Tuesday, October 14, 2008

College Football Mid-Terms

In breaking news, college football has a problem. The same problem it has always had – it is impossible to determine who should be playing in the National Championship game. The vast majority of the BCS complainers are demanding a playoff. While a playoff would be nice, it takes away from a lot of the deep traditions of the sport. Here are some of the traditions that would be destroyed by a playoff:

* Bowl Games: There are many people out there that don’t understand the importance of bowl games. Not only do they offer numerous teams the chance to play an extra game at the end of the year (I understand some of the bowls could be kept around for the 6-6 teams even with a playoff system) but they also offer a unique experience for the student athletes and the communities that host the bowls. Players are at these bowl sights for 4 or 5 days before the game and they visit hospitals, hold football clinics and talk to kids about staying in school. Do you think the basketball players in the NCAA tournament are doing this before the sweet 16? The players also get a slew of commemorative tokens for playing in the game which many will cherish forever. Realistically, only a select few teams (Georgia and USC last year) get hurt by not having a playoff because they missed their chance to play for the National Championship.

* The Importance of the Regular Season: For the sake of argument, we will say the top 8 teams make it to the playoffs. Do you think USC really cares if they lose to Oregon State? I would even suggest that they give players a week off here and there because losing one game doesn’t matter at all to the top teams. I am surprised this doesn’t happen more in college basketball. In the current college football system, USC needs a lot of help (similar to LSU last year) to make it to the National Championship game. Right now, every game counts and there is no other sport that can compete with that.

* The STUDENT-Athlete: Any playoff system is going to be played out from the beginning of December through the middle of January. As a result, the players involved will be taking final exams in the middle of the pressure-packed playoffs. The vast majority of football players have the “luxury” of taking finals without having to worry about what defense or offense they will be facing in a playoff game. The reality is that most of the players are not going on to the NFL. Some of them are trying to get a job on JP Morgan’s trading desk http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/news/story?id=3457623. Most of these football players need to focus on academics and a playoff would only hurt the academic performance of players.

Is there a perfect solution to the college football problem? No. Do I have a solution that I think will make a lot of people really satisfied? YES!

In college, most of us had to take mid-term exams. If you did well on a mid-term exam, you were not guaranteed an A in the class but it did put you in the best position to earn an A. However, if you get a C on the mid-term exam, your chance of getting an A in the class is almost non-existent. In the spirit of college mid-terms, I give you …


After six games, we have a pretty good idea of what teams are National Championship contenders and pretenders. However, we have a few of teams that play a brutal schedules in the second part of the season (Texas and Georgia) and a group of teams that play … well … nobody (USC and Penn St.). What if some of these teams had to play each other? The National Championship picture would be much clearer. Let’s get to the details of the plan:

* Teams: For the sake of argument, only the teams in the AP (or BCS) top 20 are included in Mid-term weekend. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/football/ncaa/

* Schedule: The NCAA would create a committee to determine the match-ups (very similar to the NCAA tournament in basketball). The one criterion is for the committee to set up games that will make the decision on who should play in the National Championship game easier. Let’s examine the case for Utah. They have a very realistic chance of going undefeated with only two tough games left (TCU and BYU) at home. If they run the table, why should they not have a chance to play for the National Championship? The mid-term game will give them the chance to put-up or shut up.

* Logistics: (1) Every D-1 team will have to leave the third weekend in October free on their schedule. (2) The higher ranked team gets to play at home (with the current economy it just makes more sense than forcing fans of both teams to fly or drive to a neutral site) (3) The visiting school gets 15,000 tickets to the game which they can dispose of in any way they see fit. (4) Media rights will be sold by the NCAA and the travel for both teams will be paid for through the sale of these rights. (You cannot tell me that Fox, CBS, ABC and NBC would not be falling all over themselves to televise this event) (5) All proceeds from these games will be split in a similar fashion to how bowl game rights are split. (aka all conference schools get a piece of the pie)

Without any further delay, I give you the College Football Mid-Term 2008 schedule and breakdown:

(The match-ups are in order of when they game would be played)
The Match-ups

Game 1: #19 USF v. #18 UNC in Chapel Hill, NC 11:30 am ET ESPN2

Why these two teams?

