"Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain - and most fools do."
We find ourselves on the eve of the kickoff of the 2013 football season in what will be the final phase of the revolutionary yet inherently flawed experiment that was the Bowl Championship Series. Teams across the country will begin a quest for the last Coaches' Trophy that will ever be presented, which will end on the legendary field of The Rose Bowl in Pasadena at the conclusion of the final BCS Championship Game.
While some level of controversy has certainly remained throughout this 15 year era of college football, there was not nearly as much as the dishonest media personalities would have us believe. A media that was obviously motivated by their lust for the billion dollar payday that TV rights to broadcast a playoff will provide.
In the 15 years of the BCS era, there were only four seasons in which there were truly legitimate grievances with the system: Miami and Washington in 2000, LSU and USC in 2003, Auburn in 2004, and LSU and Oklahoma State in 2011. An argument could be made for Oregon in 2001 as well, but given the historical dominance of that Miami team throughout the 2001 season, it is unlikely that the results of the lopsided Championship Game against Nebraska would have been much different had the Ducks faced those mighty Hurricanes.
Whether there were 4 of 5 "controversies", however, no one can honestly deny that the BCS era was a groundbreaking improvement and much more satisfying method of crowning a champion than the previous system, with frustrating conference bowl tie ins which constantly prohibited the top teams from even having a possibility of playing each other. The BCS set out to remove the conference tie ins and provide a true championship game between #1 and #2 regardless of which conference those teams came from. As a result, we've been rewarded with many outstanding championship and bowl games that we would never have been able to see otherwise.
While there may have sometimes been a third and rarely a fourth team that could feel as though they deserved an opportunity to play for the championship, there was at least an honest attempt to finally identify the two most accomplished teams and deliver to college football fans a long deserved National Championship Game. The BCS protected the integrity of the regular season as well as the bowl system, while ensuring a Title Game that would always pit two great teams against each other in which the winner would walk off the field with a well earned Championship Trophy. Fans no longer had to wait until the following days to find out which team or teams the voters elected to claim a Title.
But to be absolutely sure that all worthy teams would have a shot at the title, going to a true Final Four Playoff format appears to be the perfect solution. Unfortunately, there is little doubt that it is only a matter of time until the profit driven media pushes to expand the playoff to 8 or 16 teams. This would be a most destructive development, as such a system would destroy the very fabric of what makes college football so unique: the importance of the regular season, where every week is filled with virtual playoff games.
Not surprisingly, however, the media has already eliminated the strongest aspect of the BCS, the inclusion of unbiased and impartial computer rankings to decide which teams are truly worthy to play for the Championship. Instead of simply keeping the BCS formula and taking the top 4 teams from those rankings, the powers that be decided to implement a completely human "selection committee". This is perplexing and disappointing because the biggest weakness of The BCS was always the inherently biased human polls to begin with. Relying completely on humans that are inherently biased will inevitably result in future controversy. Of course, this will provide unlimited fodder for the media to continue to preach the importance of expansion to ensure that every team has a "fair shot".
But there is no doubt, the media doesn't truly want to fix what they claim is broken. They simply want to continue to fan the flames of discord so that continued expansion of their playoff industry will seem the only solution. Those who know their history realize that there has never been a scenario in which 5 or more teams truly had a valid claim as a deserving Title candidate. Including that many teams in the future is purely profit driven, and is not concerned with improving the game. In fact, such expansion will only diminish the spirit that makes Saturdays the most exciting day of the week every fall.
As a member of LSU's Tiger Nation, it is impossible to avoid mentioning the injustice of The Rematch in 2011, which I discussed in lengthy detail in my Inaugural State of the Nation. The Rematch was the media's death stroke to end the BCS once and for all. This was the culmination of a decade long campaign which started when the Associated Press broke from the BCS and split the 2003 National Championship between USC and, coincidentally, LSU.
It was clear that a controversy such as The Rematch could be the checkmate to bring their billion dollar playoff industry to reality, and the plan was implemented to perfection. As a member of Tiger Nation, one can only hope that LSU is not once again on the losing end of another power play when the media makes their inevitable push to expand their billion dollar playoff industry in the next few years.
Throughout the BCS experiment, few teams have achieved more, while earning less praise, than the LSU Tigers.
After winning 34 games in three years for the second time under Coach Les Miles, LSU has been picked as only the 3rd best team in the SEC West, and possibly even 4th, as many consider Ole Miss a dark horse to challenge Alabama and Texas A&M within the division. While LSU's schedule is daunting, and may very well derail any championship aspirations, expect LSU to be a vastly improved team over the inconsistent group we saw last year. There is a brutal 8 game stretch without a bye to open the season which will likely result in at least one loss, and I actually believe LSU may very well be 6-2 after that stretch.
If LSU leaves Dallas with a win over a dangerous TCU team with a very good quarterback and always strong defense, which I think they will, there are still at least five more teams in September and October with the potential to beat the Tigers, three of which will be on the road. I believe that Georgia's veteran offense, led by Heisman candidates Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley, will likely be able to exploit LSU's lack of experience on the edge of the defensive line and get a hard fought win in Athens.
Many experts are picking the Ole Miss game as a potential loss for LSU. As beat up as LSU will likely be at the end of October, Ole Miss will find themselves at the end of an equally brutal stretch. Because of LSU's depth and history of successfully dealing with such gauntlets, I don't think the Rebels will be able to get the best of LSU this year. But you can be sure that Oxford will be electric for the game.
