Ohio State lost for the BCS championship game for the second year in a row. And they also lost the NCAA basketball championship game last season. In fact, it’s been a very “bad” year for Ohio sports. As read in The Swamp (a political blog for the Chicago Tribune), not only has OSU lost these three championship games, but the Cleveland Cavaliers lost in the NBA Finals, and of course the Red Sox came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Indians in the ALCS. So Ohio has had teams lose five championships in the last year. However, I’m not going to cry for the state of Ohio. After all, they had FIVE TEAMS IN CHAMPIONSHIPS IN THE LAST YEAR. How anyone could say that’s a bad thing, even if they lost them all, is beyond my comprehension (must be due to my Chicago fan curse).
The BCS championship did well to illustrate why I just can’t get into college football the way I get into the NFL. I used to think it was the player turnaround; obviously my problem, not theirs. However, I think my mostly apathetic attitude towards college football (to me it’s tantamount to baseball’s minor league system) is a product of flaws in the system. Part of it is the setup of the game. It’s long and seems really drug out compared to the NFL. And some of the rules just don’t make sense. Ohio State had a big stop on third and long last night, but gave up a first down on a “roughing the kicker” penalty. This is a personal foul, so it resulted in an automatic first down even though the yards gained on the penalty were less than what was needed for the first. But the contact on the kicker was more or less incidental. In the NFL it would have been “running into the kicker” which is a five-yard penalty and does not result in an automatic first down. However, the charged player was in the process of blocking the kick before the ball left the kicker’s foot, which means in the NFL it wouldn’t have been a penalty at all. So something which wouldn’t even be called in the NFL results in a personal foul, automatic first down, and directly affected the outcome of the game. Last year OSU beat Michigan on a helmet-to-helmet call that was tenuous at best. In both instances I think the call should have been made because the rules specifically say it, but you’re having championship games decided on incidental contact two years in a row. This is football, people. There’s going to be incidental contact. You can’t call personal fouls on these non-hits all the time.
Also, Ohio State had almost two months off between their last game and BCS championship game. This is just far too long. You can’t use it as an excuse, because LSU had just one week less of a layoff, but it’s very bad for the game. The game starts off with players showing their rust, and with the influx of “important” bowl games preceding it makes the game somewhat anti-climactic.
Furthermore, and I know this is a point of contention among many people, the whole championship thing is a sham. It doesn’t make any sense. Why do they call it the “Bowl Championship Series?” This implies that there is some sort of, oh I don’t know, series to determine the championship. But other than the one championship game, none of the bowl games really matter. Conference championships are already decided, and the rankings are more or less locked into place by the time the bowl games are played. Historically the bowl games really were only a source of pride, but the name implies some sort of championship selection, which isn’t true at all.
Let me preface the rest of this rant by saying I’m a Big Ten guy. I love the Big Ten and think it’s the best all-around conference in NCAA sports. My favorite football team is Ohio State and my favorite team in almost every other sport (and my second favorite football team) is University of Illinois. So I was happy these two teams got into the BCS.
That being said, the rules regarding getting into the BCS games are arcane at best and competitively unjustifiable at worst. Pretty much, they operate under the assumption that the biggest conferences will always have the best teams. (These teams are also usually ranked higher to begin with based upon “strength of schedule,” which is really based upon the fact that they come from these conferences. So a cynic could say this is a self-fulfilling prophecy which is really intended on giving an advantage to the conferences which make the NCAA the most money. But who wants to be cynical?) There are five BCS Bowl games; the BCS Championship, the Rose Bowl, the Sugar Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, and the Orange Bowl. The number one and number two seeds get into the Championship game automatically. Out of the other four games, six conferences get guaranteed spots; the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-10, and SEC. So six out of the eight teams playing for these spots comes from one of these conferences. And since the top two seeds almost always come out of two of these six conferences (due to the “strength of schedule” sham) and don’t play in these four bowl games, the BCS doesn’t even consist of the top ten ranked teams. For example, this year No. 6, Missouri, didn’t get into the BCS. Four teams ranked below them got their spot. University of Illinois got into the Rose Bowl, even though there were three teams ranked higher than them who didn’t get a BCS spot. Finally, since they are all played in warm-weather climates, teams in cold-weather conferences (like the Big Ten) are at a competitive disadvantage every single bowl game.
And the ranking system almost always leaves a well deserving team out of the championship game. For example, Ohio State lost one game this year; to University of Illinois. U of I wasn’t thought of too highly at the time, and this victory is the only reason they got a bowl spot. Which makes you wonder if OSU deserved to get into the championship game. Missouri lost twice, which is the same as LSU, who played in the Championship. But Missouri lost twice to Oklahoma, who was ranked fourth and played in the BCS. LSU lost to two unranked teams! Oklahoma lost twice, as well, but also to unranked teams. So why does LSU get in the championship when Oklahoma doesn’t, seeing as they beat the number 6 ranked team twice? Then there’s Kansas. This team absolutely deserved to be in the BCS championship. They only lost once, and it was to Missouri. But since Missouri isn’t in the BCS, they don’t get a shot; since OSU lost to U of I, who was in the BCS, they get the nod. But the only reason Missouri wasn’t in the BCS was because Oklahoma is in the same conference, and you can’t have two teams from the same conference in the BCS (absent, of course, the Championship Bowl).
Got that? Illinois gets into the BCS because they beat the number one team, which is only ranked number one because they were beat by a BCS team. Makes sense, right? No, didn’t think so.
I’m not even sure why LSU got in, to be honest with you. I don’t think they should’ve been ranked any higher than fifth.
One could argue that a system in which a team that loses to a No. 6 seed is ranked lower than a team that loses to a No. 13 seed because the No. 6 team doesn’t get to play in the “championship series” due to a technicality is seriously flawed. One could further argue that a system in which a team that loses once to a No. 6 seed is ranked below a team that loses twice to unranked teams just doesn’t make sense.
This type of thing happens almost every year. And a system with this much annual controversy should be completely revamped.