Thursday, January 31, 2008

Coach Weis Building Bionic Quarterbacks

Todd Marinovich, of the USC Trojans and the Oakland Raiders, was known to many as the "Robo-QB" because of how his father molded and programmed him to play the quarterback position from a very early age. But it seems that Notre Dame football coach Charlie Weis is in the process of manufacturing a new generation of Robo-QBs, and the latest model comes off the production line with a titanium-reinforced spine. One can quickly spot the benefits of this new feature for the QB of the future. Quarterbacks with titanium spines will have great pocket presence, standing tall in the face of even the fiercest pass rush. Nobody will be able to accuse these new QBs of lacking the "backbone" to play the position at pressure-cooker Notre Dame.

Personally, I would have thought the first QB body parts to reinforce with titanium would have been the knees, or perhaps, given recent experience, the throwing elbow. But I'm sure Coach Weis has thought about this in more depth than I have, and he certainly knows quarterbacks better than I do. On the other hand, maybe there was more to Jimmy Clausen's surgery last Spring than we've been told?

But seriously, you can't help but root for Dan McCarthy. I hope he has a successful rehab and is soon pushing for playing time. I must say, despite the debacle that was the 2007 football season, I have rarely failed to be very impressed by the character of the young men Charlie is bringing into the program. He is finding and bringing to South Bend true "Notre Dame Men." These are guys who know where they want to be, and who are willing to have their spines surgically repaired for the chance to compete for a QB job against two of the highest-profile quarterback prospects to come out of high school in the past two years. Folks have been critical of Charlie Weis, but he clearly has been able to connect with these kids and their families. Whatever it is he's selling - I'm buying!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Dems' Choice Isn't Pretty

Brendan Loy has written a very nice analysis of the Presidential election, and his views are quite similar to my own (his views on the race, not on policy issues). His key point:

Edwards supporters (and, for that matter, those currently backing Hillary Clinton) ought to seriously consider jumping on the Barack Obama bandwagon, because as best as I can tell, Hillary Clinton is quite possibly the only person in the known universe who is capable of uniting the Republican base behind John McCain.

[....] It'll be McCain for the Republicans. This is an extremely significant fact because a substantial chunk of the Republican base hates John McCain. I mean, really despises the man. They respect his foreign policy chops, but not much else; on domestic policy, they don't consider him a true conservative or a real Republican. On the contrary, they view him as an apostate on several core issues (immigration, taxes, campaign finance, interrogation, etc.) and a disloyal, MSM-loving sellout who cannot be trusted to uphold their principles. As such, they have no interest whatsoever in voting for him. Thus, on November 4, many of them will stay home.

Unless Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee.

Brendan's analysis is essentially this: Obama can beat any Republican (including McCain), and Hillary will lose to any Republican (including McCain).

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Notre Dame Lacrosse Players Honored

Congratulations to the four Notre Dame Lacrosse players who were just named to the Inside Lacrosse top-50 players list for the 2008 season. They are senior goaltender Joey Kemp (#13), Sophomore attackman Will Yeatman (#15), senior defenseman Sean Dougherty (#35), and Senior midfielder Michael Podgajny (#37). Yeatman, of course, is also a tight end for the Fighting Irish football team.

Notre Dame's lacrosse team is ranked #5 in the national pre-season polls. They open their season today with an exhibition match against Robert Morris. Good luck guys!

Fred Finished

Old news, I suppose. I've been depressed by the fallout from the GOP primary in South Carolina, and I've been on the road. But it's official:

"Today I have withdrawn my candidacy for President of the United States. I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort. Jeri and I will always be grateful for the encouragement and friendship of so many wonderful people."
That's $50 and the prospects for a near-term revival of American conservatism right down the tubes. I'm not sure where I go from here, politically. We'll know more after the results from the January 29th Florida primary roll in. I may still vote for Thompson to send a "message" that conservatism is important. If it's a close race in California between acceptable and unacceptable GOP options, I'll likely vote for the acceptable candidate in an attempt to actually make a difference. In the mean time I need to go back to the drawing board and look at the remaining options to see which of these men can best lead America in these challenging times. As I type this, I'm assuming it will come down to Romney and Giuliani.

