I keep getting asked why I don’t write about college football. The answer is simple and the solution equally simple. I cannot, will not and refuse to get excited about a sport that decides its champion by polls and computers rather than games played on the field.
If any other sport tried to get away with the nonsense that is college football no one would watch and things would change. College football however, has two important things going for it. The game itself, football is currently the most beloved sport in this country and more importantly people’s loyalty to their universities.
The latter is by far the more important of the two and is why the NCAA can continuously see poll results in which 90% of people polled prefer a playoff, yet keep things status quo. It is why no matter how bad the economy or how bad the team, college football teams around the country consistently play in front of packed houses, people’s loyalty to their schools.
I’m sorry but personally, I can’t do it and if more people (ok a lot more) took my attitude and stopped watching and going to games we’d actually have a playoff system in place next year. Here is my major gripe with the BCS system and the lack of a playoff outside of the obvious which is the games aren’t decided on the field.
Unless your team starts the season in the top 10, even going undefeated might not guarantee a chance at a national title and that is just wrong. College football is all about the polls. Wins and losses don’t matter as much as how far you climb after a win and how far you drop after a loss.
Think I’m wrong? 2008 Utah Utes. Remember that team? They went undefeated, 13-0 but weren’t given a chance to play for a national title. Instead, a Florida team that lost a game at home to an unranked team, played an Oklahoma team that lost at home as well. The logic was that Utah didn’t play anybody. While in most instances, I would agree that midmajors shouldn’t be in the BCS title game until there is some sort of playoff, this season was an exception. Utah had defeated more ranked teams and more top 10 teams than either Oklahoma or Florida and when given the chance against the same Alabama team that Florida struggled to beat they destroyed them in the Sugar Bowl. What hurt Utah (aside from playing in the Mountain West) was their starting position in the polls and where Florida and Oklahoma both landed after their respective losses.
Need more proof? How about the 2004 Auburn Tigers? They played in one of the big boy conferences, the mighty SEC. But because they started the season ranked behind USC and Oklahoma, 13-0 wasn’t enough for them to play for a national championship either as both USC and Oklahoma finished up 13-0 as well. Because both were ranked ahead of Auburn week one they were deemed the better teams several months later.
Which brings us to 2010. The examples I provided were a bit extreme and are probably the biggest injustices as they involve undefeated teams. Lets look at a more common problem which affects probably 10 or more schools a year. I went to Florida State. I was there in the glory days when we finished each season in the top 5 and were playing for (and winning) National Championships. 10 years later and Florida State has seen not so good times. Things however, were going to change this year.
With a new coach, one of the most experiences returning offensive lines (2nd behind Wisconsin) and a Heisman candidate at QB, the Noles were expected to contend for the ACC title. I looked at the roster and said, why not the National Title? Well, college football is why not. As I write this Florida State finds themselves sitting at #16 in the AP poll with a 6-1 record. Their only loss was to the #1 team in the country, on the road, early in the season. Among, the teams sitting ahead of them is an Alabama team who lost on the road to a 4-2 team; Ohio State who just lost on the road to a 1 loss team; undefeated Boise State who hasn’t beaten anyone of consequence and who won’t play anybody in the top 10 all season (ditto for TCU); Nebraska who lost at home to a 2 loss team; and so on.
Florida State started the season ranked behind all the aforementioned teams; when they lost they dropped out of the Top 25 and have had to climb back; when teams like Alabama and Ohio State lost they remained in the top 10. What does all this mean? It means that Florida State can potentially win the remainder of their games; which would include a road win over Miami, a win over Virginia Tech (Boise State’s signature win), win over Florida and over NC State; with their only loss coming to the #1 team, on the road and early in the season; and unless every one of those teams I mentioned earlier lose AGAIN, they would have ZERO chance at playing for the National Title. I’m sorry but I can’t get excited about this.
