by John Furgele
On August 30, the most exciting regular season in sports kicked off. Now, three plus months later, it is bowl season. Before we get going, let’s remind everybody of one thing: there will not be a playoff for a very long time. One of these days, those who love and cover college football will stop wasting their breath. And, as ESPN’s Rece Davis smartly pointed out on their bowl preview show, a playoff will cause just as many headaches as it will solve. Davis cited the famous quote by former Florida State linebacker Derrick Brooks, “what are (BCS/NCAA) the players going to get out of this.”
Reminder number two is to refrain from calling the BCS Championship Game a “national championship game,” because when you have two undefeated teams in Boise State and Utah, and six one loss teams (Penn State, Florida, Alabama, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, USC), there is no possible way you can choose two and say that they are playing for a “national championship.” The BCS has a process and out of that process they came up with Florida and Oklahoma as the two teams that should play for their BCS championship. To me, there is a big distinction between the two. If Florida or Oklahoma win and Texas and USC win, they have every right to call themselves the best team in the country. But, rather than get hung up on titles, I choose to look at the BCS Championship Game as just another bowl game. Now, that we have gotten that out of the way, let’s see what we have.
1) The Big East Gets No Love: Every year, the Big East is required to prove itself in their BCS bowl games and the last three years, they have done so, but this year Cincinnati at 11-2 will be heavily favored against ACC survivor Virginia Tech, which is only 9-4. If the BCS people were really clever, they would have pitted Cincinnati against the in-state team that really would not want to play them; Ohio State.
2) The Sugar Bowl is a Nice Game: Alabama proved itself a good football team against Florida. There is no doubt that Nick Saban is going to contend year in and year out for conference and BCS titles. Utah is 12-0 and unlike their last foray into the BCS when they beat a lifeless Pittsburgh Panther team, the Utes will get a chance to really prove that they’re for real, and perhaps prove that they belong in the Pac 10 down the road. I have to think that the Pac 10 wants in on a conference championship game, but they need two more schools. Utah is certainly a big enough institution for membership. The question is who is another one?
3) The Poinsettia Bowl is Tremendous: This bowl game got it right when they selected undefeated Boise State and 10-2 Texas Christian. The Horned Frogs lost a close one to Utah and also lost to Oklahoma, now they get a chance to knock off the Broncos. It’s also a great game for Boise State because though unbeaten, they will likely be underdogs and that should make up for any anger at being left out of a BCS bowl.
4) Best of the Rest: The Cotton Bowl game between Texas Tech and Mississippi is a dandy as is the Holiday Bowl with Oregon and Oklahoma State. Other good ones include the Sun (Pittsburgh-Oregon State); Capital One (Michigan State-Georgia, who both finished with bad losses); and of course the Rose Bowl with Penn State-USC. There are plenty of solid matchups, which will preview in another column.
5) The Duds: Any game with a 6-6 team is a bad one. East Carolina wins the CUSA title and who do they get—6-6 Kentucky. Notre Dame, which had three first downs against USC, a week after losing at home to Syracuse gets to got to the Hawaii Bowl to play Hawaii. The Independence Bowl might be thinking of cancelling for 2008 after getting the highly anticipated Northern Illinois-Louisiana Tech matchup. And, though the MAC is a nice little conference, do they really deserve five bowl games? Florida Atlantic also gets to play in the Motor City Bowl at 6-6.
Overall, I love the bowls, because for me, they are as much a part of the hoildays as Santa, Dick Clark, mistletoe, batteries and everything else that says “Holidaze.” But, we have to be honest, they are too many bowl games. They are 120 Division 1 schools (even the pundits always say 119, they forget that Western Kentucky is 1-A), I’m not sure we need 68 out of 120 to play in what college football calls the postseason. Several conferences, like the Big Ten and Big 12 could not fill up all of their allotted bowl slots, hence the Florida Atlantics get a shot. I’m not sure what an ideal number would be, but I would start with 26 and see where that goes. A team that goes bowling at 6-6, then loses their bowl game ends up 6-7. How does that sell to a potential recruit. “Son, we went to the Music City Bowl, the third straight trip to a bowl game.” The recruit than says, “Sure coach, but you were a sub-.500 team, I don’t really know why you’re so proud.”
That said, there are 34 bowl games and we will not ignore any of them, because maybe there’s a 6-6 team that might play the most exciting game of them all.