Gephart: In the Dawg House

Tis definitely the season to be jolly…especially for all football fans now that the annual college bowl season is finally in full swing.

Although the Dawg is a huge proponent of Division 1A football joining every other college sport at any level in conducting an annual playoff format, I have to admit I still get all hyped up about college bowl season. I'm definitely not one of those hacks out there who feel it necessary to rip the current, yet admittedly archaic, post season that major college football has had since the beginning of the last century, just to support the position that a playoff is obviously necessary. To the Dawg, this is like ripping a classic Ford Mustang from the early 1960's because it lacks all the "bells and whistles" and gas efficiency standard you find with today's models.


Fact is, both have their merits AND their drawbacks.


Unfortunately, what college football would LOSE by scrapping the bowls system in favor of a playoff is often NOT mentioned when the debate is presented in many of the columns we all read. Usually missing from the whole debate is the great tradition and atmosphere that college bowls provide, two important qualities that would definitely be missing from the more septic format of a playoff tournament. What college bowls do more than anything is give the fans and alumni of many college teams the opportunity to enjoy and celebrate the successful and winning season of their beloved team. It's also an opportunity (especially for non BCS conference members) to show off their talents in a national spotlight.


Nonetheless, there are just too many outside factors involved in big time college football. So many different human polls that are really just the same; they are just popularity contests more than anything. Computer formulas aren't much better because they are also prone to human error as well. Yet somehow these two formats are jumbled together and used to decide which two teams play for the national championship and who else is fortunate enough to be invited to the big money bowl games. In the end, it's a system that is really NOT getting it done. 


So what is the Dawg's solution?


I say, let's have them both. I know…not a completely revolutionary idea, but my format for the bowl system and the national playoff coexisting is a little different from what I've read about up until now.


If I were running the whole show, I would bring back the old bowl system before the BCS. After all the bowls were done, I would have an NCAA committee pick the eight best teams and have a three week playoff leading up to the NCAA championship game being played the open weekend after the NFL conference championship games and before the Super Bowl. Three extra weeks at the beginning of a semester hurts no one. And since the best eight teams each year are presumably playing on New Year's Eve and/or New Year's Day, no students would miss their fall semester finals.


Hey, if the basketball players can play for a full five months, why can't eight of the most elite teams in the top division of football do it as well? Most of the best players in college are playing in all star games throughout January anyway, so they are already used to the schedule. And is there a better format for the nation's best players to show off than in a national playoff?


Maybe it's just me, but it seems to be an idea that brings together the best of both the bowl season and a true playoff to decide the true champion in the highest division of college football.


I think its time this year's Pitt basketball team gets a little love from the Dawg. Another 10-0 run to start the season and also back in the national rankings as well. Sure the schedule has been a little light with nine of the ten games within Pittsburgh city limits, but Auburn and South Carolina are more worthy opponents this year than many Pitt fans are giving them credit for. Yet Pitt has beaten both and not come close to losing any of the other games on the schedule as well. And all of this success comes after a VERY disappointing end to last year and following the graduation of the most successful senior class in school history. It's even more amazing when one considers that so many young players have been forced into playing significant minutes so early in their college career.


What I like most about this year's edition of our Panthers on the hardwood is their desire and commitment to team oriented play. If anyone deserves more credit for this year's team approach than Head Coach Jamie Dixon, it's certainly Carl Krauser, the team's lone returning Senior. CK deserves major props for coming back this year and fitting seamlessly into Dixon's team approach and for also allowing a true freshman to take over at the point guard position. Its becoming apparent that Krauser's knack for going to the hoop is better suited for the off guard position.


Winning 20 games this year suddenly doesn't seem such a huge stretch for the Panthers right now. Especially when you consider that this easy domination of Pitt's non-conference foes will be followed by a relatively easy Big East schedule void of a game against #3 Villanova and with only one game against the other conference heavyweights: Louisville, Syracuse and Connecticut.


