The rankings are in and final, there is nothing we can do about who plays where come January, but we do not have to accept it. There already is and will be a rush of sports pundits coming to the defense of the BCS. Not surprisingly, many of them will come from ESPN, who recently bought the rights to the BCS starting in 2011. The debate is really unneccessary, the system is not changing now or in the near future and there is no true defense for the system currently in place. There are currently nine teams that have a legitimate argument to be able to play their way for a championship. Catfish broke down how the current system works, and if that is not enough to shake your confidence then you might just be a Sooner or Gator fan. The two teams will face each other one month from today for the BCS "title" and a crystal football. The others are left to play in games they are being told are meaningful but will maybe only have bearing on their national perception and irrational as that sounds it will play a part on how they are ranked and voted on in future seasons. A recap of the "unique" college football championship system and other intriguing bowl match-ups after the break.
Sooner or Gator
I have no contention with stating that Florida and Oklahoma are two of the top teams in the country if not the top two. But it is hardly an open and shut case and the trends it highlights in the BCS system are a dangerous president being set for upcoming years. Both teams have one major flaw about their ascension over the other contenders that is either overlooked by voters or not factored in enough by the computers. Texas beat OU 45-35 on a neutral field, and with both teams having one loss, you would think that puts the Longhorns ahead of Oklahoma for a second ignoring the third party involved. Florida lost to an Ole Miss team that has entered the rankings smply due to the SEC's national perception. Mississippi beat FLorida in the swamp which deserves praise, but after losses to Vandy, South Carolina, and Alabama, they defeated Arkansas, Alabama, and LSU. Only the Bama loss would be considered a good loss at this point. Throw in wins over Samford and Louisiana-Monroe and bam, that 8-4 record for an inflated SEC looks impressive.
Let's forget for a second where Ole Miss stands. They are a good team and will face Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl on January 2nd. The loss is still a loss for Florida. They were rewarded by losing before the first BCS standings came out. I maybe confused but doesn't college football stake its claim on every game being a playoff? Did this loss just send Florida into a fictional loser's bracket? Florida did play extremely well the latter part of the season so in the minds of voters and computers this nullifies a loss at home to a team that only recently cracked the top 25? This is not an arguement to discount the Gators and the same goes for OKlahoma; both teams deserve a shot at the title, but so do the others.
In Oklahoma's case, racking up over 60 points in 5 straight games is impressive no matter who you are or who you play. Some of the defenses they faced though were not exactly stingy. Having watched a replay of the Kansas-Mizzou game it can easily be seen that Missouri could not cover a three-toed sloth wearing clogs in thirty degree weather. All the teams they hammered (save Texas Tech) have not been bastions of defense in college football this year. Four teams OU faced were ranked 75 or below in the NCAA in overall defense. The highest ranked Big XII team is Texas at 21. Some of that is due to explosive offenses, and some of it is due to horrible defense. Oklahoma's ascension highlights the dangerous trend of putting more and more consideration into margin of victory. This factor was eliminated from the computers years ago but in the minds of the voters it is becoming more of a tipping point. Oklahoma's crushing of Texas Tech 66-21 gave the Sooners the edge over Texas after Texas lost to the Raiders 39-33 in Lubbock at the last second. Catfish made the strong point of saying if you really look at that game between OU and Tech the Sooners were no doubt the better team that night, but the score was inflated. Tech never got into rhythm yet Mike Leach was trying to win and score the whole time. This included going for it in his own territory and continuing to pass even after the game was well in hand. On the other side, Bob Stoops knew he was going to have to make a statement, and merely winning the game was not enough so he did not call the dogs off. Is this really what we want to see in college football? "I'm sorry we kept throwing the ball all over the field coach in the 4th quarter, but you know we are trying to get a lot of votes over the next few weeks. No hard feelings but your team sucks, try stopping us next time we have computer averages to boost." It's almost becoming American Idol, and how do you like that, the two coaches who run up the score the most are in the national championship, go figure.
Lots to Prove, Lots to Lose
The Fiesta Bowl will feature the aforementioned Longhorns against Ohio State. OSU returns to the friendly confines of the Fiesta Bowl against a Texas team who feels they were robbed of a rightful place in the championship game. The Buckeyes felt they would be headed to Miami for this year's title game after dissapointing blowouts the last two seasons. If Ohio State wins, they can get a measure of national respect back for themselves and the Big Ten since they did not even win the conference. If Texas wins and wins big, it will be a statement of how they deserved the nod to play for the championship. Texas's situation is similar to Miami's in 2000. The Canes' only lost a tough road game that year at Washington and beat Florida State yet the Seminoles were placed in the national championship ahead of Miami where they promptly scored 2 points in a loss to Oklahoma. Texas Tech probably feels like Washington that year since the Huskies got no title consideration. In Miami's Sugar Bowl appearance they handliy beat Florida 37-20 in Steve Spurrier's final game as Gator head coach. There was nothing Miami could do, they made their statement and even received a few first place votes and were voted the national champion by the New York Times, whatever that is worth. If Texas wins convincingly, I expect them to get a few first place votes in the AP poll, but I doubt it will end up being a split title.
