Now that the hubbub of the bowl season has died down and the glow of USC's blowout of OU has dimmed somewhat let's look back and see what we learned, what to look forward to and finally defend, yes, defend, the BCS.
Here it goes...
From the first kickoff on August 26th with Arkansas Monticello vs. Bethel Tenn it was a great year. Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears, we had hype lived up to, hype blown out of proportion and no hype at all.
Hype Lived Up To
1) USC Trojans - They rode the top of the polls sunup to sundown, which is no mean feat. Talented and deep.
2) ACC as a much improved conference - Lots of close, great games and more than a few upsets. Conference championship came down to the final game of the year.
3) Red River Shootout - Great game for a change and next year is Texas's year.
4) Adrian Peterson - Number one HS recruit in the nation last year - Yep.
5) Urban Meyer - After a one-loss year last year, no one looked past Utah and they still beat everybody. Give him Florida talent and the sky appears to be the limit.
Hype Blown Out of Proportion
1) West Virginia - Next year the Little E will welcome Louisville the new favorite. Thanks for playing. You lose four games, three of them to current or soon to be ACC teams.
2) Kyle Orton - Set the world on fire then imploded. Not sure about the injuries but what a crash.
3) Chris Rix - You would think after three years and forty parking tickets we would all learn but no, we did not.
4) Tommy Bowden - To quote a famous blogger (me): "You think the Clemson AD wants to check whether the signatures on his contract in 2003 are in pencil or ink?"
5) Amato, Groh, Friedgen et al - High expectations with new and inexperienced QBs. Memo to Frank Beamer in 2005, experience at the QB position is the most underrated datapoint in college football, even if his last name rhymes with Rick.
6) "WE MUST PROTECT THIS HOUSE" - Thinly veiled Maryland ad disguised as Under Armour commercial.
7) TV announcers in general - Can they get any worse??? From the mispronunciation of player's names (hint: that is why the SIDs give you those notes) to blatant ignorance of the game, here is our plea - please use the offseason to get better - you are paid very well - just do it!
8) ABC Football - Once the proud owner of the sport's best broadcasting platform. Now a poor imitation of its young sibling ESPN and its old nemesis CBS. Thank goodness Fox gets the BCS games soon. For the sake of dignity please put Brent Mussberger and Keith Jackson out to pasture. Kirk, Mike and Lee rule the college roost now. Elevate them.
9) Notre Dame - Can we please stop? Ty got the shaft. I don't know whether he ultimately would succeed but three years is not enough. His guys (recruits) were freshman and sophmores. The admission standards changed in the early 90's. That is why Lou Holtz's last few teams did not fair as well. Talent is needed and South Bend is a tough recruiting push when the last bowl win in school history was when current high school seniors were in second grade. Also, the sport has changed. The lowering of scholarship limits has democratized things more. Witness the rise of the ACC schools during that period, the Louisvilles, the Utahs etc. My prediction: Charlie Weiss will do better, but don't go raising any MNC banners just yet.
10) USC 2005 - Let's not give them the title just yet folks. Others have been on runs like there recent ones and they always come off a bit.
1) Va Tech - Had to go here. Picked sixth in the ACC, they win the conference and finish in the Top 10. A return to Hokie Football was enjoyed by all the fans.
2) Auburn - Should have been number one (on my list). Picked as an also ran in the SEC they made it through unbeaten and #2 in the country. Only shame of the BCS system (more below) is they did not get a shot at USC. I have seen both play and think it would have been an excellent game.
3) Louisville - Picked out of the Top 25 to start the season; they end up #7. Bobby Petrino is a less-heralded guy than Urban Meyer but their offenses sure look similar. Instant leader in the Little E next year and if they learn to not give up 40 points a game - look out.
4) Mark May - I came to appreciate Mark's blunt, tell it like he thinks it is style this year. He and Trev seemed to have meshed. On the come in the studio.
5) Mack Brown - A coach that goes 10-1 every year and the UT message board knuckleheads think should be fired. Good thing the UT administration has more brains. Don't spend it all in one place Mack.
