What transpired over the final weekend of the college
football regular season can only be labeled as remarkable
-- in a positive sense if you’re an LSU fan, and
with mainly negative connotations if you’re a USC
supporter -- but remarkable all the same.
What’s really fascinating me as I take in all
the assorted responses to Oklahoma and LSU qualifying
for the Sugar Bowl while USC -- No. 1 in both “human” polls
-- gets left out and is instead headed for the Rose Bowl
is this: Those who are besmirching the system are right...
and wrong. Those who defend it are off base, and yet
they’re right on the point.
Huh?, you say. Okay, let me explain.
Right now, there are tens of thousands of Sooner and
Tiger faithful who are busily defending the BCS to doubters.
The system worked, they claim, because strength of schedule
factored in as it should. The SEC is a better conference
this year than the Pac-10, which is why LSU aced out
USC. And Oklahoma belongs because it had the toughest
schedule of the three and, after all, it’s what
you did all season that counts, not just how you performed
in your last game.
True, and true. No argument from me.
But let’s examine the real purpose of the BCS
-- to determine an outright and undisputed national champion.
Period. It’s really the lone obligation of such
an artificial means for determining who’s best.
And yet, if USC disposes of Michigan in the Rose Bowl
on Jan. 1, the Trojans will almost definitely gain a
share of the national title by finishing atop the Associated
Press poll. Remember, only the USA Today/CNN coaches’ pollsters
are obligated to select the Sugar Bowl winner as No.
So on that front, the BCS has failed. Right?
For what it’s worth, here’s my take on the
BCS. It’s acceptable -- better than any system
we’ve ever had previously, but that’s because
there were no previous “systems.” Truth is,
it’s far from perfect. In fact, it’s greatly
flawed. Seems to me that university presidents around
the nation would desire to do better.
Never has the argument for some kind of playoff system
been stronger. Oklahoma and LSU each have rightful and
legitimate claims to be in the Sugar Bowl. But a system
that can bypass a team that is voted No. 1 in the land
by both the media AND the coaches is, by definition,
Maybe it’s time to let the computers do it all.
Remove the human element completely. Makes sense, doesn’t
it? But do we really want to do that?
What about these extra games... I’m talking about
the conference championships? USC is the only one of
the three not to play one. Is it possible that the Trojans
could have cracked the top two by defeating, say, Washington
State in a Pac-10 Title Game? I believe so.
What I don’t like about the conference title games
is that losing doesn’t seem to be significantly
detrimental. In my view, the most legitimate argument
against Oklahoma is that the Sooners didn’t even
win their own conference, so how can they stake a claim
for a berth in the national title bowl?
LSU is proof that teams have something to gain by playing
for their conference championship. If the Tigers had
not faced Georgia last weekend, they would have finished
behind USC in the BCS rankings. So, it stands to reason
that if a team can benefit from its participation, it
should also suffer consequences in the event it loses.
But the only thing OU lost was the right to determine
its own destiny in both polls. As far as the BCS and
at least half of the national championship are concerned,
the Sooners were assured of their spot regardless of
the result against K-State. I’m not saying the
Sooners’ first 12 games shouldn’t be considered,
but to repeat -- can a team rightfully expect to play
for the national championship when it didn’t win
its conference? Aren’t those first dozen games
already taken into account by Oklahoma’s very presence
in the Big 12 Showdown?
So my conclusion is that LSU and USC should be playing
for the national title in the Sugar Bowl Jan. 4.
And a quick address of the comparisons of USC and LSU:
Yes, the SEC was a better conference this season than
the Pac-10. But programs don’t control their conference
schedules. They do, however, determine their own non-conference
slates. So how does LSU explain away its ridiculously
easy non-conference schedule? We’re talking Louisiana
Monroe, Arizona, Western Illinois and Louisiana Tech!
Not a single test in the bunch.
Admittedly, USC’s wasn’t a great deal better,
but that’s because traditionally strong programs
at Notre Dame and Brigham Young happened to endure down
years. Auburn, a preseason No. 1, certainly qualifies
as a quality foe even if the Tigers did come up far shy
of expectations. And Hawai’i is bowl bound, friends.
Oh, did I mention that USC played six road games to
LSU’s five (not counting the SEC Title Game, which
is a neutral field)?
Changing tracks a bit, the way it worked out actually
could be a boon for college football. USC, most of its
players and alumni seem to admit, is happy to be staying
close to home and playing for half the national championship.
The school certainly benefits, having to spend less money
and also gaining more than twice as many designated seats
in Pasadena as it would have for the Superdome. And traditionalists
love the idea of a USC-Michigan Rose Bowl renewal. I
can’t wait to hear Keith Jackson’s legendary
voice call that one (assuming he will). Whoa, Nellie!
Let’s just say, for the Trojans, things could
be a whole lot worse.
And the chance for a shared national title despite the
presence of a system designed to avoid exactly that might
finally be enough impetus for at least a single playoff
game to be established, after all bowls are completed.
We can always dream.
Bob's Final Regular Season Top 10
||The Trojans get
the nod, narrowly, because of reasons detailed above
and because their lone loss was in overtime on the
|Those who argue the Tigers
No. 1 have a legit beef -- it’s not cut-and-dried
by any means -- but their loss was by double-figures
||I’d never dismiss OU’s
dominance through 12 games, but a 28-point loss in
the conference title game is too big to retain a
||What if Wolverines rout USC
while LSU and OU play ugly? Can a two-loss team be
considered by the AP for the title? Nah, just a thought.
||No one’s talking about
the program that really got shafted -- K-State’s
win knocked Longhorns out of BCS bowl and gave them
||OHIO STATE (11-2)
||Fiesta Bowl people got selfish
-- A Florida State-Kansas State matchup still would
have been fun and OSU could face Miami again.
||Headed to the Peach Bowl to
face Clemson (yawn). Coach Phillip Fullmer’s
team the forgotten one when it came to BCS considerations.
||MIAMI, FLA. (10-2)
||OK, the ‘Canes didn’t
get Ohio State. But an All-Florida Orange Bowl in
Florida has appeal all the same -- if you’re
a Floridian, that is.
||FLORIDA STATE (10-2)
||Even both head coaches acknowledge
that another meeting between these soon-to-be ACC
rivals is a bit much. But the fans will like it.
||KANSAS STATE (11-3)
||It goes against my grain to
pick a 3-loss team ahead of 1-loss clubs, but K-State
is the champion of one of the country’s top
|Also considered: Boise State, Miami
2003 PREDICTION RECORDS
Straight-Up: 76-39 (66%)
Against-The-Spread: 56-58-1 (49%)
Last Week: 3-4 Straight-Up, 2-5 ATS (please ignore)
Next week: I’ll unveil my new rating system for college
football as well as my first few bowl predictions.