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Case of the Mondays: Never-ending realignment, new bowl games and NBA Playoffs!

Welcome to this week’s “Case of the Mondays” where we at Crystal Ball Run take a look at the good, bad and the ugly in the college football world and beyond.

This week, we start with…

1. The dumbest storyline that isn’t really a storyline to hit college football in years: When it was announced late Friday that the SEC and Big XII had signed a five-year agreement starting in 2014 to have their conference champions play each other in a bowl game. The catch of course, is that the two champions will only play if neither is involved in the four-team playoff that is set to kickoff that year.

For about 30 seconds it caused an uproar around college football world: Wait, the SEC and Big XII champ in a new game? What about bowl tie-ins? What about history? What about those poor lost souls in the Big East and ACC. What about…

Thankfully though, everyone eventually caught their breath, re-read the initial report and realized: “Oh yeah, it doesn’t really matter.” Why’s that? Well, mainly because by 2014 there’s going to be a four-team playoff, and that four-team playoff is almost certain to include the SEC and Big XII champions every, single year. And if for some reason those teams don’t make the playoff, then it means the two teams participating in the “new” bowl probably won’t be all that good to begin with. Hmm, see why this is the dumbest storyline that isn’t really a storyline?

Just to prove a point, let’s look at how this bowl partnership would’ve played out if it had been in place last season. In 2011 the two conference champions (LSU and Oklahoma State) would’ve played in the four-team playoff (eliminating them from this “new” bowl game), and so too, would have a one-loss Alabama team. Meaning, we would’ve gotten the third place SEC finisher (Arkansas) against the second place Big XII finisher, which happened to be Kansas State. Except wait a second, those two actually played in last year’s Cotton Bowl… and nobody even noticed.

As a matter of fact, I would argue that if anything, this partnership is not just good for college football but GREAT…

2. For the following reasons: First off, it gives us another compelling matchup around bowl season.

The truth is, that as college football continues to evolve, as more bowl games continue to pop up like zits on Barry Bonds’ back and as the overall product gets watered down because of it, we just don’t get enough quality games. Conference tie-ins force certain schools at certain sites, only further diminishing the product.

The problem of course is that as college football fans continue to get smarter, they really couldn’t care less about the “prestige” of the bowl, and instead are more concerned with the quality of the matchup. Honestly, when’s the last time you tuned in specifically to see the “Rose Bowl” or the “Cotton Bowl,” the “LegalZoom.com Bowl” or anything else? Never, right? What you did tune in for was to see Wisconsin-TCU two years ago, or Oklahoma State-Stanford last year, and it was because of the matchups. It didn’t matter if Andrew Luck was playing Brandon Weeden in Glendale, Pasadena or on the moon, you’d have watched, right? Well, that’s why this bowl game is so important: It will almost certainly give us one more compelling football matchup to watch every holiday season.

But really, the big reason why this news is so huge is because… it looks like this playoff thing is really going to happen.

Look, it’s not like saying a “playoff is inevitable” is news per se, if only because the conference commissioners have been discussing it for months. But at the same time, didn’t you always have a feeling like somehow, someway this playoff thing could get messed up? That Jim Delany or Mike Slive might get upset over dollars and cents, or neutral field vs. home-field semifinals, or something else, and that the whole thing might get sabotaged? I’m not saying it would happen, just that with the brain-trust behind college football, it wouldn’t have surprised me.

Well, if you’re looking at this game “big picture” what it ultimately is, is a contingency plan if one of the two conference’s champions don’t make it to the four-team playoff. Well, there has to be a playoff for those teams to make for this to become a contingency plan, otherwise it’s not necessary. And thankfully, it does look like this playoff will in fact happen.

Now, as for the teams who got left out of this game…

3. Let’s not cry over spilled milk for the ACC or Big East: For a couple of reasons.

The first is that again, this game doesn’t ultimately matter. It’s just another exhibition game, on a schedule filled with them. In the end, whether the Big XII and SEC reps play in New Orleans for the Sugar, in Dallas, Atlanta or anywhere else, the game doesn’t mean any more than the Emerald Bowl, Pinstripe Bowl or Liberty Bowls do.

In addition, let’s also remember that as crazy as it sounds, the ACC or Big East champ (or non-champ for that matter) could, you know, play their way into a playoff. Making the whole point moot. Of course that would require a team from those conferences to achieve 10, 11 or 12 regular season wins, which actually might be asking a bit too much.

Staying on the subject of the ACC…

4. Sunday gave us more ACC/Big XII realignment talk: Can you feel the excitement?!?!?!

I can’t, but thankfully my colleague Allen Kenney loves this stuff, and did an excellent write-up for us here at CBR on all the moving and shaking that is supposedly going on behind the scenes right now. For those of you not paying close attention, it does appear as though Florida State and Clemson are on their way out, with one report even indicating that the move is all but “inevitable.”

As I mentioned last week, I’ve stopped caring about all this realignment non-sense, but thankfully we’ve got a lot of good writers here at CBR and we’ll be sure to continue to cover this story as new layers develop.

