Thorny Questions

Friday, January 2nd, 2009, 1:12 am

So I’m watching the Rose Bowl and not enjoying it much as USC scored at will against my Nittany Lions. The game was effectively over at halftime, and that’s when I noticed something odd. It seemed that the Penn State coaching staff had also come to that conclusion, and so had the ABC announcing staff.

How else to explain Penn State not going for two when they scored a TD to make it 31-13? Make the two-point conversion and it’s a two-score game–they’d need two TD’s and a brace of two-point conversions, but still within the realm of possibility. Instead they kick the rather pointless extra point. USC quickly scores to make it 38-14, Penn State marches back down the field, and with 4th and three inside the Trojan 10-yard line, they…kick a field goal. WTF? What good does THAT do you? Make the score a bit more respectible? Who cares? This game is meaningless! Try to win it, for Chrissakes!

And nary a word about this from Musberger or Herbstreit, who were far more interested in chatting with Keyshawn Johnson and letting us know about ABC’s fabulous evening lineup. It used to be that one of an announcing crew’s biggest tasks was keeping the audience interested in the middle of a game that’s a total dog. Now they just endlessly shill for the network. Corporate syngery, my ass.

Anyway, Penn State gets the ball again and punches it in for another touchdown, making the score 38-24 with 4:30 left in the game. The Lions have only one timeout left so it’s obvious that an onside kick is coming. USC lines eight guys up at the line…only to see the ball sail over their heads as Kevin Kelly kicks it deep.

This makes NO SENSE. Even if the Nittany Lion defense forces a three-and-out they’d lose their last timeout and about ninety seconds they don’t have to spare. Plus it was quite likely that Mark Sanchez might’ve stopped mugging for the cameras long enough ice the game with another half-dozen completions to wide-open receivers. Penn State HAD to try the onside kick there, and they didn’t. It beggars belief.

USC led by 14 with 40 seconds to go. The line on the game was nine or ten points. As gamblers around the globe looked on in disbelief the Trojan long-snapper sent the ball about 15 feet over the punter’s head and Penn State takes over at the USC 20. Penn State’s all-time leading receiver, Deon Butler, closes out his career by having a brain cramp and failing to run out of bounds when he caught a ball short of the first down marker. Darryl Clark had to spike the ball to stop the clock, setting up one last play to beat the spread. A USC lineman went offside by about two full steps, which the officials politely neglected to point out, and with that offside lineman bearing down on him Clark throws a pick in the end zone, saving the bacon of everyone who bet on USC. I didn’t bet on the game, but if I had Penn State and the points I would’ve been pretty pissed off that the refs decided they wanted to beat the post-game traffic so bad they stopped doing their jobs.

Right now all these football geniuses are talking about how terrible the Big Ten is, blah blah blah. Here’s the thing–that stuff doesn’t mean shit. Who cares which conference is best? These things are cyclical, the fortunes of teams ebb and flow over time. Fifteen years ago Nebraska was the dominant program in the country, with Florida State close behind. USC had some middling years before Pete Carroll arrived, and when he inevitably leaves again for the NFL the Trojans will doubtless lose ground to the Pac-10, uh, pack. And I’ll bet most Florida fans would like to forget the Ron Zook era.

Remember, under the current system only two teams can compete in the title game, so if there’s eight great teams in the SEC and one good one in the Big Ten, looks like it’s tough sledding most years for folks in Tuscaloosa, Baton Rouge, Gainsville, and wherever the hell Auburn is located. There’s much the same problem in the Big 12, though we’re gonna find out exactly how good that conference is after Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech play later in the week. And what with Oklahoma State getting whupped by Oregon and Missouri edging Northwestern in OT there’s cause for some concern.

But again, who cares? The way college football is set up EVERYBODY gets screwed in the end except two teams. Look at USC–a fantastic team with about a dozen first-day NFL draft picks among their starters, and they’re going to finish…second. That’s the absolute best they can hope for. If Texas beats up Ohio State they might finish third. Big whoop. I mean, that’s nice and all, but at USC you’re supposed to win titles. But they shit the bed in Corvallis and that was that. Season over, for the most part. I’m sure they’re happy to win another Rose Bowl, though the first thing Carroll was asked after the game was what he’d give to play the winner of the Oklahoma-Florida game. Carroll said he thought his team could beat anyone in the country, and I agree with him, but alas neither of our opinions means squat. Such is the absurd nature of college football.

