Commentary

Purgatory till playoff

Originally Published: June 28, 2012
By Ted Miller | ESPN.com

My grandmama just made you some of her world famous chocolate chip cookies. Why? Because you're her favorite. She'll let you eat one in two years.

[+] EnlargeNick Saban
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesCould Nick Saban hoist the crystal football again before a playoff is in place?

Just bought a cool new iPhone. It will be awesome to use for the first time in 2014.

Got married this week? Congrats. Bet you can't wait to consummate things in 24 months!

They say good things come to those who wait. Casting aside our reasonable desire to feed "They" a knuckle sandwich, let's certainly hope so. In the space between now and the 2014 college football season, however, things are going to be pretty darn weird. And annoying.

This season and next, college football will be operating in two worlds. The benighted world that is -- the BCS system -- and the new four-team playoff model adopted this week in Washington, D.C., (cue angelic chorus) that won't be implemented until 2014.

We won't have this sparkly, four-team playoff for two seasons, but it will hang over the sport's collective head. Sparkling. And just out of reach. For two entire seasons.

Oh, we won't really think too much about it in September and October. But when the calendar flips into November, and the space between teams in the BCS standings starts to tighten, count on there being plenty of speculative "what if?" grumbling.

Further, you can expect the media to relentlessly and redundantly point out how things would be different if the four-team playoff were in place at present, rather than just gaily dancing on the horizon. A No. 4 regular-season finish in 2014 will inspire a celebration for a fan base. A No. 4 finish in 2012 and 2013 will be cause to grouse about the arbitrary unfairness of the system.

Consider this from a future episode of "BCS Countdown" on ESPN.

Rece Davis: Well, Kirk, unbeaten USC and unbeaten Georgia, ranked Nos. 3 and 4 just behind unbeaten LSU and unbeaten Oklahoma with one week left. How frustrating must this be for the Trojans and Bulldogs? In 2014, they'd be in a four-team playoff. This year, they are sucking eggs.

Kirk Herbstreit: Sucking eggs is right, Rece. Bulldogs fans want to know why the "Rambling Wreck Computer Poll" has them ranked 33rd, and more than a few folks are wondering why the Trojans fell from No. 2 to No. 3 in the coaches poll after beating UCLA, 42-3. There have been whispers about the "Slive Slide," because everyone knows the SEC doesn't want to play USC.

Rece Davis: Now, I'm sure all of you out there have heard this a few times, but if the four-team playoff were in place this season, then heads wouldn't be exploding in Heritage Hall and Between the Hedges.

[+] EnlargeMike Gundy
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireMike Gundy and Oklahoma State would have been in the playoff discussion in 2011.

Just about every year of the BCS system, there has been legitimate debate about the makeup of the so-called championship game, and we're not alluding to just the notorious controversies of 2003, 2004 and 2011. Go look at the final rankings through the years. How many times did a team ranked third or fourth in the final regular-season poll have the same record as one of the participants in the BCS title game? Not since 2005 have we finished with an iron-clad, no-debate championship game.

Yet, despite all the complaining, we mostly accepted the system and its smarmy imperfection. "It is what it is," we murmured with resignation. "A playoff ain't happening anytime soon." In fact, the very lameness of the system seemed to add an extra dimension of strangely attractive nuance to college football. Like a self-destructive and self-centered yet charming friend, we not only couldn't quit it, we seemingly embraced the endless debate and controversy. The system let us down again? We'd rant for a few minutes, then start pining over recruiting rumors and spring-practice previews.

Hate the BCS? Fair enough. Join the crowd. But college football reached its most popular and prosperous heights during the BCS era. Go figure.

Things will be different the next two years, though. While we certainly have no illusions about a perfect system arriving in 2014, we can see better approaching; we can see improvement. And that's going to be a haunting presence. We know the future but must live in the past for two more seasons. I expect it to feel pretty yucky at times.

You might not feel it now. You might just be happy with the news this week or be entirely distracted by your optimism heading into 2012. It is, after all, surely your team's year!

But just wait until your team finishes No. 3 or No. 4.

Ted Miller | email

College Football