Well, here we go again with the BCS Apologists.
Last week Alabama was their savior. Now, it has become a potential scourge. What a difference one trip to LSU can make.
Prior to the Crimson Tide’s trip to Baton Rouge, the BCS-A thinking went like this: “If Alabama wins out, it should play in the national championship game—even with one loss.”
Why? Well, Alabama would have a win at LSU and would have finished its season by beating Auburn and winning the SEC Championship game. Thus, even if TCU and Boise State finished unbeaten, Alabama would be picked—SHOULD be picked—to play presumably unbeaten Oregon in the national championship game. TCU and Boise State would get another pat on the head from the BCS boys and be sent to play in yet another lucrative, but meaningless BCS bowl.
The campaign actually began a week ago Saturday when ESPN showed ‘projected bowl matchups,’ with Oregon and Auburn in the title game. In the ‘projections,’ Boise State was being sent to The Rose Bowl. “You know Herbie,” (or is it Herby?) Brent Musburger said to Kirk Herbstreit, “The Rose Bowl is a pretty nice consolation prize for the Broncos.”
Sure it is Brent. A team with a 26 game winning streak over two seasons should be handed a consolation prize.
That’s the way it works though in BCS-A/ESPN-world. This isn’t about fairness or doing what’s right. It’s about money, ratings and taking care of the big boys and the BCS Presidents who the ESPN suits do business with nowadays. That’s why it was no surprise last week when the ESPN talking heads began promoting the notion that if Alabama won out—which would, of course, mean knocking Auburn from the unbeaten ranks—IT would deserve a spot in the championship game.
Herbstreit explained it carefully one night on sportscenter. On Friday night, during the Central Florida-Houston game Rece Davis brought it up as pretty much a done deal. “Alabama looks to stay on track for the BCS Championship game,” was Davis’s throwaway comment at halftime as if he was saying, “tomorrow is Saturday.”
It is worth remembering that ESPN currently OWNS the BCS for all intents and purposes because of the money it is paying over the next four seasons. That means it will do just about anything to create the matchups it thinks best for the network and its partners in crime. Pounding away, as the pundits were last week, establishes in the minds of those who vote in the coach’s poll and The Harris Poll—which make up a large chunk of the BCS formula, the notion that what is being said on ESPN is what must be true.
Now though, there’s a problem: Alabama lost. So much for establishing the Tide as the alternative to Auburn should the Tigers lose. That means if Alabama beats Auburn later this month the BCS has a serious problem: Even if Oregon goes on and wins out (at California; Arizona; at Oregon State) the Ducks would then be the only team from a BCS conference that would be undefeated. That would make it almost impossible not to put either TCU or Boise State in the championship game.
Can you hear drumbeats for Wisconsin or LSU in the distance? How about Stanford or even Nebraska?
The larger question if Oregon is the only BCS unbeaten is how in the world do you choose between TCU and Boise State. The Horned Frogs certainly made a strong case for themselves when they waltzed into Utah Saturday and hammered the Utes 47-7 in a game that Utah Coach Kyle Whittingham said wasn’t even THAT close. Boise State has beaten Virginia Tech and Oregon State and destroyed a good (7-2) Hawaii team, 42-7 on Saturday.
Both teams have done everything they have been asked to do for two seasons now. Boise State’s last loss was in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl—to TCU. TCU’s only loss the last two seasons was in last January’s Fiesta Bowl. If the college football postseason was even semi-legitimate and had a FOUR team playoff you could have two great semifinals, leading to the title game. But no, why decide who the best team is on the field when you can leave it to pundits who will tell us why going to The Rose Bowl is a nice consolation prize for a team on a 26 game winning streak.
TCU Coach Gary Patterson was asked how he would feel if TCU and Boise State ended up playing one another for a third consecutive season in a non-championship game. “It doesn’t really matter how I feel,” said Patterson, who always tries to be politically correct when such questions come up. “But I do know this: It wouldn’t be good for college football.”
Of course it wouldn’t. A championship game between the two schools WOULD be good for college football although ESPN and the BCS-A’s would be apoplectic about it. Of course a championship game between one of those two schools and either Oregon or Auburn wouldn’t make them happy either but would also be good for college football. How though, do you think Boise Coach Chris Petersen might react if TCU—a team he beat in a bowl game last year with almost all of his current starters—played Oregon, a team he beat the last TWO years while he was sent to Pasadena.
Do you think he’d think that was a pretty nice consolation prize?
Naturally, the ESPN boys—with the notable exception of Chris Fowler—were spinning like crazy Sunday night and Monday morning. First they told us that Utah was overrated and that the 47-7 TCU win really wasn’t THAT impressive. Craig James went on for a while about how much he liked Patterson and how good they’d looked but then added, “you know the linebackers in these non-AQ conferences are 5-10 or 5-11 and run 4.6 40s. The linebackers in the SEC are 6-3 and run 4.4’s.”
To which Fowler (God Bless him) said, “Craig have you looked at TCU’s linebackers?”
Herbstreit chipped in with how strong the SEC is and Davis went on about how great it was that TCU and Boise State after beating two teams this weekend with a combined record of 16-2 by a combined 75 points were really in good shape at No. 3 and No. 4 in the poll. Oh please. Monday morning, in the name of piling on one of the morning pitchmen bemoaned the notion of an Oregon-TCU championship game as one no one would care about. (If you want to guess which one, hum the Notre Dame fight song). This noted Notre Dame apologist probably would love to see a championship game between his beloved Irish and Texas—combined record at the moment 8-10, but they’re NAMES. Maybe the Cowboys should play in The Super Bowl, right?
In the meantime, if you want to talk about consolation prizes, how about whomever wins the SEC East or the ACC Atlantic. South Carolina, which had control of the SEC East, was embarrassed at home by Arkansas on Saturday. That means that the three loss Gamecocks now face three loss Florida this Saturday to decide who will play in the SEC title game. The ACC Atlantic is even worse: All three so-called ‘contenders,’ lost on Saturday: Maryland to a fourth string quarterback at Miami; Florida State at home to North Carolina and North Carolina State to mediocre Clemson. Unfortunately, someone in that group has to show up in Charlotte—in front of a crowd that will probably number well into the dozens—to play Virginia Tech on the first Saturday in December.
Of course The ENTIRE Big East isn’t any better. But the award for most surprising truly bad season has to go to Texas. In the last nine seasons, the Longhorns have won at least 10 games every year and had a combined record of 101-16. They are now 4-5 after an embarrassing loss Saturday at Kansas State.
That means no one at ESPN will be trying to convince people they belong in the BCS title game picture.