Imagining a World Where Illinois Wins the MNC

GREENSBORO, NC - MARCH 16: Remember Graham's Post about Duke? Yeah, the tournament just got that much better. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

It's not entirely fair that this is my title. In fact, I'm sure Illinois fans are thinking, "WTF does Kennard have against us? What did we do to him?"* Well, let me explain myself a little bit. I'm sitting here on my couch, still kind of basking in Duke and Missouri losing (arguably two of my least favorite teams on earth) (um, nope, definitely my two least favorite teams in basketball) and I was trying to think about how we would deal with this on a football level. I mean, obviously we're not gonna have a 64 team tournament. First off, we don't have enough weeks in December and January to make that work without asking for crazy injuries. Secondly, we might love football, but as fans of somewhat attainable seasons, it's just not going to happen.

For the sake of this short tangential thought, I'm using our friends, the Fighting Illini as a hypothetical team. Really, you can insert any of last year's B1G teams as an example because none of them really deserved to be in the discussion as best team in the nation (at least via the regular season). My thought was that the B1G's coldest team going into bowl season was probably Illinois. They rode a 6 game losing streak, looked fairly disinterested towards the end of the season, and fired the most inspiring coach ever. Early season success got them into the postseason and if this were basketball style rules, they have as much a chance to win it all as the teams that went undefeated or close to it. Under the, "any given day," and "nobody believes in us," trains of thought, they have a chance to make history. Again, let me be perfectly clear, I am not advocating for this approach. I am simply trying to map out what this style of tournament would mean for football since there is always so much chatter about how cool MARCH MADNESS would be in place of bowls. So before you go to the comments to attack me (gonna happen either way) HEAR ME OUT ON THIS!

Okay, let's look at our little scenario. Let's say Illinois' interim coach gets them on a roll and they start by taking down a 2 seed (Oklahoma maybe) like it's nobody's business. Before you know it, an unbeatable SEC (LSU maybe?) team goes down, a good not great Boise team goes down, and you see Illinois in the Elite 8. From there they start gaining confidence and some momentum and a few weeks later BAM, Illinois is in the new Championship Game against the Tide. Since this is make believe world, let's say they do the unthinkable and win the whole thing making Emp. Delaney a happy dude and the Honorable Mr. Slive left wondering how he can get out of this fantasy land immediately. Illinois is crowned the greatest Cinderella story in all of sports and get to parade around a big trophy.

With that in mind, let's look at the impact of this style of determining a champion. Would anyone outside of Illinois be happy about this in the least bit? Obviously the team deserves credit for being the best team at the moment, but would any of us really believe that they were the 2011-2012 best team or just the team that won at the right time? I guess another way to look at it would be, do you think that this team deserves to call themselves National Champions? Personally, I don't think so and that goes for any team that wasn't a conference champion or at least some form of undefeated/uber-talented team that showed they had more than a run of good luck. This was just a good run, but what really differentiates them from being good at the beginning and being good at the end. It kind of becomes dumb luck and momentum.

Again, this is completely hypothetical and it's probably not even worth getting into the nitty gritty of how we award MNCs and such, but it does have me thinking. In the wake of awesome upsets today (sorry Michigan, you've been mocking Ohio for too long. They were fed up with all that nonsense), I just am reminded of why basketball is so funny. We cheer for the upset, but really, we want bluebloods to win out so we can continue to let everyone know, "Hey, cool story bro, but we all know who REALLY is the best." This year, we're watching coaches get all sorts of pumped in the locker room about taking down Goliath and all that jazz. It's a great story, but deep down we want the Kentuckys and Ohio States and Michigan States and such to keep winning because it makes everything make more sense and it validates a tournament style setup. Basketball gives us a nice false sense of all-inclusive and overarching determination that fuels people's desire for a playoff, but only when the power teams are winning it all. This would change if that ceases to continue.

Feel free to disagree, and please don't let this rain on today's parade awesome games. I think each championship has its place. I guess the reason I am even contemplating all this stuff is that I just don't think a playoff is as cool as we think it might be. I mean, I hope we get some change in the coming years in how we crown the 1A champion because the BCS is a freaking joke, but let's all be honest: we kind of like things how they are. As of right now, the teams that are supposed to win the MNC usually do, and the teams we don't want scuffing our trophy don't get a chance to make that happen.

*Note: Apologies to any offended Illinois fan. It's not that I don't think you can win a MNC, it's just that you made sense to be a middle seeded team that could've made a run because you had that type of streakiness. If it makes you feel better, I don't have a vendetta towards you and am secretly jealous of the fact that you know what the NCAA tournament is like and Nebraska doesn't. Thanks for understanding.

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