College Football Nation: Wrapping up the '07 season

Eric Avidon

Monday night in New Orleans the curtain closed on the 2007 college football season.

LSU whipped Ohio State in convincing fashion, and will go down on record as the season's champion.

It's a season that was unlike any other, one that, unlike many that simply blend into the rest, will be remembered. And it will be known for two things - it will the year of the upset, and the year the Bowl Championship Series failed completely.

The upsets were wonderful, the theater they produced week after week riveting.

You probably know where you were the moment you heard Appalachian State beat No. 5 Michigan the opening weekend of the season. It was as incredible an upset as there has ever been in college football, the first time a ranked Div. I-A team lost to a Div. I-AA team.

But perhaps what makes that game even more unbelievable is that there were others this season that rival it for sheer shock value.

The two biggest point spread upsets ever took place this season – Syracuse beating Louisville and Stanford topping USC.

That win by the Cardinal heralded a season-long trend, which was the scary plight of the second-ranked.

Beginning with USC's loss, No. 2 teams went 2-7 the rest of the regular season. Of the seven loss, five were to unranked teams.

It's not like No. 1 was any sure thing either. There are years when the team slotted at the top of the preseason polls stays there right up through the end of the season, like last year when Ohio State was the top-ranked team in the preseason, went undefeated and played in the BCS Championship Game before ultimately losing to Florida.

This year, USC started atop the polls, then slipped because of unimpressive wins and LSU took over. The Tigers lost the top spot with an overtime loss to Kentucky, and Ohio State took over. But then the Buckeyes lost to Illinois and LSU was back on top. The Tigers stayed there until losing to Arkansas, at which point Missouri was the new No. 1. That lasted all of one week since the Tigers got crushed by Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game, leaving No. 1 to Ohio State for the second time. The Buckeyes then lost to LSU on Monday, and LSU ends the season at No. 1, it's third time at the top of the polls.

That's seven No. 1 teams, including LSU three times and Ohio State twice.

As fun as all the upsets were, however, they exposed the flaws of the horrendously imperfect BCS and left us with a wholly unsatisfying postseason.

With a revolving door at the top of the polls the season spit out a bunch of teams in the top 10 that all looked pretty similar, some that played tough schedules that wound up with two losses and others that played lesser schedules that ended up with one loss - plus Hawaii, which played a putrid schedule and was undefeated.

And of course the BCS - whose stated goal is to produce a matchup for the championship between the two best teams - only truly works when there are two teams that stand out from the rest.

Ten teams had two losses or fewer. From that morass Ohio State and LSU were plucked to play for the championship, mostly because of where they stood in the human polls, which make up two-thirds of the BCS formula. The computers, which make up the other third, had Virginia Tech No. 1.

But beyond producing a controversial title game - one there's no way of knowing whether the correct two teams were selected without playing it down to those two teams on the field - the BCS produced bad matchups in the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Orange Bowls. The combination of the bowls' contracts with certain conferences and their desire to create traditional matchups over the best ones, led to games with teams ranked an average of 5.25 spots apart. Only one of the four - the Orange - ended up a compelling game.

USC crushed Illinois in the Rose Bowl, winning 49-17, Georgia destroyed Hawaii, 41-10, in the Sugar Bowl, and West Virginia croaked Oklahoma, 48-28, in the Fiesta Bowl.

The BCS backlash began early this year and was unrelenting as it became clearer and clearer that that the uncertain nature of the top 10 from week to week would produce an uncertain poll at the end of the season.

It's something even the coach of the national champions, Les Miles, alluded to in a postgame interview on the field at the Louisiana Superdome late Monday night.

"There may more talented, there may be others, but this is the best team," he said.

Others, he said, without provocation. Others who just as easily could have been in LSU's place in the BCS Championship Game. Others who had just as much right to be there. Others who had the same number of losses - or fewer - but weren't the lottery winner who got to play for the ultimate prize.

This was simply a regular season of beauty combined with a beastly postseason.

It's a year in the life of college football that, unlike so many others which run together in the mind's eye, won't be easily forgotten.

What We Learned

Apparently some of the people with the actual power to effect change to the BCS have been paying attention this season, and some of the conference commissioners and at least one college president with a say in college football's postseason are as unsatisfied with the resolution to the season as most fans.

In the past few days there's been news that commissioners from four of the six BCS conferences would like to look at the possibility of a four-team tournament - a plus-one - to decide the national championship beginning in 2010, after the current television contract expires at the end of next season. Only the Big Ten's Jim Delany and Pac-10's Tom Hansen are reportedly against such a tournament.