I still question John McCain's mental stability, and more importantly I believe he is much too willing to compromise core principles for the sake of a glowing editorial in the Washington Post or the New York Times. And it is clear that Mike Huckabee wants to turn the "bully pulpit" of the Presidency into an actual pulpit for his brand of Baptist theology. The good news on Giuliani and Romney is that each of them has had success in a high-profile executive position. Thus, they have at least some basic skills in leadership and management (two very different things). Thompson was not strong in that regard, and none of the leading Democrats have executive qualifications.

I'll post more as I work through it.

[ADDED: I just found a nice article that succinctly and effectively details why John McCain is not the conservatives' candidate of choice. Worth reading if you care about these things.]

Thursday, January 17, 2008

2007 Season Review: Was It Really That Bad?

I think everyone is anxious to put the 2007 season behind us. The latest batch of recruits is getting ready to sign on the dotted line, and Spring football feels like it is just around the corner. But I don’t want to just forget that the 2007 season ever happened. I don’t want to just block it out of my memory, as if the experience didn’t have a lot to teach us. I think there are some valuable lessons to be learned from a historically bad campaign, and in order to get better we have to have a full understanding of what the heck just happened back there. This post will take a brief look at our 2007 opponents, and seek to answer the question:

Were they who we thought they were?

Who beat the Fighting Irish, and what does it really mean? Who did we beat, and can we take any comfort at all from that? We’ll just take a quick look at the pre-season expectations regarding each opponent, where they were when we played them, and how they ended up their season.

Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets came into the first game of the season ranked #27 in both the AP and USA Today/Coaches polls, ranked slightly ahead of Notre Dame. The Irish were a 2.5 point favorite in the game, no doubt because the game was played at Notre Dame. The Ramblin’ Wreck proceeded to wreak havoc on Notre Dame’s offense, and put a 33-3 beat-down on the Irish. The loss certainly raised a lot of alarm bells for Irish fans, but based on Week 1, Georgia Tech looked like world beaters and a Top 25 team for sure. Except they weren’t. Georgia Tech went 7-6 against the 62nd toughest schedule in the country, including a 40-28 loss to Fresno State in the Humanitarian Bowl, and they fired their head coach. They were 0-2 against Top 10 teams, and 1-3 against Top 30 teams. Jeff Sagarin ranks them #57 in his final rankings for the 2007-08 season. As Notre Dame fans we can come up with a lot of mitigating factors (youth and inexperience all over the field, an utter disaster of a new offensive scheme featuring Demetrius Jones, a new defensive scheme getting its first test, etc…), but the end result was a home loss by 30 points to a mediocre football team that was barely above .500 on the year.

Penn State. The AP had PSU at #17 in the pre-season, USA Today had them at #18, and the Lions didn’t hurt themselves by drubbing Florida International 59-0 in Week 1. Notre Dame went to Happy Valley and looked better than they did in Week 1, but still lost 31-10. The good news was that Jimmy Clausen actually put up better numbers (under far more dire circumstances) than did Anthony Morelli. The defense looked much better, but got worn down in the second half. Penn State went on to post a 9-4 record, including a 24-17 win over Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl. But the Lions were only 4-4 in Big Televen conference play (5th place), and finished the year ranked #25 by Sagarin. Penn State didn’t quite live up to its Top 20 pre-season ranking, but still finished on the fringes of the Top 25. Given the lowered expectations we had to set as the year wore on, a loss to a Top 25 caliber team was not a disaster, although the 21-point final margin was very disappointing.

