The Pi-Rate Ratings

November 15, 2017

Making College Football Even Better

This is our annual and somewhat repetitive treatise dealing with how to improve the college football game as it pertains to the current status.

College football is thriving since the advent of the 4-team playoff.  Unfortunately, those in charge made a little mistake in previous years when they scheduled semifinal bowls for the PM hours of New Year’s Eve.  Numerous fans across the nation chose (in some cases it was chosen for them by a significant other), to attend other festivities.  The semifinal games belong on New Year’s Day, which is the slot Americans have associated with bowl games for decades.  The ultimate college football experience starts with celebrating the birth of the new year while camping out on Orange Grove Boulevard in Pasadena with hundreds if not thousands of potentially new friends; then watching the most magnificent two hours of the Tournament of Roses Parade, contemplating how much work has gone into the planning of this event (it actually begins on January 2nd every year), and then realizing that the bands will march and play their instruments for 5 1/2 miles.

One of the neat things to do if you have been to multiple Rose Parades is to stake out a spot on Paloma at the end of the route and then to be the first to view the floats as they go on display near Victory Park.

The culmination of a fantastic event should be the Rose Bowl Game, which should not be played on any other date but New Year’s Day at 3PM PST (Jan. 2 if the first is on a Sunday).

That being said, there are a few other changes that we believe will take a great game and shoot it into orbit.

ISSUE 1–The Playoffs (8 is not enough)

The Playoffs need more teams, so that all Power 5 Conference champions get an automatic bid.  How would you feel if the Pittsburgh Steelers won the AFC North and then did not have the opportunity to appear in the NFL Playoffs?  Or what if the Houston Astros would have been cut out of the Major League playoffs because Cleveland had a better resume this year?

Here’s how the PiRates see it at the present time.  We are unanimously in favor of giving all five Power Conference champions an automatic invitation to the gridiron dance, while at the same time, we believe the top four teams should receive a reward.  One method could be that the top four would host the next four in an 8-team tournament, but to us that is not enough reward for the top four teams.  Also, there are going to be years were the number 9 team is as good as the number 4 team, and instead of arguing that number 4 should not have been selected, as number 9 was just as deserving, why not extend it out by a half round?  12 is the perfect number of playoff teams.  Most importantly, a 12-team tournament gives the top four teams a bye to the quarterfinals, and they can still host a quarterfinal round game on their home turf.  That is the proper reward for finishing in the top four.

Additionally, a 12-team tournament gives the Group of 5 conferences a chance.  Guarantee that one of the 12 spots goes to the top Group of 5, just like it receives a New Year’s 6 Bowl bid now.  If Central Florida runs the table this year, rather than receive the last slot in the NY6, at least they could be the #12 seed in a 12-team playoff.  If they really are deserving, then they can prove it by taking out the #5 seed in a road contest.

With 5 Power Conference teams and one Group of 5 Conference team receiving automating bids, it leaves six at-large bids.  In our opinion, these six at-large teams should cover the bases for finding teams worthy of playing for all the marbles.  You are talking about teams ranked around #10 overall at this point.  The #10 vs. #11 team is much less important than the #5 and #4 team competing for a spot.

If we were to look at this season, playing out the remaining games for our purposes in this editorial, the playoffs might look something like this:

ACC Champion–Miami

Big 12 Champion–Oklahoma

Big Ten Champion–Wisconsin

Pac-12 Champion–USC

SEC Champion–Alabama

Best Group of 5–Central Florida

At large 1–Georgia

At large 2–Clemson

At large 3–Ohio St.

At large 4–TCU

At large 5–Penn St.

At large 6–Notre Dame

Top teams left out–Washington, Auburn, Michigan St., Boise St., Memphis, Oklahoma St., and LSU

At the present time, Wisconsin would be left out of the Playoff, even though the Badgers are undefeated.  This would be a travesty if a 13-0 UW team failed to make the playoffs while a 2-loss team sneaked in ahead of the Badgers.  Under our format, none of the teams left out would have any legitimate reason to state a case that they deserved to be in, because in actuality the last two seeds probably should not be in the tournament at all.  However, this actually serves a useful purpose.  If seeds 10, 11, and 12 are not all that worthy of being in the playoffs, then their first round hosts (seeds 5, 6, and 7) get a little benefit that seed 8 does not receive.

Seeding the 12 teams above, you would get something like this:

Opening Round

#12 Central Florida at #5 Georgia

#11 Notre Dame at #6 Clemson

#10 USC at #7 Ohio St.

