armchairquarterblog

SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan

In THE SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan on December 7, 2011 at 6:57 pm

The “Bowl Championship Series” is a misnomer. There is no series, just one game between two teams. This year, the 2-team sweepstakes is between No. 1 Louisiana State and No. 2 Alabama. Forget every other team. They only are playing for goodie bags and the right to wear a bowl insignia taped to their shoulder pads. Makes you wonder why we follow the Top 25 national poll when just Nos. 1 and 2 matter to the BCS.

The BCS format is a light year away from the excitement and team equity of March Madness, where every single Division I team from a conference has a shot at  winning it all and being interviewed by Billy Packer and Jim Nantz. It’s a bracket where the lowliest underdog can go as far as the No. 1 seed. Testament to that are the runs of these “unheard-ofs” who made it all the way to the Final Four: NC Charlotte of the Sun Belt in 1976, Indiana State of the Missouri Valley in 1977, George Mason of the Colonial in 2006 and VCU, also of the Colonial, in 2011.

This year, there are 35 bowl games, some bearing the names Chick-fil-A, GoDaddy.com and MAACO. Think this “series” is corporate-driven? Aside from the LSU-Alabama game, who’s going to watch the other 34 extravaganzas? Alums, friends, families and viewers who haven’t discovered NCIS and Law and Order marathons on USA Network.

Forget that a bowl game is a reward. Thirteen teams have a .500 record and one, UCLA, bears a losing mark.  At least the 6-7 Bruins are playing for a worthy cause — in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.

Think Notre Dame’s excited to be in the Champs Sports Bowl vs. Florida State? To that end, think the Seminoles are jacked up? This stellar match-up insults each program which has captured multiple national championships.

But for Ohio University, one more TV game is valuable when recruiting against Miami of Ohio and Bowling Green for that prized safety out of Shaker Heights High School. For those interested, the Bobcats face 7-5 Utah State from the Western Athletic Conference in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Dec. 17 at 5:30 EST time. For most other teams, TV exposure means little since most their games are on some ESPN channel every Saturday.

Michigan is in the Sugar Bowl, which sounds great but means nothing. Brady Hoke and his crew had one goal (OK, two, including beating Ohio State) back in August and that was to win the national championship, not a New Year’s Bowl game with zero national title implications.

Not only isn’t the BCS a “series” but it’s blatantly unfair, especially to schools outside major conferences. Since the BCS contracts with only the biggies (SEC, ACC, PAC-10, Big Ten, et. al.), schools like Boise State (formerly of the Mountain West) have basically no shot at the national championship. Even if the Broncos go undefeated, they’d probably be left out of the picture.

Even perfection for the big boys guarantees nothing in the eyes of the BCS.

Penn State finished 12-0 in 1994, including a Rose Bowl victory over Oregon but finished second to Nebraska in the final poll. Imagine Joe Paterno saying to his team, “Sorry boys, we’ll have to do better next season. Twelve and oh just didn’t cut it.”

Or Auburn Coach Tommy Tuberville telling his players, “Fellas, let’s try to bring it up a notch next year,” after his team went 12-0 in 2004 and defeated Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl only to finish No. 2 in the final poll.

This year, five teams finished at either 12-1 or 11-1 and among them, only Alabama (11-1) in playing for the title. Oklahoma State, Boise State, Houston and Stanford  — all 1-loss teams –will compete in other meaningless bowl games.

No wonder Boise State and Texas Christian wanted “out” of their former leagues. The Broncos will now play in the Big East for football only. So much for regional rivalries vs. Utah, BYU and Air Force. I’d hate to be the athletic director running my new travel budget by the VP for Student Affairs. But if the national title is goal No. 1, Boise St. had to make the move – a senseless one, logical only in the eyes of the money-driven BCS.

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