BCS change afoot; more mail (cont.)
I'm not a big fan of the BCS, but I was thinking how similar last night's game was to the men's basketball championship between UConn and Butler. And it doesn't matter if the game was the outcome of a broad tournament, or if the two teams were chosen by an unpopular system -- both are equally disappointing and frustrating to watch. A tournament is not necessarily going to produce more popular matchups or better games.
-- Erik W., Los Angeles
I disagree with your specific analogy. The 53-41 UConn-Butler game was a debacle by both teams. All jokes aside, Alabama was phenomenal in all three phases Monday night. Yes, it nearly went the entire game without reaching the end zone again, but it put up 384 yards of offense, committed no turnovers, committed just one late-game penalty and, most notably, held the No. 1 team in the country to zero points and 92 total yards. The game was boring because it was lopsided, not because it was bad football (at least on Alabama's part).
But obviously, no bracket or tournament guarantees competitive or well-played matchups. Had a plus-one been in place this season, we may well have seen two rematches: LSU-Oregon (if the Ducks finished ahead of Stanford for No. 4, as I suspect they would have if this were the system) and then LSU-Alabama. However, people would have been more entertained by the win-or-go-home stakes in the semifinals, and the championship matchup would have been more universally accepted.
There will always be controversy whenever the participants are determined subjectively; it's unavoidable in college football. But a little more inclusiveness helps avoid scenarios like this year's, where a large section of the country feels shut out. You're probably not going to have a year where all four teams are from the SEC, though at the current rate, who knows?
Unsatisfying? Seriously? What a ridiculous article. 'Bama is CLEARLY the best team in the nation ... DOMINATED a LSU team that hung 40 on Oregon and quit trying to score in the fourth quarter.
-- Chad, Fairhope, Ala.
That wasn't the unsatisfying part. It was more the first game, where the Tide quit trying to score in the first quarter, then got a mulligan for it.
Congrats to the Tide on their impressive performance. They deserve to hoist the trophy (in the current system), no doubt. But do you think the game would have been any different, if say, there wasn't a 40-DAY layoff? That's my biggest gripe with the system. Why do we need such a long layoff? It basically eliminates all momentum that a team may have gained through a season.
-- Aaron, Madison, Wis.
In the six years since the BCS moved to the double-hosting model, the common denominator has been that teams often look nothing like they did during the regular season. You never would have guessed from their previous 12 or 13 games that Oregon and Auburn would play a 22-19 game last year, and you never would have guessed from LSU's dominant regular season this year that Alabama would annihilate the Tigers. Obviously the Tide deserve all due credit, and in fact they had a longer layoff than the Tigers. But it's just an odd situation that helps facilitate clunkers.
Having said that, you don't generally see the same impact on the Jan. 1 (or in this year's case Jan. 2) games. The Oregon-Wisconsin Rose Bowl and Oklahoma State-Stanford Fiesta Bowls both played out pretty much exactly as you would have expected. All four offenses were as crisp as you'd see in midseason, if not more so. That's generally held true of the Rose Bowl almost every year, and the date of the game hasn't changed. Something about that extra week takes a bigger toll, whether it's the challenge of keeping a team focused that much longer, the extra week of media buildup, guys with impending decisions to make about entering the draft or other factors.
One more reason to like a plus-one: We'll get those typically crisp New Year's games, then the teams will turn around and play again a week later just like during the regular season.
Stewart, While Alabama certainly proved it is the better team and deserved the championship, have you ever watched a worse job of coaching than that displayed by Les Miles? I've never seen a team playing in such an important game that was so uninspired, and why did he leave Jefferson in at quarterback?
-- Ken, Ft. Collins, Colo.
It wasn't Miles' finest hour, and quite frankly, it surprised me. Going into the game we heard a lot of statements to the effect of, "Oh boy, you give Nick Saban extra time to prepare ..." but if you look back, Miles' track record in big situations was actually better than Saban's. Miles had gone 5-1 in bowls at LSU, all five wins lopsided victories. He'd never laid an egg like Alabama did against Utah in the 2009 Sugar Bowl. That's not to say Miles is a better coach than Saban, but I personally didn't think Alabama had a decided coaching advantage.
But it did. The Tide did a great job of changing things up from the first game. Knowing how tough LSU's rushing defense is, they put trust in AJ McCarron. He got the tight ends involved early, then started doing what few teams dare against LSU: picking at their corners (specifically the Honey Badger). Contrast that with LSU, which from the outset seemed determined to ride Jordan Jefferson and the option, which the Tide were clearly prepared for. Why Miles didn't pull Jefferson after the brutal shove pass to Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley is baffling. I know there's concern with Jarrett Lee throwing interceptions, particularly under duress, but it was obvious even at 9-0 that the Jefferson game plan wasn't working. I don't know if Lee would have fared better, but why not even try?