6) Bryan Randall - Another Hokie on the list and this for sentimental reasons. I have questioned whether Bryan should start over others during his career. His arm was always a little shaky and he seemed to throw the ill-timed pick. However, I never doubted his heart or desire and he proved everyone wrong on all fronts. He was an outstanding student and person and left Va. Tech better for having attended. He missed one play in 38 starts with injury (when Jonathan Vilma tatooed him under the Chin in 2003), will go down as the Va. Tech offensive leader in most categories and used his leadership to rally a young team to levels no one thought possible.
7) UConn - Randy Edsel will be a force in the Little E for years to come (or until someone better gets him).
What to look for in 2005
1) USC will not win the National Championship with or without Leinart. Dynasty talk is a top usually. Several years ago Miami won 35 of 36, tons of talent, great recruiting area, blah, blah, blah. Oklahoma was the new power and Bob Stoops was a genius with a 9-1 record against Top 10 teams. Now can't coach, overrated etc. Hint to the sporting amongst you - take the field against USC for the title.
2) Hokies will get hype but be wary. New QB is a big change in college football and funny things happen on the way to the party.
3) UVA will get less hype and deserve more. Main reason, Marques Hagans will have a year under his belt, some better receivers (but less one super TE) and the defensive backfield will be better.
4) Texas takes OU in the Red River Shootout and wins the Big 12 and National Championship.
5) Florida wins the SEC.
6) Louisville wins the Little E.
7) JoePa gets a winning record again.
8) Cal takes USC for the Pac 10 title.
9) Michigan wins the Big 10.
No post on college football's season would not be complete without a comment on the BCS. However, I come not to bury it but to praise the old girl. Yes it could stand a tweak or two but I like it. It is not some new abomination. The old system had the Number 1 and 2 teams in the country playing in different bowl games and people guessing how they would fare head-to- head. It is a system designed to match Number 1 and Number 2 - thats it. Who #3 plays, and whether 4, 5, 6 or 12th get in, is backwash in the beer bottle. In general, it matches conference champions against conference champions, sort of like a playoff. Sure, there is the usual odd man out like Cal this year, but that happens to someone every year. People moaning about Pitt getting in as the Little E champ don't seem to mind Directional State getting into March Madness with a 12-17 record because they win the conference tournament. The system may get tweaked for things like a committee or an And One game but overall it is fine. The media seems to make a big deal about how it is destroying college football and the fans demand a playoff. I don't hear the demand and I know a lot of fans. The Media wants it because a playoff would be a big Media event like March Madness. Well I am here to say that March Madness has become college basketball. No one cares (aside from an individual team fan) about the records or results from Nov. tipoffs through the SuperBowl (now in February, by the way). The tournament is all. It is great theater, I agree. Nobody likes watching Valpo or some other Cinderella launch the buzzer beating three to beat UNC or Duke more than me. However, the season has been lost. Nobody cares about the big interconference games in December and January because they don't matter. It is all preparation for the strain of the Tournament. It's personified by the use of conference tournaments to award automatic bids.
Talk about unfair. Some team wins its conference and then happens to get upset one Sunday in March and now the last place team goes to the tournment to represent the conference??? Anyway, back to football. Basketball is all about the tournament, football is about the totality of the season. It's "don't look past Sectional U because if you have national championship aspirations your are likely done if you lose." It is the culmination of momentum, continuous high effort, the random effects of injury, it is the journey, the whole body of work. It is important! Lets keep it that way.
It will not change because of money. A playoff would be the NCAA's and that means they control it and get the funds. Conferences won't go for that. Instead of the BCS becoming more like March Madness it might go the other way. If the six power conferences decide to pull out of the NCAA tournament it will disappear. Then those conferences get the all that CBS money and don't have to pay for the two hundred and twelve vice presidents of the NCAA. You say the NCAA would never let that happen. Why not? It derives its power from the governed and serves solely at the pleasure of the conferences and teams it serves. Think about that!