Playoffs?! A Look at the Final Eight

It was an anti-climactic ending to a season full of hype that never delivered. Ohio State started the year at No. 1. The Buckeyes breezed through a Big 10 that went 2-5 in bowls, and were finally exposed in the final game. Florida proved what everyone continues to disregard — the SEC is the best football conference in the nation.

The SEC has been in the national championship game three times, and has won every time.

The most intriguing part about this is if USC beat UCLA in the final game of the year, it would be the Trojans who would face Ohio State, not Florida, and the Gators would have been left to wonder what could have been. The BCS, of course, will say it got it right — because of the BCS, this matchup was available.

What wasn't available once again, however, was a true national champion. Boise State has a claim as the only undefeated team. USC can protest for demolishing Michigan, a team that barely lost to Ohio State. Big East champ Louisville is the only other one-loss team besides Florida and Ohio State. The Cardinals' Big East conference went 5-0 in bowl games.

As impressive as the Gators played Monday night, it pales in comparison to what could have been had there been an eight-team playoff with Ohio State, Florida, Michigan, Louisville,) Boise State, USC, Oklahoma, and Wake Forest. Who knows how that would have turned out, and that is what makes the men's NCAA basketball tournament so great — there's always room for a '06 George Mason or a '85 Villanova.

On the gridiron, the only way to hold the crystal ball is to play in a BCS conference, and that makes football obsolete in my eyes. So bring on March, because there, ladies and gents, is how you crown a true national champion.

While we're on the subject of college football, I miss the days when the Heisman Trophy was given to the most outstanding player in college football, not, the most outstanding player on the best team in college football.

Somewhere in the past decade, the voters decided the Heisman Trophy was more about the team than the individual. Take nothing away from Troy Smith, he led Ohio State to an undefeated campaign before a putrid performance in Arizona. But does keeping your team number one all year long and being the only unblemished team in a weak Big Ten deserve the prize of best player in college football? Let the stats tell the story.

If you were just looking at numbers, it would be easy to discount Troy Smith, compared to quarterbacks in pass happy systems, namely Colt Brennan out of Hawaii. Brennan leads in almost every statistical category, including passing efficiency. Leading this category would presumably mean you are the most efficient quarterback, regardless of how many times you threw. Brennan led his team to a respectable mark of 11-3, second in the WAC behind an undefeated and fifth-ranked Boise State team. All three of Hawaii's losses were within one score. At Alabama, at Boise State, and Oregon State at home — all three went to a bowl game. I could go on and on about Brennan, and his right to at least be invited to the Heisman Trophy presentation, but he doesn't play for a BCS school and he's not playing for a national championship.

But let's look at the numbers of someone who does and did play for the title. Where does Troy Smith rank amongst QBs? In the five statistical categories that mean the most to quarterbacks, before his Houdini act — passing efficiency, total offense, passing, passing yards, and passing yards per Game — Smith ranks 4, 32, 37, 33, 34, respectively. Now, I don't know about you, but that screams Heisman Trophy winner, doesn't it?

Regardless of where he stands, the Heisman trophy, no longer is associated with the top player in the country. You have to go all the way back to 1999 to find a Heisman winner who was not playing for the national championship (Ron Dayne, Wisconsin). Beyond that, you have to go back to 1990 to find someone who did not attend a BCS school (Ty Detmer, BYU). How can we accept over half of the Division 1-A schools to play in bowl games, but only allow a miniscule percentage of players to be considered for the Heisman?

In fact, let's just change the name from the Heisman Trophy, to the HCS, Heisman Championship Series, and only include BCS schools, so that not only does the Big Ten, Pac-10, Big 12, SEC, Big East, ACC, and Notre Dame own the national championship picture, but also the Heisman. Just make it easy from the start.

I remember the days when the Heisman Trophy went to the best player in college football, disregarding Jim Brown's thievery in 1956. Now, it's all a sham.

Smith may go down in history, but he also will be grouped with Chris Weinke, Eric Crouch, and Jason White as players who undeservedly took home the Heisman and then failed to back it up in the big game.


Moving on, there are several big games this weekend in the NFL. Yours truly went 3-1 last weekend with my only defeat coming at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs. I refuse to mention the team they played, because if K.C. had showed up to play, there's no doubt they could have taken advantage of a dismal performance by Peyton Manning, surprise!

