Ding Dong the BCS is dead. College football fans should be singing like Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz , but even the wicked ones are mourned by some. The Southeastern Conference dominated during the Bowl Championship Series era, but maybe this is the beginning of its downfall.
The Alabama Crimson Tide were ranked number one in the country going into its New Year's Day clash with Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. Under the old system, a number one ranking would have meant a direct free pass to next week, and a title tilt with Oregon next Monday night. Now, though, there is a four-team playoff, and the game in New Orleans against the Buckeyes was just a semifinal game. Fourth ranked Ohio State pulled off the mild upset and defeated 'Bama 42-35 in a great game, and instead of the Tide rolling to victory, they disappear into the horizon.
Ohio State now plays for the title next week against Oregon. The Ducks clobbered previously unbeaten Florida State 59-20 in the Rose Bowl (or as fans will probably remember it—Semifinal #1). The championship game will be in Arlington, Texas, but for the first time in a decade, an SEC team will not be one of the title competitors. The BCS went to it's own title game in 2007 (instead of using one of the existing bowls), and in every year, an SEC team was in it. Alabama won three times in four years until last year, when unbeaten Florida State knocked off the Tide's bitter SEC rival Auburn. The FSU win a year ago also snapped a seven-year SEC winning streak. The last time two non-SEC schools played for the title was the 2006 Rose Bowl and a thrilling game. Texas and Vince Young beat Reggie Bush and USC 41-38. One headline called it the greatest game ever played.
But is this the end of the line of SEC dominance? Not likely, but what an argument fans can have over that topic. You could say that the Pac-12 is just as good as the Mighty Southeast, and statistics could back you up. Some (eh, hem) feel that Ohio State shouldn't have even made the Final Four (TCU routed SEC member Mississippi 42-3 in the Peach Bowl), but here are the Buckeyes going for it all. Another thing for West Coast Munchkins to sing about: The Pac-12 went 6-2 in bowl games, while the SEC was 7-5. While the BCS may be dead, the Southeast Conference still did win the most bowl games even though the record wasn't that impressive. Maybe trying on those ruby slippers isn't a good idea just yet. Let's at least wait until after Monday night.
Footnote: A co-worker pointed this out. Long before the BCS or title games, the winner of the Big Ten faced the winner of the Pac-10 (now Pac-12) in the Rose Bowl. If that were still true, the Granddaddy of Them All would have featured Ohio State against Oregon. The championship game should be played in Pasadena, not Arlington.
Ratings bonanza: While everyone knows that watching a bunch of amateurs has become all about big money to television, the conferences, and the schools, the four-team playoff has driven that point home big time. The Oregon-Florida State and Alabama-Ohio State games became the most-viewed cable programs in television history. The Rose Bowl averaged 28.16 million viewers while the Sugar Bowl topped that, drawing an average of 28.27 million viewers. The Orange (Georgia Tech-Mississippi State) and Fiesta (Arizona-Boise State) Bowls, however, saw ratings drops. It should be pointed out, though, that the Fiesta Bowl was during the day on December 31 when many people had to work, and the Orange Bowl was over very lose to midnight on the East Coast, while people were at New Year's Eve parties.
Miner battle: Grass Valley, California is not a big ratings market, but many who live in that city were tuned in to the Fiesta Bowl on Wednesday. Sophomore linebacker Tanner Vallejo of Boise State and senior defensive lineman Dan Pettinato of Arizona both went to Nevada Union High School. Boise State won 38-30, Vallejo had 14 tackles and was the defensive player of the game.
Wait til next year!: If you enjoyed hosting or attending a New Year's party to watch the playoff semifinals this year, you might have to re-adjust your thinking for next season. According to collegefootballplayoff.com, the Rose and Sugar Bowls will still be played New Year's Day, but the playoff semifinals will be the Orange and Cotton Bowls—both on December 31. The following year, the Peach and Fiesta Bowls will host semifinal games—again both on December 31. By the way, the site for the national championship games have nothing to do with the bowl system, and are awarded based on bids, just like the NFL and the Super Bowl. The 2016 Championship Game will be in Glendale, Arizona, and Tampa, Florida will host the 2017 game. If you are hoping the college football playoff system will be expanded beyond four teams, you'll have to wait awhile. The NCAA and ESPN are in the first year of a 12-year contract.
Great Scott!: It was shocking to wake up Sunday morning and hear of the passing of ESPN Sports Center anchor Stuart Scott. While I've never been a real big follower of Scott or many of the other personalities, everyone knows who they are, and Scott became an industry icon. All the kids knew that he was “as cool as the other side of the pillow.” Scott had been battling cancer for some time, but I thought he had it beat, and I think many others did too. Scott was 49.