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Saturday's Slate: Dear Mr. President-Elect...

Posted: Nov 22, 2008

As this 2008 season nears an end, we are again bombarded with hue and cry over the BCS system.  Unfortunately, President-elect Barack Obama has decided to weigh in on the subject.  "Fairness" is always cited as the reason behind the BCS shortcomings.

Let's take a minute and review.  There are usually two kinds of teams that don't want the BCS.  The first group are teams from non-BCS conferences (that is anyone not from the SEC, the Big 12, the ACC, the Big East, the Pac 10, the Big Ten, and Notre Dame in a good year.  These conferences include the Mountain West, the WAC, the MAC, Conference USA, and the Sun Belt.

The second group of teams who don't like the BCS include teams from BCS conferences who might have lost a critical game or two early that keeps them out of the BCS at the end of the year.  Last year, Kansas was picked over Missouri even though Missouri had won their head to head battle.  Also, Georgia was ranked higher than LSU late in the season, but the Dawgs could not go to the SEC title game.  LSU could and won it, vaulting them over Georgia for consideration into the BCS title, which they also won.

The problem is that there are two other groups, both silent groups that wants a playoff system - TV executives and the NCAA.  The BCS is a system that is not run by the NCAA.  It is run by the major conferences.  The NCAA would love to make a power grab and control.  TV execs see the massive ad dollars that pour into the Men's NCAA basketball tournament each year and know that a football playoff would bring even more.

So, let's all take a deep breath.  We at TF know how much everyone in the Footprint loves their team.  Everyone like the idea of "deciding it on the field".  However, if you take a closer look, a playoff system will likey not do that any better than the BCS.

Let's go back quickly and look at the two groups of teams asking for the playoff.  The first are non-BCS schools with sparkling records.  Ask yourself, fans of the SEC, Big 12, ACC, or Big East, do you really want to ensure a place for teams from the WAC and the Mountain West?  You can bet that's what they want.  If there were an eight team playoff, both Boise State and Utah would want to be a part of it.  That would mean only one team each from the current BCS conferences would get in to fill out the eight slots.

The other group of teams centers around teams like last year's Georgia or Missouri's squad.  In the case of Missouri, they would have still had trouble getting in with only eight slots.  In Georgia's case, they would have to hope that they end up on the opposite bracket from LSU so that those two teams could play each other in the championship game.  Fat chance!

Remember that TV execs will be calling the shots.  Even if the SEC fields the best teams, year in and year out, as they already do, network TV executives will want to see a broader representation in the proposed playoff.  You can almost guarantee that two SEC teams would never be allowed to meet in the championship game.  They would be forced to face off at least by at least the semis to prevent a single conference from dominating the championship game.  Again, this will be done under the concept of fairness.

So, you say, why not expand it to 16 teams?  Ok, now you are killing the best aspect of college football - the regular season.  Teams like Florida, Alabama, Texas Tech, Texas would already be in a 16 team field regardless of what happens down the stretch.  Alabama wouldn't need to beat Auburn.  Texas Tech wouldn't need to beat Oklahoma.  Who would care?  This is why conference tournaments in college basketball are usually such a letdown.  The best teams in the power conference already know they are in.  Why work to win their conference tournament when nothing is at stake besides a seeding?

If you are a fan of teams in the Tribal Fever footprint, attendance is key to your program.  Looking at the falloff at Tennessee this year, every school is rightly worried that fans won't show up when games don't matter.  A playoff system, especially a 16 team or larger one, would create multiple games that do not matter.

People of Tribal Fever nation - we beg you to stop this foolishness of supporting a college football playoff.  Do you trust the NCAA and TV execs or do you trust your conferences and universities?  It really is that simple of a question.

As far as President-elect Obama goes, you know not of which you speak with all due respect.  College football is unique.  The regular season is its playoff system.


Let's take a minute to talk about Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops.  He is the architect of the modern Big 12.  He came from Florida as Steve Spurrier's DC and rebuilt a struggling Oklahoma team back into the national spotlight.  He took Spurrier's attacking offensive philosophy mixed with his strong defensive acumen to earn Oklahoma a BCS title in his second year.  Stoops has also had an impact around the modern Big 12 by forcing Mack Brown to up his game at Texas as well as providing head coaches for other Big 12 programs.

Mike Leach, the head coach at Texas Tech, is one of those former Stoops assistants as is Mark Mangino at Kansas and Bo Pelini at Nebraska.  Perhaps losing all of these guys plus a handful of others that have become HCs outside our Footprint has taken a toll on Bob Stoops.  Once he was "Big Game Bob", but lately he has become known for blowing the big games.

