5 Thoughts (11/1) - What Do You Want?
Oregon RB LaMichael James & Auburn QB Cam Newton
Oregon RB LaMichael James & Auburn QB Cam Newton
Posted Oct 31, 2010

So what do you want the national championship to be? Do you want it to be as cut-and-dry as Oregon vs. Auburn, or do you want it to get all messy with several teams fighting it out for an open spot or two? What would really be the best matchup? This and a lot more in the latest 5 Thoughts.

CFN Analysis 

5 Thoughts, Week 9

- 5 Thoughts Week 1 - Is TCU Deserving?  | Week 2 - The bad, bad ACC 
- Week 3 - Uhhh ... Texas & Florida? | Week 4 - Ohio State's Schedule 
- Week 5 - Boise State's Poll Slide | Week 6 - The Poll Problem 
- Week 7 - The 2 Left Standing? | Week 8 - The Oregon Résumé

1. Yeah, yeah, yeah ... what you want is a playoff.

E-mail Pete Fiutak

This question was posed to me on a radio appearance this weekend, and I didn't have an answer.

What do you want?

I'm an objective observer and I root mostly for the best storyline, but I'm having a hard time coming up with what the right answer might be when it comes to the 2011 BCS Championship Game. More than anything else, I want the integrity of the season to be intact with as little mess as possible.

While I enjoy the fallout when a team or teams get hosed and there's a lot of screaming and yelling, it's all just noise. No one cares. The BCS types aren't going to tweak things just because a Boise State or a Utah got left out, and on the contrary, the argument could be made that the BCS is needed precisely for seasons like this when chaos reigns.

So what do I want? What do YOU want?

Auburn vs. Oregon would be the easiest solution, obviously. There's no argument for Boise State or an unbeaten Mountain West champion to deserve a top two spot over two unbeaten teams from BCS conferences not the Big East. That might be what the BCS head honchos might like, and it might be what most fans might want, and while it would be a fun matchup, I do want a little bit of craziness involved. There needs to be a little bit of a shake-up in the system.

No, I don't want Boise State vs. the TCU/Utah winner. It might be a good game, but no one will accept the winner as the true national champion, and there will always be a sort of mental asterisk attached to the season, sort of like there is when it comes to 1984 BYU. It's not fair to college football to put two teams into the BCS Championship who play non-AQ schedules. But I would like to see the little guy get their cut.

I don't buy the Oregon schedule. The Pac 10 is great this year, but is beating Stanford really the same as beating Ohio State, like Wisconsin did? Is beating Arizona and USC the same as beating LSU and Arkansas, like Alabama and Auburn will have to do, before playing each other? I've seen this movie before; gimmick offenses don't win national titles. Even so, I LOVE watching this team play and I would love to see them get their shot against Alabama for the whole ball of wax. That's not going to happen since the Tide won't get in over Boise State and the TCU/Utah winner if Oregon is unbeaten.

I don't buy the Auburn defense. Again, teams with gimmick offenses don't win national titles, unless the defense is a brick wall. Watching the Tigers against Boise State might be the best of all possible worlds since it would be the mighty, unbeaten SEC power against the team that has been knocking on the door for a decade waiting for a shot at the big time. There would be no fluke about it if the Broncos won, and it would chance college football forever. But that's probably not going to happen since the Utah/TCU winner will probably finish ahead of Boise State in the final BCS rankings.

I think Ohio State is the best college football team in America, but that's a hard sell if Wisconsin wins out. I think Alabama, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, LSU, and everyone else in the BCS top 25 can beat anyone else in the top 25 on any given day. I think Boise State, Utah, and TCU would all have at least one loss, probably two, in the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac 10, and SEC. But it doesn't matter what I think; it matters what I can prove.

So with that in mind, here are the five possible BCS Championship matchups I think would end up being the most fair, the most fun, and the least messy. But none of them would be any better than the CFN Playoff Plan of six BCS champions, the top non-AQ, and one wild-card.

5. One-Loss Alabama vs. One-Loss Ohio State – It'll never happen, but these are probably the two best teams in college football.

4. Unbeaten Auburn vs. Unbeaten TCU – Get ready, because this might be it. The problem is that if Auburn wins, no one will blink. TCU's 2010 Fiesta Bowl performance is still too fresh.

3. Unbeaten Oregon vs. One-Loss Alabama – This won't happen unless both Boise State and the Mountain West champion have a loss, but it would be a fascinating matchup between the Duck offense vs. the Tide defense. The storylines would be endless.

2. Unbeaten Oregon vs. Unbeaten Auburn – Screw the non-AQs. The schedules really do suck.

1. Unbeaten Auburn vs. Unbeaten Boise State – It's the best of all possible worlds. This would be for those who believe that you can't have a true national championship at the immediate moment without the SEC champion, and it would give Boise State its chance at the national title with no questions asked if it comes up with the win.

