christmas time is here

Just in time for the holidays, we have snow! It was perfect yesterday, wandering around in the park watching sledders and the snow fall on the fountains. I even have (most) of my presents bought and wrapped. Not only am I a slow eater and slow showerer, but Jodi also says I am a slow wrapper.

Off to do a little more...

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head in the sand

Alright, after a week of denial, I think I can finally talk about football. After putting themselves in the incredibly unlikely position of actually being able to win their division earlier in the season, it appears the Chiefs are almost as bad as the 'experts' predicted (however, it is worth noting that they're still clearly not among the very worst teams this year, and will finish much more competitively, and with more wins, than those ESPN folks thought possible).

More emotionally taxing has been the college season. Setting aside the elephant in the room that the NCAA's men's football and basketball leagues are for-profit entities acting as employers, this season has been ridiculous. For one thing, it seems a critical mass of commentators are sick of hearing about how much better the SEC is than every other conference. It's not exactly like Georgia set up a monster non-conference schedule. Their toughest contest was against 6-6 Oklahoma State. At home. If Kansas had set up a home game against, say, 6-6 South Carolina, would people all of a sudden be talking about them as playing the best football in the country? Georgia didn't even play a team making it to the BCS. Tennessee, the SEC East champion, beat Georgia and played two BCS bound teams. Which of course is irrelevant, because Georgia 'is playing great football now', which, by the way, is pretty easy to do when the last two teams you face in the season both have five losses. And at any rate, Tennessee ended up losing to 6-6 Cal (at least that was a road game), and had four losses overall. Those six losses are twice as many as the top two teams had in the Big 12 North. You can't blame losses like Cal on the SEC 'beating each other up' because Tennessee hadn't even played an SEC team when they lost to Cal!

Meanwhile, in the west, LSU is clearly one of the top ten teams in the country. But they lost twice, including one loss at home. And with a non-conference schedule against powerhouses like MTSU and La Tech, man, they should obviously be in the championship game. LSU really only has one impressive win, at home early against Virginia Tech. The rest of their season looks pretty average, barely winning against Florida and Tennessee, losing to Kentucky and Arkansas. The rest of the west had at least three conference losses and at least four losses overall. Auburn, the second place team, nearly lost the first three games of its season (ie, the part of the schedule played outside the SEC).

It's not like the Big 12 or the Big Ten or the Pac 10 had better non-conference schedules. Not at all. The point is that the SEC didn't prove anything special, which suggests looking at the records. And you have to go down to the 5th place team in the Big 12 to find a 4-loss team. It's almost unbelievable, but the top three teams in the Big 12 combined for 33 wins, and three of their five losses came against each other. All three teams went undefeated at home. They played four games against BCS bound teams, and they didn't lose a single game outside the Big 12. LSU, Georgia, and Tennessee, meanwhile, had three fewer wins, and they only played two games against each other, meaning that they lost six games against other teams, more than the entire total losses of the top three in the Big 12. They also played one fewer game against BCS bound teams.

But of course, it's the SEC, not the Big 12, that has two teams near the top of the BCS, one of which is bound for the National Championship. Missouri has more quality wins than LSU, beating both BCS bound Kansas and BCS bound Illinois at neutral sites, and only losing to 11 win, Big 12 Champion Oklahoma. Kansas had only one loss, at a neutral site against 11 win, Big 12 North champion Missouri. And Oklahoma beat Missouri twice and Texas once in winning the Big 12 Championship. All three have cases at least as strong as LSU. Seriously, why even have computers? If the polls are 2/3 the vote, just use the poll and scrap the concept of more objective computer rankings.

