Playoffs versus Polls - Bowl Season
What TJ Yeldon, Eddie Lacy, Chance Warmack, and the rest of Alabama’s offensive line did to the Georgia Bulldogs this past Saturday was otherworldly. Running for first downs every carry when the other team’s defense knows you are going to run the ball is the epitome of domination. And Alabama was so far from dominating the SEC Championship, it is kind of sad that Georgia’s loss here kept them out of a BCS bowl game altogether. Georgia is probably one of the five best teams in the nation, yet rules are rules (until they’re changed).
So if what Bama did to the Bulldogs was otherworldly then what Montee Ball and the rest of the Wisconsin backs did to Nebraska could be considered intra-dimensional I suppose. The 2011 Heisman finalist ran for 202 yards and three touchdowns and led his squad in neither yards nor scores. Melvin Gordon picked up 216 yards on the ground while James White topped 100 yards and managed four scores. It was as emphatic a performance as you will see in a conference championship game. And yet, it was one of the major reasons this BCS bowl season looks plain terrible.
The Championship game is what it is. Whether Notre Dame will be able to bang bodies with Alabama remains to be seen but these are the two most deserving teams for this game. The rest of the BCS slate…not so much. Each contest gives us a less than stellar matchup. The Rose Bowl pits that Wisconsin team, who has really had a down year and lucked into the Rose Bowl bid, against Stanford. The Badgers did not deserve this bowl game and, to make matters worse, their head coach is heading out the door. Although Wisconsin has proved they can show up very large, a Stanford drubbing is in play here.
A similar situation exists in both the Orange Bowl and the Sugar Bowl, where matchups are heavily slanted in favor of one team. Northern Illinois had a great season; this in no way proves they will be able to run with Florida State. And the Louisville Cardinals had a fortunate season, in that they play in the Big East, which is still granted an automatic berth in these bowls for some reason. If Florida is interested in showing up for this game, they will walk all over the Cardinals.
That last point brings us to the real downside of this bowl season. A four-team playoff would have been fantastic this season. With Notre Dame, Alabama, Florida and most likely Oregon, the battles would have been incredible. A first round game where Notre Dame’s defense takes on Oregon’s up-tempo would be extraordinary. And that is really the game everyone would prefer to see anyways, over watching Oregon play a suddenly ho-hum Kansas State team in the Fiesta Bowl. The other first round playoff matchup would be an SEC tilt we were hoping for all regular season long: Alabama versus Florida, perhaps the two best teams in that conference all along.
The end of season failures by a couple of these teams has led to this disappointing bowl slate. There is really nothing the BCS itself could have done about it. But with the playoffs still another season away after next, a little bit of the luster is off the idea of bowl games; we are ready for something else.
Allow me one Heisman thought as well: much like the 2010 MLB AL Cy Young award proved some voters have moved into this century as far as considering other options outside the norm for yearly awards (although 2012 winners somewhat sent us back a few decades), the Heisman Trophy this year is on similar ground. The vote this year could be a sign of moving into the 21st century with the award. A freshman is in the final three, as well as a defensive player. Some voters had a longstanding policy of not voting for underclassmen, especially freshmen. Others have trouble ever voting for a player who does not dominate the football, a la quarterbacks or running backs. Yet 2012 has given us a perfect storm where the best two candidates are a freshman and a linebacker respectively. It should be interesting.
(1) Notre Dame vs. (2) Alabama
Hypothetical Playoff Top Four:
(1) Notre Dame vs. (4) Oregon; (2) Alabama vs. (3) Florida