Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The designated distraction is back

I could write about the protracted legal battle over Alabama's short-sighted, overly broad, ill-crafted immigration law that is an embarrassment to my home state and could undo decades of progress in our efforts to be seen as a modern, accepting, forward-thinking place. I could write about the persistent jobs crisis that Congress has spent much of the year either doing nothing about or actually making worse. I could write about how it somehow has become almost mandatory to ignore basic science or economics if you want to win the Republican presidential nomination.

But I won't write about any of those things, because they're depressing, and we all need some positivity in life. Instead, let's just make a few quick predictions before the return of the college football season, something that ultimately means so little but can bring so much joy. Here goes:

BCS Championship: Alabama over Oklahoma. Yes, I'm a Bama homer, Pawwwwwl. But I'd predict this matchup even if I were able to set my personal allegiances aside. These teams have the nation's two best groups of returning talent. The Sooners will benefit from starting at the top and having one fewer hurdle to clear this year, with the death of the Big 12 title game (perhaps presaging the death of the Big 12 itself?). If they survive the early-season trip to Tallahassee, the rest of the regular season will be downhill sledding. After the last five years, the SEC champion is essentially a lock, and I think it'll be Alabama after a tough battle with South Carolina. The Crimson Tide probably will lose a game at some point this year in a conference that has evolved into NFL, Jr., in the last decade. But a one-loss Alabama still would make it to the main event in New Orleans, and I'll take Nick Saban over Bob Stoops in a big game every time.

Rose Bowl: Nebraska vs. Oregon. The Cornhuskers are brand-new to the Big Ten, but they come loaded for bear with a punishing defense and just enough offense to squeak out a win over Wisconsin in the inaugural conference championship. (Given that Fox will broadcast that effort, perhaps we'll get a few live look-ins at the game during the wall-to-wall coverage of the bands.) Oregon remains Oregon and likely will knock off Stanford in the Pac-12's first title game. But I think the Ducks will slip up somewhere along the way -- think last year's Cal game, only with an unhappy ending -- and miss an opportunity for a repeat trip to play for all the marbles.

Sugar Bowl: LSU vs. Virginia Tech. LSU probably has the best overall raw talent of any team in the country. It also has perhaps the most unpredictable coach, and sooner or later that will catch up to the Tigers, especially with trips to Alabama, Mississippi State, and West Virginia on the docket. Still, as consolation prizes go, a Superdome transformed into a sea of purple and gold isn't bad. Meeting LSU there will be a better-than-expected one-loss Virginia Tech. The ACC, at long last, will get two teams into the BCS -- and SEC fans could enjoy a preview of a potential future marquee conference game.

Orange Bowl: Florida State vs. West Virginia. If the Seminoles beat Oklahoma in an epic clash Sept. 17, they'll probably be headed to the national title game in the Sooners' place. (Who said we don't get great non-conference games anymore?) If not, I still think they'll run the table in the ACC and end up here. West Virginia will be across the line of scrimmage, because someone has to win the Big East, and someone has to take the Big East champion, and that's usually a task best left to the Orange Bowl. It'll be entertaining, and it'll make way more sense than that Louisville-Wake Forest game a few years ago that I may well have imagined in its entirety.

Fiesta Bowl: Boise State vs. Texas A&M. This year could be a milestone for the so-called "non-AQ" conferences: They could get a one-loss team into the BCS. If it's Boise State, that loss would have to be to Georgia, and it would have to be close, and the rest of the games would have to be blowout wins. But by this point, the Broncos have built enough credibility to be an appealing selection even for a bowl that isn't forced to take them. (If they're unbeaten, of course, the point will be moot.) Texas A&M may end up with a couple of losses, but it also has nearby (by Fiesta Bowl standards) fans hungry for a return to a big-time bowl. If the Aggies, fresh off a "Dear John" letter to the Big 12, don't yet have an SEC future nailed down by this point, this game may turn out to be far more meaningful than anyone could anticipate.

Note that these predictions are worth exactly what you paid for them, and therefore are likely to be disproved in their entirety by this time next week.



Nice post on distraction.

3:07 PM  

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