The One BCS Certainty
I know Kirk Herbstreit does not speak for the entire BCS body, but he echoed their sentiments regarding non-BCS conference schools like Utah who go undefeated: you have no chance of ever winning a national title. That's it for the Utes, take your Sugar Bowl berth and like it. The game will not be an easy task for Utah as they face Alabama in what will seem like a home game for the Tide, but Utah is not simply a finesse team from the Mountain West. Utah ranks 12 in the nation in defense, and they have a balanced attack on offense. Alabama may have a let down after fading in the SEC title game, but they are still the prohibitive favorites. If Utah wins it will be a big statement, perhaps even larger than the Boise State win over Oklahoma. If they can come into an SEC atmosphere and beat a top-ranked team, it will say a lot for the non-BCS crowd. I don't know how teams like Utah are automatically discounted from national consideration when they go undefeated, beat teams from BCS conferences, and beat tough, ranked teams within their own conference. The 6 big conferences are the bullies is what the system is saying and the best the others can hope for are some scraps from the table.
Lions in Winter...Again?
Penn State would most likely have caused complete havoc in the BCS had they not slipped against Iowa. Their loss in Iowa City is considered the worst of the one-loss contenders but Iowa currently sits 8-4 with a trip to the Outback Bowl. The Hawkeyes sit 4 spots below Penn State in total defense. The one element people often forget when factoring into the Nittany Lions' loss are the elements. PSU lost on a frigid, windy day and aside from that slip they beat everyone who came across their path. I have already stated their case before they lost this game but it is amusing to me they were completely eliminated from any kind of national title contention after their loss while other one-loss teams enjoyed the spotlight. Anyone else lining up to go play a night road game at the Horseshoe? People simply think a Rose bowl berth is enough to keep them happy in Happy Valley.
Their opponent is another team that feels they have been left out of a rightful place in the championship. USC was number one and seemingly unbeatable after trouncing Ohio State. A slip against Oregon State sent the Trojans in a free fall as far as the rankings went. No matter what USC did they could not recover from that loss. People even went as far as saying they were not scoring enough points. Hard to see that as a problem when you have the number 1 defense in all of college football. The Rose Bowl should be a defensive battle and a competitive game and the Big Ten needs one after their recent performances there against Southern Cal.
The Ratings Bowl
Following the Rose Bowl on New Year's day is the Orange Bowl. It features Virginia Tech from the ACC where no team could stand up and definitively take the title and upstart Cincinnati who conquered the equally mediocre Big East. These are two quality teams but neither packs the big punch of the best from the other four conferences. Cincinnati has equaled 10 wins in its last two seasons and coach Brian Kelly says he is not going anywhere after this year and wants to build the program there. Unfortunately we can no longer take coaches at their word so we will have to wait and see on that one. The Hokies have been dissapointing all season starting with a loss to ECU and BC, FSU and Miami in the ACC, but once again they have done it with defense and special teams. Beamer ball is not fun to watch, especially when they have so many new faces but it is effective and thanks to a couple of games that they pulled out early against North Carolina and Georgia Tech, they have the spot in the BCS game. The game may not be a sexy match-up, but it is imperative that Va Tech put a notch on the ACC's belt as far as the BCS is concerned. The ACC has not won a BCS game since 2000 and needs to raise their perception in all their bowl games this year.
Some Other Non-BCS Bowls to Look at
How will the ACC do?: As I just mentioned, the ACC has been labled a poor conference since they have no marquee team, but I think it is more of a case of a lot of decent teams that beat each other up. It is going to be interesting to see how the conference does overall and I believe they have some favorable match-ups.
LSU-Georgia Tech: Chick-fil-A
Vandy-BC: Music City
Rutgers-NC State: Papa John's
FSU-Wisconsin: Champ Sports
UNC-West Virginia: Meineke Car Care
The conference should be able to win most of these games, with the headliner probably being the Chick-fil-A Bowl. If the Jackets can pound LSU like they did Miami and Georgia, it will go a long way for their team and the ACC. If Georgia Tech wins that game and BC beats Vandy it would mean the ACC went 8-4 against the SEC this year.
The game we should not be seeing: Pontsettia Bowl
Boise State is currently undefeated and beat Oregon in Eugene. TCU has the number 1 defense in the land agaisnt the rush giving up less than 50 yards per game and their only two losses came at Oklahoma and at Utah. These teams deserve better, they deserve the chance to play a high profile team from a high profile conference. How are we going to know how legit they are if they do not get the opportunity to slay a dragon. I believe both of these teams are for real but after this match-up we will only know which one deserved the shot at a giant more.
Notre Dame gets...punished?: Hawai'i Bowl
So the Irish played a weak schedule and lost to teams they had no business losing to and were destined for a bad bowl, and Weis and company will head to the cold harsh land of...Hawai'i. Even if they lose this game who cares, their perception cannot get worse than it is now and they get to spend a week or so in Hawai'i.
Holiday...celebrate: Holiday Bowl
This game will be another conference statement contest as Oklahoma State who's only losses were to the big three of the Big XII takes on Oregon from a supposedly weak Pac Ten.
More conference reputations on the line: Cotton Bowl
Texas Tech deserves a BCS bowl, a lot more than Virginia Tech or Cincinnati, but the "system" will not allow a third team from any conference. The only thing the Red Raiders can do is flatten the Ole Miss Rebels in Dallas. If they beatdown the Rebs then they can at least say they had some argument in a BCS title appearance. The worth of having that arguement may not be much, but if they stay competitive they may gain a positive reputation with the pollsters in the future.
Turner Gil deserves some sort of award: International Bowl
I suppose college football in Toronto will go over as well as the NFL did? Nevertheless, Turner Gil has done the unthinkable at Buffalo. Eight wins, a conference title and a defeat of previously undefeated Ball State(sorry Whitlock but I liked the article). He may not get coach of the year, but the man should be getting calls from a lot of schools soon. The Bulls take on Connecticut on January 3rd.