Saturday, December 29, 2007

Meaningful Football

Tonight we got the game we were hoping for. And until it actually ended, fans nationwide couldn't have known this game would be played to the fullest.

Both teams had their playoff positioning locked in. Both teams could have rested starters. Both teams could have quite literally taken the night off. What would the fans be able to do about it? Nothing.

But instead, credit the coaches, the players and both organizations for bringing their best performance to this prime time triple-telecast event. The Giants pushed the Patriots within an onside kick of defeat but couldn't stop the first team to ever finish the regular season 16-0. New England beat NYG 38-35, but what lies behind that score is the amazing football game that didn't need to played.

But they did play it. They played it well. They played it the way it needed to be played to be the historic, meaningful football game it turned into.

Kudos to both the Giants and Pats for pushing themselves beyond their own necessary efforts. Those teams didn't need to put on a show. But as fans, let's enjoy that they did.

Now let's get ready for January!

Gumbel bumble - 1

Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilford just tried to poke the eye of Giants running back Brandon Jacobs.  Yes, it was a cheap little shot at him, but the Pats got tacked for 15 yards on the play anyway.

NFL Network announcer did refer to the eye-poke as a "Moe-Larry-Curly situation."  I'm impressed considering I've never heard the Three Stooges names recited in that order.  Gumbel then said he didn't think poking a player in the eye was a serious offense.  If it weren't for experience color-commentator Chris Collinsworth to straighten him out and correct him, we'd be in serious trouble.

NFL Network nightmare

Tonight's triple-televised attempt at history will turn into what will either lead to major change or the downfall of the NFL Network.  When the 15-0 Patriots face the Giants tonight on NBC, CBS and NFLN, the everyone will be able to watch a game that would originally be seen by only a fraction of the nation.

As a result, more people than ever before will be an NFL Network football game production.  And as a result of that, the NFL Network will be viewed as a farce rather than the quality network it really is.

I do get the NFL Network, and it puts on some great shows.  I especially loved the America's Game series that looks back at all the previous Super Bowls in the words of the athletes that played in the game.  The worst things the network televises, however, are actual NFL games.  It's horrible.

Bryant Gumbel makes me want to rip off my ears, and whoever sits in the truck seems to be paying more attention to his daily commuter crossword than the game.  Last week during the Cowboys-Panthers game, they missed the first play of the game (a fumbled snap between a sore-thumbed Tony Romo and back-up center Cory Proctor).

The Patriots' quest at perfection will be widely watched by the entire country.  Everyone will see what a horrible joke the production value of an NFL Network-produced game is.  Everyone will hear Bryant Gumbel's nails-on-a-chalkboard play-by-play.

Because these games have been hidden on a network no one gets, the general public doesn't know how bad it really is.  This game will be the highest-rated televised football game of the season, and it's going to be the most poorly covered.  As a result, expect some sort of backlash in response to the atrocious telecast.  I don't know if it will be a retooled production crew next season or perhaps - and don't get your hopes up, but we'll see - a new play-by-play man.

Something has to change, and because of the wide audience this game will draw, something will.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cowboys Pro Bowl

Yesterday I received a text message from my friend Brad who put it so much better than I ever could:

"So I guess in the pro bowl its the Cowboys against the AFC.   Geez"

And as a Cowboys fan, I'm loving it.  Granted I know there is still a much bigger, more important prize out there that one team will claim in Glendale, Ariz., but until then, the Pro Bowl represents just how talented the 2007 Cowboys are.

Last season, Dallas sent four players to the Pro Bowl.  This season, they have 11 (including seven starters).  The Cowboys have seven players on offense alone, and three of them are starting linemen (Flozell Adams, Leonard Davis and Andre Gurode).  Oh, and Roy Williams is the first alternate at strong safety, so he will be the one to go in place of the Redskins safety Shawn Taylor.  That makes a total of 12 Cowboys.

The only reason punter Mat McBriar isn't going to Honolulu is because the Cowboys offense has been too good - he hasn't had enough opportunities to prove himself.

While it is easy to get caught up rejoicing for the Pro Bowl players, the most important thing to realize is the expectations that are set when 11 players on one roster are named all-pro.  That team better find its way out of the conference and into the Super Bowl.

This puts the pressure on.

