Buchan: College football's title tilt didn't pit best teams together


WALLA WALLA — Call in West Coast Bias if you will.

But is there anyone out there besides me who wouldn’t have rather watched the University of Oregon take on Alabama in Monday night’s BCS National Championship football game in Miami? Or Texas A&M, for that matter, or perhaps Stanford?

Even an Alabama-Georgia rematch of the Southeast Conference championship game would have been preferable to what we endured Monday night at Sun Life Stadium.

Alabama’s 42-14 rout of Notre Dame — and it wasn’t that close, friends and neighbors — is the best reason so far for college football fans to demand a reputable playoff format to decide the championship instead of leaving it up to sports writers, coaches and computers.

I know, I know. College football’s powers to be have finally relented to a four-team playoff format that will be in place in 2015. That’s a better deal than what we have, but it’s not good enough.

Because the same sports writers, coaches and computers will decide who the four semifinalists will be. And that’s just too arbitrary for my taste. However the teams are selected, nothing less than an eight-team tournament is satisfactory.

If this year’s roller coaster ride in the weekly college football rankings isn’t strong enough evidence that there were more than a few legitimate contenders for the championship, I’m not sure what further proof is needed. Because there’s parity within the ranks of college football’s elite teams.

That said, I’m not sure any other team in the country could have withstood Alabama’s Rolling Tide Monday night in Miami. Alabama was brilliant, and Notre Dame had no business being on the same field.

But regardless of the outcome, wouldn’t it have been more meaningful if Alabama had played its way into the big game via at least a couple of postseason victories and met an opponent that had done likewise? I think so.

Under the current selection system, it’s hard to argue that Notre Dame didn’t belong in the championship game. After all, at 12-0 the Irish were the only undefeated team in the country other than Ohio State, which was ineligible due to NCAA violations.

Alabama was one of four one-loss teams and was awarded the other ticket to the final showdown. And who can refute the Crimson Tide’s choice after Monday night’s awesome display?

Still, the process is irksome.

Consider that on Nov. 5, the top four teams in the Associated Press’ national rankings were, in order, Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame, all with 9-0 records. Texas A&M and Stanford, both 7-2, were 15th and 16th, respectively.

That following Saturday, Texas A&M handed Alabama what proved to be its only defeat of the season, a 29-24 Aggies victory. In Tuscaloosa, no less.

The AP poll that following Monday placed Oregon No. 1, Kansas State No. 2 and Notre Dame No. 3 after each had improved its record to 10-0. Alabama, now 9-1, slipped to fourth place, Texas A&M climbed to ninth and Stanford moved up to 14th.

But neither Oregon nor Kansas State could stand prosperity. The Ducks were stunned by Stanford 17-14 in an overtime thriller in Eugene and K-State was humbled by Baylor 52-24 in Waco.

Notre Dame, naturally, moved to the top of the Nov. 19 AP rankings with its 11-0 record. Alabama was promoted to No. 2 and Georgia (10-1) and Ohio State (10-0), who had been ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, leapfrogged to the third and fourth spots.

Oregon was demoted all the way to No. 5 and Kansas State fell to the seventh position, surpassed by Florida (10-1) as well. Texas A&M remained ninth and the Cardinal climbed to 11th.

The top two spots in the poll remained unchanged over the final weeks of the season. Thus, the AP poll reflected Monday night’s championship-game match up.

However, when the Nov. 26 AP poll was released, Oregon took another step back. That despite a convincing 48-24 victory over instate rival Oregon State, which was ranked 16th in the nation, on the Beavers’ home field in Corvallis. Florida moved past the Ducks into fifth place.

Explain that, please.

The Ducks did regain fifth place on the AP’s final regular-season poll due to Georgia’s 32-28 loss to Alabama in the SEC championship game. The Bulldogs slipped from third to sixth place.

But for the Ducks, the damage had been done.

Oregon’s OT loss to Stanford not only cost it a spot in the BCS championship game, it denied the Ducks a trip to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl. Stanford represented the Pac-12 instead and defeated Wisconsin 20-14.

The Ducks were sent to Arizona where they dominated No. 7 Kansas State 35-17 in the Fiesta Bowl. Florida, which was ranked No. 4 at the end of the regular season, lost to No. 9 Louisville 33-23 in the Sugar Bowl. And No. 10 Texas A&M, led by Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, crushed No. 12 Oklahoma 41-13 in the Cotton Bowl.

When the AP’s final rankings came out this week, Oregon finished second behind Alabama, followed by ineligible Ohio State, Notre Dame, Georgia, Texas A&M, Stanford, South Carolina, Florida and Florida State to round out the top 10. Alabama, Oregon and Notre Dame each finished its season with one loss while the others — not including the undefeated Buckeyes — each lost twice.

You could put together an impressive eight-team playoff format from that group. And I’m fairly certain we would wind up with a different championship-game match than the one we suffered through Monday night.

Plus, there are six other two-loss teams outside the top 10, some of whom might be worthy contenders. So in a lot of ways it’s like the NCAA basketball tournament.

No matter how many teams you include, there are bound to be controversial exclusions.

Anyway, it won’t happen anytime soon, if ever. Because the four-team format has already been scheduled through 2025.

Better, yes. Good, not hardly.


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