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BCS Special Article Wisconsin: Sanctioned Destiny

Rarely do stars align so perfectly for a team as they did for 2012 Wisconsin.  When has a football team played as poorly as the Badgers and garnered a spot in not just any BCS Bowl, but the “Granddaddy of Them All”?    Wisconsin has looked less Rosy this year than their previous two trips which both ended in losses to Oregon last year and Gordon Gee’s crowned “Little Sisters’ of the Poor” Texas Christian in 2011.  The NCAA has sent a quick backhand directed to Penn State and Ohio State this season…leading up to the first ever unranked representative in Pasadena since the BCS’s conception.

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It’s been like climbing a mountain for Wisconsin this season.  It started with a #12 ranking in the AP Poll.  Two weeks later, Wisconsin lost to Oregon State and in one of the greatest examples of college football’s “What have you done for me lately?” mentality of the present day plummeted from the rankings and down the mountainside.  They began their climb back up by winning 5 our of 6 and seeing a #25 next to “Wisconsin” in the first BCS rankings.  Losing 3 of the next four left the Badgers at 7-5 (4-4 in conference) and third in the Leaders division.  The Badgers were back at base camp…staring at the summit from far below.  On the plus side, running back Montee Ball broke the all-time touchdowns record this season with 82 times hitting pay dirt.  On the downhill side, if one were to count overtime losses as losing by zero, the Badgers 5 losses would be a combined 6 points.  Including the Badgers 3 overtime losses, the average margin of defeat in their fives losses in still a meager 3.8 points. Every loss other than a 21-14 overtime affair with Ohio State ended with the Badgers three points short.  Teams have probably encountered such an unfortunate plethora of close encounters where a single call by a referee, penalty, dropped pass, or missed assignment may have lost the contest.  Wisconsin could possibly be 3,4, or why not 5 games better should one little thing have one its way.  But how did a 7-5 team get to the Rose Bowl?  There are two men to thank: Jim Tressel and Joe Paterno.  These two men, fantastic coaches and people, committed a common error which caused much ado among the NCAA trustees.  Paterno and Tressel both kept a secret from the NCAA and were apprehended later with their hands firmly in the muck of crimes past.  Tressel had kept quiet about his players selling their own memorabilia for tattoos and Joe Paterno had failed to report the child abuse scandal of former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky.  Because of both men’s failures to comply with the NCAA and report these breaches of NCAA rules, the Ohio State and Penn State programs received post season bans for the 2012 Bowl Season (for Penn State the sanctions are ripe through the end of the 2016-2017 season).  Thus, despite finishing third in the Leaders division, Wisconsin represented the division in the Big Ten Conference Championship Game where Nebraska proceeded to lay an egg.  The Badgers had fallen to the Corn Huskers 30-27 in Lincoln earlier this season, but ran for 539 yards en route to a 70-31 mauling of Nebraska…suddenly another low has crept into Madison.  Wisconsin Head Coach Bret Bielema has decided to elope for the SEC: location Fayetteville.  The Razorpigs gave Bielema a nice hunk of SEC pie and obviously Bielema isn’t turning down pie; especially when being given out by a University as desperate as Arkansas in a conference as successful as the SEC.   What’s next for Wisconsin?  Well, for the players there is nothing ahead except for BCS #6 Stanford.  For the football program as a whole?  You’d better believe Wisconsin would welcome Snooki to the sideline to coach the Rose Bowl long before Bielema is Jumping Around come New Years Day.  We’ve seen this same old song and dance a few years ago when an out-manned, out-motivated, and out-disciplined team had to play after New Years Eve: #3 Cincinnati was trounced by Tim Tebow in his final game for the University at Florida in the 2009 Sugar Bowl as Brian Kelly bounced for Notre Dame.  Suddenly, Wisconsin finds itself leaderless and will face one of the country’s best come January 1st.  Wisconsin seemed destined to reach this Rose Bowl; however, the odds are now stacking themselves against the Badgers.  Just as the odds of a team going 4-4 in conference making the Rose Bowl seemed to hover around 0%; perhaps it is sanctioned destiny for that same team to climb to the peak from the doldrums once more and win “The Grandaddy of Them All”

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2012: Welcome to the Forum of BCS Advocates (FBA)