Michigan. The Wolverines were the #5 team in the country in the AP and the USA Today pre-season polls and expectations were running very high. Two humiliating losses to Appalachian State and Oregon brought those lofty expectations crashing to the ground, as the Wolves came into the Notre Dame game unranked. Remind me never to wrestle with a wounded wolverine. Michigan took its frustration out on the Irish, 38-0, the first of what would be eight straight wins for UM. They finished the year at 9-4, finishing with an impressive win over the Florida Gators and Coach Urban Liar in the Capital One Bowl, 41-35. They ended up 3rd in the Big Televen, and ranked #18 by the AP and #24 by Sagarin. So, which team was the real Michigan? The team that opened the year 0-2? Or the team that won eight straight and beat Florida? It seems pretty clear that the Irish faced the Wolverine team that played in the Capital One Bowl, which was a pretty darn good football team. But nothing good can be taken from losing 38-0, even to a really good team.

Michigan State. Sparty came into 2007 an unranked team with very modest expectations. They rolled into South Bend riding a 3-game winning streak compiled against UAB, Bowling Green, and Pittsburgh. They extended their streak to four wins by defeating the Irish 31-14. Despite losing, this was the first game of the year that Notre Dame actually looked credible as a football team, and we saw a lot of improvement in this game and some things to build on for the future. But it was still a 17-point loss to a Michigan State team that finished 7-6 overall including a loss to Boston College in the Champs Sports Bowl. They were only 3-5 in the Big Televen (8th place) and finished #39 in the country according to Sagarin.

Purdue. Another mediocre Big Televen team, Purdue was 4-0 against a weak schedule when the Irish came calling. Pre-game analysis of the match-ups indicated that this was the Notre Dame’s best chance for a win. Notre Dame played its best game of the year (so far). After falling behind 23-0 at half time, the Irish pulled to within one score (26-19) with 7:58 remaining in the game, only to lose 33-19. While the running game was still deplorable, the ND QBs were 34 of 52 (65.38%) for 377 yards, 3 TDs and 2 INT. The Purdue win elevated them into the Top 25 for the only time all season. But after starting 5-0, the Boilers lost 5 of their final 8 games. They won the Motor City Bowl against Central Michigan, and at 8-5 finished 7th in their conference. Jeff Sagarin put them at #54 at season’s end. To play your best game of the year to that point but still lose to a team that isn’t even in the Top 50 is a big disappointment.

UCLA. The Bruins entered the season ranked #14 in the AP pre-season poll, and #17 in the USA Today poll. They returned ten (10) starters on both offense and defense from a team that shocked the world with a 13-9 win over the USC Trojans in Pasadena in 2006. UCLA was 4-1 going into the Notre Dame game, and had been ranked as high as #11 in the AP poll before a devastating loss to Utah in Week 3 knocked them out of the polls. Proving that a stopped clock is right twice each day, my pre-game expectations for the UCLA game were right on the money as a fired-up defense and a very conservative ball-control offense combined for the first Notre Dame win of the year in the Rose Bowl, 20-6. The Notre Dame game was the beginning of an eight game run that saw the Bruins winning 2 and losing 6. UCLA ended the year with a 6-7 record, including an exciting loss to BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl. On the other hand, the final Sagarin rankings have the Bruins at #27, playing the #1-ranked toughest schedule in the country. You have to count the UCLA game as a quality win against a very credible opponent. It only took six weeks.

Boston College. The Eagles entered the 2007 season ranked #28 in the AP poll and #26 in the USA Today poll. By the time they rolled into Notre Dame Stadium they were 6-0 and had worked themselves up to #4 in the AP, although OC Domer strongly felt they were overrated at the time. Despite playing another horrific offensive game, the Irish defense was dynamic enough to lead Notre Dame to a loss by just 13 points, 27-14. The Boston College win moved them up to #3 and Matt Ryan started getting a lot of Heisman hype. The Eagles ultimately fell back to earth, after losing a couple of conference games to Florida State and Maryland, finishing the year 11-3, ranked #10 by the AP, #11 by the USA Today, and #30 by Jeff Sagarin. No shame in losing to a very good BC team. The shame was that if we had played well at all we could have beaten them.

