In the 13 years of the BCS, there have been only five occasions when we were reasonably certain the correct two teams played in the championship game. This isn't shaping up to be the sixth.
There were controversies that were unavoidable (USC, Oklahoma and Auburn all going undefeated in 2004), unacceptable (Nebraska getting in after losing its last game of the 2001 season 62-36), unexplainable (Florida State getting in a year earlier despite losing to No. 3 Miami, which itself lost to No. 4 Washington) and uncomfortable (the three-way, Big 12 South puzzle of 2008).
This year looks like it's shaping up to be a mix of both unavoidable and uncomfortable.
The BCS commissioners considered adding just such a clause after the aforementioned 2001 Nebraska situation. They didn't, in part because not all conferences determine their champions the same way (some have title games, some don't), but also because they didn't want to rule out the very plausible possibility that the best two teams in a given year might play in the same conference. I've felt that way about LSU and Alabama
However, as I've said many times, there's a difference between "best" and "most deserving." No one could argue that LSU, probably even at 12-1, would be one of the two most deserving. But is Alabama the other? Before last weekend I felt fairly certain someone else would assume that title, even writing
Outside of the SEC Three, the only other legitimate contender remains Oklahoma State, which will move back up to No. 3 next week if LSU beats No. 3 Arkansas. (The lesson here: If you're going to lose, lose the same week everyone else does.) The computers love the Cowboys, ranking them second behind LSU. Their resume (provided they beat Oklahoma) will not include a win over a team ranked as highly as Arkansas, but will include more wins over current BCS Top 25 teams (four) than Alabama (three).
Yet as much as the public may loathe the idea of a championship game rematch or a team reaching the game without winning its conference, at some point common sense comes into play. I've defended Oklahoma State's defense in the past, but c'mon -- it's not remotely the same caliber as Alabama's. If Iowa State can run right over the Cowboys, as it did in overtime last week, imagine what the Tide's or Tigers' running backs would do. I find a hard time believing the voters will elevate Oklahoma State with the image of Brandon Weeden throwing that dagger pick so fresh in their minds, but let's see what happens if Oklahoma State throttles Oklahoma. It could make for a heated -- and uncomfortable -- 11th-hour debate.
It sure looks that way. But as you know, Meyer has a thing for changing his mind, sometimes more than once. I'd wait for the actual news conference to be sure (and even then maybe wait a few days).
As I wrote about
As for "duplicating his results" from Florida -- that raises an interesting question. No one would dispute Meyer is an excellent coach, having won big at three different schools and capturing two national championships. He'll win Big Ten titles. But with both his and Ohio State's histories, the expectation for Meyer will be national titles. He's therefore the perfect guy to test the growing sentiment that Midwest teams can no longer keep up with their warm-weather counterparts. I'm sure Meyer's connections will help lure some Florida recruits north, but for the most part, his core will still be Ohio kids. Are there enough elite athletes in that state for him to run his preferred style of offense, which is so reliant on speedy skill players? Can he produce a stacked defensive line like the ones he had at Florida? If nothing else, it will be a marked departure from Tresselball.
It doesn't happen often, but interestingly, the last two times it did were also the last two times LSU won a BCS championship (2003 and '07). Like this team, those were built around dominant defenses, not flashy offenses. All had mostly game-managers at quarterback and tailbacks by committee, and those are virtually the only positions that win Heismans. The voters showed two years ago they're capable of taking seriously an otherworldly defensive player like Ndamukong Suh, who finished fourth, and Tyrann Mathieu seemed to be getting serious buzz early this season before his suspension and before it became apparent that Morris Claiborne, not Mathieu, is LSU's best cornerback. Perhaps Claiborne could make an 11th-hour Charles Woodson push with some game-changing interceptions against Arkansas and/or Georgia, but as quarterbacks continue to get more accurate and pass more often, it's becoming harder for guys at any other position to win the thing.
No disrespect to the three finalists -- but that's absolute blasphemy. I propose we Occupy the Ray Guy Award Ceremony.
You may think I just cherry-picked two e-mails that happen to be particularly flattering of me, but I assure you, that's not the case. The new Mandel Plan was a smashing hit with most readers, much to my delight, reinforcing my belief that the Mailbag draws the smartest audience in college football.
Just giving equal time to the dissenting viewpoint.
It's an excellent point. I wrote
There are other factors beyond recruiting. Kickers get almost no individual coaching once they get to campus. Go to a typical football practice and you'll see the kickers and punters practicing by themselves on a side field while the rest of the team goes through drills. About the only thing they can do is get experience, and sometimes that's hard to come by. Oregon, by nature of its explosive offense, doesn't kick a whole lot of field goals. Alejandro Maldonado, the Ducks sophomore who attempted the ill-fated, last-second 37-yarder against USC, had 10 career attempts going in. Maldonado was rated the 24th-best kicker in the country two years ago by Rivals.com. Maybe Chip Kelly could have signed one less track-speed running back and gone harder after No. 23.
There's no reason whatsoever for Penn State to ban itself from a bowl game, first and foremost because this scandal has nothing to do with on-field football. There are going to be ample penalties issued to parties accused of wrongdoing, but they're going to be issued by judges, the federal government, and a former FBI director, among others. Where applicable, they're going to involve far more serious penalties (like jail time) than an NCAA bowl ban.
I read Mark Emmert's tersely worded
Wow, that changed in a hurry. All I heard for nine months was how Fisher was the savior. In the meantime, I'll add Florida State to the list of schools someone has connected Leach to, which, at this point, is around 105.
I know Bob would love to have Mike back, but he's also got tremendous loyalty to Brent Venables, who's been on his staff since Day 1. Perhaps in Bob's ideal world, Venables would finally get a head coaching gig this offseason and he could bring back Mike as a replacement (assuming OU can afford him). But I can't see him pushing out Venables to bring in his brother. He has too much respect for Venables, and frankly so do I. While I don't disagree that Stoops has largely failed to return to the level of defensive dominance he enjoyed under Mike, I'm not sure that's even possible in today's Big 12.
Ironically, it was Stoops' first Mike Leach-coordinated offense in 1999 that helped bring about the conference's current identity, which can best be described as a week-in, week-out video game. One week you're facing Robert Griffin III, the next week Brandon Weeden, the next Seth Doege. Four of the top eight leaders in pass attempts -- Doege, Weeden, Landry Jones and Ryan Tannehill -- reside in the Big 12. OU has plenty of talent on defense and in fact ranks second in the league in total defense, yet that's good for only 62nd nationally. Even the best defense is going to give up a ton of yards facing those offenses every week. But OU plays the same wide-open, up-tempo style as those other teams, and it's hard to win a shootout week after week. You need a defense that simply doesn't give up big plays, and there's only a few of those in the entire country.
Never. Andy Staples would never let me get away with it. But if you find yourself with an abundance of free time this holiday weekend, use your cable's on-demand system to catch up on
Have a great holiday, everybody.