Playoffs? Nah, Bowl Games Are Just Fine

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PASADENA, Calif - Playoffs? Not to sound like Jim Mora, so let’s paraphrase him. In college football, who needs playoffs?

We have bowl games. We have the BCS. We had an overload of overtime. An abundance of suspense. What else do we need?

You think LSU-Alabama will be any better than Oregon-Wisconsin with a combined 1,130 yards gained?

Than Oklahoma State-Stanford, where the Cowboys’ Brandon Weeden completed 29 or 42 passes for 399 yards and Andrew Luck completed 27 of 31 for 347 yards?

Than Michigan State winning in the third OT? Than Michigan beating Virginia Tech in a single OT?

You think the bowl system is an anachronism? It’s a delight.

Andrew Luck out of luck, and what was Stanford coach David Shaw thinking anyway, trying to keep the ball on the ground until his ill-fated redshirt freshman kicker Jordan Williamson got it into the air – wide left, of course.

De’Anthony Thomas of Oregon had only two carries against Wisconsin. One was 91 yards for a touchdown, the other 64 yards for a touchdown in a 45-38 victory. If you’re going to run in this era of the pass, then that’s De way, or more accurately the De’Anthony way.

Michigan State down, 16-0, at the half and then up, 33-30 after the third OT. Michigan watching breathlessly as Virginia Tech’s Justin Meyer, who had connected on four field goals, failed in overtime to connect on a fifth and then winning the Sugar Bowl on its own boot, 23-20.

College football is perfect because it is imperfect, as well as chaotic, suspenseful, dramatic and traumatic, kids often making great plays, coaches occasionally making poor choices and fans loving every moment – even the failures.

Nobody wants to go home a loser, and the last few days nobody did, even those who didn’t win.

You think plus-one or an eight-team playoff would be any better than what we’ve watched previous 48 hours? This Rose Bowl (my 59th in succession, but that’s another story) was part Disney, part Chamber of Commerce – 82 degrees at kickoff for heaven’s sake – and all spectacle.

Then came the Fiesta Bowl, the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl if you choose, where Luck proved his greatness, Weeden showed his brilliance and all you could wish after Quinn Sharp of the Cowboys kicked the OT field goal after Williamson did not – his second botch in a matter of minutes – was for an encore.

We almost had one within 24 hours, when Michigan and Va Tech, disproving the idea they didn’t belong in the game, took the Sugar Bowl to the scheduled end and beyond.

At another level, in another era, when he was commissioner of the NFL, the late Pete Rozelle, responding to charges the Super Bowl had become too big, said, “All we are is entertainment.’’

So are college bowl games, huge parties with pompons and television timeouts and, from the squad with fewer points, perhaps a rueful observation or two.

“The bottom line,’’ said Shaw, the first-year Stanford coach, “was the kids played hard. We didn’t finish, not just the kid at the end.’’

The kid at the end would be Williamson, the kicker who will be remembered for a double-bagel, a miss and a miss. Still, if Shaw took advantage of Luck, in Andrew’s final game as an undergrad, maybe there’s a touchdown in the final seconds of regulation not a need for a field-goal attempt.

“We can’t settle for field goals against a good team,’’ said Shaw, repeating words heard maybe 10,000 times.

The rest of us will have to settle for Luck finishing his Stanford career. Andrew’s such a presence, the unequivocal No. 1 pick in April’s NFL draft, he’s already caused the disruption of the Indianapolis Colts front office and has the Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock, an Indy native, begging him to avoid the team.

Colts owner Jim Irsay on Monday fired team vice chairman Bill Polian, who amongst his other attributes, including turning the Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers into Super Bowl teams, drafted Peyton Manning.

Knowing Luck would be their choice and thinking Manning, unable to play a single game this season because of neck surgery, could be a distraction, Polian and son Chris, the GM, didn’t want Manning on the team in 2012.

Irsay didn’t want the Polians on the team in 2012.

Irsay, according to speculation, wanted to keep Manning, healthy or not, as well as adding Luck. The owner won that battle.

Luck, who could have entered the draft in 2011, stayed one more year.

“Yes, it was worth it,’’ he said after the Fiesta Bowl. “Not that I enjoyed every bit of it, because I didn’t. ... I had a chance to play great college football games, so it was definitely worth it.’’

Said Shaw, his coach: “He’s a Hall of Famer player. They come along every 20 years ago.’’

As opposed to captivating bowl games. They just don’t stop coming.

As a reporter since 1960, Art Spander is a recipient of the Dick McCann Memorial Award -- given for his long and distinguished career covering professional football -- and a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He's also honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the PGA of America. His columns appear in RealClearSports on Wednesdays and Fridays.

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