Think about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  The NFC South champions represent a division that didn't have one pro bowl selection --- the ENTIRE DIVISION!  So what pressure is on them in the playoffs?

We'll find out how the 'Boys respond to last week's upset at the hands of the division rival Eagles.  Perhaps the Carolina Panthers will serve as a stepping stone to clinching home-field throughout the playoffs.

As a fan I hope the Pro Bowl selection serves the team by raising their expectations and raising their own personal bar.  For players who treat the selection as the end-point goal, those teams are the ones who get a little more time off come January. 

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Props to Pettitte

With Andy Pettitte coming forward and admitting to using HGH in 2002, I feel the urge to both praise and condemn him.

Pettitte says that he used HGH only twice in 2002 when he was on the disabled list and trying to recover from an injury as fast as possible.  If this is true, I think you have to look at Pettitte in a different light than those who were taking performance enhancers and steroids to improve their play between the lines.

At the time Pettitte used HGH, it wasn't banned by Major League Baseball.  So technically the crafty left-hander didn't break any rules.  Too bad it's MLB's responsibility to keep ahead of the users and find out what is being used and what needs to be banned.  But if HGH wasn't a banned substance in '02, you can't really fault Pettitte for wanting to get back to his team as soon as possible.

Also because he came out and owned up to what happened and what he did, I get the feeling that he will become more of a Jason Giambi than a Barry Bonds.  Giambi apologized (although never really clearing stating for what) and it seems like all was forgotten about his steroid use.  With Bonds, his vehement denials fuel the fire against him.

So as the fallout from the Mitchell Report continues, I think Andy Pettitte will be one of the best to come out of this.  Compared to what Clemens will face, Pettitte coming forward and owning up to his mistakes (even though HGH wasn't illegal - which is Baseball's fault, not his) will most likely turn history in his favor.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Reaction to the Mitchell Report

The Mitchell Report (the result of a two year investigation by former senator George Mitchell into the use of steroids and performance enhancing drugs in major league baseball) worries me.  More than 60 players are named in the over 400-page document which I just finished browsing through.  I get the feeling that everyone is on the list.  It sure seems that way.

By now you've probably heard a good number of the names, so I won't go repeating them.  Instead, I want to share with you what truly worries me the most about all this.

With the release of this report, baseball has been dragged into the spotlight as a dirty, cheater-filled game.  All 30 MLB teams have had players involved with performance enhancing drugs (maybe because Jose Canseco hopped around from team to team).

If you want to read the document: here's a PDF file of the Mitchell Report.

One radio talk show host on KTCK 1310 here in Dallas pointed out how football as a sport must be sitting back laughing at baseball being pulled through the mud today.  While it's looking as if there are not going to be any real ramification, consequences, repercussions, whatever, as a result of the Mitchell Report, it leaves a permanent scar on the sport - forever.

What will be done with the records of the last 20 years?  What will happen with the players?  What about Hall of Fame chances?  What about the future legitimacy of the sport?

Football players are huge, jacked up behemoths that we all watch each Sunday and say, "oh, I guess they all got that big by lifting."  The truth is, if football players are using performance enhancing drugs, I don't want to know.  I don't want to know if any Dallas Cowboys of the 1990s Super Bowl glory days were using.  I don't want me childhood idols tainted.  I'd truly rather be blissfully unaware.  If possible, if football is dirty, clean it up and get back to the true game, but keep it quiet.

It's too late for baseball to "keep it quiet" in regards to this.  And it's a shame that so many prominent baseball stars now have their reputations tarnished.  It's not a shame for them.  To those athletes who have done this to themselves, they have truly let down every fan of the game.

I grew up as a Texas Rangers fan, but I don't really care too much for MLB.  But as a fan of the Rangers as a little kid, it sucks to hear that Rafael Palmiero, and Juan Gonzalez didn't do it the right way.

What disturbs me even more is just how much so many of these players denied their use of performance-enhancing drugs throughout the process.  Not just Rafael Palmiero and his "I have never taken steroids.  Period." finger-pointing performance in Congress.  Not just Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwuire.  But so many more.

Put it this way: remember the backlash when Jose Canseco released his book "Juiced" and everyone said that it was all lies and that he was simply just doing the book to make money.  Canseco was labeled a liar.  As it turns out, he is the one who probably came out the best in this entire thing!

