College football is the damsel in distress tied to the railroad tracks of the BCS. The college football playoff is the superhero, but will he get here in time to save college football? The 2010 college football season will prove why a playoff is absolutely needed. Those against a playoff say that it diminishes the value of the regular season. I could not disagree more. If anything, a playoff would make the regular season more important and more compelling.
Look at this weekend’s match-ups. Miami goes to the Horseshoe to play Ohio State, and Penn State plays Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Of those four teams, three of them have national championship game on their radar: OSU, Alabama and Miami. Penn State would have to beat Alabama this weekend and beat Ohio State for a shot at the title game. Not to mention, Virginia Tech had its national title dreams dashed on Labor Day when Boise State knocked them off. With games of this magnitude so early in the year, national championship dreams die quickly. Lose one game, and you have to do a lot of scoreboard watching late in the year to see who falters in conference play. If you are Boise State or TCU and you lose one game, your title dreams go up in smoke. If you lose two games, you might as well pack it in and plan for next year’s title run. Only one two-loss team has ever made it to the BCS national title game: LSU in 2007. With a playoff, Virginia Tech has a shot at the national title. With a playoff, your title dreams are not dead if you lose early in the season. Even if you lose late the year, you still have a shot at the title game in a playoff.
People rip Boise State because they don’t play anyone. No one wants to schedule them and rightfully so. They just beat Virginia Tech in FedEx Field, which is basically a road game for the Broncos. Is it their fault they’re in the WAC? Conference affiliation is beyond their control. “They wouldn’t go undefeated in the SEC, the ACC, or Pac-10.” Boise State is not in any of those conferences. That argument is irrelevant. All Boise State has to do is win the 12 games on their schedule. For those that say Boise St. would not fare as well in a power conference, a playoff would put that argument to the test. I am in favor of a four-team playoff, but the best playoff scenario would have to field eight teams.
College football will never have a perfect system to determine a true national champion, but a playoff is better than the BCS considering the parity in college football.
Today, I try to look in my crystal ball and predict this season’s Eastern and Western division champions.
How the media voted at SEC Media Days:
Eastern Division (First Place Votes)
1. Florida(153) – 1030
2. Georgia(15) – 791
3. South Carolina(8) – 790
4. Kentucky – 462
5. Tennessee – 450
6. Vanderbilt(1) – 194
Western Division (First Place Votes)
1. Alabama(157) – 1034
2. Arkansas(6) – 726
3. Auburn(10) – 691
4. LSU(1) – 653
5. Mississippi State – 320
6. Ole Miss(3) – 293
SEC Champion: Alabama (143), Florida (17), Auburn (7), Arkansas (3), Ole Miss (2), Georgia (2), LSU (1), South Carolina (1), Kentucky (1).
How I see things shaping up.
1. Florida – 11-1 (7-1)
2. South Carolina – 9-3 (5-3)
3. Georgia – 7-5 (4-4)
4. Kentucky – 6-6 (2-6)
5. Tennessee – 5-7 (2-6)
6. Vanderbilt – 1-11 (0-8)
1. Alabama – 11-1 (7-1)
2. Arkansas – 10-2 (6-2)
3. Auburn – 9-3 (5-3)
4. LSU – 6-6 (4-4)
5. Mississippi State – 7-5 (4-4)
6. Ole Miss – 6-6 (2-6)
SEC Champion: Alabama – The loss of so many defensive starters concern me. If the Tide can stay healthy throughout the season, the defense will have had enough games under their belt to not crumple under the pressure of the Georgia Dome lights.
The 2010 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament kicks off in less than 12 hours. Will Kentucky add a tournament championship to its regular-season championship? Will Mississippi State repeat? Will another team make it four games in four days for the third year in a row?