Southern Cal. The Trojans were pre-season #1 just about everywhere. When they came to town to play the Irish, they were 5-1 (ugly loss to Stanford!) and had fallen to #13 in the AP and had debuted at #14 in the BCS poll. Sadly, no blizzards or freezing rain appeared on game day and a very meek Irish squad lost 38-0. By the end of the season the Trojans had finished 11-2, were ranked in the Top 5 in most polls and many were wondering if they weren’t the best team in the country again. Losing to this USC team is one thing. But 38-0 is something else.

Navy. Unranked Navy went 8-5, and finished at #77 (against the 89th toughest schedule) in the Sagarin rankings. A loss to Navy, even an overtime loss, is not acceptable at Notre Dame.

Air Force. Unranked but still credible USAFA went 9-4 and finished at #51 in the Sagarin rankings (about 40 spots higher than ND). Irish lose 41-24. There’s nothing like back-to-back home losses to two service academies.

Duke. The Blue Devils went 1-11 on the year, defeating only Northwestern. They finished at #105 in Sagarin. This should have been the most lopsided win of the year for the Irish, and it was. ND wins 28-7. For the first time this season, the Irish did what they are supposed to do. After an ugly first half, the Irish took physical control of this game and pushed around an inferior opponent. We dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and our skill players made plays. We out-blocked them, out-threw them, out-ran them, and out-hit them. But it was Duke, which is nothing to write home about.

Stanford. Stanford was 3-7 going into the Notre Dame game. They ended the season 4-8. Notre Dame’s 21-14 win on the road to end the season was nice, given the alternative, but otherwise not very noteworthy. Stanford ended the season #69 on Sagarin’s list.

Analysis. Notre Dame fans knew their team faced a very tough schedule going into the 2007 season, and our expectations were realized. But going 3-9 may have caused the Irish faithful to lose sight of the fact that our schedule actually ended up being a little softer than expected. Only Boston College exceeded expectations on the year. Georgia Tech finished lower than expected, as did Michigan, UCLA, and even USC. By season’s end, Jeff Sagarin’s computers had dropped Notre Dame’s “brutal” schedule all the way down to #24. That’s still a very respectable schedule, but it isn’t the reason we ended up 3-9.

In trying to make some sense of this season’s results, I broke down the teams we played into three categories: Ranked Teams, Mediocre Teams, and Bad Teams. Ranked teams finished the season ranked in the Top 25 of one or more of the major polls (USC, UM, PSU, BC). Mediocre teams were unranked, but still credible opponents finishing in or around the Top 50 according to Sagarin (UCLA, Purdue, AF, MSU, GT). Bad teams are a cut below mediocre, not even sniffing Sagarin’s Top 50 (Duke, Stanford, Navy). I also broke the game results into categories: Strong Wins (by 14 or more points), Close Wins, Close Losses, Sound Defeats (by 14 or more). One can certainly quibble with the categories, but I wanted to take a crude cut at it to see if any conclusions can be drawn.

Against Ranked Teams, the Irish were 0-4. Only one of the losses (BC) was a “Close” loss; the remaining three (PSU, UM, USC) were sound defeats (or even blowouts).

Against Mediocre Teams, the Irish were 1-4. The single win (UCLA) was a “Close” win, although it was right on the borderline of being a “Strong” win. One loss was “close” (Purdue), and three of the losses (AF, MSU, GT) were sound defeats.

Against Bad Teams, the Irish were 2-1. We had one strong win (Duke), one close win (Stanford), and one close loss (Navy).

