Everyone practices on Tuesday. More meetings and this is one of your two biggest work days of the week. You want full speed, everyone in the right place, heavy competition as you get into how the gameplan will look against your scout team's mock of the opponent. You hit. You go thud. You work position specifics to get fundamentals right. You go team on team to see some good looks. Then after it is all done you review the tape to correct practice issues and look for mistakes from everyone.
Wednesday is another big work day. This is where things should be flawless. If your guys don't know what they're doing by now then they aren't going to learn it in time for Saturday. Linebackers and defensive ends still not recognizing the tight wing formation check? They will screw this up on Saturday. Wide receiver still not running the dig shallow enough under the hole safety? He will screw this up on Saturday. Linemen and quarterback not recognizing the blitz pick ups and ID's? That's a sack for Saturday. You have to get Wednesdays right because when you're running full speed 7 on 7, 9 on 7 and team periods that's as close as you'll get to game situations to polish things up.
Then you review that film. Look for areas of opportunities. If, for the second day in a row, that receiver is not recognizing the rat safety sitting in the hole then you have a decision to make about the script and how that play or player fits into your gameplan. You have to watch the film to see where the bad steps are taken, poor angles and missed opportunities. Then diagnose if these are real issues or isolated incidents. That's your Wednesday night.
Thursday, hello clean up day. You need perfect Thursdays. No dropped balls on offense. No completed passes on defense. No missed blocks on offense. No wrong checks on defense. Players are going fast but they're not hitting, often guys are in shells. Thursday is a relatively easy day, provided Tuesday and Wednesday were productive. Maybe you take that time to eat and see your wife and kids.
Friday you get the travel squad together, they go out and walk-thru things one last time before dinner and heading to the hotel if it is a home game. If it is a road game, depending on leaving time, you get on the buses early and take off for a walk-thru on location later that day. In the hotel you get more meetings. You make sure your key players are aware of their role. You make sure kids are in bed and that they are focused.
Saturday folks, gameday. You wake up and get breakfast. You meet with your team to make sure they're prepared. You hit the buses, head to the stadium early. Let the team feel the turf out. They toss the ball around while you and the coaches sweat out the final details of the gameplan. Then you hit your formal warm-ups and position specifics. You're out on the field running through simple plays to get blood flowing for the players. You're making sure everyone knows their role. Knows what you need out of them.
Then the game starts. You're dialed in. You're correcting issues as they show themselves. You're looking for the right call. Then 25 seconds later you're looking for the next call. There is no basking in the glory of a beautiful stop on defense because you've got to look at what went wrong on the other plays. How can you maximize your teams performance? Is the opponent doing something unique to your team that is limiting your success? Tweak it on the fly to get some success; change that dig into a post because their safety is playing shallow, stop playing zone on first downs, go man so you can disrupt their timing routes.
The game's over. You shake hands with recruits. You talk to your players. You hit the film room to look at what went wrong and what went right. Where did your quarterback miss a wide open tight end because he locked on to a wide receiver? How many missed tackles did you linebackers have that the safety cleaned up? Who was mis-aligned pre-snap? Why did you have to call that timeout in the second quarter during punt return when you had ten men on the field? Most importantly, how many loafers did you have this game?
That's your week folks. Not included in that week are recruiting phone calls, press conferences, interviews, coaches shows that must be taped, radio shows that have to be done, watching film of recruits and all that jazz.
Also not included? Spacing out in front of a television for hours at a time to watch teams that aren't their own.
Coaches do not have time to watch a ton of games that don't involve endzone cuts and sideline angles of whoever it is they're playing. There aren't enough hours in the day or their schedule to spend sitting around flipping on the big time showdown then their team has a game that needs to be prepped for and or played.
That right there should be enough to convince people that having coaches voting for which teams are and are not good in the college football world is a bad idea. Throw in the self serving conference and personal angles and you have a bonafide problem. The desire to bring more cash to a league through multiple BCS bids, the "position in final poll" clauses in contracts that award bonuses to coaches are reason enough to elevate a league or a team.
Now, unlike some, I'm not going to purely question their integrity or their vote but when it comes down to a team you haven't seen play at all versus a squad in your league that you know quite well for "who is ranked higher" giving the team you know the nod makes sense. Arriving at the conclusion Arkansas is better than Oklahoma State because you've seen the teams play is a lot different than just giving the Hogs the nod because it helps out your strength of schedule or the conference.
The time constraints and the personal interest are the reasons I'd like to see the abolishment of the coaches poll. It is a real problem, not an unfixable problem, but it is a real problem that should be addressed for the sake of getting the right teams out there on the field and rewarded for their season.
Get more great college football analysis over at In The Bleachers.