2. Ah, screw it. Make it the Ducks vs. Tigers

By Richard Cirminiello

I'm off the mayhem train. Next stop, Auburn and Oregon in the title game.

Most years, I'm right there with you, you anarchist. Multiple unbeaten teams. A non-AQ trying to break through the glass ceiling. Anything that exposes the BCS for what it truly is—an inadequate determination of a national champion. However, this season, for the very first time, I'm an unabashed convert, who won't lose a minute of sleep if the BCS goes off without a hitch. In fact, I believe it would be the best possible scenario for the game and especially the postseason.

While Boise State or the TCU-Utah winner versus, say, the SEC champ would create a ton of intrigue, the best match up of any two schools on Jan. 10 in Glendale would be the Ducks and the Tigers … by far. First off, now that Missouri and Michigan State have fallen, they're the last two teams from major conference without a loss. Two unblemished programs from the Pac-10 and the SEC playing for the hardware has a nice feel to it. Plus, who wouldn't want to see these two offenses in the same building, with so much at stake? Chip Kelly with more than a month to prepare for the Auburn defense. Gus Malzahn with the same amount of time to prep for the Oregon D. Cam Newton, LaMichael James, Darron Thomas, and Michael Dyer headlining a collection of speed and offensive firepower that could light up the state of Arizona through the holiday season. No, it wouldn't be for purists, with both teams turning the game into a track meet, but it would be a spectacle and a guarantee to entertain.

While there's certainly still a chance for chaos in early December, it's not going to be the agent for change that you look for each year. And that's really what's at the root of your dissent, isn't it? Anyone believing that a disappointed program or two, particularly if it originates from the WAC or the Mountain West, is going to revamp the system is kidding himself. Unfortunately, as good as business is these days, we're still a long way from the types of alterations that most fans are seeking in the system. So, rather than root for every possible chaotic scenario, you might as well start practicing your War Eagle chant and do your push-ups, like that silly Duck, every time Oregon scores. I realize it goes against all of your instincts, but as a fan, it's in your own self-interest to get a game between Oregon and Auburn.

3. Helllloooooo, Mr. Hawkins!

Richard Cirminiello

A promotion—one of the most overrated aspects of any career.

Yeah, everybody is striving for something more in their particular vocation. Title. Money. Perks. Better view from the corner office. Whatever. Way too often, though, promotions aren't all their cracked up to be. More time. More pressure. More health and personal issues. It's the trade-off that no one wants to talk about. Now, I'm not suggesting that being lazy and content is the way to go. Far from it. However, there is something to be said for appreciating what you've got and maximizing that station in life. Take the head coaches at Boise State and TCU, for instance.

There are a ton of reasons to like Chris Petersen and Gary Patterson. Outstanding football minds on offense and defense, respectively. Tremendous leaders. And an ability to consistently take high school cast-offs and transform them into NFL-caliber players. They're two of the best in the business. What gets overlooked, however, is their loyalty and penchant for staying put. Petersen is in his fifth year at Boise State, while Patterson has been in Fort Worth for a decade. Both have had countless offers for so-called better opportunities, but for a variety of personal reasons, have rebuffed them, building on what they've already erected. What a stroke of genius. Either could have taken a higher-profile job and more money, bidding adieu to the annual rigors of fighting the BCS system. Why bother? Life is good. Neither is starving for funds or national attention. And how many before them have gotten the itch and failed? You think Dan Hawkins would like to be back in Boise? How about the case of former Mountaineer Rich Rodriguez? And while it's extremely early in his Irish tenure, would it be so bad if Brian Kelly was still just the king of the Queen City?

Petersen. Patterson. Big fish, smaller ponds. With the annual coaching carousel about to start spinning again, their stories contain underrated lessons for other upwardly mobile coaches about to ponder promotions.

4. The Careless Tragedy

By Matt Zemek

It was inappropriate to comment on the Declan Sullivan incident at Notre Dame until more information and context emerged from the tragic death of a young man who lost his life in the attempt to film a football practice. Now that some more details are in place, this issue can be addressed with the levelheadedness and sobriety it deserves.

Jason Whitlock - a man with a preference for the incendiary - writes provocative columns and uses his considerable talent to generate page views more often than he seeks to improve the fabric of society. He has occasionally pursued the improvement of our culture, as he did when he courageously and movingly wrote about the story of gay baseball umpire Billy Van Raaphorst in August. However, those kinds of gems - which could form the substance of a typical Whitlock column - are outnumbered by the columns in which Whitlock's evident skill is used in the service of flamethrowing... columns such as his latest effort this past week, in which he argued that Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly should have been fired immediately for not preventing the death of Mr. Sullivan, who fell from a hydraulic lift that got knocked over by severe winds last Wednesday in South Bend, Indiana.

The one who has been on top of this story, Chicago Tribune Notre Dame beat reporter Brian Hamilton, has delved into the finer points of hydraulic lifts and the policies that govern them. On Saturday, Hamilton documented the ways in which this issue has been handled by other schools across America.

