If you put a level on the playing field in
the Bowl Subdivision of college football, it appears that the bubbles
don't line up quite evenly with the lines.
The USA Today Top 25 coaches poll came out
shortly after LSU's 38-24 win over Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl in New
Orleans, which, of course, is in the Tigers' home state. It's the second
time this decade that LSU has played for — and won — a national title in
front of its home folks in the Big Easy.
The Tigers are a strong and talented
program but would they do what they've done in Los Angeles or Columbus,
Ohio? It's doubtful considering they stumbled in Lexington, KY, and even
in Baton Rouge this past season.
Championship teams are generally
considered to come through in the clutch. The Tigers lost to lesser
opponents twice in triple overtime.
LSU's national championship was a
triumphant occasion for the Southeastern Conference, which celebrates
its 75th anniversary this year. Yes, 75 years, a span which the Fox
network seemingly attempted to approach with the duration of commercial
breaks during its bowl coverage.
The challenge of maintaining rhythm or
momentum during those lengthy commercial interludes would seem
It appears that a number of things can
be learned from the rankings.
The first is that it is possible to win
a national championship with two losses to teams that didn't even finish
in the coaches' Top 25.
LSU may be the team that the coaches
would least like to play, but the Tigers failed to perform up to their
potential in their two losses. In many seasons, just one such letdown
would eliminate a team from championship consideration. But this was a
year that Sugar Bowl berths were lost instead of being won. Team after
team was pulled out of position for the title matchup by upsets. It was
a season that cried out for a playoff amid the calamity of change atop
the BCS standings.
It's worth noting that the top six
teams in the final poll each had two losses and the highest-ranked
one-loss team, No. 7 Kansas, lost its only game to a Top 10 team, No. 8
East Carolina beat Boise State 41-38 in
the Hawaii Bowl and yet the Broncos received votes in the final poll.
The Pirates did not.
This commentary isn't so much about the
rankings of the teams as it is about the system that gives the polls so
much weight. If all the conference champions went into a playoff within
the structure of the current top level bowls, much of the second
guessing about the polls and their apparent contradictions would be
The final poll indicates that
perception can be more important than results in rating teams. It allows
us to overlook the fact that the Tigers had two defeats from teams with
a total of 10 losses between them. The bowl system is entrenched in the
culture of big time college football and will not change drastically in
the near future, according to the powers that be.
That's a shame. For the time being, the
only true national college football champions are programs such as
Appalachian State. The Mountaineers won the aptly-named Championship
Subdivision on the field in a playoff — the manner in which champions
should be determined. It works in NCAA Divisions II and III as well.
In a playoff system, perceptions and
politics are minimized. Results on the field determine the winners.
That's how it should be.
Memphis on a roll
Memphis is the consensus No. 2 pick in
the college basketball polls at the moment and the Tigers don't have to
worry about where they end up in the rankings in order to have their
chance at playing for the national title.
College basketball gets it in terms of
determining a national champion and how to market the process.
East Carolina started its Conference
USA schedule at the FedEx Forum on Wednesday night where the host Tigers
had won 40 consecutive games. Make that 41 as Memphis eventually
overwhelmed the Pirates, 99-58.
The Tigers have won 24 straight C-USA games.
ECU stayed close for much of the first
half as Memphis held a relatively-scant 25-20 lead with just 5:50 left
in the first half.
"They came out of the gate like Ohio
State against LSU," said Memphis coach John Calipari of the Pirates.
ECU coach Mack McCarthy got the gate
with 12:15 remaining after getting two technical fouls in the midst of a
Memphis parade to the free throw line. The Tigers were awarded 49 foul
shots as they improved to 14-0.
"We took some things away early,"
McCarthy said. "We mixed things up and gave them some different looks.
Then they just didn't care what we were in. They were driving it and
going to the foul line."
Memphis' depth also was a significant
factor as it extended its lead throughout the second half to the final
"They've got a lot of weapons,"
McCarthy said. "Their numbers are not really indicative of what they're
capable of because some of their guys are getting limited minutes."
Key baseball transfers
The unseasonably warm weather this week
may have folks thinking ahead to the start of baseball practice on Feb.
1 and the season opener at South Carolina on Feb. 22, part of a
three-game series with the Gamecocks and a rematch of the 2004 Super
Regional in Columbia.
Two transfers should benefit the East
Carolina pitching staff, which will likely feature proven veteran T.J.
Hose as the Friday starter. The Pirates are expected to have southpaw
Matt Cox from North Carolina and Justin Bristow from Auburn in the mix
"He's a big (6-foot-2, 200 pounds),
strong left-handed pitcher," said ECU coach Billy Godwin of Cox. "He's
got velocity in the upper 80s to low 90s (mph)."
Cox played on the high school level at
West Brunswick. He was 2-0 with a 5.56 earned run average in 11 1/3
innings for the Tar Heels' College World Series runner-up club last
season. He had 22 appearances out of the bullpen.
Godwin also expects a boost from the
versatile Bristow, a right-hander who is 6-4 and weighs 220. He was
rated the third top prospect in the country out of high school in
Richmond, VA, where he was a three-time all-state selection.
Bristow started 52 games at shortstop
for Auburn in 2006 and hit .255 with eight doubles and 13 RBI's. He hit
.362 against lefthanders. He was used primarily as a pitcher last season
for a 31-25 Auburn club, going 1-6 with a 9.30 ERA. He made four starts
on the mound with 25 strikeouts in 30 innings.
"We think he could be a great two-way
guy for us," Godwin said of Bristow. "Maybe a Sunday-type starter and a
guy who can step out there on Friday and Saturday and play a position
and hit in the middle of our lineup."