#9 Penn St. at #8 TCU

Quarterfinal Round

UCF-Ga. Winner at #4 Wisconsin

N. Dame-Clemson Winner at #3 Oklahoma

USC-Ohio St. Winner at #2 Miami

Penn St.-TCU Winner at #1 Alabama

From here the playoffs would be back to where they are now–two bowl games for the Semifinals, followed by the National Championship Game.


ISSUE 2–The Games are Toooooooo Lonnnnnng

The NFL realized a few years back that their once 2 1/2 hour games had jumped by an hour, because players believed in going out of bounds rather than absorb contact by a quickly moving 300-pound wall of steel.  They began starting the clock after the ball was brought back in bounds by the side judge or line judge.  Thus, the number of scrimmage plays returned to about where it had been for decades, in the 120-130 per game neighborhood.

College football used to see anywhere from 110 to 150 scrimmage plays per game.  Today, one team might run 100 plays, while the other gets 75, and the game becomes the football version of War and Peace.  The game needs to get to a point where 120-150 plays is the average range.  There is one definite way to make the clock move more than it does today–end the stoppage of the clock on first downs.  The NFL does just fine without the clock stopping on first downs.  The sideline official simply places his lead foot on the spot where the scrimmage stick needs to go, and he keeps it there until the man holding the stick arrives, which is almost always before the ball is snapped for the next play.

If you keep the clock moving after a play results in a first down during a typical college football game today, you are not stopping the clock about 45 times per game.  On games where there are fewer first downs, the clock will keep running any way, so this will basically just keep your 1,000 total yard games under 4 hours, while doing little to the 500 total yard games.

ISSUE 3–We Want Real Overtime

The current mode of college overtime can take a hard fought, defensive gem 13-13 tie at the end of regulation and turn it into a 43-41 4OT game that looks like nobody played a lick of defense.

College overtime should start with one team kicking off to the other, and with a touchdown needed on the first drive in order to end the game without the kicking team getting the ball, just like in the NFL.  Play 10 or 15 minutes, and if the teams are still tied, then let it be a tie game.  Tie games can be just as important as wins and losses.  In today’s world of computer technology, a tie game will not throw a monkey wrench into the works.  Here’s a little secret for you: When the PiRates adjust our ratings after every college football game, we adjust all overtime games back to the tie score at the end of regulation and throw out what happens in overtime, with the exception of factoring in the possibilities of key players being injured and if it could deflate the loser in the future.  What goes on in the current overtime does not tell us anything important.  We need to know how teams perform on both sides of the ball on a 100-yard field and not a 25-yard field.  In actuality, it makes the game a different sport entirely.  How would you like a college basketball overtime only played in the half-court with each team getting a possession per overtime?  That is not real basketball either.

ISSUE 4: A Wet Turf Should Never Be Credited With a Tackle

How many times have you seen a player make a brilliant move to get open in the clear only to slip on wet turf or dive to make a play and then cannot advance the ball, even though no defender has participated in the play?  The NFL totally gets this issue.  A player should not be considered tackle, unless a defender is responsible for downing him or has made contact with him while he is on the ground.  Watching a receiver embarrass a defender, make a brilliant highlight-film catch, and then have to settle for a 6-yard gain, when he could get up and run for 25 yards robs not only the player and his team, but also the fans who want to see action.  When that player dives for the ball and makes the catch today, the turf gets the tackle.  Only vegetation can be happy about that.

ISSUE 5: Pass Interference Should Never Be Allowed to Become a Defensive Strategy

In the early 1980’s, the college football world changed defensive pass interference penalties to a maximum of 15 yards and an automatic first down.  In today’s game, there are times when it is beneficial to clobber a receiver and give up the 15 yards and first down rather than give up the 30-yard pass completion or the touchdown catch.  With less than a minute to go in the game when one team needs only a touchdown to win, but they must go 80 yards, every time the offensive team throws at an attempt to gain more than 35 yards, it is wise to merely clobber the receiver if there is any chance the ball will be caught.  You give up 15 yards and a first down, but now the receiver is hearing footsteps.  The next pass may find him not really extending his arms out to try to catch the pass, knowing that the defender can perform as much unnecessary roughness on him and only suffer the interference penalty.

The right thing to do is to restore pass interference penalties back to awarding the offense a first down at the spot of the foul, just like it has remained in the NFL.  Now, if a team interferes on a Hail Mary pass in the end zone, the offense gets the ball at the opponent’s one yard line, and gets another play, even if the clock shows 0:00.  Pass interference should never be allowed to become a strategy.  It is the equivalent of a flagrant foul in basketball on a breakaway drive to the hoop.


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