BCS pairings react; more Overtime (cont.)
Contrary to what you might imagine, Mike Gundy didn't walk to the podium following his team's Big 12-clinching 44-10 rout of Oklahoma on Saturday and immediately begin stumping for a spot in the national title game. He got to that topic soon enough, but for a program that's spent its entire history waiting for a season like this one, the win had meaning beyond the BCS standings.
"For a number of years now, I've laid in bed and thought about the tough losses," Oklahoma State's coach said. "But I've also thought about giving that Big 12 trophy to Boone Pickens, seeing the smile on his face for what he started here. We're very excited for the next opportunity."
On Sunday, Gundy made it clear his team was disappointed with the final standings. "Any team in our situation would be," he said. But don't expect the Cowboys to be deflated. On the contrary, expect half the city of Stillwater to travel to Glendale, Ariz., for the program's first BCS bowl: a juicy No. 3 vs. No. 4 matchup against Andrew Luck and 11-1 Stanford.
"What a great opportunity for two great quarterbacks [Luck and Brandon Weeden] to lead their teams in to a BCS bowl, and a team ranked third and fourth [to meet]," said Gundy. "There's a tremendous buzz here in Stillwater, I can tell you that."
As Gundy said, the groundwork for Oklahoma State's rise was laid by billionaire booster Pickens, whose $165 million gift helped the school build some of the finest facilities in the country and allowed Gundy to hire quality assistants like last year's offensive coordinator, Dana Holgorsen, and successor Todd Monken.
"What a thrill for me at 83 years old," Pickens said after Bedlam. "It's a big deal. I didn't want them to get there before I ran out of time."
It's a big deal for Stanford, too. Last year's Orange Bowl trip was its national coming-out party, but it was against an overmatched Virginia Tech team in what became Jim Harbaugh's final game. First-year coach David Shaw, a former Cardinal player, now has a chance to secure the school's biggest postseason victory. And many more Stanford fans will be able to make the short trip to Arizona on New Year's weekend than made it to Miami last year for a Monday night game.
Both high-powered teams have a chance to gain national validation with a victory -- just not quite as much as they would have if they'd faced one of those SEC defenses.
Oh, Sugar Bowl. There you go again.
The same folks who went to bat for Ohio State's Tattoo Five last year in order to preserve the "integrity" of their matchup gave the authors of Death to the BCS more fodder Sunday with their shocking and, quite frankly, unjustifiable selection of Virginia Tech for the BCS' last at-large spot. Their decision was so unexpected that as of mid-afternoon Sunday, the Chick-fil-A Bowl was fully preparing to announce its expected matchup of Virginia Tech-Auburn. The 11-2 Hokies had barely even been mentioned as a possibility late Saturday or early Sunday, and with good reason: They lost the ACC championship game 38-10.
Before continuing, I fully realize and accept that outside of the championship game, bowls are entitled to select the matchups they feel will sell the most tickets and draw the most eyeballs. But don't insult our intelligence, Paul Hoolahan. Which do you think the country would rather watch: Michigan vs. Virginia Tech or Michigan vs. Boise State? And while Hokies fans will certainly travel, they won't travel in greater numbers than fans of Boise or 10-2 Kansas State, the team widely expected to take that last spot -- and the team more deserving of the honor.
The Sugar Bowl had first choice of at-large teams to replace LSU and was well known to covet Michigan. Fair enough. The Fiesta then took Stanford, at which point the Sugar again had its choice of available teams. Its options: No. 7 Boise State, in the last game of Kellen Moore's career; No. 8 Kansas State and the possibility of Bill Snyder's first BCS bowl in eight years; or No. 11 Virginia Tech, which, with all due respect to Frank Beamer, did not beat a single team that finished in the Top 25, got blown out both times it faced Clemson and played one of the least impressive nonconference schedules of any team in the country (Appalachian State, East Carolina, Arkansas State and Marshall).
Why, Hoolahan? Why?
"I think Virginia Tech has proven over the years the caliber of football team that they are," he said. "Frank Beamer is obviously one of the winningest active coaches in the FBS right now. ... I think he's going to perform extremely well. I think that team will be a great performer for us."
So to be clear: Virginia Tech is playing in this year's Sugar Bowl because of what it did ... before this year. Got it.
The truth is, commissioners from all potential parties were likely lobbying hard in the final hours. Boise State probably had no chance, both because Mountain West boss Craig Thompson is the sport's only openly pro-playoff commissioner and because Big Ten commish Jim Delany wants nothing to do with the Broncos. But why not Kansas State? You'd have to ask Hoolahan. Maybe Snyder's .657 career winning percentage just didn't cut it.
So the Big 12, universally rated as the nation's top conference, gets one BCS bid, while the ACC -- for the first time ever -- gets two. Congrats, ACC. And how's this for ridiculous: For beating the Hokies twice and winning its conference, Clemson gets to play No. 23 West Virginia in Miami, while Virginia Tech backdoors its way into a game against Denard Robinson and No. 13 Michigan. Lovely.