We do a lot of complaining about the BCS around here, but one thing that can't be denied is that the ridiculous system of crowning a national champion does have a tendency to spit out a pretty good game at the end of the season, with Tuesday night's Orange Bowl, USC vs. Oklahoma, looking as good as any.
Sure, maybe Auburn should be there instead of one of them -- I don't think so -- just as maybe USC should have been in last year's game rather than Oklahoma. I did think that, but the Sooners certainly held up their end in a tough loss to LSU.
And listen: How would Utah fare against any of the three big undefeateds? I think the Utes, who abused Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl, would beat Auburn, which beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl Monday night. I'm not sure how they'd do against USC or Oklahoma, but it sure would be fun to find out.
I'm not sure how USC and Oklahoma will do against each other either, and isn't it nice to have a big college football game with the teams so evenly matched? But what do I know. My main prediction for this year was that one of the 11 teams in the preseason top 10 in the writers and coaches polls would win the national championship, and that it wouldn't be USC. I'm hanging by a thread on that one.
I also predicted that six of those 11 teams would finish in the top 10, and eight of the 14 teams ranked 12-25 would finish in the top 25. We'll wait till the post-bowl polls, but those predictions aren't looking too good either. As of the last regular-season polls, four of the 11 were in the top 10, and seven of the 14 were in the top 25.
The Orange Bowl features the last two Heisman Trophy winners, quarterbacks Matt Leinart of USC and Jason White of Oklahoma, the first time two Heisman winners have ever met in a college game.
Four of the five Heisman finalists will play, the others being sophomore all-around get the ball to him and watch him go guy Reggie Bush of USC and freshman tailback Adrian Peterson of Oklahoma. We may someday look back on Tuesday's game as having featured four Heisman winners. (The fifth finalist was junior quarterback Alex Smith of Utah, who announced Monday he's entering the NFL draft.)
I don't know from nothing but I'll take USC. These are two very similar teams that, for all the attention the explosive offenses get, have great defenses. I think the biggest difference is right there in the spotlight, with the Heisman winners. Leinart is a real-deal NFL-type quarterback who's that Heisman rarity in that he might actually be the best college football player in the country. White is a very good college quarterback and a hell of a competitor, but not on Leinart's level.
This will be the last National Championship Game under the current BCS system, which is true every year because the system is so dumb it has to be overhauled annually.
The current cataclysm stems from the fact that the Associated Press suddenly realized that its writers poll was being used in the BCS formula. AP executives probably hadn't noticed this little factoid because it's only appeared in every single AP college football story since 1996, but as soon as the light came on, they sent a cease-and-desist letter to the BCS, demanding it stop using the AP poll on trademark grounds.
So now the BCS has to rethink again, which it would have had to do anyway because of the outcry over Texas getting into the BCS by hopping past Cal in the human polls despite both teams winning their last games. That outcry became mere grumbling when Cal got smoked in a minor bowl, but still, it was going to have to be addressed.
Fans want to see a playoff tournament, which for various reasons is an idea that seems to have no traction among the people in college football who can make it happen. What's surprised me in the chatter of the last few weeks is how many people around college football want to see a return to the pre-BCS bowl system, which almost always resulted in the top teams playing in separate games, a lot of arguing over who the real national champ was, and anguished calls for some kind of system -- anything -- to get the top two teams together.
I'd be OK with a return to the old bowl system too, now that I think of it. I'd prefer an eight-team, three-week playoff that, if you really wanted the traditional big bowls to survive, could incorporate them somehow. But there was something quaint about the old system of not crowning a champion, of just letting the fans and the writers argue about it, which is not only fun but good for business, though not as good as a playoff would be.
But the BCS is with us for at least the rest of the decade, new contract with Fox in hand. One more prediction: Next year, any dispute over who should play in the National Championship Game will be decided by a poker tournament.
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We have a winner [PERMALINK]
Speaking of predictions, he wrote transitionally, we have a winner in this column's season-long NFL Pool o' Experts, in which various national typists and chatterers' weekly game picks are tracked, with the winner entitled to dinner at my house, home cooking neither guaranteed nor implied unless the winner is my son Buster, who picks winners by flipping a coin by way of a roguishly charming proxy.
The winner is Sean Salisbury of ESPN, who put on a late-season charge to edge out ESPN colleague Mike Golic, who led the pool for much of the season. There are 256 games in the NFL regular season, and Salisbury was correct in predicting the winner of 164 of them, a .641 winning percentage. Golic was in a three-way tie for second at 163-93, along with Cris Carter of Yahoo Sports and the Yahoo Sports users, meaning readers, who pick by voting.
Last year's winner, Ron Jaworski of ESPN, was fifth at 162-94. Jaworski got 175 games right last year, a .684 winning percentage and 11 games better than Salisbury's championship performance this year, so this must have been a tougher season to predict. If that's the case, I improved: I went 157-99 last year, and I went 157-99 this year. That left me tied for seventh in the 14-entry pool with Chris Mortensen of ESPN. The complete standings are posted in Table Talk.
I went 6-10 with my What the Heck picks.
Buster, the coin-flippinest 1-year-old in America -- he does exist and he really is still 1, to answer the e-mail you were about to write -- went 135-121, a solid showing. Mark Schlereth of ESPN, who studies film and everything, beat him by exactly one game per week, going 152-104. An efficiency expert would tell Schlereth he could get 89 percent of his current results while saving 30 or 40 hours a week of work time if he simply flipped a coin to make his picks.
One more thing: My 157-99 record last year was exactly the same as it would have been had I simply picked the home team in every game. This year, home teams only went 145-111, meaning that only Buster would have improved by always taking the home team.
Experts and readers also made predictions about who would win the divisions and the wild card spots. I'll have those results later in the week.
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Insert play on "of Anaheim" here if you wish [PERMALINK]
As a service to readers, this column will stand alone today among the typing and chattering classes in not making dumb jokes playing off the new name the team formerly known as the Anaheim Angels announced Monday, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
This service expires at midnight EST Tuesday.
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