The BCS Is What We Thought It Was!

You knew that as soon as the announcement was made that the critics would be out in full force.  Regardless of which team was second in the BCS, criticism was coming.

Of course, this should have been known long ago.  The BCS is almost predicated on controversy.  And yet, every time it happens, so many people act surprised.

Let’s first clear up something.  I do not care what people try to tell you…no one wants to see Oklahoma State face LSU.  No one!  Maybe some Oklahoma State fans, but that is it.  No one in the United States wants to see a one-loss Cowboys team — a team that lost to friggin’ Iowa State — face the undefeated Tigers.

Just like no one wants to see Alabama faces LSU for a second time.  What people want to see is a more legitimate way to determine a champion at college football’s highest tier.  And yet, what we are left with is an illogical system that does nothing but cause problems.

I have laid it out before that I think that — based on its system — that the BCS got it right in terms of the two teams.  And I have already laid it why I think that is the case.  But, just to revisit it (in case you are too damn lazy to click on a link)…

Oklahoma State beat some quality opponents.  But no Cowboys advocate wants to talk about quality losses, which head-to-head Iowa State is a far worse loss than Alabama losing to LSU.  And while people want to argue that Alabama lost at home as a (slight) favorite, it is not as though Ames is known as a tough place to play…especially when your are nearly a four-touchdown favorite!!!

Additionally, Oklahoma State was buoyed by two teams that were scheduled for an easy “W” — UL-Lafayette and Tulsa.  While Tulsa does put out good teams,  the Ragin’ Cajun were expected to finish at the bottom of the Sun Belt (arguably the worst conference in the FBS).  That UL-Lafayette and Tulsa finished with 8-4 records likely inflated Oklahoma State’s strength of schedule.  (The opposite could be argued for Alabama, as Florida finished far worse than anyone expected, though OK-State can also point to Texas and Texas A&M).

And finally, the Oklahoma victory gave Oklahoma State a last-ditch emotional push.  But, like the Iowa State game, the timing is the problem here.  What if the Iron Bowl, which could not be played on the same day, were also played at the same time?  I think there would have been a clearer juxtaposition between the two teams — Alabama dominating an Auburn team that likely overachieved, and Oklahoma State destroying a depleted Sooners teams.

But do not blame Alabama for the rematch.  Blame the system.  The BCS did exactly what it was supposed to do and yet everyone is trying to misplace the blame.

Do not blame the SEC, as Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution attempt to do.  Here is a cat who tries to make it out like the SEC has some monopoly over the BCS, all the while ignoring the travesty of the Big East still carrying an automatic bid to the BCS.  Of course, as Dan Wetzel notes, it was the SEC and the ACC that tried to correct the illegitimacy of the BCS by offering a “plus one” model; guess which conference (among many) shot it down?  Now Mark…why would a conference that allegedly has its claws deep into the BCS want to change the BCS?

Of course, Bradley is the same guy who spends parts of his article taking potshots at Nick Saban while somehow being surprised that brand matters.  Hello!?  Why else has Boise State and TCU been ignored for so long?  The entire bowl system is all about money and Bradley is somehow shocked that it is the same for the BCS!?

Bradley also seems to believe that a team not winning its on division playing for the BCS title is something new.  Not so (see 2002 Rose Bowl).  Guess why that was the case…the BCS!!!!!!!!!!!  Not the SEC cartel, or more appropriately in this case the Big 12 cartel.  The BCS was the reason Nebraska went to the Rose Bowl to play against (and lose to) Miami.

And one final point, on this notion that the #2 team must be a conference champion.  I laid out the potential for a situation where the highest ranked conference champ may not even be in the top five.  But, are people like Bradley suggesting that Arkansas State is better than Alabama simply because they won their conference?  Good god, imagine if California-Los Angeles had won the Pac-12 title!!!!  Would the Bruins be considered better than Alabama?

Winning the conference — or even the division — is not a prerequisite to being number two in the BCS.  Again, blame the system; not the SEC or Alabama.

Next, we have people who want to blame Troy Calhoun, head coach of the Air Force Academy.  Why?  Because Calhoun, who has a vote in the Coaches’ Poll, voted Oklahoma State fifth!  But Calhoun’s ballot needs to be taken into context.

Following the loss to Iowa State, Calhoun dropped the Cowboys down to ninth! While it is not clear how all other pollsters voted, it is obvious that the Falcons’ head coach rightly punished the Cowboys for that loss to the Cyclones.  I would hope that the same would have occurred had Alabama lost to Vanderbilt (the Cyclones and Commodores are comparable).  Since then, Oklahoma State climbed in Calhoun’s ballot up to fifth.

But Calhoun is not to blame here, but the system is.  The entire polling process is arbitrary and fueled by perception.  Plus, as noted in a previous article, the instructions to pollsters is simply to rank the teams 1-25 based on performance.  The rules are so ambiguous that each voter is left to form their own rubric.

So, for Calhoun, maybe he viewed the ISU loss much more harshly, as he did the Boise State loss to TCU.  He moved the Cowboys up one spot coming off of a bye week, and then three spots after their win over Oklahoma.

But look across the board and you will see more puzzling ballots.  Todd Berry (Boise State 13th)?  Pat Hill (Boise State fourth; TCU ninth)!?  Les Miles (TCU 21st)!?!  Sonny Dykes (Houston ninth)!?!?  Friggin’ Tom O’brien (Georgia ninth)!?!?!?!?!

But, it is not just the Coaches’ Poll.  Have you seen the Harris Poll?  Brentson Buckner has Baylor eighth and did not even rank Nebraska.  Tony Jones has Arkansas ranked 19th, right behind Southern Mississippi; but at least ahead of Texas (23rd).  Derrick Mayes has Clemson eighth, Georgia unranked, and Oklahoma State sixth!!  Jim Walden has Alabama fourth (behind Oklahoma State and Stanford), Houston eighth and Penn State 13th!!!  And, the most egregious of all the ballots, George Wine has Oklahoma State SIXTH behind Alabama, Stanford, Boise State and……HOUSTON!!!!!!!!  Who the fuck are these people and what are they watching!?  It is NOT the Houston Texans!

But, again, it is not the pollsters themselves but the nature of the polls.  Ambiguously regulated and arbitrarily determined, when the rubric is left up to the individual pollsters, this is what you get.  So, do not blame Troy Calhoun or even George Wine; blame the system.

Lastly, there are some sour grapes.  Berry Tramel decided to publish perhaps the most embarrassing response one can make to the BCS travesty — you [Oklahoma State] do not want to go New Orleans, anyway.  Instead, go enjoy suburban Phoenix!

Yeah…that’s mature.  In his sad article, Tramel decides to resort to stereotypes, hanging on to vestiges of Dixie and harping on the SEC cartel.  And while some LSU fans are rude, it is not as though there are not similar fans for all other universities.  Stanford’s civilized fans?  Have you seen the Stanford band (which I love, by the way)!?

But the sour grapes from Tramel is just more whining and blaming of others.  It must be Saban, or “Dixie,” or ESPN, or Iowa State.  Oops, wait a minute.  Tramel is right about that one…at least he is willing to admit that Oklahoma State also blew there chance.  After all, every game counts!

And that is the thing.  Every game did count.  All of Alabama’s games and all of Oklahoma State’s games counted.  And when it came down to it one counted more than the other — a loss to a 6-6 team.  It is why even though they have the same number of wins over BCS ranked teams (one), Stanford is in a BCS game over Boise State…the Broncos’ loss to TCU “counted” more than Stanford’s loss to Oregon.

