Every year about this time, and in this space, I re-initiate my whining about the major college football powers that be not wising up and implementing a playoff system.
Well, I’ve got more motivation to go on my soapbox this year than ever before.
Because of the rash of upsets that has “plagued” the schedule almost all year, we’re stuck with a two-loss team in the title game. That’s bunk.
Unbeaten Hawaii should be playing for the national championship, not 10-2 LSU. The Rainbow Warriors have earned it for going through the regular season as the nation’s only unbeaten team. They’re a Division I program, right? Then they should be there. LSU had its chance, and didn’t get it done - twice.
Everyone seems to forget it should be about who earned the right, not who we perceive as the best team. Would the Tigers beat Hawaii on a neutral field? Probably, although certainly not for sure. Most thought Oklahoma would easily handle Boise State in last year’s Fiesta Bowl. Remember?
What we’re saying by denying Hawaii a trip to the Title Game is that the Warriors never had a chance to get there, long before they played their first game. That’s absolute baloney.
Ah, but I have a revised solution. It represents a compromise of sorts for those who actually believe LSU is more deserving than Hawaii simply because it hails from a tougher conference and plays a more demanding schedule.
It’s time to split up the current Division 1-A. Let’s oust Conference USA, the Sunbelt Conference, and a few independents while we’re at it. These conferences and their teams are hereby demoted to Division 1-AA (which has recently shed the AA label, which confuses me and everyone else even more).
Ideally, we should end up with 72 legitimate programs in Division I. Then create eight conferences of nine teams apiece. Why nine? So that the regular season schedule features each team in a conference facing each other team once, every year. Four home, four away, beautiful structure and undeniable fairness to all.
Then take the eight conference champions and have a freakin’ playoff! Still no playoff? All right, then place the eight in the four major bowls… and play those bowls before determining which two advance to the Title Game.
If the above frightens you because it is broad and sweeping, let’s at least agree that a program from a weaker conference should be penalized in the ranking by an equivalent maximum of one loss. In other words, a two-loss team cannot finish ahead of an unbeaten squad in the BCS rankings.
If we applied that to this season, we’d get Hawaii ranked no lower than third, behind only Ohio State and Kansas. If the Buckeyes get one berth in the finale, the Jayhawks or Warriors would get the other. Given a choice only of Kansas and Hawaii, I’m guessing most pollsters would prefer the unbeaten Rainbow Warriors even though Kansas comes from the deep Big 12.
You see, it’s not just the conference affiliation that matters. It’s also about perception… the perception of a big-time program, versus one that is merely enjoying a Latte near the top for a year.
Thanks for enduring. And in the meantime, here are my forecasts. Let’s go bowling…
Poinsettia Bowl – Thursday, Dec. 20 at San Diego, CA
UTAH (-8½) vs. NAVY
The Utes are heavy favorites – must be that prestigious Mountain West Conference slate they play. Navy is pesky as heck, and routed rival Army. The Midshipmen at least keep it close. Prediction: UTAH, 35-34
New Orleans Bowl – Friday, Dec. 21 at New Orleans, LA
FLORIDA ATLANTIC (-2½) vs. MEMPHIS
Neither team can play defense, but Memphis finished the regular season just a little stronger overall. Prediction: MEMPHIS, 45-38
Papa John’s Bowl – Saturday, Dec. 22 at Birmingham, AL
CINCINNATI (-11) vs. SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI
The Golden Eagles are always tough against quality foes, but Cincy’s offense is just too explosive. Prediction: CINCINNATI, 34-20
New Mexico Bowl – Saturday, Dec. 22 at Albuquerque, NM
NEW MEXICO (-3) vs. NEVADA
Why don’t the Lobos just schedule themselves an extra home game every year and be done with it? Prediction: NEW MEXICO, 31-23
Las Vegas Bowl – Saturday, Dec. 22 at Las Vegas, NV
BRIGHAM YOUNG (-6½) vs. UCLA
Could be an interesting game, except that the Cougars will be motivated to avenge a regular season loss to the Bruins at Los Angeles and UCLA won’t be motivated at all.