Conclusions. Notre Dame had only a single truly strong win on the year, and that was against a Duke team that was by far the weakest team we faced, and which was in fact nearly the weakest team in all of Division I-A. Even against “Bad” football teams, Notre Dame could only manage a 2-1 record, barely putting away Stanford and suffering a historic loss to Navy. In five games against “Mediocre” football teams, the Irish were soundly defeated three times, won one close game and lost one close game. That’s a combined 3 wins and 5 losses against Bad and Mediocre teams. In any “normal” year of Notre Dame football those are the games on the schedule that you mark down as “Wins” when the schedule comes out. We should be 8-0 against these teams in a normal year, with the season being made or broken by the games against the ranked teams. To lose five games against Bad and Mediocre teams is a cause of significant concern. One of the most refreshing/assuring features of the 2005 and 2006 seasons under Coach Weis was that for the most part he was winning the games he was “supposed to win,” with the only glaring exception being the 2005 loss to Michigan State. Every other loss in 2005 and 2006 was to a highly ranked team. The surest sign of progress next year won’t be whether we’re winning games against ranked teams, but instead whether we return to normalcy and once again put mediocre teams in their place. It would also be nice to do better than 38-0 against USC and Michigan.

[ADDED 1/18/2008: Welcome readers! I can't read the thread you're coming from (OC Domer is a low overhead operation), so I hope the feedback is positive. Please bookmark OC Domer and check back often.]

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Orange County is Fred Thompson Country!

Most voters know that we will be electing a new President in November. What many don't realize is that the primary election season which began in Iowa on January 3rd will be over for all practical purposes when the polls close in 22 states (including California) on February 5th. By then, if not well before, the two major political parties will have chosen their nominees and a ridiculously long nine-month general election campaign will have begun. To this point, only three of fifty states (Iowa, New Hampshire, and Wyoming) have held their primaries (or caucuses) and some prominent candidates have already thrown in the towel or are on the verge of doing so due to a combination of poor performance and dwindling cash.

What does this mean for you? It means that if you don't hurry up, do your homework, and get behind the candidate of your choice (with your support and your cash) you won't have any choices remaining by the time the primary campaign rolls into your state. Your candidate may already be out of the game when you get ready to go to the polls.

For instance, the following Democrats have already called an end to their campaigns: Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, and Chris Dodd. John Edwards maintains a slim hope that he can pick up some momentum, and Dennis Kucinich is technically still in the race, but he is just a sideshow to the Clinton/Obama act taking place in the center ring.

On the Republican side, five major candidates are still very much in the mix, and that doesn't even count Ron Paul, who has garnered a lot of attention lately (both positive and negative) and who has been very successful raising funds and gathering grass root support.

The OC Domer blog comes to you from the Orange County, California. This is Reagan Country. Yet, when I look at the crop of candidates running for the opportunity to carry the torch for the GOP, I am very disappointed to see that flame of Ronald Reagan conservatism has been nearly extinguished in today's Republican party. After looking at the field, I have concluded that the ONLY candidate who can make a legitimate claim to being Ronald Reagan's political heir is Fred Thompson. Reagan conservatism combined (1) traditional American family values (social conservatism), (2) with fiscal conservatism and federalism (lower taxes, smaller Federal government), and (3) unapologetic belief in American strength and virtue (strong defense and promotion of Democracy abroad). Today's crop of Republican candidates seem to think that if you check off any of those three boxes you qualify as "conservative."

Mike Huckabee is undoubtedly a social conservative. But quite frankly his brand of social conservatism worries me. As a Baptist minister Mike Huckabee doesn't just tolerate or respect religion, he believes that his religion should "drive" the decisions he makes in his professional life. He believes that Government policy should reflect his religious beliefs. I would be much more comfortable with a President that allowed his decisions to be "driven" by the Constitution rather than by Baptist religious teaching. Huckabee also lacks critical experience in foreign policy, and his credentials as a fiscal conservative remain in doubt. And of course, it worked out so well the last time we elected a former Governor of Arkansas.

Rudy Giuliani is very strong on "law and order" issues and has shown some ability to operate as a chief executive. But his record on lower taxes, smaller government, and social issues makes it abundantly clear that he is not a "conservative" candidate. He's still far superior to any Democrat, but not a worthy GOP nominee.