[Side note: Stanford did beat a very good Southern California team that, due to penalties, cannot be ranked in the BCS].

But if every game truly counted, then LSU should already be crowned the “national” champion.  They are the only unbeaten team.  Tramel wants to punish Alabama because their loss should be “counted,” then the same should apply to Oklahoma State, Stanford and Boise State.  They all lost.  If, say, Oklahoma State were to have been given the slot in the BCS Game and then beat LSU, what happens next?  Should Stanford get a shot at Oklahoma State since they now all have one loss?  This is not boxing or mixed martial arts!

Nevertheless, perhaps Mike Gundy said it best when he said that “we believe in the system.”  And therein lies the issue for it does not matter how much Tramel and Bradley blame Nick Saban or the SEC or ESPN, the system is to blame.  It is the system that is giving us Alabama v. LSU.  If it were Oklahoma State to have been selected, it would have been the same exact system.

The game everyone wants to see is NOT Alabama v. LSU, nor is it Oklahoma State v. LSU.  At the very least, it is Alabama v. Oklahoma State…and maybe LSU v. Stanford with the two winners meeting for a legitimate national title.

But that is not what we have; we have a system to which all the big boys agreed would decide the “national” champion at college football’s highest level.  There is no conspiracy, T. Boone!  If you want to investigate, you should have been doing it when your school’s conference was benefiting from it in 2001 and 2003.

The BCS is what we thought it was!  And we continue to let it off of the hook!


Anarchy in the BCS: Only True Chaos Will Bring Down the BCS

Ever since the calendar turned to November, we have been bombarded with notions that the BCS is in “chaos.”  Alabama only falling a couple of spots; Boise State losing; Stanford losing; Oklahoma State blowing it; even losses by then one-loss Oklahoma and Oregon.  All of these games have created chaos.

No it has not!  If Alabama plays LSU for the BCS title, it will not be the first rematch in a bowl game (or “national championship” game) ever…see Florida v. Florida State in 1996, for example.  In that rematch, Florida avenged an earlier loss to the Seminoles to win the AP and Coaches’ national championship.

Also, if Alabama plays LSU again, it will not even be the first rematch between two teams from the same conference…even in the Sugar Bowl!  In the 1960 Sugar Bowl, Mississippi avenged an earlier loss to LSU by winning the bowl game 21-0 and splitting the national title (with Syracuse).

Even if LSU loses and still plays in the BCS game it will not be the first time (e.g. Oklahoma in 2003).  And if Alabama does play in the BCS game despite not playing in the SEC championship game, it would not be the first time (e.g. Nebraska in 2001).  Nor would Oklahoma State jumping an idle Alabama to play be a first (Florida jumping Michigan in 2006).

So none of those scenarios would create chaos.

You want chaos?  Here is what needs to happen.

  • Houston loses to Southern Miss in the Conference USA championship game.  This removes the Cougars as the BCS Buster and an undefeated claim.
  • Georgia beats LSU.  Like Houston, a loss by the Tigers removes the last undefeated team from the FBS.
  • Boise State beats New Mexico.  Should not be difficult, but for chaos we need the Broncos to remain a one-loss team.
  • Clemson to knock off Virginia Tech.  It is just better this way…trust me!
  • Wisconsin to win the rematch against Michigan State.  Michigan State is ranked higher anyway, but the Badgers winning the rematch will demonstrate that a rematch can go the other way and still legitimate the champion (of the conference, at least).
  • Oklahoma wins the Bedlam Series against Oklahoma State.  Gotta take the Cowboys out of the picture…and OU has owned this series.
  • Hawai’i knocks off BYU.  Not because it will matter in our chaos, but because I want it to happen.

So, do you see the picture that has been painted?  The two undefeated teams fall and every conference winner will have at least two (overall) losses.  It would have been nice had UCLA somehow upset Oregon, but I want the Bruins to end up 6-8 after their bowl game.

Now, with that mess, which teams go to the BCS title game?  The highest ranked conference champ would likely be Oklahoma…with two losses!  Alabama and Stanford would not have lost, but did not even win their division.  Boise State would have only one-loss, but does not automatically qualify because they did not win their conference; they’d have to go as an at-large…IF chosen at all.

In other words, the BCS game would have no other choice but have two teams that did not win their conference.  It would also destroy any argument that the BCS should only have conference champions because which teams are you going to take — two-loss Oregon and two-loss Oklahoma!?

You want chaos?  Pray for the scenario above to play out!

Making the Trains Run on Time: Destroying the Myth of the Bowl System

When Big Ten commissioner Jim Delaney stated that playoffs would lead to “professionalism,” I about spit vodka all over my keyboard.  When BCS Executive Direction Bill Hancock stated that his system “works” I damn near went running for the 151.

Bill Hancock — delusional!

Hancock and the BCS cadre are about as tired of the “invectives” as I and others are tired of railing against the illogical system used to determine the champion of the top tier of college football.  But I will venture into it one more time.

But I will agree with Hancock on one thing…and one thing only.  His system does work.  The BCS system is designed to draw the top two teams in its poll and place them in a game against one another.  Using their “perfect” formula — which draws on computers that hide their own formulas — the BCS is able to isolate two teams that they have determined to be worthy of playing in their championship game.

So in that respect, the BCS system does work — it does what it sets out to do.

However, if Hancock is insinuating that his system “works” in providing the clearest — or at least the most complete method possible — in determining a champion for the FBS, he is sadly mistaken.  And delusional.

The BCS will trot out any argument to support their stance that their method of “choosing” a champion is superior to all other available.  And when someone counters it, they will simple deflect and move to a different argument of support.

  • The money argument

The BCS lovers will make the claim that the BCS makes money for colleges.  Certainly the argument can be made for BCS bowl games.  For example, both TCU and Wisconsin received $21.2 million, which will be divided amongst conference members before each team receives their respective cut.  That’s awesome!

But what about other bowl games.  BYU — a member of the Mountain West; same as TCU — and UTEP each receive a whopping $750,000 for their participation in the New Mexico Bowl.  Wow!  At least that is better than what Troy and Ohio took home from the New Orleans Bowl — $325,000 each.

The average payout for all bowls is $3.58 million.  That is, however, looking at all bowls.  BCS bowls produce an average payout of $18.175 million while “lesser” bowls are only $1.56 million.  There are nine bowls that payout less than $1 million.

Oh, the agony of bowl costs!

Well, that sounds great, yeah?  Problem is that the cost of going to bowl games are not include.  For example, in 2009 each Big Ten school received approximately $2.2 million regardless of it that school had a bowl representative.  Teams that went to a bowl game also pay for traveling to the bowl game, although the conference often times provides a stipend.  However, since teams that do not “go bowling” do not have to pay for the cost of all the logistics, they actually profit by not participating in the bowl system.  Meanwhile, teams that are invited to bowls must use their “reward money” to cover costs.

Ah, but what if the stipend is not enough?  According to a USA Today report in 2000, eighteen schools actually lost money by participating in bowl games.  Have things changed?  Well, in 2008, West Virginia lost money by playing in the Fiesta Bowl.  While Nevada made some profit from their bowl game, it was actually less that what they had previously earned despite having a better record this season.

A lot of this has to do with not selling the ticket requirement set forth by the bowls.  For example, this season Connecticut was left holding approximately $2.5 million in unsold tickets.  UConn is left to cover that requirement.  After accounting for travel costs from Connecticut to Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl, the Huskies are likely going to lose money just to appear in that coveted BCS bowl.

