Tuesday, July 29

College Football: The Relationship

In the coming weeks we will have college football galore on ASD. We will preview each conference and the season, leading up to the beginning (mercifully) of actual football competition roughly a month from today. Before we jaunt off into the wonderful land of FBS football, I take a step back and examine the mind-boggling state of the FBS post-season and how the game’s popularity thrives in spite of, not because of the system. 2007’s topsy-turvy season would be a great example.

I often liken the fans relationship to that of a woman. You love it, you want to be around it, it makes you happy, but it does not hold to the rule of rational thought and will randomly anger you to the point where you question why you are investing your time with it in the first place. Yet you cannot help it, your life is more complete with college football than without it. There are primarily two arguments that exist for proponents of the BCS system. One is that the bowls are sacred and have to be honored for all schools to have a chance to compete on the national (ESPN 2 on Dec. 22nd) stage. However the latest changes promoted by those in favor of a playoff would retain all the prestige of the Poinsettia, Meineke Car Care, and Papjohns.com bowls. The most oft used contention by BCS pundits is that the system produces the most exciting regular season in sports. Every week is a playoff they say. Well, if it is it is one seriously messed up one.

We begin out tale of the “playoffs” of last year’s college football season with the pre-season polls. What a great way to fairly determine which schools get in the final two slots for the national championship! These schools have not even played a down, yet they can sit near the top and even if they stumble they won’t fall as far as others further back. USC had the top spot, followed by LSU, Florida, Texas, and Michigan in the coaches’ poll. Well unless you have been living in Manchuria you know that Appalachian State beat Michigan in week 1 in most likely the greatest upset in college football history. Despite that earth-shattering event, the next few weeks provided what could be called a series of elimination games for the big conference schools.

LSU hammered Virginia Tech 48-7, Florida crushed Tennessee and Cal edged Oregon. LSU beat Florida 28-24 in Baton Rogue thanks to some, daring (lack of a better word) calls by Les Miles. This eliminated the Gators it seemed. That same week, as Oklahoma beat Texas for the edge in the Big 12, the unthinkable happened…again. Stanford, led by coach Jim Harbaugh beat USC in the Coliseum. The Stanford game really triggered the madness. The following week Kentucky beat LSU in three overtimes. This seemed to put LSU on the back burner unless every top team out there compiled a loss which certainly was not out of the question. Oklahoma beat Mizzou that week to stake their claim as the Big 12 representative for national title contention. The number two spot in the polls seemed to be the worst place to be as South Florida lost to Rutgers after having beaten West Virginia. But Rutgers would fall to the Mountaineers nine days later. Boston College emerged after beating Virginia Tech in a game that was dominated by the Hokies for 56 minutes. That allayed fears that Virginia Tech would have to be considered if they won out even with the bad loss to LSU early. BC entered the discussion. All the while Ohio State stood alone at number one, and they seemed to be unchallenged until they met with Michigan at the end of the season.

(Everybody following this playoff system so far?)

Georgia emerged as the “hot” team despite losses to South Carolina and Tennessee in a blowout. They defeated Florida, knocking the Gators officially from title contention. A split race had opened up for the SEC East. In the west, Arizona State beat Cal and enter into the discussion as an unbeaten and Oregon beat USC to attain the number two spot in the polls the next week when they thumped Arizona State. BC lost at home to FSU and quickly were left on the back burner for the title game. Meanwhile, West Virginia escaped from Louisville and appeared ready to hop into the second BCS slot should someone in front of them fall. But then, the wheels fell off the playoff bus. Illinois defeated Ohio State on Nov. 10th, leaving no undefeated team remaining (except Hawai’i). Oregon lost Dennis Dixon and all hope the next Thursday but LSU who escaped a battle with Alabama with two fourth quarter touchdowns assumed the top spot.

(Oh I get it, it’s like double elimination and there is a loser’s bracket)

With Ohio State falling, they took their seat behind all the others in the “loser’s bracket” of this sensible playoff. LSU seemed to look to the SEC title game for their “semi-final” into the national championhip. But lo! Arkansas rises up and beats LSU in overtime in an extremely entertaining game and seems to knock LSU out of the bracket. Texas Tech beats Oklahoma to eliminate them. There was gold at the end of the rainbow for Hawai’i as they beat Boise State to remain undefeated and assure them a shot at one of the big boys in January. West Virginia beat UConn to set up one more hurdle for them to reach the title game. Here is where this playoff diverges even more from sanity. Some schools must play a conference championship game, others simply hold the title. Ohio State beats Michigan on Nov. 17th then packs it in, says good season, and plops on the coach to watch what team can stumble enough to let them in. LSU plays Tennessee in the SEC title game in which LSU still contends they have a shot. Silly Tigers, you have two losses. They need a second half inexplicable pick by Eric Ainge to defeat the Volunteers. Missouri falls to Oklahoma again in the Big 12 title game which eliminates them. It seems we are heading for West Virginia and Ohio State for the title all the Mountaineers have to do is beat Pittsburg, who at the time was 4-7. But maybe it was the magic of the rivalry, or be it the stache of Dave Wannstedt, they beat WVU in Morgantown.

(Hrmm. We have a problem)

Wow, that was an exciting playoff. The games were very entertaining, and the rivalries and drama associated with college football was at an all-time high. So what now? There is one team at the top with one loss. Six teams sit behind them with two. What a conundrum. Kansas has only one loss! And it was to Missouri, a highly ranked team. But no, they came out of no where and didn’t beat enough big time schools, so they will get simply a BCS bowl game, they should be happy with that at a basketball school. Hawai’i has not lost a game, they won their playoff bracket one could say. Negative? Ah yes, not enough tough competition. I see, so the rules of this playoff are you can lose, even in “elimination games” as long as you play a tough schedule. This really is coming together. Well what does everyone say is the toughest league? SEC. What is the best team in there? Georgia is playing as well as anyone, they should make it! No? They didn’t play in the SEC title game, which is so vital right? Because every conference has one and it has to be played in to even be considered for the national title. Oh, no title game in the Big East, Pac-10, or Big Ten. Well Georgia probably had a worse record than the teams that got in the championship game right? No huh? Ok well by that “logic” they can’t play for the title. LSU then! What? USC? Yeah they have two losses and they are one of the hottest teams in the country, but Stanford and Oregon, two bad losses. LSU and Ohio State then, it should be a closely competitive game.

Wow, that was dizzying and I was just speaking with myself. This “playoff” format clearly does not follow any rules I have heard outside of Baseketball. Every year the BCS hopes that teams will sort themselves out over the season, but with talent spreading further and power conferences stronger top to bottom, that simply will not happen every year. Some people say it is good that this system is in place because it creates so much discourse about college football. To me that argument is idiotic to put it conservatively. We are discussing how busted the system is, that is not a good thing. If we were to argue which teams deserve to make an eight or ten team playoff, then that would be good discussion. Much better to argue over which teams deserve an at-large bid, than what two teams out of ten deserve the right to play one game. The BCS will be in place for the immediate future and up until then and after it will be everyone’s responsibility to get it right. But then again, when was the last time you met a woman you would call sensible?

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