All posts by billywilson22

NFL Sleeper Teams for the 2017 Season

The teams that are expected to seriously contend for a chance to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in 2018 are not shockers. The New England Patriots, with their brilliant offseason acquisitions of TE Dwayne Allen, WR Brandin Cooks and CB Stephon Gilmore look primed to defend their title, even after a week one loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. To the delight of Dallas Cowboys fans all over the country and no one else, the suspension of RB Ezekiel Elliot for his various off-field incidents has been postponed. They also still have the game’s most dominant offensive line, and if QB Dak Prescott is able to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump, the Cowboys offense will be electric.

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The Green Bay Packers look to make another deep postseason run with their star QB Aaron Rodgers. The Packers retooled their offense with the free agent signing of TE Martellus Bennett from the Patriots and have decided to commit to former WR Ty Montgomery as their primary backfield option. The Pittsburgh Steelers still have QB Ben Roethlisberger and the two most dominant players at their respective positions in RB Le’Veon Bell and WR Antonio Brown in addition to a defense that finished in the top ten for lowest average points allowed per game. Last but not least, with the return of QB Derek Carr from injury and a talented defense led by Khalil Mack, the Oakland Raiders should make serious nose in the AFC as well.

While there are undoubtedly other teams that I am overlooking as Super Bowl contenders, the four aforementioned teams have the best chance to make a deep postseason run based on their roster, and the odds makers in Las Vegas feel similarly. The Patriots open the regular season with 11-4 odds to hoist the Lombardi trophy, while the Packers and Raiders both come in with 8-1 odds to win. The Steelers have 10-1 odds to win the championship, while the Cowboys trail with 12-1 odds.  However, there are certainly quite a few teams that are being overlooked for a chance to make the playoffs. These teams are often referred to as “sleepers.”

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The Steelers return yet again as favorites to make the playoffs.

My first sleeper team is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The subject of HBO’s famed Hard Knocks series this summer, the Bucs are a dangerous team that have added some serious firepower this offseason. They signed WR Desean Jackson from the Washington Redskins to complement Second Team All-Pro WR Mike Evans. They drafted TE O.J Howard from Alabama to provide franchise QB Jameis Winston with a reliable tight end weapon to contend in the NFC South, a much-improved offensive conference. The Bucs will go as far as Winston takes them, as their defense still has holes with a below average secondary and a talented, but very young linebacker core.

The Tennessee Titans finished with a solid 9-7 record, and if QB Marcus Mariota had not picked up a substantial knee injury late in the season, the Titans might have been able to make some noise in the playoffs. The acquisition of WR Eric Decker, who the New York Jets released in an effort to save money, and the selection of WR Corey Davis from Central Michigan, has now turned one of the Titans’ weaknesses last year into one of its main strengths. Mariota had very few dependable options to throw the ball to last season, but assuming the health of the Titans receiving corps, their offense will improve a great deal in comparison to that of last season. The Titans also possess a dynamic backfield duo in both Demarco Murray and Derrick Henry. They remain as options to improve on their running game that ranked third in the league last season.

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In addition, the AFC South is a glaringly weak division since the Texans are struggling to find a quarterback to help out JJ Watt and the Texans defense, and Andrew Luck has struggled to stay on the field and is still experiencing shoulder issues. If Blake Bortles can find his form, the Jaguars could be a threat to the Titans’ division chances, but I believe that the Titans have a solid chance of winning a playoff game at the very least. The Jags’ resurgence took a hit in week one when top receiver Allen Robinson went down with an ACL tear. Because of the Titans’ new receivers that will allow their already dynamic running game to become even more of a threat, Tennessee will be able to surprise a lot of teams in the league and become contenders. Once again though, if Mariota is not able to remain on the field, the Titans’ playoff chances take a huge hit

My final sleeper team is the Cincinnati Bengals. Due to the midseason injury of their best player, WR AJ Green, the Bengals failed to meet expectations for their 2016 season. After winning the AFC North division two of the past three seasons, the Bengals finished in third place in their division with a sub-.500 record. The return of Green will help QB Andy Dalton find his form again. However, the losses of guard Kevin Zeitler to the Cleveland Browns and left tackle Andrew Whitworth to the Los Angeles Rams are tough to swallow. If the Bengals struggle again this season, their failure to re-sign these players will be looked at as the biggest reason why, as their offensive line now looks shaky at best. Despite being shut out to the Ravens this past week, look for Cincinnati to regain their footing and fight for a spot in the playoffs.