But hey, at least the heads of the various bowls are making money!  For example, the CEO of the Sugar Bowl profited $645,386 in 2008-09.  This, despite the fact that the Sugar Bowl actually lost money!  Still, the money argument will be trotted out despite the fact that bowls lose money and are, at their core, “non-profits.”  There was a reason the Ohio State “Five” were not suspended for the bowl game but were suspended for the first five games of the 2011 regular season.  Hint: it begins with “M” and rhymes with honey!  [By the way, to their credit, all five did choose to return for their senior season].

  • It’s a tradition…unlike any other?

So, the money thing seems to fall flat.  The next argument then would be something like, say, “tradition.”  And you know that nothing screams “tradition” like the friggin’ Bowl.

Now, I know by “tradition” that the argument means that bowl games have existed for as long as anyone can remember.  But what about seemingly unlimited scholarships?  Independent teams?  Leather helmets?  No instant replay?  Ties?  Remember ties…and I do not mean those god-awful pieces of cloth people wrap around their neck.  No one is clamoring for those to remain in place or return.  Those traditions have changed, so why not an archaic system that is not even profitable?

Look, when baseball made changes such as inter-league games and the wild card, people bitched about it.  “You’re messing with tradition.”  But those changes have not ruined the game of baseball – steroids have!

Getting rid of the system that is currently in place – the bowl system – is not going to “ruin” college football.  It will enhance it.  Besides, where is the “tradition” in deciding that the Fiesta Bowl should be a part of the axis of bowls for the BCS?  The Fiesta Bowl began in 1971, well after the Sun Bowl, the Cotton Bowl, Gator Bowl, Liberty Bowl, Tangerine/Florida Citrus [now Capital One] Bowl, and even the Peach [now Chick-Fil-A] Bowl.  Avoiding El Paso, Orlando and Jacksonville makes some sense, but why choose a relatively new bowl [Fiesta] over one with “tradition” [Cotton] when both are in large cities?

As a side note, ironically the Fiesta Bowl was created because strong teams from a relatively weak conference [WAC] were being shut out of the bowls.

There is no tradition there.  It is fabricated.  It is all about money.  But wait, even the money argument flops.  So, if it is not about tradition and not about money, then what is it about?

  • The regular season is a “playoff”

How about maintaining the integrity of the regular season?  This is perhaps the most laughable pro-bowl argument of all.  The argument that gets trotted out by these master debaters is that with the bowl system, the regular season “means something”; that the regular season is already “like a playoff.”

So, if the regular season is “like a playoff,” then how is it that a two-loss LSU team was playing for the BCS title?  Especially given that Kansas only had one loss and Hawai’i was undefeated (going into the bowls).  How is the regular season a “playoff” when not only can a one-loss team make the BCS game, but that the weight of that one loss varies based on when that loss occurred?

This latter notion is perhaps the most damning to the pro-bowl argument.  In 2008, the BCS game participants were Florida and Oklahoma.  But Oklahoma technically finished in a three-way tie for the Big 12 South division.  Oklahoma was chosen because their one loss occurred on 11 October; Texas’s occurred on 1 November to Texas Tech, whose lone loss occurred on 22 November [to Oklahoma].  The timing of each of these losses allowed Oklahoma to overcome their setback and get into the BCS game.

The same thing happened this year when Wisconsin, which lost to Michigan State on 2 October, was chosen for the Rose Bowl over Ohio State [16 October loss to Wisconsin] and Michigan State [30 October loss to Iowa].  All three had only one loss but Wisconsin won the Big Ten because the timing of their loss allowed them to move back up the polls, which is a tie-breaker in the Big Ten.

So the bowl system does not create a scenario where the regular season is “like a playoff.”  Well, except for non-BCS teams, at least with regards to the BCS game and the BCS axis of bowls.  For non-BCS’ers, the regular season is like a playoff because one loss does indeed eliminate them from the BCS axis.  How else could one explain how one team could loss four regular season games (Connecticut) and make a BCS game while both Boise State and Nevada are shut out from the BCS axis of bowls despite having only one loss.  I include Nevada here not because they were the team to defeat Boise State [not Virginia Tech or Oregon State], but because the timing of the loss does not apply to non-BCS’ers – Nevada’s loss was to Hawai’i on 16 October; Boise State’s loss occurred on 26 November [both on the road, for what it is worth].

  • The integrity of the regular season

When the “regular season as playoffs” argument fails, then the argument shifts to explaining how the bowl system maintains the “integrity” of the regular season.  After all, nothing screams “integrity” like eight 6-6 teams going to bowls and losing, becoming a losing [6-7] team.  [NOTE: Idaho was also 6-7 but achieve that stellar record in the regular season].  The bowl system rewards mediocrity.

It is almost a “little league” mentality where everyone receives a trophy (more on this later).  There are 35 bowl games supporting 70 teams.  For math whizzes out there, that means that nearly 60 percent of all FBS teams are “rewarded” with a bowl game!!!  A number of those “rewarded” teams have mediocre records (even by their own accounts) and yet we are made to believe that the integrity of the regular season is maintained by the bowl system.

And it is not just BCS conferences that are guilty of supporting mediocrity.  These 6-6 juggernauts were just as likely to come from the SEC (three of them, by the way) as they were to come from the Sun Belt (Middle Tennessee State, Florida International).  In total, there were 13 6-6 teams to make a bowl game, going 5-8 overall.

Mediocrity rules!

If bowl games are supposed to reward “good seasons,” then why was a 6-6 Georgia team in a bowl game while an 8-4 Temple team remained at home?  Sure, someone will state that Georgia plays in a better conference [attempting to explain a 6-6 record], but I guarantee that a large portion of the UGA fan base holds a 6-6 (now 6-7) record as “disappointing” while Temple fans see 8-4 as a “good season.”

Again, shifting will occur.  It is the BCS axis of bowls that validates the regular season.  Oh…again, what of the Big East and the ACC, which have [since 2001] sent to the BCS teams with three or more losses five times (1-4 in those games) and are a combined 6-14 in that timeframe (the ACC is 1-9 over the last ten years; their lone win was a 9-4 Virginia Tech team defeating Big East representative Cincinnati).  The other four conferences have only sent a team with three or more losses three times (1-2), one of those being an at large bid (Illinois in the 2007 season).  Still, over the past ten years there have been eight teams with three or more losses in the BCS axis of bowls.

So, maybe the BCS game is the only game that “legitimates” the regular season as a playoff.  Well, I have already mentioned that there has been a two-loss team in the BCS game.  Furthermore, there was discussion that if Oregon or Auburn lost their final game that maybe a one-loss Stanford or Wisconsin team would leap frog [no pun intended] TCU, or worse that Auburn or Oregon would not fall below the Horned Frogs!

But, those points aside, if you want to argue that the BCS game – and that game alone – converts the FBS regular season into a “playoff,” then that should be the only post-season game played at the FBS tier!  Eliminate all other postseason games in the FBS!  Too radical?  Of course, because then the pro-bowlers will shift back to the arguments of “tradition” and “money.”

  • COUNTERPOINT 1: too many champions!
Eastern Washington — the real national champs!

