Well, college football’s regular season, save for the annual Army-Navy game, came to an end on Saturday.  Five teams in Division I finished the year undefeated, and two of them — Alabama and Texas — will play in the Bowl Championship Series National Championship game on January 7 in Pasadena, Calif.  The other three — Cincinnati, Texas Christian, and Boise State — all received nice parting gifts (Cincinnati was invited to play Florida in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, while TCU and Boise State will play each other in the Fiesta Bowl), but will not be a part of the national title picture.

We really don’t have a problem with those three teams being excluded.  After all, only two teams can play in the national championship game, and Alabama and Texas are probably the two most deserving.  But pardon us if we cannot get too excited about the game itself.  First off, the game is a month away, which is one of the true travesties of the bowl system.  After weeks of seeing teams play every weekend, they now have to wait 30 days before playing the biggest game of the year.  Secondly, Texas has no been playing all that well for the last several weeks.  Saturday night’s win over Nebraska in the Big 12 title game had an exciting finish that was preceded by 59 minutes and 59 seconds of truly awful offensive football (Texas kicker Hunter Lawrence kicked the game-winning field goal with one second remaining on the clock to give the Longhorns a 13-12 win). Third, Alabama is probably the least sexy top-ranked team we have seen in a long time.  Their defense is fantastic, but their offense is not exactly powerful.  In fact, outside of tailback Mark Ingram (pictured above and our favorite to win the Heisman Trophy), there is very little to write home about on the offensive side of the ball.

But the main reason that we can’t get too terribly excited about this match-up is because it seems so pre-ordained.   (more…)

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In 1992, the Southeastern Conference added the University of Arkansas, giving the league 12 teams.  The SEC then divided itself into two divisions, and created a need for a an SEC championship game.  And for the majority of those 17 seasons, at least one team has entered that game with a legitimate shot at playing in the national championship game.  This year, for the second straight season, both teams enter the game with the knowledge that if they win they will play for the national championship in January.  And once again, those two teams are Alabama and Florida.  But there are other games on the docket this weekend as well, including a full slate of NFL games.  Here is what’s on tap for this weekend.

1. The SEC Championship Game is at 4 p.m. on Saturday and will be must see viewing for any college football fan.  Tim Tebow (top left) and the Florida Gators will be taking on Mark Ingram (top right) and the Alabama Crimson Tide for the SEC title as well as a spot in the national championship game.  These two teams met in the SEC title game last year, with Florida pulling out the victory and securing a place in the national title game (a game they eventually won against Oklahoma). Alabama has been waiting for a full year to avenge that loss, and we think they’ll do just that.  But it should be a good game down in Atlanta on Saturday.

2. The SEC championship is not the only game on the schedule this weekend, as the Big 12, ACC, and Big East will all have their champions crowned on Saturday as well.  In the Big East, Cincinnati will take on Pittsburgh with the winner likely going to the Rose Bowl, although the Bearcats still have an outside chance at playing for the national championship.  Texas will take on Nebraska in the Big 12 title game.  A win by the Longhorns would put them into the national championship game against the winner of the Alabama-Florida tilt.  And finally Georgia Tech will take on Clemson in the ACC championship game. (more…)

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The long national nightmare that is baseball season mercifully came to an end on Wednesday night as the New York Yankees dispatched the Philadelphia Phillies four games to two to win the franchise’s 27th World Series title.  Congratulations to them, but more importantly, congratulations to you, the non-sports fan.  As you well know there are 162 baseball games in the regular season, with teams playing anywhere from five to seven games per week from the beginning of April until the end of September.  Then tack on another month for the playoffs, and baseball has successfully consumed the life of your sports fan nearly 2/3 of the year.  It’s downright unfair.  But Wednesday was your day of jubilee.  Your time to rejoice.  Baseball has shuffled off this mortal coil, not to be seen again until February, when pitchers and catchers report to spring training.  The regular season will not start until April, and although college basketball season slots in nicely into that void, that sport is not nearly the unrepentant time-suck that our national pasttime has become.  So take this time to enjoy yourselves, non-sports fan, and pour yourself a drink.  You’ve earned it.

That said, there is still football this weekend.  Saturday afternoon will feature two traditional rivalry games (one in Happy Valley, Pa., and the other in Tuscaloosa, Ala.) that will pique the attention of the college football fan.  While Sunday, once again, belongs to the NFL.  Here’s what’s on the slate  for this weekend.

1. The Alabama Crimson Tide will host the L.S.U. Tigers on Saturday afternoon in a game that will have national championship implications.  Alabama is unbeaten, and win over the Tigers will all but assure them of a spot in the SEC Championship game.  L.S.U. has one loss, and will need to win all the games left on their schedule (including a likely rematch with Florida, the only team to defeat the Bayou Bengals thus far this year, in the SEC title clash) in order to have any shot and playing for the national championship in January.  This annual game has been dubbed the Saban Bowl as Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban (pictured) used to be the head man in Baton Rouge.  (more…)

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This much is clear.  If Florida and Alabama win out until the Southeastern Conference championship game, and Texas wins the rest of their games as well, the Longhorns will face the SEC champion in the national championship game.

But a loss by any of those teams, particularly Texas, would open up opportunities for several other teams currently on the outside of the national championship race.  In addition to Texas, Florida, and Alabama, Iowa, Cincinnati, Texas Christian, and Boise State are also undefeated.  After their shocking thumping of USC on Saturday night, Oregon is currently the highest-ranked team with a loss. And the team that Oregon lost to this season was quarterback Kellen Moore (pictured) and Boise State.