(E5) South Carolina vs. (W4) Alabama – The eastern division utterly dominated the west this season. I expect that trend to continue in the tournament. This game could be the rare exception. South Carolina goes how Devan Downey goes. When he is on, the Gamecocks can hang with any team in the conference, as evident by their win over Kentucky. Alabama will bring that defensive toughness that can get you far in the tourney. Will the Tide be able to slow down Downey? Winner: Alabama
(W6) LSU vs. (E3) Tennessee – LSU was the worst team in the SEC this season. Bruce Pearl will turn up the defense in an attempt to put the game out of reach early. Trent Johnson will work a slow, methodical pace to hide his lack of depth. In the end, Tennessee wins easily. Winner: Tennessee
(W5) Auburn vs. (E4) Florida – Auburn’s play is a bit unpredictable at times. It is a mystery which team will show up. Florida is not quite on the bubble, but they can’t afford to give the selection committee a reason to not put the Gators in the field of 65. Winner: Florida
(E6) Georgia vs. (W3) Arkansas – Arkansas got off to a slow start but came around when Courtney Fortson joined the team. Georgia is the best 6-seed in the history of the tournament, even better than the 2008 team that won it all. They’ve beaten Tennessee, Illinois, and Georgia Tech. Arkansas cannot afford to bring anything less than 100%. Winner: Arkansas
(W4) Alabama vs. (E1) Kentucky – Kentucky is head-and-shoulders better than everyone on its side of the bracket except for Tennessee. John Calipari is in unfamiliar territory. The SEC tournament is a different kind of beast. He was able to dominate the Conference USA tournaments. He will get Alabama’s best shot but should be able to win convincingly if he keeps his freshman-laden team focused. Winner: Kentucky
(E3) Tennessee vs. (W2) Ole Miss – Andy Kennedy has proven he can put talented teams on the court. He has not proven he can win when it counts, in conference play and in the conference tournament. Ole Miss has the talent to knock off Tennessee, but the Rebels lack the clutch in the coaching department to make a run for the tournament crown. Winner: Tennessee
(E4) Florida vs. (W1) Mississippi State – Mississippi State showed it can play with every team in the SEC until the debacle on Senior Day against Tennessee. The Bulldogs lost to Florida by 9 in Gainesville. On a neutral site, MSU should be able to close that scoring gap and come away with a win. Winner: Mississippi State
(W3) Arkansas vs. (E2) Vanderbilt – Kevin Stallings, 2010 SEC Coach of the Year, has done a masterful job with a Vanderbilt team that did not make the NCAA Tournament last season. He took the same squad, and in one year’s time, turned them into a true threat to make a deep run in the Big Dance. Arkansas can score, but will they be able to be as efficient as Vandy? Winner: Vanderbilt
(E3) Tennessee vs. (E1) Kentucky – Kentucky will be looking to get some revenge from their last meeting, which Tennessee won. Each team won on its home floor. In a neutral-site game, I go with the team with more talent. That team is Kentucky. In addition to having more talent, UK will only have one game of fatigue on them as compared to UT’s two games. Winner: Kentucky
(E2) Vanderbilt vs. (W1) Mississippi State – In their previous meeting, Mississippi State shot the ball horrendously from three, but still found a way to be in the game and lose by only three points. Barring foul troule and another poor shooting night, MSU should be able to come out on the winning end. Winner: Mississippi State
(W1) Mississippi State vs. (E1) Kentucky – It took overtime and some very questionable officiating for Kentucky to leave the Humphrey Coliseum with a win February 16. Neither team played their absolute best on that evening, but Kentucky was able to utilize its height and length advantage to out-block MSU. Kentucky is the better team overall, but the winner will be the better team for those 40 minutes. Winner: Kentucky
The Bulldogs (15-3, 3-0 SEC) leave the friendly confines of the Humphrey Coliseum for a 90-mile drive to Tuscaloosa to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide.
at Alabama (11-7, 1-3) 1/23/10 @ 11am (CBS)
Last Season – in Starkville, W 83-74; in Tuscaloosa, L 87-85 (2OT)
Last MSU win in Tuscaloosa – January 19, 2008, 66-56
The Tide is sputtering right now in the opening stages of conference play but should not be taken lightly, especially when playing Mississippi State. The Tide have had their hearts broken plenty of times this season, allowing come-from-behind wins from Vanderbilt and then-unbeaten Purdue. They got up early on Tennessee but lacked the offensive potency to keep the shorthanded Vols down, eventually falling 63-56. Anthony Grant will have Alabama back in the NCAA Tournament before long, but for right now their role is spoiler. Coming from Virginia Commonwealth, Grant definitely knows about playing spoiler, upsetting Duke in the first round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament. He has also been an assistant under Billy Donovan at Marshall and at Florida. The Tide does, however, have a pretty formidable inside-outside duo in JaMychal Green and Mikhail Torrance and get key numbers from Senario Hillman and Tony Mitchell.
Rick Stansbury’s teams always find away to lose a game they should win pretty easily, and I have one of those gut feelings that it might happen Saturday. They have earned every SEC victory they have so far this season, but they could have made things a bit easier on themselves. They led by 19 before winning narrowly by 2 against Arkansas and needed a late rally and defensive stand to hold off Georgia. Alabama is not what they were in the early 2000s, but they always play MSU tough. Anything less than a complete 40-minute effort and MSU will be leaving Coleman Coliseum with a loss.