Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Another Texas Triumph

In a few days, the Oklahoma Sooners will take the field in an attempt to win a second BCS National Championship under coach Bob Stoops. Stoops has had no trouble getting his team into the championship game, but he's struggled to close the deal in recent years (see 55-19 vs USC and 21-14 vs LSU). But while OU continues to struggle through their BCS bowl games, its rival six hours south along I-35 is celebrating yet another big BCS win, a win that could easily give the Longhorns a shot at a split national championship this season.

Yesterday's Fiesta Bowl was simply the third installment of Longhorn's deja vu. We've seen this game before. Twice before, actually.

Texas put together a thrilling last-minute drive to overtake Ohio State, 24-21, in the Fiesta Bowl. The Longhorns are now 3-0 in BCS games. Texas has put together three come-from-behind thrilling wins to earn each BCS Bowl victory.

Side note: Perhaps the Ohio State University should be banned from BCS Bowl games until they can win a lower level game like the Capital One Bowl. At least this time they weren't the sacrificial lambs to an SEC championship slaughter.

In 2004, the Longhorns earned a berth in the Rose Bowl against Michigan on New Years Day 2005. The Vinsanity began as Vince Young ran wild and Dusty Mangum kicked Texas past Michigan as the clock expired. No one will ever forget VY's return to the Granddaddy of Them All one year later against USC for the BCS title. Another last-minute drive. Another thrilling victory.

The least surprising aspect of the win: Mack Brown politicking for a share of a national championship after the game. Yes, Texas beat OU. And yes, I believe that Texas should probably have been in the BCS title game over OU based on their head-to-head win in the Red River Rivalry Shootout. But frankly, there's not much the Longhorns can do about it.

Look at USC. The Trojans plastered the Big Ten champion Penn State Nittany Lions in the Rose Bowl, 38-24, in a game that only looks like it was "respectable" because the Trojans dominant defense let off the gas down the stretch allowing two meaningless Penn State touchdowns. After the game, Trojans coach Pete Carroll said that he thought USC was the best team in the country.

Oh, wait. What about Utah, the nation's only undefeated team and champions of the Sugar Bowl?

The fact of the matter is the system is flawed, but there isn't a clear-cut simple solution. I know, I know, put in a playoff. And don't get me wrong, I've argued for a playoff in the past. I've even tried to design a playoff model. But I have yet to see one that is actually doable. Do you shorten the regular season? Do you keep the kids out of an extra few weeks of classes to play? What about the fans who'd travel to the game? And can you really turn different bowl games into "semifinals" without cheapening the meaning of winning the bowl game itself?

I'm not saying there will never be a playoff, but what is the simple solution? The answer is that there isn't one. So for now, it's Florida and Oklahoma for the national championship. Texas got screwed this year. But it's no worse than Auburn going undefeated but not having a seat at the table while USC and OU battled for the championship in the Orange Bowl a few years back. The only reason Texas has a case is because they did actually play a head to head game against OU, unlike any other case in recent memory.

And yet, Texas can only sit back and hope voters make them national champions. There's nothing more the Longhorns can do. And because of that, let's stop all the campaigning.

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