Archive for Thursday, December 27, 2007

The fly route

December 27, 2007

We here at The Eudora News have self-respect.

We know we're not a large newspaper, but by golly, we try hard, and we're pretty confident that we're the premier source for news in this fine town - coffee shop gossip aside, of course.

We may be a small newspaper, but we're convinced we're a real one.

Now I must defend that claim.

Clearly, in order to continue passing this publication off as a legitimate news gathering source, it is my duty as the sports czar to first complain about the Bowl Championship Series, then to imagine some bizarre playoff scenario which will pit the top teams in the nation against one another.

Every news organization in the country has gone before us - manufacturing a pretend playoff seems to be more popular this holiday season than rooting against the Patriots. Heck, I think you're required to read a minimum of two anti-BCS columns just to log onto ESPN.com, then you can devour (and I'm serious this time) at least two separate totally made up tournament scenarios.

When I'm finished, I will have crowned a mythical national champion that - shockingly - will have even less claim to any sort of title than the real BCS champion will.

That's quite a task - just ask a potential real champion, two-loss Louisiana State.

OK, first thing's first.

The BCS is terrible. It's terrible because : um : it is made up. It rewards teams that are ranked high early in the season, which often are undeserving teams that haven't proven much anyway. If LSU had started outside the rankings, the Tigers might have been eliminated from championship game contention with their first loss of the season, and they surely would have with their second.

This process in turn cripples potential contenders that start the year unranked, like Kansas and Hawaii this year and Boise State last year.

There are two ways to determine a champion. You can either have a playoff to crown the winner, or you can have those who've watched the teams all season pick a champion based on a team's body of work.

The BCS is the bastardization of both of those processes. Those who follow the sport still weigh in - their polls go a long way toward choosing a champion, and getting on the wrong side of their numbers is a death sentence - but there is still some sort of one-game playoff.

By not really choosing one path or the other, the BCS becomes little more than a frustrating hybrid with the weaknesses of both processes and the strengths of neither.

So, clearly the BCS is terrible.

Now, on with the official make-believe The Eudora News playoff!

There doesn't seem to be a consensus. Some news organizations went with eight teams and just four pretend games in their pretend playoffs. Others went with 12, giving two teams pretend byes. Some, of course, also went with 16.

I'm not sure my imagination can handle 16 teams. The Kansas City Star has a 12-team bracket, so my pride suggests we should one-up that old rag.

So, 13 teams it is.

Choosing which poll to use is difficult as well. Since we're scrapping the BCS, it seems a little silly to use it to rank the teams. Glancing through ESPN.com's bank of polls, there is only one obvious choice: "The Master Coaches Poll."

No, I have no idea why it's "the master" or what separates it from other coaches polls. I only know that it's hard to turn down a master coach.

In a 13-team bracket, the top three teams all receive the first round off, which is fantastic because Ohio State, Louisiana State and Oklahoma, the top three dogs in the master poll, all completely blew their opportunities to ensure themselves a spot in the real BCS title game. Any team that can lose to Colorado certainly deserves a bye in my bracket.

As far as how I choose for the games to actually play out, again there only seems to be one option: flip a penny.

In a series of best two-out-of-three thrillers, Kansas upset West Virginia, Missouri beat Florida, Arizona State upset Georgia, Illinois upset Southern Califorina and Virginia Tech spoiled Hawaii's dreams.

Despite my blatant attempts to cheat, the penny ruled that KU beat top-seed Ohio State in the second round, setting up another epic clash with Missouri after the Tigers upset LSU.

Illinois held off Arizona State despite my temporarily losing said penny, and Virginia Tech took care of Oklahoma in just two flips, eliminating all the bye teams in their first games.

Clearly the week off destroyed their momentum.

Missouri again blasted Kansas - sorry Jayhawks, I honestly didn't even cheat. That game set up a showdown against Illinois, which beat Virginia Tech in the other semi-final.

The Tigers seemed on course to beat the Illini for the second time in the season after winning the first flip. Tails came up not once, but twice, however, and orange and blue fans overwhelmed the field.

Illinois is a three-loss team that lost to a miserable Iowa squad and a hurting Michigan team.

Illinois didn't even win its conference, ruling that in-season race entirely worthless.

Thank heavens for football playoffs.

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