The bowl matchups are set for the last hurrah of the much loved and widely reviled Bowl Championship Series. Michael Weinreb of Sports on Earth joined Bill to talk about the only matchup that matters and one or two that don’t.
BL: The BCS title game will be played on Jan. 6, and it will involve Auburn and Florida State. Did the BCS system get it right in this final season?
MW: For once I think they actually did. I think they got lucky in that a lot of the teams that were up there toward the end started losing. I think we wound up with a relatively neat situation in terms of choosing two teams. If this were next year and it were a four-team playoff it would be a mess. So in a weird way the BCS going out actually worked better than it usually did.
BL: Ohio State would have, could have, should have played in the title game if not for their loss to Michigan State last weekend. Alabama blew their chance with a loss to Auburn in late November. So fans of those programs really shouldn’t have a gripe at this point, right?
MW: Yeah, Alabama fans are always going to gripe about something, and Michigan State fans are always going to gripe about something, too. But I think they did have their opportunities and they failed in the end. So the two teams that are in the national championship game have a pretty good case for being in the national championship game at this point.
BL: In your Sports on Earth column titled “The Strangest Season in Sports,” you say “there is no competitive justification for the continued existence of bowl games, except that we like them.” But there are other justifications right? What about money?
MW: Oh there’s money, certainly. There’s a lot of money in these games. For the most part the schools want to keep them going because they get a lot of money out of these games. The conferences get a lot of money out of these games. It’s just once you get down to the level of, say, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, it really is hard to justify any competitive reason for these teams even having another game. When you go 6-6 during the season — I understand all these kids work hard and they deserve a reward, but when you end going to Shreveport as your reward is it really that much of a reward? I don’t know.
BL: I always had a soft spot for any bowl game named after a muffler.
MW: Well, exactly. Part of what’s fun about these games is the kitsch of them. Remember the Poulan Weed Eater Bowl? That was a thing for a while. That was a fun one. It took me about five years to figure out what a ‘Belk’ is, and I just figured that out. I didn’t actually believe that Beef ‘O’ Brady’s was actually a restaurant until the last couple of years. So it’s fun, and it gives you something to do besides talking to your family during the holiday season, so for those reasons it’s good to have them around.
BL: I always felt a soft spot for the Humanitarian Bowl which I thought for years is one in which they played touch football.
MW: Yeah, well now you have the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. I guess that’s the closest thing to the Humanitarian Bowl we have now.
BL: Most people seem to think the BCS system worked pretty well this year as you have suggested. Will the new format work better starting next season?
MW: Well, I think the only thing you can say about it for sure is that there will be four teams instead of two. And so you’ll be choosing between the fourth ranked and fifth ranked team instead of the second ranked and third ranked team. So in that way it’ll be better. In every other way I have no idea if it will be better. I think it’s good that they have a committee choosing these teams. Maybe the committee will be able to look at the nuances a little better and be able to talk these things through a little more.
Because so much of this, the season is really short, you’re going to end up with a bunch of teams with either one loss or two losses that are essentially even, and there is no good way to compare them. So you really just have to fight your way through this in order to figure out who that fourth ranked team is gonna be.