They used to be as indispensable on Jan. 1 as a bottle of aspirin and a Bloody Mary. The New Year’s Day bowl games determined the national championship winning team — or teams. They were required viewing, all day, dawn to dusk and beyond.
These days, you only watch if you have some kind of rooting interest or you’re a college football junkie, because there’s an actual national championship game and it’s not on Jan. 1. I think it’s played sometime between the end of The Masters and the baseball All-Star Game. Anyway, this year it matches Oregon and Auburn, and most of us don’t have a beef with that. What we abhor is the system that got them there.
The BCS combined the worst of the NCAA’s pliability to the powerful, and the greed of the bowl execs and the big school college presidents. The result is a championship game that isn’t respected as a championship game because mostly everyone — except those deciding — wants a playoff.
BACK TO yesterday’s games, and their relevance. In many ways, they are yesteryear’s games … that is, if we’re talking about the big picture — bigger than your biggest HD big screen — most of them mean much less than in the pre-BCS days.
Sure, we can laugh at the Big Ten now for more than its Legends and Leaders marketing disaster. The last time I went 0-for-5 on New Year’s was when I tried to quit smoking, drinking, eating red meat, driving without a seat belt and making resolutions I had no chance of keeping.
There should be some kind of penalty for the Big Ten, shouldn’t there? Maybe if you lose too many bowl games your conference is DQ’d from any BCS games the next year.
A GOOD thing about bowl games: They level the playing field for the poor, beset-upon elite conference teams that somehow win more than they lose despite schedules filled with powerhouses on par with the 1972 Dolphins and the 1940 Wermacht. Since no one played anyone for a month, the Big Ten should have been well-rested and healed up.
So someone must explain why Wisconsin didn’t roll all over TCU in the Rose Bowl. How come John Clay didn’t play more? Was he still tired from all those long runs against Hawaii in 2009?
Speaking of UH, teams from nonautomatic qualifier conferences are 4-1 against their big brothers in BCS bowl games. We don’t want to talk about the one loss, but whenever the power brokers need to make a case against giving the upstarts an equal share of the pie and equitable access, there it is.
And they like to point at Boise State’s landmark Fiesta Bowl win being courtesy of trick plays. Silly, since the Broncos played up-and-up with Oklahoma most of the game, and then did what they had to in order to win.
Hard to find any proof of a fluke in the Horned Frogs’ win over the Badgers. It was by just two points, but it wasn’t lucky. It was a game not decided by any single matchup or phase of football; it was at times about offense and at times about defense, it started as a shootout and turned into a study of field position. It was a great game determined by one big play at the end.
It had already been proven that often the best of the midmajors can hang with the best of the big conferences. The fact that TCU was actually favored and ranked higher than Wisconsin gives credence to that.
As the discussion of the unfairness of the BCS continues to heat up, and as the Horned Frogs bounce to the Big East and AQ status, they leave the little guys with a parting gift.
"We played for us and we played for everybody else who wants a chance," TCU coach Gary Patterson said.
Yes, Jan. 1 bowl games aren’t what they used to be. It’s evident many of us agree with J.A. Adande’s assertion that, "College football has lost its monopoly on New Year’s Day."
But yesterday’s Rose Bowl outcome could have a huge impact on the future of college football. At the least, it keeps the conversation going about equal access.