Sunday, November 20, 2011

BCS Chaos

I have made no secret of my distaste for the so–called Bowl Championship Series — or BCS — that is supposed to match the two best college football teams in a national championship game at season's end, even though neither team must earn its spot in a playoff system.

Unless one or both must play in a conference championship game.

But no champions from other conferences must be conquered to reach the national title game. Only the pollsters and computers must be persuaded of the teams' worthiness — and they need not be familiar with the teams they choose.

In fact, there probably are coaches who vote in their poll or sports writers who vote in their poll who have had little, if any, exposure to the teams that ultimately are anointed to play for all the marbles.

That is my greatest gripe about the BCS system, I suppose.

Let's assume, if only for a minute, that LSU wins the SEC championship game against Georgia. A case can be made that the participants in that game earned their berths on the field — and, since the championship game will be played on a day when there will be very few other college football games, it is logical to assume that most, if not all, of the coaches who participate in their poll and the sports writers who participate in their poll will see the game.

But week in and week out, how many coaches do you suppose take time out from their own game preparation responsibilities to familiarize themselves with three or four dozen college teams by watching tape of and/or reading articles about them?

For that matter, how many sports writers take time from their coverage of local or regional programs to view the tapes and read the articles relating to those same three or four dozen college teams from around the country?

Probably few in either instance.

But, like lemmings allegedly committing mass suicide when they migrate, they follow the group. What may have begun as the perception of a few becomes a self–fulfilling prophecy.

Unless fate intervenes.

Fate intervened this weekend.

LSU, the top–ranked team in the nation, almost surely will remain where it was when the weekend began.

But #2 Oklahoma State as certainly will drop after its double–overtime loss to Iowa State on Friday night — a development that was doubly shocking. The Cowboys were expected to whip the Cyclones, even before the news reached the team that the OSU women's basketball coach and one of his assistants were killed in an airplane crash in central Arkansas.

News of the tragedy was expected to serve as even more motivation for the Cowboys — but it didn't.

They were stunned, I guess — or maybe they were simply lethargic. Their big showdown with Oklahoma is two weeks away — and the Cowboys have next week off. How could 10–0 Oklahoma State, with wins over the likes of Texas A&M, Texas and Kansas State, get excited about playing 5–4 Iowa State?

Whatever it was, the Cowboys lost the game.

Folks were still absorbing that news when a couple of other bombshells were dropped on the Top 10.

First, the other Oklahoma school went down in spectacular fashion. The once–beaten Sooners faced Baylor University, a team that had never beaten Oklahoma in 19 previous attempts. In fact, it had been more than a decade since Baylor even came within two touchdowns of OU.

But, on Saturday night in Waco, Texas, the Bears beat the fifth–ranked Sooners — pretty convincingly, too.

And, as that equally shocking development was playing out in the heart of Texas, there was even more.

Fourth–ranked Oregon was losing its second game of the season. The Ducks' first defeat was way back at the beginning of the season in a Labor Day weekend clash with LSU. Oregon had been craving a rematch in the national championship game, but the loss to 18th–ranked Southern California undoubtedly put an end to any such hopes.

It can be argued, for that matter, that Oklahoma is also out of the national championship conversation. And, although they have only one loss, that one loss — to a six–win team — is probably too devastating for the Oklahoma State Cowboys to overcome.

Well, I've been saying it would take a state of utter chaos to build momentum for the implementation of a playoff system — and we may be witnessing the start of such a state.

But I want it to go beyond what has happened this weekend.

On Friday, my alma mater, the University of Arkansas (ranked sixth when the weekend began and certain to move up in the rankings later today following a 44–17 victory over Mississippi State yesterday) will travel to Baton Rouge to play LSU. Baton Rouge can be a scary place for most football teams — but not necessarily for Arkansas.

Sure, the Razorbacks are 1–4 in Baton Rouge since 2001, but all but one of those games were decided by three points or less. And the Razorbacks have won three of their last four games against the Tigers.

Another victory is not out of the question — and it could propel the Razorbacks into the SEC championship game against Georgia.

Especially if Auburn upends currently second–ranked Alabama in Saturday's Iron Bowl. If you're scoffing at that notion, let me remind you that Alabama–Auburn is a rivalry of long standing — and rivalries like that operate in spheres of their own.

There are other things that could happen in other games to change the dynamics of the BCS and make more college football fans think about the system that currently chooses the national champion and how it compares to a legitimate playoff system.

Undoubtedly, those things will be evident later today when the latest polls come out and then tonight when the latest BCS standings are released.

In the end, LSU may well be the only unbeaten team standing and may be the unquestionable choice to be national champion.

But I'm still pulling for chaos, and if what happened on Friday and Saturday is the beginning of revolutionary chaos, then all I can say is ...

Let the revolution begin.

But, for now, I am pleased.

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