For the last TWTW of the season, I was digging deep for musical inspiration. While I’ve been playing the new Black Keys album non-stop, I wanted to find something that encapsulated the anticipation and pleading that so many are involved in these day- all looking toward a special event at the first of the year. So, here you go.
For what was supposed to be the pinnacle of the college football regular season, this week’s games were incredibly disappointing. Not for the action on the field- there were a lot of spectacular plays and performances, but the behind the controversies that impacted the games overshadowed the work of coaches and players.
Let’s start with Friday Night’s clash in Eugene. While the Fighting Neuheisels went out guns blazing (or pop guns popping) and managed to keep the game under the 30 point spread, the subtext for the entire matchup was that this game was not the “legitimate” Pac-12 title game: The Southern Cal Trojans, who had beaten both of these teams, sat idle due to the Reggie Bush situation and the NCAA’s response. So, after all of the realignment and festivities, even Oregon’s big win has a dented trophy as for the case in Phil Knight’s house.
That’s not to say that there weren’t fireworks in the game- check out Friday’s “Catch Of The Day” from UCLA’s Nelson Rosario:
That’s great touch on the ball, particularly given that UCLA’s Prince was being demolished most of the game by the Duck defense. Yup, two highlights in one game- Friday’s “Hit Of The Day”:
On Saturday, the ownage started afresh with the Conference USA Championship game; or as it’s also known- “There’s a Conference USA?” In what was supposed to have been the final candle on Case Keenum’s big ol’ Heisman Cake, the Golden Eagles of Brett Favre’s Alma Mater managed to blow out the Houston Cougars. While this may be surprising (and certainly so to this young fan), what’s controversial is Southern Miss’ coach Larry Fedora’s statements that this victory proved the Eagles deserved to be in an BCS game; that they’d earned it. Ummm… no. A) Great win, but if some teams can’t make the championship game because they lost in double OT, you ain’t going with a loss to Marshall. B) The BCS isn’t a playoff; alas, and CUSA only gets a shot if they have a worthy representative. You ain’t it. Great win, though.
And herein lies the first huge disappointment of my Championship Saturday… It was mid way through the CUSA game that my cable went out as a victim of the horrible wind storms we’ve been having here in SoCal. So, I was without sports or internet until after all the big games were completed… although, come to think of it, it could have been a lot worse. Not watching has never kept me from having opinions, though- onward.
I missed RG3′s unraveling of Texas, which was something I was looking forward to. Not that I wanted the Longhorns to lose, but I love watching a Braxton Miller Prototype operate; the kid is amazing with the ball in his hands. In fact, I didn’t even catch a score, but knew the results as soon as my internet came back up and welcomed me with a 20 page (at that time) “Mack Brown Should Be Fired” thread on Shaggy Bevo. Heisman question numero uno: If RG3 played on a “major” program, wouldn’t he be a shoo in for the Heisman? Not to belittle the Bears, but give him the type of athletes that are at ACC or PAC-12 schools and the type of exposure that they get and this contest is over. Given that, though, doesn’t it strengthen his resume that he’s able to accomplish so much without all the help? Ah, but it’s not about skill… it’s about politics. A common thread today, it seems.
And now we get to the meat of “Controversy Saturday”… The SEC Championship Game. With the world atwitter at the halftime score (Georgia led), those of us in the know were more than aware of LSU’s ability to turn the afterburners on… and they did, screaming to a 42-10 final score. And so, as the nation’s last undefeated team, they stamped their ticket to the championship game… at home… yet again.
I’ll be honest- I can’t think of any team that I’ve seen play this season that is as good as LSU. Starting with the beating they put on Oregon through their ability to exert their will on anyone they play (with one exception), I’d be all for handing them the trophy right now. In fact, I have no idea why we’re playing the MNCG… but more on that in a bit.
As you’ve already read, the controversy continued to swirl in spite of TBPU’s epic beating of the hated Sooners. Yes, Bob Stoops’ team was short some injured offensive playmakers, but I think it speaks volumes to know that the former “defensive guru” couldn’t find a way to slow down the Cowboy attack.
The final celebration was spectacular, although it would have been helpful to have some sort of prior experience rejoicing en mass in this way- Thoughts to those injured in the post-Bedlam bedlam. That being said- it’s great to see that the hard work that these Cowboys put in made all of their hopes and dreams come true… well, at least some of them.
Again, I pretty confident that LSU would find a way to win in a game, but I should also admit that I’m beyond frustrated that they won’t get a chance to do so. You want a “story line”? What about this- Lester Miles left OkSU after being embarrassed in a bowl game and headed to LSU… seeing it as a “step up”. If that don’t create more ire than a “rematch”, then I don’t know what would.
In fact, the Cowboys were ready for what was to come, and released a press statement that outlined their argument for being included in the championship game as opposed to Alabama. Heck, you can even make this distinction for yourself- take a look at this quiz (done before this weekend’s games) and see which team you think should be given the opportunity to play LSU for a shot at the title. Go ahead… I’ll wait.
See what I mean? I”ll come back to this a bit more in a second, but let’s talk “on the field” stuff.
Since we’re on the topic of “rematches”, the evening ended with two “do-overs”; first, in the ACC. Clemson’s offensive juggernaut was able to repeat their drubbing of the Hokies of Va Tech, who managed to break out their special, UCLA edition “surrender monkey” uniforms for the championship game. I loved seeing the Tigers win a BCS berth, if only for the fact that I’m developing a serious crush on Dabo Swinney… when you can out smack talk the Ol’ Ball Coach, and do it by stating facts and data, then that’s an impressive feat that must be acknowledged.
