2008 Final Week of the Season – 12/7/08

It is hard to believe that the season is over.  I hate sounding so cliché, but I do feel like the Saturday afternoon affair Joleen and I hosted for the Virginia game was yesterday.  This season has passed by so quickly, I fear my aging is evident even in such a treasure as college football.  I should have decades and decades left to enjoy this, the greatest sport of all time, but it is hard to believe future decades could be as enjoyable as this one.  It doesn’t get much better than this.  Life is good.  And life as a Trojan, is just divine.
The BCS match-ups were announced tonight, and I have to confess that I take a lot of glee in the success of Operation Chaos.  The idea that two-loss Ohio State is in a BCS bowl, and that undefeated Boise State is not, is just rich.  The concept that Oklahoma is playing in the title, a game they may very well win, and surely deserve the chance to earn a berth there through a playoff, while Texas, boasting the same record, and also a 10-point win over them, is almost too much to handle.  The reality is that I want to be the person bitching about the BCS the loudest, because the vast majority of criticism I hear misses the major point:
There is no validity in the subjective determining of a champion just because the subjective opinion has more or less credibility than other subjective opinions.  The entire thesis of sports in this country is that the season work itself into an end-of-the-year scenario that involves competitive contests determining the champion. 
Sure, some sports use a 4-of-7 format along the way (pro baseball, pro basketball).  Others use a single-elimination tournament (pro football, college basketball).  But, none – none – end with eight teams tied in overall record, and only two being randomly selected to play for a “championship.”  That anyone would defend this system, or anything that resembles it, is a reflection of what has happened to intellectual and moral fiber in this country.  The system is cartoonishly bad, and every rational human being knows it.  A #8 seed is supposed to have a chance to defeat a #1 seed in a playoff – it is what makes sports great.  You can think all you want that when Penn State lost to Iowa, that represents worse loss than when Texas Tech lost to Oklahoma, but the reality is this: every team has good weeks and bad weeks throughout a long season – what a playoff does is objectively reward the team that wins the games that matter at the end of the year.  You still have a dramatic burden in getting to the playoff (in my system, you have to win your conference, or be one of two other teams who gets in).  But, once in the playoff, there is no more whining or wondering – the best team is the team that wins.  Period.
I don’t care to get into the nooks and crannies of this year’s debacle.  I don’t care if an Oklahoma fan thinks that they are winning by so many points (which they surely are) that they should be selected over the Texas team beat them head-to-head.  And I don’t care if Texas thinks that their loss to highly ranked Texas Tech gives them precedence over Florida, who lost to Ole Miss.  The truth is that teams making their argument as to why they belong in play into the trap.  There is not argument for or against any of it.  Play a playoff, and everyone can shut the hell up.  I believe everything I can possibly say is best summarized this way:
Any argument in the world against a playoff system in college football automatically and necessarily means that every other sport on the planet, at every level, is doing it wrong.  Just keep that in your mind every time you hear anything about the subject.  “But what if Utah gets lucky and ends up beating a few teams at the end of the year, when really Florida is the best team”.  Huh???  Does anyone believe the Patriots were not really the best team in the NFL last year?  Of course they were.  But they laid an egg.  Period.  The big dance is where champions are crowned.  The current system is anti-climactic, fraudulently designed, and created for the purpose of enriching a bureaucracy that deserves to die a painful and public death.  I will work for this until it happens.
In Dave-land, the eight team playoff looks like this:
Pac-10 champ USC in the Rose Bowl against Big-10 champ Penn State
At-large Alabama in the Fiesta Bowl against at-large Utah
SEC champ Florida in the Sugar Bowl against Big-12 champ Oklahoma
Big East champ Cincinnati against ACC champ Virginia Tech
The winners of the first two games play in one semi-final, and the winners of the next two play each other the week after.  Then, one week later, the championship.  This adds only one week to the season, and that for only two teams. 
“But what about the fact that some conferences are tougher than others?”
The at-large allowance puts a really good second place team from a really good conference in the playoff.  And yes, four-loss Virginia Tech as ACC champ seems like a weakness in the system, BUT, doesn’t that apply to every other sport on the planet?  The Dodgers won their division this year, but had a worse record than tons of second place and third place teams from other divisions.  That is the way it goes.  And if that team wins three playoff games against the very best teams in the land, doesn’t it mean they deserved it?  Geez.  How obvious is this stuff?
But what about the bowl games?  I protected them.  What about the conferences?  I protected them.  What about academics?  Huh?  What?  Really?  March Madness.  I added a couple weeks for a tiny handful of teams.  Please.  Spare me.
This system needs to happen.  In the meantime, on with the musings.
– Congratulations to the greatest dynasty in the history of college football on their seventh consecutive Pac-10 championship – an outright crown they earned by being the best defensive team in the country.
– UCLA deserves kudos for their energy the first few minutes of the game, but not getting past the 40-yard line the rest of the game sort of nullifies that.  Does anyone think the rest of this country would be curious to see our defense against Florida or Oklahoma’s offense?  I digress.
– Mark Sanchez was a man among boys out there, and I am very, very proud of him.  He took four dirty, late hits, and kept scrapping.  He threw the ball very, very well (even his one pick was just a great play by the Bruin corner).  And he did all of this for over half the game without our best receiver.
– Joe McKnight must love the Rose Bowl, because between his Illinois performance last year and his first half yesterday, he has been outstanding.  Be healthy for the Nittany Lions, Joe.  You have ample time to carve your place in the Trojan history books.
– I am mystified by the media’s continued reporting that many Trojan players are expressing their disappointment in being back in the Rose Bowl.  It just isn’t true.  Every single thing that the players have said has been the exact opposite.  I do not know if the team will be ready or not, but I suspect this coaching staff will have the guys ready to play, as they always do for these big games.  Penn State is very good, and as always, anyone can beat anyone any time.  Penn State feels disrespected, and they should, for what they would be undefeated if it were not for a few [good] passing interference calls and a last second field goal.  I do believe USC’s defense will result in a double digit point spread being assigned to this game, but we would be favored by 10 points or more against Alabama, Ohio State, Utah, Cincinnati, and Virginia Tech as well.  The reality is that this has to get settled on the field. I believe Penn State is far more formidable than certain past Big-10 representatives.
– I pray Damian Williams shoulder heals quickly and fully.  He is a delight to watch.  You know, having brought up Williams, Sanchez, and McKnight already – all offensive stars coming back next year -one has to wonder if the offense next year will be so strong it makes up for the lost power on defense.  The offense is losing a grand total of one player, while the defense is obviously losing quite a bit.  However, the defense is very, very deep at nearly every position, and where there are holes, I know the team is recruiting aggressively.  Can Carroll do it again (as far as refilling the cupboard)?  I wouldn’t bet against him.
– I do wonder who Coach will pick to replace Sark as offensive coordinator.  I don’t even have a short list yet.  I am very proud of Sark, and very certain that he will do well in what he does at Washington.  Carroll’s legacy stands strong – we continue to build the careers of young, brilliant coaches and coordinators.  It is a good thing for them to move up in the world, not a bad thing.
– UCLA is in a position where there is no where to go but up, though Sark’s new job at Washington is really a case of having nowhere to go but up.  I expect UCLA will be better next year, but essentially will be what they have been forever – a basketball school with an obsession about USC.
– I will not conclude the musings for the year with this issue, as I do not want to do a postmortem after the bowl games.  I will wish you all a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year, as the next edition will not be until after the holidays.  There is no better way to spend the new year than the way I will be once again.  The granddaddy of them all, indeed.
Merry Christmas, and Fight on,
The Biggest College Football Lover of All Time