Of all the ridiculous aspects of the BCS system, the conference championship game pisses me off more than any other because it points out the flagrant hypocrisy of the college presidents. In the same time period when they've fought a college football playoff because of the time it would add to the season, they've added conference championship games and a 12th game to the regular season. But that's not the only reason. I think conference championship games are ludicrous because in an era when every team is fighting to get to the BCS, only half of the BCS leagues actually require their teams to play them. So the Big 12, SEC, and ACC teams have to run the gauntlet of their regular season schedule and then slug out yet another game while the three other conference champs cool their heels and wait to advance. That's such a joke. Anyway, on to the preview...in a moment. I'm just getting warmed up.
Conference championships also lead to the absurd concept of divisions. Which leads to the even more absurd concept of divisional championships. Often (as with this year's Big 12 South and many years of the SEC East) the divisions arbitrarily divide the strong and weak teams. If the two or three best teams all come from the same division then you have a pointless match-up of one good team and one weaker team. By virtue of geography or whatever other arbitrary system of division exists (I'm looking at you ACC), the bst teams don't even play. Even better is the conference championship rematch—when one team that has clearly been superior all year gets to play the team everyone knows they're better than yet again. Only they have everything to lose and the team they're playing has nothing to lose. And all of this doesn't even consider the end of rivalry games that used to be huge. For example when I was growing up Tennessee and Auburn was a classic contest. Now? It's relegated to the dustbin of rotating divisional opponents. On to the previews.
USC (-33) at UCLA- I know, I know, the Pac-10 teams play nine conference games so they shouldn't have to play a conference championship game. I disagree. Either every league should play them or none should. But the ninth game is why the Pac 10 has an entire conference slate this week while most conferences are already finished. The most enticing aspect of this game is the red jersey for one timeout trade that Pete Carroll is working. What's astounding to me about this entire gambit is that there's an NCAA rule about this. You could have given a hundred intelligent college football fans the NCAA rulebook and none of them would have thought of what the penalty should be if one team wears the wrong color uniform. Ever. Yet the NCAA, in their infinite wisdom, has considered this eventuality and the penalty that should ensue if this rule is broken. Score one for the NCAA! Determine an adequate way to crown a champion? Fail. Discipline a team for wearing the wrong color uniform? Pass. That's awesome.
Cincinnati (-7.5) at Hawaii- Top sign you never expected your team to advance to a BCS bowl game. Or, perhaps, any bowl game at all: You schedule a trip to Hawaii as your final regular season game. Can you imagine being a Cincinnati fan, giving up six months of going out to bars in northern Kentucky for a good time, and then finding out that you've blown all your money on a trip to Hawaii when you could have saved up and watched your team in the Orange Bowl?
Missouri v. Oklahoma (-17)- I'm hoping Missouri wins just because I think Texas deserves to play for the championship. Which they would have been doing under the SEC tiebreak rules. (Instead of rewarding the division championship to the team that is highest ranked in a three-way tie, the SEC team has to be more than five places ahead of the team that they lost to in the final BCS standings.) Of course now the Big 12 is going to take the time to reexamine their own rules. In the meantime Oklahoma plays Missouri. Question, what if this game was awful and Oklahoma won by a point on the final play of the game. Is there anyway that Texas could re-jump Oklahoma without playing? If so, wouldn't this be perfect?
Boston College v. Virginia Tech- It's truly rare that you get a straight pick'em in a championship game. So embrace this game for what it is, an evenly matched game for a trip to a BCS bowl. Where the winner will lose to someone. This is a rematch of an October game between the two teams which Boston College won 28-23. It's also a rematch of last season's conference championship game won by Virginia Tech. Which was itself a rematch of a regular season game in 2007. Confused yet? All of that to say the teams have now played four times in a 14 months. Boston College leads 2-1 but lost the all-important conference championship game.
Alabama v. Florida (-10)- We got into a discussion the other day about whether an undefeated team from a power conference who was ranked number one in the country had ever been a double-digit underdog on a neutral field. I couldn't think of anyone. Let me know if you can. Basically what this means is that Vegas is going to favor Florida over anyone. (Yes, even Oklahoma or Texas.) As well they should. Florida hasn't won by less than 28 since their loss in the final week of September to Ole Miss. Meanwhile, interestingly enough, Alabama and Florida have only played twice this decade. So there's not a lot of history to go on between these two teams. Could this, please Lord, be Tim Tebow's final SEC game? Has Percy Harvin already played his final SEC game? Time will tell. Until then, I'll be throwing up before this game starts. And really drunk by kickoff. The only thing worse than your own team going 5-7 is your two most hated rivals going 23-1 on the season.