I was reading a rather ridiculous article by Stewart Mandel at SI.com, Stewie argues that conference title games are a joke. Admittedly, I will agree with that. They are pretty stupid. They usually throw one very good team against a mediocre team and and invite the mediocre team to beat the very good team and be crowned conference champions. Thus, you end up with a series of bums being sent to the BCS to get hammered, while the good team is forced to play in a second-tier bowl. Obviously, this is a problem.
The problem is not with this observation. After all, it has been clear for a long time that conference title games are bogus. However, Mandel's solution for this situation is absolutely ludicrous. In fact, his solution is to have college football playoffs.
Now then, let's really think about what he is saying. His argument is that playoffs are the only fair way to determine a national champion. However, let us play a semantic game and reconsider his solution. I want you to change the name of "conference title game" to "playoff game". After all, isn't that exactly the format that these title games are taking? They are playoffs for teams that want to get into the BCS.
Now that we have altered the statement is this way, we can consider Mandel's point. He hates post-season playoff games because undeserving teams win all the time. Thus, he wants to have post-season playoffs in order to fix the problem.
There is a saying that the height of insanity is to consistently do the same thing and expect different results. Thus, Mandel wants to prevent bad teams from getting further in the postseason by giving bad teams more opportunities to beat good ones. In fact, Mandel even goes so far as to say that the conference title games should be the opening rounds to college football playoffs. Thus, Mandel actually wants to make absolutely sure that there is as little chance as possible for deserving teams to win national titles.
That's not to say that conference championships have not been useful. They cleaned out some of the garbage in a few years where there were some undefeated teams that should not have been undefeated. However, making a 9-3 team conference champion over an 11-1 team just because of when that one loss occurred is simply stupid. In fact, conference playoff games -- er, title games -- have yet to show that a team is deserving of a conference title. Instead, they usually only show when a team is not deserving. In fact, there is no benefit for the better team in the game. If the better team wins, they should have won anyway. If they lose, they have ruined their season.
Oddly enough, nobody in the Big Ten or Pac-10 envies other conference's title games. And now the fans and sportswriters are starting to find them pretty stupid, too. Yet, despite the continued disaster of this test bed for playoffs, and the fact that people are starting to get sick of them, there are still some idiots out there saying that playoffs for the national title are the way to go.
I'm sure you're all wondering to yourselves, "How will the BCS bowls be given out this season?" And you probably want an answer. Fortunately, I am here to provide you with a set of bowl pairing predictions that have absolutely no chance of coming true. Why? Because I am lousy at making predictions.
With that in mind, here is exactly how the bowls are not going to shape up on Sunday.
USC vs. Texas
I'd be an idiot not to pick this. But more on this later.
Notre Dame vs. Penn State
Everybody knows that the bowl with the first pick is going to take Notre Dame. They'd be idiots not to. But Penn State is getting the bid here because the third pick goes to them and the Orange Bowl is going to make a surprising choice.
Florida State vs. Ohio State
This pick is utterly stupid and we all know it. But I have my reasons for picking this.
First, Ohio State has a very large following in Florida, so the Orange Bowl will pick the Buckeyes over Penn State. It's not as nuts as it sounds. Especially since the Fiesta still gets Penn State, so the folks in Arizona will not really lose anything. Everybody wins. Well, except for the 2005 Seminoles.
But the really freaky pick is Florida State. After all, they are 7-4, they are limping into the ACC championship game, and they are playing an overpowering, overwhelming, and utterly excellent Virginia Tech team. Who wouldn't pick the Hokies? Me, because I think they aren't that good.
Virginia Tech's offense is built around two things: Marcus Vick and the counter. Marcus Vick throws the ball a lot, and they constantly pick up huge chunks of yardage by running the counter over and over again. Sorry, but neither one is that good.
Florida State may not be a lot of things this year, but they still put good athletes on the field. Florida State has the discipline in their linebacking corp to keep backside containment. If their linebackers stay home and don't leave that opening on the backside for the counter to work, they will eat Humes's lunch. Which means that they will need to either run the ball straight ahead, which they don't do effectively, or they need Marcus Vick to throw the ball -- which is one thing he should not do.
Any quarterback will throw interceptions. And there will be games where he throws 2 or 3 interceptions -- bad days happen. But when a quarterback throws an interception on THREE STRAIGHT POSSESSIONS, he is a putz. And Vick did that against Maryland, of all teams.
In almost every game this year, Vick has been able to throw for big yards because his receivers were basically running around by themselves. The only team that actually attempted to cover Vick's receivers beat the Hokies 27-7. The guy is not good at quarterbacking no matter how you slice it. And Florida State has guys that will cover Vick's receivers pretty well. Which means that Florida State is taking VT down this weekend.
Georgia vs. West Virginia
The Sugar gets stuck with the Big East champion, but at least they get the hometown boys (the Sugar has been moved to the Georgia Dome because of Hurricane Katrina). I'm taking Georgia in the SEC title game only because I cannot justify picking a team that can blow a 21-point at home. Oh, and I think that Georgia with D.J. Shockley is better than LSU.
Texas had better be rooting hard for USC this weekend. After all, I think that Texas is better equipped to beat USC than Penn State.
In order to beat USC, you need an offense that can outscore USC's offense. The Trojans are going to get their points; everybody knows it. They are way to good to be stopped consistently. Thus, a team needs a high-powered offense that can take advantage of USC's suspect defense in order to hang with them and, hopefully, pull it out in the end. Texas is the only team that has shown that ability all season and they can beat USC. Of course, the danger is that UCLA beats USC and Penn State moves into the Rose Bowl. And UCLA has the offense to keep pace with USC. It may come down to which offense screws up last, since neither defense seems all that likely to stop the other team.
However, Texas's offense can be stopped. Ohio State was somewhat successful at it and they were able to, occasionally, wrest control of the game from the Longhorns. Or, more to the point, Texas gave it up, thanks to the fact that Vince Young is a turnover waiting to happen. However, I watched Ohio State play Penn State and I was never under the impression that Penn State ever lost control of the game. They can be very dangerous against team like Texas that wants to wear the other team down in order to have their way late in the game. And they can get the Longhorn offense off the field quickly enough to keep them from getting the upper hand.
Thus, in the title game, if Texas plays USC, they will win. If Penn State plays Texas, Penn State wins. But if Penn State plays USC, USC will win because Penn State doesn't have the offensive firepower to keep up with the Trojans. At least that is my take on things. If anybody were reading this, they could feel free to disagree with me.