— Sam Finley, EDN Sports Editor
There comes a time in life when you simply have to make a judgement. It doesn’t matter whether it’s making a career choice, deciding what to buy a the grocery store, or figuring out certain matters in the world of sports. The latter case is definitely my department, so here are three topics in which I’ll “take my pick.”
Oregon RB LaMichael James vs. Wisconsin RB Montee Ball:
What a timely subject to start off with, considering these two guys will be competing against each other in the 2012 Rose Bowl. Seriously, which running back would you like to have on your team?
On the one hand, you have James. He is the Ducks’ all-time leading rusher who won the Doak Walker Award last year (and was also a Heisman finalist in 2010). This season, even though he had to sit out a couple games with an injury, James still finished fourth in the nation with 1,646 rushing yards. There’s no question in my mind, that this is the best running back in Oregon history.
That being said, there is a world outside of Eugene and some would say Ball is the guy they’d want in their backfield. It’s not hard to see why. He’s leading the nation in rushing with 1,759 yards this year, and he just might win the Heisman Trophy over the weekend. He’s also scored 32 touchdowns in 2011, compared to only 17 scores by James.
Ah, that’s where things get tricky. Sure Ball has found the end zone more times, but do the Badgers have guys like Kenjon Barner and De’Anthony Thomas on their squad? I’m not saying that Wisconsin lacks depth, but if you have as many playmakers as Oregon does, then one guy isn’t necessarily going to get the bulk of the scoring load.
There’s also one other stat to contemplate: yards per carry. Ball’s average of 6.4 yards isn’t too shabby. But James gets around 7.4 any time he touches the rock. Thus, I’ve got to go with LaMichael on this one.
Stanford QB Andrew Luck vs. USC QB Matt Barkley
Duck fans may not like either of these guys, but they were two of the best quarterbacks in the Pac-12 this year. An argument could be made that both of these gentlemen should be Heisman candidates on Saturday, and people have been clamoring about how prepared both of these guys are going to be in the NFL.
With that in mind, let’s talk about the guy who will be going to New York and might (just might) win the big trophy. A lot of folks have been saying that Luck can do everything from leap tall buildings in a single bound to changing water into wine.
Now that we’ve gotten the exaggerations out of the way, Luck has shown an uncanny ability to read defenses and get the ball right into his receivers’ hands. The fact that he plays in a pro-style offense at Stanford will probably help him at the next level.
But is he the best quarterback in the nation or even his own conference? Matt Barkley might have something to say about that. His QB rating is lower at 161 (compared to Luck’s 167). However, look at some other numbers and they tell a different story.
Barkley has 39 touchdown passes this year, while Luck has only thrown 35. He’s also been a tad more careful with the ball, throwing only seven interceptions to Luck’s nine.
Putting the statistics aside, Barkley seems more athletic and I like his ability to improvise on the fly. Thus, if you made me choose between the two, I’m going to have to go with Barkley.
The BCS System vs. A Playoff Format
The Bowl Championship Series was supposed to solve all the problems of deciding a true national champion when it was installed in 1998. How do you think it’s working out so far?
Last season, the system seemed to work just fine as the two best teams (Oregon and Auburn) squared off for all the marbles. But, my friends, that was an exception. Most of the time, you’ll get two teams that the voters happen to like as opposed to the two that are the most deserving.
This year is a perfect example. For some context, let’s look at some words from then-LSU head coach Nick Saban in 2003. “If you don’t win your conference championship then you have no business playing for the national championship,” he said.
Wonder how the now-head coach of Alabama feels about those sentiments now? He probably doesn’t care. His Crimson Tide squared off at home against the Tigers and lost 9-6. That victory paved the way for LSU to win the SEC conference, and they definitely deserve to be in the title game.
But Alabama? They might deserve to play in one of the other BCS bowls, not the biggest one of all. Saban was right back in the day and, if he was true to his word, he’d decline the invite to play in the game. (We know that won’t happen).
I understand that Oklahoma State lost to a paltry Iowa State squad. The Cowboys, however, actually played a stronger schedule than the Tide and actually beat more BCS-caliber opponents during the season. An argument could be made that this was the biggest theft in the history of the BCS since Oregon got snubbed in 2001.
I could go on and on about that one, but I won’t go there. What I will do is state that this situation demands an eight-team playoff format. Have the top eight teams go against each other after the regular season, and let them prove on the field who really is better than who.
There might still be some politics with that format in choosing the top eight, but at least we’d have clear winner when it was all said and done. If you take the ‘C’ out of BCS, and you’ll get an an idea what I truly think of it these days. So ends my picking for now.