The news is that if your favorite school fields an NCAA Division I football team, and your school isn’t going to a bowl, you must from Duke. We’re expecting that next year the California Medicinal Marijuana Growers will announce their sponsorship of the Bong Bowl to be held somewhere around the San Francisco Bay. Yes, it’s almost getting that bad. While the argument remains that the means of selecting a National Championship is arbitrary and unfair no matter how the BCS gang tries to tweak its formulae, there will be plenty of whining even in seasons where there seem to be obvious contenders. Regardless, the final matchup between Florida and Oklahoma features two strong teams that could create an incredible matchup for the grand prize.
Barack Obama has thrown his weight behind a playoff system for college football. That is his number one sports issue. Watch ESPN or listen to sports pundits across the land, and it would appear the media favor a playoff system.
Here’s how the argument works and could play out. First, the argument about adding extra games is mute. Most players are used to playing more games at the high school level so the additional games would only bring NCAA football more in line with the pros and high school. Second, there is the lag time between the end of the season around Thanksgiving and New Years providing ample time to have a decent playoff bracket system play out.
Here’s what would appear to be the solution. The playoffs would likely consist of the nation’s top eight teams and follow the conventional bracket format where the seedings would be #1 vs. #8, #2 vs. #7, #3 vs. #6, #4 vs. #5. That would lead to a four game second round that would be roughly analogous to today’s big bowls, Orange, Sugar, Rose, and Fiesta Bowls, but at this point, these games would lack the gravitas and glamour those bowls have today and they would probably be played in mid-December. If this round could be deemed suitable for the traditional bowls, then that would place the championship game in Mid-January that would put it up against the NFL Playoffs and would compromise the college campus environment which would be in the heat of the college basketball season by then. How would the teams be selected? Just go with the appropriate top eight rated teams using the BCS type of system or poll and seed the top eight teams? Go with the champions of the power eight conferences? The arguments would persist. The second possibility would preclude independent schools like Notre Dame when and if they become a national powerhouse again and the less powerful conferences.
The old bowl system is full of tradition and while the format might not accurately present a true championship, the intrigue and debate itself was part of the appeal. Suppose the top Big 12 team played the ACC in the Orange Bowl, and the SEC played another conference in the Sugar Bowl this year. Mostly likely, Florida and Oklahoma would win. Who’d be the champ? Those situations played out in the past and created a lot of buzz on the sport even if it was not accurate.
The argument, like practically everything else in sports, comes down to money and the power of the television networks as the driving force. The sponsorship groups for each bowl have way too much at stake to give up the elite status they have now. The only thing that made the BCS Championship possible was the guarantee that it would rotate each year between the four big bowl facilities in Miami, New Orleans, Phoenix, and Pasadena. The four traditional bowls then are essentially runner-up bowls allowing some semblance of the old traditions to be maintained such as the Pac-10 facing the Big-10 in the Rose Bowl.
So far, when the playoff concept is discussed, what is never accounted for is the operational side of making it work. Consider the logistics: selection, scheduling, location, and oversight, even something as simple as the traditional elimination bracket isn’t as simple as it appears to be.
Why not keep things the way they are or revert to something more like the good old days? It makes every bowl interesting and the debates are part of the fun too. Besides that, anything that can screw up the odds makers in Las Vegas is a good thing from our perspective.
Here are some interesting bowls to watch this year.
West Virginia (-2 ½) v. North Carolina (Meineke Car Care Bowl, Charlotte, NC, 12/27/08, 1:00 pm., ESPN)
This game represents a bit of disappointment for West Virginia but is the first step toward regaining respectability for North Carolina whose football program has been dormant for years. It’s hard not to like Carolina’s chances playing in their backyard in Charlotte.
Wisconsin v. Florida State (-6) (Champs Sports Bowl, Orlando, FL, 12/27/08, 4:30 pm. ESPN)
The former ACC powerhouse has fallen on hard times as they attempt to regain national status in Bobby Bowden’s twilight years. They’ll win this game, but this is hardly a bowl that matters much.