Welcome back to the Forum of BCS advocates…it’s still just myself sitting here in my world of love for the BCS system, but eventually someone may join me on planet “What the fuck is he thinking?”.  While loneliness is nothing to be proud of, my one man regime is proudly laughing at the world today as college football prepares to unveil its bundle of joy in just two short years.  Why am I so joyous when the BCS seems to once again be panicking with all these damnable one-loss teams eager to get to say “Why didn’t I go to the National Championship Game?  I would’ve won!”…simply because 2012 proves how obnoxiously futile a 4-team playoff really is.  Imagine a 4-team playoff…it would most likely end with Notre Dame, Alabama, Florida, and….Oregon?  Kansas State?  At least the Wildcats may represent the champions of their conference.  Wait, Florida did not even make it to the SEC Championship Game!  Clearly we need a new team there!  LSU?  I mean the Tigers have two losses and since Georgia (hypothetically) lost to Bama, so do the dawgs!  Do we dare place a 2-loss SEC team ahead of a 1-loss SEC team (even a Georgia team that went to the championship and also beat Florida on neutral turf this year)?  Could Stanford make it to the 4-team playoff assuming they beat UCLA?  I mean the Cardinal only lost to Washington and Notre Dame (in OT in South Bend) and would be the Pac-12 Champs….see what I’m getting at here, people?  You complain for eons about how terrible the BCS system is, but honestly there is no end to the incessant grumbling by teams about being snubbed.  Hell, the NCAA tournament has 64….wait….68 teams and programs are still grumbling year-after-year about not earning an invitation to the world’s longest and most entertaining dance.  What makes people assume a playoff will end the controversy which the current BCS system produces?  All the 4-team playoff has accomplished is make the decisions and games toward the end of the year less meaningful and less perilous for those playing.  People want a larger tournament, so let’s say 8 teams by 2016.  That means Georgia could lose the SEC title game and still earn a spot in the playoff.  The Bulldogs were slaughtered by South Carolina in Columbia; however, they would most likely earn the berth over the Gamecocks.  People don’t seem to appreciate how awesome the parody created by the BCS system is.  The argument for a playoff is so standard that it sometimes creeps into my nightmares and I resort to insomnia rather than listen to the drivel which is sputtered by the masses.  “It’s not fair!  My team went 11-1 and all!  Why didn’t we get the opportunity?”  The fact of the matter is, as I have already talked about, the BCS makes the college football regular season more important than the any other regular season in sports.  Imagine if an NFL team had to go undefeated to play in the Super Bowl?  Imagine if a baseball team could not allow a hitter to “bat out of a slump” because losing too many games would result in no championship opportunity?  I know a BCS-esque system in professional sports is mularky and impossible to consider with the revenue success of present playoff systems (The almighty dollar!), but knowing the Forum will one day be reduced to a “Remember the good ‘ol days?” rather than the proud and undeniably entertained faction of today brings more tears to my eyes than Mufasa’s death in the Lion King…okay exaggeration, but it hits home!  Soon, people may respect us here in the Forum.  It is a day which I seethe in anticipation, but not to mutter “I told you so”.  I only wish for people to recall how fruitfully intriguing the BCS made the regular season.  It will be a day when someone is watching their favorite team play when they’re 11-0 and not even sweat because, “Hey, we have a berth in the 8-team playoff pretty much locked up”.  While teams of the opposing side regard the upset as nothing more than a moral victory, more bittersweet than this transient life we are already forced to undertake.  We here at the Forum are toasting another year of BCS-caused drama.  As the rest of the world tearfully cheers the arrival of a true college football playoff system; we only soak in the remaining days of college football having a regular season like no other.  The lights flicker in the Forum, because the electric bill doesn’t cross our minds too often.  So are the troubles knowing only two years remain on one’s lifetime.  Be proud of your 4-team playoff, but when your team is ranked #5, please don’t email the Forum, because it will no longer subsist.

The Most Important “Rivalry Week” Ever

There is no such thing as an unimportant game when it comes to college football’s most outstanding rivalries.  This  season, “Rivalry Week” will add the final chapter to the 2012 season and has rendered the entirety of the 2012 season irrelevant.  It no longer matters that Notre Dame throttled Oklahoma in Norman in week 8.  Alabama’s loss to Texas A&M is a non-factor.  Ohio State can ignore the 11-0 start to the Urban Meyer era.  Georgia, Florida, Oregon, and Florida State can forget about their one defeats.  There is only one game which matters for each of these teams and it is against their rivals.