Before Thompson entered the race, Mitt Romney held some interest for me. When he ran the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City I was very impressed by him and I thought he had the presence and the charisma to be a good Presidential candidate. Those things are still true. But it seems that Mitt is working very hard to manufacture conservative credentials that aren't really there. For example, he came into California and stole the endorsement of the California Republican Assembly, the state's oldest and largest Republican volunteer organization that was once called the "conscience of the Republican Party" by Ronald Reagan. How did they do this? In the run-up the CRA's November endorsing convention, Romney supporters established (and funded the membership of) numerous brand new CRA units, each of which then sent five Romney delegates to the convention, enough to garner the important and difficult-to-obtain CRA endorsement. Of course, those CRA units never existed before, and they aren't expected to exist after this election cycle. Legal tactics? Sure. Hardball? Sure. Honest? No. Combine this underhanded campaign style with Romney's dubious conservative credentials as Governor of Massachusetts, and Romney has lost my support. By the way, the candidate who was the (honest) second place finisher to Romney at the CRA endorsing convention? Fred Thompson.

John McCain is an American hero. As a captive of the communists in North Viet Nam he made great sacrifices for this country. But today he is a captive of the entrenched Washington DC establishment, and thanks to McCain-Feingold, it is my Constitutional right of free political speech that has been sacrificed. John McCain is no conservative. How do I know? Name for me please one true conservative politician in Washington DC who is as beloved by the mainstream media as John McCain? You can't. True conservatives are torn down, ridiculed, and ignored by the media in Washington, not celebrated. McCain is loved in Washington because he is good for a sound bite, and because he is only too willing to embrace liberal causes in the name of bipartisanship. John McCain is not the solution to our problems in Washington - he is part of the problem in Washington.

Fred Thompson is the only true conservative in this race. He is the only candidate willing to stand up to special interests and say "No, I will not spend Federal dollars on your pet project, because that is not the proper role of the Federal government." Fred Thompson is the only candidate that seems to understand, let alone embrace, the idea that the Federal government should not be all things to all people but should instead carry out the limited roles assigned to it by the Constitution. Here are the "First Principles" of Fred Thompson's campaign, as set forth on his web site:

Individual Liberty . As Jefferson spelled out in the Declaration of Independence, our basic rights come from God, not from government, and that among these inalienable rights is the right to liberty. We must allow individuals to lead their lives with minimal government interference.

Personal Responsibility . The corollary to liberty is responsibility. No society can succeed and thrive for any duration unless free people act in a responsible way. All of us must take responsibility for our actions and strive to improve our own lives and to contribute to building a better society.

Free Markets . Free people are best equipped to order their own affairs, and the common interest benefits from and is improved by the aggregate success of all. We must reform our tax system, encourage investment, support entrepreneurial spirit, open markets abroad to American goods, and minimize burdensome government regulations to continue to expand the economy and bring increased wealth to all Americans.

Limited Government . Government must be strong enough to protect us, competent enough to provide basic government services, but limited by the delineated powers in the Constitution.

Federalism . Our Constitution innovatively guarantees our liberties by spreading power among the three branches of the federal government, and between the federal government and the states. In considering any action by the government, we must always ask two questions: is the government better equipped than the private sector to perform the task and, if so, what level of government (federal or state) ought to do it. Washington is not the seat of all wisdom. (More on Federalism)

Protecting our Country . The first responsibility of the federal government is to protect the nation and the American people. There is no more important task. We must have a strong and effective military, capable intelligence services, and a vigorous law enforcement and homeland security capacity.

Traditional American Values . A healthy society is predicated on belief in God; respect for all life; strong families centered on the institution of marriage—the union of a man and a woman; and self-respect and tolerance of others. While we are all free to live our lives in the pursuit of our own happiness, the government has a responsibility to respect the right of parents to raise their children and to promote the values that produce the strongest society.

The Rule of Law . We protect our liberty, secure our rights, and promote a just and stable society through the rule of law. We owe to ourselves and our fellow citizens our own adherence to the rules, but tough law enforcement and punishment for those who do not. A free and independent judiciary that interprets the law by adhering strictly to legal text and respects its limited role in our system of government is essential to our security and freedom, and we need judges who understand that role if we are to preserve our republic and freedom.

