Sunday, November 18, 2007

Watching NCAA football these days is a bit like watching the fabled 100 metre dash for people scared of breaking tape. Anyone who knows anything about track and field would know that they stopped using tape to judge sprints a long time ago, but I digress. Every time a team winds up in first place this season, they go and find a way to lose. Michigan got it started by losing to the mighty Appalachian State Mountaineers, plunging the Wolverines from 5th-ranked to unranked and prompting me to inquire about the state of App State's grad apps, perhaps.

It came quickly from there: never-ranked South Florida beat 5th-ranked West Virginia, unranked Colorado beat 3rd-ranked Oklahoma, the Fighting Illini of Illinois knocked off 5th-ranked Wisconsin, unranked Auburn beat 4th-ranked Florida, Stanford beat #2 USC, Kentucky beat top-ranked LSU in triple-secret overtime and #2 Cal lost to unranked Oregon State on the same day.

The result of all this is that we had Ohio State and Boston College ranked 1-2, turning college football into as much of a sport as movie reviewing. Fortunately, Florida State finally beat Boston College and then Ohio State lost to the Fighting Illini, which left LSU and Oregon 1-2 at the start of this week. Oregon, of course, went and lost to unranked Arizona on Thursday. LSU plays 3-7 Ole Miss this afternoon, so it's safe to say that Mississippi will win this one.

Now part of this reflects the absurdity of a sport that decides who wins and who loses championships by getting people to vote. Democracy, whatever its merits elsewhere, clearly doesn't work as a method of awarding championships. An unranked team is an unpopular team as much as it is a bad team, just like a top-ranked team is a popular team as much as it is a good one. Ohio State and Boston College rose to the top of the rankings on the strength of being undefeated, but 10-0 Kansas is ranked just 4th, 10-0 Hawaii 13th.

Finally, for all those who don't really know what I'm talking about, the futility of college football is articulated here. It's worth noting that, despite this year's wins, the US military hasn't had a victory over a ranked opponent since a pair of 1945 wins over second-ranked Germany and fifth-ranked Japan. Worse still, the US hasn't won a intra-conference game since 1865.

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