After all those crazy upsets and all that churn in the rankings, after a year when anything could happen and most of it did, the Bowl Championship Series has rounded up a couple of usual suspects for the Championship Game.
With almost a dozen teams able to make a claim for a shot at the title without laughing into their sleeve, the title game will be Ohio State vs. LSU. Oh, the topsy. The turvy. It has been months -- months, I tell you! -- since we've seen the likes of these two in the big one.
Ohio State earned its spot with a brilliantly played bye. The BCS voters and computers really admired the way the Buckeyes did nothing this week. These guys make Maynard G. Krebs look like Thomas Edison.
LSU played its way in by losing to an unranked team at home last week instead of this week. Losing to an unranked team this week would have been bad, not a championship-caliber move. Just ask West Virginia, which lost at home this week to Pitt. Losing to an unranked team last week? Not so bad.
Hawaii didn't lose to anybody, ever. The Warriors started the season ranked No. 23 in the Associated Press poll, No. 24 in the USA Today poll, went 12-0, and finished the season No. 10. They'll play Georgia in the Sugar Exhibition Game on New Year's Night in New Orleans.
Here's a list of the teams that passed Hawaii at some point this year in the three polls -- AP, USA Today and Harris Interactive -- and the BCS standings, all without the Warriors ever losing a game: Georgia Tech, Tennessee, Boston College, Clemson, Oregon, South Carolina and Texas A&M.
Hang on. Just catching my breath. That was all in the first two weeks of the season.
Here's the rest of the list: Alabama, South Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Cincinnati, Arizona State, Missouri, Kansas, Kentucky (again), Virginia, Georgia (again), Connecticut, Michigan, USC, Virginia Tech, Florida, Texas, Clemson (again), Virginia (again) and Boston College (again).
Hawaii was passed 20 times in the AP poll and 19 times in the USA Today poll without ever losing a game. The Warriors were passed 10 times in 10 weeks in the Harris Interactive poll while going undefeated. They were leapfrogged 10 times in eight weeks in the BCS standings, winning all the while.
Last week, the 14th week of the season, was the first time all year that undefeated Hawaii was not jumped by at least one team in the USA Today poll. It was also the first time the Rainbows weren't jumped in any of the four rankings.
I could go into some eye-glazing detail about things like the three-week stretch at midseason during which Hawaii went 3-0 and didn't gain an inch in the polls, then had a bye week and moved up a little, pounded mediocre New Mexico State and moved up a lot, then had another bye week and dropped down.
I'll spare you. The point, though, is that a lot of what goes on in the polls is pretty random, but one thing's sure: There was a glass ceiling for Hawaii somewhere around No. 10. No matter how much everybody else lost and no matter how long Hawaii kept on winning, the Warriors weren't going any higher.
There were always teams that could be vaulted ahead of them. Kentucky lost five games but still found time to jump Hawaii in the polls on two separate occasions.
If there were ever a year when a team like Hawaii, a team from a smaller conference, would get a shot at the title game, this was that year, with not even one squad from a big conference having an unchallenged claim to a berth.
If Hawaii had no shot at the Championship Game this year, then no team from a smaller conference will ever have a shot at it unless it can muscle up its schedule with nonconference wins against BCS powers, who would sooner encourage their players to major in astrophysics and never miss a lab session just because of a silly old thing like practice than schedule teams like Hawaii or last year's model, Boise State.
The five smaller conferences in what's now known as the Bowl Subdivision -- it used to be Division I-A -- got together a few years ago and forced the six BCS conferences to toss a little more dough their way and give them a slightly better shot at big bowl berths, but what they ought to do now is form their own subdivision, or subsubdivision.
They're suckers in the meantime. They're the only teams in the NCAA that literally have no chance at a championship. Teams in the lower divisions play a tournament. Even traditional big-conference doormats like Vanderbilt, Northwestern and Baylor would get a crack at the title if they managed to put together a good enough team some year and didn't lose any games.
But teams from the WAC and the MAC, Conference USA, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt, they should have gotten the message loud and clear this year when it was delivered to Hawaii: You need not apply.
What a numbskull of a system. On ESPN's bowl selection show Sunday, host Rece Davis debriefed a guy named Brad Edwards, whose bio on ESPN.com describes him as a "college football researcher." Davis called him "our BCS guru."
BCS guru? That poor man! What a pathetic thing to be an expert on. It's like being the world's foremost authority on "Charles in Charge."
I used to know every ZIP Code in Oakland, Calif. It was the byproduct of a job I'd had. Tell me an address in Oakland, I could tell you the ZIP Code. I never got it wrong. It was a not-very-impressive parlor trick, occasionally good for 30 seconds of moderate amusement for someone who had moved around a bit in Oaktown, but otherwise useless.
It dwarfed encyclopedic knowledge of the BCS for usefulness and significance.
Well, let's let the guy speak. He has evidently devoted way too much of his life -- anything north of 10 minutes -- to the study of something so asinine it's scarcely worth learning what order the three letters go in. Why let that go to waste?
Davis asked him for his gut feeling on what would happen with the BCS after this absurd year. "Is the formula where they want it or do you expect more changes?"
This is kind of like asking if you expect daylight in future days. Of course the BCS formula is going to change. It changes every three weeks or so, every time someone notices how ridiculously stupid some aspect of it is.
"In reality, this is what the BCS was set up to do," Edwards said. "There's a season when you have a bunch of teams that all have similar records and similar résumés, and the formula was put together in order to take two teams out of that bunch and say, 'These are the best two.' Now, you can debate all day whether it got the right two, but the point of the BCS is to take two out of that group and say, 'These are the two that are going to play.' And they did that."
What's funny about that is that you can replace "the BCS" and "the formula" in that paragraph with something like "the system of having monkeys fling their poo at pictures of NCAA logos" without changing the meaning. That system would also be able to identify two teams to play in the Championship Game. And we would be able to debate whether the system got the right two, as if that were some kind of side consideration, beside the real point of the thing.
Shall we try?
In reality, this is what the system of having monkeys fling their poo at pictures of NCAA logos was set up to do. There's a season when you have a bunch of teams that all have similar records and similar résumés, and the monkey-poo-fling system was put together in order to take two teams out of that bunch and say, "These are the best two." Now, you can debate all day whether it got the right two, but the point of the monkeys flinging their poo is to take two out of that group and say, "These are the two that are going to play." And they did that.
Good going, monkeys!
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