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On the bright side, all of these teams will undoubtedly be better than the New York Jets, who look poised to be the first winless team since the 2008 Detroit Lions.

How Should we Determine a League MVP?

The award for Most Valuable Player (MVP) is always hotly debated amongst diehard sports fans and figurehead experts. The issue in doling out this award to the individual who is supposed to represent excellence in their respective league during the most recent season is how to actually decide who in fact is the “best” player.  Thus, it essentially comes down to deciphering what factors determine one to be the most valuable player out of all eligible players for one specific season. Is it an athlete’s uncanny ability to keep their team competitive and in striking distance of postseason success or is it purely an honor that should be derived from individual stats? This age-old question has constantly been interpreted in different ways throughout each professional sport.

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I believe that while a team’s record should be noted as part of the equation that decides who will earn the MVP award, it should not be a primary aspect.  Russell Westbrook was the first NBA player to average a triple-double in a season since Oscar Robertson of the Cincinnati Royals did so in the 1961-62 season.  While one would think that Robertson would have unanimously won the MVP award for that season, he in fact came in third place behind Bill Russell of the Boston Celtics and Wilt Chamberlain of the Los Angeles Lakers.  Russell and Chamberlain played on championship-contending teams that season, while the Royals barely finished above a .500 record.  Thus, the voters in that era decided that a team’s performance in the standings mattered more than a player’s on-court contributions.  This is not to say that only stats should be weighed as a factor in deciding who the true MVP of that league is, but that one should consider how a team might perform without the player in question. The Oklahoma City Thunder are a lottery-destined team without Westbrook as their point guard.

While triple-double average was the icing on the cake in terms of why voters decided to crown him as the MVP of the 2016-17 season, he made his teammates better and almost singlehandedly won and kept them in games that they would have no business being in if he was not their star point guard.  Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, winner of two MVPs and also a two-time runner-up for the award in his first five MLB seasons, has led the league in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in each season.  WAR is an estimate of a player’s value to date and tracks the question of, if Mike Trout got injured and had to be replaced with a freely available minor leaguer or bench player, how much value would the team be losing?  While WAR is an imperfect system, I am a big proponent of its use in helping to decide MVP races, as I believe that team performance should not be the sole factor in deciding who is truly the most valuable player in a league.

Another player that was robbed of an MVP award due to his team’s poor record is Kobe Bryant, former Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard, during the 2005-2006 NBA season.  Steve Nash, who led the Phoenix Suns to 54 wins and a Western Conference finals berth, averaged a double-double in points and assists and was surely deserving of garnering some support for taking home the award.  However, Bryant was an unstoppable force that opposing defenses could not contain and went on to average over 35 points per game while also grabbing 5 rebounds and dishing out 5 assists a game. Bryant’s Lakers finished with seven less wins than Nash’s Suns and did not make it past the first round (ironically losing to the Suns in Game 7), and because of this, he was penalized for not having as good of a supporting cast in LA as Nash in Phoenix.  Bryant’s best supporting players were Lamar Odom, Smush Parker, Chris Mihm and Kwame Brown.  Besides Odom, a casual NBA fan would have no idea who these players were, while Nash was playing alongside All-Stars such as Shawn Marion and Amar’e Stoudemire.  Thus, the Lakers surely would not have even come close to securing a playoff berth had it not been for Bryant’s otherworldly season. Because Bryant did not have the same talent that Nash had around him, he was overlooked and Nash took home the MVP.

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Team performance is the most important aspect of a successful sports franchise, but in terms of deciding who really is the MVP of any professional sports league, I believe that the question of what would this team be like if a player were not in the lineup every night should be asked.

 

NBA Injuries: “What Could Have Been” Through the Lens of Derrick Rose

Injuries are apart of sports at all levels, but they are thrust into the national spotlight at the professional level.  Countless players who were once deemed as promising prospects and perennial All-Stars have had their careers severely altered after a major injury. It is always disappointing to see such talent be caged by something as frustrating as an injury, but it unfortunately is a part of the game that both players and coaches must plan and prepare for an injury that keeps them out of action for months.

