College Football- The BCS Sees its Worst Nightmare Become a Reality

Wow. What can I even say to begin this article? Today seemed to be so simple. USC was going to beat UCLA handily, Florida was going to lose to Arkansas anyway and there wasn’t going to be any discussion about anything.

Shame on all of us, because we should know that what makes the college football season the greatest of any sport ever conceived is that anything can happen, and when it does, the implications of such a happening can be enormous. First, I will address the two BIG games today, and then I will assert what I believe should happen as far as deciding a #2 team, prefacing my argument with the fact that it really doesn’t matter, as I don’t think Florida or Michigan will come within two touchdowns of Ohio State.

UCLA 13, #2 USC 9

Three weeks ago, I didn’t give the Trojans a shot in hell at running the table, but ironically no words can even express the shock I felt after the reality of this outcome set in, especially after watching USC put up 44 points on a Notre Dame team that beat UCLA. But the Bruins defense came out ready to die if necessary, and in all reality helped the Bruins dominate this game more than the final score would indicate.

The game’s only touchdown was scored in the first quarter by UCLA, and even after USC forced a safety, they were never really able to get things going. In the fourth quarter, USC faced a four point deficit and a fourth and one from their own territory with over four minutes to play and three timeouts remaining. Reckless head coach Pete Carroll unsurprisingly opted to go for it and got it, but the college football gods would have their wrath a few plays later. Driving to the UCLA 25, QB John David Booty had a pass deflected and intercepted on 2nd down with a little over a minute to play. The look on Carroll’s face was priceless (note the movement in the neck muscles!)

Having conserved their timeouts, USC was able to force a punt with about 14 seconds to play. And how about that punt. Are you kidding me? To me, that was the moment where disbelief set in. The UCLA punter sent the kick 62 yards over the head of the humbled USC return specialist, and the game was over. The ensuing hail mary from the USC 15 yard line was surpringly promising, but the Bruin secondary was able to bat it to the ground. Conclusion: Great Pac-10 game with uncharacteristically slow offense. I can’t wait to see the Emerald Bowl, a battle of fallen top tier programs, UCLA and Florida State. As far as USC goes, well, they played a tough schedule, but weren’t consistently great this season. For one, I’m looking forward to seeing a title game that doesn’t involve them, because it has been awhile.

#4 Florida 38 , #7 Arkansas 28

The Gators won a high-octane battle in an SEC championship that put doubters of the worth of this league to shame. Florida jumped out to a quick 17-0 lead with unusually quick production offensively against a stout Arkansas defense. But before you knew it, Arkansas was right back in it, leading 21-17 after some of its own offensive productivity along with a really bad shovel pass by Chris Leak that was returned for the go ahead touchdown.

Arkansas then stopped Florida and forced a punt, and looking back on this game, the play that followed was the turning point. An inexplicable mental mistake which can be most mildly described as a fair catch gone wrong resulted in a fumble and go ahead Florida touchdown. The Razorbacks battled back to score again, but could never regain the lead.

To put this game into perspective for those who didn’t get to see it, there wasn’t a more entertaining game played Saturday, except for maybe the West Virginia-Rutgers triple overtime epic. The SEC proved itself worthy of praise, as both teams put on offensive shows. Nothing was ruled out in this one, as trick plays, fake punts and defensive game-makers ran rampant. Three touchdowns were thrown in this game by players that are not quarterbacks. That stat is nuts for an SEC game. Conclusion: Florida deservingly won an incredibly tough SEC conference, its only loss coming controversially at Auburn. The Gators offense really stepped up, and Percy Harvin is officially a terror.

But what does this all mean? Who plays Ohio State for the championship Matty?

I thought you’d never ask. I may ramble on a bit about this, but please hear me out, because I know what I’m talking about.

I don’t completely understand how the computer ranking portion of the BCS works and don’t completely agree with using it, because I believe if humans alone could decide the answer to this question common sense would prevail. I am a human, so I will speak in human terms, not computer terms. Having said that, I think it is important to remember two things. For one, no matter who gets “screwed” here between Michigan and Florida, both had chances to run the table and both failed. To me, whoever gets into the championship gets lucky and nobody gets screwed. In fact, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense why we don’t just hand Ohio State the championship right now, because they were clearly the best team in 2006. Everybody else lost at least once, so they need to stop crying and be happy that this conversation is even happening.

