Discussion in 'The Tiger's Den' started by JLMSOONER, Jan 4, 2004.
Nothing's settled, only muddled: The charm and curse of BCS
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January 4, 2004
NEW ORLEANS -- Let me see if I have this straight. The Bowl Championship Series was devised, in part, because people were sick and tired of a bunch of brain-cell-deficient, hygiene-challenged sportswriters crowning college football's national champion. Fair enough.
But now, because USC beat two-loss Michigan in the Rose Bowl and sits atop the media and coaches' polls, the Trojans should be national champions, even though the BCS rankings disagree. Speaking for sportswriters everywhere, it's nice to matter again, but there is one nagging, palindromic question: Huh?
What about the computer rankings, the rankings designed to lessen the impact of the human numbskull, the rankings that say the winner of Oklahoma-LSU in the Sugar Bowl will be the national champ? Well, we're now told the computers must have been sniffing printer-ink fumes.
I don't know who the national champion should be, but I do know that crowning Southern Cal on the basis of the Associated Press media poll and the most recent USA Today/ESPN coaches' poll isn't all of a sudden the correct answer.
Allow me to let you in on a few secrets about the two polls. Although it's true USC finished the regular season ranked No. 1 in both polls, it's also true both polls are not what you would call well-researched. The coaches' poll is a coaches' poll in name only. Many of the coaches don't vote; their sports information directors do it for them.
But even if the coaches were to vote, they would have absolutely no way of knowing about all the other worthy teams. Coaches are obsessives who can't see anything other than their next opponent. Most of them couldn't get their Social Security numbers correct if you spotted them eight of the nine numbers and both dashes. That leaves us with sports information directors, who are busy themselves and couldn't possibly be watching multiple games on Saturdays.
The AP poll is better, but not even close to perfect. There is no way a sportswriter, if he is doing his job correctly and devoting enough time to being angry at his sports editor, can watch enough games and do enough research to rank college teams fairly. I would venture to guess that some of the people who voted USC No. 1 never saw the Trojans play a full game until the Rose Bowl.
OOPS!!!! Here's the story!!
It's obvious we're going to have a split national champion. Through the terms of the BCS, coaches are obligated to recognize the winner of Oklahoma-LSU as national champion, even though they have USC No. 1 right now. Goofy? Sure it is. But one of the best reasons to like college football is its goofiness.
"I know one thing: LSU or Oklahoma is going to leave with that [national championship] crystal ball," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said Friday. "That's the way it works. You guys [in the media] can control maybe what people want to read, but you can't control how coaches and administrators are going to conduct college football."
We don't have time, Bob; we have our hands full controlling a secret world government.
So what does it all mean? It means what it has always meant: that the fun of college football is in the arguing and that there are no definitive answers, no matter how ready people are to bow down to USC before Sunday's Sugar Bowl is even played.
ABC's Keith Jackson, who, if he got any folksier would be an Appalachian quilter, called the Rose Bowl "the human national championship" and the Sugar Bowl "the computer national championship." He could very well be right, but it certainly doesn't mean the computers are the lesser judges.
The beauty of the system is in the passion, the anger and the controversy, same as it ever was. It's why USC's 28-14 victory over Michigan on Thursday didn't settle a thing. It muddles things, adds a dash of angst and otherwise gets undergarments in a bunch. And that's OK. To repeat: USC beat a team that came into the Rose Bowl with two losses. That's definitive in what way?
USC lost one game this season, in triple overtime to Cal, which finished 8-6. Oklahoma, the No. 1 team most of the season, lost one game, badly, to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game and got punished for it. LSU lost one game this season, to Florida.
Oklahoma led the nation with 45.1 points per game. It had the Heisman Trophy winner and a handful of All-Americans.
Someone please explain to me how the Rose Bowl made everything so clear-cut and how the Sugar Bowl means nothing now.
I like finality too. For years I have been a proponent of a playoff system in college football. But it has reached the point where the arguing has become bigger sport than the game, despite attempts to make the rankings more scientific. You can't apply science to what, in the end, is opinion.
It's funny how, after carping for years about the inexactness of the media and coaches polls, people now are pointing to those very polls, full of human frailties, as paragons of objectivity.
Who said anything about a perfect world?
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Good article and Good post