Easily the least provocative game of the day but it is a big game for the conferences represented. USF is the only Big East team in the top 20 which is a big change from last year. Their only loss is to Pittsburgh (which might be the hottest team in the country) at home but they have a big win against Kansas from earlier in the season. UNC went to Rutgers and embarrassed the Scarlett Knights and has a few impressive wins over Miami in the Orange Bowl and Notre Dame at home. The winner boosts the reputation of their conference and propels them into the conversation as a potential top-10 team.

National Championship Implications

Simply put … none

Game 2: #13 LSU v. #7 Texas Tech in Lubbock, TX 12:00 pm ET CBS

Why these two teams?

If nothing else, mid-term weekend 2008 will help determine if the Big 12 has finally stepped out of the shadow of the mighty SEC. This game is very interesting because LSU is going to be really angry about being taken to the wood shed against Florida last weekend and Texas Tech pulled out a nail bitter against a mediocre Nebraska team. In the end, nothing proves conference supremacy more than the 3rd highest ranked teams in their respective conferences going head -to-head.

National Championship Implications

In true mid-term fashion, the loser of this game is out of the picture. Texas Tech cannot afford to lose at home to an LSU team that lost by 30 to Florida. However, a victory further solidifies Texas Tech’s place in the top-10 and could pad their confidence as they entire the most difficult stretch in their season. Currently, LSU is out of the national championship picture. They would need to win by a sizable margin to even have a thought of getting back in the race.

Game 3: #6 USC v. #5 Florida in the Swamp 2:00 pm ET ABC

Why these two teams?

This game is the first of three gigantic games on the day (not surprising that all three games include a SEC team). I don’t think there is a college football fan that would not tune in to watch this game. It could be argued that college football fans have been waiting for an USC-SEC match-up for quite some time. This mid-term proposal fulfills that dream.
Here are the longer term implications of this game: Pete Carroll and Urban Meyer are two of the best recruiters in the country and whoever wins this game will use this victory in living rooms of potential recruits for many years to come. Neither wants to explain why they lost to the other on the recruiting trail this winter.

National Championship Implications

The winner of this game has a very good chance of playing for the National Championship. A victory for USC legitimizes the thought that the loss to Oregon St. was a fluke and that they are more often the winner of any big game. If they lose, they are out of the National Championship picture for good. For Florida, they can prove that they are one of the top two teams in the SEC and a SEC Championship all but makes them a lock for the big game in Miami.

Game 4: #15 Boise St. v. #12 Ohio St. at the Horseshoe 3:00 pm ET ESPN

Why these two teams?

Boise St. needs to win another big game to be taken seriously. There is no better proving ground than against Ohio St. at the Horseshoe. Ohio St. has been kicked to the back burner after their pathetic showing against USC in September and they need another win to vastly improve their psyche. This game is intriguing because Ohio St. is playing for not only the Big Ten but also all big conference teams. On the flip side of the coin, Boise St. is playing for all the small guys trying to prove that they can win more than just one big game a season.

National Championship Implications

It is hard to imagine either of these teams in the National Championship game but a Boise St. victory opens up all voters to the idea that the small guys deserve more respect in future seasons. If I was a coach, I would not want to play an undefeated Boise St. team that has beaten Oregon and Ohio St. on the road in the same season.

(The reality is that without a mid-term game, the teams in the WAC have no chance to play for the National Championship and that is stupid.)

Game 5: #20 Michigan St. v. #16 Kansas in Lawrence, KS 3:30 ET ESPN2

Why these two teams?

The Big 10 (11) has been the most criticized conference over the last two years as Ohio St. has done a poor job of proving themselves worthy of a National Championship game berth in that time frame. Michigan St. has the opportunity to bring some respectability to the Big 10 by going to Lawrence and beating a good Kansas team. The Big 12 is trying to prove it is the top conference in the country. Kansas gets the opportunity to carry the torch for the Big 12 against a Michigan St. team that has not lost since opening weekend against Cal. The Big 12 needs to win this game more than people think.

National Championship Implications

After this game is over, both of these teams become huge fans of the other team. Michigan St. will need a lot of help to get to the National Championship game but a win over a two loss Kansas team coupled wth an undefeated Big 10 season (which would include victories over Ohio State and Penn State) would give Michigan St. a compelling argument for playing in Miami. If Kansas wins this game and only loses one game in the Big 12, they could still make it to Miami if Michigan St. goes on to win the Big 10 Championship. In the end, too much has to go right for either of these teams to realistically play for the National Championship. (Of course, I said the same thing about LSU last year)

Game 6: #10 Georgia v. #4 Oklahoma in Norman, OK 5:00 ET NBC

Why these two teams?