Instead of narrowing it down to its most basic (and most logical in terms of maintaining the current method of deciding a “champion”), we are left with 35 national champions at the FBS tier!  What!?  You read correctly.  The bowl system is set up in a way that there are technically 35 national champions.  This is in no way an attempt to delegitimate Auburn’s BCS championship, but the fact remains that the Division 1 national champion is the Eastern Washington Eagles, just like Villanova was last season’s Division 1 champion.  The NCAA will recognize EWU as such, not Auburn [and not Alabama last season].

In essence, due to the ambiguous method through which a champion is crowned at the FBS tier, every bowl game is a “championship.”  And there is no arguing that the winner of a given bowl game is that bowl’s “champion.”  Troy is the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Champion; no other team can make that claim this season!  Tulsa is the Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl Champion; no other team can make that claim this season.  And Auburn is the BCS Champion; no other team can make that claim this season.

Thus we are left with 35 undisputed champions.  The dispute, however, occurs when attempting to discern the national champion.  Sure, most will dub the winner of the BCS game the “national champion,” but controversy still remains.  Much like last season with Boise State, this season left us with two undefeated teams – Auburn and TCU.  Some have argued that TCU never received a fair shot at the assigned national champs.  And yet, had TCU played Auburn instead of Oregon, there would have been a similar argument made about Oregon’s omission.

Therefore, there is no undisputed national champion at the FBS tier.  We are left with 35 undisputed “champions.”  While one may be hard-pressed to find a feasible argument to assign BYU the national champion, one could very easily make an argument that TCU is a “national champion.”  The AP poll (three first place votes) and the coaches’ poll (one first place vote) thought enough to dispute the champion; the former poll even saw Division 1 champ Eastern Washington receive one (regular) vote.

  • COUNTERPOINT 2: arbitrary nature of bowl selection

The reason why Auburn’s claim as “national champion” can be deemed disputed rests on the arbitrary nature of bowl selections.  Yes, there are bowl tie-ins and yes the BCS axis of bowls uses a “formula” and polls.  But the polls are illogical due to the unequal weight given to the timing of losses and the false perception of team strength based preseason “analysis” and conference stereotypes.

To illustrate the arbitrary nature of general bowl selection, in 2006 Maryland and Boston College finished the ACC with identical 5-3 conference records.  Maryland finished the regular season 8-4 while Boston College ended with a 9-3 mark.  BC also defeated the Terrapins 38-16 in the regular season.  Despite the fact that the Golden Eagles defeated Maryland and had a better overall record, it was Maryland that was invited to the more lucrative Champs Sports Bowl while BC was relegated to the less prestigious Meineke Car Care Bowl.  The unstated reason?  Boston College has a reputation of not traveling well, unlike Maryland.  Hence, the choice was arbitrary – and certainly within the rights of the respective bowls – and lacking of any true logic.  The main concern was, as always, money.  Hence, how can one deem one team the national champ over another when the entire basis through which the games are determine lack logic and the decisions are arbitrary?

  • COUNTERPOINT 3: ending the dispute?

Now, certainly debates exist in playoff-based championships.  Some may argue, for example, that Duke had a relatively easy road to the NCAA men’s basketball championship last season, or that the San Francisco Giants were not the “best overall” team in baseball last season.  However, few if any dispute that the Blue Devils or Giants are champions of their respective sport.  Short of discovering that a championship team cheats, no one legitimately disputes the results of a tournament.

I mean, this year’s Super Bowl sees a sixth-seeded Green Bay team taking on the second-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers.  Will anyone dispute that the winner is the champion of the NFL?

This is not an advocation that the playoff system is a flawless method for deciding a champion.  Playoffs have their own flaws – where to cut off the number of invites; seeding; automatic bids and conference parity; etc.  But playoff systems at least produce a more legitimate and less disputed champion than the bowl system.  Even the system used to determine a champion in many European soccer leagues – everyone plays everyone – is more legitimate than the bowl system (although admittedly not feasible with college football).

And, given the fact that 6-6 teams are rewarded by the bowl system for mediocre seasons, a playoff system would better maintain the integrity of the regular season that the current system.  Certainly due to automatic bids (Coastal Carolina at 6-5) and perceived conference powers (Northern Iowa, Georgia Southern, New Hampshire and Villanova all received at-large bids from power conferences despite having four losses), teams with questionable records to make it to the tournament.  Yet, home field advantage is the larger reward for a good season; something that is lacking in the bowl system (save LSU playing in the Sugar Bowl or Southern California playing in the Rose Bowl).

Additionally, in its history, the Division 1 champion has had three or more losses eight times (in 31 seasons).  But no one questions the legitimacy of that champion because they ran the gauntlet of a “real” playoff.  However, people do question the legitimacy of a team with three or more losses being “rewarded” a BCS bowl; something that again has occurred eight times over the last ten years!

Nevertheless, while based on the final regular season BCS poll a 9-3 Alabama would have been in a 16-team tournament, they would have been on the road at…Auburn.  If you wanted to include all conference champions automatically – something that even the FCS does not do – then the Sun Belt champion (Troy, which played in the New Orleans Bowl over FIU) would travel to Auburn [interesting matchup, by the way].  And including all conference champions would exclude Alabama, Nevada (if Boise State is chosen over the Wolf Pack), Oklahoma State and Missouri.  AND, the dilemma of only allowing three teams from the same conference into the BCS axis of bowls would be avoided IF the polls are the measure for at-large teams.  Therefore, the season still matters.

  • Conclusion

Look, at this point it should be obvious.  The arguments supporting the bowl system, in particular the BCS system, all collapse on themselves.  The only way the pro-side can move the argument forward is by jumping from one argument to the next in order to avoid revealing the chosen argument as being flawed.

Playoffs are not going to erode the mythical “tradition” of college football anymore than instant replay, conference championship games, and overtime, if at all.  Playoffs are not going to destroy the “integrity” of the regular season.  Playoffs are not going to lead to the professionalization of college football – big time television deals and multi-million dollar endorsement deals have already began the push down that road (see A.J. Green or the Ohio State “Five”).  And it is not going to stop the amount of money made – and spent – on college football, as the new ESPN-University of Texas television deal suggests.

What a playoff will destroy is the dispute over who is the “national champion.”  Sure BCS head Bill Hancock is accurate when he states that the BCS “works,” but only because it designed in a way to arbitrarily “determine” the top two teams based off an illogical poll.

Even Mussolini made the trains run on time.  But that, like the BCS being a valid method of determining a “national champion,” is a myth.  But it is a myth that lives on in an effort to convince college football fans that their system “works,” despite the crumbling of their pillars of “truths.”

Boise State gets their National Championship

Boise State gets their national championship after all, winning a sloppy MAACO Bowl against the Utah Utes.  That is the third national championship for head coach Chris Petersen, who also moved to an incredible 61-5 record.  That is also the fifth national champion crowned in the “bowl season.”

So raise your glasses and give big ups to the Boise State Broncos, the 2010 MAACO Bowl National Champions!!!


A big run by Doug Martin tallied the first Broncos points and put them up for good. (big ups to Getty Images, via Daylife)

Whoa, now! (big ups to Getty Images, via Daylife)

What an ugly-ass trophy! Is it ironic that there is a goal post behind them? (big ups to Getty Images, via Daylife)



Another National Champion Crowned

Despite a fumble that apparently was not a fumble (at least the refs could not clearly determine who came up with it), the Louisville Cardinals defeated their former Conference USA rival Southern Miss to take the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg, Florida.  Hey, what’s a national championship without a little controversy.  But at least this championship game was close; the previous three played on Saturday were snoozers.  Chris Philpot kicked a 36-yard field goal with just over six minutes remaining to win it for first year head coach Charlie Strong and the Cardinals.  For Southern Miss head coach Larry Fedora, that’s two straight national championship losses since winning the New Orleans Bowl National Championship in 2008.