LSU is a feel good choice, especially with the game in New Orleans. And this leaves Missouri hungry for building on future seasons, with a shot this season of embarrassing the team that beat LSU at home with a national TV game against Arkansas. And Kansas gets a BCS bowl, which really, is pretty fair, all things considered. If Kansas somehow manages to win that game against Virginia Tech, I think you might have some people vote for them as the national champion (after all, Virginia Tech is ranked number one by the computers). [Did I mention that Missouri played four games, four games!, against BCS bound teams, none of them, zero, zippo, nada, at home!?! Their worst loss of the season was in the conference championship! They won their division! They beat two different BCS bound teams, from two different conferences!] And I can't be too upset, once you step back and analyze everything, because the rules are clear that you can't have more than two teams from a conference, even if the computer ranks you 4th in the country. Plus, it gives Missouri the dubious distinction of probably having the most wins ever by a major conference team excluded from the BCS. That will be a winning trivia answer for years to come. Virginia Tech, after all, is really the team that got screwed, being locked out of the national championship by those mysterious human experts, and getting matched up against Kansas. If they win, the 'experts' will just say they should have won anyway because Kansas wasn't really that good because their schedule was so soft, with Kansas' whole season being ridiculed all along the way. If they lose, they will point to the loss and say if you can't beat Kansas, how can you claim to deserve a rematch against LSU or be better than one loss Ohio State?

Don't even get me started on Ohio State. At least the SEC won some good games, and they have a crop of teams that are very competitive this year. All Ohio State did was beat a conference rival, a 4 loss rival at that. In their only game against a BCS bound team, they lost. At home! Even the 'granddaddy of 'em all' suffers. What could have been USC-Ohio State (arguably the best bowl match-up anyway), is now USC-Illinois. Bleh. If Illinois somehow wins, it shows that the Missouri win is even bigger than people think and that the Pac 10 really sucked this year (and really will make the MU/IL game exciting next year). If USC wins, uh, well, we won't know anything at all. This is practically a home game for them against a three loss team that's not even ranked in the top ten from a conference that is noticeably weak in the football arena this year.

I (generally) like Columbus and all. I'm just saying that Buckeye fans better enjoy their gift this holiday season.

So how do you solve this? Well, there's no easy way, since we have an undefeated midmajor, a Rose Bowl that wants Pac 10/Big Ten, and three Big 12 teams that should make the BCS. But this would be better:

Rematch LSU and Virginia Tech in the national championship (they are, after all, #1 and #2 in the computers).
Let Hawaii have a shot at Oklahoma, the best conference champ not in the national championship, in the Fiesta Bowl, which is also a little closer to their time zone.

The winners of those two games would then have legitimate cases of their national championship worthiness.

Then let the Rose Bowl have Pac 10 champ USC and Big Ten champ Ohio State. They can play for the 'historic big name program that didn't play any big games this year' championship.
Send Arizona State to play Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. They have, after all, had nearly identical seasons, with 2 losses and both reaching as at large bids. Except, uh, Georgia is 'playing really good football right now'.
Let Missouri and West Virginia have their match-up in the Orange Bowl. It's like the national championship, but less important.

I think those matchups would be more intriguing, would better reflect the quality of the conferences this season, and would better emphasize the importance of doing well in your conference. Instead of a weak national championship game, no shot for Hawaii against a major conference champion, and two games that have teams which are 'supposed' to win (USC and Virginia Tech) and 'supposed' to lose (Illinois and Kansas), these games would be competitive and would give the winners of these games a chance to argue that their win means something. Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, and Hawaii deserve a chance to at least argue they deserve the national championship. You do that by putting one in the Championship game and having the other two hit each other, not by pitting two of them against teams that didn't even make it to their conference championship game.

Since the Rose Bowl is dead set on a Big Ten team, and the Big Ten has been weak, it makes the most sense of Ohio State/LSU for Ohio State to not go to the national championship. Conversely, if you send Kansas to the BCS instead of Missouri, because records are most important, then really, Hawaii should be playing in the national championship, not LSU. Even though they're undefeated, I don't think Hawaii should be in there, and that still leaves the problem of a second Big Ten team making it because the Rose Bowl will pick a Big Ten team (especially since the next best team, arguably, is from the Pac 10). You want your conference to get two teams in the BCS and have a shot at the championship, but at the same time, the Big Ten is running a very real risk of having two teams now lose high profile games, instead of having one game with a better shot of winning it. Michigan, ironically, might actually have the best shot out of the Big Ten now to win an important game. Either that, or the Big Ten's top four squads might go 0-4 against the SEC and Pac-10. Ouch.

My predictions for the next month:

Big 12: 5-3
Pac 10: 4-2
SEC: 4-4
ACC: 4-4
Big East: 3-3
Big Ten: 3-4

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