Prediction: BYU, 23-14
Hawaii Bowl – Sunday, Dec. 23 at Honolulu, HI
BOISE STATE (-10½) vs. EAST CAROLINA
You have any idea how cold it is in Idaho this time of year? That alone will keep the Broncos loose and fun-loving. Prediction: BOISE STATE, 42-17
Motor City Bowl – Wednesday, Dec. 26 at Detroit, MI
PURDUE (-9) vs. CENTRAL MICHIGAN
You have any idea how cold it is in Michigan this time of year? Good thing this game is indoors. Considered an upset pick, but can’t do it. Prediction: PURDUE, 27-21
Holiday Bowl – Thursday, Dec. 27 at San Diego, CA
TEXAS (-2½) vs. ARIZONA STATE
The most intriguing bowl being played before New Year’s. ASU’s more consistent defense is the difference in a game as close as the line would indicate. Prediction: ARIZONA STATE, 31-28
Champ Sports Bowl – Friday, Dec. 28 at Orlando, FL
BOSTON COLLEGE (-3½) vs. MICHIGAN STATE
How far has the Big-10 Conference fallen? Even the ACC (and Big East) are considered tougher. The Eagles have won eight straight bowl games. Prediction: BC, 24-17
Texas Bowl – Friday, Dec. 28 at Houston, TX
TCU (-3½) vs. HOUSTON
I know the homefield advantage doesn’t mean a whole lot when the visitors also hail from the same state, but there isn’t much else that separates these two. Prediction: HOUSTON, 20-17
Emerald Bowl – Friday, Dec. 28 at San Francisco, CA
OREGON STATE (-4½) vs. MARYLAND
Pretty even matchup, but the Beavers are playing closer to home and are a little more battle-tested. Prediction: OREGON STATE, 23-16
Meineke Car Care Bowl – Saturday, Dec. 29 at Charlotte, NC
WAKE FOREST (-3) vs. CONNECTICUT
Technically an upset pick, but what I really believe is that the wrong team is favored. UConn’s defense rates a lot better overall. Prediction: UCONN, 20-13
Liberty Bowl – Saturday, Dec. 29 at Memphis, TN
CENTRAL FLORIDA (-3) vs. MISSISSIPPI STATE
I remember, not all that long ago, when this bowl used to matter. Miss. State comes from the vaunted SEC, by UCF has better talent on both sides of the ball. Prediction: CENTRAL FLORIDA, 34-24
Alamo Bowl – Saturday, Dec. 29 at San Antonio, TX
PENN STATE (-5½) vs. TEXAS A&M
The numbers indicate a closer Nittany Lions’ victory, but I have a hunch the host-state Aggies will give the Big-10 another black eye. Prediction: TEXAS A&M, 17-14
Independence Bowl – Sunday, Dec. 30 at Shreveport, LA
ALABAMA (-3½) vs. COLORADO
After seeing that the Tide lost to Louisiana-Monroe less than a month ago, there’s no way I can predict them to beat a legitimate program (here come the Cajun emails)… Prediction: COLORADO, 23-20
Armed Forces Bowl – Monday, Dec. 31 at Fort Worth, TX
CALIFORNIA (-3½) vs. AIR FORCE
Sure, the Pac-10 Conference is stronger. But the numbers rarely lie… and they like the Falcons substantially. Prediction: AIR FORCE, 35-30
Humanitarian Bowl – Monday, Dec. 31 at Boise, ID
GEORGIA TECH (-4½) vs. FRESNO STATE
What would truly be humanitarian is if it they would ditch that gawd-awful blue turf. Oh, regarding the game… Yellow Jackets exact revenge for bowl loss to Bulldogs in 2002. Prediction: GEORGIA TECH, 24-13
Sun Bowl – Monday, Dec. 31 at El Paso, TX
SOUTH FLORIDA (-6½) vs. OREGON
The Ducks are dogs because they’re short-handed due to injuries, but they’re still a top-tier program. Tough call, so I will split the difference – USF wins, UO covers. Prediction: SOUTH FLORIDA, 30-27
Music City Bowl – Monday, Dec. 31 at Nashville, TN
KENTUCKY (-1½) vs. FLORIDA STATE
It’s likely that this game will mean a lot more to the Wildcats, and the numbers give them the slight edge as well. Prediction: KENTUCKY, 28-24
Insight.com Bowl – Monday, Dec. 31 at Tempe, AZ
OKLAHOMA STATE (-4) vs. INDIANA
It’s not all bad for Big-10 teams – the numbers very slightly give the edge to the Hoosiers, and so will I. Prediction: INDIANA, 38-32
