Pop quiz: What makes every playoff proponent whinier than Mack Brown at a Ne-Yo concert?
Answer: The "de facto playoff" argument.
Last Saturday, with Florida and Alabama doing battle for an SEC crown and a BCS title game berth, it was difficult to watch more than five minutes of football without hearing about the "national semifinal" taking place in the Georgia Dome. Naturally, ESPN was more than happy to jump on the bandwagon in light of its $500 million deal to broadcast the BCS starting in 2011. CBS followed suit. Indeed, Saturday was a de facto holiday for the "de facto playoff" argument, and it was a slightly less logical development than National High Five Day.
The notion among BCS proponents is that college football's regular season is just like a double-elimination playoff. Lose once and you're against the wall; lose twice and you're toast. This system, the proponents say, is more grueling than the NFL's; a 12-week playoff in which every game counts is far more grueling than a setup that lets a team lose eight games and still have a fighting chance.
But the assertion that this was a "de facto semifinal" is flawed and implies that there was another semifinal being played somewhere else in the country. To my knowledge, there was not. It also implies that teams advance based on merit and not, you know, supercomputers running Einsteinian formulas.
In fact, the argument as a whole has some glaring issues. For starters, a real playoff is based on a "try out" or regular season, which ensures worthy teams are pitted against other worthy, championship-level opponents each step of the way. In other words, Alabama would never be playing Western Kentucky unless the Hilltoppers earned the right to play the Crimson Tide. Get it? As it stands now, college football is trying out and playing off at the same time.
Furthermore, with playoff-caliber schedules, a true tournament assumes that all losses are created equal. Losing early is no different than losing late. But that's not exactly the case, is it?
And finally, with a true playoff, the implication is two teams will be left standing in the end to play for a championship. This year, my friends, you could make a case for nine.
Yup, it's time we debunked this myth once and for all. This argument isn't a real argument at all. It's a crutch for the ignorant.
You know, in the wake of an embarrassing corruption scandal in the Midwest, it's also worth noting Ohio State managed to secure a multi-million dollar BCS bid despite falling short of its conference title and beating only one team currently ranked in the top 20. Just sayin'...
The bottom line: If Ohio State had the brand recognition of Northwestern or Minnesota, the Fiesta Bowl would be seeing a different pairing. There's just no way around it -- this decision was based solely on money. (Anyone who thinks otherwise should know I'm willing to spot the Buckeyes at least 14 points in a hefty, New Year's wager.)
A word to the wise: If you're debating taking that extra shot of Wild Turkey on New Year's Eve, you should definitely go for it. Aside from the fact that your friends will christen you as "effin' crazy" for actually drinking Wild Turkey, you'll be primed to fall asleep by 7:00 the following night and spare yourself the unbridled agony of the 2009 Orange Bowl.
Yes, for as exciting as "VIRGINIA TECH! CINCINNATI! ONLY ON FOX!" may sound, it's just a tad difficult to get psyched up for this game. Not sure why that is. Despite the fact that the game has both the ratings draw and Cinderella appeal of From Justin to Kelly, I'm just not feeling it. In fact, unless you're a staunch Hokie or Bearcat fan -- has there ever been a battle between two stranger mascots? -- there's a good chance this seems a lot like year 25 in your NCAA '09 franchise, when teams like North Texas and Bowling Green start breaking the top five and playing each other for the national championship.
Is there any sneakier ploy in college football than the one Hawaii football has managed by attending a Hawaii-based bowl game in 19 of the last 21 times it's gone to a bowl? I understand that Hawaii draws a hometown crowd, but that's almost 20 extra home games since 1936. How is this fair? Next to Keith Jackson's gift-laden "retirement tour" (wink, wink) of 1998, is there another more underrated scheme in the history of college football? Just wondering.
That aside, the suits behind the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl hit a homerun by not only inviting Notre Dame, but also convincing the Irish to accept! Apparently, the Irish are in a different spot these days than in 1996, when the administration treated an invite to a "lesser" bowl like banishment to the Land of Misfit Toys. Quite frankly, the present day Irish just need to find a game they can win.
1. More deserving Heisman winner: Bradford or Tebow?
2. More accurate Blackberry Storm quip: Better than iPhone or worse than iPhone?
3. Sneakier BCS underdog: Utah or Penn State?
4. More enchanting moon phase:Waxing crescent or waning gibbous?
5. Smarter Colt McCoy decision:Stay at Texas or go pro?
6. Better computer-enhanced vocalist:Britney Spears or Kanye West?
7. Likelier Turner Gill destination: Syracuse or Auburn?
8. Better late night food stop:Taco Bell or Wendy's?
9. Better cheerleading job:Male cheerleader or mascot?
10. Catchier fight song: Tennessee or Michigan?
Alabama fans did not take kindly to my assertion last week that their team had played a weak schedule and would lose to Florida in the SEC Championship game. Well, golly gee Wilikers, I hate to say I told you so, but ... yeah.
Below is my favorite e-mail of the week, from an individual named "Mad Hatter," who may or may not be the actual character from Alice in Wonderland. Regardless, the author was probably hopped up on the same stuff as Lewis Carroll when he sent this out:
Your obviously the biggest ******bag I have ever seen, and after this Saturday, don't blame me if I laugh at you with my ***. There is a reason you were 0-3 last week, and 10-11 on the season. I'm really curious to know if they pay you for writing. I really would like to make some extra money, and you can bet that I will be 10 times better than you. Moron!!!
You know, I could easily gloat about calling the Alabama loss or going 3-0 on my picks last week. But instead, I think I'll be a little more gracious. Yup, enjoy the Sugar Bowl.
Ty Hildenbrandt writes Quick Slants every week and is working on a permanent ban from the states of Georgia and Alabama. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out his podcast at SolidVerbal.com.