Stoops was the first coach to lose two BCS title games.  Stoops then lost to Boise State in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl giving creedence to the idea that non-BCS schools are equal to their BCS counterparts.  Stoops capped off his recent streak of mediocrity by serving up a roadkill victory that left West Virginia with Bill Stewart as its permanent HC - something that Mountaineer fans are already regretting.  (Of course, it is no surprise that Stewart is one of Stoops most vocal defenders in this recent Pat Forde piece discussing Stoops' recent slide.) 

Texas Tech @ Oklahoma - So how has Stoops reacted to his issues on the field?  He has decided to call for a playoff system.  Huh?  Take a listen to this interview from ESPN Radio.  Stoops starts discussing it around the 3:45 mark of the interview.  He responds favorably to the idea of a playoff when Mike & Mike ask him about this year's crazy Big 12 race.

This interview might tell the tale of Stoops' slide.

Today, Stoops has the inside track on playing for a BCS Championship. likely against the SEC champ.  All he has to do is to beat Texas Tech today at home and then go to Stillwater and beat Oklahoma State.  After that, the Sooners would have to win the Big 12 title game against (likely) Missouri, who Stoops has owned.

(As an aside, kudos to Missouri for offering a lucrative extension to HC Gary Pinkel.  He has made your program relevant.  He would have been pursued by Washington.  Letting him know that you value him will make it far more likely that he will stay.)

It shocks us that Stoops didn't say, "we are in a playoff right now.  If we take care of business on the field, we will be playing for a title."  Our question for Stoops is how he can envision a playoff system that would allow his team to be in a field of either 8 or 16 if they lose to both Texas and either Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, or Missouri?

To Stoops and the rest of the BCS critics, we remind that the playoffs started a long time ago.  Thanks to Texas Tech's win against Texas, Oklahoma has been given a reprieve.  All they need to do is keep winning.

Any system that rewards teams to stumble more than once would be a black eye to the greatness of college football.  We're sorry that Bob Stoops can't seem to handle the heat anymore, but the man who can't seem to win big games anymore should not be a mouthpiece for a playoff.

That being said, we expect Oklahoma to win this big showdown tonight.  The question comes next week when they go to Stillwater.  It is very likely that Texas could be the big winner having only Texas A&M remaining on their schedule. 

A one loss Texas team sits pretty, but remember - they earned it.  They beat Oklahoma and only lost to Tech on the road in the final seconds.  If they are standing with one loss and they beat Missouri in the Big 12 title game, they deserve a BCS Championship bid against either Alabama or Florida.

The SEC title game is set.  Now, Florida and Alabama only have to beat their rivals (Florida State and Auburn, respectively) next weekend to keep the SEC a seemingly guaranteed spot in the BCS Championship.  Most would argue that the SEC Champion should get an automatic BCS Championship berth each year.  It is hard to argue that.

(The only problem would be either or both teams losing to Auburn and FSU.  Does a one loss Alabama or a two loss Florida get in over USC, Ohio State, or Penn St?  Let's hope so.)

At this point, the rest of the SEC is playing to decide which bowls they will go to.  If a one loss Florida beats an undefeated Alabama team in the SEC Championship, Florida will go to the BCS Championship and Alabama will get an at large bid.  If Alabama beat Florida, Florida's two losses might keep them out as an at large team - sending them instead to the Capital One Bowl in Orlando.

After the Capital One Bowl, the Outback Bowl in Tampa and the AT&T Cotton Bowl in Dallas pick teams followed by the Chick Fil-a Bowl in Atlanta.  Then come the two Tennessee bowls, Memphis' Liberty and Nashville's Music City.  Finally, there are the Independence in Shreveport and the Papa John's in Birmingham.  That makes 9 potential bowl games for the SEC.  Right now, only eight teams have qualified.  Either Auburn has to beat Alabama or Arkansas has to win out to create a ninth bowl-eligible SEC team.

This is how we would like to look at this week's SEC slate.

Georgia has all but guaranteed a slot in one of the Florida bowls.  If both Florida and Alabama end up in BCS games, Georgia goes to Orlando.  If one of those teams falls out of the BCS, Georgia goes to Tampa.  The big questions come from the SEC West.

Ole Miss @ LSU - This game could decide who goes to the Cotton Bowl.  That will be a very good game because of the Big 12's strength.  It would be an honor for either of these teams to get a chance to defend the SEC's honor against Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, or Missouri depending on how things fall in these final weeks. 

Houston Nutt would love for his team to make a power statement.  They've already beaten Florida.  There is no reason the Rebels shouldn't believe they can win against LSU.