#19 Michigan at Ohio State…”The Game”

What does this game matter to the nation at large?  Very little.  No National Title implications and not even a BCS Bowl to be affected.  “The Game”, however, still has extreme value for the Michigan and Ohio State faithful…not to mention a large chunk of the nation which are inflicted with excitement for what has been voted as North America’s best sports rivalry.  No matter what the records of the teams or the consequences of the result, Ohio State and Michigan garners national attention.  Perhaps the most interesting storyline is the possibility of Ohio State being the nation’s only undefeated team in 2012.  While a #1 ranking in the AP poll is nearly impossible, the Bucks could cause a raucous when the culminates should a 12-0 mark be accomplished.  Also, it would cap a terrific start to the Urban Meyer era as the coach would take his position as the alpha male of the Big Ten before his compatriots could blink.  Nonetheless, just as badly as Ohio State wants to have all these ends be met, Michigan wants nothing more than to make it 2 in a row against the Buckeyes who dominated the early 2000’s.  Michigan had the last laugh with a BCS victory last year in the Sugar Bowl, but this year the Wolverines won’t be sniffing BCS competition.  Beating its hated rival is the only motivation for the “Team Up North”, but as we saw with the staggering Buckeyes last year, that can be enough motivation to make the game awfully close.

#5 Oregon at #15 Oregon State…”The Civil War”

The beavers have flown under the radar better than many teams in recent history.  The beavers have only lost to two opponents, but those two Pac-12 losses cost them any hope of a berth in the Pac-12 Championship and thus have left the beavers completely disregarded by the media.  Oregon State defeated Wisconsin and Arizona in Corvallis and traveled to So. Cal and was victorious against Pac-12 South champ UCLA.  Now, the beavers have the opportunity to perhaps squeeze a surprise BCS bid out of the season and/or spoil the season for their most hated rival.  One of college footballs least respected in-state clashes, the “Civil War”was first played in 1894 and is the nation’s seventh oldest rivalry.  Oregon has won the last 4 meetings, but Oregon State is undefeated this season at home.  It’s no gimme for the Ducks, and a loss costs them a BCS opportunity.  Oregon needs uber help to sneak into the BCS National Title game, but have to first take care of its own business.  Oregon’s 10-1 record is null and void.  Its season comes down to playing its oldest rival and a team with more than enough motivation to not only bolster its own BCS hopes (as slim as they may be), but also ruin what just a week ago appeared to be a Championship year for Oregon.

#4 Florida at #10 Florida State…

You’re probably wondering, but no this game has no nickname which is a shame.  Only being played since 1958, the rivalry picked up steam with the rise of the Florida State program in the early Bobby Bowden years and became a college football fixture with the match ups between the coaching legends Bowden and Steve Spurrier.  Since the ever memorable “Swindle in the Swamp” during the 2003 season, the games have lost the jazz which fueled the rivalry in the 1990’s.  Florida dominated from 2004-2009 and two bad Florida teams in 2010 and 2011 allowed the Seminoles to exact revenge.  This season, National Title hopes are on the line for both schools.  While Florida State is ranked behind quite a number of teams, a win should catapult the one loss club ahead of two loss teams Texas A&M, Stanford, and LSU.  Jumping Kansas State, a loser to sub-.500 Baylor, is no stretch.  Florida would drop below the Seminoles after a FSU win.  Eventually, Georgia or Alabama would have to lose.  All Florida State would need, if they win, is an upset of either Georgia or Bama this week and the other winning the SEC title game, or a USC upset of Notre Dame….too far-fetched?  Not in the least.  The Gators, on the other hand, have a fantastic chance of slipping, undeservingly, into the title game.  After the SEC title game, Florida would be BCS #3 at the lowest.  A loss by two of the three teams ranked ahead of them (Georgia, Bama, Notre Dame) launches Florida into the title game…of course they need to take care of business in Tallahassee.  Awesome to see the higher ranked teams having to prove themselves on the road in hostile environments.

