Clueless in Seattle

As usual, the Dawg Bone has the story: Ted Miller of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer has let it slip that Oregon is "putting the finishing touches on a contract with Georgia."

Paul Westerdawg, who has been on top of this possible series since spring, has placed this prospect in the context of the Bulldogs' future schedules.

Contrary to what Ted Miller thinks, I respect Oregon . . . well, as much as you can respect anyone who dresses like this, anyway.

While I support the idea of a home and home series between the 'Dawgs and the Ducks, I take issue with some of the claims made by Miller in his Post-Intelligencer article, which suggest that perhaps the Seattle columnist is better characterized as a pre-intelligencer.

My points of contention are threefold:

1. There is no such thing as an "East Coast bias." Writing of "the semiannual battle for the Pac-10 to prove itself to a skeptical nation" (more about which anon), Miller argues that a season-opening loss by Cal in Knoxville "would reinforce the foundation of the hoary East Coast bias, which includes the codicil that the SEC invented college football, a perception that infiltrates even the minds of Pac-10 players."

Early in the 2005 season, when the field of perceived national title contenders still consisted of a trio of unbeatens, the consensus was that the West Coast squad was the best and the Southwestern squad was the runner-up, while the Hokies, tucked away in the East Coast enclave of the Old Dominion, trailed in the standings.

In 2004, three B.C.S. conference squads finished undefeated. The westernmost (Pac-10 champion Southern California) was ranked No. 1, the second-westernmost (Big 12 champion Oklahoma) was ranked No. 2, and the easternmost (S.E.C. champion Auburn) was ranked No. 3 and left out of the national championship game.

That same season, once-beaten Cal staked a claim to a B.C.S. berth, but the Golden Bears lost out to the Longhorns, who got the Rose Bowl bid in their stead. (Once again, I will get to this issue momentarily.) However irate this may have left folks on the West Coast, Texas (a former Southwest Conference school) is not the beneficiary of an East Coast media bias.

If the belief in an East Coast bias is held by student-athletes in the Pacific-10 Conference, it's high time the administrations of those institutions weeded out the football players who are still using this as a handy reference guide for self-medicating.

In 2003, when a skewed computer component of the B.C.S. formula denied the Trojans a spot in the designated national championship game, U.S.C. was ranked No. 1 in both traditional polls at the end of the regular season and the team went on to capture the Associated Press national title by winning the Rose Bowl. While a deserving Southeastern Conference squad made it into the Sugar Bowl, the team that should have been the odd man out was Oklahoma, which did not win its league crown . . . and which is in no sense eastern.

In 2001, Miami was ranked No. 1 and bound for the Rose Bowl as the nation's lone unbeaten team. Second-ranked Oregon, which had a pretty good argument for inclusion in the national championship game, was left out, but the Ducks were passed over in favor of Nebraska . . . once again, not an eastern team.

Let's see . . . Nebraska . . . Oklahoma . . . Texas . . . maybe Miller could make a credible case that the Pac-10 suffers due to a Big 12 bias, but the notion that the East Coast is out to get the folks at the opposite end of Manifest Destiny is nonsense.

2. The Pac-10 is more highly regarded nationally than its boosters seem to think. Miller asserts that the A.C.C., Big 12, and S.E.C. "have separated themselves from the Pac-10, Big Ten and sagging Big East" . . . not just by hosting conference championship games (which, for instance, Conference U.S.A. and the M.A.C. also do, with no discernible upgrade in their national stature), but also through the perception of their superiority.

While I believe the S.E.C. will be the nation's best conference in 2006, I don't believe the separation between any given league and the ones directly above and below it is so stark. The Big 12 turned out to be better than we thought, but so did the Big East. The Big Ten is deep and the S.E.C. is topheavy, but the A.C.C. failed to live up to expectations and other Pac-10 teams besides Southern California are starting to garner more attention. It's a muddle, not a clearly defined hierarchy.

You're good enough, you're smart enough, and, doggone it, other conferences like you!

If Miller views it differently, he is hypersensitive . . . and he needs to give serious consideration to my final point:

3. You don't help your case for national respect by whining. Using language most credible sportswriters would deem unfit for publication in a major newspaper, Miller asserts that "Oregon went 10-1 last regular season and got screwed by the BCS, just like California did in 2004."

As I acknowledged above, Oregon had a legitimate complaint when the Ducks were left out of the national championship game in 2001 . . . although, as with Auburn in 2004, those arguments largely are inconsequential, as the best those teams plausibly can claim is that they deserved it more because they would have given the eventual national champion a better game. The idea that Oregon would have beaten Miami or that Auburn would have beaten Southern California is sheer fantasy.

Oregon doesn't get to complain about its bowl bid in 2005. California doesn't get to complain about its bowl bid in 2004. Why? Because they lost.

I will admit that I groused about the fact that Georgia had to face West Virginia in the Sugar Bowl last year . . . but, when the 'Dawgs lost, I vented a little at first, then I let it go. I couldn't gripe that my alma mater got gypped because the Mountaineers proved quite worthy of their B.C.S. bid.

As Bill Maher would say, "New rule" . . . if you lose your bowl game, you don't get to complain that you deserved to go to a better bowl game. It's questionable whether you even deserved the bowl bid you received, but you certainly don't get to argue that you were entitled to face an opponent more challenging than the one that beat you.

Consider this in the context of the N.C.A.A. basketball tournament. Every year, at least one five seed loses to a 12 seed. Imagine if, in the postgame interview, the coach of the five seed that was bounced in the first round said, "I tip my hat to the 12 seed that just beat us . . . but, frankly, we deserved to be a three seed."

Memo to Matt Leinart and Ted Miller: losing means you're not the better team.

Oregon had an argument in 2001 because, in the postseason, the Ducks beat the Buffaloes . . . who beat the Cornhuskers . . . who went to the national championship game. Oregon had a plausible argument that it deserved the Rose Bowl berth more than the team that lost to the team that lost to the Ducks.

California had no argument in 2004 because, in the postseason, the Bears lost to the Red Raiders . . . who lost to the Longhorns . . . who got the Rose Bowl bid Cal thought it deserved. California has no case to make that it deserved to play in Pasadena more than the team that beat the team that beat the Bears, particularly since Texas won the Rose Bowl.

I hope Miller is right that Georgia and Oregon are close to inking a deal. I believe it would be good for both schools and for both conferences if the Bulldogs and the Ducks squared off against one another in Athens and in Eugene. I recognize the storied history of the Pacific-10 and I believe beating Oregon would be a tall order for the Red and Black, especially in Autzen Stadium.

I am, however, tired of hearing this Rodney Dangerfield routine from the league whose champion has been impossible to dislodge from the top spot in the A.P. poll except by beating that squad head to head. The Pac-10 is a major conference and has been for generations. The only ones who seem to doubt this are folks from the Pacific coast who, like Miller, wrestle with inferiority complexes the rest of us do not believe to be warranted and which could be banished simply by winning a Holiday Bowl.

Go 'Dawgs!

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