CALGARY - Mega-weird.
That’s all I can say about the constant chatter and seemingly inevitable direction U.S. college football is headed.
I still don’t quite understand the attraction of the mega-conference. But both the SEC, with its official acceptance of Texas A&M earlier this week, and the ACC, which added Pitt and Syracuse last week, have taken huge steps in that direction.
I get that people want the whole playoff structure to determine victors. It’s inherent in us that we want champions to be determined by some sort of post-season, where top-ranked teams clash to be crowned kings after knocking off lesser lights along the way.
But NCAA pigskin is a different creature — always has been.
In no other North American sport are there bowl games that have been ongoing for 50, 75, 100 years. No other sport boast rivalries of such stunning tradition.
Fact is the annual four-month debate over who belongs atop the polls and in what bowl game and playing for the national championship is exactly what makes each season exciting south of the border.
Take, for instance, the shuffle of the polls this week that saw LSU nudge Oklahoma from the top perch to capture the No.-1 ranking. LSU, as the No.-2 team on the road last Saturday, defeated No. 16 West Virginia 47-21, while top-ranked Oklahoma held off unranked Missouri 38-28 at home. Voters decided the LSU victory was more impressive than that of the Sooners.
Agree? I don’t.
Missouri is a formidable rival of Oklahoma, and nothing gets an underdog more ramped up than the possibility of upsetting a rival, especially one atop the entire 13,092-team NCAA. Meanwhile, West Virginia is in the so-called lesser Big East and arguably plays more weak sisters than Missou might.
Maybe you’re rolling your eyes my way. Maybe you catch my drift.
But that’s the beauty of U.S. college football — the constant debate keeps it relevant and on the map, running at a much higher level than it otherwise might be.
So I’m left stumped, in particular, by A&M’s move east. They say the SEC is the top football conference, giving the Aggies that much more to be gained from victories.
But I’ll call bullcrap, given the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State in the Big 12. How big of a difference is it than playing SEC programs such as LSU, Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn week-in and week-out? A small one, if that.
Are you ready for a QB controversy at No. 1 LSU? Jordan Jefferson has rejoined fellow QB Jarrett Lee and the top-ranked Tigers, and will see action when they need athleticism at the position since felony second-degree battery charges were reduced to a misdemeanour for his part in a bar fight … No. 8 Nebraska plays its first-ever conference game in the Big 10, taking on host No. 7 Wisconsin in a game with huge ramifications. Think conference record, national contention and Heisman consideration for the two QBs, the Cornhuskers’ Taylor Martinez and the Badgers’ Russell Wilson … Expect Boise State to kick the snot out of Nevada on the Idaho capital’s blue carpet. The No. 4 Broncos would love to exact revenge on the Wolfpack, who cut short the BCS aspirations of the Broncos — then on a 24-game winning streak — with a stunning 34-31 OT win last November.
FOURTH AND GOAL
Neutral-site alert! No. 14 Texas A&M takes on No. 18 Arkansas, but it’s being held in A&M’s backyard at Dallas’ Cowboys Stadium. (Why not play it in New Orleans if the Hogs are the home side?) So treat this one like a home game for Texas A&M. It should be a tight one, but if you’re betting, take the home, er, visiting side. I mean, take the Aggies. My co-worker, Calgary Sun’s Scott Mitchell, says so … For the record, my picks went 2-of-4 last week to run the season total to 11-of-16.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Baylor -3.5 at Kansas St. (Sat.)
Unlike suspended Miami, which had nothing to play for in losing to K-State last week, Baylor has QB Robert Griffin III gunnin' for the Heisman. PICK: BAYLOR