Les Miles should be very careful here.  LSU currently sits with Alabama as the class of the SEC West.  He must keep it that way.  Losing to Ole Miss will raise old questions about Miles' ability to compete with Saban and others in the SEC West long term.  A bowl-hungry Arkansas remains on their schedule as well. 

If LSU wins out and Georgia stumbles against Georgia Tech, the Tigers could find themselves in the Capital One Bowl - a significant accomplishment!  If LSU loses one or two of its last games coming off of a big home scare against Troy, Miles will feel heat going into next season even with his 2008 BCS Championship trophy.

Arkansas @ Miss State - Bobby Petrino has had a quietly solid year at Arkansas considering the mess he inherited.  Realistically, he is the SEC's last hope to create a ninth bowl-eligible team.  If his Razorbacks can win at Starkville, it sets up a final season home showdown against LSU.

Tennessee @ Vanderbilt - The SEC's best story outside of Alabama and Florida has been Vanderbilt's first bowl-eligible season since 1982.  Vandy not only has their required 6 wins, but they also have 4 conference wins and wins against the bowl bound teams of Kentucky and Ole Miss.

Had the Dores not lost close ones against Miss St and Duke, they would be 8-2 with an inside track at a New Year's Day bowl.

This is still possible, at least the Outback Bowl is still possible, but Vandy must win out against Tennessee today and Wake next week.  Most are counting on Vandy playing in either the Music City or Liberty Bowls, but they can play their way into either the Outback or the Chick Fil-a with a strong finish.

Our point is that Vandy needs this win against their in state rival to make a momentous season even greater.

The ACC is a mess again.  It had a chance before last weekend to sort itself out, but it falied miserably.  The Atlantic Division has four team vying for a spot in the ACC Championship game in Tampa - Maryland, Wake, FSU, and (ugh) BC.  These teams all play one another in the final weeks so it will be sorted out on the field.

FSU @ Maryland - The Noles coughed one up last week against BC at home.  We going to call it growing pains, but the Noles do need to win this game.  Even with a win, they will require some help to go to Tampa.  A Maryland win puts the Terps in the driver's seat.

BC @ Wake - Wake needs this win and a Maryland loss to either FSU or BC next week for the Deacons to go to Tampa.  Wake has been up and down all year, but their relative consistency in conference has helped them yet again. 

FSU needs to win against Maryland to, needs the Deacons to fall, and then needs Maryland to beat BC next weekend.

Our bet is on Wake making yet another ACC Championship appearance.

The Coastal Division is a little more clear.  If UNC wins out, they are in.  If they stumble once, Georgia Tech makes it thanks to their win on Thursday against Miami.

NC State @ UNC - We told you last week to look out for the Wolfpack.  They are young and starting to find their footing.  UNC has Tampa in their sites if they can beat their two main basketball rivals over the next two weeks as Duke ends their season next week.

Butch Davis seems ready to make a QB change after last week's offensive offense cost him a win against Maryland.  For the good of the ACC in general, UNC should win out and play in Tampa. 

Sending UNC to the BCS (something that will likely keep Davis from going to Tennessee or Auburn) and Georgia Tech to the Chick Fil-a Bowl would be the best a muddled 2008 ACC could hope for as they try to move towards the standards being set by the SEC and the Big 12 South.

The flip side is that the ACC could conceivably have the entire conference bowl eligible by season's end.  Maryland, BC, Wake, FSU, Miami, UNC, Georgia Tech, and Virginia Tech are already bowl-eligible.  Clemson and Virginia need one more win while Duke and NC State need to win out.

Clemson @ Virginia, Duke @ Virginia Tech - Although having this many bowl-eligible teams would potentially make for a nice story, it would actually make it clear how mediocre the ACC is right now.  This conference desperately needs two to four teams to rule the roost for a while.  For that reason alone, we hope that Virginia and Virginia Tech win today.  Clemson doesn't need Dabo Swinney to become this year's Bill Stewart, and Duke has already had their best season in years.  Good times should be ahead for both programs.

The Big East makes the ACC look good by comparison. This conference has some good TF teams, but none of them have distanced themselves from the Big East fray.  This leaves this conference as a waste of space in the BCS world.

Pittsburgh @ Cincinnati - The Bearcats can essentially wrap up a BCS bid by winning today.  All that is left after Pitt is lowly Syracuse.  Go Bearcats!  Don't make it any uglier for the Big East than it already is.

West Virginia @ Louisville - The Mountaineers have to hope for Pitt against Cincy and then they would play against Pitt in the "Backyard Brawl" for a potential Big East crown.  Unfortunately, WVU has the toughest schedule down the stretch.  They have Louisville today followed by Pitt and then USF.  Any one of those teams could represent a loss.  We expect at least one of them to be so.