That leaves a road game against a recently tough Mississippi State team with a very good quarterback, a strong and experienced Florida team with an elite defense, and a dangerously talented Auburn team that I believe will be much improved that too many SEC fans are forgetting about as potential losses in that stretch. Just as Tiger Nation feels that the country has forgotten about the Bayou Bengals, the same could be said about those those Tigers that roam The Plains. Don't overlook Auburn.
But no matter what happens early in the season, I firmly believe LSU will not lose a game in November.
A bye week to rest up after an epic road trip to Tuscaloosa should have the Tigers ready for a two game final stand in Tiger Stadium against Texas A&M and Arkansas. Even before Johnny Manziel's autograph drama broke out, Texas A&M was poised to take a step back, although their schedule is so weak there isn't really anywhere for them to fall. But even if Manziel is still on the field at that point, a weak defense and depleted OL will make it even more likely that LSU will shut down Johnny Manziel the way they did in 2012, as the Heisman winner had by far his worst game of the year at home against the Tigers.
Arkansas is always dangerous on a short Thanksgiving week, but simply has too much ground to make up as Brett Beliema tries to change the culture from the fallout of the Bobby Petrino and John L. Smith tenure.
Which leaves Alabama.
There is no denying that Alabama will once again be a great team. They continue to recruit more talent than any other team in the country, and those prospects are developed by one of the best coaching staffs in college football. As if they needed any advantage, given their schedule, there is little standing in their way of a third national title game in a row.
But as much as has been made about the great defenses, star running backs, and AJ McCarron over the past two years, the key to Alabama's run in 2011 and 2012 was their offensive line. It was quite possibly the best group in college football history, and it paved the way for Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacey, TJ Yeldon, and most importantly AJ McCarron to operate virtually untouched for the past two years. It also gave Alabama's defense all the edge a defense could ask for as they generally built up huge halftime leads and controlled time of possession. While Alabama certainly has plenty of talent to replace the 3 All Americans they lost to the NFL Draft, the chemistry is almost certain to be less than it was, especially given that former OL coach Jeff Stoutland is now coaching in the NFL.
While the game will be played in front of a rabid Tuscaloosa crowd, the bye week before should give LSU the time they need to rest and heal up after such a brutal early stretch. I expect the Tigers to come out refreshed and eager to execute another aggressive game plan the way the past two times in Tiger Stadium, and in Bryant Denny Stadium in The Game of the Century.
There is no question that yet again the results of this game will go a long way in determining how this LSU football team is remembered. I expect the Tigers to acquit themselves more than admirably, and will earn the honor of playing in the final series of BCS Bowls as at at large selection.
The Road to Pasadena:
Even if LSU beats Alabama, however, The Tide's schedule makes winning the West at 11-1 a very real possibility. Bama is the team to beat until someone actually does it, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Georgia will not come up short a second year in a row in the SEC Championship Game and will prevent the 3 peat by beating The Tide in Atlanta.
What's going to be very interesting, is what will happen if the SEC Champion has one loss but there is more than one undefeated team left, which I think is very likely. I think it is almost a certainty that Ohio State and Louisville will go undefeated. Ohio State looks to be improved after coming off of an undefeated season in a weak Big 10, and Louisville's schedule is almost laughable. Besides that, though, they are both actually very good teams with great coaches and legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates at quarterback.
I do believe a 1 loss SEC Champion would jump either of those two teams, but they would not jump Clemson or the winner of the Stanford/Oregon game if they manage to run the table.
Clemson is going to be a very good team. Tahj Boyd is one of the best quarterbacks in the country, which Tiger Nation saw first hand last year in the Chick Fil A Bowl as he had his way with our defense. They play two strong SEC teams, Georgia week 1 and South Carolina in the last week in the season, with a big ACC clash against Florida State as well as the ACC Championship Game. If Clemson goes undefeated against that schedule, they will not be jumped by a 1 loss SEC Champion. So pay close attention to the Clemson/Georgia game Saturday night while LSU battles TCU and Alabama abuses an unranked Virginia Tech team. If Clemson wins, I believe they will go undefeated.
But keep an eye out west. I believe Stanford is the best team in the country, and is my pick to hoist the final Coaches' Trophy against the winner of the Clemson/Georgia game. While Oregon is once again the favorite to win the Pac 12, I fear that many are painfully underestimating how much Chip Kelly's departure is going to hurt that team.
While they have more talent than anyone in the Pac 12, Saints fans saw first hand last year how devastating the loss of a leader like Sean Payton can be. Arkansas fans also watched the Razorbacks completely collapse from a national title contender once Bobby Petrino left town in disgrace. Oregon will still win 10 games, but Kelly's presence will be missed, and Stanford will be the team that takes advantage of his absence. Look for the Cardinal to close the book on the BCS at The Rose Bowl in Pasadena next January.
Whether you agree or disagree with my thoughts, no one can dispute that it will be a very exciting conclusion to college football's Great Experiment that was The Bowl Championship Series.
I have no doubt many of you will have opinions on my predictions, and I welcome any feedback. And perhaps some of my fellow Tiger fans would care to share your own ideas on what is in store for the upcoming season as well. I can assure you I would enjoy reading them.
"Do not fear mistakes. You will know failure. Continue to reach out."