The Worst Bowl System
It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried. – Winston Churchill
Old Winston could have used the same logic when discussing the BCS, except that he wasn't known as a fan of American Football.
Calls for a football playoff system have been going on for decades. The BCS was intended to be the system that finally would put those calls to rest, yet instead it has only amplified them. The reality is that the only people who agree with the choice of the top 2 schools are usually the fans of those schools that are selected. Too often it seems like there may be a USC snubbed in favor of an LSU such as happened just a few years ago.
This year the early punditry appears to be very much headed in the same direction as only 4 unbeaten teams remain in the NCAA including Rutgers, and most likely no more than 2 or 3 unbeaten teams will remain when all is said and done. The prime point of contention is the possibility that a 1-loss team will head to the National Championship game in Arizona instead of an undefeated team.
The pundits have various reasons for this potential snub. Some have remarked about Rutgers poor strength of schedule or their short history of football success, but few have admitted the truth. An undefeated Rutgers gets a lift in the subjective polls by receiving so much attention, but the poor reputation of Rutgers remains nonetheless, and they will not let Rutgers receive a top ranking. One pundit has claimed that Rutgers is not "sexy". I'm not sure if Rutgers is "sexy" or not, but I doubt that the voters will really consider this.
The idea that a playoff system would resolve controversy is ludicrous. The fact is, the NCAA feeds on controversy. Controversy is what makes it interesting. The fact is, a playoff system would add 3 or 4 additional games to the end of the season, would add huge travel costs for any school that makes it that far, and would keep students away from classes for way too long.
Other sports have playoffs, but college football is a very different beast. A playoff road game requires over 100 student athletes to travel along with literally tons of equipment. A basketball team can fly coach. A football team usually has no choice but to fly charter.
Still at the end of a playoff you would have controversy. "They had a bad day." "The officials made a bad call."
So, will an undefeated Rutgers or Boise State get snubbed in favor of a 1 loss team? It probably will. Do I mind? Heck, no. I'm thrilled to even hear "Rutgers" and "National Championship" uttered in the same sentence. Even being considered for a National Championship would be a great honor for the league's former doormat. If reputation is truly a factor, then maybe it's appropriate that Rutgers be snubbed. That's OK, though. Reputations are earned, and as long as Coach Schiano can keep the team on this winning direction, that reputation will be well earned by next year and nobody will think otherwise.
Rutgers still has not completed their task. There are three more weeks of heavy chopping to go, and any misstep along the way could easily kill their chances to play in any BCS bowl. Just repeat this phrase: "10-0 is good enough for me."
It has been widely reported that ESPN reporter Mark May has picked Cincinnati to upset the Scarlet Knights tomorrow night in a setting that would appear to be the classic "trap" game. While Greg Schiano's constant exhortations to the players to "keep chopping" may be enough to overcome the trap, it's worth noting that this game bears strong similarities to another trap game not too long ago.
Still celebrated as among the greatest games in Rutgers history, the 1992 win over Virginia Tech by a score of 50-49 gave the Scarlet Knights a 5-3 record and it appeared likely that Rutgers could reach their first out-of-state bowl game. What many fans have forgotten, however, is that the next game was a seemingly simple game at Cincinnati, and while Rutgers was favored, the Bearcats upset them 26-24 and once again "Same old Rutgers" was forgotten by the bowls.
The fans have adopted "the chop" as a mantra on Rutgers success. I certainly hope the players take the deeper meaning to heart and don't stop playing their best games until there's no more games left to play.
Around the Big East
And then there was one...
The Big East has only one remaining undefeated team, and while Rutgers is on top and controls their own destiny, the problem with controlling your own destiny is that destiny can go south if care is not taken. The remaining schedule provides no gifts either. Tomorrow's game sends the Scarlet Knights back on the road to take on a surprisingly gutsy Cincinnati team. Cincinnati has played well and stands one win away from bowl eligibility, and after easily dispatching South Florida and Syracuse, Cincinnati will be looking to extend their winning streak by making a strong statement on National television by defeating Rutgers. Cincinnati is looking like a legitimate contender in the stretch and cannot be overlooked.
What has happened to Pittsburgh? After winning 6 of their first 7 games and receiving Top 25 votes in the polls, the Panthers have lost four consecutive games starting with their 20-10 loss to Rutgers on October 21st.
Last Saturday Pittsburgh let UConn back into the game after they were down 31-17 at the start of the final quarter and lost in double overtime when quarterback DJ Hernandez ran for a 2-point conversion. In the Backyard Brawl, Pittsburgh lead West Virginia 27-24 at the half, but the Mountaineers shot off three unanswered touchdowns in the second half to put the game away.
Next weekend Pittsburgh will host Louisville for their final game and their final opportunity to gain a 7th win.
UConn is now 4-5 and is still in the hunt for bowl eligibility. They travel to Syracuse tomorrow to take on the Orange at Noon. That game will be broadcast on MSG.
South Florida easily defeated Syracuse 27-10 last Saturday to extend their record to 7-3 and almost assure them of a bowl bid, but the remainder of their season is a killer with road games against #10 Louisville tomorrow (ESPNU at 7:30pm) and their season finale next week at #8 West Virginia.
Magic_Al's Bowl Predictions
- Rose Bowl (Big East Champions): Rutgers
- Gator Bowl: Big 12
- Sun Bowl: West Virginia
- Texas Bowl: Louisville
- International Bowl: South Florida
- Birmingham Bowl: Cincinnati
- MPC Computers Bowl (At-Large): Pittsburgh
Having been pushed to #8 in the BCS, West Virginia still has a chance to play in a BCS bowl even with a loss to Rutgers, but they will need to maintain a Top 12 ranking that is required to become eligible for an at-large selection. Receiving that selection may be difficult, however, as the number of open BCS slots is dwindling. After their defeat of Pittsburgh, look for West Virginia to improve and possibly push down Rutgers in the standings. Rutgers now leads the Big East and has improved to #6 in the BCS, but the Big East still has a tougher road to get two teams into BCS bowl games. The new BCS picture now makes it likely that the Rose Bowl will pick the Big East champions.
A big factor that may decide the availability of an at-large spot for a Big East team is if Boise State receives a BCS bid. They would receive an automatic bid if they are in the top 16 and the ACC's champion is ranked lower than them. Right now that appears likely, with Boise State ranked 12th.
The ACC currently has only 6 teams with winning records, yet has 8 bowl affiliations including their automatic BCS bid. At this point, it doesn't appear that Miami will be able to win their 6th game to become bowl eligible, so the MPC Computers Bowl will be looking for an At Large team to travel to Boise, and a bowl eligible Pittsburgh may be what they're looking for.
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