So say Texas loses to Texas A&M or Kansas or any of the teams left on their schedule.  Florida and Alabama have to play each other, so one of them will lose.  Next in line would be either Iowa or Cincinnati.  Iowa has made a habit of winning close games, and they are only three games away from completing a perfect season.  But one of those games is at Ohio State, and although this has not been a banner year for the Buckeyes, we think they have a damn good shot at beating the Hawkeyes in Columbus.  Cincinnati has had a great year, and we have wondered about their national championship aspirations before, but their two biggest challenges of the season (home to West Virginia on the Nov. 13 and at Pittsburgh on Dec. 5.) still loom on the schedule.

So say Iowa and Cincinnati both lose.  Then things get interesting. (more…)

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We had a feeling that this was going to happen.  But it doesn’t make it any less disappointing.

The other shoe finally dropped as the NCAA ruled yesterday that Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant will remain suspended for the remainder of the football season for violating the organization’s ethics policy when he lied to NCAA investigators about having dinner at Deion Sanders’ house.  We talked about this a couple of weeks ago when the suspension was originally announced.  As way of review,  Bryant’s suspension comes as result of an investigation the NCAA was conducting regarding a meeting between Bryant and former N.F.L. star Deion Sanders.  Apparently the two met up at an athletic facility outside Dallas this past summer, where they  worked out for a little while.  After the workout, Sanders invited Bryant to his house for dinner, and Bryant accepted, bringing his girlfriend along.  And according to these reports, that is all that happened.  But the NCAA’s rules are so cryptic that many working in university athletic departments don’t know what constitutes a violation, let alone the players themselves.  Bryant was questioned by NCAA investigators, who told him they were there to look into possible rules violations that could affect Bryant’s eligibility.  The investigators then asked Bryant if he had ever been to Deion Sanders’ house.  In a panic, he said no, but Sanders had already told the NCAA that Bryant and his girlfriend had come to dinner the previous summer.  Now accepting an invitation to dinner at Sanders’ house was not an NCAA rules violation, but Bryant has been suspended for the lie.

Perhaps some punishment was in order, but suspending Bryant for the rest of the season strikes us as being patently unfair. Especially when you look at the way the NCAA has handled these situations in the past.

— In August of this season, Alabama university officials and the NCAA investigated whether linebacker Jerrell Harris, received a laptop computer from a man named Curtis Anderson, who claims that he is not a fan or a booster for the Crimson Tide. Crimson Tide teammates Julio Jones and Mark Ingram were also involved with Anderson, as the businessman paid for a fishing trip that all three players took part in.   (more…)

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So what did we learn this week in college football?

Well, for starters, we found out that Florida and Texas may not be as good as many thought they would be entering the season.  Florida needed a last second field goal by Caleb Sturgis to beat an unimpressive Arkansas team 23-20 at home, while third-ranked Texas got all they could handle from an Oklahoma team that has been decimated by injuries (reigning Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford injured his right shoulder for the second time this season in the Longhorns 16-13 victory over the Sooners.) Alabama, ranked 2nd behind Florida, took care of South Carolina at home, and is beginning to look like the best team in the country, while fourth-ranked Virginia Tech lost to Georgia Tech in a game that definitely cost the Hokies a chance at the national championship and may have cost them their shot at the ACC championship.

So where does that leave us in the race for the national championship?  Alabama and Florida, if all goes as scheduled, will play each other for the SEC championship in December, where one will win and play for the national title, while the other will lose and most likely be eliminated from national championship contention.  Texas looked so bad against Oklahoma that the Longhorns can no longer be counted on to go unbeaten the rest of the way (Texas plays at Missouri and at Oklahoma State in the next two weeks, but we believe that the game the Longhorns will lose will be on Nov. 21 against Kansas.)  So who faces the SEC champion in the national championship game?

Let’s round up the unusual suspects. (more…)

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One had to feel bad for the average college football fan on Saturday night.  Throughout the country, sports junkies bartered with their signifigant others in order to stay home Saturday night to watch LSU take on Florida in Baton Rouge.  You could hardly blame them.  LSU and Florida were both undefeated, Gators quarterback Tim Tebow was declared medically cleared to play just hours before the contest after suffering a concussion two weeks ago, and the 8 p.m. kickoff time promised a Mardi Gras-type atmosphere at vernerable Tiger Stadium.  This game had all the makings of a classic, so you traded a trip to visit your in-laws, or agreed to go to a couple’s baby shower next weekend, or worse yet, surrendered an NFL Sunday in order to make sure you could watch the game Saturday night.

And what happened?  Florida and LSU played one of the sloppiest, most banal, and utterly interminable big college football games in recent memory.  Florida beat LSU 13-3 in a game as drab and unsatisfying as this season of Mad Men.  Florida seemed content to run the ball up the middle all game long, while LSU could not muster any offense at all.  The reputations of both teams took a hit as televisions across the country flipped over to a rerun of Law & Order: SVU before the fourth quarter even began.

Florida’s victory means that they remain No. 1 in the country, while LSU’s loss all but eliminated the Bayou Bengals from the national championship discussion. And that’s a good thing, because we don’t know if we could handle ever seeing the disaster that LSU calls an offense on the national stage again. (more…)