Saturday, November 7, 2009

Today's College Football Playoff KOs Oregon, Iowa, LSU, Notre Dame

The easiest column for any sportswriter is one calling for a playoff system in major college football, especially since President Barack Obama says he’s for it.

Forget it. It won’t happen, nor should it happen.

Every major college football team plays at least 12 games now. To add a four-team or eight-team playoff to determine a national champion would prolong the season to almost-NFL length (without paying the athletes) and make a mockery of the idea that these players are really student-athletes.

There has to be some time left for class lectures, term papers, research projects, mid-term exams and finals, right?

Here’s what is good about the current system in college football: The regular season acts as a de facto playoff tournament—weeding out the unworthy teams every weekend while allowing a dark horse or two to play its way into one of the five Bowl Championship Series games (Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Sugar Bowl, BCS Championship Game).

Here’s what is not so good: The Associated Press media poll, the USA Today Coaches’ poll and the computer-generated polls that all weigh too heavily toward teams from the six so-called “power conferences”: the Southeastern Conference; the Big 10 (which actually has 11 teams); the Big 12; the Pacific 10; the Atlantic Coast Conference; and the Big East.

Many people hate the current system.

But you know what? It works. Every week, the system separates contenders from pretenders.

Today’s games knocked out four pretenders:

· Oregon, coming off a devastating 47-20 romp over USC last week, showed it’s not quite ready for prime time, losing at Stanford 51-42;

· Iowa was 9-0 before losing at home to Northwestern, 17-10;

· LSU, which could have won the SEC crown and staked a claim for a national title berth, lost at Alabama, 24-15; and

· Notre Dame, the greedy football independent that plays every home game on NBC and every road game on another major network, was humiliated at home by Navy, 23-21.

So now we know, on the second weekend of November, that one of four teams will win the national championship: Texas (Big 12), Florida (SEC), Alabama (SEC) or long shot Cincinnati (Big East).

The rest of the season will determine which school’s 300-pounders get to hold up the fancy crystal football on the field in Pasadena, CA on January 7.

A school from one of the power conferences will win the national championship every year. That’s just the way it is in college football.

Media conglomerates such as Disney (owners of ESPN and ABC), Viacom (owners of CBS) and News Corporation (owners of Fox Sports) pay billions of dollars to televise major college football.

And the power conferences, major bowl committees and mid-major conferences—in that order—are sharing those billions for producing mostly exciting games that garner high TV ratings.

Hence, there is no incentive for the NCAA to use January to stage a football version of college basketball’s “March Madness.”

It is better to be a Gonzaga or George Mason in college basketball than to be a Boise State or TCU in college football.

In football, the best that Boise State of the Western Athletic Conference or TCU of the Mountain West Conference can hope for is to get into a BCS game in January.

It just won’t be the national championship game.

Last year, Utah of the Mountain West crashed the party—and then embarrassed Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.

The year before, it was Hawaii of the WAC—and then the Rainbows got eviscerated by Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

And the year before that, Boise State played party-crasher and stunned Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl—one of the most exciting bowl games ever.

So, I’m sorry, Mr. President, but major college football will basically stay the way it is, with a little tweaking here and there to give the Boise States and TCUs more of a reason to hope audaciously.

(How does he find time to watch college football? I need health care.)

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