This post has grown out of a discussion I had with a friend over on Facebook, regarding the BCS vs. deciding the championship on the field. I said that it wouldn’t be too hard to come up with something better, and below is an expansion of the remainder of that comment.
All bowls must occur by January 1st. I’m still undecided about whether playoff contenders still play in a bowl, but I’m leaning toward yes, as this leaves the “season” as close to its current incarnation as possible. Once these final rankings come out, the AP top 16 qualify for the playoffs.
Beginning the weekend after New Year’s Day, there will be regional playoffs for the rounds of 16 and 8, then a final four that rotates from year to year; the higher seeds (1-8) go to the regional closest to them that has a spot open. All playoff venues will be NFL facilities, to avoid any team playing on their home field. This would also have to take into consideration teams who make the NFL playoffs, so they won’t lose the use of their home field to use for practice. For the South/East, some venues would be the Georgia Dome (Atlanta) or Raymond James Stadium (Tampa); the West could play at Qualcomm Field (San Diego) or Candlestick Park (San Francisco); the Midwest could play at Cowboys Stadium (Dallas), Soldier Field (Chicago), Reliant Stadium (Houston), or Invesco Field (Denver). For the championship, I foresee NFL stadiums bidding for a chance to host the Final 4, similar to the way cities bid on the NCAA basketball Final 4.
The round of 16 would feature the lower seeds on Friday night, and the higher seeds on Saturday; the following week, the winners would play (staggered Friday/Saturday among regions, to maximize TV time). The round of 4 would play lower seeds on Friday, higher seeds on Saturday, with the championship the following Saturday. This will wrap up the college champion by the end of January, in plenty of time for the Super Bowl, which is usually the first or second weekend in February.
So, how would this play out this year? As of this writing, we would have:
West Regional - Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA
Friday - #12 Virginia Tech vs. #5 Stanford
Saturday - #16 Oklahoma State vs. #1 Oregon
South/East Regional - Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Friday - #9 Boise State vs. #8 Arkansas
Saturday - #15 Missouri vs. #2 Auburn
Midwest Regional 1 - Invesco Field, Denver, CO
Friday - #11 LSU vs #6 Ohio State
Saturday - #13 Nebraska vs. #4 Wisconsin
Midwest Regional 2 - Cowboys Stadium, Dallas, TX
Friday - #16 Oklahoma vs. #7 Michigan State
Saturday - #14 Nevada vs. #3 TCU
I don’t really see a whole lot wrong with any of these pairings. Nevada/TCU? LSU/Ohio State? Boise/Arkansas? I don’t even follow those schools, but those would be some sweet games. And, throw in a few upsets, and there are some really good college football games in the month of January. Boise State and TCU still get to play for the championship; failing to win your conference championship doesn’t necessarily keep you from getting a shot at the national championship. Any of these 16 teams could win the championship, by winning 4 games in a row.
I don’t know if we’re ready for college teams with records like 18-0 (what Auburn’s record would be if they won out - 12 regular season games, 1 conference championship, 1 bowl, and 4 playoff games). But, as a college football fan, I’d sure love to stop hearing about “BCS Busters” year after year. (It would also make Tim Brando and Rece Davis find something else to talk about.)
Sunday’s win by the New England Patriots over the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX, their 3rd win in the past 4 years, has solidified this team as this millenium’s first NFL dynasty. Coach Bill Belichik and quarterback Tom Brady (both off to the NFL’s best postseason records) are but two of many outstanding teammates on this well-rounded team. While the first half was a defensive battle, punctuated by very untimely turnovers by both sides, the second half saw the Patriots open up a lead that proved to be insurmountable.
“I don’t know what happened,” said Donovan McNabb, quarterback for the Eagles. “We were having a pretty good game. New England is the type of team that likes to open things up early, and when the first half ended 7-7, I thought we had a pretty good shot.” Head Coach Andy Reid spoke up next. “Coming down the stretch, though, we really had it rough. (Patriot Kicker Adam) Vinateri and his “Field Goal for Truth” put us down by 10 points, and that late in the game, it was just something we couldn’t overcome.”
While they openly congratulated the Patriots on their win, there are strong feelings among many of the Eagles that the Patriots don’t really have a mandate to traipse about the country proclaiming themselves “NFL champions.” “You know, we scored more points againt the Patriots than any other team had since February 1st. And, of all the points scored in the game, we scored almost 47% of them,” an unnamed teammate said. Another chimed in, “Really - can they really go around saying ‘We won’ when they only won by 6%? These folks are just arrogant.”
