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Posted: Wednesday December 10, 2008 1:05PM; Updated: Wednesday December 10, 2008 1:37PM
Stewart Mandel Stewart Mandel >
COLLEGE FOOTBALL MAILBAG

What stood out in the '08 regular season, bowl criteria and more (cont.)

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The Rose Bowl's Big Ten-Pac 10 lockdown mean a fourth-straight Rose Bowl trip for Taylor Mays and the Trojans.
AP
Stewart Mandel's Mailbag
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Why isn't Texas playing Alabama or USC? Texas is getting double-whammied by missing the Big 12 championship and now has to play Ohio State? This a less-than-satisfactory ending to a pretty good season (one missed tackle from being a great season).
--Chris, Austin, Texas

Indeed, as you wrote Sunday night, Texas should be playing Alabama or USC. On what criteria, outdated as it may be, does the BCS make its bowl selections.
--Mary L. Nelson, Eden Prairie, Minn.

Believe me, the process of how the other BCS bowl pairings come to fruition has become an increasingly bothersome concern to bowl officials, though they'd never say so publicly for fear of alienating the BCS commissioners. Basically, the reason we often get such uninspiring matchups (though I will say this year's are far better than last year's) is that the combination of the bowls' conference tie-ins and the increasing number of "automatic" at-large qualifiers like Utah and Boise State has left the bowls with almost no flexibility in selecting their match-ups.

Obviously, that starts with the Rose Bowl's Big Ten-Pac-10 lockdown. I've always fashioned myself a traditionalist, and if you'd asked me three years ago if the Rose Bowl should ever give up its Big Ten-Pac-10 tradition, I would have said, "heck no." But it's time to face the reality that the Rose Bowl, just like the other BCS games, has been marginalized by the national-title game. If USC wants to play in a different game than it has the past four years, it should have that right.

One of the main reasons I'm such a proponent of the plus-one system is that it would reenergize the non-championship bowls by creating at least two must-see matchups (No. 1 vs. No. 4 and No. 2 vs. No. 3) every year. Sadly, the current powers-that-be won't have it. In lieu of that, I would advise the BCS to strongly consider scrapping the "conference anchor" concept. As the system stands now, it's impossible to create a Texas-Alabama or Texas-USC game because Texas is obligated to the Fiesta, Alabama to the Sugar and USC to the Rose.

I understand the reasoning behind wanting geographical alliances, but when it comes to the BCS bowls, fans will travel anywhere to follow their team. If we can't have a plus-one, I would at least like to see a more flexible system where the bowls can take turns "trading" anchor teams to create better matchups. For instance, the Sugar Bowl could trade Alabama to the Fiesta this year in exchange for Ohio State with the understanding that the Fiesta might have to return the favor next year.

But alas, that involves common sense.

I have no idea what to think of the Auburn coaching situation. First we hear Tommy Tuberville is fired and Auburn gets ripped by the national media, but then it comes out that he allegedly resigned completely unbeknownst to the AD and university president; yet he will still receive his full buyout. Recruits are dropping like flies, and it seems like a new coach is mentioned and then dismissed as a replacement almost daily. How much of any of this can I believe?
--Ryan, Dallas, Texas

Well you'd have to be extremely gullible to believe Tuberville voluntarily left and/or that it "shocked" the athletic director. They spent two days talking about the "direction of the program." That's not your customary annual review. More realistically, the AD and/or president told Tuberville, "You need to fire this guy, this guy and this guy; run this kind of offense," etc., and Tuberville said, "No thank you." Whether he resigned or was fired is semantics. You don't give a guy $5 million for voluntarily quitting unless you really, really want him gone.

In doing so, Auburn made, in my opinion, a mistake of monumental proportions. Mark my words: Ten years and several coaches from now, Auburn will be pining for the "glory days" of the Tuberville era, this past season notwithstanding. Good luck finding a coach who will come in and post eight-straight winning seasons in SEC play, beat Alabama six-straight times and produce a 13-0 season, especially while competing head-to-head with Nick Saban.

I know the school is interested in Turner Gill. The Buffalo coach has done a phenomenal job resurrecting that program. But the learning curve going from the MAC to the SEC is gigantic, and it will take years before Gill could possibly produce the kind of consistency Tuberville did -- and Auburn clearly doesn't have that kind of patience. My guess is that program will spend much of the next decade churning through coaches the same way Alabama did before it found Saban.

Stewart, I was wondering whether you could respond to your colleague Seth Davis' recent column, which makes some interesting points (and calls you out by name). He argues that college basketball's regular season is more meaningful than college football's because it has a tournament.
--Brian, Charlottesville, Fla.

First of all, Seth and I have this argument every year. Almost without failure, it takes place at Madison Square Garden, at one of the various preseason basketball events (like Tuesday night's Jimmy V classic). The exchange usually begins with him making some lighthearted remark like, "I'm surprised to see you here. Shouldn't you be out covering the Chick-fil-a Bowl?" To which I respond: "No, I'm just excited to be here watching these two fine teams battle for RPI points."

Seth's argument is well-thought out, and I certainly understand where he, and so many others, are coming from. For the record, I myself no longer espouse the talking point that the "season is a playoff" in college football, because this year's Texas-Oklahoma situation pretty much deflated that. But to suggest that "college basketball's regular season is far more meaningful, far more compelling and far more important than college football's" tells me that perhaps Seth has been spending a little too much time with Clark Kellogg lately.

As Seth points out, "there are about 12-15 teams that are basically assured of making the NCAA tournament." One of those same 12-15 teams will inevitably wind up winning the national championship, so while there may be 50 other spots up for grabs in the bracket, those teams have about as much chance of winning the title as the teams that wind up in the Cotton Bowl.

More important, the point that Seth seems to think reflects so negatively on football -- that "out of the 16 games played last week, only three had an impact on the national-title chase," is exactly what I love about college football's season. A) The games with national-championship impact begin in September, not November and B) As the season goes on, the number of "significant" games may grow smaller, but the stakes of those games get bigger and bigger. As SI.com's resident "bracketologist," I get as fired up as any hoops fan come late-February/early March, but there's a big difference between teams playing for the 34th at-large spot and teams playing for a BCS Championship berth.

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