Perhaps no one in the NBA in the past few years embodies a “what could have been” talent than current New York Knicks and former Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose.  Drafted first overall out of Memphis to his hometown Bulls, Rose was named Rookie of the Year and was also named to three All-Star teams in his first four NBA seasons.  Rose was undoubtedly the face of the NBA after his 2010-2011 MVP award and was considered apart of the youth movement that was slowly making its way around the NBA, specifically at the point guard position.  He was subsequently awarded a lifetime shoe deal with Adidas and a max contract extension. However, after Rose tore his ACL in the 2012 playoffs, his career took a turn for the worst.

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Rose (pictured) suffered his first major injury in the 2012 playoffs, where he tore his ACL.

To date since his injury, Rose has never played a full season in the NBA. His breathtaking agility and athleticism that he relied upon to elevate him to elite status were never the same after his countless knee injuries and after that ACL tear, missing a combined 152 games throughout the rest of his tenure in Chicago.  Rose undoubtedly would have and most likely still would be a perennial MVP candidate and a top-five point guard in the league would he have avoided his major injuries.

Rose is not the only NBA player to have had their promising careers cut short and altered by major injuries.  Grant Hill was tabbed to be one of the best players of all time, but his nagging ankle injury forced him to only suit up for 47 games for the Orlando Magic in his first four seasons with the team upon signing with them in free agency from a successful and promising tenure with the Detroit Pistons.  He went from a constant triple-double threat to a role player with no lag-time in the middle of his NBA career.  While he still carved out a respectable career, one can only imagine what his career would have been had those ankle injuries not arisen.

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Grant Hill’s (right) lingering ankle pains set him back his entire career.

Tracy McGrady was regarded as one of the best “one-on-one” players in the league during his prime, with his signature moment coming against the San Antonio Spurs while he was with the Houston Rockets when he scored 13 points in the final 35 seconds of the game to complete an epic comeback victory. He had nagging back, shoulder and knee issues that left him with rarely any significant playing time towards the latter part of his career. These injuries kept a great player from being an all-time great, impeding McGrady from ever being able to win an NBA championship.

Brandon Roy, one of my favorite players to watch during his time with the Portland Trailblazers, was forced to retire in his mid 20s due to knee injuries.  Kobe Bryant has said on multiple occasions that he was the toughest assignment to guard on defense throughout his whole career. He, along with Trailblazers teammate Greg Oden make up a couple of the biggest question marks in the history of the NBA.  Roy looked to be a consistent All-Star and Oden was chosen first overall in the 2007 NBA draft, so it must have been heartbreaking for Trailblazers fans to see their players of the future to go down for their entire careers with injury trouble.

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Greg Oden (middle right) never got to live out the career of a first overall pick largely due to his inability to stay healthy.

There are too many examples of injuries ruining or altering careers.  One can only feel for the players who are affected by them, but as mentioned before, they are an unavoidable aspect of competing at the highest level.

 

Tanking in Sports & Why Teams Continue to Do So

Tanking has always been a controversial practice in sports, and it has become commonplace in many major sports, especially in the NBA. When a team elects to “tank” a season, that team essentially waves a white flag to the ongoing season and trades away its best talent (such as the Lakers shipping Sixth Man of the Year candidate, Lou Williams, to Houston) in order to allow its younger talent to develop with extended playing time or accepts losing games so that the team can receive a high draft pick that it could build around.  Almost no NBA team would admit to intentionally trying to lose games, but the reality of the situation illustrates how common this practice is.

My hometown Lakers seem to currently be tanking their season in order to secure a top three pick in the draft, which would otherwise belong to the Philadelphia 76ers (due to the Dwight Howard trade) should it fall outside of the top three selections.  Thus, the Lakers organization elected to bench former starters Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng, who are guaranteed a combined almost $140 million over the course of their contracts.  While the Lakers’ front office explains this move as simply wanting to evaluate younger talent, there is no one working in the organization who would not value the addition of a top three pick to their already exciting young core that is still raw, but bursting with All-Star potential.

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The most blatant example of tanking lies within the Philadelphia 76ers organization, spearheaded by its former GM, Sam Hinkie.  Tasked with attempting to return to the 76ers to playoff contention, Hinkie devised an audacious plan to intentionally become the worst team in the league for two to three years in order to secure the right to select young talent in upcoming drafts. Hinkie believed that this was the right move to be made due to his background in analytics and the fact that all numbers pointed to unsuccessful output from the current players on the roster.  Thus, if they wanted to bring a championship back home to Philadelphia, the best way to do so was to accept short-term failure, and PLENTY of it. Hinkie traded All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to the Pelicans and complementary players Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner to the Timberwolves and Pacers, respectively, to secure draft choices, thereby beginning the process of tanking in the short-term for long-term success.