Heck, you could argue that Penn State had a more satisfying season that USC. We got killed in the Rose Bowl, sure, but we beat Ohio State, beat Michigan, won the Big Ten. Not bad. While Trojan fans will think back on this season and wonder what might’ve been had their team shown up on that Thursday night in the Pacific Northwest. But USC fans are insufferable bandwagon-jumping pricks so, like, enjoy your win tonight. Because all you’re gonna hear the rest of the month is talk about whether USC could’ve beaten the winner of Florida-Oklahoma. And thanks to the current and absurd state of affairs, that’s what Trojan fans will have to content themselves with–talk. I know that was a great comfort to me when Penn State got royally screwed in 1994.

I guess I could kinda see the purpose of the bowl system if the bowl system, like, was successful. I keep hearing about all the money bowls bring in from corporate sponsors, but did you take a look at the sponsors of these games? The Sun Bowl, a stultifiying 3-0 abomination between Pitt and Oregon State, was sponsored by Brut. Brut. Are you shitting me? Look at the names of some of these games:

  • the Eaglebank Bowl. Eaglebank is based in Maryland and has fifteen whole offices to fulfill your banking desires!
  • the GMAC Bowl. GMAC recently received $5 billion in federal bailout money, so at least we know some of our tax dollars went to ensuring we see that much-needed matchup between Ball State and Tulsa.
  • the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. I didn’t make that up, honest.
  • the magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl. That’s how they spell it, "magicJack". It a gizmo that plugs into your computer so you can make calls with your phone over the ‘Net. I think that’s it.
  • the Chick-Fil-A Bowl. I only know of one Chick-Fil-A within one tank of gas from my home and it’s in the Ross Park Mall food court. Meanwhile there are like a half-dozen McDonalds within a mile of my flat. 
  • the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Well, yes, muffler maintence is a critical component to life, yes.
  • the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. R+L Carriers…they carry stuff. Jesus, I don’t know.
  • the Valero Alamo Bowl. Valero is the largest oil refiner in the U.S. Did you know that? I didn’t. Exactly how sponsoring a football game is gonna get them more refining business, I have no goddam idea.

I could go on and on. This is the reason why we can’t have a college football playoff, the largess of these rather middling companies? The only explaination for why there isn’t a playoff is greed on the part of the NCAA (and don’t insult my intelligence by arguing that the NCAA administrators are worried about the student-athletes), but I don’t see how there could be THAT much money coming in. I’d think the bidding for the broadcast rights for an 8-team playoff would be in the billions of dollars, and it’s not like the NCAA hasn’t been wildly successful at exploiting college basketball players with March Madness. There’s a disconnect here–there would be SO MUCH money in a college football playoff, but apparently the NCAA doesn’t want to tick off the suits at Eaglebank and Chick-Fil-A and see that money dry up. It doesn’t compute. If you can’t count on greed, what can you count on?

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One Response to “Thorny Questions”

  1. NumbBono Says:

    Your thoughts are in the right direction here, but you fail to bring up the main reason why the playoff system is not going to happen in the immediate future. It’s the six BCS conferences. These six conferences get guaranteed money from the the current system to spread amongst their members. These conferences, and the schools that make up the conferences aren’t willing to give the guaranteed money up.

    In a perfect world…we have an 8 or 16 team playoff. If you finish your D1 schedule undefeated, you’re in, regardless of the strength of your conference. If you win every single game on your schedule, you deserve the right to at least try to win a few more games for the championship. Otherwise, use the same super-magic-computer formula for rankings to determine whose in. If you’re on the bubble of that 8 or 16 team field, so be it, win a game earlier in the season and quit bitching.

    Also, it should be noted that the BCS champion is NOT recognized by the NCAA as the national champion.

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