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03 Dec 2009

SDA: Championship Week Finally Arrives

by Bill Connelly, Brian Fremeau, and Rob Weintraub

After a rather disappointing college football season, fate has presented us with one hellacious regular season finale. Not only do we get the typical five conference title games (SEC, Big 12, ACC, MAC, Conference USA), but we also get two de facto conference title games -- Oregon State and Oregon meet tonight in Eugene to determine the Pac-10 champion, and Cincinnati and Pittsburgh face off Saturday in Pittsburgh to determine your Big East winner. TCU fans are rooting for Nebraska, Boise State fans are rooting for Texas and Cincinnati, and college football fans get the opportunity to forget about the season's disappointments and bask in the glow of conference title goodness and, of course, the Shula Bowl.

This Week's Games

(Teams are listed according to BCS rankings.)

Pac-10 Championship: No. 16 Oregon State (+10) at No. 7 Oregon (Thursday, 9:00 p.m. EST, ESPN)

While the Pac-10 may not have the talent of the SEC or Big 12 (or, who knows, maybe they do?), the conference has offered something others have not: legitimate, on-the-field drama that is not in any way related to officials or injuries. Thanks to whippings at the hands of Oregon and Stanford, USC has officially been dethroned for the first time since roughly the Carter Administration, and in their stead we have seen a handful of teams jockeying for the title. We have already seen a dramatic elimination battle between Oregon and Arizona, and now we get the first ever winner-take-all Civil War -- a battle that was intense even when both teams were less than solid (Oregon fans were even giddy when their 1-8-1 Ducks beat the 1-8-1 Beavers, 7-6, in their epic 1982 battle). It could be a shootout. Last year's battle (a 65-38 Ducks win) saw 103 points and 1,157 yards, and Oregon State was playing without either of the Rodgers brothers, James and Jacquizz. With both offenses at full strength, look out. The game might last six hours, but you won't want to miss a minute of it.

The Picks -- Rob: Oregon St. | FEI: Oregon St. | S&P+: Oregon

MAC Championship: Ohio (+13) vs. Central Michigan (Friday, 8:00 p.m. EST, ESPN2)

The Ohio Bobcats haven't registered in the national consciousness lately, but they do return to the MAC championship game as East champs, the only team from their division to get there twice in the last five seasons. Quarterback Theo Scott single-handedly crushed Temple's worst-to-first dreams last weekend, throwing for 324 yards and three scores and chipping in 69 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Those are everyday stats for Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour, making his third MAC Championship start and capping an extraordinarily prolific career -- 145 career touchdowns (99 passing, 46 rushing), the most ever in NCAA history. MAC teams haven't garnered much mid-major attention, but both the Bobcats and Chippewas played valiantly against decent BCS conference teams in 2009 -- Ohio lost close games to Tennessee and Connecticut, and CMU beat Michigan State but lost to Arizona and Boston College.

The Picks -- Rob: CMU | FEI: Ohio | S&P+: Ohio

No. 23 West Virginia (+1) at Rutgers (Saturday, 12:00 p.m. EST, ESPN)

As opposed to the de facto Big East championship game in Pittsburgh, there isn't a tremendous amount of intrigue here. But with a victory and a Pitt loss, West Virginia can sneak into the No. 2 spot and a Gator Bowl berth. The Mountaineers defense rose up against the Panthers last weekend, holding Pitt to 2-of-13 third-down conversions, and Noel Devine streaked for an 88-yard touchdown to spark the offense. Rutgers senior stand-out wide receiver Tim Brown (20.7 yards per catch, 8 touchdowns) hasn't ever really got it going in games against the Mountaineers, but he will need to Saturday if Rutgers wants to end its 15-game losing streak to West Virginia. The Scarlet Knights rank first nationally in both turnover margin and field position advantage (FPA) -- Rutgers has started 22 drives this year in opponent territory but has only faced four such drives defensively.