Also, for anyone that want’s to tell me that this is about money (BCS Bowl games) and tradition (all the other bowl games) I say nonsense. Long before everyone had an opinion on the subject (and their own solution) I wrote an article about this subject in 2003. The premise was college football could keep their bowls, have a playoff and there would be more money and more interest generated in the game. Here is how things would work:
1) Every conference would be required to have a conference championship game;
2) Worried about too many games? Well, no more games early in the season games against DII opponents and limit schools to two non-conference games a year;
3) 16-team playoff. The conference championship games are essentially the first round of the playoffs with the 6 winners from the Pac-10, Big East, Big 10, ACC, SEC and Big 12 get a spot. The other two spots would be reserved for the two highest ranked non BCS conference teams (that won their conference championship);
4) The quarterfinals would be played in the BCS Bowl game locations but would start two weeks (in December) after the completion of the conference title games. There is no need for a month and a half off. So, with 8 remaining teams there are 4 quarterfinal matchups. They would be played in the Orange, Cotton, Fiesta and Rose Bowl (the locations would rotate). The two semi-final games would be played in the Sugar and one of the four from the first round, lets just say the Fiesta; and the Championship would then be played from one of the remaining 3 locations from round one, so lets say the Orange. Each year the locations would rotate between the 5 spots as the currently do now anyhow with the +1? Are you going to sit there and tell me that this system wouldn’t generate more money? There would also be almost no controversy. Any controversy would be limited to the final spot potentially and I would gladly take that over what we have now;
5) As for the other bowl games. The argument against the playoff is always something along the lines of, you are taking away the smaller bowls which mean something to the teams and cities which host them. My question is why get rid of them? No one watches those games aside from die hard fans, people whose schools are playing in them OR people that bet the game. Well, what is suddenly going to change? Nothing, so under my system people will still be able to watch Wyoming battle Cal in the Taco Bell Bowl presented by Pepsi.
Until there is a playoff, count me as one of those who simply don’t care.
1) The hot topic in the NFL this week is player safety and concussions. I’m sorry but until you are going to get players the safest equipment possible (there are plenty of safer and more advanced helmets available than the ones used by the NFL) and stop talking about an 18-game schedule, please stop pretending that you, NFL are overtly concerned about your players. You are concerned about one thing and one thing only, your bottom line. Currently this subject is the national rage, so you decided to fine players who are playing within the rules as you’ve designed them. Makes me sick;
2) I’m thinking NCAA championship game is now looking like Oregon and Boise State;
3) Loved, loved, loved the Mad Men season finale although, I wish the plot twist (won’t ruin it for those who haven’t seen it) was more developed into the story, rather than just being thrown in our face. I hate that AMC tries to compare great shows like Mad Men and Breaking Bad to the garbage that is Rubicon. I have still not found a person that is fond of that show;
4) My own personal website is currently being constructed (more on that later);
5) An example of the intensity and importance of the ASCCL (my fantasy football league) to my friends. Last night, two of my friends were at the house discussing the upcoming Miami Heat season. One of the league’s owners (who is sitting at 5-1) mentioned that he had two tickets in the lower bowl to the Heat’s season opener. The other league owner in question (also sitting at 5-1) asked what it would take to acquire one of the tickets. Owner one said, "Drew Brees". Owner 2 (who is a huge Heat fan and has a future’s bet locked in with the Heat winning the title at 10:1) immediately shot down the idea and 30 minutes of smack talk ensued;
6) It seems with the release of all the racist tweets Lebron has released, there is more to his comments on Larry King than people initially gave him credit for. This doesn’t change the stupidity behind "The Decision" but does give some credence to his racism charges;
7) Rick Reilly really should stick to writing feel good stories about random people rather than anything related to real sports. The former always gives me the chills while the latter usually has me scratching my head wondering how this guy is an award winning sports writer. The most recent example is an article committed to choosing a nickname for the Heat’s big three. Ah, he turned on a television or peeked his head into any of the studios at his network, he’d realize they are being called "The Three Kings". I’m not saying I like the nickname, but please pay attention;
8) No Michael Jordan, as great as you were, you would not score 100 points in today’s NBA;
9) Did anyone really think James Harrison was going to retire;
10) Awkward moment of the week. On Monday night football this past week, Vince Young was introduced as, "former Heisman Trophy runner up," in mid-sentence Mike Tirico caught himself and paused before awkwardly finishing the introduction. Was pretty funny;
11) Brett Favre’s texting skills have given fantasy players an entire new challenge next year. Start a league where every team name "pokes" fun at the Vikings quarterback. Teams could be called, "Stiff Elbow", "No Regrets" [Sterger’s last name backwards, thanks Peter King!], "Allen Thicke", "Happy Ending" etc...just think of the possibilities!
1) Pittsburgh Steelers (last week #1) - Roethlisberger looked pretty good in his first game back and as he plays more should only get better. While, I understood Jerome Harrison’s frustration with being fined 75k for what looked like two within the rule hits, I’m not sure I agree with his manner in addressing his disgust. Steelers are most complete team that I’ve seen.
2) New York Jets (#3) - Got a bit lucky to win that game in Denver last week, but a win is a win and they were in position there at the end. They head into the bye week with the NFL’s best record and Rex Ryan has them playing well despite the circus atmosphere. Getting healthy which will only make them better.
3) New Orleans Saints (#4) - Showed last week that they are still the team to beat in the NFC. Chris Ivory provided a much needed spark in the running game and if the Saints can get their running game going, the play action pass will once again become a threat for Drew Brees and the offense.
