Monday, December 29, 2014

Football Grumpiness

In about six months, they'll be pointing to Florida State's participation in the college football playoff and the fact that the ACC got 11 teams to go bowling as evidence that once again, the ACC had an awesome football year.

Take a closer look, of course, and you see that 4 of those teams finished the year 6-6, and wouldn't have been bowl-eligible if not for cupcake non-conference schedules. (Virginia Tech, you're excused from this criticism). Another two went 7-5. Near as I can tell, everyone played - and beat - Tulane.

But six months from now it won't matter what fly-by-night bowl game some tourist board dreamed up to showcase a couple of mediocrities in front of mostly-empty stands so ESPN has something for people to watch when they don't feel like talking to their families. Or, to put it another way, there's something like 38 bowls this year, which each require two teams, which means 76 of the roughly 115 FBS football programs are being "rewarded" with a bowl. Bowl games used to be sorta-kinda a big deal. Now they're a way for coaches to pad resumes and, more importantly, get an extra week of practice in under the NCAA's rigid spaghetti guidelines.

They're also bragging rights fodder for fans who don't want to think too hard about what they're actually bragging about, sources of optimism for fans of teams who are sure that their squeaker win over a team playing without their head coach and the two starting defensive linemen who got suspended for "unspecified team rules violations" the day before the game is a real momentum builder going into next year's season opener against Presbyterian or Muhlenberg.

(Note: "Unspecified team rules violation" is generally coach-speak for "guy got caught drunk off his ass after curfew". Alternately, it means "thing he would be in jail for if he weren't a football player". Your mileage may vary.)

In the end, it's just noise. Precisely 3 games a year matter. The rest is just whoop-de-do to keep the teams with no chance of reaching the summit interested, and that's fine. Got to fill those seats somehow (the local sports talk radio yakkers are already running ads for 2015 UNC home games, though apparently attendance at the games isn't mandatory). Just don't make the mistake of taking them too seriously.
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