THIS is as good as it gets for the Alabama football program. This might be as good as it ever has been.
Cap a second-straight undefeated regular season in the SEC by handing Auburn a crushing, last-minute defeat? Check.
Avenge last year's devestating loss to Florida by blowing out the Gators in the SEC Championship game? Check.
Return Mark Ingram to the front of the Heisman race? Check.
Make Tebow cry? Check.
Send Urban Meyer to the hospital? Check.
Earn a berth in the BCS National Championship game? Check.
Now I ask you, could it get any better than that? And did I miss anything?
So the Dan Le Batards of the world were wrong. The folks who beat themselves with chains over Nick Saban's $4 million paycheck were wrong. We've applied the scientific method to the hypothesis (Coaching makes all the difference) and we have definitive proof (Yes it does). Two years ago, it was Colorado and the Independence Bowl. Now it's Texas and the BCS National Championship. Sam Beckett couldn't execute such a leap.
Predictions? Not yet. Yes, Alabama has chosen the right time to peak. Yes, Texas has struggled of late against a couple of lesser opponents. Yes, Saban's scheming against two former members of his inner circle in Will Muschamp and Major Applewhite. Yes, the Tide has never beaten the Longhorns in eight prior meetings. I know all that. And I promise we'll address all those story lines in due time.
Right now, just be glad Colt McCoy's out-of-bounds pass hit the ground when it did, or Mack Brown would be forever known as the Andy Reid of college football, or even worse, the Les Miles of college football. As impressed as I've been watching TCU play this season and as transfixed as I was watching Cincinnati pull off that remarkable comeback victory at Pittsburgh last Saturday, Alabama and Texas is the best matchup on the board. It may not be fair - actually, we know it isn't fair - but it's going to be a terrific game nonetheless.
Rest assured that an anti-BCS rant follows below — which I guess is my new holiday tradition — but first I want to address the Tim Tebow situation one final time. Tim Tebow is a great college quarterback, just as Eric Crouch was a great college quarterback and Jason White was a great college quarterback, and so on. He's a great leader. He appears to be living his life in a prudent manner. He's got a bonafide two-page resume that boasts SEC championships, national championships, a Heisman trophy, an abstinence card and a lock of Gary Danielson's hair. But I don't think I've ever been happier to be rid of a college football player since Lawrence Phillips' reign of terror ended at Nebraska back in 1996. He is wholly insufferable, 100-percent intolerable. The media's fawning, his goofy face, his haircut, his "aw-shucks" approach to everything - I cannot take it any more. Thank God we're almost done. Almost done! Before we know it, he'll fade into relative obscurity as yet another gadget quarterback in the NFL and be cutting commercials for North Florida car dealers.
In a lot of ways it's a shame, because he really hasn't done anything to deserve anyone's animosity. The media didn't make him who he is, but they blew him so beyond proportion that we revolted. And that's why we laughed - well, I laughed - when his big ol' crying mug flashed across the screen last Saturday night.
I'd be remiss to not point out my column's one-year anniversary this week, especially considering that my opening salvo was a scathing critique of the BCS system. It shouldn't surprise you to know that little has changed in a year, with either the flaws in the system or my feelings regarding it. There's no denying the facts: the BCS cannot work, has never worked and will never work.
I don't know if TCU is better than Texas, or if Cincinnati is better than TCU, or if anyone is better than Alabama. I don't know if Boise State's season-opening win over Oregon qualifies them as a contender or not. And you know what else? I'm not the only one in the dark. You don't know the answers to those questions either. And you know that the only way to answer them is with a playoff. But the mere suggestion sends the BCS-backers into a Jim Mora-state-of-mind. Play-offs?? Don't talk about...play-offs? Are you kidding me? If you don't believe me, you should know that the BCS just hired Ari Fleischer - who knows a little something about turd polishing - to enhance their public image and help sell the merits of the system to country as a whole. I'm afraid it's his toughest assignment yet.
There's no amount of public relations whitewash that can cover up the most basic flaw of the BCS system: It's unfair. It's unfair! When the by-laws dictate that certain conferences get preferential treatment over others and that some schools (ahem, Notre Dame) will automatically get picked ahead of other, perhaps more deserving, schools, then that's not sport. That's feudalism. It's patently unfair and inherently flawed. And an unfair, inherently flawed system can never work. We all know this, yet we choose to live with it year after year.
We know that the BCS is not nearly as concerned with picking a true champion as it is with revenue and TV ratings. We know that it's dominated by this absurd class system that predicates itself on the assumption that no team from a "non-BCS conference" should be able to cut down a representative from one of the larger, more established conferences. This assumption persists despite recent evidence to the contrary (Boise over Oklahoma, Utah over Alabama). We all know this, yet we look the other way year after year.
People tell me I'm a metaphor person, so try this one on for size: Every election year in this country, we endure people bitching about democracy. When will we have a viable third party? How is it that special interests have come to dominate the legislative branch? Why can't we put aside our differences and work together? All valid questions, to be sure. But at the end of the day we know that our system of government is the best option we have. It's flawed, but less so than any other known style of governance. The BCS isn't like that, yet we treat it the same way. It is as if we are blind to the fact that a playoff system would be so much more fair and intriguing to watch.
Would anyone argue that there is a better way to end the college basketball season than March Madness? In my opinion, it's the finest postseason spectacle in all of American sport; Better than the World Series, better than the Super Bowl. It doesn't cheapen the regular season — as so many BCS proponents have claimed a playoff would do to college football — rather, it enhances it. It's our country's World Cup, for goodness' sake. It compels folks to call in sick from work, sit transfixed for hours in front of the TV screen and fill out brackets with more acumen than they do their tax returns. Chances are even the most ardent anti-gambling proponent out there has tossed a sawbuck into a March Madness office pool in their lifetime. Imagine if college football adopted a similar system, just on a smaller scale? The top eight teams in the BCS squaring off against each other in a mad dash for the Coaches Trophy? Can you imagine the intrigue that would surround those seven games?
College football is one of America's greatest inventions. The atmosphere, the excitement, the passion of its participants and fans - they are all unrivaled by any other American pastime. Yet every year our great sport concludes its season in the most anti-climatic, egregiously unfair way imaginable. Alabama winning a national championship isn't going to change that. Ari Fleischer isn't going to change that. Only the fans can take matters into their own hands and effect change. The sooner, the better.
Upon Further Review is the Birmingham Weekly sports page. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org