College Football scrapped ties in 1996. Eliminating ties satisfied the sport’s modern, television culture, providing frenetic, high-scoring endings. But, that came at the cost of a team’s win-loss record, blunting it into a less indicative marker of events.
Restricting the tabulation to just wins and losses makes indecisive outcomes appear decisive. Solving a relatively minor problem created a major perception change. Look at the Big Ten in 2016. Here are the win-loss records of the top four teams.
Ohio State: 11-1 (8-1)
Michigan: 10-2 (7-2)
Wisconsin: 10-2 (7-2)
Penn State: 10-2 (8-1)
Here is how those same records would appear if tied regulation games were marked as ties.
Ohio State: 9-1-2 (6-1-2)
Michigan: 10-1-1 (7-1-1)
Wisconsin: 9-1-2 (6-1-2)
Penn State: 9-2-1 (7-1-1)
Michigan would have won the B1G East on head-to-head over Penn State. Ohio State would need a lot of help for a playoff nod, going winless against Michigan, Wisconsin, and Penn State. Wisconsin would have tied for the B1G East with Nebraska at 9-1-2 (6-1-2). Their game against each other was a tie. Wisconsin would have edged them on record within the division. Those records, one could argue, better reflect what happened.
Having overtime, of course, incentivizes teams playing for it. There have been 40 FBS games that went to overtime this year. There were only nine ties during the 1995 regular season. With different stakes, outcomes would have been different.
Ohio State, down 17-14 with six seconds remaining and realizing a tie would hand the division to Michigan, would have gone for the touchdown on 4th and 5 with six seconds left. Ironically, that would have been a more decisive and fitting way for the game to end.