Monday, December 3, 2007

my annual bowl championship series outrage, 2007 edition

NC State's losing aside, this was a pretty entertaining college football season. We had 7 different teams at number two in the BCS standings, and even more when you look at the opening weeks of college football when LSU and USC stuttered out of the gate before there were "official" standings. The closing weeks of college football's regular season produced no stand-out team and ended with an incredible whimper. New teams that no one ever would have considered were, at one point or another, getting a sniff at actually playing for a championship. This sounds like the kind of thing that a playoff was built for.

Instead, we get Ohio State vs. LSU in the national championship game. Woo.

What this basically proves is that some guy who called in to some sports radio show was right when he offered up the following scenario: "You're a college football player. You wake up before dark in August for practice. You go to class. You go to a late afternoon practice. When you go to bed, you're tired and sore. Then you take a look at the sweats you tossed into the corner. And if the name of the school on those sweats isn't one of the 6 schools that it's already been decided are the real contenders before one football game in the season has even kicked off, you'd better be doing all of it for the love of the game because there's zero chance you're doing it for a championship.

I watch enough ESPN and listen to enough sports talk radio to know what the people who like the BCS have to say.

But Ben, we have a playoff system...it's called the regular season!

I don't know of a lot of playoffs where you can lose some playoff games and still play for the championship. Yet we have a one-loss team and a two-loss team right there. I mean, maybe the playoff is double(or triple) elimination. But then, there are a lot of teams out there that lost one or two of their "playoff games" that are settling for some bowl sponsored by a snack chip or a restaurant chain rather than playing with the big kids.

As a matter of fact, the only team that won all of their "playoff games" was Hawaii. Their reward? Not playing for a championship.

But Ben, Hawaii had a lousy strength of schedule and plays in a weak conference!

Well, let's take a look at BCS darling Ohio State. Here's what a strong schedule looks like, apparently. Load up on cupcakes and a conference more overrated than a biopic during Oscar season, eke out a close win over an unranked Michigan State team, and lose to Illinois. Never play a team ranked in the top 20 in the country. Play a non-conference schedule that includes Washington, the last-place team in the Pac 10; Akron and Kent State, the bottom two teams in the Mid-American Conference’s East Division; and Youngstown State, which plays in a conference far weaker than Hawaii's WAC. That makes for the 43rd strongest schedule.

Granted, Hawaii beat up a lot of cupcakes. Granted, Hawaii played in a weak conference. Granted, Hawaii's strength of schedule was 111. But you can only play who came on your schedule, as defenders of Ohio State's schedule will say without even a trace of irony in their voices.

But Ben, schools make their own schedules. Hawaii could have upped themselves from 111 if they wanted.

Well, they can try. But no one wants that game on their schedule if they're one of the big kids. They have nothing to win. A win is just a win over a cupcake team in a weak conference. And a loss is an important "playoff loss." Hawaii did try to up their strength of schedule. Michigan(yes I know that it turns out that Michigan wouldn't have done that much to help the ol' SoS) was going to be on the schedule, but ended up dumping this "trap game" in favor of a game with Appalachian State. That worked out real well for them, and probably made it that much harder for the Hawaiis and Boise States of the sport to get on any BCS school's schedule anytime even remotely soon.

But Ben, you can't really be suggesting Hawaii deserves to be named one of the top two teams in the country, can you?

Maybe not. But they're definitely the only undefeated "Bowl Subdivision" team, and definitely one of the top 8. Which is all I'm really asking for in a playoff. Not a huge 65-team field, 8 teams over three weekends. They deserve a shot, and this would be the way to get one.

But Ben, they're student athletes! You can't take them out of class for that long!

Bite me. It's two extra weeks for 2 teams and one extra week for 2 more. The kids that play for the big schools aren't real students. They were brought to those schools for football. If they get an education out of it, bonus, but it's not why they're really there. And the small schools that actually do have students that happen to play football? College is about experiences, and for those kids, there probably won't be a more educational experience than living through the media circus that would undoubtedly surround the championship game.

But Ben, this is the way it is and no amount of blogging from you or anyone else is going to change it. Deal with Ohio State or LSU being named national champion.

Yeah? Not if I refuse to acknowledge it and get enough people behind me. The precious BCS once did such a lousy job that national champion LSU was ignored while people claimed that non-championship game winner USC was proclaimed champion by the entire sports media. A playoff would have fixed that mess, by the way.

I do agree that no amount of blogging or bitching will change the BCS from what it is to something that works. So with that in mind, thanks for reading all of this. But it was for nothing. Just like everyone else's sports blog.