Monday, January 18, 2010

The Jets in the AFC Championship: A Strike Against Playoffs in College Football

The New York Jets defeated the San Diego Chargers on Sunday to advance to the AFC Championship game against the Indianapolis Colts next week. The most interesting part of the Jets run in the playoffs has been that it almost did not happen. Following a week 15 loss to the Falcons, the Jets were on the outside looking in. With games left against an undefeated Colts team and a division leading Bengals, the playoff chances for the Jets looked grim. In college football, two tough games left on the schedule would almost certainly mean losses for the Jets. But this is the NFL, and unlike college football, playoffs allow teams to rest players when their playoff seats are already decided.

Over the next two weeks, the Jets took advantage of both the Colts and Bengals taking it easy in preparation for the playoffs. They won both games and made the playoffs as the final team in. On Wild Card weekend, they had a rematch against the Bengals who had taken it easy on them the week before. The Jets won easily and after beating San Diego, will now get another shot at the Colts next week. Wouldn't it be funny if the team that the Colts and Bengals went easy on (allowing them to make the playoffs) ultimately knock both of them off?

Now the question ultimately arises, if there were playoffs in college football, would teams rest players late in the season much like the Colts and Saints did this year? If a team knew that they had a playoff game the next week, would they be willing to lose a season finale (most likely against a rival) to rest players?

I know the immediate reaction is to say no. Of course Georgia would not rest players against Georgia Tech. But take a minute and think about basketball. Georgia plays Georgia Tech every year and ultimately the game means very little to the season as whole. If Georgia had already clinched a spot in the SEC Championship and knew they would have a playoff game the week after, would they risk losing the Tech game to give their players a chance to get healthy before two games that really meant something?

I am personally torn on this subject. I would love to see a playoff but I also think it would take away from the regular season.

Leave your thoughts in the comments.

*Thanks go out to Evan and Earl for stirring up this conversation over email today.


Anonymous said...

Only a knock on some thing silly like a 64 team play-off. In a 4 team or even a 8 team play-off you would never see a team risk losing one or two games at the end of the season to rest would drop to far in the polls to hold on to one of the spots. To many teams with less then 3 losses, and to few play-off spots.

"If Georgia had already clinched a spot in the SEC Championship and knew they would have a playoff game the week after, would they risk losing the Tech game to give their players a chance to get healthy before two games that really meant something?"

IF a UGA team was undefeated ranked #1 at the end of conference play it still doesn't mean they should have a playoff spot lock up. How would any undefeated team already have clinched a spot with two games left. Any top eight team that losses its last two game would drop to far in the polls and out of the playoffs.

So would UGA risk laying down against tech and put all their playoff hopes on winning the SEC champ. OR beat tech and then still have a chance to make the playoffs with a loss in the SEC Champ game?

Take UF for example this past year. If they lose to FSU they would have be out of the playoffs after their lose to bama in the sec champ game. BUT with that win and loss to bama they would have still made it in a 8 team playoff.

Dawgfan17 said...

Things you left out against a playoff. Last year the 9-7 Cardinals went to the Super Bowl while the 11-5 Patriots didn't make the playoffs. Those same Cardinals got to hose a playoff game against an 11-5 Atlanta team. Yeah that system makes a ton of sense to me.

Anonymous said...

@ Dawgfan17

Still makes better sense than having Howie Long vote that the Giants play the Titans in the Superbowl.

Andy Coleman said...

Give me a playoff reguardless! I love to see an underdog team make a run in the playoffs. The Jets beat a Chargers team that many thought couldn't be beat at this point in the season, so they deserve to be there.

Kevin said...

First Anon-

The SEC championship game would be where teams rested players (which would have sucked). Both teams would have made a playoff. Hell, if we had a plus 1 right now, guess who would be playing... Numbers 1 and 2, Bama and Florida.

Cojones said...

The thinking here is stupid and silly. The pros can do what they wish because they are a business and they risk only not having a full house for the last two games. That enhances their chances to add more games for more income.

College football is not about preserving or enhancing the income from one game to be able to get more money. It is about the competition and winning over your opponent who is likely to be your rival in the last games of the year. You can pull players after the game is in the bag, but you had better not dog any of your play against a rival if the AD, Head Coach, Asst. coaches and players want to go any further in their college careers. The alumni and Bd. of Regents will have your head AND your uniform. You are not representing your chance to progress in a playoff game. You are preserving the competitive dignity and pride of your school,most schools being dependent on state taxpayer money.

Such a scenario that you place forward here would end what we know as "College Football". It would be "Semipro Football" with the opportunity for players to throw games and shave points. On the other hand, it would end betting on college sports.

BulldawgJosh said...

The Jets are the standard bearer for the biggest problem with playoffs and one of the larger reasons why you won’t see one in college football anytime soon: the design and setup of the playoff.

A playoff isn’t inherently fair or better, it’s all in how you set it up.

The Jets making it to the AFC Championship is an indictment of the crappy playoff system, particularly the wild card aspect, the NFL has designed. A 9-7 team that only made it in because the Bengals benched players the last week really proved themselves over the course of the season and thus should be included in the championship game?

No, of course they didn’t. They proved themselves in the playoffs, and for the NFL, that’s what really matters. Otherwise, they would have never made it in.

For college playoff proponents, figuring out how to design a system that avoids, as much as possible, these ridiculous consequences is the true challenge.

King Jericho said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
King Jericho said...

@Kevin I disagree that you would see players rested in a CHAMPIONSHIP game. It's still a championship game and you're expected by everyone to try your hardest to win that championship. Just because you're resting your players doesn't mean that you're guaranteed to win the next game. If you're dumb enough to rest your players to lose a conference championship without, necessarily, a better chance to win a bigger, national championship, then that's bad coaching and someone will lose their job.

The Jets situation is a little messy. It's hard to say "the only reason the Jets are in the playoffs are because the juggernauts took it easy on them." So far, the Jets have beaten half of the teams that "allowed" them to make the playoffs. Now if the Bengals had pounded the Jets in the first round of the playoffs, then I would agree, but since the Jets are not looking like a fluke as of right now, I just think it's a more complicated situation than that. Roger Goddell has mentioned coming up with a "penalty" or some incentive to try to get the best record possible and I'm interested in what he might be able to come up with (though I never really expect much from him).

And like the first Anony said, that wouldn't affect a smaller man playoff in college. There's just too many teams contending at the end of the year for one game not to mean everything. Yes, I could see a scenario where this could happen, but I still think this scene playing out is a lot more rare than the stupid issues we're left with almost every year with the BCS system.

Michael J Fischer said...

There would be a HUGE backlash from voters if a team rested starters.

Teams would most likely REORGANIZE their schedule, putting a cupcake game right before conference championships and rivalry week to rest their starters.

Oh wait... they already do that.