The Picks -- Rob: West Virginia | FEI: West Virginia* | S&P+: West Virginia*

Big East Championship: No. 5 Cincinnati (-2) at No. 15 Pittsburgh (Saturday, 12:00 p.m. EST, ABC)

Cincinnati storms into Pittsburgh amidst a swirling cloud of intrigue and possibility. Is Brian Kelly coaching with one foot out the door and a U-Haul truck destined for South Bend idling in his driveway? If Texas stumbles, might the Bearcats actually be in position to claim a spot in the BCS championship game? Cincinnati under Kelly has climbed to new heights in every season since his hire, and this year's undefeated campaign is as remarkable as any. Kelly replaced 10 defensive starters and dealt with the temporary loss of once-Heisman-hopeful quarterback Tony Pike midseason without skipping a beat. Bearcats' receiver Mardy Gilyard has been turning it on in both the passing and kicking games lately, chipping in three touchdowns in the win over Illinois. Pitt had dreams of bigger things before dropping the Backyard Brawl but can still snatch the conference's BCS berth from Cincinnati's grip this weekend. Watch for receiver Jonathan Baldwin (six 100-plus-yard receiving games) to attack the Bearcats' suspect secondary.

The Picks -- Rob: Cincinnati | FEI: Cincinnati | S&P+: Pittsburgh

Conference USA Championship: No. 21 Houston (-2.5) vs. East Carolina (Saturday, 12:00 p.m. EST, ESPN2)

Skip Holtz and the Pirates went into Tulsa and stole the Conference USA Championship last season, and they look to make it two in a row at home against Houston. ECU has very quietly built what may be the next breakthrough mid-major program because they've done it without much star power or flash. The Pirates rank in the bottom half of all FBS teams in total offense and total defense, but they keep themselves in position to win every week. They suffered competitive losses to Virginia Tech, West Virginia, and North Carolina this season. Houston had the best non-conference season of all non-BCS teams, dropping Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Mississippi State. Unfocused losses to UTEP and Central Florida doomed what might have been a BCS bowl game run. When they've clicked in conference play, it's been nothing short of jaw-dropping. Witness the 73-14 beatdown of Rice last weekend, a game in which quarterback Case Keenum threw for 320 yards in a 59-0 first half.

The Picks -- Rob: Houston | FEI: Houston | S&P+: Houston

Arizona (+7) at No. 18 USC (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. EST, ABC)

Doesn't it seem odd that these teams are playing a week after their bitter intrastate rivalry games? USC flexed some beer muscles with a rub-it-in touchdown bomb to humiliate the Bruins. A loss to Arizona in the desert would make a lot of people, and not just Rick Neuheisel, smile. USC could finish second in the Pac-10 and clinch a Holiday Bowl berth with a win and an Oregon win -- or it could tumble all the way to sixth with a loss. The Wildcats are still reveling in "The Muff," a dropped punt by Arizona State's Kyle Williams that allowed Arizona to kick the winning field goal last weekend. It was a tough win, however -- quarterback Nick Foles broke his non-throwing hand, and running back Nic Grigsby was reinjured and lost for the season. This is a more even matchup than one would first suspect, but USC's slightly better defense gives the Trojans the edge.

The Picks -- Rob: USC | FEI: Arizona | S&P+: Arizona

SEC Championship: No. 1 Florida (-5.5) vs. No. 2 Alabama (Saturday, 4:00 p.m. EST, CBS)

We've all been waiting with bated breath for this matchup since the season opener, also played in the Georgia Dome, when Alabama took care of Virginia Tech, proving the Tide was once again of championship caliber. Now, the showdown for a berth in the BCS title game. The Gators won last season in this fixture without wide receiver Percy Harvin. This year's missing star is defensive end Carlos Dunlap, a terror off the edge, who was charged with DUI after taking a nap behind the wheel. Dunlap's absence hinders but hardly breaks one of the two best defenses in the country. Snag is, the other top defense will be across the field. In 2008, the slight difference between the two teams was Tim Tebow -- he will be the difference once again.

The Picks -- Rob: Alabama | FEI: Alabama | S&P+: Florida

Florida Atlantic (+1.5) at Florida International (Saturday, 7:00 p.m. EST, ESPN360)

Why this game? Why not??

To steal a bit from Bill Simmons ... Van Camp! Hilton! It's the Sun Belt Conference on ESPN360!! You can throw out the records when Inter Florida and AC Florida battle, and thank goodness for that -- the teams have combined for a 7-15 record. The 4-7 Owls of Florida Atlantic have taken a step backward after bowl wins in 2007 and 2008, but they have fared well recently in The Shula Bowl, winning six of seven in the series (the lone loss: an inexplicable 52-6 implosion in 2005). Junior quarterback Jeff Van Camp has done well in taking over for the injured Rusty Smith, and offense certainly won't be much of a problem for the Fightin' Howard Schnellenbergers. Meanwhile, the 3-8 Golden Panthers of Florida International (if nothing else, you can say you learned a couple of team nicknames in today's SDA), known mostly for a certain brawl and losing streak, showed improvement in 2008 (they finished 5-7), and though their overall record has regressed, a win Saturday would give them a 4-4 conference record and further momentum. Panthers receiver T.Y. Hilton likely has the most star power on the field, though his numbers (54 catches, 604 yards) have only been good, not great, in 2009.

