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The College Football Report: BCS Mind-Melt

By Mike Luce

I'm proud to announce another first here at the College Football Report. The same folks who brought you The Brown Shoe Award now present . . . the ShamNow Trophy. And the inaugural winner is . . . the NCAA's "Committee on Sportsmanship and Ethical Conduct"! According to its webpage, the Committee exists to develop "a positive sporting environment for intercollegiate athletics." The Committee consists of 11 members who meet twice a year, issue an annual report, and - "if necessary" - hold one conference call. (I think CFR may need to hand out an award for bureaucratic efficiency as well. In my experience, comparably sized committees in the workplace can't decide between Jimmy John's and Potbelly's for lunch without a conference call.)

To help spread the sportsmanship message, the CSEC provides an Online Toolkit. Let's take a look at the Toolkit's contents:

* A PDF of "Saving Face: How to Lie, Fake, and Maneuver Your Way Out of Life's Most Awkward Situations"

* A "Tailgating Situation Analysis" that identifies Anheuser-Busch as a "partner in message delivery." Yes, the same company that released 27 varieties of college-themed Bud Light cans cans. (Maize-and-blue for Michigan, purple-and-gold for LSU, etc.) How's that partnership doing?

* The cell phone numbers for Tony Dungy and Dr. Harry Edwards.

* A link to the webpage of Jacksonville optometrists Drs. Wood, Lanier, Bowman & Rogers with a note reading "mention code EYEGOUGE for 10% off first appointment!"

That's right, we're not going to let the Brandon Spikes non-suspension go so easily. As we reported earlier this week, Florida LB Spikes drew a half-game suspension (read: "slap on the wrist") for attempting to blind Georgia RB Washaun Ealey last Saturday. Spikes, already hampered by a leg injury, voluntarily suspended himself against tomato can Vanderbilt this weekend. What a guy.

BCS BS
If you expected the BCS to earn the ShamNow this week, we can understand. The World Series ended last night, leaving us with a few weeks of nothing but college football and early games in the NBA and NHL seasons. What else is there to talk about . . . ? Yep, time to pull out the ol' BCS playbook! Time to rage against the inequities of the machine - even though in this case The Man has a contract with ESPN until 2013 rendering all debate in the interim more or less moot.

Do I support the BCS? No. Would I favor a playoff system? Yes. Should Boise State have to join the PAC-10 for a shot at the national championship? No. Yet I find the teeth-gnashing tiresome. How hard could it be?

The annual debate - nearly all one-sided - got fully underway earlier this week as notable voices weighed in. Big names, like the Washington Post's John Feinsten, laid out the case against the BCS. Critics of the Bowl Championship Series selection system claim that teams outside the 66 in the BCS (Pac-10, Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, ACC, Big East plus Notre Dame) get unfairly excluded regardless of record or qualifications. Critics favor a playoff system that, somewhat like the NCAA basketball tournament, would allow the Little Guy a shot at the national championship.

A quick rundown of the BCS Top 10 standings this week: Florida, Texas, Alabama, Iowa, Cincinnati, TCU (undefeated, non-BCS), Boise State (undefeated, non-BCS), Oregon, LSU, and Georgia Tech. Note that Oregon's only loss came to Boise State in Week One.

The point-counterpoint usually runs something like this:

BCS: The system makes every regular season game important.

Critic: If so, Boise's win over Oregon - in Week One - should be just as important now as it was eight weeks ago.

BCS: You have to consider the whole body of work. (In other words, an early loss by a BCS team to a non-BCS doesn't really matter because BCS teams go on to prove their mettle against other - presumably tougher - BCS teams in conference play. Whereas non-BCS teams go on to play . . . other non-BCS teams. Because they play in a non-BCS conference. Follow?)

BCS: Teams like Boise State should play a tougher non-conference schedule.

Critic: They try to - but nobody will play Boise State!

BCS: A playoff system would interfere with academics.

Critic: Not so, because a) nobody objected when the season recently expanded to 12 or 13 games, and b) the playoffs would fall during the holiday break, or at worst at the start of the spring semester.

BCS: Playoffs would ruin the traditional tie-ins between bowl games and conferences.

Critic: The BCS bowls have already done that, with the exception (most years) of the Rose Bowl.

And here's a new straw man introduced by Big East commissioner John Marinatto on Wednesday:

BCS: Only eight teams would experience a post-season bowl.