Chick-Fil-A Bowl – Monday, Dec. 31 at Atlanta
CLEMSON (-2) vs. AUBURN
Chick fill a bowl with what? A close football game? Works for me. This one is a dead-even clash, with the defenses reigning supreme. CLEMSON, 16-10
Outback Bowl – Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2008 at Tampa, FL
TENNESSEE (-3½) vs. WISCONSIN
Being that it’s the “outback,” does that mean the score will be low? (Australia – down under – over/under… get it?). Okay, so that was a reach. So, too, is believing the Vols should be favored here. Prediction: WISCONSIN, 27-24
Cotton Bowl – Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2008 at Dallas, TX
MISSOURI (-3) vs. ARKANSAS
The Tigers will come into this game fired up that they should be playing in the Orange Bowl instead of Kansas, and they take it out on that stud RB McFadden and company. Prediction: MISSOURI, 30-17
Citrus Bowl – Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2008 at Orlando, FL
FLORIDA (-10) vs. MICHIGAN
Heisman winner Tim Tebow will remind people that the Wolverines lost to Appalachian State this year. Prediction: FLORIDA, 41-24
Gator Bowl – Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2008 at Jacksonville, FL
TEXAS TECH (-6½) vs. VIRGINIA
The run-and-gun Red Raiders are averaging nearly 42 points per game. The Cavaliers defense is solid, but it hasn’t seen anything that potent to this point. Prediction: RED RAIDERS, 34-27
Rose Bowl – Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2008 at Pasadena, CA
USC (-13½) vs. ILLINOIS
My instincts say the Trojans will romp in their home-away-from-home-soon-to-be-their-home, but the numbers say this game will be a lot closer than expected. And hey… the Illini did beat Ohio State on the road, and the Trojans did lose at home to Stanford. Prediction: USC, 27-16
Sugar Bowl – Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2008 at New Orleans, LA
GEORGIA (-9) vs. HAWAII
Maybe it’s wishful thinking on my part that HU has a chance… but I was wishing for Boise State to beat Oklahoma last year, too. And you know… I just don’t believe the Bulldogs are that special. Prediction: HAWAII, 35-31
Fiesta Bowl – Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2008 at Phoenix, AZ
OKLAHOMA (-6½) vs. WEST VIRGINIA
The status of WVU QB Pat White is still up in the air, but I believe he’s going to play. If he does, and he’s not limited, the Mountaineers could very well win this one outright. Another tough call, but the deciding factors for me are the Sooners’ recent play and their desire to put the ’07 Fiesta Bowl behind them. Prediction: OKLAHOMA, 28-14
Orange Bowl – Thursday, Jan. 3, 2008 at Miami, FL
VIRGINIA TECH (-3) vs. KANSAS
Even if the Hokies hold the Jayhawks two TDs below their season average, that will be 30 points. I don’t believe Tech can score that many. Prediction: KANSAS, 31-23
International Bowl – Saturday, Jan. 5, 2008 at Toronto, OT (Canada)
RUTGERS (-10) vs. BALL STATE
Like the game itself, it’s a big letdown to write about this one after just covering the New Year’s Day bowl games as well as the Fiesta and Orange bowls. Prediction: RUTGERS, 38-10
GMAC Bowl – Sunday, Jan. 6, 2008 at Mobile, AL
TULSA (-4½) vs. BOWLING GREEN
I’d only care about this game if GMAC would agree to forgive my car loan. Prediction: BOWLING GREEN, 51-48
BCS Championship Game – Monday, Jan. 7, 2008 at New Orleans, LA
LSU (-4) vs. OHIO STATE
Now we’re talking. Yeah, I don’t like LSU being here. But it’s still a great matchup – and a very close one. Do the Tigers get any help for playing in their backyard? Probably not. But I believe the Tigers are a more complete team. Last year, I said Ohio State would beat Florida, and the Buckeyes got rolled. The reverse method is appropriate. Prediction: LSU, 27-19