The Ohio State Buckeyes are set to take on the mighty USC Trojans in the Cotton Bowl Classic. I am ok with that. I am not such a purest that I think this great match-up should only happen in the Rose Bowl. The problem lies in the simple fact that this game means nothing. Even though it’s between two of the most storied programs in college football history, which are both conference champions, nothing good is going to come from this game.
Sure, the coaches will talk about how focused they are, in between firing off texts to 17 year old recruits. Sure, the players will talk about how focused they are while fending off requests for money from their friends and families as they are about to embark on their NFL career. Even the talking heads at ESPN will briefly bring up this game before lathering each other up in oil while chanting “SEC SEC SEC”.
Even the fans don’t really care. If it’s a double overtime thriller, no one is going to be talking about it 10 years from now. Remember the name of the OSU end who picked off the Arkansas QB in that close bowl game between 2 top 10 teams? That’s faded to memory with just the BCS as the system. The give a *ucks about bowl games have only gotten smaller with the playoffs.
We are currently a society where second place means you are the first loser. This game is a mere canape to the main feast of 4 teams, all from the South.
The arguments for the top 4 teams have been made, and I have no desire to revisit them. However, no one really knows who the four best teams are this year, or even just the 4 most deserving. Or most years, for that matter. There have been no real major controversies, but they are there, none the less. Certainly a committee of busy people that shuffle millions of dollars everyday don’t have the time or inkling to figure it out.
First, let’s take a look back at what we will never see again.
Even though the journey started much sooner than the 1969 Rose Bowl, we are going to start with that one. A vaunted and undefeated team from the city of Angles featured the best player in the nation, one Orenthal James Simpson. Even his buddy Al Cowlings was in the game. Lurking on the sidelines was the acid tongued John McKay.
On the opposing sideline, Wayne Woodrow Hayes and a loaded roster. Number 1 in the country and number 1 in our hearts. This battle for the national title would have just been a play-in to a national championship game, and largely forgotten to history.
After the 1972 season, USC kicked the ever loving shit out of Ohio State so bad, the Big Ten decided to go against all precedent and voted to send Ohio State to the Rose Bowl following the 1973 season. Their reasoning was simple, Michigan without their starting QB stood zero chance, so they were going to ride with the Buckeyes.
What resulted was an equally effective ass kicking by the Buckeyes.
In the following decade, OSU would meet USC 3 more times in the Rose Bowl. USC won them all by a combined 5 points. One of those victories resulted in a USC national championship. The one in 1980 prevented Earle Bruce from obtaining a national championship.
Then in 1984, OSU made a late rally, but eventually fell by 3.
These are literally the games that helped shape these two great programs into the icons they are today.
Some of those games resulted or prevented national championships and some of those championships are claimed by other teams. It was an era in college football that was messy and magnificent. There was no definitive champion. There were supposed and suggested champions. While a muddy mess to you, it was fun to debate the real champion. They still do, decades later, Nebraska and Michigan...GO!
What was also nice about that system was that multiple teams finished the season on a win. A season could be considered a success without a championship. Now, if OSU wins, it will just be, “Next year we will be EPIC!” from their fan base and “LOL you are still loosers!” from everyone else.
While some of you have already made it down to the comments section blabbering about participation trophies. This isn’t an argument for them. It’s an argument for either a better system, or a system without any real trophies.
The current system’s champion isn’t any more real than the ones from the olden days. There are far too many teams that play vastly different schedules. 3 out of the final 4 teams only play 8 conference games. Non-conference schedules are made up 10 years in advance so no one really knows how good or bad they are going to be when they are scheduled. Throw in home field advantage and the different schemes and injuries and trying to determine a championship of 130 based most on who lost the least amount of games is kinda dumb. I mean it’s really dumb. I get that everyone will say they are the champions, but everyone also says these other bowl games mean nothing, like I did about the Cotton. I typed it out and everything. It doesn’t make it true. Of course the players and coaches care. Even the fans care, just not like they would if it was a playoff game. Heck, I am even going to write a preview for it once I click the submit button on this article.
One solution is to settle it completely on the field. Play the conference champions, and leave all subjectivity out of it. Or course then “how” we determine conference champions will become a debate.
Two, go back to the old way and make it all subjective. It was fun, I promise. It not only made the regular season more meaningful, it made the conference races more meaningful. The first thing a team judged themselves on was being a conference champion. National championships were like the lottery. Did you win all your game and/or have the chips fall into your laps? Saying winning the conference was the most important thing wasn’t just coach speak back then. It WAS the most important thing to the coaches, because it was something they could control. They could play perfectly, and still not win a national title, so those meant a lot less. Amirite, Penn State? Even a decent season was rewarded with a bowl game. There weren’t nearly as many, and the lack of them made for more interesting match-ups. Plus, because of the tie-ins, it allowed for rivalries like this one. Or Miami vs. Oklahoma in the 80s, or dozens of others that would pop up when teams cycled up.
But that system wasn’t good enough for the fans or ESPN. Plus the NCAA thought they could make more money, so they came up with the absolute worst possible idea. Subjectively pick the teams, and then proclaim it was settled on the field. It gives a legitimacy that just isn’t there. This particular season, there is a strong possibility they have the 4 best teams. However, we don’t really know.
So they need to go with the third solution. The 5 major conference champions, plus 3 at-large teams. That takes care of all but the UCF problem and all bowls not named Cotton this season. This historic match-up would be much more meaningful. Not only that, the national title will mean more to whichever team finally wins it, because it will be an even more legitimate championship. Though still not completely legit, because of the lack of opportunity for teams that literally have won all their games.
Or we could go back to the old way and accept that trying to determine a champion out of 130 teams with a 12 game schedule is a lot like charging at a windmill with lance.
Is the new system better than the old one?
This poll is closed
Yes, ROLL TIDE!
Yes, it does a much better job of smashing the hopes of smaller programs, like wisconsin
No, I want 8 teams
I want 16, 32 or more!
I want exactly enough teams to guarantee my favorite team makes it every season, but no more!
You, James, are a genius. I now agree we should go back to the Golden Age of Mythical Championships!
I liked the old way and I am now rethinking because if that idiot James liked it, it must be wrong!