Friday, January 02, 2004

posted by James - 4:53 PM

I love the college football bowl season. It's the only time of year you can watch every major team in college football and quite a few of the minor ones within a span of a week... and, best of all, they're playing each other.

No matter what coast you live on, or which region you live in, they schedule these games so everyone can see them. No scheduling conflicts, no networks broadcasting just the biggest games - if your favorite team is playing or the game you're most interested in seeing is kicking off, you will be able to see it.

This doesn't mean that I'll sit down and watch every bowl game, and I'll probably watch even less with my beloved Washington Huskies staying home, but this means I won't be cursing ABC, CBS or ESPN for broadcasting some meaningless mid-season SEC game when my favorite team is on or some middle-of-the-road Pac-10 affair when a battle for BCS supremacy is going on.

These games have interest, intrigue and most have a healthy dose of controversy. And the best part is, we get to watch them all!

And when we talk about interest, intrigue and controversy, we must also talk about the BCS - the formula which determines the competitors for the national championship of the highest level of college football.

This season, USC and the AP writers have thrown a wrench into the best-laid BCS plans to crown a unified NCAA champion.

Even though USC finished the season as Pac-10 champion and ranked number one in both the AP poll and the USA Today/ESPN Coaches' Poll, they were left out of the title game in favor of BCS-No. 1 Oklahoma and BCS-No. 2 LSU. Those two teams will play on Sunday in the Sugar Bowl.

The Trojans have already played their bowl game, soundly defeating red-hot, Big-10 champion Michigan in what amounted to a home game at the Rose Bowl. In all likelihood, this paves the way for the AP writers to be meddlesome muckrakers and name USC as their national champion.

The coaches' poll has already tied their hands in this respect by promising their number one spot to the winner of the BCS championship game.

No one could successfully argue USC didn't deserve a spot in that game. They won their conference, they won their last eight regular season games including lopsided victories against Washington, No. 14 Washington State and Oregon State, and like Oklahoma and LSU they had only the one blemish on their record.

Oklahoma and LSU both boast similarly great seasons to USC's, the main difference being the BCS championship contenders both played in conference title games to finish their seasons - LSU beating No. 11 Georgia for the second time in 10 games with Oklahoma losing the Big 12 championship to No. 10 Kansas State.

USC didn't have to face the challenge of a title game, because the Pac-10 determines their champion by conference record alone. So even though their loss came to a considerably less profiled opponent in a considerably less meaningful game, USC ended the regular season No. 1 in both polls. The sole reason: their loss came first.

If USC's loss to California came at the end of the season or in a conference title game, we aren't talking about the Trojans right now. We aren't talking about how unworthy Oklahoma and LSU are. We aren't talking about how the BCS system doesn't work.

This makes me sound like I'm anti-USC, which isn't entirely true (I am a Huskies fan remember). I have reservations about Oklahoma not winning their conference, yet playing for a national title. I'm just a fan of the system in place.

I like how it takes into account more than the subjective opinion of a few writers and coaches, who are very capable of bias and non-chalance, among other defects.

Sure it probably needs tweaking on some mathematical level of which I want absolutely no knowledge, and maybe they should let the coaches pick from the top four BCS teams, but it doesn't need to be scrapped in favor of a playoff system.

A playoff system would denigrate the regular season and reduce great bowl games to mere stepping stones.

The BCS system already assures fans the best teams are playing in the best bowl games. Why should teams like Ohio State or Florida or Texas get another shot at it? They had a whole season to prove themselves and they proved themselves unworthy to be a national champion.

This way the regular season means something.

The bowl games still mean something.

And the system still means something.

And I like it that way.

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