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College Football Season
Championship and Bowl Coverage

Bowl Season Was A Muddled Mass

by Mike Mitchell

The BCS worked, if the measuring stick is to put two undefeated teams together, as Ohio State halted Miami's 34-game winning streak with a 31-24 double-overtime win at the Fiesta Bowl to claim the 2002 national title.

But one would think that after all the trouble that is gone through to sort out 117 teams and place them in a "winner takes all" game that no participating referee would settle the outcome with a flag.

Unfortunately, one of the most vivid memories of a thrilling classic is field judge Terry Porter hesitatingly tossing a yellow hanky for a controversial interference penalty that gave Ohio State new life in the first overtime and snatched Miami's second consecutive championship from their grasp.

The legitimacy of Ohio State's BCS title (14-0) could regrettably forever be debated, because of the stooge in the striped shirt. Buckeye fans can celebrate their championship but they will be forced to forever listen to pundits' suggestions that an asterisk, or even a huge question mark, should be placed next to it.

What won't be chronicled nearly as often is how Ohio State forced five Miami turnovers and staked out a 17-7 lead. Or how Miami came back to tie the game on a 40-yard field goal as regulation time expired. Or how Ohio State QB Craig Krenzel kept the second overtime alive with a 4th-and-14 pass completion. Or how the Buckeyes ultimately landed the big prize in just the second season of coach Jim Tressel's tenure, one year after Miami's Larry Coker won the title in his first season.

Not enough talk will focus on how great a football game was played. Just as you hear too little praise for the BCS, the absence of which would have made this game impossible to even play. In the pre-BCS days Ohio State would have played in the Rose Bowl.

In a way, it was perhaps a fitting end to a bowl season that ballooned to 28 games and involved 56 of the 117 division 1-A teams.

And even with that many slots to fill, bowl committees still could not find a place to squeeze in South Florida. The omission of the Tampa-based Bulls, who went 9-2 with their only losses coming at the hands of Arkansas and Oklahoma, is inexcusable.

Bowl trips were rewarded to three teams for producing 6-6 seasons - Wake Forest, Mississippi and Purdue. All three made the most out of their opportunity by beating Oregon, Nebraska and Washington.

In the end, 16 bowl games were won by the team that oddsmakers expected to lose. The propensity for postseason upsets helped keep the parade of games interesting to monitor, but only a few were fun to watch.

My personal favorites were Kansas State's 34-27 comeback win over Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl, Wisconsin's 31-28 overtime upset of Colorado in the Alamo Bowl, Virginia Tech's nail-biting 20-13 triumph over Air Force in the inaugural San Francisco Bowl, and (of course) the Fiesta Bowl.

Though I tried to watch as many games as I could, my interest was fleeting in most of them. I suspect I am not the only huge college football fan who found it difficult to even care about most of the games that took place in the muddled mass of match-ups.

Therefore, I have two priorities for next season.

One, eliminate at least a half-dozen meaningless bowl games, particularly those that guarantee entry to a team that only has to finish 6th or 7th in its' conference.

Two, improve officiating.


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