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One last call for common sense


Last week we talked about how badly the Bowl Championship Series had failed, and how it had shown us one more time why the world of major-college football needs a playoff tournament to determine the national championship.

That was before No. 1 Missouri and No. 2 West Virginia tumbled last weekend, making the case stronger than ever.

Now we have Ohio State vs. Louisiana State in the title game, with the usual brainwashed BCS defenders insisting the system worked once again.


Don't tell me the system worked. Not when the two anointed teams lost their final home games to unranked league opponents. Not when both stumbled embarrassingly in November, at a time championship teams should be peaking. (LSU, giving up 50 points to Arkansas; Ohio State, down two touchdowns to Illinois before losing 28-21.) And not when at least a handful more teams are just as deserving.

Let's be clear: Ohio State and LSU would belong in a playoff tournament. Given that, if they won their quarterfinal and semifinal games and shut down their doubters, it would be a pleasure to see them play for the title. Just not this way, both marching into the postseason riding, uh, one-game win streaks.

Last week we offered some possible first-round pairings, based on no big surprises. Now let's revise those matchups:

Ohio State (No. 1, 11-1) vs. Kansas (No. 8, 11-1).

Virginia Tech (No. 4, 11-2) vs. Soutthern Cal (No. 5, 10-2).

Oklahoma (No. 3, 11-2) vs. Georgia (No. 6, 10-2).

LSU (No. 2, 11-2) vs. Missouri (No. 7, 11-2).

Go ahead and argue for Hawaii, West Virginia and Arizona State, not to mention Florida and Illinois. Add Boston College, Tennessee and Brigham Young, and you have the best argument yet for 16 instead of eight. Especially when the first round would give you Ohio State-Brigham Young, LSU-Boston College, Oklahoma-Tennessee, Virginia Tech-Arizona State, USC-Florida, Georgia-Illinois, Missouri-West Virginia and Hawaii-Kansas. No bad apples there.

That first round could have taken place this weekend, with better seeds at home to guarantee big crowds. Instead, we have meaningless BCS bowls with teams that feel screwed by the system in one way or another.

We have Missouri, a deserved No. 1 just a week earlier after beating Kansas, relegated to the Cotton Bowl after losing to Oklahoma. Oh, and Missouri did beat Illinois, meaning the Tigers are the only team in America with victories over two BCS-bound opponents.

We have Georgia, No. 4 last week and unbeaten since Oct. 6, playing in the Sugar Bowl yet feeling justifiably snubbed. We have USC, which very well might have won a playoff this year, not excited about the Rose Bowl. We have Florida, the defending champ, in the Capital One Bowl against Michigan, when the Gators might have made it to a playoff finale against USC.

See the point? See why playoffs would be so wonderful? See why the BCS is outdated and worthless? Meanwhile, sit back this Saturday, watch the I-AA semifinals and see how the other divisions of college football already have it right.

Sad. So sad. But all we can do is make this argument, year after year, until change happens.

Bits and pieces: Air Force cannot say it got a lucky draw, facing California in the Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 31 at Fort Worth, Texas. Cal certainly slumped in the late season, all the way from 5-0 to 6-6, but the Bears have lots of offensive weapons, the same guys who took them to No. 2 in the national polls during the season.

This looks reminiscent of 1997, when a 10-2 Air Force team went to the Las Vegas Bowl and fell hard (41-13) against Oregon, which had similarities to Cal now. But if the Bears don't rebound, this could turn into a scenario more like Air Force beating Ohio State (23-11) at the 1990 Liberty Bowl.

Air Force's Troy Calhoun now has won two honors as coach of the year, for the Mountain West Conference and a regional award that qualifies him for national honors. Also nice to see AFA runner-receiver Chad Hall named the Mountain West offensive player of the year. It'll be even better if he can make even one All-America team, which he totally deserves.

Colorado can't complain about sliding into the Independence Bowl on Dec. 30 at Shreveport, La., against Alabama. It'll be a helpful experience for the Buffaloes, especially quarterback Cody Hawkins and his younger receivers, to face a Southeastern Conference team that struggled after a fast start. ... It never hurts to play bowl games as late as possible, when more fans and recruits are paying attention. ... And by the way, not every eligible team got a postseason invitation. Iowa, South Carolina and Louisville are out, all at 6-6.


Some early guesses on college bowls, before we switch to NFL games for that stretch run:
Upset specials
Air Force (taking 4) vs. California
Navy (taking 9) vs. Utah
West Virginia (taking 7) vs. Oklahoma

Against the spread
Ohio State (taking 5) vs. LSU
Brigham Young (giving 5) vs. UCLA
Colorado (taking 3) vs. Alabama
Florida (giving 10) vs. Michigan
Missouri (giving 3) vs. Arkansas

Ralph's picks

Outnumbered Five Mountain West teams are going to bowl games, and the only underdog is Air Force against California.
Slump protection Almost halfway through the regular season, Colorado College hockey is 10-2 in the WCHA including 7-0 at home, good enough for No. 3 nationally in the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll.
Bronco tailspin So much for all that midseason optimism. But it's wrong to put too much blame on Jay Cutler, given all of Denver's injuries.
Next in line? After losing second baseman Kaz Matsui to Houston, the Colorado Rockies plan to look closely at two of this year's Sky Sox, Jayson Nix and Ian Stewart.

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