"I think we would be remiss if we didn't have that discussion in full and

play it out and see what the ramifications of it are in great detail," ACC commissioner John Swofford told the Football Writers Association of America on Monday. "To see if there are any unintended consequences there.

“What are the pluses, what are the minuses? Really drill into it so we can have the right kind of information."

Under the potential plus-one, the top four teams would be seeded after the regular season, and then using the bowls would play a pair of semifinal games and then a championship.

But ... there's a huge hurdle - the Big Ten, Pac-10 and Rose Bowl, who are stodgy, tradition-obsessed and consistently stand in the way of progress.

Beyond the admission by outgoing BCS comissioner Mike Slive and incoming commissioner Swofford that a plus-one is on the table, on Tuesday Michael Adams, the president of the University of Georgia and the chairman of the NCAA's executive committee, proposed an eight-team tournament.

"I believe the season is already too long and demands too much of athletes and the universities that serve them," he said at a news conference. "But this year's experience with the BCS forces me to the conclusion that the current system has lost confidence and doesn't work."

He called the current relationship between the bowls and conferences "closed-circle decision-making based on traditional contract alliances. It is time to take the ultimate power out of their hands and give it to the student-athletes on the field."

He said he wants a special committee to look into using the Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Orange Bowls as quarterfinals with the winners playing the following week in the semis and the winners of those games playing one week later for the championship.

As far as the length of the season is concerned, Adams said simply scale the regular season back to 11 games, which is where it stood just two years ago before greed led to the addition of a 12th regular season game beginning last year.

Do not be surprised if nothing comes to pass and we remain stuck with the brutal BCS for a while longer. But the simple admission of incompetence is a start. Even that small step has never been taken before. At least we now know that at least some in the position to actually do something about college football's postseason are watching, and listening.

Game of the Week

The season is done, and there will be no games until late next summer.

But that simply means that instead of looking forward it's a good time to look back at some of the biggest stories from the season that was. The spate of upsets and the mess that is the BCS are clearly the biggest of the bunch, but there are others.

- This was the year multiple-quarterback systems became a trend. In recent years the spread option became a popular offense, but after seeing what Florida did in 2006 with Tim Tebow running the spread option and Chris Leak running a more conventional passing attack, a bunch of teams began employing two quarterbacks with different skill sets, forcing opposing teams to prepare two defensive game plans.

Virginia Tech rode the combination of Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon to an ACC championship and Orange Bowl berth, and LSU won the national championship with both Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux leading the way.

- Despite all the upsets, ironically, the final top 10 isn't all that shocking - LSU, USC, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Virginia Tech are all about where they were expected to be. Ohio State outperformed expectations, but only slightly. Missouri is certainly a surprise, and then there's Kansas. No one saw the Jayhawks coming, but out of nowhere they were one of the best teams in the country.

Certainly they benefited from an easy schedule, but a close loss to Missouri and win over Virginia Tech showed they were the real deal. Of all the surprises in the rankings, none is bigger than Kansas' final resting place.

- On the flip side of Kansas is Cal. The Golden Bears were supposed to contend for a national title, and did for a while, rising to No. 2 in the polls after five games. But then came a 1-6 finish before barely beating Air Force in a bowl game. No team was more disappointing. Another couple of teams that disappointed were Miami and Florida State. The two titans of the last 25 years struggled yet again, and now the question arises about when they will ultimately get things turned around.

- Finally, there's the saga of Notre Dame. Despite the belief that the Fighting Irish have always been one of the best, that they've steadily been a top team since their inception, there have been some struggles along the way for Notre Dame. But never has there been a season like this. The Irish wound up 3-9, and had to beat Duke and Stanford at the very end after starting 1-9.

Along the way was the first loss to Navy since Roger Staubach led the Midshipmen. Notre Dame has recruited well under Charlie Weis, including this year when Notre Dame's class is currently ranked the best in the country by, so it bears watching whether this was just a blip for Notre Dame or whether the wretched play continues.

If I Had a Ballot ...

1. LSU

2. Kansas

3. Georgia

4. USC

5. Missouri

6. Ohio State

6. West Virginia

7. Virginia Tech

9. Oklahoma

10. Boston College

That's all, folks. Until next season, of course.

Eric Avidon is a MetroWest Daily News staff writer. He can be reached at or 508-626-3809.