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5 Thoughts - Does Bama Deserve To Be No. 2?
Posted Oct 27, 2008

Does Alabama automatically deserve to be No. 2 over Penn State? Texas Tech becoming really good, the mediocre play overall (outside of the Big 12), paging Todd Boeckman, and the flawless playoff idea in the latest 5 Thoughts.

5 Thoughts ... Oct. 27

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The Yearly Playoff Beef

By Pete Fiutak   

1. Every year at this time I start to get a little bit angry. I don't really have a problem with the BCS, it's far better than the old poll 'n' bowl system. I get angry because I have to hear everyone's playoff idea, and they're all weird, unfair, and wrong. As if a gimmicky system would be more fair than a tough war of a regular season (cough, New York Giants, cough).

Let me help everyone out with the flawless playoff system. What the powers-that-be, including the bowls, don't realize is that they can have their cake and eat it too. Without further ado here's the yearly prayer/begging for this eight-team playoff idea that has absolutely no downside and doesn't have any holes (this has been tweaked over the years after much debating with fans, media guys, and anyone who wants to talk playoff).

Eight teams. 16 would be too many, four would be too exclusionary. Take the six BCS conference champions, put in the highest ranked non-BCS league champion according to a BCS system (you have to give the little guy a shot), and keep one wild-card spot open for the highest ranked remaining team according to the BCS.

The integrity of the regular season is maintained. You have to win your conference to get in; if you can't win your league title, you don't deserve to win the national title. If you're not in the playoff, it's your fault. For all the arguing that would go on about the one wild-card spot, again, you didn't win your conference title so there's no beefing. This one open spot would be a catch-all if there was a tie, like in the Big Ten or Pac 10, or if Notre Dame got really good. It would also encourage better non-conference games. If you're in a nasty league, you'd schedule as many good games as possible to increase your chances of being the wild-card.

Use the Cotton, the Capital One, the Fiesta and Sugar for the first round, the Orange and Rose for the final four, and a BCS national championship game to decide it all. Three weeks, all the games would sell out in a heartbeat (try getting tickets to the basketball Final Four), and everyone would make gobs and gobs of money and be deliriously happy.

How would this have worked out last year? The eight teams in would've been Ohio State, LSU, USC, West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, Hawaii, and in the wild-card spot, Georgia. Two years ago it would've been Ohio State, Florida, Oklahoma, Wake Forest, USC, Louisville, Boise State, and in the wild-card spot, Michigan.

This year, so far, it would be Texas, Alabama, Penn State, USC, West Virginia, Florida State, Utah, and in the wild-card spot, Oklahoma.

And someday Jessica Biel will use my left ear as a chew toy. We can all dream.

Maybe the Oklahoma - Texas Game Was The National Championship

By Pete Fiutak   

2. Sorry, but I just don’t believe in Penn State.

The vaunted defense has yet to face anyone who can throw the forward pass, I still don’t know if Daryll Clark can produce in the clutch, and the first half against Michigan was scarier than the second half was impressive. However, I’m not going to rush out to pick against a JoePa coached team in the national title, not with the talent on the offensive line and the quickness on the defensive front, and I’m sure as shoot not just going to assume Alabama should be in the BCS championship over an undefeated Nittany Lion team. Hasn't the Penn State program over the last 40 years proven to be beyond reproach as far as how it produces in the really, really big games? (But that's for another argument and another day.)

There’s no arguing against Texas right now, just like there will be no arguments against Texas Tech if it runs the table by finishing up with wins over Oklahoma State, Texas and Oklahoma, to go along with a Big 12 title game. In fact, I’ll take a one-loss Big 12 champion over anyone else in the country in the national title pecking order. (But that, too, is for another argument and another day.) My beef is with everyone who’s assuming Alabama should automatically be No. 2.

I dogged Penn State’s schedule last week in various outlets, so to be fair, it’s time to call out what Alabama has done. At the moment, the Tide has played the  79th best schedule in the nation. Penn State has played the 68th best, Texas the 11th best, and Texas Tech the 21st best.  

I’m not going to rip on the Georgia win. That victory in Athens was either the best by anyone so far this year, or it was second best behind the Texas win over Oklahoma. However, my problem is with the rest of the Tide's slate.
Bama got the initial love by throttling Clemson, but with 20/20 hindsight, that really wasn’t any better than beating, say, Oregon State (which Penn State did with ease). While throttling Arkansas and Tennessee might seem impressive on paper, and it got the national notoriety, it’s not that big a deal. And then there’s the eye-ball test. If there are issues with the Penn State offense after the first half against Michigan and the entire game against Ohio State, then why are Bama's poor performances in wins over Kentucky and Ole Miss being blown off? The offensive line was shaky and the defense struggled late in those games before holding on for dear life. Don’t just throw out the “every week is tough in the SEC” argument. No it’s not. Not this year. The conference has already lost seven non-conference games, and there will be more.  

I’ll give up the Alabama love if it goes unbeaten and beats the Florida/Georgia winner in the SEC title game, the schedule will turn out to be better than Penn State’s, but I don’t want to hear about how winning at LSU in two weeks is that big a deal. Not after the Tigers got 103 points hung on them by Florida and Georgia. And I really don’t want to hear any nonsense about the Auburn game being tough because of the rivalry. This Auburn team sucks. If you’re worthy of a national title, you put that team away at home after two drives.