Conserving Our Nation’s Resources . Each of us is put on Earth for a limited period of time. We must always strive to ensure that the resources we use to lead our lives are here for future generations to enjoy and use as well.

Those are core beliefs that would do Ronald Reagan proud, and they are why OC Domer endorses Fred Thompson for President, and why you see the Fred08 button at the top of the right-hand column on this page.

If you care about politics and elections, the time to get involved with supporting your favorite candidate is now. If you plan to wait until Summer, or even until next month, you will find that your choice of candidate has already been made for you, by people in Iowa, South Carolina, or Florida who may not see things the same way you do.

If you are a true Republican, then I hope you'll visit Fred Thompson's web site to learn more about his candidacy and to offer him your support. It's crunch time for Fred right now, as he didn't fare too well in Iowa or New Hampshire. He has set up camp in South Carolina and has targeted the January 19th primary there as the one that will either be the springboard for his campaign or the end of the line. He is finally starting to gain some traction there. By almost every account he dominated the recent GOP debate, and the endorsement he received from Human Events magazine has greatly elevated his profile in the race. If conservatives don't get active right now, they're going to be left to chose between the liberal candidate and the more liberal candidate in November.

[ADDED 1/18/2008: Welcome to our readers! If you enjoy your visit, I hope you'll vote our article onto the front page over there.]

Friday, January 11, 2008

USC Trojans Win OC Domer 2007-08 Tournament of Champions

Happy New Year! 2008 seems to be off to a good start. An unworthy Ohio State football team was properly embarrassed by the LSU Tigers in the BCS Championship game. Notre Dame did not get embarrassed in a Bowl game. Charlie Weis is still recruiting his ample ass off, and those recruits are making him (and Notre Dame) look really good by playing lights out in the high school all-star games. It's all good.

So - are we all happy with the BCS system? This year featured the aforementioned unworthy Ohio State Buckeyes taking the opportunity to play for a National Championship away from other, better teams who would have given LSU a much tougher test. And after all that, what do we really know? Some years the BCS title game answers all the questions and gives the nation a clear, consensus champion. In other years, folks are left clamoring for a "Plus 1" game that would match the best two teams to emerge from the bowl games. This year, arguably, there emerged from the bowl games four teams that looked impressive enough to lay claim to being the best team in the land (LSU, USC, Georgia and West Virginia). When it was all over and OSU laid an egg (over easy) in the Big Easy, was it really clear that the 2-loss Tigers were superior to the 2-loss Trojans, the 2-loss Bulldogs, and the 2-loss Mountaineers?

So, some years the BCS "works", some years you really need a "Plus-1" and some years you really need a four team playoff. That's not a system, that's chaos. There has to be a better way. There is a better way.

I present to you the results of the first annual OC Domer Tournament of Champions. The Tournament of Champions is an eight team playoff featuring the top 8 teams chosen from a pool of the champions of each Division1-A conference plus the highest ranked Independent. While it is not a requirement, in most years the field will be comprised of the champions from each of the six BCS conferences, plus the two highest ranked teams from among the champions of the non-BCS conferences and the Div 1-A Independents.

The concept for the TOC is premised upon a simple but very important concept: If you are not the best team in your conference, you aren't the best team in the nation. A corollary to that central premise is that if you are the champion of your conference, you are the best team in your conference. Scoreboard. The TOC is not a beauty pageant. The TOC is not concerned with which team is, in some esoteric intangible sense, the "best" or the "most talented." The TOC is looking for the team that has played the best on the field and has earned the right to play for the National Championship. Didn't qualify for your conference title game? Sorry. Lost your conference title game? Sorry. We're looking for winners in crunch time.