I understand some players who came into the league during this era must have had a hard time coming to grips with the reality of how the game was played.  If you're a clean player who does it right, who doesn't use performance enhancing drugs, there's a guy on the juice who is taking your spot on a pro roster.  That sucks.  So what do you do?  You juice up and get bigger, stronger, faster, healthier and you take your spot back with a larger hat size.

As a fan of sports, the Mitchell Report brings to light a disturbing, gut-wrenching feeling.  These facts now coming to the forefront brings a feeling comparable to losing a family pet.  It hurts.

And it's going to hurt for a long time.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Overwhelming underclassman

Tonight Tim Tebow won the Heisman Trophy and broke the barrier for all underclassman who came close but couldn't claim the award for most outstanding college football player.

Tebow had a ridiculous season.  Absolutely insane.  He both threw and ran for more than 20 touchdowns - the first player ever to do so.  But when he went up there to accept the award, I couldn't help but feel for Darren McFadden.  The Arkansas running back finished as the Heisman running up two years in a row.  This season he finished with the highest percentage of the vote ever received by a runner up.

McFadden just finished his junior year.  As a sophomore in 2006, he lost the Heisman to Ohio State's Troy Smith.  McFadden had a great 2006 and could have won the Heisman as a sophomore had a sophomore previously won the award.  This season he played very well again, but the numbers Tebow put up spoke volumes about that Gator's performance.

Because Tebow has now taken the award home as a sophomore, more sophomores - and even freshmen - winners will begin to show up.  No it won't happen all the time.  After all, the juniors and seniors have the extra years of experience to build on.  But when underclassmen have the sensational seasons comparable to Tebow (2007), McFadden (2006), and even Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson (as a freshman in 2004), they will get more of a chance to take home 25 pounds of bronze.

There won't be a ton of underclassmen winners.  Decades to come will still produce numerous more upperclassmen winners than youngsters, but freshmen and sophomores won't be shut out completely.

Tebow has opened the doors.  It's a shame, however, that super seasons past underclassmen put up did not get recognized with a Heisman.  But because it has now happened - a sophomore has taken the Heisman home - it will no longer take a Herculean season by an underclassman.  From now on, they will be judged based upon their performance that year instead of weighting their score based on their age.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

It's all a bunch of B(C)S

Two things are abundantly clear to me. First, I don't exactly know what I'm talking about in predicting bowl matchups. Second (and most importantly), this season proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that college football desperately needs some form of a playoff bracket.

In watching the BCS bowl selections this afternoon, each analyst (and many others since) have said many things along the lines of:
"Well, if it were the two best teams as of right now..."
"The team that looks most like a national title contender is..."

The general feeling I get with a lot of the commentary for this BCS title game between Ohio State and LSU is reluctant acceptance. Numerous experts have decreed that teams like USC and Georgia are the two top-performing teams in the country right now. Why can't they get a crack at the title? Their losses came much earlier than those suffered by LSU. What about the fact that Hawaii is the only undefeated team in the country? Don't they deserve a shot?

The bowl matchups this season, specifically the BCS match ups, feature 10 outstanding teams that all could argue they deserve a shot at the national title. Let's look at the Top 10 ranked BCS schools:


1. Ohio State: The Buckeyes hold the top spot in both human polls that factor into the BCS formula. They have lost only once - to another BCS-bound team - and won their conference. No other BCS conference champion finished the season with one loss.

2. LSU: The Tigers held the top spot in the polls for a good chunk of the season. Their only losses came in a pair of triple overtime showdowns. And, oh by the way, they won the mighty SEC while defeating seven ranked teams along the way.

3. Virginia Tech: The ACC champion Hokies finished the season with two losses, but came into last week ahead of LSU in the BCS. While LSU defeated #14 Tennessee in their conference championship game, VaTech knocked off #11 Boston College by a bigger margin. If the Hokies led LSU in the standings last week, why should they be leapfrogged this week?

4. Oklahoma: BOOMER!!! SOONER!!! BOOMER!!! SOO- Okay, enough of that. But OU does have a point. They just defeated the top-ranked team in the nation for - that's right - the second time this season to capture the Big XII title. And in doing so, they proved they can compete with anyone. Their only two losses: on the road by one possession each.

