Alabama-Texas game reflects imperfect, unpredictable nature of college football


Two exit-poll thoughts: One Tide is king and one tide is shifting.

Alabama won the national title Thursday night at the Rose Bowl on a star-spangled night with rockets crimson glare.

The game reflected what college football is, has been and will always be: imperfect, unpredictable and fantastically flawed.

Fate, allegedly aligned with Texas, showed its cruelness by giving Colt McCoy the cold (right) shoulder.

You thought you were going out guns blazing, the way Vince Young did four years ago against USC?

Take that.

Welcome to life, so often lacking in the art of playing along.

Yet, what happened to McCoy in the opening minutes is the “you never know” factor that keeps us tuning in. Ohio State Coach Woody Hayes used to say the best team always wins and that every thing else is excuses.

Alabama beat Texas, 37-21, so it leaves Pasadena as crimson conquerors, and it might have been that way had McCoy played four quarters.

What we hoped for -- a game in which both teams got to flex their full muscle -- was obviously none of our business.

The Associated Press, in its final media poll, acknowledged the “what if” factor when it voted to keep Texas at No. 2 behind unanimous No. 1 Alabama.

Alabama needs to apologize for nothing. It’s no fluke that the Southeastern Conference has won four straight Bowl Championship Series national titles and that Alabama will probably enter next season ranked No. 1.

But which team will be No. 2?

What if we said Boise State?

One Tide is king and one tide is shifting. College football is barreling down parallel but contradictory tracks. The better the game gets and more equitable it becomes, the louder the screams to blow it up and start over.

Outrage ensues as ESPN, which takes over the complete BCS package next year, goes giggling to the bank. This season, the network staged its most-watched-ever regular season college football game, USC versus Ohio State, and its most-watched-ever Thursday night game, Oregon versus Oregon State.

Ratings are up, interest is high and the money’s rolling in.

“We clicked off a lot of milestones this year,” ESPN vice president Burke Magnus said.

But does the golden goose need to be goosed?

The congressman from Texas who said the BCS is worse than communism claims the system’s not fair because the central government is not sharing enough wealth with the lower class.

Karl Marx would get a kick out of that one.

There are political action groups on the march, hellbent on bringing to college football the playoff it obviously and so desperately needs. There are legislators in Washington drawing up papers to indict the BCS as illegal.

The system is not working, even though it sort of is.

The BCS is cheating “little guy” schools such as Boise State and Texas Christian even though the men coaching those teams don’t necessarily think so.

The “crooked” system just advanced two teams from outside the cartel to the Fiesta Bowl. Before the BCS, Boise State and Texas Christian had no chance playing in an $18-million-per-team payout game.

And No. 1 Alabama could not have played No. 2 Texas.

Boise State finished 14-0 this season and No. 4 in today’s final AP poll. Broncos Coach Chris Petersen called it “a dream season.” He said, “I have been feeling like the whole BCS formula and process is getting better. It is working.”

Texas Christian Coach Gary Patterson said having two BCS-buster schools in a major bowl had “changed the landscape forever.”

Petersen and Patterson had a chance to stand up on soapboxes to advocate a playoff, yet neither did.

“Show me right now how a playoff is going to make it easier for Texas Christian and Boise State,” Patterson said.

People who demand a playoff never answer the question: What would it do to the bowl system? Would it help it, hurt it or destroy it?

How would a playoff affect college football’s 24-carat diamond regular season?

That highest-ever rating ESPN pulled for USC-Ohio State came not in November, but on Sept. 12. If you had a playoff, like in the NFL, would an undefeated team pull its starting quarterback -- let’s say his name was Peyton Manning -- to save him for the important games?

You can’t demand a playoff without answering: Is it worth the risk? Does Boise State have a better chance winning a national title as a ninth-seeded team in a playoff or a better chance . . . next year?

Petersen’s team returns 21 starters off a 14-0 team that finished No. 4 in this year’s final AP poll. The Broncos are a lock to open next year in the preseason top five and they play Virginia Tech and Oregon State in nonconference games.

Boise State, deep breath here, can win this system’s national title in 2010.

It took time for equality to poke its head out from underground. It took prodding, intervention and the threat of legal action. Ironically, the field is leveling at the same time people are trying to bulldoze it.

The contract ESPN signed keeps the BCS in place through the games of 2013. The fight going on now is about what happens after that. Pro-playoff forces think change makes perfect sense, while the BCS points to dollars and cents.

Controversy swirls, even as college football thrives.

Bill Hancock, the recently hired first executive director of the BCS, said college administrators could decide “tonight” to have a playoff. “But the fact is they would create it at a great loss,” he said.

Is he right or wrong?

The problem is we won’t know until there’s a playoff that proves him right or wrong.

College football must ask: Is it worth taking that Horned Frog leap of faith when the sport is already as good as any sport there is?

Today, the Tide is king and the tide turns.

One wave argues college football has never been better, and one wave argues it’s never been worse.

“Is this the fairest and best way?” Boise State’s Petersen asked before this year’s Fiesta Bowl. “I don’t know.”

Petersen speaks on behalf of many caretakers.

The problem isn’t so much what we know.

It’s what we don’t know.