So big ups to the Louisville Cardinals!  Your 2010 Beef O’Brady’s Bowl National Champions!!!!!

Game winning kick. (Big ups to the AP, via Daylife)

Charlie Strong celebrates his national championship! (big ups to the AP, via Daylife)

Bilal Powell celebrates the Cards' championship! (big ups to the AP, via Daylife)

First Three National Champions of the 2010 Bowl Season

Just wanted to give a big Uncle Popov salute to the first three national champions of the bowl season!  These teams played hard all year, earned their bowl bid, and went out and won it on the field.  They deserve to be recognized.

  • New Mexico Bowl National Champion: BYU Cougars
  • uDrove Humanitarian Bowl National Champion: Northern Illinois Huskies
  • R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl National Champion: Troy Trojans

All three teams raised their respective trophies high and no other team in the country can claim such a championship this season.  So, raise your glasses and give a big ups to the Cougars, Huskies, and Trojans.

BYU - 2010 New Mexico Bowl National Champions

Northern Illinois - 2010 Humanitarian Bowl National Champions

Troy coach Larry Blakeney slides on a New Orleans Bowl national champions T-shirt

Troy - New Orleans Bowl National Champions

Frog Stomped: TCU Should be Considered for the BCS Title Game

After their dominant performance against South Carolina, Auburn (number 3 in the UP Top 23) emphatically laid claim to a spot in the BCS Exhibition Title Game.  But the Tigers’ opponent is a mystery.

Well, it should be a mystery.  But every sports website out there penciled in the Oregon Ducks (number 2 in the UP Top 23) to face Auburn in Glendale.  ESPN; Yahoo! Sports; CBS Sports.  It is a foregone conclusion and really renders ESPN’s stroke-job this evening about as intriguing as “THE DECISION!!!”

But while everyone else is penciling in the Ducks, I have to question that choice.  Not that Oregon is not a good team, but why isn’t TCU receiving any consideration whatsoever?

I laid it out before questioning why Oregon was given preferential treatment while Boise State was ignored despite a similar resume.  Well, with Boise State out of the way, maybe it is time to examine TCU head to head with Oregon.

There are two common opponents between the two teams — New Mexico and Oregon State.  Oregon and TCU both beat those two teams in similar fashion — the Lobos were blown out while the Beavers fought valiantly but just did not have enough to take down their opponent.  Now, here is where someone will point out that Oregon State is Oregon’s chief rival and the game was in Corvallis.  But the counter to this is that the Beavers were a shell of their former self going into the Civil War and the Horned Frogs beat a fully-healthy Oregon State squad.

This latter fact is a reason I am not too keen on using common opponents as a measuring stick.  There are different circumstances surrounding each game and comparing one game to another is an utter fallacy.  So, what other factors could be examined in the comparison between Oregon and TCU?  How about rankings?

Well, the final BCS poll will not be released until later this evening, but it is safe to say that both TCU and Oregon will only have one opponent in the Top 25 of the BCS (Arizona should drop out of the Top 25).  Obviously both teams beat their Top 25 opponent so they are 1-0 versus BCS Top 25 opponents.  Oregon does have an advantage because they beat Stanford, who is ranked #4 in the BCS while TCU defeated Utah (20th in the current poll).   However, three side notes with this comparison.

First, Oregon faces Stanford early in the season, which allowed the Cardinal a chance to crawl back into the Top 10.  But also, Stanford went from unranked to #13 in the USA Today Coaches’ Poll going into their 2 October game against the Ducks.  Who exactly did the Cardinal beat to jump up so much?  Sacramento State, UCLA (0-1), Wake Forest (2-0) and Notre Dame (1-2)!  Really?  Meanwhile, Utah, which was also unranked, at least beat Pittsburgh to open the season and justified their early jump in the polls.  Utah went into the TCU game undefeated and was destroyed…at home!  But because that game occurred a little more than month after the Oregon-Stanford game, Utah — and vicariously TCU — was punished more because late season losses have a greater impact than early season losses.

Second, Utah followed up the TCU loss with a dismal performance at Notre Dame.  Back-to-back losses are lethal and tend to cause greater total drop than non-consecutive losses.  For example, Utah dropped a total of 18 slots in the coaches’ poll (sixth to 15th after the TCU loss; 15th to 24th after the Notre Dame loss).  Oklahoma fell a total of 15 slots after losses to Missouri (third to 11th) and Texas A&M (ninth to 16th), with a Texas Tech win sandwiched in between the two losses.  While only a difference of three, the point is that consecutive losses are more damaging than those of the non-consecutive variety.

The third thing to consider is the conference perception theory that has been laid out here before.  Without regurgitating the entire theory, essentially because Utah is in the Mountain West conference, their loss to TCU carries a heavier impact than Stanford’s loss to Oregon.  This is because it is believed that Utah’s ranking was a fraud due to their conference and that the Utes cannot be “legitimate.”  Or to put it another way, Stanford’s loss was “respectable” because it occurred in a “tougher” (read “BCS”) conference.  Hence why Stanford only fell five slots while Utah fell nine slots.

Nevertheless, the fact does remain that Stanford is fourth in the BCS poll going into tonight’s unveiling while Utah is 20th and even if the polls are flawed this perception will carry the day.  So the Ducks likely will win this comparison 99 percent of the time.

Another potential comparison is to examine the average ranking of the opponents.  This can be achieved by looking at the 120.  By taking the rankings of each FBS team, we find that Oregon’s average is 65.36 while TCU’s average is 73.45.  While the same caution above with regards to losses and poll position apply here (and has been addressed before), the fact that there really is not a great difference between Oregon’s opponents and TCU’s opponents should bring pause.  If one wants to argue that TCU does not belong in the BCS title game discussion because of their opponents, then what has Oregon really done to prove that they belong?  That Oregon’s opponent’s average ranking is only eight spots higher than that of TCU’s opponents does not make the Ducks a clear cut choice.

Which leads us to strength of schedule.  While this is not completely objective due to the fact that intangibles unrelated to records are not taken into account (not to mention that the formula used is up to the evaluator), it at the very least avoids emotion and perception.

The NCAA implements a formula to determine the “toughest schedule,” which is simply the winning percentage of all of the opponents of a given team.  According to their formula, Texas A&M has the toughest schedule in the FBS (0.65289) while Middle Tennessee State has the weakest schedule (0.305).  Based on the same formula, TCU is ranked 75th (0.47058) while Oregon is one slot below the Horned Frogs at 76th (0.46956).  If you include FCS schools, both drop considerably, but Oregon falls all the way into a tie at 150 while TCU drops to a tie at 135.  So, using the NCAA’s standard, TCU has faced a tougher schedule.

Well, can we get more sophisticated than just total winning percentage of opponents?  Sure.  What about a simple strength of schedule formula and well as the Rating Percentage Index that is often used for basketball?

  • SOS = ((2*Opponent Record)+(Opponents’ Opponent’s Record))/3
  • RPI = (Record*0.25)+(Opponents’ Record*0.5)+(Opponents’ Opponents’ Record*0.25)

If we do this, the difference between the Ducks and the Horned Frogs is minuscule.