The Picks -- Rob: FIU | FEI: FIU | S&P+: FAU

Big 12 Championship: No. 3 Texas (-13.5) vs. No. 22 Nebraska (Saturday, 8:00 p.m. EST, ABC)

This has to be the best week James Brown (this one, not that one ... or that one) has had in quite a while, what with all the references to the 1996 Big 12 title game. The narrative has been making the rounds all week: Is this where Nebraska gets revenge on Texas for '96, when an underdog Texas squad upset a Nebraska team that seemed destined for the national title game? Do the Cornhuskers have enough offense to turn the tables 13 years later? Probably not. The Longhorns' defense may have struggled against their rivals in College Station last week, but Nebraska does not have the skill-position speed that Texas A&M has. That said, if the Huskers win the turnover and special teams battles, they will give themselves a chance. Of Texas' opponents, only Oklahoma has a defensive line comparable to Nebraska's, and the Sooners held Texas in check offensively. If defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (in his last opportunity to steal some Heisman votes here and there) wreaks havoc, this could be a game. And if Nebraska faces a fourth-and-short while nursing a late lead, watch the play fake.

The Picks -- Rob: Texas* | FEI: Texas | S&P+: Nebraska

ACC Championship: No. 10 Georgia Tech (-1) vs. Clemson (Saturday, 8:00 p.m. EST, ESPN)

A week ago, this game had the makings of becoming the first memorable ACC Championship game. But after both Tech and Clemson were whacked by mediocre SEC rivals Saturday, major luster has worn off this one. The Jackets knocked off Clemson in Atlanta earlier this year, blowing a big lead but kicking a late field goal to win a thriller. The chances for another close one depend on the health of running back C.J. Spiller. The Heisman candidate was sick before the game, although he looked fit on the game-opening kickoff return, which he brought to the house. If Spiller is over the stomach flu, the Tigers should match Tech score for score. Without Spiller at 100 percent, holding serve will be tough. Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt, also critical to his team's fortune, is dinged up (ankle sprain) as well.

The Picks -- Rob: Georgia Tech | FEI: Georgia Tech | S&P+: Clemson

Storylines of the Week

Rob Weintraub: The college football season has been a disappointment. Yeah, I said it. But that was the regular season. Now that we are in the "postseason," the season can be salvaged with some good "playoff" games, starting with the national semifinal in Atlanta between Florida and Alabama. Last year's epic did much to carry fans through the long spring and summer months. After the blah fall, the Meyerites and Sabanistas are under pressure to provide us fans with a memorable thriller that will help sustain us and cast aside the mediocre last three months.

Brian Fremeau: Bill did a great job breaking down defensive keys to the game of the week/month/year in yesterday's ESPN piece. I'll only piggyback on his last key regarding field position in the SEC championship game. As Bill mentioned, both teams have strong FPA ratings in 2009, with Florida holding the modest edge. As Urban Meyer preaches, the Gators are at their throat-chomping best when they flip turnovers and the like in their favor. But I think Florida also knows how to win when they find themselves at a field position disadvantage better than most. They had a severe field position deficit against Oklahoma in the BCS championship last year and still managed to shut down one of the most prolific offenses in memory. Alabama rarely throttles anyone and only barely escaped Tennessee this season in their worst field position game of the year. It's the biggest part of the game that rarely gets discussed by the guys in the booth, and it's what I'll be paying attention to most during this and the other big games this weekend.

Bill Connelly: How interesting is it that Gary Patterson, the person one would assume is the single biggest playoff proponent right about now, came out this week against the idea of a college football playoff? His logic is decent ("If you have a playoff, you practice and get on a plane and play. And if you lose, it's over. If you go to a bowl game, you're there seven days and the kids can enjoy a place and get rewarded."), though I should mention that my Perfect Playoff would give teams the benefit of both playoffs and bowls. That said, it certainly does show you that the case for a playoff is not quite as clear and accepted as we might have begun to think. We knew that university higher-ups and bowl officials (and the purveyors of this amazing Web site) love the current system, but the support goes beyond that, to the people who would seemingly stand to benefit from a change to the system, and I find that rather interesting.