The evening’s pinnacle, and another rematch, was the B1G Championship game. Given that the last meeting between Michigan State and Wisconsin gave us quite possibly the best ending of the season, this game was sure to be a slugfest- particularly given that these two teams were co-champions last season, and this would be the first opportunity to win a title on the field (no matter what anyone would tell you). And having Gus Johnson on the call ensured that the events would indeed be epic- his call of the deep completion on 4th and 6 will echo in conference legacy…
Before we talk about the end of the game, let me solidify my perspective that this was the game of the weekend. Not only did we have the “Gus-gasm” shown above, but we’ve also saw our “Hit Of The Day” for Saturday (as always, huge hat tip BubbaProg and his screencap work):
B1G Stage, B1G Games, B1g Hits, B1g Ten.
In addition to those two elements, it also gave us the “Catch Of The Day” for Saturday… although, the receiver was ruled out of bounds, you’ve got to admire that focus and those skills. If only he, and the Spartans, had managed to hold on…
Which brings us to the final moments of the game. Down a field goal, MSU forces Wisconsin to punt… a punt that’s returned deep into Wisconsin territory, with enough time to make the kick or try for a winning score. Amidst the jubilation, though… laundry. Michigan State’s coach decided on trying for a punt block, and one of the rushers made contact with the punter- 15 yards, and an automatic first down. Game over.
Was the punter touched? Yup. Was it the right call? Yup. Was it a soccer level flop by the Wisconsin kicker? No… It was definitely a football play. Again, the epitome of “Sparty NO!!!!” and “Great Day To Be A Badger”. Proud.
So- let’s get back into a discussion of politics, shall we… resuming our conversation about the Heisman Trophy. We’ve all heard how Trent Richardson is amazing, and handles like a dream… all of which are true. BUT, as much as I hate to admit this, Montee Ball had twelve more carries than Richardson going into yesterday’s game and also has twelve more touchdowns. I’m sure it’s just the “Slow B1G” that makes him look so good, and has nothing at all to do with the eSECpn coverage of Richardson’s team on a week to week basis.
But Saturday’s lesson: It pays to be idle, which means Ben Franklin is freaking out somewheres. Michigan stays at home, gets into BCS game while the MSU team that pounded them loses to the B1G champion and is left out of BCS money. Hey… what about a rematch between Wisconsin and MSU, since both games were incredibly entertaining and well played? Why is no one talking about that rematch… or let Virginia Tech/Clemson play a “best of five” series?
Also- Alabama sits at home while Oklahoma State plays and wins their conference- Alabama gets to head to the National Title game without winning their division or conference… while conference champions are left out of the “Championship” game or out of the BCS all together (see TCU).
See, here’s the thing… and if you’ve been around here long enough, you should know where I’m going with this. Bowls Are Not About “Championships“. Bowls are about revenue… and not for the institutions that are involved. That’s why Kansas State is left out of the BCS equation… even though they’re a top ten team. They don’t travel well, while Michigan does (not being relevant for a while will do that to you). Boise State fans complain and complain about being left out- but they have “earned” a trip to Vegas without even winning their conference. And, as painful as it is to admit… the only reason Ohio State and Florida are going to a January 2nd bowl is because of the fan revenue- neither earned the chance to participate in the “special” post season, especially not in prime time.
Although, it could be much worse- like the “Kraft We’d Rather Starve Than Watch This Bowl” between what’s left of the Illinois coaching staff and what’s left of the UCLA coaching staff. While there are kudos to the B1G for sending ten teams to the postseason spectacular, don’t you get the feeling that this whole thing has turned into a “we don’t keep score and everyone gets a trophy” youth soccer experiment?
Our only hope is that T. Boone Pickens sticks to his word to investigate how his university was left out of the championship game, and makes enough stink that real change happens. Politicians you can buy off (I’m looking at you, Orrin Hatch, who stopped talking antitrust issues when Utah joined the PAC-12), but maverick billionaires like Pickens and Mark Cuban have the real weight to be able to make change. And, here’s the wrinkle that makes it work- The offer to cut the NCAA in on the “action”, similar to the way that the NC2 gets their entire revenue from March Madness. You’d see the playoffs arise as if Skynet had become sentient. Until then, though…
And the problem is exacerbated by the “coverage” that a certain four letter network brings to the table… it’s certainly interesting that their critique of the BCS stopped right about the time that they re-acquired the television rights from FOX. When they have Nick Saban on to argue that his team deserves another shot after losing at home without giving any voice to a counter argument, or even addressing that this decision is incredibly controversial.
Look- it’s not that ESPN is wrong, its that their credibility is questionable. They’ve been so selective in their “coverage” all along, that even if the MNCG is right and these are the best, most deserving teams, those of us who follow college sports can’t distinguish if they are being accurate or spouting the party line for the conference that they’re closely aligned with. For instance- Do you remember that LSU is on probation and scholarship reductions for NCAA violations? Or that both schools are “creative” in their roster management? Why is it that these aren’t part of the story leading up to this game, while other schools’ fanbases are constantly reminded of their programs stumblings?
Sigh… Well, now that my blood pressure medicine has started to kick in, it’s probably time to wrap up the last TWTW of the season. We’ll continue to cover bowl matchups and any major stories in college football landscape, but for now you’ll have to find other ways to keep distracted during Monday’s staff meetings… given the season, might I suggest a festive holiday special?