I hate that it took a loss like the Badgers 38-31 defeat to Michigan State to get me to do a post about how frustrated I am with the structure of college football, but I'm pretty sure this is an argument I've taken up before. Here's the meat and potatoes of what happened on Saturday night: The Badgers played a conference foe on the road, a team that was ranked number 16 in the nation. Their quarterback struggled with turnovers and badly thrown incompletions, yet he still lead them to a 31-point output. They were on the bad end of two blocked kicks, and lost on a last second Hail Mary pass that was so close it had to be reviewed. Michigan State earned their victory and played a hell of a game, yet so did the Wisconsin Badgers. But the fact that the game counts as a loss in the standings means that the Badgers national title hopes are over. One loss, you're done. It's a system that is debated every year, yet one that seemingly will never be changed.
Again, I know my position may be taken with a little less than a grain of salt because I am the fan of a team that just was eliminated from the chase, and that's fine. The thing is, the position I'm taking is something that I'd say at least 90 percent of the fans of college football agree with. One loss, and that's it? The Green Bay Packers had six losses out of sixteen games, yet they were able to play for their championship. The St. Louis Cardinals had more than 70 losses and now are two wins away from the World Series (which pisses me off to no end, mind you). You may think I'm comparing apples to oranges but in what other landscape does one mistake end your chances at success? I don't know... maybe a battlefield in the middle of a war? Seriously, one mistake, one fluke play, one tough road loss at any point in the season, and it's over. Doesn't seem right.
You'll get your proponents of the current college football season, with their biggest argument being that there is no need for a playoff because the season is essentially one long playoff structure. But why is that okay in college football when it would be preposterous in any other sports format? College basketball recently added more teams to it's postseason format, and Major League Baseball is looking to do so. The wild card format has given teams in the NBA, NFL, and NHL the chance to stay competitive through the end of the season. Even in the World Cup you have the chance to advance from group play if you lose one game, and each team only plays three games in that stage of the tournament. Yet in college football, this format is accepted? Because it's always been that way? I just don't get it, especially after last night.
Something you probably know about me by now is that I'm pretty reactionary, although I think it's something I've been able to temper over the years. Yet I thought that as a whole, Wisconsin fans were pretty reactionary to each Brewers loss in the playoffs, as after every defeat the claim that "our season is over" was echoed across America's Dairyland, especially on social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook. If the Packers were to lose this weekend, I'm sure at least a handful of people would be writing 2011 off for them as well. But I can't blame you if you think that the Badgers football season is over, because when it comes to any National Championship hopes - it is.
So in true reactionary form on Saturday, I proclaimed that "I am never watching college football again until they have a playoff!" And you know what, I might actually stick with that claim. Let's say best case scenario for the Badgers is that they run the table, beat Sparty in the Big Ten title game, and earn a Rose Bowl berth. That's okay with everybody? Who honestly still gets excited for the Rose Bowl? Remember, this is not 1994 anymore. The Badgers were a legit National Championship contender this season. Russell Wilson was a legit Heisman candidate this year. All that however is washed away because of a single, last-second fluke play, and that's supposed to be fine?
Seriously, spare me the argument that Wisconsin doesn't deserve to be in the National Championship because the season is like a playoff, and the Badgers couldn't get through their season undefeated. My argument is that the system needs to be changed. There are more than 120 teams in Division I-A, but because of their schedule or what conference they are in, many don't have a shot at the National Championship right off the bat. And then many of the teams that could win it all won't, because of one loss along the way. Hell, after Saturday night, they should be in the National Championship debate, right? Oh wait, they lost to Notre Dame at the beginning of the season. Sorry. Disqualified.
I am writing this post pre-Packer game as well, because I can't imagine what words I'd come up with if Green Bay lost. But remember a few weeks ago, when the Badgers beat Nebraska, the Brewers won a couple of playoff games, and the Packers destroyed Denver? That weekend was so great, but you had to know that the lamely framed "WINsconsin" couldn't last forever. And with the crushing Badger loss, coupled with the St. Louis Cardinals and Albert Pujols pouring heavy amounts of salt into that wound, I think karma is coming back around. Wisconsin fans, as a whole, need to learn that championships aren't won in the regular season, or in the first days of the playoffs for that matter. Because judging from the Twitter and Facebook statuses of the last couple of days, not to mention my tone in this article, "WINsconsin" has quickly become "WHINEsconsin". And I can't say that we don't deserve it.
Go Pack Go.