The Picks
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
Visitor Spread Home Rob FEI S&P+
Oregon State +10 Oregon OSU OSU Oregon
Ohio +13 Central Michigan CMU Ohio Ohio
West Virginia +1 Rutgers WVU WVU* WVU*
Cincinnati -2 Pittsburgh Cincy Cincy Pittsburgh
Houston -2.5 East Carolina Houston Houston Houston
Arizona +7 USC USC Arizona Arizona
Florida -5.5 Alabama Alabama Alabama Florida
Florida Atlantic +1.5 Florida International FIU FIU FAU
Texas -13.5 Nebraska Texas* Texas Nebraska
Georgia Tech -1 Clemson Ga. Tech Ga. Tech Clemson
Season-long Results
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
  Last Week Season Total
S&P+: 5-5 (1-0) 72-55-3 (7-6-0)
FEI: 2-8 (0-1) 59-68-3 (4-9-0)
Rob: 4-6 (0-1) 52-75-3 (1-12-0)

Remember to discuss games all weekend long on our new college football discussion board.

Posted by: Bill Connelly on 03 Dec 2009

29 comments, Last at 06 Dec 2009, 12:48pm by Tampa Bay Mike


by Kal :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 4:03pm

So I've seen this multiple times over this season, but I'm curious: why is this season considered such a disappointment for college football?

Oklahoma was a bust, as was USC. The Big-12 was probably more disappointing than it has been in a while (though to be fair, the Big-12 has not been particularly interesting for this decade other than Texas/Oklahoma). The Big-10 was down in terms of a marquee team.

At the same time - the Pac-10 was more competitive than it has been in years, and there were a ton of great and important games over the season. The Big-10 had PSU, Iowa and OSU all competing hard for the title, with the OSU/Iowa game determining the victor. Florida and Alabama both played in tough games with close outcomes. The Big East has a couple of very good teams who have played strong all year. The ACC is as big of a cluster as ever, of course, but it always is.

And if you're into that sort of thing, you got to see Notre Dame get beat down AGAIN, which is often a big win.

Plus you had two non-BCS schools go undefeated.

Add to this the weird drama of the Boise State - Oregon game to start the season, and I don't see how this is disappointing. So what disappointed you guys?

by ChrisH :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 5:08pm

Because we had very few of those epic showdown games to look forward to. The ones I can think of off the top of my head were LSU-Florida, Oregon-USC (at least for me), and that's about it. Georgia was bad before Florida killed them, Texas-Oklahoma didn't have the drama of before due to injury, no Big Ten game really got me all that interested since Iowa lost their QB before the Ohio State game. However, if Oregon State makes the Rose Bowl, nothing else about this season will matter to me at all.

Oh, and I'm also disappointed that there are these outside teams (Cincy, TCU, BSU) that might be great, but it almost doesn't matter since they won't get a fair shot. TCU played games on the road (like Clemson) that make me think they are good and they destroy all of the teams they should destroy, BSU did beat Oregon soundly, and Cincy came to Oregon State and won, and honestly all of those wins might be more impressive than any non-conference win that Texas, Florida, or Alabama had other than the Alabama-VT game to open the year.

by Kal :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 5:45pm

Okay, Chris - that's fair. At the same time though - look at the actual games. Oregon/Stanford was a showdown, Oregon/Arizona was a huge game with huge implications that was a great game to watch, Iowa/OSU went down to the wire too...I mean, it sounds like you're disappointed because the hype for the games wasn't that great, but in terms of meaningful games throughout the season (especially as the season progressed) I don't remember many more races that were this close and this many games that were this good between teams. Heck, Oklahoma/Texas was close and it had no business being so beforehand.

I guess there weren't many games between schools that had massive national championship ramifications, but I also don't personally think that's the most important thing about college football as a fan. The NC doesn't matter nearly as much as the division does, at least to me - and in-division games have been fairly good in many of the divisions.

by loki13 (not verified) :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 7:27pm

I think that the problem you are having is that you don't fully realize that College Football is actually a subset of what matters, namely, SEC football. And the SEC rivalries and games were quite good this year. The only unfortunate thing is that some bogus team from the Big12 will be allowed to sully the national championship game with their presence. The Big12- the new Big10. Personally, I propose a moratorium on any teams from a conference that starts with the word "Big" in the Nashinal Champeenship Game. Enjoy the real champtionship between the Tide and the Gators this weekend.