  • Oregon: SOS – 0.485; RPI – 0.614
  • TCU: SOS – 0.483; RPI – 0.612

In both cases, Oregon’s “lead” is only 0.002 points.  It is such minuscule difference that it would be safer to call both teams even.  Although I did not go through and rank every team based on these two measures, it is safe to say that the difference between Oregon and TCU would likely be one or two spots.

It is difficult to state that TCU deserves to be in the BCS title game over Oregon.  But what makes it so easy to claim that Oregon deserves it over TCU?  Based on every comparable measure examined here, both teams are even and should receive equal consideration.  There should be mystery going into tonight’s “BCS DECISION!!!” but it seems that the decision has already been made.

Actually, the decision to have Oregon and Auburn play for the BCS title was made over a decade ago when this current system was designed.  The system was created by the power conferences and designed to give their members direct access to the title game.  Oregon and Auburn are both in BCS schools and as such it only seems “natural” that those teams “belong” in the BCS Title Game.  It is their party and so of course they are going to be invited.

Meanwhile TCU, who appears to be able to party just as hard as Oregon, is left standing on the front porch.

At least in two years they can snatch the Big East’s ticket to a BCS game.  Maybe then TCU will be “accepted.”

Don’t Cry for Me, Texas!

One year ago, I wrote about how Utah’s beatdown of Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl was more about Utah being prepared and having an excellent game plan than the fact that the Tide was missing left tackle Andre Smith.  In that article, I wrote:

Great coaches and great teams make adjustments when there is a major change in the depth chart and starting lineup.  If Alabama was really that good, then the Tide would have made the necessary adjustments and executed a gameplan that would have played out better.  But the shallowness of the Alabama depth chart really showed and Alabama had no answer for Utah’s defense (which was more impressive than the Utes’ offense).  . . .  EVEN IF Smith was in the lineup, the fact that Utah jumped up so quickly would have changed Alabama’s offensive mindset.  Basically, Utah did what Alabama did to Clemson and Georgia — jumped up early and make the opponent go against their “comfort zone.”

I also noted that Alabama’s offensive line last season was an excellent run blocking line and only an average pass blocking unit.  So, when the Utah blitzkrieg put them ahead, Alabama had to change the game plan and throw the ball more.  And it hurt them in the end.

But the main point from that article is this: great teams adjust.  And great teams are more than one good player.  Last season, Alabama showed that they overachieved and losing arguably their best player [Smith] proved it.  Nevertheless, it does not take away from Utah and what they did.  Again, from the same article:

I think that to [claim Smith’s absense is] the only reason Utah won is an injustice to the gameplan of Kyle Whittingham and the Utah coaching staff.

McCoy's injury proved Texas relied on him too much. (Getty Images)

So, the same argument applies to last night’s BCS title game.  The injury to Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was a brutal blow to the Longhorns’ chances to win the game…almost a deathblow.  But to state that his absense is the only reason the Tide won, or to play the “what if” game with McCoy diminishes not only Alabama’s gameplan and execution, but also what Texas was able to do in the second half.

When Alabama running back Mark Ingram had a dismal performance against Auburn, people bashed him as not being a top player.  Many of those who thought he did not deserve the Heisman trophy pointed to that game as proof.

But what his injury and inept performance proved was that Alabama had depth and the Tide was more than one player.  Freshman RB Trent Richardson, QB Greg McElroy and WR Julio Jones stepped up and proved that.

So in the BCS title game, Alabama’s depth at running back carried the day offensively.  On defense, it was typical Alabama and Nick Saban defense.  Pressure and confusion, especially once there was blood in the water (and there was plenty once McCoy went out).

As for McCoy and Texas, it proved that the team revolved around him.  Texas was a middle-of-the-pack running team, but even that was predicated on the passing attack led by McCoy.  Without him, they could not run the ball (save two sweeps by D.J. Monroe).  Again, great teams adjust and overcome injuries.

Ah, but before you claim that I do not think Texas is a “great” team, then you are incorrect.  The first half was abysmal for freshman Garrett Gilbert.  But after halftime, Texas did make adjustments.  They let Gilbert throw a bit more and did so with short passes — three yards here; five yards there.  It started to build confidence.  He found security in Jordan Shipley.

And then, the post to Shipley for the score.  From there, Gilbert’s confidence soared.  He went 1 for 3 for -1 yard after the onside kick, but after Alabama’s missed field goal, Gilbert went 7 for 8 for 64 yards, including the 28 yard touchdown strike to Shipley.  A two-point conversion later, and Gilbert is on fire!

This crushing sack also crushed Gilbert's confidence. (Getty Images)

But after a P.J. Fitzgerald punt pinned the Longhorns deep, a well-timed blitz blindsided Gilbert, forcing the fumble that sealed the game.  Yes, Alabama still needed to do something with the ball and Texas had another chance.

But you could tell that once Texas got the ball back down ten, Gilbert was trying to do too much.  It was an interesting progression.  When he came in, the play calling was very conservative, attempting to stay on the ground.  Gilbert was doing too little (by design) and it was not working.

After halftime, they eased Gilbert in more and let him throw some quick hits that build his confidence.  He was comfortable.  He was doing exactly what he needed to do and it worked.

But once they were down late, he seemed panicky and forced his throws.  His first pass was a poorly thrown pass; the second he rushed the throw and it was picked off by Javier Arenas.  He was trying to do too much, and it ended Texas’s chances.

From too conservative to just right to too aggressive.  Gilbert’s progression was dramatic.  Without that progression and maturation, Texas would have been destroyed.  That is why they are still a great team, even without McCoy they were able to come back and have a good look at winning the game.

Certainly the loss of McCoy hurt.  It was sad for him, too.  He had worked so hard to get to this point only to go out on a clean hit that, as he noted, he had taken many times before (with no problems).  Until Texas started to come back, the game felt empty and I was prepared to write about how it was not a fulfilling win for Alabama.

Fitting that a defensive player ends up with the BCS trophy. (Getty Images)

But give credit where credit is due.  Alabama came out defensively and took out McCoy.  That is what a defense is supposed to do (not intentionally, but neutralize the opponent’s best player).  Remember, Alabama had to adjust to the loss of McCoy as well and did so with authority.

And, while some pointed to Jordan Shipley and the return game being an x-factor, I commented that P.J. Fitzgerald would offset Shipley’s return game with smart punting.  Result?  Zero returns for Shipley; three punts inside the 20 for Fitzgerald.

The two mistakes on kickoffs aside (letting the ball bounce and the onside surprise), Alabama executed very well.  People blast the fake punt, but had it succeeded then Saban would have been a genius.  Need proof?  Boise State pulled their fake punt deep in their own territory and it was “brilliant.”  But, that is the nature of fakes and gimmicks — it works and the coach is a genius; it fails and he is a jackass!

Nevertheless, props to Alabama.  They had a better game plan and the running game and defense carried the team as it had all season.  Alabama did not rely too much on one player and that they were a total team.  They were the better team on that night.

But also, big ups to Texas.  They still played very well and Gilbert has a bright future with the ‘Horns.  And, not surprisingly, McCoy and Texas coach Mack Brown were classy in defeat.  But do not cry about the “what ifs” and Colt McCoy.  Be proud of your season and how well the Longhorns played last night rather than sour your team’s accomplishments.

Congratulations, Broncos! Now Move Along!!!

Way to go, Boise State!  You just won a hard-fought, defensive battle of unbeatens.  TCU put up a valiant effort, but you were the better team in Glendale on 4 January 2010!  Congratulations!

Now get the fuck out of the way!

That's cute! Now take your golden football and go away!

