College football fans are surely aware that the first Bowl Championship Series rankings come out Monday, Oct. 23. The release of that information will start the march toward determining the national champion in college football.
Undoubtedly, many fans will be thrilled to learn how the experts see everything stacking up on that first ranking. All it does for me is remind me that, while it isn't perfect, college basketball determines its champion in a much more dramatic and satisfying way.
||Cinderella teams are hoped for, welcomed as part of March Madness. In college football, Cinderella teams are eliminated by a computer a month before the dance.
In college hoops, we pay no particular attention to strength of schedule, common opponents or margin of victory. That stuff may matter for the fringe teams but, hey, if you pick the top 64 teams in the country to play in a tournament, you'll probably get every team that is even remotely worthy. The games then begin and they play until one team has won six games and is declared the champion. It's pure, it's fair and it works.
Purists may say that on any night in the tournament, the top team could fall and a lesser one advance. Does that mean that we'll get the true champion, the best team? Fair point, but at least the decision happens on the hard court, not the hard drive.
In college football, we sort of throw all the relevant information into several blenders and then mix it up. We then take all of that and put it into one more blender to determine the two teams that will play for the national championship.
If you lose early, you can get back into it. Lose late and you're done. I don't like it. Cinderella teams are hoped for, welcomed as part of March Madness. In college football, Cinderella teams are eliminated by a computer a month before the dance.
Still, I have to admit that this system has done an acceptable job so far. In 1998, Florida State and Tennessee were good choices as were the Seminoles and Virginia Tech last year. I'll buy that the system ended up with the right teams in those national championship bowl games.
But the system doesn't allow teams to dream. There will never be a college football team like North Carolina State's basketball team in 1983, which won a miraculous title under Jim Valvano. Think of Villanova in 1985 winning a national championship by playing the perfect game against heavily favored Georgetown.
||The BCS system is especially tough to deal with this year, as there is no truly great team in college football. ”
In the hoop tournament, 64 teams are playing for the title. Upsets abound every year and are usually the best games.
In the BCS, two teams are playing for the national title in one game. The other bowl games are just money-making window dressing, of interest only to the fans of the schools participating. Unless, of course, you actually care who finishes third. Or seventh.
This system is especially tough to deal with this year, as there is no truly great team in college football. Nebraska is No. 1 now but has some tough games coming up against Oklahoma and Kansas State. Who knows what will happen? But wouldn't it be great if Clemson or Mississippi State or Washington or Oregon could dream?
The last poll comes out Dec. 3. Between now and then there won't be a lot of surprises or reasons to dream. But follow the story of Miami. The Hurricanes are back and if they beat Virginia Tech -- which is quite possible -- and win their other games, they could play for the national championship on their home field.
That's worth dreaming about.