On a more serious note, I have the following observations:

1. I am quite serious about barring the Big10 from the BCS Championship game until such time as they no longer suck.

2. I would put the Big12 on championship probation until they can improve their overall play; the North is truly an embarassment, and as much as I hate the Huskers, I actually miss seeing competitive Husker (and Colorado) teams playing.

3. The Pac10 is, overall, a very strong conference, unfortunately done in by parity between several good (but not great) teams.

4. The ACC is way overrated by the FEI models; however, I believe they are on the way up, with Miami becoming a powerhouse again, and serious potential from other teams. Now that they have dislodged Bobby Bowden's rotting corpse from the coaching position at FSU, they may look forward to more than just basketball.

5. I think that eventually, insualrity and familiarity will be the downfall of the SEC, as it (perhaps?) was with the Big10. I understand that the coaches of the SEC think they need breathers in their season because of the rigors of the SEC schedule, but they need to be tested against the best to keep their dominance. Continuous exposure to only SEC-brand football means that they will eventually regress.

6. What is a "mountain west"? ;)

by bird jam :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 4:06pm

I guess his performance in the picks (particularly his "locks,") and the Bengals' turn of fortunes has ruined the fall for Rob. It's a shame - the rest of us have enjoyed a pretty exciting and memorable season.

by AnonymousA (not verified) :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 4:49pm

What are you talking about? Rob's picks remain the best of any of the three sets presented here.

by bird jam :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 5:08pm


Yeah, I guess, as long as you are taking his picks and doing the opposite.

by sam :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 5:30pm

"Kelly replaced 10 new defensive starters"

Why would he do that? Certainly you mean that he replaced 10 defensive starters, or got 10 new defensive starters... but the sentence as constructed implies that he lost 10 starters and got 10 new ones. And then replaced them again.

sam! or the original sam from the old FO

by Anonymous Jones :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 6:57pm

The Playoff Problem website is not very "amazing," unless one finds tortured logic and poor arguments "amazing." Arguments that "there would be bracket creep" and "it would diminish the regular season" are so poor and easily dismissed that I think those who continue to spout them must have some sort of mental handicap. Ask one of these anti-playoff nuts a few questions: Should we eliminate the playoffs in the NFL because of concerns of bracket creep and a diminished regular season (and adopt a BCS like system for the Super Bowl)? Should we eliminate the playoffs in the FCS because of concerns of bracket creep and a diminished regular season? Don't these questions seem idiotic? Doesn't it become obvious that the only reason to oppose a playoff in the FBS is because it's change? Look up reactionary in the dictionary.

There is only one bowl that is for the National Championship. Every other bowl includes a team that has been eliminated one way or another from the chase for a national championship. Obviously, you could keep every single bowl game in place (and the National Championship game in place) even if a playoff system were adopted. All you have to do is add six playoff games for an eight team field, and the six losers are designated to specific bowl games.

by Kal :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 7:33pm

Should we eliminate the playoffs in the NFL because of concerns of bracket creep and a diminished regular season (and adopt a BCS like system for the Super Bowl)?

It depends on what you want. Ask yourself this - how many times in the last 10 years has there been a superbowl matchup that most people 'wanted' to see, especially between the two 'best' teams? Going into it, did most people really want the Giants two years ago or Arizona last year? Did they want Carolina against the Pats?

Regardless of whether or not those games were good, many weren't highly rated. They didn't do as well as others. There's a reasonable argument to be made that it's more satisfying to a viewing public to see those big games between two powerhouses than it is to see games vs. also rans who got hot, and point of fact ratings on TV illustrate this soundly.

Is it more fair? I'm not sure that matters. If your goal is to be fair above all else, the BCS is clearly unfair. But if your goal is to 1) establish the national championship in some way, and 2) have a large turn out in multiple games with a large viewing audience, fairness isn't as important.

And yes, it would certainly diminish the regular season. Without question. Currently for most teams the regular season acts like a defacto playoff for the NC. But more importantly - and this is something that most people miss - very few fans truly care deeply about whether their college team wins the national championship. They care far more about their division race and their BCS bowl at the end of that. Oregon fans in 2001 didn't care that the Ducks didn't go to the Rose because they deserved to play for the NC; they cared because they didn't get to go to the ROSE bowl. Every college fan I've ever talked to is along those lines; it's not important whether your team is playing for the championship above everyone else, it's important whether or not your team wins the division.

