Does every game really count?

By Tom Donelson, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: October 11, 2009

IOWA CITY (BASN) — Normally, I write about boxing and mixed martial arts, but I like many of my fellow writers enjoy watching football and this weekend was the perfect weekend for some great college football.

For most fans, it was Alabama traveling to Oxford and spanking Ole Miss whereas Florida with Tim Tebow coming back from a concussion and leading the Gators to a victory against LSU in the Tigers’ den in Baton Rouge.

For us folks in the Midwest; it was Iowa playing Michigan as the Hawkeyes stayed undefeated in a nailbiter of a game that was not settled until a final inception sealed the deal for Iowa.

This weekend allowed me some observations of the nature of the college games.

Remember, the big reason that pundits love college football that every game counts?

It does if your team is located in the Big Ten, SEC, ACC, the Big East, Pac Ten and the Big 12. If you are Boise State, every game you play is nothing but an exhibition game with your only goal to get into a big bowl game with its big payday.

But in the end, you play all of your games to get into big money exhibition game with nothing to do with the national title. If you are BYU, a team that has won one national title, or Utah; you join Boise State as a team not eligible for the national title.

The NCAA has managed to set up a system with their premier divisions and has half of their teams not entitled for the national title. This is the equivalent of the NFL saying before the season that the teams in the AFC will not play in the Super Bowl because the pundits and the computer have declared these teams inferior.

As the Boise State’s and Utah’s showed in bowl games over the past five years, these “inferior teams” can beat the big boys on any given day.

Utah went into last year’s Sugar Bowl and SEC country to beat Alabama.

Earlier this season, BYU upset Oklahoma in Dallas and Boise State dominated Oregon, who is presently the second best team in the Pac-10 , in their season-opening game.

While the big boys have more talent and more pro prospects, the present NCAA’s system makes a lie of the saying, “every game counts” for the those in the Mid Majors find that their job is to fill up the early part of the big boys schedule; come up with an occasional upset to make the college season interesting and then become the forgotten teams except by their fans and alumni.

Finally, one of these teams may be rewarded, and the emphasis on may be, with a big bowl appearance provided that they finish the season undefeated and one of the big boys simply lose too many games to make the bowl game unattractive.

Every other college sport and every other football divisions have playoffs or systems to determine the champion on the field of play; the NCAA premier football have a system that ensures only half of their teams can win a national title and the other half mere cannon fodder.

The biggest appeal of college football is that one can never predict what a group of 18-20 years will do on a given Saturday (or Thursday, Friday or Wednesday or whenever television finds time and teams willing to play.)

When BYU played Oklahoma, the Sooners lost their all-American quarterback at the end of the first half and BYU found a way to defeat with a national contender playing with a second string quarterback.

For me, watching Iowa is symbolic of what is great of college football.

Iowa nearly lost to Northern Iowa, a division I-AA team (or should I say FCS team) and needed two blocked field goals at the end of the game to secure victory and yet they came into Penn State’s Happy Valley to snatch an important upset road win.

College football represents what is both frustrating about sport and what is great about sport. Television and money have created a system that forbids half of the team any chance to win a NCAA title simply because it has proved profitable to the colleges.

On the other hand, these young players find a way to provide great sporting drama every weekend to provide even the cynical pundits say, “Hurrah!”