If you are a fan of college football you really had to love this past weekend. It was the final week of the season, and when you went to bed on Friday night you had no clue of how different things would be when Sunday night rolled around. With the gargantuan changes that shook out of a handful of games on one weekend in December, it made you realize how stupid it was to even be trying to analyze what teams would be in what bowl games way back in early October.
Everybody had the Michigan-Ohio State winner pegged as one team in the BCS national championship game as far back as October. Even when Michigan lost, the Midwest and northern biased sports media starting putting on a big push for a rematch in the national championship game. If that couldn't happen Southern Cal was returned to the throne as the favorite pretender. College football fans have long accepted that those three schools, along with Notre Dame, will always have a leg up on other schools even before a ball is ever snapped. If Notre Dame had beaten Southern Cal a few weeks ago, they would have ended up playing Ohio State.
While all of that speculation wound its way through the last few weeks of the season, a southern school, Florida, was fighting its way through the toughest conference in the land and losing only one game, to a highly ranked Auburn team on the road. Ohio State, Michigan, Southern Cal and Notre Dame had to play only twelve games while Florida had to play a thirteenth, the SEC Championship. That gave them one more opportunity to lose to a very good Arkansas team.
So while everybody north of Nashville and west of Little Rock was putting Michigan or Southern Cal in the big game, there sat the Gators like the proverbial elephant in the living room. You couldn't miss them. They were a very strong team that, like Michigan and Southern Cal, had lost only one game, but nobody wanted to talk about them.
Knowing that a rematch would be a tough sell, Southern Cal was made the "logical" choice to face the Buckeyes in the Arizona desert on Jan. 8. A funny thing happened on the way to the penthouse. The Trojans forgot to play their last game and their wings were clipped by UCLA, a scenario that absolutely nobody counted on. They were now out of the picture with two losses, so, what now? Funny thing, they were not already out of the picture when they lost to Oregon State on Oct. 28. Florida was virtually put out when they lost to Auburn on Oct. 14. Why the double standard?
I am still convinced that I am dead set against a Division 1-A football playoff. An ESPN.com piece that I read last week provided proof that the loyal fans that follow their team religiously week-by-week would be mostly left out of attending playoff games. Ohio State has been allotted 16,000 tickets to the national championship game in Arizona. Of those, 9,900 of the tickets were divided among the athletic department, university administration, the alumni association and the marching band. Only 5,000 tickets were designated for donors and sponsors, likely those with the deepest pockets, and the student body will receive only 1,100 tickets. Ohio State has 52,000 students.
Florida will also get 16,000 tickets even though the article indicated the opponent would "likely be Southern Cal." See what I mean? Oh, by the way, the tickets are $180 each.
I also learned during the 2006 season to never, ever say that Team A should never, ever lose to Team B. I said that when Georgia lost to Vanderbilt. That was before Rutgers became a national power, Wake Forest won the ACC, Michigan barely beat Ball State, and UCLA beat Southern Cal.
Team A or Team B, it does not matter. Every college team has plenty of good athletes, and most of them have pretty good coaches. The game of football is really played between the ears and in the hearts of the players. If said players are not mentally and emotionally ready not just weekly, but play-by-play, said players will find themselves on the losing end, no matter the name of the schools. 2006 proved that axiom more so than ever.