And that almost certainly gets taken away in importance if all you care about is the playoffs.

by Bill Connelly :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 7:56pm

That was EXACTLY what I found amazing about it. It wasn't a compliment, to be sure.

by DaninPhilly (not verified) :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 7:18pm

Don't want to turn this into a Bowl system vs. Playoff system, but I do want to say that I am a proponent of the current system, and am not suffering from any sort of "mental handicap." Plenty of people like and even love the way things are, and don't want to see college football become exactly like every other sport in the world. Except maybe for golf, where the stroke play is a far preferred format for choosing the best player than the playoff garbage you see once a year.

Anyway, looking forward to the SECCG, Roll Tide!

by An Onimous (not verified) :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 11:13pm

Agreed. To me, the biggest argument against a playoff is that every other sport in the civilized world already has one.

You know what? Steaks are fantastic. They're delicious, they're wonderful. It's really hard to say anything bad about a steak. In fact, a steak dinner might just be the greatest dinner ever conceived by man. Despite that, if I'm already getting steak dinners every single day from Monday-Saturday, then sometimes by the time Sunday rolls around I'm just looking forward to a nice pork chop. Is it as good? Some people think so, but if we're all being honest with ourselves, probably not. But, whether it's *AS* good or not, it's still really, really good, and most importantly... it's something DIFFERENT. And different is good.

Is the current college system as good as a playoff? Probably not. But it's not like I've got a shortage of playoffs to watch. I've got single-elimination playoffs, I've got round robin playoffs, I've got best-of-seven playoffs, I've got multiple-competitor head-to-head playoffs (like the "playoff" system of qualifying heats used in swimming). I've got playoffs coming out of my ears. Why on earth would I want to take the one thing that's the least bit different and homogenize it? I *LIKE* the fact that, if my college football team loses a single game, they no longer control their own destiny for a national championship. It instills a sense of urgency into every week. I like the fact that something like 40% of all division 1 programs end their season on a high note. I like the fact that there are other measures of success beyond a mere championship. Hell, I even absolutely love the fact that there's so much controversy every year. Once the 2007 NFL season was over, it was over. There were no New England fans getting into hotly contested debates with New York Giant fans about how many championships the Patriots had won that decade. I'll tell you- sometime, try asking an LSU fan how many championships the USC Trojans have won this decade. A college football season never ends- it lives forever in the hearts of the passionate fans who spend the next 100 years arguing over what really happened simply because there *IS* no 100% cut-and-dried answer?

Why on earth would anyone want to take this all away from me? If you want a playoff, then watch the NFL and leave my college football alone!

by mm (not verified) :: Fri, 12/04/2009 - 12:03am

To me, the biggest argument against a playoff is that every other sport in the civilized world already has on

Every other sport in America has one. In European soccer, they have national tournaments that are enjoyed, but they're played during the season, not at the end. So they don't 'settle' anything. The winner of the regular season is the more prestigious title.

Well, perhaps you don't view Europe as civilized. I won't argue that here!

by mm (not verified) :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 11:56pm

I'm with those who much prefer the current system, but I got tired of saying that on websites like this years ago. (the worst part of reading about college football is writers whining about the lack of a tournament in every other article) Still I generally do comment about once a year, so this is that one time for 2009.

Everyone who reads this site should already know that '1 and done' tournaments don't produce the best team (the fact that the average media commentator doesn't know this doesn't make it any less true). If you want to see it in other sports, see how different players win tennis tournaments on the same surface in the same year, see how different college basketball teams win the Conference title and the Conference tournament, see how sometimes low-level soccer teams win national tournaments in Europe.

Now, all those things are exciting, but I don't agree that a tournament would be more exciting than the bowl system. The fact that the college system mostly abandons the pretense that tournaments 'prove the best team' is refreshing.

Rather than have 'playoff' games, every available week should be used for more regular season games, which provide more chances for more teams to play. Less importantly, they also provide more connectivity for analysts to try and provide a 'big picture'.

Football is a violent game; just as I'm concerned about NFL proposals increasing games for adults, I worry about adding games for the 18-22 year old university students. If you can say they can handle 4 more games with little health concerns, I'd say 'great, add 4 more regular season games for everyone!'

