Wild Season Ends Without Surprise

Matt Matsumura

The 2007 college football regular season brought us thrills and surprises, but the following bowl season showed us how right-side-up the world is. The SEC is still the Bowl Sub-Division’s premier conference. Big 10 juggernaut Ohio State is still the SEC’s whipping boy. USC still recruits and lands almost whomever it wants and college football still needs a playoff system.

All the while, gridiron analysts still defy logic in order to play up the hype and increase television ratings. Did Ohio State go BALCO on us during the offseason and become fast enough to play with the SEC elite? Even in a season with more upsets than the history of Kansas Jayhawk basketball, college football analysts still managed to out-“smart” themselves.

It is a common habit of most football analysts to jump on weekly bandwagons in order to support their upset picks. Remember when the Redskins could beat the Patriots because of Washington’s great secondary? How about Hawaii keeping up with Georgia because of June Jones’ “explosive” passing game? Often times, these bandwagon themes disagree with the cardinal rule of football: it’s all about the trenches. If you can’t touch Tom Brady, you’ll get lit up like Old North Church. Even Colt Brennan isn’t allowed to throw passes lying on his back. This usually impervious condition was showcased prominently in the last two National Championship games, with athletic defensive lines harassing the Buckeyes into embarrassment. Florida did it from the outside with Derrick Harvey and Jarvis Moss; LSU did it from the inside with Glenn Dorsey and company. On the opposite possessions, both Chris Leak and Matt Flynn had the best games of their careers and have clean uniforms to show for it. You have to compete in the trenches to have a chance to win a game.

The modern equalizer to a talent imbalance on the line is the spread option offense. Appalachian St. showed what a spread option could do to a vastly more talented Michigan team. America first saw the promise of this offense when West Virginia’s Pat White and Steve Slaton destroyed a vaunted Georgia defense in the Sugar Bowl a couple of years ago. Vince Young used spread option principles to shred USC in the Rose Bowl. Fast defenders become much slower when they have to defend two or three running threats and a passing game. Urban Meyer’s offense even made Alex Smith look good enough to be picked first in the NFL draft. Trumpeting the spread option offense should be a no-brainer even for the Robert Smiths of the analyst world, but the commentators of amateur pigskin managed to screw this up.

The amazing success of the spread option offense has led many analysts to ring the praises of all spread offenses, including those at Missouri and Hawaii. The most essential attribute of a spread option offense is that a running quarterback is able to slow down a pass rush, thus enhancing the ability to throw the ball. With Chase Daniel and Colt Brennan at quarterback for Missouri and Hawaii respectively, the Tigers and the Warriors did not present an option threat. Both Oklahoma and Georgia were able to take advantage of their predictability, something that both schools haven’t been able to do against West Virginia. Despite the obvious difference between spread offenses and spread option offenses, many analysts still picked Missouri to beat Oklahoma the second time around and for Hawaii to hang with the Bulldogs. At least Vegas got it right.

For the most part, analysts agree that college football should have a playoff. The most pertinent question, then, is how big of a playoff? Contrary to many opinions, the primary concern is not the inclusion of undeserving teams. Any team that cannot beat an “undeserving” team does not “deserve” itself. The primary concern is the length of a playing season. While many programs already play twelve games, a 15th or a 16th game still seems excessive. Therefore, the much-discussed “plus-one” scenario seems like the most sensible. Four teams would be given a shot at the title without making the teams play an NFL-length season. This scenario even allows for the existence of all the four BCS bowl games to generate the same amount of sponsor and television revenues. Couldn’t you see Allstate paying even more to title sponsor the “BCS Football Final Four?” That’s where I stand.