5. Georgia: The consensus seems to be that the two hottest teams in the country right now are Georgia and USC. Tough to argue with that Georgia has done in recent weeks. They've won six straight games to finish their SEC schedule, and they went into this past weekend at #4 in the BCS. Because the top two teams lost, you'd think that #3 and #4 would move up. Not so fast, however, as the Bulldogs not only failed to win their conference but their division as well.

6. Missouri: Should a team be punished for making their conference championship game? If the Big XII had the same format as the Big Ten or Pac 10, Missouri would have stayed ranked #1 and destined for the BCS championship bowl. Now they are on the outside of not just the title game but the entire system. And the team they knocked off to advance to the Big XII championship (Kansas) snuck in behind them.

7. USC: Much like the Bulldogs of Georgia, the Trojans are a team that no one wants to play right now. Then again, if Stanford can beat 'em.... (nevermind). Southern California wrapped up the Pacific-10 conference for the sixth straight year, advancing to a record sixth-consecutive BCS bowl. While the Trojans will head across town for their record 32 Rose Bowl appearance, coach Pete Carroll's words after beating UCLA made it clear he thinks the Trojans deserve at least a shot. Said Carroll, "We'll play anybody, anywhere, anytime," he said. "I know this isn't the system and we don't get to. We wish we could keep playing. If there was a way to keep playing games and see who would win and be the last team standing, we'd love to have that opportunity."

[By the way, doesn't it seem like the idea that Carroll is describing - a system where they could "keep playing games and see who would win and be the last team standing" - resembles the rough outline of a playoff? Just a thought.]

8. Kansas: Don't the Jayhawks have a better record than LSU, Virginia Tech, Georgia, Oklahoma, Missouri and USC? Well, if the Jayhawks have a better record than LSU, why not get a shot at a championship? None of those teams have a one-loss record like KU (ignore the fact that they are not conference champs and played the weakest rated schedule out of 119 Division I-Football Bowl Subdivision teams).

9. West Virginia: So what if WVU has two losses? Who doesn't! And why should the Mountaineers be punished for a loss late in the season versus a loss early? Isn't an 11-2 record the same across the board?

10. Hawaii: Hey all you on the mainland! Aloha. What's going on? The Warriors hung loose all season long just waiting for a chance to become the third non-BCS team to make a BCS bowl. But the Warriors are not just another Boise State or Utah. Hawaii is the only undefeated team in Division I-A. They have the best record. Period. It's a perfect season. It's not their fault that none of the big boys will schedule them. And Hawaii is trying. In 2003 and 2004, they played a home and home versus USC during the Trojans' two-year title run. So, it's not like they're pulling a Kansas and scheduled dogs.


Because of the system we have, unfortunately eight of these teams don't have a chance to play for the national championship. But just imagine if there was a playoff system in place. No computers, just logic. (I know, it's too simple of a solution, but bear with me.)

For a team to be eligible for a BCS bowl, they have to be ranked significantly high in the BCS standings. So if there was a playoff, let's include 12 teams. Why 12? Well, this season of college football proved the "any given Sunday" theory of the NFL translates to the college game (i.e., Stanford over USC, Pittsburg over WV, Florida State over Boston College, and pesky Appalachian State's stunner over Michigan). So to make sure we get it relatively right - and lord knows that's not happening with the current system - 12 teams will have a shot.

What would you think of these seeded match ups in the first round:

(1) Ohio State - bye

(8) Kansas vs. (9) West Virginia

(5) Georgia vs. (12) Florida

(4) Oklahoma - bye

(2) LSU - bye

(7) USC vs. (10) Hawaii

(6) Missouri vs. (11) Arizona State

(3) Virginia Tech

The higher ranked teams in the first-round match ups (in this example: Georgia, Missouri, USC and Kansas) would host those games. It's a simple solution. The remaining games will feed into the current major BCS Bowls and then some (see below).

