DeFranks: Championships hold no weight (Nov. 30)
Matthew Defranks | Friday, November 30, 2012
Conference championships were always something teams set as a preseason goal. It was a source of regional pride, a badge of honor for the teams that roughed up the team literally around them.
But this year, they don’t matter so much.
With the exception of the SEC Championship game, all the others hold little to no weight and carry minimal national interest. So, yes, the country’s eyes will be on the Georgia Dome to watch No. 2 Alabama battle No. 3 Georgia. They won’t even bat an eyelash at the ACC Championship that features Florida State and insert-eligible-ACC-Coastal-Division-team-here.
It seems that this year, conference championships have been more of a preliminary bowl game than a game that carries any real importance. Let’s just start with the BCS conference title games.
In the ACC, it really seemed like no one wanted to be there. Coming in to the season, Florida State eyed this game as a mere stepping-stone on their way to a possible national title. But one bump in the Tobacco Road and a loss to Florida have made this a matchup of the underwhelming Seminoles and Georgia Tech.
Yes, Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets are 6-6 overall and a mediocre 5-3 in the conference. But thanks to NCAA missteps by both North Carolina and Miami, the Ramblin’ Wreck punched their ticket to Charlotte despite a three-touchdown drubbing from Middle Tennessee State on Sept. 29. Georgia Tech is like your fat little brother that you dreaded playing two-on-two basketball with. They aren’t very good and they shouldn’t be playing.
Does this team really deserve a shot at the Orange Bowl? If Georgia Tech does not deserve an Orange Bowl berth, maybe their possible opponent from the Big East deserves it even less.
Not a single Big East team is ranked in the current BCS Standings, behind the likes of Kent State, Northern Illinois, Utah State and San Jose State. And this is all with two 9-2 teams under their belt.
The voters – and computers – have treated this conference even worse than a mid-major one. Even when Louisville was undefeated, the Cardinals were still behind a handful of SEC schools simply because the Big East is populated by 3-8 South Florida, 4-7 Temple and 5-6 Connecticut.
For the second consecutive season, the Pac-12 champion may not be the best team in its conference it just won. Last season, USC, who finished ranked in the top 10, was held out of the championship game because of NCAA sanctions.
This year, the Trojans underperformed and Stanford upset Oregon, setting up a Stanford-UCLA matchup this weekend that just happened … last weekend, when Stanford topped UCLA.
The argument can be made that the Pac-12 championship was two weeks ago, when the Cardinal and Ducks played to an overtime slugfest.
But instead, the conference and its television partners will put Stanford and UCLA on a pedestal reserved for a BCS champion Friday night. Wait, Friday night? Yeah, a big-time college football game will be played on a Friday night. Come on Pac-12, have some respect for yourselves.
In the Big Ten, preseason top-10 Wisconsin somehow managed to sneak into the conference championship game behind a stellar 4-4 league record and 7-5 overall mark. Why? Because undefeated Ohio State and rebuilding Penn State above them are both ineligible.
The worse thing is that conference championships, as watered down as they are now, will hold more weight in the future, when a four-team playoff is in use.
In a four-team playoff, it is likely imperative to win your final game (at the very least), which, in most cases, will be for a conference crown. As conference realignment continues to be all the rage, leagues will be become a collection of teams in the same region rather than a true conference.
Teams vying for the conference title will likely not play in the regular season and the divisions within a league could be vastly different, creating an imbalance.
So while conference championships matter to schools like UCLA, Georgia Tech and Wisconsin, they should not matter to the rest of us.
Contact Matthew DeFranks at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.