Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Alabama wins it all, again

The 2012 college football season came to an end Monday night with Alabama's dominating 42-14 win over Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game. The Crimson Tide, who have won three out of the last four national championships, have clearly attained dynasty status.

So, did the BCS get it right this year? Is Alabama really the best team in the nation? I think so, although I really would have liked to have seen them face somebody other than Notre Dame in the title game. It was clear that the Fightin’ Irish simply did not match up well with the Crimson Tide; they were completely outclassed in every aspect of the game. I think Alabama versus Oregon would have been more interesting to watch. Even a rematch between Alabama and Texas A&M, the only team to have beaten the Crimson Tide this season, would have been more compelling. This is not to say that either of those teams would have beaten Alabama for the title; this is simply to say that I think either of those teams would have made for a better game than the snoozefest we were subjected to Monday night.

So then, the question has to be asked: how did Notre Dame make it to the title game in the first place? Why did they manage to actually be ranked ahead of Alabama in the BCS standings going into the title game? Why not Oregon instead?

Part of the reason is that Notre Dame did have a legitimately good season. They were the only team in the nation to end the regular season undefeated (other than Ohio State, which was on probation). Along the way, they picked up some quality wins: Michigan and Stanford at home; Oklahoma on the road. While several of their "big-name" opponents ended up having rather mediocre seasons (Michigan State, Miami, Southern Cal), and while they did struggle to beat a middling Pittsburgh team in triple overtime, the fact remains that they won every game they played. Oregon, in addition to having a weaker overall schedule (Tennessee Tech? Seriously?), had that bitter three-point loss to Stanford that ultimately kept them out of title game contention.

But I also think that Notre Dame tends to get the benefit of a doubt from pollsters because, well, they’re Notre Dame: a tradition-rich school that is the epitome of college football. From their exclusive contract with NBC, to their nationwide fanbase, to boosters like former coach Lou Holtz (literally) slobbering about them on ESPN, Notre Dame gets a lot of exposure and goodwill at the national level. For that reason, I'm not sure that Oregon would have gotten the nod ahead of Norte Dame even if the Ducks had managed to fend off Stanford.

It should be noted that Notre Dame's notoriety is as much of a curse as it is a blessing. The fact that the Fightin’ Irish are now 2-11 in bowl games going back to the 1994 season suggests that they tend to be overrated going into the post-season, and put into games where they don’t match up well with the opposing team. That was definitely the case Monday night.

Anyway, the disappointing title game is just another reason why the playoff cannot get here soon enough.

The other highly-anticipated BCS game besides the national championship was the Orange Bowl between Florida State and BCS-buster Northern Illinois. It also turned out to be a snoozefest - the Seminoles won handily, 31-10 - which made the argument that the Huskies weren't worthy of a BCS berth. It doesn't matter, though; they, like Notre Dame, got in under the rules that the BCS set up, and even if they didn’t win the Huskies are going back to DeKalb with a fat paycheck.

As much as I hate to say it, the Texas A&M Aggies are the real deal. Not only were the only team in the nation to defeat the eventual national champions, but Heisman laureate Johnny Manziel is absolutely amazing. He performance in the Cotton Bowl against a decent Oklahoma team was nothing short of mesmerizing. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Aggies compete for the national title in 2013.

Finally, I'd like to give big props to Utah State, Vanderbilt and San Jose State. All three of these long-struggling programs ended the season with bowl victories and top 25 rankings in both polls.

So begins the offseason.

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