Yeah, that’s right!  You and your stupid-ass blue turf!  Alabama does not have Crimson turf!  There is no orange turf in Austin for the Longhorns!  The only way you can draw attention to yourselves is by having that eyesore of a field!  Grow-up!

And having to run a fake punt?  Is that all you are good for, Broncos?  Gimmick plays?  You have to pull shit out of your ass to win?  Well, we know this is true because you only scored the earlier touchdown off of an interception.  You were dead in the water when you pulled off that Pop Warner crap!

You know that garbage could only work on a Mountain West school!  Apparently TCU does not have video equipment to watch film because otherwise they would have seen that play coming!  I mean, no one was on Efaw!  An SEC team would have seen that coming and trucked that dumbass!

Hell, with the awesome speed of the SEC, they could have rushed the punter, realized it was a fake, had time to recover, and back-peddle to Efaw to intercept the ball.  Shoot, then he would do backflips all the way to the end zone!  Take your Mickey Mouse team elsewhere!

And if Boise State is so awesome, why did they only beat a sorry Mountain West team by seven.  Alabama would have been up by seven in the first minute!  Texas would have the cheerleaders in by halftime!!

I heard on the Dan Patrick Show that bookmakers would have made both Alabama and Texas clear favorites against Boise State.  And you know the bookies never get it wrong!  Both teams would have destroyed the Broncos!  Nevermind that TCU was an eight-point favorite.  They are TCU; not Alabama!  The Horned Frogs do not matter!!!

So you are undefeated, are you Boise?  Big freaking deal!  My son’s Pee Wee team was undefeated; no one is claiming they are the national champions!  Actually, my son’s team could probably beat Boise State!  So, suck it!!!

No one said that you deserve a shot at the title.  Maybe TCU had as good a claim as Texas.  But only just as good.  No one in their right mind really thinks TCU deserved a BCS title shot!  Some may tease the Frogs by suggesting as much, but come on.  TCU lost to Boise…a team from the friggin’ WAC!?  At least Cincinnati could say their only loss was to a mighty SEC team — Florida.

Yes, I wrote here and on Bleacher Report that the system was messed up due to the conference, but did you really believe that!?  It appeared on a blog!!!!!!  Are you really going to believe something you read on a blog called “Uncle Popov’s Drunken Sports Rant”?

And do not start with this playoff shit!  If playoffs were so awesome, the FBS would have done that a long time ago.  You would think that those controlling the FBS would know what is best for big time college football.  And besides, you would not want a playoff cutting into finals or being stretched out over the winter break!  You cannot simply push back the playoffs.  Fortunately, the BCS knows what they are doing by creating a month-long layoff and having the title game at the beginning of the Spring semester — y’know, when no one is attending class anyway!

Furthermore, in a playoff, some “lower” seed could win.  Then, how can we call that sorry-ass team the champion!?  Plus, you might have to include a Sun Belt team.  Shit…anything but Troy!!!!  If something wacky happens, you could end up with two undeserving teams playing for the title rather than the two best teams.  Where is the legitimacy in that!?

Now this is how to decide a champion!!!

But the BCS knows where it is at.  Corporate America knows what is best for college kids.  I mean, why else would they sponsor the BCS.  FedExTostitosAllstateCiti.  They are looking out for the best interests of our young people!!!

Man, I do hate Boise State.  Trying to pretend they are something special!

Move along, Broncos!  You had your cute moment by winning the Fiesta Bowl.  Now go away!  No one wants to see a championship game between a team from a blue field and another one named after a frog that shoots blood from its eyes!

It is time for the real teams to play, teams with history and a following…a following that will bring in lots of money!  And when they do play on Thursday, it will be in a money-driven contest where the two participants were arbitrarily chosen based on conference biases and blind tradition…the way it was meant to be!  Oh, and sponsored by Citi, of course!

Five Non-BCS Bowl Games Worth Watching

It is exhibition season in college football as the bowl games kickoff tomorrow (Saturday).  Meanwhile, the National Champion will be decided tonight; my money is on Montana as Villanova struggles against the pass.  The Grizzlies can also stop the run, which is what the Wildcats do well in the spread.

Anyway, so the exhibitions begin.  And there are five non-BCS games that are worth checking out.  These games include teams that may not receive the exposure as some of the “powers.”  So, it is worth checking out.

HUMANITARIAN BOWL: Bowling Green versus Idaho (Wednesday, 30 December)

Welcome back to the exhibition season, Vandals!  Idaho started strong but stumbled down the stretch, going 1-4 and losing to fucking Utah State!!  Nevertheless, Idaho had a solid QB-WR combo with Nathan Enderle throwing to Max Komar.  Komar caught 62 passes for 1036 and 10 TDs.  Enderle, who missed a couple of games near the end of the season, threw for over 2600 yards and has plenty of other targets — including Komar, the Vandals had five receivers catch over 25 passes.

Idaho can also run the ball.  Washington State transfer DeMaundray Woolridge ran for 853 yards and 16 touchdowns, while Princeton McCarty went for 605 yards.  Overall, Idaho ranks 11th in yards per game and can put up numbers.

Bowling Green WR Freddie Barnes

Bowling Green also has a great passing combination — QB Tyler Sheehan and WR Freddie Barnes.  In fact, Barnes was second in yards per game (129.2 per game, or 1551 yards) and led the country in touchdowns (16) and receptions (138).  Sheehan, who went for 3664 passing, also has some other targets — six with 25 or more catches — but none with more than 45 catches and no one with more than two TDs.

Overall, Bowling Green ranks eighth in passing yards per game.  They do not run the ball much, but starting running back Willie Geter is used in the passing game.

Defense?  Why bother?  Idaho cannot stop the pass, which should make it a field day for Sheehan and Barnes.  Bowling Green is decent against the pass, but cannot stop the run.  You have to figure that the Vandals will run to exploit that.

In all, should be a fun, high-scoring game on the blue turf of Bronco Stadium.

HAWAI’I BOWL: Nevada versus SMU (Thursday 24 December)

It is a game of contrasting style that could turn into a blowout.  But it will also be interesting to see how June Jones is received at Hawai’i.

Returning to Honolulu for the first time since leaving the Warriors, Jones brings the Mustangs to their first bowl game since before the ‘death penalty.’  I do not think it will be negative as most anger seems to be towards former Hawai’i AD Herman Frazier.

Nevertheless, Jones has attempted to implement his air attack at SMU, but has only seen some success.  Jones had rode Bo Levi Mitchell until an injury allowed Kyle Padron to take the starting role; a position that he has held on to since the Houston game.  Padron, a freshman, has played well and could be a sign of things to come…in the future.

Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick

Nevada does one thing and one thing very well —  run the ball!  They even do it better than the academies!  Nevada led the country in yards per game and sport three 1000+ yard runners — Vai Taua (1345 yards, 10 TDs), Luke Lippincott (1034 yards, 9 TDs) and the main reason to watch this game QB Colin Kaepernick (1160 yards, 16 TDs).

Kaepernick, a redshirt junior, has run for 2883 yards during his tenure in Reno, topping 1100 yards in each of the past two seasons.  And he does throw the ball — nearly 7000 yards passing, although he only threw for 1875 this season.

Defense?  Um, yeah, that is missing here, too.  Nevada is near the bottom (119 out of 120) against the pass, which bodes well for SMU.  But the Mustangs struggle against the run.  And it is likely the Wolf Pack will go for 500 yards on the ground in what could be an entertaining game.

