I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a No. 1-ranked football team look as pedestrian as Notre Dame did Monday night in the BCS national championship, courtesy of Alabama.
It was another indictment on the accuracy of rankings — human, computer and combined — and a system that, if not for Ohio State being ineligible for the postseason, would have kept college football’s perceived best team out of its title game.
This would have been the Buckeyes vs. the Irish. Maybe ‘Bama could have played Texas A&M again or Oregon for the people’s choice championship.
By the time college football’s finale rolls around, I think many football fans are more geeked about the NFL playoffs. College fans care about their team more than the BCS championship — especially after a month-and-a-half layoff, filled with hype that usually far surpasses the game.
Nonetheless, this remains a major sports championship that comes close to getting it wrong every year, even when it gets it right.
Notre Dame never was the No. 1 team in the country. It beat Purdue by three (albeit before the Boilermakers tanked), BYU and Pittsburgh by the same small margin, needing OT to dispose of Pitt — and all three of those unimpressive wins were at home, where Vegas oddsmakers give between 3-4 points. In other words, Notre Dame wasn’t even the best team on those days. Just had home-field advantage.
It was a charmed season for the Irish, who needed an iffy goal-line call to hold-off Stanford, too.
Their most impressive victory, 30-13 at Oklahoma, looks less spectacular after Texas A&M drubbed the Sooners, 41-13, in the Cotton Bowl.
That brings us to the BCS’s next problem. It’s soon-to-arrive four-team playoff, while badly needed, won’t provide a true national champion either (though that it’ll be determined by a selection committee will give it considerably more credibility).
For example, one could make the argument that the best team in college football is Texas A&M, which lost its opener to Florida and in late October to LSU. The Florida loss was Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel’s first start because the Aggies’ scheduled opener against Lousiana Tech was postponed due to a hurricane. In this current system, and maybe even the new one, Texas A&M didn’t deserve a title shot. But the Aggies won on the road against Alabama and beat the tar out of their last six opponents. An eight-team playoff, with a selection committee, likely would’ve included them.
If Ohio State hadn’t been on probation, an eight-team field might have looked like this: Notre Dame, Alabama, Florida, Texas A&M, Stanford, Oregon, Georgia and Kansas State. Without question, college football’s true best team is in their somewhere. And who wouldn’t watch those three rounds? It’s unlikely the title game would wind up this lopsided.
An eight-team playoff, though, kills the top-tier bowls. I’m not sure that’s the right scenario for the sport as a whole. Maybe I’m wrong and we’d all adjust.
But, if a four-team playoff had been in place this year (and if OSU was eligible), it wouldn’t include Oregon or Texas A&M. And, after Alabama, those are probably the next best teams.
So, even when a somewhat more pure BCS begins in 2014, it’ll still finish with a relatively mythical national championship. And college football will remain the only major sport that’s never actually crowned a national champion — just voted on them and named them, sometimes more than one in the same year.