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The bowl season rolls on.
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual (National Championship Semifinal)
#2 Oregon Ducks 59 vs. #3 Florida State Seminoles 20
Allstate Sugar Bowl (National Championship Semifinal)
#1 Alabama Crimson Tide 35 vs. #4 Ohio State Buckeyes 42
The inaugural championship playoff format gave us two, or possibly 1.5, good games on New Year's Day. To the relief of many (and disappointment of contrarians), the system functioned as designed by sorting out the best two of the top four teams. Looking back at the Rose and Sugar Bowls, there's no question Oregon and Ohio State proved they belong in the national championship.
Florida State looked overmatched and Alabama looked out of place. Substituting Alabama for Florida State would likely have yielded the same result, as Oregon looked capable of playing tough enough on defense to limit scoring opportunities and too fast and too skilled on offense to bow out against even top-ranked Ds. The national championship game will resolve the flip side of the same question by pairing up Oregon and Ohio State. As a marketing scheme, the format will undoubtedly succeed as well, as discussion of the upcoming championship will dominate sports coverage for nearly two weeks.
Even so, the four-team playoff format may fall victim to controversy in the future. A number of hypothetical scenarios will pose a problem to the current solution. For example, if teams just outside the top four post impressive results and the playoff games produce muddled or otherwise unsatisfactory outcomes, the clamor for broadening the field will grow. (Same story if the playoffs turn out duds for too many consecutive years.)
None of that happened, something we (and ESPN, which coughed up $7.3 billion for broadcast rights to the playoffs through at least 2025) should find a relief. Big-time college football has experimented with various solutions to resolve the championship question for more than two decades, not only the recently deceased BCS but also the short-lived Bowl Coalition (1992-94) and Bowl Alliance (1995-97).
The latter two acted as early stages in the evolution to the BCS, which managed to persist until last season when it finally crumpled under the weight (and distaste for same) of an excess of Byzantine rules. The opaque, and unquestionably subjective, nature of the Playoff Committee selection process may prove just as troublesome over time, but for now the approach can be proclaimed as a (one-time, so far) success.
Before diving into a championship preview next week, we'll join the deluge of "Top [x] Things We [y] in 2014" trend with the following Top 7.5 Things We Learned In the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl:
2. Ohio State scores on big plays. The Buckeyes only needed about 11 minutes of possession to score four touchdowns.
4. Past performance (FSU was 29-0) doesn't necessarily predict future success.
7. Alabama punter JK Scott deserved Rose Bowl MVP despite the loss. Scott averaged a lofty 55 yards on seven punts, including four which pinned OSU inside the 10-yard line.
7.5. This is the play of the season:
Editor's Note: I beg to differ. This is still the play of the season:
As for the remainder this weekend:
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
Houston Cougars (7-5) vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (6-6)
January 2, 11 a.m.
Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth
The Feline Faceoff! It's been a tough year for Panthers as the 2014 death toll hit a record high in Florida. Cougars got some good news (for cougars, not so much for area pets and toddlers) as experts predict a resurgence of the big cats in the Northeast.
Our pick: The Panthers (-5.5) need some love.
Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5) vs. Tennessee Volunteers (6-6)
January 2, 2:30 p.m.
EverBank Field, Jacksonville
We volunteer (ho ho!) the following for your consideration.
Our pick: Hawkeyes (+3)
Valero Alamo Bowl
#11 Kansas State (9-3) vs. #14 UCLA Bruins (9-3)
January 2, 5:45 p.m.
Alamodome, San Antonio
Big 12 teams have put up some ridiculous numbers in the 2014 bowl season. (Set aside Oklahoma and Texas, both of which apparently decided not to bother competing.) Consider these point totals: 37 (West Virginia), 41 (Baylor), and 42 (TCU).
Our pick: Over. Way over. (60.5)
Ticketcity Cactus Bowl
Washington Huskies (8-5) vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-6)
January 2, 9:15 p.m.
Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe
The Cactus Bowl? Really? Let's just give up and start fresh on these names. As nearly all take place in sunny climes (no one wants to play a postseason game in Duluth), all entries would require a tie-in to weather, geography, native species, or gerontology. Our submissions would include:
- The Tumbleweed Bowl (El Paso, TX)
- The Back Nine Bowl Presented by Bionic Relief Grip Golf Gloves (Clearwater, FL)
- The San Bernardino Bowl (San Bernardino, CA)
- The Celestial Bowl (Salt Lake City, UT)
- The LAP-BAND System Bowl (Biloxi, MS)
- The National Rifle Association Bowl (Tombstone, AZ)
- The Double-Down Bowl (Las Vegas, NV)
Our pick: Washington (-7)
East Carolina Pirates (8-4) vs. Florida Gators (6-5)
January 3, 11 a.m.
Legion Field, Birmingham
Similar to the Cactus Bowl, the title Birmingham Bowl doesn't inspire much interest. Nor does this match-up. The NCAA should rename this one "The Pittsburgh of the South Bowl" and mandate that Pitt, if bowl eligible, make the trek to Birmingham every season. Panthers versus Gators? We'd tune in. Not quite Godzilla vs. Mothra, but still.
Our pick: East Carolina (+7)
Toledo Rockets (8-4) vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves (7-5)
January 4, 8 p.m.
Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile
Bring on the salacious commercials! We love the GoDaddy.
Our pick: Scantily-clad celebrity endorsements and Toledo (-4)
Mike Luce is our man on campus. He welcomes your comments.