Now Here's a Bowl Game That Makes Sense

So is anyone out there bowled over yet? With a slew of holiday post-season extravaganzas already in the books, are there any that stand out in your memory? It's not surprising if there aren't because these games have virtually no significance outside of the Fiesta Bowl being played in Tempe, Arizona, between undefeated Miami and Ohio State.

Give the latest bowl system to end all playoffs credit; the BCS was designed to match up No. 1 against No. 2 and thanks to some fortunate late-season upsets it has for the most part managed to do that — although Miami could make a strong case for being excluded two years ago when Oklahoma and Florida State battled for the national crown in the Orange Bowl. Otherwise, the Canes could be playing for their third straight national title this week.

No, the BCS has for the most part done what it was supposed to do, and that may ultimately be its downfall because with one bowl game meaning everything the remainder of the 30-something slate means virtually nothing. Even the Fiesta Bowl loses some of its luster when you consider that it matches two teams that haven't played in ten weeks, collectively. How bogus is it to decide a national title over a month after the season ends? It's like getting two teams qualified for the Super Bowl and playing the game five weeks later. It's like letting the Final Four decide the national title in May. How much of an advantage will Miami have with a four-week break between games compared to Ohio State's six weeks?

What about the inequity of some conferences having a championship game which means winning one more contest against a quality opponent than your competition has to just to reach a national championship game? Last season the SEC required Tennessee to beat the same team twice in a season to qualify for the Rose Bowl. Instead Nebraska went to Pasadena despite failing to win its own six-team division in the Big 12 Conference and getting blown out by Colorado to end the regular season.

None of this is to suggest that Tennessee or any of the other 60-something squads that won the six games necessary to qualify for a bowl don't deserve to go. In fact, Tennessee's late-season rally in large measure was fueled by its desire to maintain a 14-year bowl streak, and the Peach Bowl is an adequate reward for an 8-4 team. However, Nebraska (6-7) saw its record dip below .500 for the first time since the Johnson administration after losing to Ole Miss in the Independence Bowl which makes you wonder what was the point of going to Shreveport with a 6-6 mark.

But I didn't come here today to bury bowl games, but rather to praise them. Because somehow they manage to get our attention despite often featuring mediocre teams playing meaningless games before half-empty stadiums. Today and tomorrow they will reach a crescendo leading into the climatic championship tilt. The problem is that once you find yourself addicted to something, that can't possibly be good for you, it's suddenly over and football fans have a 400-pound bowl monkey on their backs.

In absence of a playoff, I'm suggesting another bowl game to end the parade of pathetic post-season offerings. This one would be played in dead of winter in Bismarck, N.D., between the two lowest rated Division I teams in the nation. Call it the Cold Turkey Bowl in honor of the participants and the bad habit we would all be kicking by watching them play a day after the BCS title game. In keeping with the prevailing commercial trend, we could even get Nicorette as a corporate sponsor.

As bizarre as it sounds, the game would actually have more significance than most bowl fare because the Cold Turkey Bowl would settle the question: Which is the worst team in America? That at least means something and it's sure to attract a TV audience of curious onlookers (if no spectators) like the people who stop to gawk at a car crash.

It would also prove that if you put up the money two teams will show up to play, and if you put it on TV some are sure to watch. It would provide a consolation prize for experiencing a miserable season, it would make the teams that didn't get invited to a bowl feel better and it would settle the issue of who's No. 111.

So slap on a patch, lift a glass of flat champagne and toast a new holiday tradition — the Nicorette Cold Turkey Bowl.

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