Nothing pretty about the BCS beauty contest
For all the propaganda about how wonderful the Bowl Championship Series is because it gives college football's regular season so much meaning, here's what the 2010 season may boil down to: style points.
Sort of like in figure skating. The judges may have to decide whether Boise State's triple lutz - Virginia Tech, Oregon State and Nevada - was more impressive than Ohio State landing a triple salchow - Miami, Wisconsin and Penn State - even though it might have missed a double axel somewhere along the line.
As Brent Musburger might say, "Seriously, folks, this is what it's all about."
The constant derision of Boise State's schedule has become laugh-out-loud funny. (More on the seemingly invisible Horned Frogs of TCU later). Let's pause here for a moment to review this past Saturday's schedule in the all-powerful Big Ten.
The league had an 8-2 record. Pretty impressive stuff. Here were the eight teams that its teams beat: Ball State, Central Michigan, Bowling Green, Temple, Eastern Michigan, Akron, Northern Colorado and Austin Peay - which at last glance was best known for playing pretty good basketball and for producing the greatest student cheer in college sports history back in the glory days of high-flying forward James (Fly) Williams: "Fly is open - Let's go Peay!"
That aside, while the Big Ten rolled up six wins over teams from the Mid-American Conference, it also lost twice to teams from the MAC: Purdue to Toledo and Minnesota to Northern Illinois. So while those who work for the four-letter network cluck on about Boise State facing New Mexico State, San Jose State and Utah State later in the season, are we supposed to be impressed by a Murderer's Row that includes Purdue, Minnesota and Indiana? For that matter, does anyone think Penn State is really any good or that Northwestern would seriously challenge any sort of serious team?
The Big Ten has six ranked teams, which is more the result of this sort of scheduling than anything else. Penn State's most impressive win to date was its comeback victory Saturday over Temple.
The Big Ten isn't alone. Let's not forget the eminently forgettable ACC and the should-be-forgotten Big East. As completely mediocre as the ACC is from top to (almost) bottom - Duke is far worse than mediocre; the allegedly improved Blue Devils are giving up 49.5 points per game, a figure that is that low only because the Blue Devils held Elon to 27 - it is far better than the Big East.
Rutgers just lost at home to a depleted North Carolina team, and defending league champion Cincinnati's greatest achievement to date is coming close before losing to Oklahoma. Moral victories in games between teams from BCS conferences do not count.
There have also been two head-to-head ACC-Big East confrontations on Thursday nights. Two weeks ago, N.C. State easily beat Cincinnati, and last week Miami went into Pittsburgh and won a virtual walkover. Being worse than the ACC takes work, but the Big East is pulling it off.
The Big 12 has several potentially good teams. Oklahoma has embarrassed Florida State and beaten a good Air Force team but gets its first true test Saturday against a Texas team that should be smarting after an embarrassing home loss to UCLA. Nebraska has looked very good early, but it is tough to get too fired up after wins over Western Kentucky, Idaho, Washington and South Dakota State.
The best - and most "arresting" conference in the college game - is (again) the SEC. Six of the 12 teams are deservedly ranked, and Alabama has won 18 straight games after its escape at Arkansas. The next two games - Florida at home and at South Carolina - will probably go a long way toward deciding if the Crimson Tide will play for the national championship again. There's also Auburn down the road in November.