Tuesday, January 02, 2007

BSU is Living the Dream

Throughout the past month, prognosticators have been trying to figure out the best combination of bowl outcomes to continue to put pressure on the powers that be to create a playoff system for college football. These scenarios often involved some sort of crazy blowout in the Rose or BCS title games, convincing everyone that Florida, Michigan, Ohio State and USC should have had the chance to decide it on the field. USC didn't have too much of an argument after losing to UCLA and Oregon State, while Michigan had already lost to Ohio State once and is now twice beaten on the season. Ohio State is assuredly the best team in the country and Florida gets their shot at them. Right?

Well, Boise State had a little bit to say about that last night. At the end of a remarkable OT triumph over the venerable OU Sooners who were playing with the one-time Heisman candidate Adrian Peterson, the Broncos made us question the BCS system in a whole new way. If you don't lose to anybody, how can you end the season without being the champion?

Two years ago, the similarly situated Davidson Wildcats went undefeated in their conference schedule, but did not receive a bid to the NCAA tournament after losing to UNC-Greensboro in the conference tourney. Meanwhile, many BCS schools got the opportunity to keep on playing despite losing 5 or 6 conference games and bowing out of their respective conference tournaments. The same argument made for Davidson's inclusion in the tourney could seemingly be applied to Boise State's inclusion in national title talk: undefeated teams should get to keep playing. Except for one thing: playoffs.
When Davidson entered the Southern Conference tournament two years ago, there was no question that they were the best team in the conference. They had beaten everyone in the conference. Surely they deserved the championship crown. But they entered the tourney knowing the rules of engagement: lose and go home with nothing.
For Boise State, there are no rules of engagement. Stuck in the WAC conference, they can only play the teams that schedule them. They can only beat them by so much. At the end of last night, they had beaten every team that was thrust at them, and they had done it in style, no less. But for the Broncos, the season is over and a bowl trophy and a final ranking in the Top 5 is all they get. That would be the equivalent of telling George Mason that they wouldn't get a chance to play Florida in the Final Four because everyone knows they are going to lose. The beauty of the playoff system is that, at the end of the day, only one team is left unbeaten. There is one undisputed champion.
The college football playoff argument cannot get caught up in whether or not a team is good enough to have been a national champion. Boise State wasn't good enough to beat Oklahoma. Even now, they have little calculable evidence to prove that they are better than Ohio State. The playoffs system is a matter of process more than anything else. The process of the playoffs gives the champion its legitimacy. It is not about the way it plays, or the caliber of its players, or its strength of schedule. Those might determine seeds, but at least teams have to defend their own seeding. And ultimately, you can't be undefeated and not be the champion.
At the end of the day, money might produce a champion from the SEC or Big 10, even within a playoff system. Elitism might keep the best players at the richest schools. But, money and power should be a little less insecure. They should give up their precious bowl rights and TV contracts. This country knows who to pull for, and they know how to make their voices heard. Live on Boise States and George Masons! They can't keep ignoring you for long.

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