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Thanksgiving weekend, and along with gathering with family for a feast of turkey dinners, we can engage in football playoff scrutiny and I can tilt against the windmill of ESPN and the nation’s easily-led flock of sheep disguised as NCAA football selectors.
The guys voting on the weekly Division I football ratings do football fans everywhere a disservice by listening to all the hype ESPN can heap on the Southeast Conference week after week. Because ESPN has a contractual obligation to promote the SEC, we will probably never be without an SEC team, or maybe two, in the Bowl Playoff foursome.
Usually, perennially, it seems to be Alabama. The Crimson Tide might indeed be the best team in the nation at 11-0, but they were conceded that honor last year, too, and got upset by Clemson. It seems the Atlantic Coast Conference is ESPN’s second most-hyped league. The voters are human, and when they hear week after week the hype that those SEC and ACC teams are the best, they don’t even bother to notice that Alabama became 11-0 by winning 56-0 last Saturday — against Mercer. (Mercer?) And Clemson became 10-1 by whipping The Citadel. (The Citadel?) Auburn is 9-2, but ranks among the top half-dozen after beating the likes of Louisiana-Monroe 42-14 last weekend. Louisiana-Monroe is the kind to team the Gophers might schedule in pre-Big Ten play if they had an opening.
Finally, this week undefeated Miami moved up to No. 2, and undefeated Wisconsin moved up to No. 5, an eyelash ahead of twice-beaten Auburn.
If ESPN’s talking heads decided, some year, that the PAC-12 was the best conference, they could prove it by the fact that nobody can go undefeated out on the West Coast because the competition is indeed too tough, and balanced.
So here’s my solution to the bowl playoff situation. There are five major conferences, and then some lesser conferences and some independents. My solution is that each of the five major conferences send their top team — singular — to the NCAA selection committee. No conference gets more than one team, and it can be the champion, or the playoff champion if there are two divisions. This year, for instance, Alabama and Georgia will play in the SEC playoff game, and the winner gets to advance to the NCAA. Same with Wisconsin and Ohio State, if they meet in the divisional playoff, and the Southern California-Stanford or Washington/Washington State survivor.
After that, a team from a lesser conference or an independent gets selected. My pick this year would be Boise State. We have a month to play with, so we let the committee rank the five major conference teams 1-5. Then my Boise State would be No. 6.
We give No. 1 and No. 2 byes, while No. 3 faces No. 6 (the independent), and No. 4 faces No. 5. Those winners advance to face No. 1 and No. 2 the following weekend in the semifinals, playing down to a fair, objective championship game.
Closer to home, we had what we thought was an outrageous slight to our UMD Bulldogs, North Division champs of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, in the NCAA SuperRegion Four playoffs. They picked three NSIC teams, but all of them — Minnesota State-Mankato, Winona State, and Sioux Falls — were from the admittedly stronger NSIC South.
MSU-Mankato got gypped out of the No. 1 seed, which went to Central Washington, along with a bye, while the Mavericks continued to be ranked No. 1 in the nation. MSU-Mankato came through, beating Colorado State-Pueblo 16-13 on Casey Bednarski’s 37-yard field goal in overtime. Meanwhile, Texas A&M Commerce knocked off Winona State 20-6 in Winona, and Sioux Falls went down 24-20 at Midwestern State in Wichita Falls, Texas, after blowing a 17-0 lead.
Back home, the Bulldogs can calmly get ready to go to the Mineral Water Bowl next weekend to play Central Missouri State in a consolation game for teams overlooked in the NCAA selections.
Great rivalry games this weekend, with Wisconsin at Minnesota, Ohio State at Michigan, Georgia and Georgia Tech, Alabama at Auburn, Washington against Washington State, and Notre Dame at Stanford.
It all starts off with the NFL on Thanksgiving Day, however, with the Vikings going to Detroit to avenge an early loss and secure the Central Division. Interesting how all the cynics are now falling into line behind Case Keenum at quarterback for the Vikings?
The UMD men’s hockey team plays a single game this weekend, against Minnesota State-Mankato Saturday night at AMSOIL Arena. It is an interesting match to measure the Bulldogs, but also to measure the powerful NCHC against the WCHA. MSU-Mankato leads the WCHA, and Bemidji State and Michigan Tech already have given UMD a dose of that league’s capabilities.
UMD went to Miami of Ohio and won Friday night, 3-1, but lost 3-2 in the rematch.
Meanwhile, the UMD women continue to struggle to find their true identity. The Bulldogs were clearly the stronger team than Minnesota State-Mankato last weekend at AMSOIL, but after dominating most of Friday’s game and hanging on for a 2-1 victory, the Bulldogs had to come from behind to win the second game 3-2.
This weekend, UMD’s women go off to the Vermont tournament, where the Bulldogs will face Colgate Friday night. Then they return to the Upper Midwest for two critical WCHA series — at Wisconsin and at Minnesota the first two weekends in December.