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Jrue Holiday (left), Evan Turner (middle), and Thaddeus Young (right) making small-talk in the midst of Sam Hinkie’s Sixers rebuild in 2013.

Executives, players and coaches took notice of what the 76ers were doing around the league and the majority of them were not in favor of purposely losing games, as they believed that it ruined the competitive nature of the NBA.  While I understand that tanking can be considered an attractive avenue for a front office to consider pursuing, I am of the opinion that an organization should always attempt to instill a winning culture.  Organizations should always look to win as many games as possible. If young players are constantly surrounded by losing, along with a line of thinking that it is permissible to lose games, it sets the team up for both short and long-term failure.  There is no point in losing to acquire and develop players through the draft if they do not learn how to play the game the right way and set themselves up for winning.  In addition, free agents tend to stay away from teams that repeatedly tank, as tanking teams always ship out veterans for cap relief and draft assets.  This is not to say that teams can’t elect to rebuild, as even the San Antonio Spurs will have to go through that process at some point, but there is a difference between rebuilding and tanking (to say the least).  Rebuilding teams look to the next season and make roster moves accordingly, but tanking teams are eager to see their teams fail, such as the 76ers, or presently, the Lakers.  Under Hinkie, the organization was sporting a roster that was filled with fringe rotation players and individuals who were most likely meant to be in the D-League or to be playing overseas.  However, with a roster filled with young players like Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor, the 76ers are one point guard away from being a contender in the Eastern Conference next season. This success would not have been possible without Hinkie’s “Trust the Process” movement, but this is not to say that tanking is an aspect of sports that I support.

Tanking will likely continue to be a part of sports, despite commissioner Adam Silver’s recent act of speaking out against tanking in the NBA. However,the NBA is not the only professional sports league where it occurs. Tanking in the NFL was exemplified by the “Suck for Luck” movement, where teams were content with losing for the chance to select then Stanford QB Andrew Luck as the face of their franchise. In the 1983 and 1984 NHL seasons, multiple teams were vying to draft Hall-of-Famer Mario Lemieux. These decisions have constantly been made in sports with the organization’s best interest in mind, but with oversight towards the fact that fans buy tickets to see their teams compete for a win in every game. It will be interesting to see if NBA commissioner Adam Silver, along with executives of other major sports, will look for ways to limit and discourage the act of tanking in the near future.

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Several teams tried tanking their way to the first overall selection of the 1984 NHL draft, when Hall-of-Famer Mario Lemieux was chosen by the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Revival of the Los Angeles Lakers

The glory days of the Los Angeles Lakers are in the past as the direction of my childhood team has become somewhat unclear.  Not even Magic Johnson, who was just hired as president of basketball operations to makeover the Lakers’ front office , and his Hollywood smile could automatically alter the direction in which this franchise is headed. The firing of Jim Buss was needed for this team to move forward and become a contender.  The Lakers have always been and always will be the glamour franchise of the NBA, but they need to win in order to have a solid chance of luring top free agents in and to eventually bring the Lakers back into playoff contention.  The hiring of Luke Walton was a much needed move for the franchise.  Early into the season, when the Lakers’ record was  10-10, it seemed that their young core had an outside chance of competing for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference.  However, reality quickly set in and the team now has the third worst record in the league and is looking to retain the first round pick they possess should it be a top three selection.  The rights to a first round draft pick are automatically traded to Philadelphia if it falls outside of the top three selections due to the Dwight Howard trade, which in itself was a maneuver that set the Lakers franchise back at least a couple of years.

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Magic Johnson is ready to overhaul the Lakers.

In an effort to keep the draft pick and to create more playing time to allow Luke Walton to evaluate his younger core, the Lakers traded their leading scorer and Sixth Man of the Year candidate Lou Williams. The one thing the Lakers have going for them is this core, which is filled with guys who possess extreme athleticism and untapped potential.  This team needs the likes of Jordan Clarkson, Brandon Ingram, D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. to develop as attractive pieces that free agents would want to play with.  Russell and Ingram clearly have the highest ceilings and have shown flashes of brilliance, but are plagued by stretches of inconsistency. The Lakers’ future depends on the development of this core, and the question then arises as to whether the organization should trade part of its young core for an established star on the trade market such as Paul George or Jimmy Butler.  I firmly believe that a quick-fix approach of trading for a star is not the right move.  While I am not saying that the team’s young core is completely untouchable, the organization needs to make sure to make the right deal, and not give up too many pieces.  The quick-fix approach is what hampered the progress of the Lakers in the first place, as the draft picks dealt in the separate acquisitions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash proved to be quite costly since Howard did not pan out and bolted to Houston after one season and Nash was far out of his prime.