What was looking like a serious rebuilding year for the seemingly NIT bound Panthers is instead shaping up into a season that could end up with the Panthers making some noise in the NCAA tournament.


One thing is for sure, things are going to be bright for the Panthers and the Oakland Zoo in the next few years…


In the Dawg House:  I promised myself when I started this column that I would NOT put someone in the Big House just for the sake of having someone incarcerated each and every week.


And I'll be honest; I have been infuriated this week by some of the obscene and reverential treatment of Michigan by Mike Tirico and Kirk Herbstreit during the Alamo Bowl and Arizona State by Brent Musburger in the Insight Bowl. Some of the major publications not only dismissing any Big East team's opportunity to win their bowls, but also indicating those bowls themselves are uninteresting and mediocre has annoyed the Dawg as well.


But neither were enough to warrant a trip to the Dawg House.


So in lieu of a new Dawg House member, I decided I would give my analysis and predictions of the upcoming major bowls instead. If anything, I'm giving you all an opportunity to rip the Dawg himself when most of my predictions are proven to be completely wrong. Please note, these predictions are straight up; I'm certainly not qualified or competent enough with betting lines and/or advice.


Cotton Bowl: #18 Texas Tech vs. #13 Alabama

Defense wins games in the end and Alabama has a pretty good one. Texas Tech got blown out at Texas, understandable. They also lost by a touchdown to 4-7 Oklahoma State. Alabama's two losses were close ones to LSU and Auburn. Alabama wins 21-13.


Outback Bowl: #25 Iowa vs. #16 Florida

Wow, this is a tough one. Although Florida has much more obvious talent, they also don't have as solid a run game as Iowa. Plus, they have incurred double the penalties. I like a disciplined Iowa in the upset 28-23.


Gator Bowl: #15: Louisville Vs. #12 Virginia Tech

Va. Tech has a new conference, but some things still never change for the Hokies. Tech went from a potential undefeated season to losing the ACC Championship in less than a month. Louisville's defensive line should be able to contain Marcus Vick and the power running of Michael Bush will be the difference as the Cardinals take it 34-28


Capital One Bowl: #21 Wisconsin vs. #7 Auburn    

There is not as much difference between the Badgers and the Tigers as the rankings might suggest. Perhaps the only one is the fact that the Tigers beat two ranked teams down the stretch and Wisconsin didn't get it down when they had the same chance. Auburn gets by Wisconsin 27-24.


Fiesta Bowl: #5 Notre Dame vs. #4 Ohio State

Two teams in the top 5 more for whom they lost to (USC and Texas) more than anything else. Despite both high profile teams having two losses and lacking a marquee victory, this should be an interesting game. I'll take the Irish's potent offense over the Buckeyes emerging defense any day of the week. Notre Dame wins it 31-17.


Sugar Bowl: #8 Georgia vs. #11 West Virginia

Call me crazy, call me even biased, but I like the Mountaineers in this game…a lot. WVU's unusual (yet very good) defense will give Bulldogs quarterback D.J. Shockley fits and Pat White and Steve Slaton will do enough on offense for West Virginia to prove the Big East still deserves its automatic BCS bid. WVU wins a close one 21-17.


Orange Bowl: #22 Florida State vs. #3 Penn State UPS is clearly the best team and very deserving of its top 5 status. Somehow the 8-4 Seminoles have avoided much of the criticism that the 8-3 Pitt Panthers suffered last year for "crashing" the BCS party. They won't avoid the Panthers fate though, as UPS forces numerous turnovers and wins big 28-10.


Rose Bowl: #2 Texas vs. #1 Southern California

Does it even matter what the Dawg thinks?! USC has already been proclaimed the greatest college team ever. Although it seems a little forced, the Longhorns rightfully have a BIG chip on their shoulder. Will it be enough to beat the Trojans? In a strange year where teams seem to get more credit for playing well in losses than anything else, the Longhorns will be praised for keeping it close. USC wins its second BCS championship, 35-31.





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