Tuesday, September 23, 2008

USC vs the SEC

Okay, I know it’s early in the season, and there’s still a lot of games to be played, but I’m going to put this out there because we all know how big of a ship the rankings are and how much it usually takes to change them. So by bringing this up now, hopefully things will align themselves by the end of the season.

While the games are being played, everyone tries to guess what type of season it will end up being, comparing it to past seasons and such. I don’t see the 2007 upset-of-the-week season that we had, mainly because the teams at the top this year look a lot stronger and more experienced. I see it shaping up as maybe a 2003 or 2004 type of season, with a lot of good teams with one or zero losses bunched up at the top.

So here’s what we need to do – all else being equal and if we find ourselves with a season like 2003 or 2004, we need to make sure the title game is USC vs the SEC. Hear me out, because there’s a lot of reasons this needs to happen if the chips fall right.

1) This is a matchup that’s been building for five years now, ever since 2003 when LSU and USC had to split the title. In 4 of the last 5 years (excluding USC vs Texas in 2005), people have wanted to see the USC vs the SEC and haven’t. USC vs LSU in 2003, USC vs Auburn in 2004, USC vs Georgia in 2007 – all would’ve been better matchups than the ones we saw.

2) USC’s victories over the SEC in the last few years have the southern boys itching for some payback. Trojan fans point to shellackings of Auburn & Arkansas in ’02 & ’03, and ’05 & ’06 respectively. SEC fans point out that those teams weren’t tops in the conference and conject that if USC played the conference champion it would be a different story.

3) The victories in the BCS bowl games have been lopsided. USC won BCS games in 4 of the last 5 years by an average score of 41-17, while the SEC has destroyed the teams it has played in their last four BCS games. Fans of USC & the SEC might like the blowouts, but most fans want to see a good, competitive game.

4) Most fans don’t want to see the Big10 in the big games anymore because of Ohio State and Michigan. Does this suck for Penn State and Wisconsin, should they go undefeated or only take one loss this year? Yes. Is it fair? No. But it’s reality.

5) At the same time, most fans don’t really want to see Oklahoma in there either, for two main reasons. First, they remember the 55-12 pasting USC gave them in the 2005 Orange Bowl, and second, Oklahoma is 0-4 in their last four BCS games, losing once to USC and once to the SEC. Other Big12 teams, such as Missouri or Texas would deserve consideration, but most fans would say a USC vs the SEC matchup is much more appealing.

So does this mean we need to set up a USC vs the SEC matchup no matter what? No, I’m not saying that. If there’s two undefeated teams from BCS conferences at the top in the final rankings, they deserve to be in the national championship game. No question. That’s the way it’s been and should be. If USC loses a game, this whole discussion is moot – they don’t deserve to be there. Their schedule is so weak that a loss will kill their arguments against most other BCS conference one-loss teams or maybe even a two-loss SEC team. If USC in undefeated and the SEC champ ends up with two losses while a Big10 or Big12 team has only one loss, it should probably be the one-loss team getting the spot (provided that one-loss team isn’t Ohio State – they should get jumped because no one wants to see a USC-Ohio State rematch). But under the following two circumstances, a USC vs the SEC matchup NEEDS to happen:

• There are multiple undefeated teams at the end of the year, one of them being USC and one being an SEC team. If there’s an undefeated Big12 or Big10 team in there, sorry.

• USC is undefeated and there are multiple one-loss teams at the end of the year, one of them being an SEC team. If there’s a few other one-loss teams from other conferences in there, sorry again.

It would put a lot of things to rest (at least for this season), and we could finally start to move on from the repetitive storylines of the last few years.


Hans said...

first thing- thanks for the effort you put into your posts. This is hands down my favorite College Football discussion stop online.

I think you may be a bit premature in insisting an SEC team would be the best match up against an undefeated USC. Being a Badger, I'd love to argue here that the B10 should not be counted out, but even I have to admit that we (as the B10) need to earn back some national respect thanks to gaffes by our marquee programs. I think the B12, however, still has a lot to offer, especially in Mizzou. I could foresee a season where a one loss Mizzou team could be a much more favorable match for the NC game against an undefeated USC than a one loss SEC team.

Ed Gunther said...

Thanks for the kind words, Hans - they're appreciated.

I agree that there could be some really good matchups involving teams that aren't BCS bowl staples, Mizzou being one of them. They would match up well with USC (I'd love to see Daniel against the Trojan D). In fact, those matchups would be just as interesting as USC vs LSU, USC vs Georgia, or USC vs Florida. But no other matchup could be the major college football event that USC vs the SEC would be.

It would be huge for everyone in college football because it would finally get us past some of the headline-grabbing storylines of the last few years - at the end of that game, one of the two ("USC dominance" or "SEC dominance") would effectively be put to rest. Then we could move on to talking about something else. I just think that those two topics have been harped on for far too long, even more so because they keep circling each other but never clashing. At the risk of ending with an internet cliche, there can be only one.

James said...

here, here!

Anonymous said...

sounds like Colin Cowherd's show on 9/23

Ed Gunther said...

Hmmm... how do you figure? I went to his site and listened to his college football bits, and he seemed to argue a totally different point - that USC shouldn't be allowed in the championship game if other teams are also undefeated because their Pac10 schedule is so weak. He also went on about fairness and talked about non-conf schedules, but I think the issue he was talking about was noticeably different. Sure there might have been similarities between his topic and mine, but those can be chalked up to coincidence and the limited number of viewpoints you can take looking at similar situations.

LeakBrewerGator said...

I agree that the Big XII is a conference with some great teams in it this year. However, if both of them produce an undefeated team along with USC, there's no question the SEC team would get the NC bid (deservedly so.)

I'm a little biased, but I would love to see a USC-Florida match-up. USC has one of the fastest defenses and the top secondary and Florida is propably the fastest offense in CFB.

It is early, but it's fun to speculate!

Anonymous said...

All of the talk about who WE want to see play for the championship or who WE think deserves to play is a little crazy. It is a product of a broken system. NFL, NBA or MLB fans don't spend a lot of time on this kind of talk. If we had a true national championship of college football we would let the players and coaches decide who deserves to play. It is time to hold the NCAA accountable to its mission, which "is to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner." It is time to do what it takes to have a playoff that would not use polls. State high school associations and pro sport leagues have got it figured out. It can happen with some outside the box thinking.