Monday, November 8, 2010

ESPN continues the spin for the benefit of itself and its partner, the BCS

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.



Danilo said...

John, I'm paraphrasing this, but I thought this comparison to baseball was pretty funny. "The Giants do not actually deserve their World Series victory because they came from a weaker division. Beating the Rockies and Dodgers is less impressive than beating the Red Sox and Rays. The Yankees really deserved to win it all. Their division was tougher, and it is a shame that a loss prevented the better team from making it to the championship."

Danilo said...

John - can you imagine how incredibly entertaining an 8-team playoff would be? LSU going on the road to Boise in the 4/5 matchup? Nebraska or Ohio State going to Eugene, hoping to knock off the #1 seed? TCU hosting Stanford? The only boring game would be Auburn waxing Wisconsin. But you never know...

I have no idea why they couldn't play these National Quarterfinal games on December 18th. Before Christmas break, at least a week after the conference championship games. Then give the teams two weeks to prepare for the semifinals (at two of the BCS bowl locations). The 4 losing teams in the quarters, go to the other BCS locales, to play pre-determined opponents (the 8-12th ranked teams). This isn't rocket science, and I think the quarterfinals would be a huge draw on TV.

Don said...

Have you read "Death to the BCS" yet? It really is a great reporting job, and I hope the start of the downfall of this corrupt system.

Max said...

Why is this an ESPN problem? Fox had BCS games for the last 4 years and was John griping about them screwing the little schools? ESPN wants a playoff, the college presidents do not. You can blame ESPN for a lot of things, but this is not one of them. They would pay an enormous amount to televise college playoffs games. TCU or Boise State will get into the game if Auburn or Oregon lose.

Anonymous said...

Max - ESPN wants a playoff, but only if they own it, or have the rights to it. Right now? They just want to maximize their property, and I think everyone could agree that TCU and Boise don't fit into their budget plans to reap the biggest profit. And with being partners in the SEC to a tune of more than $2b over 15 years, why on earth wouldn't they market their property the most. Last thing they want is their properties to slip.

Gunnar said...

An 8 team playoff would be great. I have seen Nebraska, Stanford and Oregon in person this year, all fantastic teams. TCU and Boise State have looked great to me on TV. Auburn is great, especially if they can finish out undefeated. I don't understand how humans and computers can pick only two teams to compete for the title.

cd1515 said...

gee, wonder what ESPN will think of TCU once it joins the Big East?

Bill-DC said...

I did get the call to purchase tickets to the ACC title game in Charlotte. I had to be honest and I told the guy I had to think ahead for the bowl expense for the Terps rather than the ACC title game and politely ended the call by wishing him luck.

That bowl expense I’m thinking about is taking the change accumulating in my car and adding fare to my Metro Smart Pass for the Eagle Bank/Military Bowl at RFK.

Chuck B '92 said...

You can thank the Massey, Wolfe and Sagarin ratings for Boise State's No. 4 ranking in the BCS a lot more than ESPN. Their computers somehow believe that the Broncos are not as good as LSU, Stanford or Nebraska, and one doesn't believe they're as good as Wisconsin, Oklahoma State or Michigan State, either.

I mean, who are you going to believe, those undefeated records or your own lying eyes that appeared to see losses to Iowa and Nebraska?

Jeremy said...

Stewart Mandel from laid out a pretty plausible scenario where Boise State could win out and still get shut out of all the BCS bowls(due to Sugar wanting a big fan base & Orange not wanting a Va Tech-Boise rematch) and end up in the Kraft Fights Hunger Bowl.

Anonymous said...

What does who a team beat last year or 2 years ago have to do with the 2010 season? I think Ohio State,Alabama,Texas etc should all be independents,play a Boise type schedule every year and go undefeated. That would be fun wouldn't? Boise wins their one "super bowl" game every Sept and hang their hat on it all year. It's easy to win by 40 and not get banged up every week. Play at Arkansas,home v Florida and at South Carolina 3 weeks in a row and we'll talk. Until then, play on your idiotic blue turf and play an uninterested team in a bowl. Win it and hang your hat on it for 2 years.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't anyone who criticizes the BCS take the time to rip the AP voters or the coaches? Those two polls are the majority of the input into who plays in the championship game. It is not a conspiracy that takes place on the fly, other than influencing these groups of voters.

How about ripping your colleagues that vote in the AP poll, John? (You are already on the record with your feeling about coaches' polls)

I'd prefer a playoff, but the BCS used to a be a decent system to rank teams before yammering sportstalkers and writers made them water down the algorithm so that the results basically matched the AP vote. People who would rather shout that investigate found this too confusing.

Anonymous said...

John, I don't know how much falls in ESPN's lap, but you are exactly right overall. It never ceases to amaze how BCS apologists adopt their superiority as an article of faith. If they are so confident, they should let the little guy in and prove it, just like Alabama did against Utah. This is so reminiscent of the old NFL-AFL debate.

Gordon said...

Look, it matters not which poll or computer is used to determine the BCS championship game. It matters that ANY are used and that their is no REAL champion determined by a playoff.

If Boise State and/or TCU go undefeated and NOT get a chance to play in the national championship game both should boycott any bowl game they are "invited" to. And if they are slotted to play each other congress should get involved. I realize they have more important things to but this might be a violation of the Sherman anti-trust laws. If they can pass a 2600 page health care bill without even reading it certainly they can spare a few hours to provide their constituants with something they really want!

The problem with ESPN is well they are ESPN. I'm not a conspirecy person but isn't is just a little to convienant that ESPN seems to get the match ups that best suits them.

And John you do need to apologize to the Mafia. Comparing them to the BCS is grounds for slander. Even they and OPEC think the BCS is a corupt orginization.

As for Boise State and TCU and their schedules I don"t see Florida, Alabama, Nebraska, Ohio State et al begging to play either in the regular season. Certainly ND wants no part of either one.


Anonymous said...

I love how everyone who says the teams they play should never matter in determining if they play in the title game. However, were all the teams to have 1 loss...would there be an outcry for Boise or TCU to be in? I do not hear a lot of outcry that Utah should still have a chance with 2 loss...strange how that works out. Nevada has 1 loss...strange no one crys out they are being ruined for not getting into a big bowl like LSU or Ohio State likely will.

Anonymous said...

John, I've loved your segments on NPR and your writing in the Post, but: "While we're on the SEC, has anyone noticed that the league really isn't that good this season?" (Washington Post)

Can you tell me which other conference has half (6) its teams in the AP Top 25?

And, I'm sorry, if the TCU's and Boise States want to get in the big leagues, they need to schedule the big boys regularly (more than one a season). Let's be real, if LSU or Auburn played in the Boise State/La Tech conference, they would go undefeated or one-loss most every year. It is different.

Thanks for the space.