Secondly, regardless of how much you might want a playoff, you can’t forget how vastly improved the BCS system is compared to the old one. In 1994, an undefeated Penn State team wasn’t even allowed to play a Nebraska team that they probably would have beaten due to conference bowl obligations, and therefore finished 12-0 as #2. If that were still the case, Ohio State wouldn’t be able to play Michigan OR Florida in the title game, because conference obligations would delegate the Buckeyes to play USC in the Rose Bowl. Not convinced? Condsider this: Last year’s championship, arugably one of the best college football games of the past quarter century, would never have happened either, despite the universally accepted fact that USC and Texas were clearly deserving of battling for the title last year. USC would have played in the Rose Bowl while Texas would have been sent to the Orange Bowl. Assuming both won, the #1 ranked Trojans would have been given the title, and would that have been the proper outcome? So remember, although the system is still admittedly flawed, it has made considerable improvements.

Accepting these facts of the BCS system,  now we move along to the big question: Who should play Ohio State in the national title game? Again, from the standpoint of a human who didn’t go to Michigan, I think this is a pretty simple question. It’s midnight, and I just heard Kirk Herbstreit say on the College Football Final that if you think Florida is #2, you shouldn’t think that just because you don’t want to see a rematch, and for the most part, I agree with that.

The fact is that the SEC is without question the toughest league in America from top to bottom without a close second. This is a conference that will finish the season with five teams in my top fifteen and three in my top seven. By virtue of playing in such a conference and winning it, you are bound to have some stellar wins. I have two strong arguments for why I feel Florida should be in the championship game. Let us examine them:

To start, we will examine the quality wins of both teams. We will consider a quality win to be a victory over a team that is undeniably in the top 20. In parentheses are wins over teams that are not in the top 20, but strong bowl contenders.

Michigan: Wisconsin, Notre Dame (Penn State, Purdue)

Florida: Arkansas, LSU, Tennessee (Georgia, South Carolina, Kentucky)

Given that both teams lost on the road in close games to formidable opponents, Florida looks to have the more impressive resume, especially given the controversy surrounding their only loss at Auburn.  On to reason #2:

Again, I am having trouble as a human accepting this whole double jeoprady thing. Why does Ohio State have to beat Michigan twice but Michigan only has to beat Ohio State once to win a national championship? Yes, I know that the precedent was set in 1996 when Florida beat Florida State in a similarly timed rematch, but those teams were not in the same conference. And I realize that if North Carolina beats Duke three times in regular season college basketball play and then Duke beats them in the national title game that Duke is crowned the champion, but isn’t the beauty of the college football season that every game is like an elimination game? Giving Michigan another chance really takes away from the value of those regular season games, especially when you are passing over a one loss team in a clearly stronger conference. With the most extreme set of circumstances as the exception (which we nearly witnessed this season), it is incredibly difficult to justify putting a team that finished second in its conference ahead of a team that finished first in a much stronger conference. That seems like pretty basic common sense.

As a human with a beating heart, a functioning brain and lungs that help me to absorb oxygen into my body, I find it hard to justify the opposing argument. No logical reasoning can deny a one-loss SEC champion a shot at a national title behind a second place Big Ten team, at least not this season. Do I think that Florida would beat Michigan? Probably not. But that isn’t the point. The point is that what makes college football great is that the season is in and of itself a tournament. Michigan had its chance, it had every chance in fact, and it couldn’t beat Ohio State. Florida hasn’t had that chance yet, but they have now most certainly earned it.

Having said all of this, I conclude that I have probably wasted an hour of my life writing this for, once again, two reasons. For one, I don’t have a good feeling that common sense will prevail, or even if it does, that the computers will care. We will probably have a rematch. Secondly, it doesn’t matter anyway because neither team has a realistic chance to beat Ohio State in my opinion. Given that particular state of affairs, it is unfortunate that the situation has come to this. Putting Michigan in the championship will be a disaster of monumental proportions. Everyone knows the SEC is beyond pissed already, I mean Tommy Tubberville was complaining about discrimination four games into the season! An all Big Ten final that excludes a one loss SEC champ will add an atomic bomb to the fire. And as devastating as that surely sounds, it doesn’t come close to matching the severity with which the entire regular season will be cheapened by such a rematch.

I hope I get this published before the humans vote. If I’m lucky, maybe the computers will read it and gain some sense as well.

BCS PROJECTIONS:

National Title: Ohio State vs. Florida

Rose Bowl: Michigan vs. USC

Sugar Bowl: LSU vs. Notre Dame

Orange Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Louisville

Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Boise State

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