Critic: Wait, what? An eight-team playoff is seven games, right? There are 34 bowl games!

Finally, my personal favorite. I hate paperwork too.

BCS: Switching to a playoff system would be too complicated. It's logistically impossible to figure out which system to use, who qualifies, and how the participants would split up all the money.

Critic: Well, you geniuses invented the BCS HAL 9000. Surely we could get this done.

Here is the dirty little secret - the networks and the NCAA don't favor a playoff system because it would inevitably compete with the NFL.The 2009-10 BCS National Championship Game - the fifth and final BCS bowl - takes place on Thursday, January 7. The NFL playoffs begin with wildcard weekend on Saturday, January 9.

Yet I have not seen a hypothetical playoff scenario that would enable the television networks to make more money and avoid competing against their own coverage of the NFL. The fans want a playoff. The players want a playoff. (OK, maybe not Oklahoma.) Hell, there's even a pro-playoff Political Action Committee!

We need a change we can believe in! Well, not so much a change, really, more like a tweak. Let's call it an adjustment. After all, most of the usual suspects will keep the cash. But Utah will have a chance to get smoked by LSU in the first round. Fine, let's just call it what it is - we need more gambling opportunities!

And with that, our non-BCS picks for Week 10 - for entertainment purposes only. Including gambling.

Game: #25 BYU (-13) @ Wyoming (Saturday, 1 p.m.)

Comment: Wyoming is not a terrible team. The Cowboys boast a 3-1 mark in home games, and have competed against Air Force and Utah in the past two weeks. Brigham Young desperately needs a win, however, to have a shot at a decent post-season bowl game. We don't like giving double-digits on the road, but we'll take the Cougars.

*

Game: New Mexico @ #17 Utah (-27.5, Saturday, 5 p.m.)

Comment: New Mexico is downright awful. Whew. When the wind blows just so, you can smell their stench from here. Even so, we don't love the Utes. After all, that is a lot of points. But the allure of the half point may be too much to resist. Ah, buying the hook. It always seems like a good idea, but really just costs you more money when you lose.

*

Game: #13 Houston @ Tulsa (+1, Saturday, 6:30 p.m.)

Comment: The Golden Hurricanes hosted Boise State a few weeks ago and only lost by a touchdown. Houston ain't no Boise.

*

Game: #6 TCU (-24.5) @ San Diego State (Saturday, 3 p.m.)

Comment: This line has been creeping northward all week. We have seen it waver between -24 and -25 for a day or two. In contrast to Tulsa and Wyoming, the Aztecs don't look intriguing - even on paper. SDSU allegedly resorted to a secret halftime beheading ritual to beat New Mexico by three last week. I doubt such chicanery will work against the holy warriors from Texas Christian.

*

Game: #5 Boise State (-21) @ Louisiana Tech (Friday, 7 p.m.)

Comment: I'm sensing a tight game, even a potential upset. It's Friday night, it's primetime, La-Tech has nothing to play for, and the Broncos . . . wait, what am I saying? ROLL, BOISE, ROLL! IT'S YOU AGAINST THE WORLD! SHOW THOSE FATCATS WHAT YOU CAN DO! Ahem. Umm, yes, we'll take the Broncos. Thanks.

CFR Notes
The Beachwood Sports Seal resurfaced on Thursday night, took Virginia Tech by 13 points, and settled down to a nice evening of prime-time ESPN. By the time his fish-and-chips takeout arrived, the Hokies were leading 6-0. The Seal looked distressed. Despite red-zone possession after red-zone possession, Virginia Tech only managed one touchdown. The cover was at serious risk, and the chorus of bleats and warbles at a fever pitch, when Va Tech intercepted an ECU pass, promptly went three-and-out and kicked a 31-yard field goal for the PUSH. Va Tech 16, ECU 3.

With that harrowing experience weighing heavily on his blubbery mind, the Seal submitted the following picks:

~ Syracuse @ #14 Pittsburgh (-21, Saturday, 11 a.m.)
~ Central Florida (+35) @ #2 Texas (Saturday, 11 a.m.)
~ Connecticut (+17.5) @ #4 Cincinnati (Saturday, 7 p.m.)

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Mike "Dr. Dude" Luce brings you The College Football Report in this space twice a week, with the generous assistance of the Beachwood Sports Seal. They both welcome your comments.

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