Here's your first round:
host teams italicized
(5) Georgia vs. (12) Florida
(6) Missouri vs. (11) Arizona State
(7) USC vs. (10) Hawaii
(8) Kansas vs. (9) West Virginia

From there, let's just use the example of all favorites advancing. Now your match ups are as follows:
(1) Ohio State vs. (8) Kansas
(2) LSU vs. (7) USC
(3) Virginia Tech vs. (6) Missouri
(4) Oklahoma vs. (5) Georgia

The second round would then use a combination of second-tier bowls and major BCS bowls to hosst the contests. There are so many bowls out there, and lord knows some of the teams that are playing in these bowls don't deserve a postseason (hello, UCLA). By having 32 bowls, some of these contests are forced to feature mediocre 6-6 teams that are barely qualified to watch the postseason. By using the second-tier bowls to host some playoff games, the third- and fourth-tier bowls would be forced to take the better teams, eliminated the riff-raff of 7-5 and 6-6 squads.

There are now seven games remaining to be played. A rotation between the Outback Bowl, Capital One Bowl, Pacific Life Holiday Bowl, and the Gator Bowl would have two of these four teams each year host a second-round playoff game. The remaining games would be hosted by the four major BCS bowls (Rose, Orange, Sugar and Fiesta) as well as the historic Cotton Bowl which will be moving to the new Dallas Cowboys stadium, which promises to be the grandest sports venue in the world. Those five major bowls (now including the Cotton Bowl with that first-tier, as it rightfully should be) would rotate years between hosting second-round playoff games, semifinals and the championship.

How is this for a second round:
Capital One Bowl
(1) Ohio State vs. (8) Kansas

AT&T Cotton Bowl Classic
(4) Oklahoma vs. (5) Georgia

Gator Bowl
(3) Virginia Tech vs. (6) Missouri

The Rose Bowl presented by Citi
(2) LSU vs. (7) USC

Assuming all favorites win to make this example easier, the semifinals would then look like this:
FedEx Orange Bowl
(1) Ohio State vs. (4) Oklahoma

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl
(2) LSU vs. (3) Virginia Tech

And the championship game this year would be played in where it is scheduled to be played:
Allstate Sugar Bowl
(1) Ohio State vs. (2) LSU

The exciting thing about this system is the fact that we could in fact have a true national champion and a consensus national champion. There would never again be a split national title. In fact, that was the promise of the BCS -- until 2003, of course.

I'm sure there are plenty of flaws in this system I've created. First thing that comes to mind: when do you play all these games. From here, the NCAA would then disallow teams to schedule the extra game they get to play and/or take away the conference championship games (conference titles would be determined by record as in previous years).

Like I said, I know my suggestion isn't perfect. But hey, at least it isn't as screwed up as the BCS!

I'd love to know what you think of this system. Please post your comments along with suggestions for this can work.

BCS Bowl Predictions

This afternoon we will learn the final destination for the top football programs in the "Bowl Subdivision" of D-I (quick note: let's please change the name back to Division I-A and I-AA and lose this subdivision mumbo-jumbo). So before the real deal is revealed, I'd like to take a stab at where everyone is going. More importantly, I want to focus on who will play for the national championship.

First let's look at the Top 12 ranked teams from last week's BCS standings.
1. Missouri - LOST to Oklahoma, Big XII championship
2. West Virginia - LOST to Pittsburgh
3. Ohio State
4. Georgia
5. Kansas
6. Virginia Tech
- defeated Boston College, ACC championship
7. LSU - defeated Tennessee, SEC championship
8. USC - defeated UCLA for Pac-10 championship
9. Oklahoma - defeated #1 Missouri, Big XII championship
10. Florida
11. Boston College
- LOST to VT, ACC championship
12. Hawaii - defeated Washington

The problem with this week's results is the fact that the teams immediately behind 1 and 2 in position to move up aren't exactly ideal candidates for the championship game.  Yes, Ohio State, the Big Ten champions at 11-1, are most certainly in.  They did not have to play a conference title game and will get the opportunity to step into that No. 1 ranking.  However selecting a Georgia for a Kansas for the championship game is not the automatic solution.  

Not only did both Georgia and Kansas not win their respective conference championship, neither team won their own division within the league.  Georgia fell short of the SEC title game as Tennessee advanced from the East to take on LSU.  Kansas lost the Big XII North in the Border War versus Missouri.

While there is precedent of a team that did not win its conference playing for the national title (see Oklahoma, 2003), no team in the BCS era has failed to at least win their division.  The Sooners were Big XII South champs in '03 before falling to Kansas State in the conference title game.  Kansas and George both deserve BCS Bowl bids.  They deserve to play for something meaningful.

