Saturday, July 28, 2007

Coming to your news reader: Conference Wars!

Well, the gauntlets have been thrown down and the big "B.S." called. The Pac-10 and the SEC are officially in a war of words over who is the best. We have Nick Saban (Alabama), Les Miles (LSU) and Rich Brooks (Kentucky) all on record saying that the Pac-10 is a weaker conference, top to bottom, than the SEC.

We can debate all day whether or not they should be saying it, but that doesn't change the perception of most football observers not totally in the tank for the Pac-10 that they are absolutely right.

Of course, the Pac-10 cannot allow such disrespect to be paid to their weak sisters. Pete Carrol (USC) is now on record pointing out that the aforementioned worthies were disrespecting his league colleagues, not USC:

Carroll appears to have grasped Miles' gist exactly, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

"He's really taking a shot at all the other schools we play," Carroll was quoted as saying. "He didn't slam us. He slammed all the other schools we play."

So after this little dust up, the Pac-10 decided to up the ante. There has been a lot of talk around the SEC this week about the so-called "Plus one" format, a proposed change to the BCS that would add a national championship game after the bowl season was over. It would essentially work the way it does now, except the two best teams coming out of bowl season would be granted an additional game to compete for the final title.

Frankly, I am lukewarm to this idea. It is really very little different from what we have now, except that it would appear to give the third and forth best teams going into the bowls a shot at the championship game.

Brian Cook of AOL Fanhouse has panned the "plus one" as a transparent power grab by the BCS, and while he would seem to have a point, I frankly don't see any difference. Ostensibly, this "post-post season" bowl would just be an additional game pitting the two highest computer ranked teams against each other, not anything remotely resembling a playoff. It could also return the current bowls to their more traditional format without extracting the best team from the Big 10 or Pac-10 to play some bowl named for snacks, rather than in the Rose Bowl where they belong.

Surprisingly (to me, at least) the Pac-10 and Big 10 are leading the charge against this idea. But with schools beginning to line up in quantity to support it, the Pac-10 decided to pull out it's equivalent of a nuclear weapon and insist the other day that if the BCS "Plus one" plan were adopted, they would pull out of the BCS altogether.

As an SEC fan, my initial reaction to this crap is "Don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya." Unfortunately, it isn't so easy -- can you imagine a scenario where USC was considered the best team in the nation and was unable to play in the national championship game because of their withdrawal?

But to look at it the other way, we sometimes run into that very scenario due to NCAA probation. If the Pac-10 walked away, it probably wouldn't hurt them that much, nor UCLA. But could Arizona State withstand the potential hit in TV revenue that would surely face conferences who walked away from the BCS in a huff? Could Oregon?

Bottom line, I think the BCS should do it just to see if the Pac-10 has the balls to follow through on its threat. This whole thing reminds me of a scene from The Godfather where Peter Clemeza tells a young Michael Corleone about a full-scale Mafia war: "This thing's gotta happen every five years or so...every ten years--helps to get rid of the bad blood."

Maybe it's time to get rid of the bad blood in the Conference Wars, and perhaps the "Plus one" is just the trigger we need.