Photo: SD Dirk, Flickr Creative Commons
The college football bowl season starts this weekend and I promise you that I will be watching me some fucking bowls. I plan to spend the next three weeks in an orgy of college football that will leave me sated until sometime around June or July. By that time, the methadone of Atlanta Thrashers hockey will have worn off and I will have become bored again with my own life and will be jonesing hard for the sight of young men risking their futures and their intelligence by participating in this modern-day gladiator sport for our entertainment, their chance at NFL millions, and the pretense of a college education.
Actually, that's overly cynical. The truth is that the vast majority of players on college football teams have no shot at the pros and are probably aware of it. They really are playing for the love of the game and a free education. They play football for the same reasons I drink beer and write a blog. They love it and even if they may harbor dreams of doing it for a living, they know it's not something they can really expect to ever happen. They're probably even less bitter about this realization than I am. Even the few players who really are just biding their time until they're eligible for the draft are providing the fan something that just can't be seen in the pros outside of the minor leagues of baseball and hockey: young guys busting their asses at something they still enjoy doing in the hopes of turning that dream into reality. I'm not going to get into all the flaws in college football. Sure there's a lot of money involved that could be put to much more practical and higher purposes, but the fact is we live in a capitalist society and in capitalist societies, the money goes where there's money to be made. A lot of times, those areas aren't the areas that could make better use of the money.
Although I have realized recently that only one game in the Div. 1A postseason really matters to the schools or athletic programs. While every game matters during the regular season in college football, if you didn't make the National Championship Game, there's really nothing to play for during bowl season. You get the money whether you win or lose and half the teams have either already fired their coach, or had their coach bail on them for thicker wallets. Having playoffs might fix this because every game in the postseason would actually matter, but I've given up hope of ever seeing that.
But whatever. I'll be watching the St. Petersburg and New Orleans Bowls Saturday and probably won't go a day without college football for the next three weeks except for those few days without a game to see. I have a moderately obsessive personality. I can't just be a casual fan. I'm either in or I'm out. The two that I'm most interested in seeing (other than that thing with Alabama and Texas) are the Orange Bowl, where I hope to see my beloved Georgia Tech destroy Iowa, and the Fiesta Bowl, where I expect TCU to hand Boise State its first loss since their bowl game together last year.
Why do I care about a bowl where I'm fairly sure of the outcome and don't have a dog in the fight? Because I think TCU got shafted this year. I'm not going to go into a rant about how the top college subdivision should have a playoff. It should, but the money pretty much has the current system as a sure thing. Just look at TCU's schedule. It played and beat two ranked teams and a very good (but unfairly unranked) Clemson team. Actually, it destroyed the two ranked teams. The only close games all year came against Clemson and defensive-minded Air Force. TCU got its reward. It got a BCS bowl game against one of the top five teams in the country. It didn't have a chance at the National Championship Game because it's not in one of the BCS conferences.
I do think something should be done to fix this in the future and the solution is simple: Make the Mountain West Conference one of the conferences with an automatic bid to the BCS bowls. The conference already has two teams that have been BCS busters. Utah did it first and beat Pitt in 2004 (and has won bowls against teams from BCS conferences regularly since). TCU is in one of the big four this year. BYU, the third MWC power has perennially fallen a game or two short of making the big BCS cash, but has beaten teams like Oklahoma and half the Pac-10 over the past few years. The Mountain West is already easily as good as the Big East.
Of course that would screw over Boise State in the Western Athletic conference. The Broncos proved they belonged in 2006 when they shocked Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. The problem is the fact that their conference basically sucks. On a good year Boise has to worry about Fresno State and Hawaii. This year Nevada was their scariest opponent. That's not good. To fix this, Boise State needs to move into the Mountain West. It's a geographic fit, much more so than Louisiana Tech to Hawaii spread of the WAC. Suddenly, you have a small school conference with huge football production. The fans out in the Rockies would get to see great match ups between BYU, Utah, TCU, and Boise State every year, and the schools wouldn't have to worry about having that one loss against a good team destroy their chances at playing on that big BCS stage. Running that gauntlet for an undefeated season should garner at least as much respect as going undefeated in any conference other than the SEC and Big 12 South.
Heck, you don't even have to take the Big East's automatic bid away from them.