"At Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska and Kentucky, lifts are grounded when winds exceed 25 mph. At Penn State, the number is 28. At Texas Tech, they are not used when winds or gusts exceed 40, and they are not raised higher than 20 feet when winds or gusts exceed 25 mph.

At North Carolina State, if the wind exceeds 50 percent of the wind-rating for the lift, the lifts are not operated. At Michigan, lifts are grounded if wind gusts reach 28 mph. Last week, according to spokesman Dave Ablauf, the Wolverines practiced outdoors briefly Tuesday with lifts at 15 feet and then only at 15 to 20 feet on Wednesday.

Indeed, those schools with policies — and even some that don't have such official rules — empower the videographers to decide to continue on or lower the lifts.

Texas Tech outfits its videographers with handheld wind meters. N.C. State gives them a two-way radio. Utah, which does not have a formal written policy, tells its videographers to lower the lifts any time they feel uncomfortable.

And then there is this line in Indiana's policy: "No directive from anyone may supersede the feelings of the person in the lift, and no retribution of any kind will be tolerated against anyone exercising their responsibility to express concerns about lift safety."

Even at places that do not implement scissor lifts — such as Mississippi, which only uses permanent towers for filming — the training staff maintains close contact with videographers..."

Kelly was never approached by Declan Sullivan in the hours immediately preceding the incident. Sullivan never asked Kelly if he could forgo the use of the lift. It is patently ridiculous to expect Kelly to be fired, but just in case you're still not sure about the matter, here's the kicker: Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick, in response to reporters' questions, has not - as of Sunday morning - released any formal Notre Dame policy on the use of hydraulic lifts. That telling - and booming - bit of silence suggests that, at the very least, the school does not have a formal and concrete policy, unlike the other schools cited in Mr. Hamilton's Chicago Tribune report.

The death of Declan Sullivan was, in an immediate sense, caused by the failure of a hydraulic lift that was used in unsafe conditions, but it was mostly caused by a breakdown in the safety requirements. This was when the adults were supposed to make sure that Sullivan didn't go up there to do his job, and Notre Dame didn't do its job to make sure that this student's life was safe. It's not Sullivan's fault that Notre Dame needed to be more careful, and wasn't. 

If someone should be fired for all this, it's Swarbrick, the man who gets paid to be an administrator and overseer of an athletic department's holistic operations. However, Swarbrick is surely not alone among athletic directors who have not yet paid sufficient attention to this issue. It nearly burned Colorado State 10 years ago, and other schools don't have established policies of their own. Moreover - and this is really perplexing in light of all the money that gets spent on football programs these days - why haven't schools built fortified towers or shelters that can house videographers in a solid structure, with protection from the elements and safeguarding from the rail-thin lifts that don't exactly inspire confidence? 

5. Fortunately, the games are still great

By Matt Zemek

On Saturday, the internet was flooded with understandable comments that all boiled down to one question: "How did that happen a few weeks ago?"

How did Sean Renfree of Duke throw at least three interceptions on three separate occasions, in light of how he torched Navy this past Saturday?

How did a sloppy, disjointed South Carolina team ever manage to gather its resources and beat Alabama a few weeks ago?

How did Missouri beat Oklahoma in light of the way it got manhandled at Nebraska?

How did Nebraska possibly lose at home to Texas? (That's the biggest question of them all.)

How did South Carolina lose to Kentucky the way it did? (When Florida does beat South Carolina on Nov. 13, that question will haunt Gamecock fans for a long, long time to come.)

How did Oregon State lose to Washington, once upon a time? The Beavers would be unbeaten in the Pac-10 had they handled a clearly not-very-good Husky squad that's very likely to be 3-6 once Oregon gets through with UW on Nov. 6.

How did Air Force come so close to beating Oklahoma? The Falcons have lost three straight games and have looked quite ugly in the process.

How did Iowa give up 31 points to Wisconsin in light of its max-out effort against Michigan State?

How did Wisconsin get punked by Sparty and struggle against Arizona State, given its fine form over the past few weeks?

How did Virginia Tech - even on a short week, and even in light of a hangover - ever, EVER lose at home to James Madison? The Hokies are in COMPLETE control of the ACC as a whole, with their competition falling down left and right.

How did that happen a few weeks ago? It's the question that always gets asked in college football, but it seems especially on-point in 2010. This is why the sport confounds and delights in equal measure. Teams just aren't the same from month to month and week to week.

It's easy to flourish when everything's going great, but the true skill of a college football national champion - or if not a champion, an elite contender that will make a BCS bowl instead of the Meineke Bowl or the Kraft Hunger Bowl - is that it is resilient enough and resourceful enough to survive its worst days at the office. To use a bit of baseball terminology as the World Series winds its way toward a conclusion, the best and most successful college football teams manage to "win without their best stuff." That's a necessity in college football, not an optional attribute. Keep that in mind as November unfolds.