I view the BCS as a tool to give us better Bowl match-ups. If I could change the current system, I'd first remove the name "championship" from the last Bowl game (abandon all pretense). The second thing I'd do is change the selection procedures. Before the extra Bowl game was added, we could see a match-up of the Big-12 and Pac 10 champions in a BCS game if they didn't make the title game. We could see other interesting match-ups like the SEC champion playing the Big 12 champion, or the ACC champion playing the Big 10 champion. Now, such desirable matchups can't happen except in the title game. I'd have the 'host' bowl lose its conference tie-ins that year, letting it select the last 2 BCS participants after the other 3 bowls chose their match-ups. I think this would generally make all the BCS bowl games more interesting games (even the host bowl, since it will often be 2 teams that don't have much national visibility that are both eager to prove themselves on the big stage).

by DaninPhilly (not verified) :: Fri, 12/04/2009 - 10:21am

Yep, no amount of logic will persuade someone who thinks an argument consists of saying "my opponents must be mentally handicapped!" It gets tiring, but I do sometimes post just to let everyone know that there's good reasons for having the current system, and most people actually like it.

by Tampa Bay Mike (not verified) :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 7:41pm

S&P+Inverse Rob says:


Wow, it looks like Texas and Cincy are very likely to lose and the Gators are very likely to win. Maybe it'll be TCU vs the Gators for the title. That'd be a great game.

by Tom Gower :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 10:10pm

Back to the picking game after a week off: Oregon, Ohio, Rutgers, Cincinnati, Houston, USC, Alabama, FAU, Nebraska, Georgia Tech, with the Scarlet Knights the anti-consensus Edelstein lock. I'll update the old record later.

by An Onimous (not verified) :: Thu, 12/03/2009 - 11:14pm

I was a little bit worried about the SECCG, but after seeing that Vegas likes Florida by almost a full TD, and that Rob is picking Alabama, and that S&P is taking the Gators, I know I'll sleep easier tonight and tomorrow. Thanks, Football Outsiders!

by c_f (not verified) :: Fri, 12/04/2009 - 1:46am

It's never a disappointing season when Notre Dame finishes 6-6, including a four-game losing streak to end the season.

by Mike Y :: Fri, 12/04/2009 - 3:49am

The people that are against a playoff, I just don't understand you. Do you not want to see Tim Tebow play against a Jeremiah Massouli? How do we really know how good these players and teams are if the top teams never play each other? I'd rather see the teams play on the field to determine who's better, rather than argue about what teams are better. Why would you prefer that? Because that's what we have now. How do you know that Texas is better than TCU? How do you know that Florida is better than Cincinnati? Would you rather argue about who is better, or would you rather see them play? Perhaps we should just end the NFL regular season right now, and have the Saints play the Colts in the Super Bowl. No need to put Favre and the Vikings against the Brees and the Saints, I'd rather argue about who is better. That makes sense.

by Will :: Fri, 12/04/2009 - 12:34pm

I think it's because a lot of us don't really care about hypothetical "who's better than who" talk - most of that comes from SEC fans for some reason. And losing to a team doesn't make them better than you - just means they were better than you one day.


by Kal :: Fri, 12/04/2009 - 1:39pm

How do you know that Texas is better than TCU? How do you know that Florida is better than Cincinnati? Would you rather argue about who is better, or would you rather see them play?

Honestly? I don't care that much. It's just not that important to me to find out whether or not Oregon can play with Florida, or whether TCU could play with Texas. As a college fan it's fairly unimportant by comparison to what my team is doing and who they're playing.

I care about good teams getting into the BCS bowls, because those are big games and I'd like them to be good games. I care about my team not being screwed out of a bowl because of politics, and that's something that definitely could be improved (though to be clear that's not going to be helped much via a playoff system either).

But I don't really care about whether or not one team is better than another except in a thinking experiment. I mean - last year, were the Colts better than Arizona? Does it matter?

by Eddo :: Fri, 12/04/2009 - 2:11pm

"I care about good teams getting into the BCS bowls, because those are big games and I'd like them to be good games. I care about my team not being screwed out of a bowl because of politics, and that's something that definitely could be improved (though to be clear that's not going to be helped much via a playoff system either)."

I could go either way on the playoff issue. Part of me thinks it would be nice to see the TCUs, Cincinnatis, and Boise States get a fair shot at the title in years like this; the other part of me likes the current tradition of the bowls and the fact that there's actually an effort to have the two "best" teams in the championship, instead of the two that survived a single elimination tournament.

However, what I would like to see is less politics coming into play for BCS games. I'd love to see the four non-championship bowls get to keep their traditional tie-ins, but if those fall through, I'd also like to see the BCS collectively set up good matchups.

(Note: for the following, I'm assuming the higher-ranked team wins each game this weekend.)

