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How does the upset of USC by Oregon State impact the BCS vs Playoff debate? Well for all of those who want a playoff you are disregarding this game.
I base this argument on a few assumptions, correct me if I am mistaken.
1) Any playoff format I've seen proposed will either allow for every BCS conference champ, every conference champ, or the top 4, 6, or 8 ranked teams.
2A) USC will win the Pac-10 anyway. I am assuming that one conference loss will not be enough to take the Pac-10 title from USC. Because they lost to a team that will lose more than one conference game and because USC will either have a better conference record or a better overall record than any other team in the Pac-10. If they lose again, like in '06, then we'll talk about the impact of this game differently. But that won't change what the game meant when it was played, nor what it means right now.
2B) USC will finish in the top 4, 6, or 8 in the polls if they end the season with just this one loss. They beat Ohio St, and if Ohio St wins out and USC wins out there is no way you can drop USC low enough to be out of almost any playoff format. USC has a cupcake schedule and should win out. We said that at 7pm last night too, but that does not change anything. People are also confident that Ohio St will win out and take the Big Ten. From USC's point of view Ohio St winning the Big Ten is all they need, even if the Buckeyes drop a conference game.
I do not think these 2-3 things are much of a stretch, and if they aren't then what does this game mean if we eliminate the BCS and go to a playoff format? It removes the meaning from this upset. I can even safely say that USC could lose a 2nd conference game and still have a 50/50 shot at winning their conference. That would really only eliminate them from a 4 team playoff format and possibly a 6 team, but it would still keep them in any format of 8 or more teams.
So I ask you to really look at the effect's that a playoff would have in the regular season. Understand the emphasis that would be placed upon winning the conference and not just having the best season you can. With the way things are currently set up USC is just looking at the Rose Bowl now, and hoping somebody else loses in an upset bigger than they did. As of right now the Big 12 and SEC undefeateds are in control of their own destiny. Even with one loss the winner of either conference can claim a tougher schedule than either USC.
Let's discuss Oregon St for a moment. This game will be the highlight of their season, even if they make and win a bowl game. They knocked off USC, and as of right now, ruined their national championship hopes. How many times will you be able to say to a USC fan, "You got run over by a midget"? The celebration that occurred on campus last night was one of the things we love about college football. For those students and those athletes they will always be able to talk about this game with pride. Under a playoff, what is their joy about? Sure they beat the bully on their block, but they did not alter that bully's destiny. That bully gets a black eye, but not a broken leg. Sure it looks bad, but that bully can still fight tomorrow. However a broken leg means that the bully needs to have someone else's bully break a leg in order to have a chance. Big difference. Huge difference. It completely alters the meaning and value of last night's upset.
Taking that argument one step further. Both teams knew what they were playing for last night. Both knew that USC had little to gain and much to lose, while Oregon St had much to gain and nothing to lose. Insert the game into a playoff formatted world and that game does not have the impact that it does now. So we must ask the question, "Does Oregon St step up and play as hard as they did if this game does not ruin USC's season?" That is a fair question. The Beavers played their hearts out last night, does that happen if losing this game cost's USC nothing?
One month in, and in their first conference game USC has seriously hurt their chances at playing for the National Championship. In a playoff based college football world, this would not be case. Say what you will about the BCS, the "regular season's value" argument cannot be ignored.