A GRIP ON SPORTS
As much as I hate to admit it, the folks who say the BCS system keeps the regular season significant have a point. And it was illustrated Sunday when the FCS playoff bracket was announced. Read on.
• When the FCS bracket was revealed Sunday morning on ESPNU, the Eastern Washington Eagles had earned the No. 2 seed. With that high seeding comes quite a few perks, including a week off to rest up, a second-round matchup with one of the lowest seeds and the promise of nothing but home games until the championship (or the season ends). That's pretty sweet – and deserved. After all, the Eagles played a tough non-conference schedule, winning at Idaho, an FBS school, and almost winning at Washington State, a BCS school, albeit one of the least formidable BCS schools. They also won the Big Sky Conference's automatic berth after sharing the conference crown with Montana State and Cal Poly, two teams the Eagles defeated, though the Poly game was a non-conference one. An impressive resume, for sure, but their No. 2 seed got me to thinking. Eastern had one hiccup during the Big Sky season. In late October, the Eagles traveled to Southern Utah, gave up 10 points in the fourth quarter and lost 30-27 to the Thunderbirds. And what did that late-season lost cost them? In reality, nothing. Oh sure, if Eastern had won, it would be the Big Sky champs by itself and that means something. But as far as the playoffs go, the loss didn't mean a thing. As the No. 2 seed, Eastern only had one spot to ascend. Say it won in Utah. It would have been top-ranked, right? That gets the Eagles a week off (like now), a low seed in the second round (like now) and home games until the final (like now). The only difference, really, is in the title game. There the top seed is the home team and gets to wear the dark jerseys. Big deal. So the late-season defeat had very little in the way of consequences. Contrast that to the recent losses suffered by Kansas State and Oregon (and if Notre Dame loses to USC this week). Those defeats will end up being national championship killers for the Wildcats and the Ducks (and would be for the Irish). Heck, a regular season loss by anyone outside of the almighty SEC destroys any chance of playing for the national title. (As an aside, I always thought Alabama was vested in the national championship game, so even when the Tide lost to Texas A&M I figured I would see them play for the title.) For the Eagles it ended up not meaning a thing. Now I love playoffs as much as anyone and believe the FBS should go to at least a 16-team format. But the system in place now does put a premium on being perfect in the regular season. It does make Saturdays like the one just past all that more exciting. And it does give us more to bitch about, which is not a bad thing either. Still, if I had my pick, I would rather see a playoff, as in the FCS, than the BCS nightmare. Oh well, only one more year.
• By the way, I am really rooting for Stanford to defeat UCLA on Saturday. Not that I dislike the Bruins or love the Cardinal. It's just if it happens, the two teams will meet a week later at Stanford in the Pac-12 championship game. I am not a fan of championship games. And this is one reason why. Two teams playing each other in back-to-back weeks. Pretty silly. Maybe they could decide the title via an aggregate score, like the MLS playoffs.
• Washington State: Though it's Apple Cup week, Christian Caple is out of the country. Well, he's in Kansas, so same thing. He's there to cover the Cougars basketball matchup tonight with the Jayhawks, which led to this advance centered round starting guard – and Kansas transfer – Royce Woolridge (pictured). … Just because he's on the road doesn't mean Christian missed his football obligations, covering WSU's weekly press conference on the phone from an airport, something that really needs to have its own class in journalism schools. That led to a story, a preview box and today's morning post, which includes a couple of videos and also contains all the links you'll need.
• Gonzaga: GU's non-conference schedule is full of the best teams in the nation, but it also includes the occasional teachable moment. One of those came in the Zags' 96-58 rout of South Dakota on Sunday. Jim Meehan passes along what was said, what was learned and more in his game story. Jim also had a blog post after the game. Colin Mulvany also has a photo gallery. … We were in the Kennel a few hours later to cover the women as they hosted overmatched Monmouth. Here is our story. … Portland traveled to Bozeman on Sunday and lost to Montana State.
• EWU: The Eagles learned their playoff fate and they couldn't be happier. Jim Allen has the story. … The basketball team continued its road march, staying close against St. Mary's for a half but wearing down after intermission.
• Idaho: Utah State's overtime win at Louisiana Tech earned the Aggies a 25th-ranking in the Associated Press poll. … San Jose State hosts Louisiana Tech this weekend and is also receiving votes in the national polls.
• Sounders: Sometimes winning isn't enough. That was the case for the Sounders on Sunday, who didn't win by enough. The 2-1 victory not only allowed Los Angeles to move on to the MLS finals by a 4-2 aggregate score, but also led to some hard feelings between a couple Seattle players and the referee. … Though Seattle won't be playing for an MLS title this season, it did take strides during the season, giving the team something to build upon.
• Mariners: The Toronto Blue Jays are looking for a manager. And, after the success of ex-Mariner manager Bob Melvin in Oakland, it's no wonder three other ex-Mariner managers seem to be involved in the search.
• The entire time I was putting together this post today rain pelted the house. I almost feel as if I am living on the other side of the state. Let's hope it stops by Friday. Until later …