Ideally, this means TCU playing Cincinnati in some bowl, as TCU and Cincinnati will be ranked 3 and 4. Instead we're likely to get Cincinnati playing an uninspiring game against the ACC champ, and TCU likely taking on Penn State or Iowa in the Fiesta, due to the fact that TCU and Cincinnati won't "travel well" (and I understand what this means).

I'd love a system like this:
1. Top two teams get placed in championship game: 1)Florida and 2)Texas.
2. Rank the rest of the eligible teams according to the BCS standings (still limiting to two teams per conference in BCS bowls): 3)TCU, 4)Cincinnati, 5)Boise State, 6)Alabama, 7)Ohio State, 8)Oregon, 9)Georgia Tech, 10)Iowa.
3. Match up the 3-4, 5-6, 7-8, and 9-10 teams: TCU-Cincinnati, Boise State-Alabama, Ohio State-Oregon, Georgia Tech-Iowa.
4. Have the bowls choose among those matchups, attempting to keep traditional tie-ins, determining choosing order in a similar manner to how it's done now. We'd wind up with something like this:
CHAMPIONSHIP: Florida v. Texas
ROSE: Ohio State v. Oregon
ORANGE: Georgia Tech v. Iowa
SUGAR: Boise State v. Alabama
FIESTA: TCU v. Cincinnati

I would really like this system, since it gives us good matchups before the bowls start picking teams. You could even only do the matchup forcing to ensure the top six all play each other, and then 7-10. It would have prevented previous years in which a #3 USC team played a Big Ten also-ran (cough, my alma mater Illinois, cough), and would give us undefeated-vs-undefeated non-title-game matchups as well.

by Kal :: Fri, 12/04/2009 - 2:20pm

The disadvantage there is that you lose the traditional matchups completely. The only reason that Oregon and Ohio State would play in that situation is because the rankings turned out that way.

Which might be a better idea, honestly. It would likely turn out better overall games.

But I guess for me, every time there's a USC vs horrible patsy, there's also a chance of having an Oklahoma vs Boise game that had nothing to do with rankings. And that's the real rub; the chances that a game is 'good' doesn't often correlate with rankings or what people think, and more to do with whether or not the teams think it's meaningful and there's tradition more often than not. I mean - who thought Oregon/USC this year would be a blowout, or Oregon/Cal? Who thought Arizona/Oregon would be a great game? Who thought Iowa/Ohio State would be good? Alabama/Tennessee? There have been great games between two good teams, but there have been just as many huge surprises. It's just too hard to tell ahead of time, and provided the two teams aren't like the Big East 8-4 Pitt team vs. Utah, things are more often likely going to be close anyway.

So I guess I'd revise the above and try and pair teams not by ranking but by win/loss vs. BCS teams. Which screws the non-BCS teams, but oh well; they can at least play in a BCS bowl.

by Eddo :: Fri, 12/04/2009 - 6:02pm

You're right that you don't know a game will be exciting until after it's played. That's why I'd prefer to err on the side of matching up teams that have similar records. At least then you don't see two 11-1 teams blowing out two 9-3 teams, still having no idea what it would be like had they played each other.

by An Onimous (not verified) :: Fri, 12/04/2009 - 5:52pm

This sounds to me like a good argument for improving connectivity in college football, which I'm all for. It also sounds like a very bad argument for a playoff.

by Nick-qsilvr2531 (not verified) :: Fri, 12/04/2009 - 11:12am

We aren't going to get all the matchups we'd want anyway. Even in a playoff there is a very good chance we still end up with no idea who is better, Texas or TCU since odds are neither of them actually play each other. Same with Cincinnati and Florida. A playoff isn't going to demonstrate who is better (anymore than it does in any other sport), it is just a convenient way to crown a champion. For some people this is apparently so necessary that it is the only reason sports exist. I'm not one of those people though.

I wish people would stop comparing the NFL, which has 32 teams and divisions that allow each team to play a home and home against all the other teams in their division, to college football, with 100+ teams and conference sizes that don't even allow every team to play every other team in their own conference once.

by Tampa Bay Mike (not verified) :: Sun, 12/06/2009 - 12:48pm

Oregon (check)
Ohio (no)
Pittsburgh (no)
Arizona (check)
Florida (no)
FAU (check)
Nebraska (no)
Clemson (no)

Only 3-5 this week, but given how close underdogs Pitt and Nebraska came, I'm still impressed.

I wonder how much the loss of the starting DE and the rumors about the defensive coordinator affected the Gator's D. I'd hate to be that DE right now.