It's New Years Day, a day rich with tradition. Pork, Hoppin' John, Sauerkraut, Champagne Toasts and FOOTBALL. In fact, other than Super Bowl Sunday, New Years Day used to be the pinnacle of the football season for most of us. Sadly, in my opinion, over the past 10-15 years changes have occurred within the political world of college football, and wouldn't you know it, politics has college football all pooched up. Back in the day, all of the "big bowls", the important ones, were played on New Years Day. Your day of football viewing would start early in the morning with the Cotton and Rose Bowl Parades, and usually at about 1030am you would begin your vigil in front of the television with the kick-off of New Years Day football games. About 13 or 14 hours later, you would peel yourself off of the couch, turn the TV off and head for bed. The only problem, we finished the entire college football season and had no idea who the national champion actually was. Oh yes, there were opinions, but there was no definitive system in place to determine a true national champion. But all of that has changed for the better today, or has it?
Oh sure it has, for instance, now the big bowls are called "BCS Bowls" and there is a clear-cut and non-controversial system in place that insures that the "best" teams go to the "big bowls." Yeah, right, sorry Hokie and Wolverine fans. Also, from a "viewer friendly" standpoint, what is better than having the Orange Bowl on television in "prime time" on a Wednesday night after we have all gone back to work and school? I mean you can even see that by having the game played mid-week on January 4th, that thousands of fans from both teams have elected to stay home and watch on television, no big deal there. Now that things are better the schools involved measure there seasons success by how much money they lose on ticket sales. But boy how nice, no more channel switching or planning out our New Years Day football menu in order to see bits and pieces of all of the big games.
Now, don't all of you SEC fans bristle here and assume that I am attacking the SEC, because that is not true. I acknowledge that in as accurate a manner in which two teams can be deemed the best of the best in a system devoid of a tool that involves a tournament style format, LSU unquestionably should be included and Alabama has at least an equal claim as any team other than LSU to play in "the game." There is no question, your conference is the strongest, especially at the top. Although, I will also say that there is a bit of amnesia clouding your perception through those Crimson colored glasses. Throughout history, football conferences ebb and flow in the greatness category, just ask the Big 10, the PAC 10 and the Big 12. Having said that, if a format with characteristics similar to those used to determine a champion in the NCAA basketball tournament were in place for football, chances are the final game may very well not include both LSU and Alabama.
Let me talk about a playoff system for a moment. The naysayers claim "it wouldn't work." OK, yeah you are probably right, it fails miserably in the two systems on both sides chronologically of NCAA football, right?(insert sarcasm here) High school football which produces the talent pool for NCAA Football uses various playoff systems to determine their champions in each state, and it works. On the other end, the NFL where the best college football players land after college has a playoff system that works, so obviously it just wouldn't work in college football. Wow, I am not making this up folks. And after all, the bowls would never allow it to happen. Hmmmm, each year the bowl games other than the Mythical National Championship game lose more of their luster, as more focus and glory gets shifted to the mythical Championship Game, and how many years of losing money for participating in a post season BCS bowl game will it take before some of the University Presidents and Athletic Directors and Conference Officials begin to realize, while the bowl games provide a venue and some nice cocktail parties and meet and greets, it is the schools and the conferences that own the product, the attraction, the talented players. And the conference executives and university presidents have proven themselves to be shrewd operators with creative minds. I wouldn't be surprised if they couldn't devise a system that would generate more money for the participating schools, could you imagine that instead of a month of practice time between Thanksgiving and January 9th you had an Alabama vs. Oklahoma State game or a South Carolina vs. Boise State matchup. I can only imagine the excitement if on New Years Day, the football version of the final four looked like this: LSU vs. Oklahoma State and Alabama vs. insert name of Cinderella opponent who through the proper mix of luck, destiny and heart elevated itself to the final four. But no, things are much better as is, sure they are.
So enjoy your New Years Day traditions, hopefully the food and fun will fill the void left by the lack of a New Years Day filled with bowl after bowl of college football. Hopefully 2012 will be the best year, so far, of your lives. Happy New Year, From The Land of Palm Trees.