Renewed rematch backlash; more mail (cont.)
Stewart, whenever I see people propose the plus-one playoff, they include Stanford and Alabama in their mock plus-one for this year. These are the same people who oppose Alabama being included in the BCS title game because it didn't win its conference. Do you think for a plus-one to be fair, only teams that won their conference should be allowed to be included?
-- Reid, Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Absolutely not. The notion that the current system is "unfair" is primarily an indictment of the small field of participants and the reality that in many years, there aren't two clear choices. Some won't feel four is enough either, but once you establish a formal bracket, the issue of fairness will shift from the number of teams to the competitive balance of the field. And the bracket loses substantial credibility if you leave out one or more of the perceived four best teams to substitute them with a lesser team just to satisfy a conference quota.
Every playoff system in sports includes "wild-card" teams that did not win their conference or division. That's because we know some conferences or divisions are deeper than others. In the NFL, the rigid adherence to a divisional structure winds up allowing an undeserving team like the 8-8 Broncos to not only compete for the championship but host a first-round playoff game. The NFL, like the other pro leagues, had to create wild-card spots to compensate for the inevitable disparity between certain divisions in a given year. (This year, three of the four AFC North teams are in the playoffs.) By contrast, a college plus-one would allow for inclusion of two more elite teams while denying any guaranteed access for mediocre champions from lesser conferences, thus continuing to ensure that to win the national championship, a team must excel throughout the entire season rather than simply get hot in January.
Just wanted to say that if (big "if") Virginia Tech wins tonight, I would like to be the first to thank you and all the sports media for providing us with all the bulletin board material and motivation.
-- Greg, Fredericksburg, Va.
I tried my best, but it's hard to overcome the law of averages with a third-string kicker -- and Pac-12 refs.
I just read the latest Mailbag, and I noticed the astonishing omission of any discussion of the ongoing Penn State drama. What are your thoughts on the coaching search and if they will be able to convince anyone other than Tom Bradley to take such a radioactive job?
-- Jason, Memphis
We may disagree on how to define "drama." I haven't commented on the Penn State search because nothing much has happened, other than a series of media reports anointing a new NFL journeyman the leading candidate only for said journeyman to deny interest in the job within 24 hours. You know things are bleak when the reported pursuit of a guy like Bill O'Brien, whose college coaching career consisted of three unmemorable stints as an ACC offensive coordinator at Georgia Tech, Maryland and Duke, qualifies as breaking news.
It's a pretty depressing situation, but hardly surprising. "Radioactive" is a fitting description of the job. The stigma from the sexual abuse scandal is going to haunt the program for many years, particularly since the trials of Jerry Sandusky, Tim Curley and Gary Schultz are only beginning. It's going to be hard to recruit players to Penn State as long as the legal proceedings continue to garner headlines -- and that's on top of the already unenviable task of succeeding a figure who was revered for 45 years. Complicating matters further are an interim AD and a committee comprised of individuals outside of football conducting the search.
My sense is that finding someone to win football game is not nearly as high a priority right now as finding someone of character who can help heal the community. That's admirable, but ultimately fans care mostly about winning. Considering there's a high chance the next guy won't win as frequently as Joe Paterno, prospective candidates know they're a lot better off being the guy who succeeds the guy who replaced Paterno.
Stewart, I read last week about the conference scheduling partnership between the Big Ten and the Pac-12. This strikes me as something that could be a coup for college football, but it's gotten almost no coverage. In fact, the biggest deal that day was the release of the SEC schedule. Why does this story seem to be flying under the radar so much?
-- Nate Owens, Olathe, Kan.
It didn't get much coverage because it was announced between Christmas and New Year's, the lightest media week of the year. But it's also not a coincidence the two conferences announced the deal the same day the SEC unveiled its long-awaited (in the South, at least) 2012 schedule. It seemed to me that many fans and writers that had spent that morning dissecting the ramifications of a Georgia-Missouri game quickly changed to discussing and in most cases welcoming the Big Ten-Pac-12 news.
Any initiative that guarantees better nonconference schedules for major programs is a good thing. Since going to the 12-game schedule, the Big Ten's September slate has grown increasingly boring due to an overload of FCS and MAC matchups. We got the occasional Ohio State-USC or Penn State-Alabama games, but far more of Michigan-Delaware State and Northwestern-Towson. Those games won't disappear, but the number of attractive matchups for all 12 teams will increase. Pac-12 teams already schedule tough, but the possibility of some cross-country rivalries is intriguing. And an obvious motivation is that the deal guarantees a better set of game for the conferences' respective television networks.
The obvious downside, of course, is that it could hurt some teams' national title chances, as Oregon found out this year by scheduling LSU. But by 2017 the postseason system could be entirely different. Whatever the format, hopefully teams will be rewarded, not punished, for scheduling tough nonconference games.
Who knew that Pac-12/Big Ten collaboration began with the officials in Michigan's Sugar Bowl win?
-- John, Spokane, Wash.
Commissioners do love that "broad-based initiative" phrase.
Now that the SEC schedules have been released, and seeing Missouri-Texas A&M scheduled for the last week of the season (the traditional rivalry week) but with open dates the previous week, why can't that game move up a week so that the A&M-Texas and Kansas-Mizzou rivalries continue?
-- Scott, Canton, Ga.
That's not the issue. The jilted schools in each rivalry (Texas and Kansas) simply don't want to play the game, at least not now. If they did, the SEC certainly would have accommodated them. There's also the issue of having to break contracts with other nonconference opponents to add the extra game, but schools do that all the time. The real roadblock is plain old spite.
Mel Kiper stated Landry Jones had the most disappointing season in college football this year. Fair assessment?
-- Whitney, Tulsa, Okla.
That's pretty harsh. It seemed like Jones was having a perfectly fine season until he lost his starting running back and, more pertinently, his favorite target/All-America receiver Ryan Broyles. It shows that Broyles made that offense tick more so than Jones, and maybe that's an indictment of some sort, but I imagine few quarterbacks could overcome a loss like that unscathed.
All that said, no other player jumps out to me as an unqualified disappointment. Maybe Vontaze Burfict, who went from preseason All-American to postseason second-teamer, but we knew about his red flags going in. Also, two highly touted ACC defensive ends, North Carolina's Quinton Coples and Florida State's Brandon Jenkins, failed to come close to their 2010 production. But quarterback is a far more visible position, and since both preseason No. 1 Oklahoma and preseason Heisman contender Jones fell well short of expectations, it's easy to see why he'd be viewed as a disappointment. The big question now is whether that perception causes Jones to return for his senior year.
What's the lowest TV rating a BCS bowl has received and will the Clemson-West Virginia Orange Bowl break it?
-- David, Fairfield, Ohio
The lowest-rated BCS game was the 2009 Virginia Tech-Cincinnati Orange Bowl (5.4). I doubt Wednesday's game will break it, but if all those angry non-SEC fans I've heard from the past few weeks follow through on their professed boycotts, the BCS championship game just might.
By this time next week, we'll know.
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