Jay Christensen covered college football, among other sports, for the Los Angeles Times and produces the popular college football blog TheWizofOdds.com.
Wander into a barber shop in any small town across America and you’ll soon learn what’s on the minds of the locals. It’s a gathering spot where men hash out all the news that’s fit to print and some that isn’t.
There are ground rules. You don’t talk about religion, and you certainly don’t talk politics. Either will get you in a lot of trouble.
But if you want to get them talking, just mention the words “Bowl Championship Series.”
Nothing fires up football fans like the BCS, a cartel of six conferences and Notre Dame that goes against the very backbone of small-town America.
Work hard, and some day you’ll create a better life not only for yourself, but others — unless, of course, you’re not a member of the BCS, or more specifically, the Southeastern Conference.
If you don’t think the fix is in, read on.
Barring upsets, Texas Christian and Boise State are going to finish the regular season with unbeaten records. The Horned Frogs have road victories over Virginia, Clemson and Brigham Young. Clemson, of course, just won at Miami (Fla.), and BYU beat Oklahoma to open the season.
Boise State punched out Oregon in the opener, and if the Ducks win a showdown Saturday against USC, they could be headed to the Rose Bowl.
These programs aren’t one-year wonders. Since 2005, TCU is 48-10 and Boise is 51-8.
They’ve worked hard and have answered nearly all the challenges put before them.
Now let’s consider the money players who currently occupy the top two spots in the BCS standings.
Southeastern Conference honks have been clamoring for Florida and Alabama to play twice — first in the SEC title game and then a rematch for the BCS title. These are the same people who brought us a bunch of farmers driving around a circle that eventually evolved into something called NASCAR.
Florida has been playing for weeks like a team that wants to lose. The only problem is that SEC officials won’t allow it.
Two weeks ago the Gators found themselves in a tight contest against Arkansas, but the flags started flying in the fourth quarter and none of them favored the Razorbacks. When it was over, Arkansas was flagged 10 times for 92 yards and Florida only three times for 16 yards.
The calls against the Razorbacks were so egregious that the SEC had no choice but to save face and suspend the officiating crew. It also reprimanded Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino for stating the obvious — that his team got screwed!
Last Saturday, the Gators caught a break from the replay official in their game against Mississippi State when linebacker Dustin Doe fumbled an interception return before crossing the goal line. But the replay official looked the other way and gave the Gators a touchdown. It was either that or risk a repeat of the late-game shenanigans that developed the week before in the Arkansas game.
Alabama didn’t need a helping hand until last Saturday, when it found itself in an unexpected slugfest against Tennessee. The officials tried their best, penalizing the Volunteers eight times for 68 yards and the Crimson Tide only once for 10 yards.
Volunteer coach Lane Kiffin sensed what was going on and did his best to take the officials out of the equation. Instead of running another play or two to better position his kicker for a winning field goal, Kiffin opted to run down the clock and take his chances on a long kick.
“You run another play and you throw an interception or they throw another flag on us — I wasn’t going to let the refs lose the game for us there and some magical flag appear,” Kiffin said.
The 44-yard attempt was blocked, and Alabama won, 12-10.
Kiffin has since been reprimanded for pointing out the obvious — that his team got screwed! Assistant Ed Orgeron, with little to lose, has continued to speak out.
"Seems like some people get the calls and some people don't," Orgeron said. "I've been in this league and I've been a part of that. Whether that's true or not, you can never prove that.
"I do know this: there were some very questionable calls in that game that could have went either way and they went Alabama's side. There were very questionable calls throughout the season and it seems they go for the better team. Whether that's true or not, we can never prove that but that's what it seems like.”
A wise man once said to follow the money, and there is a lot of it at stake in the BCS. Having Alabama and Florida play a second time in the BCS title game would mean a big, fat paycheck for the SEC.
There’s plenty to work with if you subscribe to conspiracy theories. It’s another reason we’re cheering for the underdogs, TCU and Boise State.
Heck, let’s take the big money out of the equation and have the Horned Frogs and Broncos play for the national title.
That’s the true meaning of the American Dream.