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Steve Nash (left) and Dwight Howard (right) both failed to make an impact in their time with the Lakers.

Speaking of young talent, Lakers fans are anxiously awaiting the results of the NBA Draft Lottery to see if the team will in fact be able to retain its pick.  With players such as Washington’s Markelle Fultz, Kansas’ Josh Jackson, and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball available, teams at the top of the draft board are salivating at the chance of adding one of these players into next season’s rotation.  If the Lakers were lucky enough to grab a top three selection, the team’s progress towards playoff contention would be jumpstarted and it would additionally make them an even more lucrative NBA destination.

While the Lakers are ultimately headed in the right direction, the only way that they can end their somber four-year skid of being a lottery team is if they can add a playmaker or wing to pair with Brandon Ingram in free agency and the draft.  The player that the Lakers should pursue is Paul George, who was born in the Los Angeles area and whose contract with the Pacers expires in the summer of 2018. The hiring of Rob Pelinka, Kobe Bryant’s agent, is another maneuver by Jeannie Buss that should be applauded. The prior head-butting between Jim Buss, Mitch Kupchak and other members of the front office did not promote stability within the franchise, which is essential to the success of any sports team.

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Jordan Clarkson (left), D’Angelo Russell (middle left), Brandon Ingram (middle right), and Julius Randle (right) lead the Lakers’ young core.

Look for the Lakers to make the necessary moves this offseason and next offseason to solidify themselves as not only playoff contenders, but championship contenders, as the most successful NBA franchise in history begins its route towards reclaiming greatness.

New NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement to Take Effect July 1, 2017

Towards the middle of December, the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) agreed on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that will take effect on July 1, 2017 and will run through the 2023-24 season.

While there are many parts to this multifaceted agreement, the most notable of its many aspects involves a dramatic increase in player salaries, along with alterations to the free agency process.  Minimum salaries in the NBA are rising by 45 percent and two-way contracts between the NBA and its developmental league (The D-League) are now finally a reality, as teams will now be able to develop their younger players who are not receiving consistent playing time in the NBA.  These are without a doubt much needed-changes to make the NBA even stronger, but with a rising salary cap and with free agency approaching quickly this summer, any alteration to the free agency process should be examined closely by all NBA franchises to ensure that major mistakes aren’t made.

Under the new CBA, there are major changes being made that will affect the landscape of free agency.  Measures were taken in this agreement to prevent franchises from forming “super teams” such as the 2010-2014 Miami Heat led by the Big 3 of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, along with the current Golden State Warriors team that boasts four bona fide All-Stars and two former MVPs.  The prior CBA generally did a good job of enticing big-name players to remain with the franchises that originally drafted them. Despite Kevin Durant opting to leave the small-market Oklahoma City Thunder to join the Warriors, he remained with the Thunder organization for nine years, which is longer than most players elect to stay with one franchise in the first place.

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The new CBA makes it far more lucrative for players to remain with their “hometown” teams.  Designated veteran star players will be able to sign five-year extensions with their current team with one year left on their former contract.  Previously, players were only permitted to sign four-year contract extensions with one year left on their current deal. Due to their naming to the All-NBA team in the past and their playing in the NBA for 7-9 years, 2018 free agents Russell Westbrook, Paul George and DeMarcus Cousins all qualify for this designated veteran star player status. As a result of this new CBA, designated veterans can sign contract extensions worth up to $31 million annually for five years.

This aspect of the 2017 CBA (similarly to the agreement ratified in 2011) was established in order to prevent marquee players from leaving small-market teams for bigger market teams.  These big market teams possess the financial wherewithal to have up to four All-Stars under contract.  The NBA wants to give these small market teams a shot to win a title and to succeed on more of a level playing field, rather than to have a league dominated by the allure of endorsements and big money from bigger market teams.

