Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What We Have Learned from Bowl Season

1-The BCS is poorly named. For one thing, it's not a series. Multiple bowls get played, yes, but the ones besides the championship game matter precisely as much as the Northern Illinois Beats The Crap Out Of Some Unsuspecting Sun Belt Conference School Bowl, played in Waukegan to fill three hours of ESPN programming on a slow post-New Years' Thursday. The championship game is 1 vs 2, and everything else is about the lovely gift bags for the players. Stanford vs. OSU was a great game, but by next season, nobody's going to remember where those two ranked in the final polls.

2-Taking anything away from bowl season as an indicator of conference strength is insanity. Long before the bowl games start, things happen. Coaches leave, voluntarily or otherwise. Dozens of players get suspended, or rendered hors de classroom for the bowl game. Other players decide that they're going pro, and sublimate the goal of winning the We-Used-To-Call-It-The-Poulan-Weedeater-Independence-Bowl-But-Now-It's-Something-Else Bowl. Teams that thought they should have gone to bigger bowls check out. Teams that know they were supposed to do better but ended up getting into a bowl by dint of a lucky pummeling of Northwest Rhode Island Welding Institute take a look around, see their opponent is from the MAC, and check out. In short, the teams that actually step out onto the field more often than not bear little to no resemblance to the teams that played the season. Taking anything of significance out of the fact that Louisville wasn't thrilled to be playing NC State in Charlotte or whatever, and trying to extrapolate it to mean anything, is just a bad idea.

3-Anyone who says the BCS is broken is correct. Any system that proclaims a team that couldn't even win its own division of its own conference "National Champion" is, for lack of a better word, screwy.

4-Anyone who then turns around and blames the computers doesn't actually understand the BCS ranking system, which is mainly derived from the human polls. Blaming "the computers" is a lot like blaming pixies for souring your milk; the explanation is right there for anyone who doesn't want to just mouth off instead of think.

5-The fun of bowl season used to be seeing two good teams that ordinarily would never play each other going at it. Sadly, in the age of 70 bowl slots, "good teams" can be a stretch, and conference affiliations with bowls means that similar matches recur all the time. Now, the fun of bowl season is trying to predict which BCS conference team is going to wind up with a losing record after being taken out behind the woodshed by a highly motivated C-USA squad who have no idea how they're supposed to behave when they're on television and it's not a school night.

6-If you're a sports-based television network and the product you're trying to sell to your viewers is a minor bowl game, it's probably not a good idea to kvetch on-air about how nobody bothered to show up to watch this one.

7-The notion that making a BCS Bowl implies some sort of level of quality is officially laughable in the wake of the VT-Michigan snoozer. Nobody even tried to pretend that these at-large selections were picked for any reason other than butts in seats. And if butts in seats is the only criterion for inviting a couple of teams - neither of which looked like they wanted to be there - to a BCS bowl, then holding up a BCS bowl as any kind of achievement is suspect and hollow.

8-Don't make Boise State mad. You won't like Boise State when they're mad.
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