Monday, November 13, 2006

As the countdown to the most anticipated and therefore biggest college football game of the season goes on, I see more and more talk about what teams should play for the BCS championship. Obviously, the winner of the Ohio State-Michigan game will be there. Since the universe and the fates have conspired to deny Boston College the opportunity to play for the title they so richly deserve (based on their impressive schedule, a down year for the ACC as a conference and the fact that they have only lost twice to this point), some undeserving team will meet the Big 10 champion.

Of the undeserving teams, there are a few possibilities. Right now, it looks like either the winner of the Notre Dame vs. USC game or a one loss SEC champion will make the big game. If you've read this blog over the last 3 months, you probably will have noticed that I am a big Notre Dame fan. I would love to see this team compete in the national championship if they deserved it. That huge loss to Michigan at home should be enough to eliminate the Irish from consideration.

I don't think USC should get in either. Yeah, they beat Arkansas who has been a big surprise this season. But this really hasn't been that great a year for the Pac 10. UCLA played tough against Notre Dame in South Bend, but they haven't been that amazing the rest of the season. Who knows about Cal? Maybe they got caught overlooking Arizona going into the big game against the Trojans. But they still lost to an inferior team. Losing to a terrible Oregon State team has to hurt them.

As for the one loss SEC champion, should there be one, I think they will get more consideration than they might deserve. If Florida wins out and wins the SEC title game, they will almost certainly get into the BCS championship game as I see it. But Florida hasn't been very impressive throughout this season. They had a very good chance to beat Auburn, which would have given them an undefeated season to this point. The Gators had a chance to break the game open and couldn't do it. The Gators should have routed South Carolina at home on Saturday, but they let the Old Ball Coach and his team hang around and nearly beat them. South Carolina would have pulled that game out, but for the blocked kick in the final seconds. I don't see Florida matching up well with the Michigan or Ohio State defense.

If Saturday's game turns into an epic battle, the BCS championship should be a rematch between Ohio State and Michigan. This has to happen if Michigan should come out of Columbus with a win, since Ohio State was at the top of the rankings for the entire season. One late loss should not hurt a team like the Buckeyes more than USC loss to Oregon State, unless Michigan blows out Ohio State. USC did get the shaft when Oklahoma lost the Big 12 championship but still made the title game three years ago, but Oklahoma fell victim to a big underdog not the number 2 team in the nation.

I think that if the Michigan-Ohio State game is decided by double digits and Rutgers beats West Virginia, the Scarlet Knights should play in the BCS championship. I never would have imagined typing that sentence before this season. But that's how I feel. Rutgers will have beaten two top 10 teams. They will be playing well at the right time. They look more consistent and impressive than Florida. Obviously they won't have an embarrassing loss on their resume like Notre Dame and USC, since they would be undefeated.

There is a perception that the Big East had its heart ripped out when its two best teams and BC defected to beef up the ACC in 2003. Considering that Rutgers, Louisville and West Virginia have all risen in the national consciousness since the conference realignment, there is some truth to that sentiment. However, take a look at the ACC now. No ACC teams are in the top ten. Wake Forest controls its own destiny to win a berth in the conference championship.

Wake Forest. They used to be the conference doormat. Imagine if none of the teams defected from the Big East. Is there any guarantee that Miami Virginia Tech or BC could compete with the speed of West Virginia, the Louisville passing attack or Rutgers defensive speed? To paraphrase Norman Dale, you should evaluate the Big East for the conference that it is, not the conference that it isn't. So if Rutgers goes undefeated, I hope you will join me in a "Let them play" campaign as though we were the fans in the Huston Astrodome and the Scarlet Knights were the Bad News Bears in the second installment of their film series.

I think we all wait with baited breath for the press conference Justin Verlander is due to hold at any minute to demand that Jonathan Papelbon receive the AL Rookie of the Year trophy which the voters mysteriously awarded to the Tigers hurler instead of the single best pitcher of every conceivable era. No word yet on a target date for the Cy Young Award being renamed the Jonathan Papelbon Award, but it has to be within 2-3 years. In case you didn't hear, Hanley Ramirez won the NL Rookie of the Year award. As Bob Lobel would say: "Why can't we get guys like that?"

The Celtics lost their third consecutive game tonight, dropping their record to an anemic 1-6. Doc Rivers' days might be numbered. And yet Danny Ainge will be with us forever, it seems. Vlad Tepes, better know to history as the Impaler and to literature and film as Dracula, did more for the people of Wallachia than Ainge has done for the Celtics. Actually, the historical record shows that Vlad was not the monster that Bram Stoker described and he is a national hero in Romania today, but either way Ainge must go.

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