At the same time, Georgia is one of the hottest teams in the country.  They finished the season on a six-game winning streak, including victories over #11 Florida, #18 Auburn and #23 Kentucky.  Georgia didn't get to opportunity to play LSU this season, so we can only speculate how that game may have played out.  However, losing at home to South Carolina doesn't exactly scream "title contender."

Kansas is in a tough spot.  They finished the regular season 11-1 (7-1 Big XII).  That one loss came at the worst possible time.  Even though they crumbled against Mizzou at Arrowhead Stadium, they still have an 11-1 record.  Naysayers will argue they beat no one - a very legitimate claim.  Central Michigan, Southeast Louisiana, Toledo and Florida International don't exactly represent a difficult challenge.  

If the college football season was a ride in a car, Kansas may have been driving over those team as if they were crosswalks, not speed bumps.  They didn't exactly pose any reason for Kansas to take their foot off the gas.  The Jayhawks didn't flinch against those team.  And they can't be flawed for missing conference powers Texas, OU and Texas Tech this season.  The difference is that college football is not the NFL.  The NFL has a set schedule that mandates certain divisions play certain divisions in a give season.  It's all set.  College football allows teams to schedule whomever they want.  For that, Kansas can be faulted.  The one chance they had to prove themselves, they blew it.  11-1 is nice, but upon closer inspection, it's not nice enough for a title-game berth.

So who else might move up to take on the Buckeyes (who I'm not exactly sold on, but we'll have to go with it for now)...

Let me quickly preface the rest of this posting with this: Missouri and West Virginia lost as the most crucial time of the season, so they should not be playing for the national championship.  I know it happened with Oklahoma a few years ago, but that was the exception, not the rule.  Sorry Tigers and Mountaineers, but you had your shot.  All you had to do was hang out.  Guess you just lost your grip.

Back to who can move up and why they may or may not...

Virginia Tech was ranked ahead of LSU at #6 last week and defeated the #11 team in the country (Boston College) to clinch the ACC title.  Looking at Virginia Tech, they are a prime candidate for the BCS title game that no one is talking about.  Everyone is so caught up with LSU, they are missing one amazing season under the most unlikely of circumstances.  Considering where Virginia Tech was as a university last April, to see them play for the national championship would represent a significant resurgence for not only that program but that entire institution.  The fact that those students put together an 11-2 record is astounding enough.  If put in the championship game, who knows what they could accomplish.

Virginia Tech is the team I'd like to see play for the national title.  I don't see how they can come into this week ranked higher than LSU in the BCS (#6 versus #7) and defeat a higher ranked team than LSU (#11 versus #14) and get jumped by LSU.  It wouldn't make sense.  Because of that, I think the computers and the voters may just move up the Hokies.  I'd also like to see it because it would be the most amazing story of the entire college football season.  I know the Hokies lost to LSU early in the season, but then LSU should have been ahead of VT last week.  It didn't happen then and it shouldn't happen now.

Everyone talks about the most unlikely wins from all these unranked teams upsetting No. 2 teams and No. 1 teams falling and Appalachian State beating Michigan, but in my opinion the most unlikely win of them all is Virginia Tech putting together a championship caliber season after last April's tragedy.

As far as LSU goes, I won't be surprised to see them in the national title game.  Not only will I not be surprised, I'd be shocked if they missed it.  They've been dominant all season with their only two loses coming in college football's wacky triple overtime.  Essentially their would-be perfect record came down to a pair of two-point conversions.  They have defeated many ranked teams in the power-packed SEC and finished the season as conference champions.  I'm of the belief that you should be a conference champion to play for the BCS title, and LSU fits that mold.  My only problem with them would be how they would leapfrog Virginia Tech after being ranked behind them this week.  Virginia Tech did nothing to drop behind the Tigers, and apparently the early-season loss to LSU wasn't enough to keep the Hokies behind LSU last week.  It shouldn't affect this week's BCS standings.  

