When watching any given college football game, my rooting interests tend to follow this hierarchy:
1) Oregon Ducks
2) Any significant underdog
3) Pac-12 teams (excluding Washington and Stanford)
4) Any outcome that turns college football on its ear
Following this hierarchy meant last week was a very good week, starting with the Ducks winning their third straight bowl game for the first time since 2001, and doing so by beating the second-winningest FBS program in history. Plus at the same time sending their coach Mack Brown, who had more wins (238, ninth all-time) than any active coach, out with a loss in his final game. By the time the week ended, all four BCS bowl games ended in upsets, with two of those games (the Fiesta Bowl and Sugar Bowl) seeing 17-point favorites go down.
With all the recently enjoyable games and tonight marking the final game of the college football season, it should be a no-brainer to tune in tonight, right?
Wrong. Here are the three reasons I will not be watching tonight’s BCS Championship:
1) History of Bad Championship Games
Every time, and I mean every time, a counterargument is made to the many flaws and disasters of the BCS system, the 2006 Rose Bowl between USC and the University of Texas is cited as a match-up that would never have happened without it. To be fair, it was a great game, but it was one game in 15. Imagine if one restaurant in town hired all the best chefs, and then only one in 15 dishes were any good. You would stop eating at that restaurant.
The BCS produced one good game, but can anyone make an argument for the second-best game? Does anyone know what that would be? Does anyone even remember what it was?
Of the 15 championship games of the era (the 16th will be played tonight), only five were one-score games, with Miami-Ohio State the only overtime game and Oregon-Auburn the only game besides USC-Texas to be decided by less than seven points. Both of those games had dubious calls on the game’s final possession, meaning that on the rare occasion that we got a good game, controversy tainted its outcome.
While only five have been one score games, the other ten have all been decided by double-digit outcomes, including five games by 21 or more points, meaning the odds are two-in-three that the championship game won’t be close, and it’s just as likely that the game will be a gargantuan blowout as it will be a close game.
2) Validating the Selection of the Two “Best” Teams
In the early days of the BCS, there was much hand-wringing over the amount of control the computers had in selecting the championship game participants. Following a few years of “improvement”, the formula was tweaked until each year it primarily reflected the human polls, creating a selection that the public deemed more “accurate”.
Coincidentally or not, it was around the time the formula was completed that the SEC, who had previous only participated in two of the first eight national championships, would put nine participants in the title game in eight years, with those participants winning a championship in seven consecutive seasons with a chance at an eighth this season.
Of those seven champions, five were ranked second coming into the game by virtue of having suffered a loss (or in the case of 2007 LSU, two losses) during the season. Yet in each of those five instances, an SEC team was chosen over either another one-loss AQ school or an undefeated non-AQ school. So it was again in 2013, as Auburn was chosen over five other AQ schools with only one loss, including three other conference champions, largely based on the conference it won.
People may have forgotten that while Auburn may be 12-1 and the Champions of the SEC, it needed two miracle plays to get there. While Auburn is deserving of its success, those outcomes are also highly improbable, and had the more statistically likely outcomes occurred, the Tigers would be 9-3 or 10-2, which would see them ranked around #9-17, and those teams don’t play for national championships.
3) Who you got? SEC or Tallahassee PD?
In recent years, the BCS has given us matchups that pit the SEC against a team we can’t possibly cheer for. Last year, fans had to choose between Alabama, the defending champion, or Notre Dame, historically one of the most popular yet sometimes hated programs in college football. The year before, the BCS gave us two SEC teams, and were justly rewarded with the lowest-rated title game ever.
For the reasons outlined above, much of the country is rooting to see an end to the streak of national champions from the SEC. Of course, that would involve rooting for FloridaState, and rooting for the Seminoles means rooting for what made Florida State’s season possible.
By now, you are likely aware of the allegations brought against Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston. I don’t want to speculate on his guilt or innocence, that’s not my point, but what is evident is that the actions of the Tallahassee Police Department improved the likelihood that Winston would continue to play.
While it is possible that Winston would have been exonerated even if the case had been investigated properly, the fact that a player’s chances of staying on the field improved because a criminal case was mishandled, either willfully or incompetently, is vile. The fact that it culminated in a disgusting press conference led by Florida State Attorney Willie Meggs laughing throughout the press conference only made me root harder against the Seminoles during the season. The fact the Winston won the Heisman and the Seminoles made the title game have led to a public celebration of the team and its quarterback, whose presence only serves to validate the actions of those public officials who should be excoriated instead.
Yet rooting against Florida State means rooting for Auburn, a fate Oregon fans find so unpleasant it is seemingly incomprehensible. Although I find that every Auburn win this season takes the sting out of 2010, knowing that Gus Malzahn was actually the source of their winning instead of Gene Chizik, I can’t even fathom rooting for a team in Auburn that stole Oregon’s best chance for winning a title, only to have another chance at a title three years later.
While the bad news is that both of these teams can’t lose, the good news is the one of them will. Both of these fan-bases believe their team is one of destiny, and one will be proven wrong in the cruelest manner possible; as late in the season as their dreams can be crushed. The game itself will be a fitting end to the BCS: an unpleasant choice amid multiple possibilities. The BCS always insisted it could only make one choice for the title game, and I’ll say the same thing about mine. There was only one choice, and mine was turning the game off.
Top photo from a screenshot of the 2012 Rose Bowl.