Bobby Hebert would sure like to know.
Is Les Miles on the take? I cannot figure out any other explanation for last night's play calling, personnel decisions or overall game plan. Fire Les Miles!
-- M. Antoon, Baton Rouge, La.
You knew that was coming.
Stewart, seeing how West Virginia crushed Clemson in the Orange Bowl, and TCU won the MWC and finished in the top 15, can you give a grade to how the Big 12 did by replacing Texas A&M and Missouri and getting West Virginia and TCU?
-- Joshua Z, Nashville, Tenn.
It depends on your metric. The Big 12 lost a huge fan base and great tradition with Texas A&M, both far more entrenched than TCU's, and it's losing a school in the heart of its (former) geographic footprint (Missouri) for a school nowhere near its other members.
But in terms of football, today, I'd say the conference upgraded. Mountain West or not, TCU has firmly established itself as a top 15 program under Gary Patterson. The Frogs will contend in the Big 12 from the go, which is more than A&M had done in the past 13 years. West Virginia and Missouri have been fairly comparable programs the past few years. The Tigers had become a regular contender in the former Big 12 North, which is about equivalent to what the Mountaineers were doing in the Big East. While their Orange Bowl performance was spectacular, remember West Virginia was barely a Top 25 team going into the game.
Having said that, the Mountaineers carry some cachet from having won three BCS games in the past seven years (Mizzou hasn't been to one), and you've got to like their future prospects under Dana Holgorsen. Having coached at Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State, he'll have some pull in Texas recruiting circles. WVU could also contend in the Big 12 immediately, which could make for a very interesting race next season with Landry Jones returning to Oklahoma and Texas likely continuing to improve while the Cowboys try to reload.
Pitiful lack of journalistic objectivity. Guess you just can't get past that you have been on the LSU bandwagon all year and had pre-crowned them as the "Best in College Football" in your past articles: Any chance that you will be restored to objective reporting, without bias, in the future?
-- Charlie Couch, Huntsville, Ala.
Alabama's spot in the national title race got magically restored after the LSU loss, so I'm sure there's hope for me, yet.
Stewart, why does everyone keep bashing the Big East when it is evident that the bashing should start with the ACC? I hate West Virginia but they thoroughly destroyed Clemson, moving the ACC's BCS record to a fantastic 2-13. I admit that the Big East has some issues but I just don't understand why no one seems to mention the ACC in the same issue.
-- Jim, Louisville
I'm done with the ACC. Finished. Kaput. For years I've been saying "Just wait, they're about to turn the corner." I actually predicted before the season that this would be the year the ACC finally got that coveted second BCS berth. And when it finally happened, at-large team Virginia Tech gave a valiant effort, but champion Clemson gave up the most points ever in a bowl game in the least-watched BCS bowl by a mile. Why do we keep putting ourselves through this charade?
But bowl season wasn't completely empty for the conference. Florida State beat Notre Dame in the Champs Sports Bowl, assuring an 11th straight year of the 'Noles being crowned "back" in August.
While depressing, isn't it fitting that the 2011 college football season -- wracked as it was by scandal and conference realignment -- finished with a non-division winner capturing the national championship in a painful-to-watch title game?
-- Geoff, Washington D.C.
I don't think "fitting" is appropriate. A lopsided championship game or frustrating matchup is pretty trite compared to some of the actual horrors that touched college football in 2011, most notably those involving Jerry Sandusky. That put a lot of things in perspective for a whole lot of people, to the point where it's hard to believe in hindsight we got so worked up about Ohio State players' free tattoos
But there's no question 2011 was the most unpleasant year the sport has seen in my lifetime. There were certainly plenty of memorable games (Michigan State-Wisconsin, Oklahoma State-Iowa State, USC-Oregon among them) and thoroughly enjoyable players (RG3, Andrew Luck, Trent Richardson, Montee Ball, Kellen Moore, Justin Blackmon and many, many more). Unfortunately, the Penn State nightmare, the various NCAA scandals and an anticlimactic national title race obscured all of that.
But the good news is, it's a New Year, and reading Andy Staples' way-too-early preseason Top 25 has already got me excited for 2012. But for now, it's time to recharge the batteries.
The Mailbag will go on its usual offseason hiatus, returning in the spring. Thanks as always for all the questions this season. Some college football seasons are better than others, but the readers never disappoint.
Avalanche hold off Blackhawks' charge for 3-2 win
Burrows' first two of the season helps Canucks top Jets in SO