national championship.

Stuck Between a Crimson Tide Rock and an Irish Hard Place

Tonight is the BCS National Championship Game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.  I plan to watch the game, but I have absolutely no idea who I’m going to root for.  For me, it is a no-win, find the lesser of two evils proposition.  Consider:

A win by Alabama would be their third championship in four years, matching the run of dominance set by the Nebraska Cornhuskers from 1994 – 1997.  As a Nebraska alum and fan, I take great pride in that accomplishment, and I don’t want to see any other team match or exceed that feat.  In addition, I think I speak for all college football fans north of the Mason-Dixon when I say that the constant fawning over the almighty greatness of the Southeastern Conference.  It wouldn’t hurt my feelings at all to see the vaunted SEC knocked down a notch or two.

But on the other hand, there is Notre Dame.  To a lot of college football fans (myself included), Notre Dame is the team you love to hate; the team you always root against.  Think of the Duke Blue Devils in basketball, the New York Yankees in baseball, or the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL.  This is probably where I should provide a rational reason for disliking the Fighting Irish so much.  Maybe it is because of Lispy Lou Holtz.  Or the national infatuation with a program that hasn’t done much since the Reagan administration.  Or it could be any number of other reasons.  That’s the thing about disliking sports teams – it is rarely based in rational thought, and I’m not going to apologize for it.

So I must choose a side – especially since my preferred outcome (a hole opens up in the middle of the field, swallowing both teams) is unlikely to happen.  Therefore, I will grudgingly back Notre Dame*.  Maybe if I focus really hard I can convince myself that the Notre Dame fight song is meant for my high school, but it won’t be easy.

*That sound you heard was me throwing up in my mouth for having to type that. 

Why ND?  Because my loyalties to Nebraska trump everything else.  I don’t want a slime bag like Nick Saban to have the same bragging rights as the legendary Tom Osborne.  Nor do I want the sports media hype machine (beginning with the “worldwide leader”) proclaiming Alabama’s run as the greatest in modern history.

Especially since they would likely forget that Nebraska was a missed field goal away from a fourth title, and a flu outbreak/lucky 4th down call from playing for a fifth title.  In five years.



The BCS – How it should work

Even though it is practically guaranteed to go away, I still think College Football can survive (and even continue to thrive) without a playoff and with a system like the BCS determining who plays for the national championship.

You’ll notice I said “like the BCS” and not “using the BCS”.  As much of an anti-playoff guy as I am, I will freely admit that the BCS is a flawed creation.  Somewhere it was allowed to move away from the original focus (pitting #1 vs. #2 in a “true” National Championship game) to a controversial and convoluted system for determining which teams get to play in the four most prestigious bowl games (Rose, Orange, Sugar, Fiesta) along with the title game.  Add in the complex and ever-changing BCS formula, which seemed to encounter a bizarre one-off scenario every year, and you have a recipe for disgust and an easy target for fan (and media) outrage.

But it doesn’t have to be like that.  It is possible to determine a college football national champion fairly, without a 4, 8, or 16 team playoff that takes focus (and importance) away from the greatest – and most meaningful – regular season in sports.  All it would take is three simple steps:

The BCS Got It Right.

The BCS got it right.  Alabama should be playing for the National Championship.

I keep seeing people complaining about the LSU-Alabama matchup for the National Championship.  From what I can tell, their main complaints are 1) Bama already had a chance at LSU and lost, 2) the first game was an ugly and boring 9-6 game, 3) Oklahoma State is more deserving and 4) OSU would provide a better (i.e. more entertaining) game.  I disagree on all counts.

1.  Alabama already had a chance at LSU, and lost.  Therefore, they do not deserve another chance.

Frankly, this is the best point the anti-Bama crowd can make.  Alabama already lost to LSU this year – at home.  That fact is indisputable and it gives people a solid reason to deny Alabama a rematch.  Of course, doing so ignores the fact that no other team has been within 12 points of LSU – let alone taken them to overtime.  It also ignores the fact that if Bama had a kicker who could connect from beyond 40 yards (1 of 5 in the game) the argument would be which team is good enough to face #1 Alabama.

2.  The fans do not want a rematch of November’s boring 9-6 defensive struggle.

What is an exciting football game?  Exciting for most people is the season opening game between TCU and Baylor (a 50-48 Baylor win), that featured over 1,000 yards of offense, 5 touchdowns by a QB, and numerous big plays.  There is no way to spin it – the first go-round of LSU-Alabama was not what most people would call exciting.  But was the issue boring play, a lack of scoring, or did the weeks of pre-game hype (“Game of the Century”) set the expectations too high?  LSU and Alabama are evenly matched (as witnessed by the 3 point win in November) and I believe they offer the best chance for an epic title game.  Put it this way – if the first game had been a 38-35 thriller, would you still be opposed to a rematch?

3.  Oklahoma State is more deserving than Alabama.

This is a great example of using a vague term (“deserving”) to make an argument.  Yes, Okie State beat more ranked and bowl eligible teams that Alabama.  Yes, the computer rankings believe that the Big XII was a tougher conference than the vaunted SEC.  But Alabama’s sole loss was to the #1 team, by a field goal, in overtime.  Oklahoma State’s lone loss was to an Iowa State team who came into the game at 5-4, and finished up at a very pedestrian 6-6.  I understand that the OSU team was rocked by the tragic plane crash that took two of their women’s basketball coaches that day.  I also understand that Iowa State beat Northern Iowa (a FCS team) by 1 point.  Face it – if Okie State wins at Iowa State, they are in this game.  They had their chance to be undefeated and they blew it.  So now they have to be judged with all of the other 1-loss teams, and their loss is worse than Bama’s (and it is also worse than Boise State’s lone loss).

4.  Oklahoma State would provide a better (i.e. more entertaining) game than Alabama.

On paper, this one is dead wrong.  The basis for this argument is all about matching strength against strength:  Okie State’s high-powered offense against LSU’s amazing defense.  That would be fun to watch, but unfortunately, there is another match-up:  LSU’s offense against OSU’s defense.  LSU has an average offense (375 yards per game, 75th nationally), but Okie State has a putrid defense (445 yards per game, 107th nationally).  LSU would not have much trouble scoring 28 points against OSU’s defense, but I don’t think you would find many people who believe OSU could put up 28 on LSU’s defense.  Oklahoma State’s defensive weakness would be the key to another SEC title game blowout – and nobody wants to watch that.

You may have noticed that I’m ignoring the elephant that always comes into the room this time of year – the cries for a playoff in college football.  I’m planning to talk BCS vs. Playoffs in more detail this week, but there is something that I find interesting (and slightly hypocritical):  Many people hate the idea of a LSU-Alabama rematch as determined by the BCS.  Yet, I’m guessing that if LSU and Alabama made it through a 4, 8, or 16 team playoff to the championship game (as would be expected given their #1 and #2 seeds) nobody would have a problem with the rematch.

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This isn’t the first time I’ve discussed college football’s post-season….Read more about:

And feel free to let me know how right (or wrong) I am in the comments.

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