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Defending the Chicken Sandwich

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I don't much care about My Conference Can Beat Up Your Conference arguments. Every conference has things they are good at. The ACC and Big East are great basketball conferences, the Pac-12 dominates any sport that people don't much want to watch and they are our equals at baseball, the Big 12 is good at whatever the hell Texas feels like being good at this year, and the Big Ten is good at being arrogant and looking down on the rest of us. But I don't get my rocks off by pretending to be happy about Alabama winning anything, ever.

But once you start making fun of Chick-Fil-A? Oh, I'm in.

BHGP starts off its playoff rant with an opening salvo against Southern food. Is that really the way you want to play this? A Midwesterner is gonna run smack on food? Southern food is a legitimate cuisine, Midwestern food is something too depressing to contemplate. When I want advice on how much Miracle Whip to put on my bologna on white bread sandwich, I'll call a Big Ten fan, but not until then.

See, that's how crappy midwestern food is. Iowa can even screw up a Chick-Fil-A sandwich.

Hey, look. I do agree that we shouldn't reflexively oppose things just because the Big Ten supports them. That's how nine year olds develop opinions. But there's a reason we instinctively tense up whenever Delaney opens his big mouth: he's usually saying something detrimental to the SEC.

Delaney and the Big Ten have been trying to ruin college baseball for a decade now, primarily because they are tired of getting their asses kicked by, um, us. You know what the Pac-12 did when the SEC cracked their dominance of the sport? They worked to get even better. What did the Big Ten do? They lobbied the NCAA to change the rules and complained of an uneven playing field.

A generation ago, SEC baseball barely existed. The SEC got great because schools invested in their programs, fans supported those programs, and gave the schools even more incentive to improve. Now that we're seeing the fruits of those labors, the Big Ten whines that northern schools can't compete.

Nevermind that four of the sixteen teams in the Supers are from cold weather states. The Big Ten sucks at baseball not because of cold weather but because they suck at baseball and their fans don't care. No one shows up, so no one invests in their program to get better. And because they can't compete, the Big Ten threatens to pick up their ball and go home.

So excuse us for not trusting the Big Ten. Their ideas have usually been self-serving and largely unconcerned with anyone who isn't the Big Ten. While the SEC got good through investment and hard work, the Big Ten simply wants to legislate their way to success. Yeah, Southerners find that obnoxious. Want to be good? Well, get better. You're telling me Ohio St. doesn't have the money to invest in their sports programs?

The Big Ten's been more successful at football, but not by much. The Big Ten has won one and a half titles in the past four decades. Hell, USC has vacated that many titles.

So, faced with the declining quality of Big Ten football, the conference moved quickly and decisively to legislate a system in which it would be easier for the Big Ten to win more titles. We don't like it in baseball (but we're willing to concede things like the uniform start date, which totally sucks by the way), but we're not going to stand for it in football.

Are the Big Ten proposals good ideas? Maybe, but it's hard for us to get to that threshold because we simply don't trust anything Delaney says. The Big Ten's been telling us how stupid and ignorant we are for so long, we're kind of enjoying kicking their asses on the field. We're not inclined to do them a solid.

BHGP does raise the most important and salient point of why the BCS sucks - no one takes its rating system seriously. If the BCS could spit out two teams and have everyone generally agree on the validity of those two teams, we wouldn't be having the playoff discussion at all. All flaws in the BCS, which are multitude, stem from this inability to rate teams in a manner everyone generally accepts as accurate.

The "best four teams" model simply sidesteps the issue by giving the selectors a bigger target. Sure, we still don't have any accurate way to determine the "best four teams", but it's harder to miss the two best ones now.

See, we're not just opposing things just because the Big Ten proposed it, but the Big Ten can't even defend its actual proposals. Delaney has floated three public proposals, two of which are good for college football, and one is just about the Big Ten. Which one do you think he's slavishly devoted to?

Home playoff sites sounds awesome, but the Big Ten backed off from that proposal almost as soon as they made it. Conference champions only? I'm in. It solves the ratings problem and creates objective criteria. It also implicitly asks the question: how can you be the national champion without being your conference champion? Sure, you might be the #2 team, but you're clearly not the #1 team.*

*As I always feel obligated to bring up, Alabama is the national champion and their title is fully legitimate. This was the system in place, and they won it. We're not retroactively going to strip their title. The question is whether, going forward, we really want to reward teams for losing the "Game of the Century"

But the Big Ten backed down from its conference champion model already. Three conference champions and an at-large is pretty much the same proposal as "best four teams" and you're just being different to be ornery. Once you allow one at-large team, you've given up the force of the conference champions model argument. All you're doing with the modified proposal is protecting your constituency. A constituency that, once again, has one and a half titles in forty years.*

*That never stops being funny. We've got more titles than all of the Big Ten combined over the past 40 years.

The one idea the Big Ten's gone all-in on? Protecting the Rose Bowl. Which is nice and all, but I just don't care about the Rose Bowl. That's when my family had supper on January 1st so we wouldn't miss the Sugar Bowl. It's also hard to take seriously a conference that wants to bitch about how warm weather sites are unfair then turn around and do everything it can to protect a game in Pasadena.

I understand that everyone is looking out for the constituency. It drives me up a wall, honestly. No one cares about college football as a whole it seems, and certainly no one in charge does. Even the SEC argument is all about trying to pack in as many SEC schools in the playoffs as possible, as if we are always going to be the dominant conference. That's some serious hubris. Assuming the SEC will always be the top conference is just asking for the system to bite you in the ass in 20 years.

So, no, we're not going to listen to Jim Delaney. He doesn't care about the good of all college football, he cares about preserving his own little bit of power. He cares about the Rose Bowl, it seems, and not much else. Which is fine, but that's not much of a way to bring those of us who have no emotional attachment to a game designed to exclude us on board.

However, I think BHGP's larger point is correct. We need to look at what's good for college football, not what's good for the SEC right now in 2012. That doesn't mean following Delaney, or Slive, who is just as narrow-mindedly pursuing an agenda.

I'm not going to pretend and say that I have the perfect system. I don't have the perfect system. But rejecting every proposal that comes from the other side just because it comes from the other side is just as harmful as supporting every proposal just because it comes from your team. It's not the SEC's game, nor is it the Big Ten's. It's everybody's.

We should advocate for the system we believe crowns a legit champ, preserves the tradition of this great game, and still values the regular season above all else. I'm willing to sit down with BHGP and try and hash out a fair plan and advocate for it on behalf of the fans, not the power brokers who are inevitably going to screw all of us. Let's think about what's good for football and not what's good for the SEC or the Big Ten or the Pac-12. We can meet over an inexpensive yet delicious lunch to hash it out. Everyone's invited.

It doesn't have to be Chick-Fil-A. How about Popeye's?