So how did this year's inaugural TOC field shape up? Here are the qualifiers (the BCS standings referenced are as of December 2nd, which followed the conference title games and which will be used for seeding):

#1 Seed: Ohio State (Big Ten Champion, BCS #1)
#2 Seed: LSU (SEC Champion, BCS #2)
#3 Seed: Virginia Tech (ACC Champion, BCS #3)
#4 Seed: Oklahoma (Big 12 Champion, BCS #4)
#5 Seed: USC (Pac 10 Champion, BCS #7)
#6 Seed: West Virginia (Big East Champion, BCS #9)
#7 Seed: Hawaii (WAC Champion, BCS #10)
#8 Seed: BYU (Mountain West Champion, BCS #17)
The champions of the six BCS conferences fill six slots. Hawaii and BYU were the highest ranked teams from the non-BCS/Independent pool, and it's hard to argue that an undefeated Hawaii (or Boise State) doesn't deserve a berth in the TOC. Others in the pool were Conference USA champ Central Florida, Independent Navy, MAC champ Central Michigan, and Sun Belt champ FAU. Notre Dame fans would hope that in many years the Irish would rank high enough to grab one of these non-BCS/Independent slots. Georgia, Mizzou, and Kansas can feel left out, but at the end of the day you need to be a champion to play in the Tournament of Champions. Play better.
Here are the first round games:

#1 OSU v. #8 BYU
#4 Oklahoma v. #5 USC
#2 LSU v. #7 Hawaii
#3 Va Tech v. #6 West Virginia
You have to figure Ohio State handles BYU to advance. Not a gimme, but still. USC defeats Oklahoma. I base that on the fact that OU got run by WVa in the Fiesta Bowl, while USC dominated the Illini in the Rose Bowl. Also, USC is well ahead of OU in the final polls. LSU certainly send Hawaii home with some lovely parting gifts. And in a great football game, West Virginia defeats Va Tech.
Therefore, the semi-final match-ups are:

#1 OSU v. #5 USC
#2 LSU v. #6 West Virginia
Did anybody see the Rose Bowl or the BCS Title game? USC advances. In a much closer contest, LSU has the speed to defend WVa's spread offense, and they use their superior size to control the ball on offense. The Tigers advance to the OC Domer Championship game:
#2 LSU v. #5 USC
Now THAT is a championship match-up! Most final polls have LSU ahead of USC, but some of that is due to inertia in the polls where it is nearly impossible to jump over a team that hasn't lost. Jeff Sagarin's final 2007 rankings have LSU barely ahead of USC (92.43 to 92.38) in the all-important "predictor" column, but this is largely due to strength of schedule, where LSU gets a boost by defeating Ohio State and USC had to make do with Illinois in the Rose Bowl. What does Las Vegas think? The wise guys in Las Vegas rank Southern Cal barely ahead of LSU in their final regular season poll. If the game is played in the Coliseum (or the Rose Bowl), the Trojans would win. If the game is played in Baton Rouge (or the Super Dome), you probably have to like the Tigers. On a neutral field? USC under Pete Carroll has shown that they can travel anywhere in the country and beat anyone. LSU, like most SEC teams, does not travel away from Dixie very often, and has not shown that they can be dominant outside their comfort zone.

Therefore, the winner of the OC Domer 2007-08 Tournament of Champions is:
The Trojans!
Congratulations to the University of Southern California Trojans and their fans everywhere (including prisoner #32 watching from a jail cell in Las Vegas).

Was that so hard? Can we all agree that this makes more sense than the "system" we have now?

What about the Bowl games? Pick the Top 7 Bowl Games on your list, and do something like this:

Round 1 games:

Cotton Bowl (Ohio State v. BYU)
Orange Bowl (Oklahoma v. USC)
Liberty Bowl (Va Tech v. West Virginia)
Holiday Bowl (LSU v. Hawaii)

Round 2 games:

Fiesta Bowl (Ohio State v. USC)
Sugar Bowl (West Virginia v. LSU)

Championship Game:

Rose Bowl (USC v. LSU)

You could rotate which bowls host round 1, round 2, or the Championship game, and you can do as I did above and try to site the games where they make some geographical and/or traditional sense.

I know that SEC fans want to reserve 4 slots in any 8-team field for SEC teams, but aside from that unreasonable concern, I don't understand why this can't get done.