NEW ORLEANS BOWL: Southern Miss versus Middle Tennessee State (Sunday December 20)

It is highly doubtful that many people have seen a Sun Belt team play.  But MTSU is a squad worth watching.

Head coach Rick Stockstill has done a great job with the Blue Raiders, taking them to the first two bowl games in MTSU history.  Middle Tennessee beat Maryland for the second year in a row and finished the season 9-3 with their only conference loss to Sun Belt champion Troy.

MTSU QB Dwight Dasher

Quarterback Dwight Dasher is fun to watch.  In his first full season as a starter, Dasher threw for over 2600 yards and 21 TDs.  He also lived up to his last name, leading the Blue Raiders in rushing (953 yards and 11 TDs).  Running back D.D. Kyles is right behind him with 822 yards, but only three touchdowns.  In the passing game, no receiver stood out as Dasher spreads the ball around quite well.

Southern Miss had a rough three-game stretch in late September and early October, losing to Kansas (when they were still “good”), UAB and woeful Louisville…all on the road.  They also lost talented sophomore QB Austin Davis for the season in the loss to UAB.

All could have been lost, but Martevious Young stepped in and played superbly.  His thrown for almost 1600 yards in nine games (seven full starts) and 13 touchdowns.  He has only thrown one interception and that was six games ago!

DeAndre Brown, sophomore wide receiver, had a disappointing second-year but still went for 720 yards and seven TDs.  Running backs Damion Fletcher and Tory Harrison went for a combined 1563 yards and 17 touchdowns!

Both teams are well-balanced on offense.  On defense, Southern Miss struggles against the pass, but is solid against the run led by linebacker Korey Williams (109 tackles, six sacks).

MTSU is middle of the pack.  But they have Sun Belt defensive player of the year Chris McCoy, who had seven sacks, and a stout group in the defensive backfield led by Marcus Udell (seven interceptions) and Kevin Brown (four picks, 55 tackles).

Again, should be a good game and a chance to see players you normally would not see.

GMAC BOWL: Central Michigan versus Troy (Wednesday, 6 January)

This bowl usually gets lost because it is sandwiched between the BCS bowls and the BCS title game.  And, usually by now, many people are becoming burned out from the tsunami of exhibition games.  The game usually has a lot of offense (see the 2001 64-61 double overtime game with Marshall knocking off East Carolina), but recently has been one-sided (thanks to Tulsa).

Central Michigan QB Dan LeFevour

This game has all the makings of an offensive explosion that probably will not be one-sided.  Central Michigan comes in with the under-appreciated (at least outside of the midwest) Dan LeFevour at QB.  The four-year starter has thrown for over 12,500 yards during his career and ran for 2936 yards.  He has also thrown 101 touchdowns to 35 interceptions, and ran for another 46 TDs!  His 148 touchdowns (he has one receiving TD) is the most in college history.  As a starter, he is 37-17 for the Chippewas.

This will be the last chance to see LeFevour at QB.  This season he has thrown for over 3000 yards, tying a career high for TDs with 27.  He has solid weapons, with Antonio Brown (97 receptions for 1020 yards), Bryan Anderson (57 catches for 700 yards) and Kito Poblah (50 catches for 631 yards).  Running?  Well that is for LeFevour, who led the team with 701 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Troy also has a phenomenal quarterback in Sun Belt offensive player of the year Levi Brown.  Brown set the Sun Belt record for passing yards, throwing for 3868 yards and 22 touchdowns.  He topped 300 yards seven times, including against SEC foe Arkansas, and went over 400 yards three times.

Jerrel Jernigan is Brown’s favorite target, catching 62 balls for 947 yards.  Jernigan is also a threat in the return game as the Trojans’ top kick returner.  Tebiarus Gill is also a solid receiver, accumulating 553 yards and team-high six touchdowns.

Troy does not run much, but Shawn Southward and DuJuan Harris are serviceable, and the latter plays a big role in the passing game.  And, Jernigan surfaces here as well, carrying the ball 34 times for 227 yards.

Defense?  Ha!  Troy is near the bottom in all the FBS.  Central Michigan is good, but mediocre against the pass.  And Troy has the fourth-best passing yards per game average in the country.  Should be another exciting high-scoring game, and the last chance to see Brown and LeFevour.

ARMED FORCES BOWL: Houston versus Air Force (Thursday 31 December)

Some are writing this off as Houston will run away with it.  But do not count out the Falcons.

Houston QB Case Keenum

Houston has been a great story this season, returning to the high-powered offenses of the days of the Southwest Conference (first in total yards per game).  Junior QB and one time Heisman hopeful Case Keenum played out of his mind this year — 5449 yards and 43 touchdowns on 71 percent passing!  He exceeded 300 yards in 12 of 13 games, seven times went over 400 yards, and topped 500 yards four times!!!

Keenum had five receivers top 500 yards, four of those caught over 60 passes, and three went over 900 yards!  James Cleveland is the leader, catching 101 passes for 1182 yards and 14 TDs, but Tyron Carrier (998 yards, 7 TDs) and Patrick Edwards (985 yards, 5 TDs) are also quite good.

And given how much they throw, they run the ball admirably.  Bryce Beall and Charles Sims both topped 600 yards rushing, with seven and nine touchdowns respectively.  Sims contributes heavily in the passing game, catching 64 passes for 702 yards.  Beall added 31 receptions for 302 yards.

Air Force is the exact opposite of the Cougars — third in the country rushing the ball, but 118th passing.  As usual, there are many different ball carriers, with seven players going over 200 yards rushing, and two topping 700 yards.  Fullback Jared Tew is the team’s league rusher with just a shade under 800 yards.  Sophomore wideout Jonathan Warzeka is more important in the running game (42 carries for 232 yards, 2 TDs) than the passing game (15 catches for 201 yards, 1 TD).  Sophomore Tim Jefferson runs the triple option for the Falcons.

Air Force CB Anthony Wright, Jr.

But it is Air Force’s defense that will make this interesting.  Air Force has the tenth best defense, and the number one pass defense in the country.  The Falcons use a 3-4 defense that does not get a lot of attacks, but can be disruptive in the passing game.  Air Force picked the ball off 14 times (tied for 28th) and the defensive backfield is led by corner backs Anthony Wright, Jr. (four interceptions, 51 tackles) and Mountain West first teamer Reggie Rembert (three interceptions, 41 tackles).  Jonathan Falgout is also worth watching at linebacker.

And before you write off Air Force’s pass defense, they faced some good passing offense — BYU (12th), San Diego State (31st), UNLV (49th), and Utah (55th).  They shut down the latter two, contained the Aztecs, and BYU…well, Max Hall had a big day.

Air Force can also control the clock and keep Keenum and the Cougars offense off the field.  The Falcons are 20th in time of possession.  And while the Cougars can be quick strike, they tend to put drives together rather than go for the killshot.  So, keeping Keenum off of the field is crucial.

Plus, Houston is 112th against the run, allowing 213.1 yards per game!  In the Cougars’ three losses, they gave up over 300 yards to UTEP (57th in rushing yards per game), over 150 to UCF (73rd running the ball), and 151 yards to East Carolina (59th)!

Thus, knowing that Houston probably will not stop the Air Force running game, this game should be yet another entertaining bowl.  And, it will be interesting to see if the top passing defense can stop, or at least contain, the top passing offense.

So, those are five games beyond the power conferences and the BCS bowls that are worth checking out.

Or, you could watch an “exciting” game like Pittsburgh v. North Carolina or South Carolina v. Connecticut!