Kansas University football players might not have any bearing on the national championship picture, but — like anybody who keeps up with college football — they certainly have opinions on the BCS system, especially after watching a pair of then-top-five Big 12 teams get upset this past weekend.
Two of the Jayhawks’ previous three opponents, Iowa State and Baylor, wreaked havoc on the BCS standings by knocking off former No. 2 Oklahoma State and former No. 5 Oklahoma, respectively.
The results were surprising to some KU players, but not to senior linebacker Steven Johnson.
“Iowa State, we almost beat; Baylor, we almost beat,” he said. “I really feel as though in the Big 12 this year anybody can beat anybody every single week.”
That holds true in many BCS conferences year after year, and has led many college football enthusiasts to call for a change. Count Kansas junior wide receiver Kale Pick among those in favor of college football playoffs.
“I’ve always wanted a playoff system,” Pick said. “I love the NFL playoffs. I love college basketball playoffs. I think it’s just more exciting to go round-by-round and see who the true champion is through a playoff system.”
As for the format, Pick said eight or 10 teams would be the way to go.
“I think a playoff system would be pretty sweet — kind of do or die (in the postseason) — instead of just losing once and you’re out in the regular season,” he said.
KU sophomore quarterback Jordan Webb agreed with Pick that the BCS system, which picks two teams at the end of the regular season for the championship game, might not be the best way to decide an NCAA title.
“I can’t really say that I know too much about the intricacy of it (the BCS) or anything, but I think a playoff would be sweet,” Webb said. “Everybody thinks a playoff is really the way to decide a champion, but you can’t deny the BCS has had some awesome games.”
Other than Pick and Webb, other players at KU’s Tuesday media session weren’t pro-playoffs. Red-shirt freshman tight end Jimmay Mundine said he stood somewhere in the middle on the topic of BCS versus football brackets.
“I understand you want to have a playoff system to see who is the best. … But then again, I like it that it’s tradition that everybody has a bowl game,” Mundine said. “The fans like it, and each player likes it — we get gifts and stuff — so it’s pretty cool that everybody gets rewarded for the hard work that everybody puts in.”
Johnson was in favor of the BCS system currently in place, primarily because of the logistics of making the postseason longer.
“Yeah, a playoff would be OK, but then again, with college you’ve got school and your breaks and stuff like that, and it would kind of be difficult,” he said.
Johnson said the BCS successfully weeds out pretenders from contenders in deciding who plays for the championship and said creating a playoff system would provide another challenge for student-athletes, with extra practices and film sessions conflicting even more with their academic lives.
Senior tight end AJ Steward said there are pros and cons for both the BCS and a playoff system. He weighed in on the side of the current format, because he thought college football, unlike some NCAA postseasons, only considers the very best teams when deciding a champ.
“College basketball, the bracket system that they have, I feel like 64 teams, there’s no possible way that 64 teams would be competing for a championship,” Steward said. “I never understood that.”
He said a similar playoff format in football would take away from bowl games, which can be an appealing goal.
“Being a college player, every school, realistically, isn’t good enough to compete for a championship every year,” Steward said. “This (the bowl system) gives guys an incentive to play harder. It just makes the game a lot better when you have different bowl games to go to.”
Plus, the St. Louis native pointed out, the current format probably favors the longevity of those charged with running Division I programs.
“For the coaches, you may go 7-5 and that’s a good season,” Steward said. “You should be rewarded for going 7-5. I just feel like you can’t really get to that point with a playoff system.”
The epic showdown between No. 2 Kansas and No. 3 Missouri in 2007 probably was an unfair way to kickoff the Border War series at Arrowhead Stadium. There simply was no way future Border War games at the home of the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs could live up to that thrilling, 36-28, primetime match-up won by Missouri. Attendance numbers in the games since then indicate that’s the case.
In that first game, 80,537 fans packed an electric Arrowhead. Since then, the numbers have dropped each season, with a crowd of 79,123 showing up for the 2008 game, 70,072 in 2009 and 55,788 for last year’s game. As of Wednesday, around 47,000 tickets had been purchased for Saturday’s match-up.
KU-MU by the numbers
The Jayhawks enter this weekend’s Border War match-up with Mizzou with one of the worst statistical defenses in college football. KU ranks 120th (of 120 FBS teams) in total defense and scoring defense and gives up an average of 531 yards and 46 points per game. The Jayhawks also rank 115th in pass defense (286 yards per game) and 118th in rushing defense (245 ypg).
Missouri ranks 80th in total defense (405 ypg), 53rd in scoring defense (25 ppg), 50th in rushing defense (141 ypg) and 99th in pass defense (263 ypg).
On the other side of the ball, KU ranks 95th in total offense, at 344 yards per game, 46th in rushing offense (168 ypg) and 97th in pass offense (176 ypg). The Tigers rank 11th in total offense (483 ypg), 11th in rush offense (242 ypg) and 51st in pass offense (241 ypg).
As for scoring, the Jayhawks (89th, 23 ppg) have been outscored a whopping, 501-258, in 11 games this season, compared with the Tigers’ 362-272 scoring advantage in 11 games. MU ranks 31st in the country at 33 points per outing.
KU-MU series history
According to official records at KU and the NCAA, the Border War series is tied at 55-55-9. According to records at Missouri, the Tigers lead the series, 56-54-9. The discrepency comes from a game in 1960 in which KU topped the Tigers, 23-7, in Columbia, Mo., but later was forced to forefit the victory because it used ineligible players.
The Jayhawks are 1-3 all-time against Mizzou at Arrowhead Stadium, with their lone victory coming in the final game of the 2008 season on a fourth-down, fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Todd Reesing to Kerry Meier in the snow.
In 2007, the 11-0 Jayhawks, ranked No. 2 in the country, and 10-1 Tigers, ranked third, squared off in the most-watched game of the college football season. The Tigers jumped out to leads of 14-0, 21-0 and 28-7 before KU staged a furious fourth-quarter comeback that came up just short and led to the Jayahwks only loss of the season, 36-28. In head coach Turner Gill’s only meeting with Mizzou, the Jayhawks were toppled by the Tigers, 35-7, in 2010.