I’m not telling the coaches and Harris voters to put Penn State into the No. 2 spot ahead of Alabama. I’m just saying they need to think about it before they do.

It Hasn't Started Yet And It's Already Texas 24, Tech 21.

Richard Cirminiello   

3. Although it took me a while to come to this epiphany, Texas Tech is for real.

More than any other team last weekend, I was blown away by the Red Raiders, who blew away a ranked team from Kansas on the road, 63-21. In case you missed the game, Tech might have reached 80 had it played with the same intensity in the final 15 minutes. Graham Harrell and the passing game is humming just like it always has under Mike Leach, but the program is unbeaten and climbing into uncharted territory because it’s getting more than just tacit support from the running game and the defense.

Usually just receivers in this wide-open offense, backs Shannon Woods and Baron Batch have combined for more than 1,000 and 14 touchdowns on the ground this season. Their presence provides an outstanding change-of-pace, giving opposing coordinators one more thing to think about. Ruffin McNeill’s defense is close to making the Red Raiders a complete team. No, they don’t shut people down, but who does these days in the Big 12? What Tech does, instead, is create turnovers, swarm to the ball in run defense, and get to the quarterback with linemen, like Brandon Williams and McKinner Dixon. In the win over the Jayhawks in Lawrence, the Red Raiders created five turnovers, including three picks from Darcel McBath. When you combine that type of defensive production with a 50-point-a-game offense, Texas Tech is one scary opponent.

No one really took the Red Raiders that seriously during the first seven games of the season. That might have changed with Saturday’s dominant performance at Kansas. And just in time for a visit from top-ranked Texas for what could be the biggest game in Lubbock since the 1973 team won 11 games and beat Tennessee in the Gator Bowl.   

Maybe the Brians Would Be Off The Milk Carton

By Richard Cirminiello

Are me and Ohio State TE Jake Ballard the only people wondering aloud why Jim Tressel has buried QB Todd Boeckman on the bench since the loss to USC more than a month ago?

Tressel is one of the best in the business, but he’s blown it with the decision to go exclusively with Terrelle Pryor at quarterback. I get that Pryor is a dynamite athlete with a limitless upside in Columbus. What I also get is that he wasn’t ready for the role he was given last month. That was obvious two weeks ago when the Buckeyes failed to reach the end zone versus Purdue. And again Saturday night when they managed just a pair of field goals against Penn State. Pryor is not yet ready to be a passer at this level. I know it, which means every defensive coordinator on Ohio State’s schedule knows it. Sure, he’ll make a great play with his feet every now and again, but that lack of a passing threat means Buckeye playmakers Chris Wells, Brian Robiskie, and Brian Hartline have essentially been neutralized by Pryor’s presence. Boeckman, on the other hand, is a pocket passer that some believe has an NFL arm. The senior has thrown 29 career touchdown passes, 25 a year ago. Why in the world has a platoon not been considered? Give Boeckman a few series to test the secondary and let Pryor do his thing as well. It’s one more thing for the other team to plan for, and it’s not as if the offense could be more inept.

Hey, if Ohio State was a .500 team or had some Steve Bellisari clone at quarterback, you might as well pop the cork on the Pryor era in Columbus. That, however, was not the case. This team was a legitimate Big Ten contender, even after the ugly loss to the Trojans. The fact that the Buckeyes won’t win the league title in 2008 falls squarely on the head of Tressel, who saw firsthand in the 2006 national championship game with Florida that a dual-quarterback system can work if you embrace the concept.

You Call It Parity ...

By Matthew Zemek

5. Mediocrity abounds in major college football.
The Big East is a muddled mess, and the clear favorite, West Virginia, must run the table to get to 10 wins.
The ACC? It's not a bad conference, but there are no elite teams in the league. Florida State is making huge strides, but the Seminoles are winning because they don't commit turnovers and can hit field goals for the first time in Bobby Bowden's FSU career (or at least, it seems like it). The ACC champion is an almost-certain piece of road kill in the Orange Bowl.
Then again, if the ACC winner plays Boise State, perhaps the much-maligned conference will come up with a BCS bowl victory. Chris Petersen's Broncos are winning, but no one who has seen them the past two weeks--in sloppy and uninspired performances against Hawaii and San Jose State--can view them as an elite team at this point in time.
The Pac-10's lack of star quality has been well documented, and the Big Ten's best teams--Penn State and Ohio State--showed their many limitations on Saturday.
In the SEC, Vanderbilt's feel-good run to 5-0 is a distant memory, as a 5-7 season actually looks possible once again. Aside of the Big Four--Bama, LSU, Georgia, Florida--the Southeastern Conference has a lot of so-so squads.
Want to find the only place in college football where average action isn't the norm? Try the Big 12 South (the North is, right now, a sorry sight). Four of the six teams in that league have proven themselves on national stages. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Texas Tech comprise a fearsome foursome. None of those squads are pansies.
Want to see big-time ball in 2008? Stay in Texas and Oklahoma. The other 48 states? You'll have to look hard to find something more than mediocre.