Miami (FL) v. California (-10), (Emerald Bowl, San Francisco, CA, 12/27/08, 8:00 pm., ESPN)
So what happened to the great Miami Hurricanes? In the late 80's and early 90's, they represented the kind of dominant power many ascribe to USC today. Years later, they moved to the ACC where they were supposed to contend with Florida State for which team would go into the Bowl scene to contend for the National Championship. This year, Miami is just a middle of the pack ACC team. At least they're not banished to the "Smurf Turf" but they will be playing in AT&T Park in San Francisco where the short porch in right field would form one of the end zones. Today's baseball only stadia are not designed for football. Catch a little bit of this one on television and see for yourself. Miami will surely lose to their west coast rival.
Maryland v. Nevada (-2). (Humanitarian Bowl, Boise, ID, 12/30/08, 8:00 pm., ESPN)
This is the fate Maryland earned for falling apart in the last weeks of the regular season. The good news is they play in a Bowl. The bad news is they are banished to Boise, Idaho to play on the “Smurf Turf.” Who knows how this game will turn out. If the boys show up and mean to play, they could win this game. Given Maryland’s character recently, this looks like Nevada’s.
LSU v. Georgia Tech (-4), (Chick-Fil-A Bowl, Atlanta, GA, 12/31/08, 7:30 pm., ESPN)
LSU comes into this game feeling they’re not getting much success. Perhaps the most dominant team in the SEC since 2000, they are regrouping in 2008 but did beat Florida for the Gators’ only loss. This is a home game for Georgia Tech. We give the Yellow Jackets the nod.
Penn State v. USC (-9.5), (Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA, 1/1/09, 4:30 pm., ABC)
Surely, there are many football fans who’d dream of this game being the National Championship game. If there is an “Evil Empire” in college football, it’s Pete Carroll’s Trojans of USC. Meanwhile, good old Joe Paterno, is football history still guiding one of the nation’s top programs. Hearts were broken all around the country outside of Iowa when Penn State’s run at perfection was upset. The Rose Bowl is close to a home game for USC, and they probably should be the favorite, but how can we not pick Penn State, their ugly uniforms, and all their tradition?
Cincinnati (-2) v. Virginia Tech, (Orange Bowl, Miami, FL, 1/1/09, 8:30 pm., FOX)
Virginia Tech’s Beamer Ball proved to be the ACC’s best afterall in 2008 securing the ACC Championship in a year where several teams were running for top honors going into November. We feel they’ll have just enough extra power to beat Cincinnati, but we confess to knowing nothing about Big East football.
Mississippi v. Texas Tech (-4.5), Cotton Bowl, Dallas, TX, 1/2/09, 5:00 pm., FOX)
Here’s more proof of how much the Big Twelve and SEC dominated the 2008 College Football season. Texas State has arrived as a major contender in the Big Twelve and has beaten some tough teams. Give them the edge over Mississippi.
Utah v. Alabama (-10), (Sugar Bowl, New Orleans, LA, 1/2/09, 8:00 pm., FOX)
Facing the top team in the PAC-12 this year, has to be a minor letdown for the Crimson Tide fans who maintained a perfect season going into the SEC Championship game against Florida where Florida proved the better team. This was a magical season aside from that for ‘Bama and they should win easily close to home in New Orleans.
Ohio State v. Texas (-8), (Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, AZ, 1/5/09, 8:00 pm., FOX)
This might have looked like the likely match up for a National Championship beginning the season, but it turned out to be the Bride’s Maid Bowl instead. Given the intense competition Texas faced in the Big Twelve and that many think them superior to Oklahoma who competes for the Championship and that Ohio State played a rather week Big Ten this year, the Fiesta Bowl looks like it belongs to Texas big time.
Ball State (-2.5) v. Tulsa, (GMAC Bowl, Mobile, AL, 1/6/09, 8:00 pm., ESPN)
Ball State’s Cinderella season was broken when they played for their conference championship and were wiped out in Detroit to Buffalo. Here’s a chance for their amazing team to take a curtain call playing in a minor bowl opposite the big game on another network.
Florida (-3) v. Oklahoma, (BCS Champtionship, Miami, FL, 1/6/09, 8:00 pm., FOX)
The way Florida handled its opponents looked far more convincing a look at this year’s possible champ than the big shootout in the Big Twelve southern conference. This could be one hard fought game, but given the proven leadership Gators’ QB, Tim Tebow, provides, the Gators should win this game and playing in their home state will help their cause too. This could be a close game or a Florida blowout. Watch the game and find out!