UConn @ USF - No team has been more of a disappointment than USF.  This could have been a BCS Championship season for the Bulls.  Instead, they laid an egg the entire conference season.  Their lack of discipline on the field has cost them dearly, and it may cost them their coach who is likely #1 on Kansas State's wish list.  The Bulls need this Sunday night win to stay relevant.  The can get to eight wins with a victory here and WVU in a couple of weeks.

Put us down as rooting hard for Cincy today against Pitt.  The Big East needs some clarity moving forward.

Conference USA has been a train wreck all season.  However, this conference makes our point as far as the BCS goes.  C-USA is to the SEC, Big 12, ACC, and Big East as the MAC is to the Big Ten and the Mountain West and WAC are to the Pac 10.  C-USA was 2-20 against teams from the SEC, ACC, Big 12, and Big East combined.  East Carolina's early wins against Virgina Tech and WVU were the only wins for C-USA.

The Mountain West and the WAC don't play enough competent teams east of the Mississippi.  Utah's signature wins are against the worst Michigan team in history and Oregon State.  (Memo to Pete Carroll, you don't deserve a BCS Championship bid since your team is technically behind Utah after the Trojans lost to Oregon State.) 

Tulsa looked good early on as they were 9-0 and ranked.  Then, they played Arkansas and lost.  Then, they were blown out by Houston who was previously blown out by Oklahoma State.  C-USA has some solid teams, but no one fools themselves into thinking that this conference is on par with the big four conferences that share their same footprint.

Our point is that if the WAC and the Mountain West had to play 22 games against the best conferences east of the Mississippi River, they would have as lackluster a record.  In large part, these conference's success is due to the Pac 10's overall slide.

Nonetheless, C-USA hasn't distinguished itself.  It needs to start beating some teams outside their conference.  TF doesn't expect regular wins against the SEC, but C-USA should be able to compete with the Big East and ACC better than they do.  They should also be much better than the Sun Belt, and they really aren't.

UTEP @ Houston - Houston has the inside track on the West title after obliterating Tulsa last week.  Things should set up for a Houston/Rice showdown next week if they can get past UTEP.

Marshall @ Rice - Rice hosts a fairly strong Marshall team.  The West has the offensive advantage over teams from the East, but the East plays a more physical style.  This is an interesting barometer game for relative division strengths.

East Carolina @ UAB - The Pirates squandered a great start to their season.  They need to win out to represent the East.  Considering the UTEP still awaits them, the Pirates need to win in Birmingham today.

Tulane @ Tulsa - Tulsa looked pretty good, even after losing to Arkansas, until Houston destroyed them last week.  Although they have the best record of any C-USA team, it looks to be the product of an easy schedule rather than actually being a good team.  Put Tulsa in with East Carolina as "busted" former BCS busters. 

(BTW, Tulsa beat New Mexico from the Mountain West and New Mexico beat Arizona from the Pac 10.  This is the problem with Utah and Boise State.  They have ZERO quality wins.)

UCF @ Memphis - Even though Memphis could still represent the East, both of these teams should be looking hard at new coaches.  Let us be the first to say that if Phil Fulmer wants to coach again that Memphis should hire him ASAP!

UCF can't handle another year of George O'Leary, even though his long contract likely keeps him there.  He needs to be at Syracuse, but we not sure anyone will touch him after the off season death of Ereck Plancher has turned into an ugly scandal that makes O'Leary look horrible.  UCF shouldn't struggle as much as they do considering their geographical advantages.

The Sun Belt nearly had its most significant win ever when Troy led LSU in Death Valley 31-3 in the second half.  Unfortunately, LSU came back to win that game.  Like the ACC, the Big East, and C-USA, the Sun Belt is undone by its overall conference balance.

LA-Lafayette @ Troy - This game will essentially crown the 2008 Sun Belt champ.  Troy has been the most consistent Sun Belt team for the past two years.  They are always in the conference race, and they beat Oklahoma State last year and almost beat LSU this year.  Troy deserves to add a the 2008 conference title to their resume.

FAU @ Arkansas State - The Owls have been this season's biggest disappointment.  Like USF, FAU was expected to start a long run of conference dominance after emerging last season.  Instead, they stumbled early and often.  A win here would right their ship for 2009.

LA-Monroe @ FIU - FIU has been a whipping boy, but this season showed that they can and will be good.  The FAU-FIU rivalry may actually have meaning in the coming years.  Get fired up for next week's Shula Bowl!

North Texas @ MTSU - North Texas has been just awful all year.  MTSU has shown signs, especially their win against Maryland which stands as the Sun Belt's most significant win this season.  Expect MTSU to win this one handily.

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