Archive for January, 2010

Time for a Plus-One in College Football?

January 9, 2010

by John Furgele

The BCS Championship Game was late in the fourth quarter with Alabama sitting on a 24-21 lead.  Even so, the game was void of any real drama.  Did anyone think that freshman backup QB Garrett Gilbert was going to take Texas down the field to a potential game tying field goal or perhaps the winning touchdown?

The BCS Championship Game’s lack of drama summed up how college football runs.  The path to the game is exciting and tension filled, but in the end, it is anti-climactic.  The last great title game was Texas overcoming USC in Pasadena in 2006 and that was still the Rose Bowl, before the addition of the official BCS Championship Game.

College football does NOT need a playoff and shouldn’t even think about one for the future.  College football is unique because they don’t have one and even though it sounds hypocritical, the football players don’t need to spend more time playing football.  These athletes begin practicing in early August and if their team is good, play into January.  That’s five months right there.  They will now take a few weeks off, then will begin lifting weights and doing the required offseason regimen.  In April, it’s two weeks of spring practice, so those who argue that football takes time away from the players are very accurate. 

But, the current BCS system has taken away all the drama that college football used to have.  Florida coach Urban Meyer said it best after the Gators pasted Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl when he said that “the BCS game has taken a lot away from the other very good bowl games like the Sugar Bowl.”

Meyer is right on here.  In the old days, all the major bowl games meant something.  Teams that played in the Rose, Sugar, Cotton/Fiesta and Orange Bowl knew that if they played well and things went their way that they might have a shot at being voted the national champion.  In 1978 (1977 season), Notre Dame came into their Cotton Bowl matchup with number one Texas ranked fifth.  They  clobbered the Longhorns, got some help and the next day were voted champions. 

The same thing happened in 1984 (1983 season).  The Miami Hurricanes came into their Orange Bowl game against number one Nebraska ranked fifth, but after winning 31-30 and getting some help, they became national champions.

Today, you don’t get that.  Everything rides on the BCS title game.  The Rose, Sugar, Orange and Fiesta are still good games between good teams, but they have become overshadowed by the one game.  I’m sure the executives of these bowl games don’t like it.  I’m sure they would like their bowl game to have some type of say, or impact on who gets voted the national champion of college football. 

A plus one system would make all the major bowl games relevant again.  The winners of the Fiesta, Orange, Sugar and Rose Bowl would have a chance to be selected to play in the BCS Championship Game the next week.  I have to believe that this would make the bowl organizers happier, but I could be wrong.  Might the Rose Bowl organizers be offended that their champion gets selected to play the following week and then loses?  Does winning a bowl game and then losing the next week diminish winning the bowl game?

Of course, you get this in all the other sports.  In football, you win the AFC Championship, but if you lose in the Super Bowl, does that take away from your AFC Championship Game victory? 

It probably does, but after the Super Bowl is played, teams can look back and say that yes, they had a pretty damn good season and just because they lost in the Super Bowl doesn’t mean they’re losers. 

Forget about a playoff system.  The colleges are not going to throw away the millions they receive from the bowl games that are currently in place and yes, there is some good in seeing a downtrodden SMU go to the Hawaii Bowl and win it to cap off a rewarding 8-5 season. 

A plus one would put some sizzle back into New Year’s Day and January 2.  This year would have been great for that.  Play two BCS bowl games on January 1, and play the next two the next day.  Then, on January 7 or 8, play the BCS Championship Game.  It would create sizzle and because college football is more beauty contest than cold and hard, some controversy as well. 

Based on this year’s bowl matchups, the four winners were Alabama, Ohio State, Florida, Iowa and Boise State.  And, based on the results, it would be Boise State versus Alabama for the BCS title.  Florida is probably better than Boise State, but Florida had their shot at a national title, but was drubbed by Alabama in the SEC title game.  But, Florida knocked Cincinnati out in the Sugar Bowl, while Boise State knocked out Texas Christian and earned their spot. 

Ohio State and Iowa would be out because each school had two losses and in Iowa’s case, they were the Big Ten runner-up.  The only negative of the plus-one system was mentioned above.  Does having a game the week after the bowl games make the bowl game win a bit hollow? 

The answer is probably yes and that will be the biggest hurdle to implementing the plus one.  The Rose Bowl will probably hold out.  They will argue that their game is the ultimate and most prestigious game and that “we cannot allow our champion to tarnish its great Rose Bowl victory by playing the following week,” even it is for a national title. 