Is anyone playing better football right now than USC?  The Trojans stumbled early in the season, but after watching them finish the season so strong, it's tough to debate their talent.  'SC locked up a record sixth straight Pac-10 title ad BCS Bowl berth. (Their last five: '07 Rose Bowl, '06 Rose Bowl, '05 Orange Bowl, '04 Rose Bowl, '03 Orange Bowl.)  The reason they will be kept out of the national title game came in what can only be described as a fluke against Stanford when quarterback John David Booty injured a finger on his throwing hand.  

The Trojans' other loss came in Eugene, Oregon when the Ducks were still a powerhouse with Dennis Dixon under center (okay, in the shotgun).  Since losing Dixon, it's been duck season.  USC has been dominant through November - a month in which they've never lost a game under Pete Carroll.  Of all the top teams with two losses, USC is least likely to make the championship game because of that disaster against Stanford.  Looking back, its easy to trace where the Trojans title hopes slipped: October 6 in Los Angeles.

Oklahoma just beat the No. 1 team in the country.  They have two road losses by one possession each.  They showed just how tough a team they are on national television against Mizzou.  After being ranked No. 8 last week, their dominance in clinching the Big XII championship shows they are a Top 5 team.

Florida: You have a great young team and Tebow is a beast.  Only problem is you have three losses.  Better luck next year.

Had Boston College not lost to Virginia Tech, maybe they'd be in the discussion as a token "also ran."  Instead, they are out of it.

The final team that has national title aspirations is the one team I'd like to see have a shot:  the Warriors of Hawaii.  They are the only undefeated team in the Bowl Subdivision.  While it's easy to say "schedule some tougher teams," I understand why most top-tier teams won't travel to the islands to play them.  And it's not like it's an easy trip for the Warriors to fly across the Pacific then across the country to take on an SEC team.  Hawaii has scheduled some tough opponents in the past.  In 2003 and 2004, they played a home and home versus USC during the Trojans' two-year title run.  So, it's not like they pulled a Kansas and scheduled dogs.

Colt Brennan is a touchdown machine.  I don't know if it will translate to the NFL or if it will even get him a plane ticket to New York for the Heisman ceremony, but those are some ridiculous numbers he's put up on the season.

The biggest reason I'd like to see Hawaii play for the national title - and the biggest reason they won't - is because of what Boise State did last year to Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.  That game proved the "Any Given Sunday" theory of the NFL translates to college football as the Broncos knocked off OU in one of the most exciting games I've ever witnessed.  The hook-and-ladder to get into OT only to have Sooner stand-out Adrian Peterson run 25 yards in the first play of overtime.  It seemed over at that point, but how that Statue of Liberty play fake to Ian Johnson worked... it was a thing of beauty.  But I digress.

The reason Hawaii won't make the national title - and it's silly logic, but it's a fact - is because what if they win?  Seriously, what if Hawaii wins the national title?  Well if that happens then it means the six major conferences no longer have a monopoly on championships.  Does that mean the WAC should get an automatic BCS bid for its champion?  Does that open it up for more at-large teams?  If Hawaii gets blown out by an Ohio State - a traditionally strong national power of a program - then all mid-majors everywhere have their legitimacy taken into question.  If Hawaii wins a BCS title game, it essentially opens the doors for every single one of the 119 Division I-A teams to make the national championship game.  As of right now, it's really only available to teams from the big six conferences (ACC, Big XII, Big Ten, Big East, SEC and Pac 10).  That's why Hawaii won't make it.

So who will make the BCS title game?  Here are my predictions:

There are five games: the Sugar Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl and the BCS title game.  Just some quick ground rules as set forth by the BCS: only two teams per major conference and a team must finish in the BCS top 12 for a berth.  My only concern is if Illinois somehow finishes in the BCS top 12.  If they do, the Rose Bowl may do their best to keep the Big Ten vs. Pac 10 tradition of the Granddaddy of them all and selection the Illini.  However, I doubt they will make it.  Without further adieu, here we go:

BCS Title Game:
Ohio State (Big Ten champion) vs. LSU (SEC champion)

Rose Bowl:
USC (Pac 10 champion) vs. Georgia (at large)

Fiesta Bowl:
Missouri (at large) vs. Hawaii (at large)

Sugar Bowl:
Oklahoma (Big XII champion) vs. Arizona State (at large)

Orange Bowl:
Virginia Tech (ACC champion) vs. West Virginia (Big East champion)

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