Give it up to the Colts' defense, though, they bottled up Larry Johnson and put the ball in the hands of Trent Green and Herm Edwards, and predictably, they failed miserably.

All other games went as planned, though probably not as I expected. The Jets gave the Patriots all they could handle, which was expected, until the fourth quarter when New England reeled off 17 straight points, which was unexpected.

In the NFC, Dallas got [Tony] Romo'd, which was unexpected. Andy Reid out-coached Tom Coughlin, which was expected.

This weekend, expect more of the unexpected.

Saturday, the Colts head to Baltimore and face the stingiest defense since the Monstars took on the Looney Tunes in Space Jam. I'll say it now and I'll say it again, PEYTON MANNING CANNOT WIN A BIG GAME. The worst part about it is it seems he has passed down the trait to younger brother, Eli.

If you have a good memory, you remember what happened when Pittsburgh came in to Indianapolis last year and blitzed and harassed Manning all day long, rendering him almost average. Baltimore is faster, stronger, and a better "D." Which means it's the end of the road for the Colts, even if they do bring the No. 3 offense in the league. 22-21, Ravens.

In New Orleans, the hot Philadelphia Eagles come to town. If you thought the Superdome was alive when Atlanta came to town for the first home game of the season on Monday night this year, wait until this one pops off. The Saints will be playing with so much emotion the Eagles would have to go up 28 nothing to nullify any sort of homefield advantage. That won't happen.

The Saints also tout all-pro Drew Brees and the best offense in the NFC, and combine that Eagles' Pro Bowler Lito Sheppard's injury and things look good for the home team. Add the homefield/Mardi Gras/Katrina relief/God-advantage and it's almost impossible to see New Orleans not coming out with the win. But then again, Philly has been doing the impossible since Week 12. New Orleans, 21-17.

On Sunday, the Bears say hello to Seattle and at the same time, say goodbye to the Seahawks. Remember what happened to the NFC West champions in the regular season when they came to Soldier Field? Yeah, they'd like to forget it, as well. It was an overall bend-over-and-take-your-whoopings-like-a-man kind of beating. Chicago's defense is too good, Soldier Field is too cold, and the Seahawks are just getting by on credit these days. Sorry to say, their credit limit is up. Bears move on to the NFC title game, 17-3.

In the highlight of the weekend, New England heads to San Diego. What's not to love? San Diego was the class of the NFL this year. The Chargers have reeled of 10 straight victories, boast the most potent offense in the league with the best player on the planet, LaDanian Tomlinson, a scary defense led by Shawne Merriman and for the most part of the year, looked untouchable. The only two negatives that have been discussed about this team are the AFC's top-seeded coach and signal caller.

The ironic thing is those are the two strengths of the New England Patriots. Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are the New England Patriots. Together, they have an 11-1 record in the postseason, including three Super Bowl championships.

They say in the NFL, the league is a league of quarterbacks. If that's the case, New England should come out with the victory. In the last five games, it is the Patriots who have been the better defense and offense. San Diego has been coasting since Veteran's Day.

It would be crazy to think Belichick's game plan is not to put eight men in the box and dare Philip Rivers to beat them. Rivers has come down to Earth lately since starting the year off terrific, and if it came down to him with the ball to win the game, I think he does. The problem is you can't stop L.T., you can only hope to contain him. I just don't see how you can game plan for Tomlinson when he does so many things.

The key for San Diego is to get pressure on Tom Brady. When the Jets beat the Patriots in the regular season, they got to "The Golden Boy" four times, applying pressure all day, leading to a New York victory. Last week, the Jets did not get pressure, and Brady picked them apart.

I say San Diego at home with the league's MVP send the Patriots back to Massachusetts sans victory. San Diego, 24-21.

Then again, we can just pit Chicago against San Diego in the Orange Bowl, and rule the winner the NFL champion, but that's why they play the game. Are you listening, BCS?

Comments and Conversation

January 13, 2007


Kudos for recognizing Colt Brennens talent, and well thought on the comparison of being a Heisman Trophy candidate. Let’s all wait for Colt’s decision this coming Monday if he will return to UH for one more year of facinating stats. GO WARRIORS !

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