I’m not going to sit here and say that the Warriors are ruining the NBA because of the immense talent they have in their starting lineup, because that is just not true.  The whole point of free agency is that the player is allowed to sign with whichever franchise offers him a contract with terms that he can agree upon.  While signing with the Warriors may have tarnished Durant’s legacy since he could have followed in the footsteps of players like Kobe Bryant and stayed with the franchise that drafted him, it was his decision to make.  Players should not feel like they have to stay with a franchise but rather that they can move on whenever they feel the need.  Jerry West recently stated publicly that if free agency had existed during his playing career, he would have left the Lakers to avoid ongoing confrontations with the team owner.  While it breaks my heart to hear such an honest assessment as a diehard Lakers fan, a player should be allowed to depart for a team during free agency if he so pleases.

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The new CBA incentivizes players to remain with the teams that drafted them, which is without a doubt an attempt by the NBA to eliminate super teams and to create a level playing field where a small market team possesses nearly the same chance as a big market team to contend for the Larry O’Brien trophy.  However, if a player really does not like his situation, much like Durant in Oklahoma City, then he will now be forced to give up a substantial amount of guaranteed money in order to make his exit.  This still allows players to leave and sign with other teams, but the system rewards players for loyalty to an organization. The new CBA should be applauded and its effects will hopefully be greatly felt for years to come.

NCAA Football Playoff Format Needs to be Reconfigured

College football fans have seemingly never been too pleased with how the NCAA deals with deciding who is the best team in the nation, let alone the top four. Even before the four-team playoff, fans were clamoring for an eight-team playoff as often as Boise State ran trick plays under Chris Petersen.  The BCS system was thrown out in favor of the College Football Playoff, as both fans and athletic programs agreed that the decision of who should play in the national championship should not be left up to computers, but rather a core committee. This committee would choose the teams that they think should be selected to have the opportunity to compete in the College Football Playoff, similar to how Division I basketball teams are selected to play in March Madness.  Now a 13-person committee comprised primarily current and former athletic directors and football coaches selects the team.

The CFP uses a four-team bracket instead of the computerized rankings used under the BCS system and this year, the committee selected Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and Washington. While there certainly are improvements that can be made to the CFP, this new system of deciding which teams are best suited to compete for the CFP trophy is far superior to the BCS system.

The most different attribute of the CFP system and bracket is that it allows what the committee deems to be the best teams to compete for a chance to play in the national championship game.  Previously, under the BCS system, polls were subject to human bias, in addition to the fact that the BCS standings were also partially based off of how the coaches would rank the top 25 teams. This setup assumes that they would have had the time and spent the effort to see all of the relevant teams compete. Instead of determining which two teams were to compete for a national championship under the previous BCS bowl system, the CFP committee makes each team they invite to the College Football Playoff earn their birth to the College Football Playoff final and to subsequently win a national championship.  Nearly every other sport utilizes a playoff system to decide who indeed is the best team in the nation for that year, so there is no reason to doubt the decision made in regards to college football in following suit by establishing the CFP bracket and committee to decide who has a chance to play in the penultimate game of the season.

This new playoff system in effect renders bowl games other than the New Year’s Six (Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Peach Bowl, Orange Bowl and the Rose Bowl) to be less meaningful.  This is the biggest problem with the CFP.  Now, top players such as running backs Christian McCafferey and Leonard Fournette of Stanford and Louisiana State University respectively, have begun electing to sit out of their team’s bowl games in order to avoid the risk of an injury that might have a negative effect on their draft status. Nobody saw this before the CFP, which glorifies only playing in the top six bowls available.

What needs to happen in order to prevent star players from not finishing out seasons with their teams and playing in their bowl games is to get rid of the meaningless bowl games and to turn them into the early rounds of an extended college playoff, culminating in the national championship game.  This is not to say that CFP is worse than the BCS, but its flaws are evident.

One other major flaw of the current playoff system is its lack of value given towards conference championship games.  Many college football fans will argue that Penn State deserved to be in the four-team bracket instead of a team like Ohio State because they won their conference championships. I believe that in order to improve the CFP system as a whole, conference victories and championship games must be weighed more heavily than they are in the current state of the CFP. If they do not, these games do not serve much purpose and should be scrapped.  Conference tournaments in college basketball play an integral role in the March Madness selection process and the same should go for college football.  Regardless of their loss to USC in the Rose Bowl, the exclusion of Penn State from the CFP illustrates that their comeback victory in the Big Ten Championship game was not enough to propel them into the CFP and that represents a flaw in the system.

Without a doubt, NCAA football is headed towards at least an eight-team playoff; the only question is when it will take place.  This playoff system is the perfect manner to decide which universities should play in bowl games, and adjustments certainly need to be made sooner rather than later.