IT IS only good
manners, before we take a hydraulic jackhammer to this FUBAR Bowl Championship
Series, to congratulate its biggest beneficiaries. Felicitations, Ohio State,
for having the good sense to be idle last weekend, while No. 1 Missouri and No.
2 West Virginia were pratfalling their way out of the national title game.
Don't take it personally, Buckeyes, if the rest of the country doesn't share
your joy. People remember what happened last year when you made it to the game
known as the 'Ship (Florida 41, OSU 14). ¶ And hats off to you, LSU, for
retaining the Hat—coach Les Miles, he of the surgically attached Tigers ball
cap. Miles looked to be Ann Arbor--bound until he declared two hours before the
SEC title game in Atlanta that he wasn't going anywhere, then knocked off
Tennessee 21--14. That win, coupled with the dual swoons of Mizzou and the
Mountaineers, launched LSU's Bob Beamonesque leap from No. 7 to 1500 Poydras
Street, a.k.a. the New Orleans Superdome.
Be patient, BCS
loyalists counseled over the latter half of the season. This will all sort
itself out. Instead, with the top two teams taking the pipe for the second
straight week, the national championship picture took on all the clarity of an
Etch A Sketch artist gone mad. Lining up for the coveted No. 2 slot, and the
right to face the Buckeyes, were no fewer than seven squads with bona fide
arguments. LSU, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech had just won their conference
championship games. Georgia and USC are on fire. Kansas has but a single
defeat, Hawaii none at all. The truth is, the 60 coaches in the USA Today poll
and the 114 Harris poll voters, who slotted LSU into the title game (with help
from the system's six computers), were all asked to do the same thing: take a
wild guess. Right now, no one has the first clue as to who the two most
deserving teams are.
There is only one
way to find out, and it involves brackets—either a 16-team playoff (not going
to happen) or a "plus-one," in which the top four teams in the BCS
would square off in semifinal games, and then the title game, or
"plus-one," would kick off a week later. (Because of TV contracts, that
probably won't happen before 2011.)
inception in 1998, the BCS has delivered plenty of unfulfilling resolutions.
But no season in its 10-year history has cried out so desperately for a
playoff. SI's modest postseason proposal features an eight-team field (chart,
page 62) and is a compromise between a four-team plus-one, which doesn't go far
enough, and a 16-team bracket that would be too taxing—not on the athletes but,
rather, on the hearts of purists who contend that a playoff will sap the
vitality from the regular season. The field would be determined using the final
BCS rankings. The top four seeds would host first-round games. Three of the
four BCS bowls would host the semifinals and the title game, and first-round
losers would be slotted into other bowls. Now let's explain why, despite
widespread appeal among fans, a playoff won't be coming to college football
How fitting that
in the final game of the Season of the Upset, the Bayou Bengals will be ranked
No. 2 yet favored over the Buckeyes. Pittsburgh's mind-boggling 13--9 win in
Morgantown marked the sixth time in 2007 that a No. 2 team had gone down and
the 13th time a top five team had been dumped by an unranked foe. True, West
Virginia's star quarterback, Pat White, missed much of the game with a
dislocated right thumb. But then, LSU survived the Vols with backup Ryan
Perrilloux. The Tigers beat six top 20 schools, including defending national
champion Florida; ACC champ Virginia Tech, 48--7; and SEC East champ
Tennessee—which hammered Georgia by three touchdowns. For those reasons, and
because both of the Tigers' losses came in triple overtime, voters saw fit to
leapfrog them over the Bulldogs, Jayhawks and Hokies.
Tigers (a.k.a. the Vest versus the Hat) is the title game we thought we were
going to get three weeks ago, before the season went wildly off the rails. It
promises to be a chess match between native Ohioans. Miles grew up in Elyria,
23 miles west of Berea, where Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel went to high school.
What this Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game won't be, the
redundancy in its title notwithstanding, is a true championship.
coordinator Mike Slive told SI last week, the university presidents he serves
"remain interested in continuing to explore" the idea of a plus-one.
Translation: They are keeping an open mind about the possibility of someday,
years hence, opening their minds. Hopefully, this season's train wreck will
light a fire under their backsides.
A plus-one is
being considered, Slive goes on, only because it fulfills three criteria:
First, it won't devalue the regular season. Also, it won't damage the current
bowl system—heaven forbid any harm befall, for instance, the Poinsettia, New
Mexico or Motor City bowls! Finally, says Slive, a plus-one "keeps
[football] a one-semester sport. There is a point where it needs to come to an
these criteria in more detail:
1. The sanctity of
the regular season. This concern for what is, we agree, the most urgent,
impassioned, meaningful regular season in sports, loses something when it is
put forward by people from conferences (ACC, Big 12, SEC) that have already
devalued their regular season by tacking a title game to the end of it for the
sole purpose of creating a fat payday.