St. Pete Bowl: Why not announce Friday?
The Big East bowl situation still has a ton of overlapping and contradicting speculation, so while it seems that USF is very likely headed to the St. Petersburg Bowl, the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte remains the wild card.
You see more and more bowls picking based on geographic proximity, which puts the least burden on schools and their fans and gives the best chance for a solid crowd. Given that, it seems unlikely that USF would beat West Virginia by so much on the road that Charlotte would choose the Bulls over the Mountaineers, who have a more established record of bringing a strong contingent to bowls.
For USF, the St. Petersburg Bowl might be seen as disappointing, given the high ranking the Bulls had in September, but realistically, it's where they've been pegged for the past month. None of the other lower-tier bowls -- Charlotte, Birmingham or Toronto -- involve a higher payout. And going elsewhere would in the very least cut in half the number of Bulls fans attending a USF bowl game. Short of being able to play a BCS-conference team in Charlotte and playing after Christmas, there's not an advantage in going to Meineke for USF.
My curiosity: Why doesn't the St. Petersburg Bowl announce an invitation to USF on Friday (tomorrow)? If St. Pete got the green light from Charlotte that it won't take the Bulls, it has several benefits for the new bowl:
-- By announcing Friday, they got much more of the spotlight in newspapers across the country, rather than getting buried in with 40-plus teams getting paired with bowls on Sunday. The Conference USA side could be announced late Saturday (the league's title game starts at noon), so it gives the bowl publicity in another day of newspapers and another cycle of TV news broadcasts.
-- By announcing Friday, the bowl -- owned and operated by ESPN Regional -- gets a lot of talk about the bowl during Saturday night's USF-West Virginia game, which is on ESPN2, the same network that will broadcast the St. Pete Bowl two weeks later. Can't see why ESPN wouldn't push for this bonus self-promotion.
-- By announcing Friday, the bowl gets two more days to sell tickets -- St. Pete is on the first day of bowl season, and as a first-year bowl, they want as much of a window as possible to build a crowd. Airfare might be cheaper for the Bulls fans who would be flying into Tampa/St. Pete for the game, making them more likely to travel.
-- Since it's more likely than not that USF will lose Saturday -- the Bulls will be underdogs, however confident they and their fans will be -- announcing Friday allows the bowl to avoid inviting a team that just lost on national television. Just a thought, but if I were running that bowl, I'd lobby hard for the right to get an invitation out Friday before the clutter of this weekend's bowl announcements.
---- The Times' John Romano has a column Thursday on the BCS and the potential for controversy surrounding who is playing for a national championship. And while he's right, I don't know that a four- or even eight-team playoff would be that much clearer a picture this season, simply because there are a huge number of elite teams that are perceived to be nearly equal.
Let's say Oklahoma and Florida both win their conference championships to meet in Miami for the title. All a playoff would do is slightly lessen the number of teams that feel slighted. A four-team playoff? There still would be a complicated selection process, likely involving polls and computer ratings -- how else to you subjectively determine the four best teams in the country? A four-team playoff would likely bring Texas and USC or Penn State into the field with the Sooners and Gators, but would still leave out Texas Tech, which would still have the same record as Texas and a head-to-head win. The three undefeated outsiders -- Utah, Boise State and Ball State -- are still on the outside looking in.
Let's say you approve an eight-team playoff, which would be great for college football. It still would have worthy teams complaining about being left out. Even if you eliminate the Florida-Alabama loser, which takes a second loss but probably finishes in the top eight in the BCS standings, let's fill out the field. Let's take Oklahoma and Texas, which still leaves Texas Tech out. Let's take Penn State and USC as one-loss champions of BCS conferences. That's five, leaving three spots for three undefeated teams. But if any of those lose in the opening round -- I'd think at least two of the three would, seeded against the SEC and Big 12 champs -- you'll have Texas Tech and the Florida-Alabama loser or even Ohio State clamoring that they should have been in the field of eight. Nobody's ever going to be happy.