December 02, 2007
The National Championship Fetish
Posted by Gordon Smith

Gene Wojciechowski rails against the BCS (again), but he is all about who should be in the so-called "national championship." Sure, LSU v. Ohio State is silly, but can you name any single game that would not look silly as the "national championship" after this season? Would this problem be solved with a Plus One? No. Yet there is no prospect of a playoff in college football ... at least in the largest division.

The problem with our national championship fetish is that it distracts us from the other perverse effects of the BCS system, all of which relate to the huge dollars sloshing around the BCS. Most teams have no shot at the mythical national championship, but getting into a BCS bowl is a realistic aspiration for many programs, if they game the system. And the payoff is huge. The lesson from this year: schedule like Kansas, whose non-conference games were against Central Michigan, SE Louisiana, Toledo, and Florida International. ALL AT HOME!!!

A subsidiary lesson -- this time for conferences -- is that you shouldn't have a conference championship game. The Big 12 knocked Missouri out of the "national championship." The ACC may have cost Boston College a chance to represent the conference as a second BCS team. The big winner is the Big Ten, which gets Ohio State into the big show and three-loss Illinois into the Rose Bowl. (Sorry Christine and Vic, but that is the biggest scandal after Kansas making the Orange Bowl.)

What about Hawaii? Shouldn't the only undefeated team be playing in the "national championship"? Not if they come from the WAC. Hawaii takes a scheduling penalty in the minds of pollsters because they have a soft schedule. The problem here is that no one wants to play Hawaii! They might lose!

Hawaii coach June Jones wanted his football team to open the season at Michigan. The Wolverines wouldn't play the Warriors and instead hosted Division I-AA Appalachian State, which beat Michigan 34-32 in one of the biggest upsets in college football history.

Hawaii was scheduled to play Michigan State this season, but the Spartans paid $250,000 to cancel the game. Jones tried to replace the Spartans with Southern California, but even the Trojans wanted no part of quarterback Colt Brennan  and the Warriors' high-octane offense.

By the way, I just heard an interview with Bronco Mendenhall, in which he was talking about a hole in BYU's schedule created by Nevada's decision to replace BYU with Grambling State on Nevada's 2008 schedule. (The reason? Nevada's schedule was too difficult!) Bronco said that BYU has had inquiries from some Division I schools (rumor: Florida State), but BYU is not interested. After watching Hawaii march into the BCS by beating the likes of Northern Colorado and Charleston Southern, BYU has learned its lesson. When you have a choice, schedule like Kansas.

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