This game is the second of three gigantic games on the day and it is the only one that pits two top 10 teams from the two power conferences. Similar to the USC-Florida game, both of these teams are looking to redeem themselves after losing earlier in the season. Georgia has been struggling on offense and Oklahoma has been struggling on defense so something will have to give. There is not a college football fan on the planet that would not watch this game.

National Championship Implications

The winner moves right back into the National Championship picture and it can be argued controls their own destiny based on the schedule that lies ahead. Oklahoma would need a little more help than Georgia but an undefeated second half would be too much to ignore in my opinion. We all know what happened to Georgia in the second half of last season and this game gives them the opportunity to have history repeat itself.

(Isn’t Georgia the most dangerous team in the second half of the season? They have looked terrible but all signs point to them turning things around. There is no reason they cannot beat LSU in Baton Rouge)

Game 7: #9 BYU v. #1 Texas in Austin, TX 7:00 pm ET ESPN

Why these two teams?

This game would be a lot more fun to watch than people think. BYU is can score in bunches and Texas has proven that they can give up points in bunches. Could there be a trap game in the most hyped weekend of the regular season? All #1 teams need to prove themselves against unique challengers. BYU is the perfect challenge for Texas because they are not familiar with BYU. If Texas made the huge mistake of not taking this game seriously, they could lose. For BYU, they get to play the top dog with everything on the line.

National Championship Implications

Texas can lose this game and still completely control their destiny but they would be left in the unenviable position of having to play a perfect second half which seems unlikely given the strength and depth of the Big 12 at this point. This game is a must win for BYU. Their schedule has been affected negatively by the decline of Washington and UCLA. BYU is out of the National Championship if they lose.

Game 8: #14 Utah v. #8 Oklahoma St. in Stillwater, OK 7:30 pm ET ESPN2

Why these two teams?

This game is interesting because it puts two teams that were seen as unlikely to contend for the National Championship at the start of the season. Now, they find themselves in the same boat with some big wins under their belt – can they maintain focus to finish the season? Utah’s victory over Michigan becomes less and less impressive by the day and their remaining schedule is not going help their case for a BCS bowl. Oklahoma St. has gone from hunter to prey. Can they handle the newfound pressure of being a top 10 team?

National Championship Implications

Even with a victory against OSU, I don’t think Utah goes to the National Championship game. There are too many other teams with much stronger schedules. This game should be considered a must win for Oklahoma St. since it is highly unlikely that they make it through the rest of the Big 12 season without a loss.

Game 9: #3 Penn St. v. #2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa, AL 8:00 pm ET ABC

Why these two teams?

The entire idea of a College Football Mid-Term losses all credibility if these two teams do not play each other. The storyline is exactly why we watch college football. Both storied programs have struggled over the past 15 years with only a few successes to hang their hats on. Now, they are both exceeding expectations and are set to make a run at the National Championship for the first time in recent memory. If you are a college football fan and do not watch this game, you are either (1) Dead (2) Dying or (3) someone close to you is very close to dead.

National Championship Implications

The winner of this game controls their own destiny while (barring a blowout) the loser still has a legitimate shot at Miami with an undefeated finish to the regular season. This game is must see T.V.

Game 10: #17 Virginia Tech v. #11 Missouri in Columbia, MO 9:30 pm ET ESPN2

Why these two teams?

If you just have not had enough college football, you have one more game left to quench your undying thirst. Virginia Tech has played good not great but they seemed destined to win the ACC. Missouri picked the wrong team (Oklahoma St.) to over look and now they are very much on the outside looking in when it comes to the Big 12 Championship and the National Championship. Both teams have a stadium full of doubters that need to be silenced.

National Championship Implications

Virginia Tech does not have the strength of schedule to overcome their loss to East Carolina. Missouri is in a very similar situation as Kansas as they need to run the table and get some help along the way.

In order to have the two best teams in the National Championship game, we need an additional non-conference game to determine who are the most worthy teams. While I know I have proposed an alternative playoff system in the past, I think the College Football Mid-Term is really the right the right way to save traditions while reaching a consensus National Champion.
This idea maintains all of the traditions that we love about college football while providing the necessary evidence needed to crown a true champion.

(Not to mention, I can’t imagine a weekend I would look forward to more.)


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Koski said...

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Did you see the SDSU-ND game? MSU-IU?


Koski said...

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RT said...

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