Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Rivalry Time

Michigan hosted hated adversary Ohio State this past weekend for the opportunity to represent the Big Ten conference in the Rose Bowl in January. This rivalry doesn’t need anything to make it a great match-up. It has been for years. It's not the only good rivalry out there though.

We have plenty of rivalry games lined up for our viewing pleasure this weekend as well. That got me to thinking about some of the great rivalries of all-time: Ali-Frazier, Yankees-Red Sox, Donald Trump-Rosie O’Donnell.

Some of my personal favorite rivalries are taking place this week. What do I like about these games? Everything. They have emotion. Fans would sometimes toss out an entire season as long as they could have their team win this one game. They have great names like “The Duel in the Desert,” “The Red River Shootout,” and “The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.” They even have great names for their trophies like Paul Bunyan’s Axe, the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk and the Beehive Boot.

There are so many great games to choose from but here are a couple of my favorites:

Best Name: The Backyard Brawl (West Virginia vs. Pittsburgh). It was tough for me not to pick The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party for this one but I decided to go with The Brawl. This one isn’t this weekend…it’s next, but it’s still a great name. Frankly, this game just sounds cool – The Backyard Brawl – you pretty much have to be the toughest teams in the area to call your game this. West Virginia and Pittsburgh first locked up for The Brawl in 1895.

Best Trophy: The Floyd of Rosedale (Iowa vs. Minnesota). The Big Ten has a bunch of great trophies but this is my favorite for a couple reasons. First, it’s a trophy with a 21-inch bronze pig on the top of it. I mean, come on! It’s a giant pig-trophy. The other thing that makes this trophy great is that in its first year, in 1935, the governors of the two states actually bet their state’s prize-winning hog on this game. This was in the north, people!

(The more that I think about this topic the more I think this could take over its own blog entry. We may have to devote an entire day to talking about the great trophies of college football.)

Best overall game: The Iron Bowl. It’s the annual grudge match between Auburn and Alabama (okay, I’m a little biased because I’m from the South). The Crimson Tide own a 38-32 advantage in the series with the lone tie coming in 1907. Auburn has won the last five contests though. This is one of my favorites because there is such a passionate hatred between these two teams. In the state of Alabama, you grow up cheering for either Alabama or Auburn. Cheering for both is completely unheard of.

Thanksgiving night there is also a great game – with possible Rose Bowl implications: Southern Cal vs. Arizona State. I’ll be tuning in with the best part of Thanksgiving with me…no, not friends and family…a big sandwich filled with leftover turkey!

Have a great Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Problems With A Playoff

One of my favorite debates in sports is the topic of a playoff system in college football. Why? – Because it’s a never-ending struggle. We’ll probably still be arguing about it 30 years from now.

Currently, people are more upset with the BCS system than Donald Trump is with Rosie O’Donnell. Everyone thinks that a playoff system needs to be in place. They claim that there is just too much controversy out there – too many politics. I think that they’re wrong.

Let’s look at what it would take to build a payoff system (we’ll try to keep this as simple as possible and just work with the logistics of the actual setup).

First, we’ll need to decide on how many teams make this playoff system. A 64-team field is almost out of the question seeing as there are only 119 teams in Division I-A football. Half the field can’t make the playoffs. A four-team playoff seems too small and wouldn’t suffice for what the pundits want. Eight seems to be the number that pleases most people. So, we’ll go with eight for the moment.

Now, we have to decide if conference champions get an automatic bid into the playoffs. If so, which conferences? I think we’d have to be looking at the Big 10, Big 12, SEC, ACC, Pac-10 and Big East. That’s only six…which two do you add in after that? The MAC? The WAC? Who knows? You’re going to leave someone out. And what happens when a 7-5 Baylor squeaks into the Big 12 title game and it happens to be their day? Then we have a playoff that includes a team ranked 40th in the country. (Keep in mind that this system would also make non-conference football games completely and totally irrelevant.)

Another fact to keep in mind: Notre Dame is independent. Does that mean that they don’t get the chance to play for a title. I’m actually okay with that. Moving on…

So, let’s say that we just run with the six power-conferences. We have to fill those last two spots. How do we decide on those two teams? I guess we’d have to leave it up to a selection committee. There are more than a dozen one and two-loss teams out there right now that will not win their respective conference and a still-undefeated Hawaii team to contend with. You’re talking about some BIG schools, with BIG boosters, who like to throw around BIG dollars. Now, if you don’t think politics are going to get involved in that process then you’re crazy.

Do we simply extend the field to 16 teams? If we do then we are going to be running into the same problems when we get to the three-loss teams. Possibly even more. The Southeastern Conference has seven teams in the BCS Top 25 – You have to think that more than three of them could make a case for this hypothetical tourney.

We all enjoy our college sports and college football seems to be our first love. When we talk about it we use words like “heritage” and “tradition.” There is a certain amount of tradition that goes into the Bowl System. People love talking about that year the team won the Sugar Bowl or the Cotton Bowl or the Bowl (I’m trying to convince everyone that this bowl needs to take place in 2010).

The system isn’t perfect. We all know this. One of the things that makes collegiate football so great, though, is that we argue about it. We constantly enter into debate with friends, co-workers and the “experts” sitting three seats to our right at the local watering hole. So go tell your buddy he’s a moron…heck, come tell me I’m an idiot. I welcome the conversation.