Monday, November 3, 2008
It saddens me to say this, but I don't think JoePa should reach the BCS National Championship.
I believe Coach Paterno is a living, breathing and hobbling museum. The coach has been through more presidents than each of our esteemed writers combined, and has been around long enough to see antiquated offenses like the single-wing come back as "new fangled" offenses like the spread option. To walk a mile in his shoes is to see nearly every noteworthy thing that has happened in college football.
But Penn State should not reach the Championship game, even if they go undefeated, as they should with featherweights Iowa and Indiana on the penultimate horizon, followed by Javon Ringer's Michigan State Spartans.
Say again, an undefeated Penn State should not play in the National Championship.
To do so would be to leapfrog one (if not two) teams that only suffered losses because they played in much stronger conferences, namely the SEC and the Big XII.
The math is simple: Big 10 is weak, and the SEC and Big XII are strong. So a one-loss team from those stronger, better conferences should play.
Realize that the entirety of this article will be null, void and moot if Alabama and Texas Tech win out.
Determining one's strength of schedule is a delicate balance. When picking non-conference games, an athletic director wants to pick well-respected teams that they can soundly beat. Coastal Carolina, Oregon State, Syracuse, and Temple were the first four games of the season for the Nittany Lions. That's the Big South, Pac-10, Big East and the almighty MAC. Couple that with the overall weakness of the Big 10 this year, and you're looking at a really good chance to go undefeated. BCS voters and pollsters can recognize a stacked deck. Take this schedule two years ago, with Michigan, Ohio State, Wisconsin, even Ron Zook's Fighting Illini? It'd be tough to deny. This year, not so much.
I have experienced the audacity of front-loading a schedule. Arkansas routinely pads its non-conference games and doubly routinely schedules its most difficult games towards the second half of the season. Whether it be led by Matt "Booger Sugar" Jones or Darren "Turf Toe?" McFadden, Arkansas could win a couple of games early on to gain a little respect, maybe even get a decent ranking, and by the end of the season blow it into an embarrassing bowl game appearance against scrub teams — and still manage to lose said bowl game. Front-loading can boost rankings, sure. But you sure lose a lot of that luster when your conference lets you down, as the Big 10 has done this year. Take notes from the SEC faithful: That's why it's good to pull for your conference, folks.
And don't look to wow any of the voters at the end of the season either. Iowa, Indiana and Michigan State. Penn State shouldn't just win strong. They should win Power Team Strong. Iowa and Indiana are a collective three and seven in conference play. Michigan State will be a tough game, with Javon "I'm the only player on my team" Ringer pounding the rock, but if Penn State is who they say they are, they should win.
Let's say you think, "Stovall, you jackass. Penn State definitely deserves to get in. Up yours, buddy." You may even not just think it, but actually verbalize it in an email, text message, or severed equine cranium in my bed. Okay, but let's think about just who you're shutting out.
You're denying the staunch defense of the SEC. No one is bigger or faster or stronger than in the SEC. Alabama has ascended to the top of the rankings based almost solely on domination up front. Those big boys can move awfully fast. And Florida? Just ask formerly No. 1 Georgia how good those guys are. Take Tebow out of the game, and you've still got a gaggle of spread offense receivers/running backs to push the ball. But in the SEC, it's all about the D.
You're denying the nuclear offense of the Big XII. Little old Kansas State's quarterback Josh Freeman is better than nearly every quarterback in the Big 10, save for Terrell Pryor and Daryll Clark. Think about the explosive receivers and the ridiculously explosive quarterbacks. McCoy. Harrell. Bradford. Daniel. Do I have to keep going? These guys put up ludicrous numbers. They've gone to plaid! And finally, someone else is figuring out what the SEC has been lamenting for years. When you play in a conference in which even the bottom dwellers can come up and whip you, that matters when it compares to other weaker conferences. Kudos to the Big XII. Getting through with one loss means you should get into the National Championship.
Especially if your loss isn't a conference championship. I would offer this as a solace to the Big 10, but there's nary a conference championship to be found.
So cry all you want. It wasn't too long ago that a 14-0 Auburn was left out of the National Championship. These things happen. But to deny the stalwart defenses and the trenchant offenses of the SEC and the Big XII respectively would be a greater disservice.
Again I remind you, the entirety of this article will be null, void and moot if Alabama and Texas Tech win out. There would be your National Championship.