And, while the Eagles are grousing about the closeness of the game, other sections of the country are complaining about being disenfranchised. “You know, this was really a regional game - Boston and Philadelphia are just 300 miles apart! Hopefully we can avoid this disenfranchisement next year. Heck, with us going 2-14 last year, we’re trying to make sure the NFL doesn’t disenfranchise us,” said Mike Nolan, recently named head coach of the San Francisco 49’ers.
Warren Sapp of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was more direct. “For New England to say they are ‘World Champions’ is ludicrous. Did they play anyone from Canada? Mexico? Europe? I don’t think so. These commentators talking ‘dynasty this’ and ‘dynasty that’ are really [torquing] me off.” His tone changed a little when asked about his XXXVII (2003) Super Bowl ring. “Well, you know, we really had a tough season that season. To come in with a new coach, and overcome losses and fines, that meant something. I don’t think those goody-two-shoe Patriots have had a dollar of fines in the whole lot of them.”
Is this true? Of course not. The Patriots won fair and square, after a hard-fought contest, and by a slim but adequate margin. No one would dispute their claim to the 2004 NFL Championship. Sadly, similar claims by those in the political arena are true. Think about this the next time you hear a DNC talking head prattling on about “no mandate” for our President. (And, for those of you that think the above just isn’t really all that funny - don’t worry, I’m not quitting my day job.)
Instant Replay has been used in the NFL for a few years now, and this year, the NCAA’s Big 10 conference has instituted it as well. I prefer the NFL’s rules, where the coach is allowed two challenges, and if both are overturned, a third. Challenges are not allowed during the final two minutes of play, so they can’t be used as “extra time-outs” during the game; and, if a challenge fails to result in a changed call, the team is charged a time-out. In my opinion, it has been quite successful in helping to correct some pretty bad calls.
The most recent contender for a clearly overturnable call was the non-call of pass interference in Saturday’s LSU/Alabama game. An LSU defender pushed the Alabama receiver down, intercepted a pass, and ran it back out to the middle of the field. It was a game-changing ruling - Alabama had been struggling (and continued to struggle) to move the ball, and was close to scoring. Now, I’m no Alabama fan (Go Vols!!!), but that call was flat out wrong.
College football is such big business these days - we’ve got human rankings, computer rankings, and a collage of them together helping us decide a “national champion.” Nobody likes a tie, it seems - that’s the reason for the NCAA’s overtime rules. While we’re at it, let’s take the technology of today to help make the game more fair for the kids who are playing their hearts out Saturday after Saturday.
The pre-game show was excellent. It was a very classy, very patriotic tribute to the Columbia astronauts who left us a year ago that day. The moonscape and the astronaut in the middle of the field was genius, and very well put together. Beyonce did an outstanding job with the National Anthem - much better than recent efforts by her peers, such as Mariah Carey or Whitney Houston. It wasn’t “The Beyoncé Show” featuring “The Star Spangled Banner,” it was “The Star Spangled Banner,” sung by Beyoncé. She should definitely be given repeat invitations for game-opening singing, as she did the song (and our nation) proud.
This has got to be the best Super Bowl in recent memory. Neither team was ever just waltzing away with the game, and for it to be decided in the final seconds by a field goal was priceless. Of course, that’s how New England won a lot of their games this past year. Carolina did an amazing job, having the ball for much less of the time, but still coming back to tie the game with just over a minute left. I feel for Carolina’s place-kicker, whose final kick-off was less than memorable, but he shouldn’t be blamed for the loss. Both teams played hard, both made their share of little mistakes, and, as John Fox, Carolina’s coach, said after the game, “It just came down to who had the ball last.” Great job to both the Panthers and the Patriots, and congratulations to New England for title #2 in 3 years.
And that half-time show…
Q: Was it good?
A: That’s an awfully subjective question - beauty is often in the eye of the beholder.
Q: Was it inappropriate?
The Super Bowl is not an adult program - families get together and watch these games with their kids. Notwithstanding the claimed unintentional flashing, the entertainment was not family-friendly.
Q: Should we expect any different from MTV?
A: Not really.
CBS was kidding themselves if they thought that MTV could come up with family-tolerable program, much less a family-friendly one. Have they even watched MTV lately? Evidently, MTV forgot to lend their sister network the bleeping and blurring machines that they wear out on a daily basis. This is one thing that makes the statements by CBS and MTV quite humorous - they’re basically the same company. The NFL should probably try to get a contract with Disney (or some other organization that has their finger on the pulse of family values) for future shows. Sure, Disney puts out some filth, but they do know what’s appropriate and when. How about a Hillary Duff / A*Teens half-time show?
Q: Was the flashing accidental?
A: I don’t think we’ll ever know the answer to that one.
Update Feb 4, 2004 - Okay, so it was intentional after all.