4) New England Patriots (NR) - This Patriots team is sure starting to bring back memories of that 1st championship team and no its not because of the addition of Deion Branch. For the first time in nearly a decade you don’t really hear people outside New England talking about this team as a Super Bowl contender. In fact before the season started they weren’t even picked to make the playoffs. (I wasn’t one of those guys as I picked them to win the AFC East!) The defense, which is young keeps getting better and the passing game is back to chewing up clock with short and midrange passes.
5) Baltimore Ravens (#2) - Flacco continues to improve and Ray Rice is finally getting things going. Baltimore had New England on its heels down by 10 midway through the 4th quarter but couldn’t put them away. Baltimore should be fine but perhaps the funniest thing to come out of that game was Tom Brady’s quote. To put it in the proper context, Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs called out Brady after the game. Essentially, Suggs and Brady were going at it all day on the field with Suggs saying Brady was talking about everything but football. Well, on his weekly radio show, Brady responded, "You know, we've played (those) guys a lot, and they've beat us one time in all the times that I've played them. They talk a lot for beating us once in nine years." I am one person hoping these teams meet again in the playoffs.
Onto the emails:
From Unknown (NY):
We get it, you like the Jets, what about giving the Giants some love.
Well, that was only a matter of time. The Giants are currently in a good position, but until they stop committing stupid turnovers and play more consistently they are just another team in the NFC.
Let me start by saying that Instant Replay is a good thing, I want every call to be correct. Throughout history the human element of officiating has been the most controversial of all. My question is this, why does the official have to make the call in 100% real time but the coach gets to wait until his assistants have had time to review it in the booth from several angles (sometimes even using a timeout to let them have time) before they make a judgment whether to throw the red beanbag or not??? I think to be fair, the coach should have to make a quick decision whether or not to have a call reviewed. It would be my opinion that a coach would have 5 seconds off the play-clock and then his rights to appeal would be null and void. What would you say to that???
Jim, I can’t say I agree with you at all. The point of instant replay is getting the call right. In fact I don’t buy into all this ruining the flow of the game thing either. I want to know that if I invested 3 hours of my time to watch a game, it wasn’t decided on some bad call by a referee. In fact, I wish they used instant replay more. If a coach though a penalty was the wrong call, make that reviewable. You don’t want a situation like the one which plagued baseball’s first round of the playoffs, more people talking about missed calls then the games.
From Spencer (Atlanta):
Did you get a chance to read Peter King’s MMQB where he talked about pass interference penalties and how the rule should be changed? If you did what were your thoughts?
Spencer, I did read his MMQB and it is one of my favorite columns to read each week. I agreed with him that the rule should be changed. Make it a 15-yard penalty instead of a spot foul. I don’t like situations like the one in the Jets/Broncos game, where a team in desperation chucks the ball 50 yards downfield in hopes of drawing a penalty. No question, the referees in that game made the right call. I just don’t like the rule.
Thanks for all the emails, now onto the picks:
Last week: 8-6
Upset of the Week: 1-1 Season 5-7:
So finally had a winning week and almost nailed a couple of exact scores. Now lets see if I can build on it!
Cincinnati at Atlanta - I love the fact that Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, called out Bobby Petrino this week, calling him gutless as Bobby boy is one of my least favorite people in sports. As for the game, if you asked me a couple of weeks ago I probably would have taken the Bengals, but something is just not right with Carson Palmer and a lot of his interceptions are a result of what seems to be a lack of arm strength. Owens, who is having one of the best seasons of his career is also starting to show the reason he switches teams so much. Like Atlanta at home behind a clock controlling effort and lots of Michael Turner. Bengals 20 Falcons 27.
Washington at Chicago -While the Redskins aren’t "there" yet, the continue to play hard each and every week. The Bears cannot keep Cutler upright and ultimately that will be the difference in what should be a close game. I see this being an ugly game offensively and being a battle of the kickers. Redskins 13 Bears 9.
St. Louis at Tampa Bay - This game between two young teams will be up for game of the week considerations in a couple of seasons. I can’t say enough how impressed I’ve been with Sam Bradford (considering I thought he would be a terrible pro says how impressed I really am). He continues to display accuracy which St. Louis hasn’t seen since Kurt Warner left town. Anyhow, Buccaneers shouldn’t be overlooked playing with a very good quarterback of their own in Josh Freeman and one of the best young defenses in the NFL. I like Tampa Bay winning a close one. Rams 16 Bucs 20.
San Francisco at Carolina - Jed York must have looked at the schedule before sending his text message off to ESPN. Carolina continue’s it quarterback shuffle basically admitting they threw Jimmy Clausen in before he was ready. I don’t think it will matter as the 49ers will win their 2nd straight again behind their defense. Panthers 10 49ers 20.