Georgia Tech at #3 Georgia…”Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate”

I love the name of this rivalry, it nearly brings a tear to my eye to see something so masterfully crafted as a great rivalry name.  This year, “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate” will mean a little more than it’s recent nonchalant battles.  Georgia has won 10 of the 11 games since current head coach Mark Richt first donned his headset.  While Ga-Tech is not exactly a considered one of the nation’s finest teams this year, expect the Bulldogs to have quite a nasty time with the Yellow Jackets.  Ga-Tech has the 16th best scoring offense and whenever the triple-option is involved there is no questioning that the outcome of the game is…well…questionable.  Since taking over, Paul Johnson’s option attack has kept the Yellow Jackets as one of the top notch rushing teams in college football.  Johnson is 40-23 since arriving to coach the Ramblin’ Wreck.  He has been to a BCS contest and already won the ACC Coastal 3 times (2008, 2009, 2012).  Don’t expect Georgia to roll (but of course don’t be surprised if they do).  The triple option can be a gigantic asset or a huge detriment to an effort.  Big plays are realistic on every snap….but so is a turnover.  Georgia Tech has nothing to lost (the only chance of making a BCS game rests in the ACC Championship game against Florida State) and should play with reckless abandon versus its hated rival.

Auburn at #2 Alabama…”The Iron Bowl”

It’s been an embarrassing year for Gene Chizik and Auburn.  The Tigers are an abysmal 3-8 and have not won a single SEC game.  Just to state a fact, Auburn has never gone 0-8 in SEC play, but it will take a win against what people have called the best team in the country since Bama’s rampage against Michigan week 1.  Even the Tide’s loss to Johnny Football hasn’t slowed people’s talk of how much better Bama is than the competition featured in this year’s college football.  It’s hard to imagine Auburn was the Nation’s best team just two seasons ago.  What’s left for a team that needed overtime to beat UL Monroe and has only defeated New Mexico State and Alabama A&M?  How about terminating Alabama’s National Title chances and knocking the Tide from a BCS bowl altogether?  All the Tigers would need (assuming a win) is a Florida victory against Florida State and Bama would be on the outside looking in.  Bama would concede the SEC Championship bid to LSU or Texas A&M if those two pigskin competitors won.  It’s the only way for Auburn to have anything to hang its hat on.  The Tigers have been the laughing stock of the SEC.  They took that title away from Arkansas when they were defeated 24-7 by the Hogs who had started the year 1-4.  Alabama may have the least likely chance of losing of every team on this list (based on Auburn’s track record this season and the skill on the field), but never sleep on a rival.

#1 Notre Dame at Southern California…

It’s doubtful anyone expected USC to be unranked when they met Notre Dame this season.  The only bigger surprise is Notre Dame’s #1 standing in the BCS.  Usually the Irish can find only critics when it comes to strength of schedule, but this season the Golden Domers went balls to the walls and formulated one of the nation’s toughest slates.  Certainly the sweep of the rivals Michigan and Michigan State looks less impressive than preseason expectations, but wins in Norman Oklahoma and at home against Stanford are the true crowning achievements for the Irish.  Notre Dame mauled the Sooners in what looked to be one of the most over-hyped games this season.  Ironically, the Sooners were favored in the game by more than a single touchdown.  If there is one worry Notre must have when they face USC, its the Irish’s 80th ranked offense.  To think of a Brian Kelly coached team having to rely on defense seems a bit ridiculous, but with the #1 scoring defense in the country the Irish rest heavily on the defensive unit.  Should-be Heisman front-runner Manti Te’o is the unquestioned emotional, physical, and mental leader of this top unit.  It looked to be a bout made in heaven with likely top overall pick Matt Barkley facing Notre Dame’s defense, but Barkley has been ruled out and redshirt freshman Max Wittek will get the start.  Wittek guaranteed a win earlier in the week.  Honestly, it was a no lose prediction by the freshman.  Some may say it will motivate the Notre Dame defense to get more aggressive toward the QB, but if Notre Dame thinks too much about silencing Wittek, it may forget about Silas Redd, Marquise Lee, and the rest of USC dominant play makers.  While USC is a disappointing 7-4, Notre Dame would be foolish to assume itself the better team when the players take the field Saturday.  USC was ranked preseason #1 for a reason: because the Trojans are wickedly talented and have the ability to beat anyone.

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