Still, it would be nice because college football is a fantastic sport.  It is more compelling than the NFL, but it lacks the great finishing kick that the NFL has.  A playoff is not necessary, but a plus one would help the sport’s finishing kick without rupturing the current bowl system. 

I won’t hold my breath, but I’m hoping.


Bowl System Fine With Me

January 2, 2010

by John Furgele

Happy New Year to all, may 2010 be a prosperous one.  And, like most January 1s, there was a lot of football to watch and digest.  And, unlike most, I like the college system the way it is.  While most clamor for some type of playoff system to determine a national champion, I am not one of those “guys.”  Would I enjoy an 8, 12 or 16 team playoff?  Yes.  Do I need a playoff to quell me?  No.

As we know, American sports are fascinated by the playoffs to the point where regular seasons are considered boring fodder.  In the NBA, we already know that either the Celtics, Cavaliers, Lakers or Spurs will win the finals, but we have to put up with an 82 game season that features the always bad LA Clippers and the woeful New Jersey Nets. 

The same goes for the NHL.  It is a long season, a season that can be revived but not saved by the annual Winter Classic.  In a month, the NHL will take a break as some of its players head to Vancouver for the Olympic Winter Games.  Is that a pleasant diversion or another exampleof dragging out the season? 

College basketball hasn’t even started conference play and already, most have lost interest and will simply wait for the NCAA Tournament to commence.  Is that a good thing?  I think not.

College football has always been unique.  Rather than select teams for a playoff, they allow more than half of them to play in bowl games.  And, I for one, don’t mind.  I don’t see anything wrong with picking two teams, bringing them to a city where they are shown a good time, given some nice gifts and then they play a football game against a like opponent.  And, some of the smaller bowl games provide the best drama.  Idaho beating Bowling Green 43-42 in the Humanitarian Bowl is the classic example. 

Yesterday’s Outback Bowl showed the good side of the current bowl system.  You had two teams in 8-4 Northwestern and 7-5 Auburn.  Both teams had something to prove.  Auburn wanted to right themselves after a good start and Northwestern wanted to win a bowl game for the first time since 1949.  The result was a 38-35 overtime shootout win for Auburn.

As much as a playoff system would highlight the game and please the fans, it would ruin all the other bowl games.  The Gator Bowls, Capital One Bowls and Liberty Bowls would become NIT like, or worse, would be eliminated altogether. 

College sports confuse me anyway.  I still don’t understand how playoffs fit into the college experience.  Do they really need to determine a field hockey, soccer or cross country champion?  Is it necessary to transport these teams to obscure locations to determine a national champion?  And, while having Fresno State travel to Louisiana Tech for a WAC football game is a necessary evil, is it necessary for the soccer team to do the same?

Why can’t college sports be more regional?  Have the teams play colleges within a four or six hour drive and after a 12 to 20 game schedule, call it a day and go back to being students.  Does the NCAA soccer season have to start in August and run through the third Sunday in December? 

I still think the Ivy League way is the way to go for football and all sports.  Each Ivy team plays seven conference games and three nonconference games for a total of ten.  After the ten games, the season is over.  The team with the best conference record is crowned the champion.  If more than one team has the same conference record, then multiple champions are crowned and that is it.  No postseason and every kid gets to go home for Thanksgiving dinner with his family. 

The bowl system allows for more rewards.  Now, Florida can shake off a disappointing SEC Championship Game loss to Alabama by pounding Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl.  I’m not sure how excited they were, but the Gators did get the chance to end on a fresh note.  The same goes for Ohio State.  All the Buckeyes do is play in BCS bowl games and three times, BCS Championship Games (winning once), but because they have come up short in recent years, they get ripped.  Yesterday’s 26-17 Rose Bowl win over Oregon had to feel good.  And, that is what I like about college football, the chance that they can 34 emotions.  With a playoff system, only one team can be happy, and furthermore, the teams that don’t get into the playoffs will be angry. 

Personally, I like the old system better.  I liked the fact that on New Year’s Day, you really didn’t know who was going to win the AP or Coaches titles.  There were times where the number 5 ranked team, because of events, ended up being number one on January 2.  You don’t get that now.  Now, the winner of the BCS title game is number one, rendering the rest of the BCS bowls meaningless.  I’m not sure if that’s the way it was intended.  But, that doesn’t mean that Orange Bowl, a matchup between 10-2 Iowa and 11-2 Georgia Tech won’t be a fascinating one.  I’ll be watching and based on recent TV ratings, so will you. 

Peace to all.