Buffalo at Baltimore - This one should get ugly. Ravens are going to be headhunting after last weeks embarrassing collapse. One of my friends who happens to be a Bills fan was disgusted the Bills didn’t trade Lee Evans to the Vikings and Fred Jackson to the Packers. Not a good sign when these are the things your fan base is talking about in week 6 of the season. Bills 10 Ravens 31.
Philadelphia at Tennessee - This should be a fun hard hitting game. I’m thinking this game does one of two things for the Eagles. Either extinguishes the brewing quarterback controversy or escalates it to a level 10 controversy, you know the kinds that divide locker rooms and ruin seasons. I’m guessing the Titans, who are quietly playing very good football win this one rather easily at home, giving the Eagles a very heavy dose of Chris Johnson. Eagles 13 Titans 24.
Jacksonville at Kansas City - How in the world did the Jaguars beat the Colts? Chiefs got robbed at the end of that Texans game, but the fact their offense is starting to roll will only make this surprising team better moving forward. I always have trouble picking against them at home, but not as much when their opponent is the Jags. Jaguars 16 Chiefs 27.
Pittsburgh at Miami - This is a tough game to pick. Miami has won games at Minnesota and at Green Bay, while losing two prime time contests against the Jets and Pats. Unfortunately, I’m thinking the Phins are more the team we saw at home rather then the one that won those road games. Vikings were in the game despite 4 turnovers and the Phins couldn’t put away the Packers needing overtime to win. I see a spirited first half effort before they fall apart (again) in the second half. Steelers 24 Dolphins 20.
Cleveland at New Orleans - Saints rolled last week and Browns come into this game probably two receivers down. Expect the Saints to see a ton of Peyton Hillis and the Browns try to control the clock and keep things close. Colt McCoy was quite impressive on the road against the Steelers last week and that should at least provide Browns fans with something to cheer about. Browns 13 Saints 34.
Arizona at Seattle - So everything about my season analysis should point to Seattle. They are playing at home with probably the NFL’s biggest home field advantage; they are coming off a huge road win; and are playing a team starting an undrafted rookie free agent at quarterback. The only problem is that quarterback is Max Hall, and with every article I read about him I’m becoming more and more sold. Wait, not getting cute with this pick as Seattle is, playing at home, coming off a huge road win, and are playing a team starting an undrafted rookie free agent at quarterback. Cardinals 12 Seahawks 20.
New England at San Diego - Waiting. Waiting. Waiting. I am waiting for the Chargers to turn it on, like they are supposed to at this time of the season. What if, however, this season they don’t turn it on and their sloppy play early on actually means something? Is it too early to dump one of my Super Bowl picks? It is always hard for an east coast team to travel west, specifically after a huge emotionally draining over time win. That and the "must win" factor got me going with the Chargers. Patriots 27 Chargers 28.
Oakland at Denver - Oakland has shown some fight, which is really why I think they have the right guy in Tom Cable. The problem is they are still missing too many pieces on both sides of the ball. Denver is on the cusp of becoming a very good team and against their division rival at home what is not to like? Raiders 17 Broncos 27.
Minnesota at Green Bay - I will probably end up getting this game wrong and here is why: everything about this game points towards the Vikings. 1) They need the game; 2) Brett Favre against the Packers on national television; 3) They are healthy and the Packers are not; 4) Randy Moss owns the Packers; 5) Mike McCarthey finds ways to lose games late and this one should be close. But then, one factor and I mean one simple little thing, keeps pointing me to Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers. From everything I’ve read about this kid, he is the antithesis of Brett Favre. His teammates love him, he isn’t aloof and damn it, he is my quarterback. He handled the entire Favre situation with such class, what kind of justice would it be for him to fall to 0-3 against Favre? A part of me was actually convinced that the football gods brought Favre back to the Vikings simply so that Rodgers could even things up with him before Favre really retired. So from the heart, Vikings 21 Packers 24.
New York Giants at Dallas Cowboys - I don’t know what it is, but there is something very different about this seasons Dallas Cowboys. Despite their record no one, not even Jerry Jones is panicking. Yes, the fact they have a top 5 offense and top 5 defense doesn’t mean anything when they only have 1 win; but it does mean they are playing some pretty good football on both sides of the ball. There is a teeny, tiny window for them to turn their season around and it needs to start right here at home on Monday Night Football. Many are picking the Giants and are expecting a close game. I’m not and expect a coming out party similar to the Saints last week. Giants 10 Cowboys 38.
As always you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on twitter @mmt0315.