So there I am, sitting on my couch last night, watching ESPN's College Football Live Sunday night show, and after the ad nauseum references to Florida, some one reminded Dari Nowkhah, Desmond Howard and Shaun King that there was actually more than one game played this past weekend.
Inevitably, the subject of whom might play for the national title arose. After all, the season's first edition of the Bowl Championship Series rankings were released just hours earlier. It was as good a time as any to predict what will happen 10 weeks from now, right?
Now, I have no personal dog in the fight, as my Alma Mater isn't even ranked in the top 20 in the BCS standings. As I continued to watch their commentary unfold before a national audience, they decided to bring in Kirk Herbstreit and Brent Musberger to offer up their two cents worth.
Down the line, one by one, they all offered up apologies to USC for not being ranked above schools without membership into the "old boys club." Spelled out, Cincinnati and Boise State, specifically.
Herbstreit seemed actually upset that the voters hadn't done as he instructed them earlier on Saturday, and waited for his Saturday-ending top five to let them know how to cast their votes before sending them in.
He went on to argue how impressive USC's schedule had been...actually mentioning Washington as one of the tough teams USC had faced. (You may recall Washington. They went 0-12 last season and have an "impressive" 3-4 record this season.) In case you didn't know, USC lost to Washington this year.
Herbstreit also brought up the "tough" road win USC pulled out in Columbus against the mighty Ohio State Buckeyes (his alma mater). The same Ohio State team that just lost to Purdue, a team with a 1-5 record coming in to their game against OSU. And the game wasn't close friends. Purdue man-handled the Buckeyes.
Late Saturday night after the games had completed for the day, when asked his opinion about Boise State or Cincinnati reaching the national championship game if they were the only two undefeated teams left, he went so far as to say nothing the Broncos could do, "even if they won all of their remaining games by 50 points," would be enough to put Boise State in the national title game.
Essentially, he came out and admitted he had a predetermined bias against Boise State, and to a degree, Cincinnati. I won't get into conspiracy theories about his concern for the perception of Ohio State University in his home state of Ohio. Herbstreit is smart enough to know that they don't call Ohio the "Buckeye State" for nothing, and he has no fear that Cincy will ever unseat them as kings of the state.
No, this was all about his personal dislike for those that would dare challenge the old guard, of which he is a card-carrying member.
Kirk, or "Herbie" as his peers on ESPN's College Game Day refer to him, annually hammers away at the "strength of schedule" argument when discussing teams he personally does not want to ascend to the championship game. During Sunday night's broadcast, his targets were the aforementioned Boise State and Cincinnati, and to a lesser degree Iowa.
I say to a lesser degree when referencing Iowa, because I don't believe Herbstreit means what he says about Iowa not having the strength of schedule. If Iowa were undefeated at the end of the year, and there was no Texas, Alabama or Florida still unbeaten, you can rest assured Herbstreit would absolutely vote Iowa into the championship game. They do, after all, represent the Big 10—an acceptable conference in his eyes—that could play for the title.
You can tell Herbstreit's true intentions in the way he discusses the Big 10 versus how he discusses the WAC or Big East conferences. He is careful to preface that "the perception of the Big 10 Conference is that it isn't very strong." Yet he comes right out and states the WAC nor Big East are strong enough in his eyes to merit a spot to play for the national title. He doesn't even bother to sugar coat his feelings towards those conferences. He doesn't say anything about it only being a "perception " that the Big East is weak.
All that aside, looking closer at Herbstreit's own argument about strength of schedule, one must consider all the facts equally, and not solely from the "$Two-Billion-Dollar-ESPN-Investment-in-the-SEC" side of the argument.
Herbstreit claims Boise State doesn't play a strong enough conference or non-conference schedule, and thus is undeserving of playing in the BCS championship game. Okay, fair enough. I concede that argument, if for no other reason than the NCAA's own ranking of each team's strength of schedule has Boise State ranked all the way down at number 92.
The schedule ranking's are based off of each team's cumulative record, meaning it includes games already played as well as games they have yet to play, and how each opponent on their schedule looks in terms of formidability.
Now here is where things get a little tough for Herbie. Boise State's schedule places them well below Alabama, Florida, Texas, USC, Iowa and even Cincinnati. His argument has been that neither Boise nor Cincinnati had a strong enough schedule to merit a spot in the big game, if either or both of them were the only undefeated teams left in the country.
The problem for Herbstreit is Florida. He has no qualms arguing for them to be number one in the polls and vehemently argues for them to be there if they finish their season undefeated. The problem is that Florida's schedule ranks a paltry 66th in the nation. And keep in mind that is cumulative, meaning it takes into account the remaining SEC games on Florida's schedule as well as the ones they have already played.
Based on Herbstreit's own argument about scheduling, an undefeated Florida team does not merit playing for the national championship over about 65 other teams in the country. After all, it isn't whether you win or lose, but the level of competition you have faced, right? And the NCAA says Florida hasn't played anyone (or at least not very many good teams), and won't play anyone during the remaing regular season.
Florida has a history of refusing to travel very far away from home to play a non-conference game, and this season, they have the luxury playing eight home games. And their non-conference schedule, consisting of FCS member Charleston Southern, Sun Belt Conference members Troy and Florida International, as well as struggling Florida State, combined produces only an overall record of 9-15.
And of course, we have to mention that, during the show Sunday night, Brent Musberger brought up the fact that Boise State tries to get big name schools to schedule them, but they typically refuse.
However, it was Desmond Howard to the rescue, arguing that Florida would love to play Boise State...in the Swamp.
Well...duh, Desmond. Of course they will play someone in a home game, because that is just about all they ever do is play home games. If every school in the country took that same approach, how much better would all of their records be? Would we ever see an actual game if no one else were willing to travel out of their own stadium to play a game?
All of that aside, here is the real kicker, and there is no way around it. Boise State, nor Cincinnati, nor TCU, nor Utah have ever had the chance to play a Pac-10, SEC, Big 12, ACC or Big 10 schedule.
And why is that? Because they have never been invited to join those conferences.
It isn't as if Boise State was offered up membership to join the Pac-10 or Big 12 and refused. Herbstreit wants to hold scheduling against smaller schools that they don't play a strong enough schedule, yet those schools are not given the opportunity to play those schedules. The SEC just signed a deal with ESPN for over two billion dollars. You think if given the opportunity to get in on that action that Cincinnati would turn it down?
The mere insinuation by Herbstreit or Desmond Howard that these non-traditional power schools are ducking competition is a farce in the purest sense of the word, and what's worse is that they know its a farce, but make the claims anyway.
If any school is ducking out of conference competition, it is Florida. Any of the school's Herbie detests would kill for an opportunity to join any of the old money clubs and have the clout to buy wins by paying off opponents to come in for a big pay day and go home with a loss. Sure, others schools do that as well, but not to the degree that Florida does.
Essentially, what Kirk is saying is that—he, personally—plans to hold it against Boise State or Cincinnati or any other smaller venue school for not playing a major conference schedule, even though those schools are not being given the chance to join those conferences to play the very schedules they are being accused of ducking.
As long as individuals such as Kirk Herbstreit are given a national platform to campaign for their own agenda, we will never see a legitimate national champion crowned on the field. And that is disappointing for the generations of fans of many great schools around the country.
So about Kirk Herbstreit...I am not a fan.