5. Moving away from college football, let’s quickly chat NBA playoffs here: Where I’d again like to give a shout out to my colleague Allen Kenney. A few weeks ago after the San Antonio Spurs dispatched the hopeless and helpless Utah Jazz, Allen mentioned off-hand “I don’t know if San Antonio will lose four games the rest of the playoffs.” At the time, I thought my man had lost his mind. Now, he looks like a genius.

Admittedly, I don’t watch a ton of regular season NBA ball, so I’ll admit that the efficiency and ruthlessness with which the Spurs are dispatching folks right now has been surprising to me. Just for example, on Saturday I had to run a quick errand at halftime of Spurs-Clippers Game 3, with Los Angeles comfortably ahead at halftime. Well, by the time I got back 20 minutes later, San Antonio had erased that lead, taken the lead themselves and were cruising to victory. Sunday, they officially closed out the Clips, and now should have a few days to sit back and relax before the Western Conference Finals.

Regardless, given the way they’re playing right now, you’ve got to think they’re the title favorites, no? Especially given the fact that…

6. I kinda think Oklahoma City might be a wee bit overrated: Now, before Oklahoma City fans get their panties in a bunch, please understand one thing: I genuinely, GENUINELY love watching your team. They’re young. They play hard. Kevin Durant seems like one of the most likeable superstars on the planet. And James Harden’s beard is one of the 10 wonders of the modern world.

At the same time, as easily as they’re up 3-1 right now heading into tonight’s game, we all know that they could also be down 3-1 too. Outside of the Game 1 massacre, you could make a pretty compelling case that the Lakers have been the better team for about 138 of the 144 total minutes of Game’s 2-4. Sure, they didn’t close those games out, which is a credit to OKC, but it doesn’t change the fact that the Lakers are in fact this close to being up two games in this series. If it weren’t for a monumental collapse in Game 2 the Lakers would’ve won then, and if it weren’t for Russell Westbrook holding down the ship in the third quarter of Game 4, that might’ve been an L as well.

Beyond that, it seems like for a team with so much talent, Oklahoma City really only can play one way. Let them get up and down the court, fastbreak, and do the things good, young, fast, athletic teams do, and they’re fine. Force them into the half-court, limit their dribble penetration and, you know, make them run plays, and they’re imminently beatable.

Again, I’ve enjoyed OKC immensely over the course of these playoffs, and back at home for Game 5, I do expect them to win. I also think they might be in for a rude awakening when they go to San Antonio for the inevitable Western Conference Finals showdown between the two.

Speaking of which…

7. Do we really need to play the Finals?: Because really, is anyone in the East going to be able to hang with San Antonio or Oklahoma City? Frankly, I just don’t see it.

Yes, the Heat have LeBron and Wade… except they needed every last ounce of effort from them yesterday, and barely got by Indiana, which is nowhere as good as either Western Conference team. Indiana probably matches up best, but doesn’t have the fire-power to beat either the Spurs or Thunder. The Celtics? They’re good and all, but then again, also couldn’t put away the 76ers Friday night. Speaking of Philadelphia, well…. HAHAHAHAHAHA. Sorry, but if they played either Western Conference team, they’d get swept so hard you’d see broom marks on poor Andre Iguodala’s back.

Therefore, the only logical conclusion I can come to is to let Oklahoma City and San Antonio play for the NBA title. Hand them a trophy, give them a banner and let confetti fall from the rafters when the last game goes final, because that is in fact the NBA Finals right there. And heck, just for good measure, if the winners of Heat-Pacers and Celtics-76ers want to play some consolation series we’ll let them. We’ll even broadcast it on NBATV and everything.

But as anyone who is watching these playoffs knows, the title goes through San Antonio and Oklahoma City.

8. I only have one quick thought on the MLB this week, and that’s this: Much to my surprise, interleague play started this week (apparently I wasn’t paying attention closely) with most of the usual, expected matchups headlining. We had Cubs-White Sox, A’s-Giants, Yankees-Reds; you know, all the great matchups baseball fans wanted to see. Ok, well maybe not the last one. But you get the point.

Regardless, though, what I found ironic is this: Much like what I discussed above with college football’s bowl games, interleague play should be about creating the most compelling matchups. Sure, these games count a little more, but ultimately they don’t. A’s-Giants has more relevance to the fans of the Bay Area teams than it does to baseball as a whole. Know what I’m saying?

So with that said, if we are trying to create the best matchups, why the hell were the Cardinals and the Dodgers- only two of the most compelling teams in baseball- not playing interleague games this weekend?

Granted, I know that because the National League has two more teams, it means that there will always be an extra pair of teams that don’t have a American League counterpart to take on. At the same time, why are the Cardinals and Dodgers specifically not playing, when they are clearly teams that baseball fans in other cities would want to see? The MLB couldn’t have designated those games for the Pirates or the Diamondbacks or the Marlins? They had to be the defending champions and one of the most exciting young teams in baseball (although, admittedly, Matt Kemp is out with injury) instead? Why? Does anyone have an explanation for this?

I swear, Major League Baseball never ceases to amaze me.

9. Quickly it’s time for a quick book review: Because early last week I just had John U. Bacon’s, old, new book “Three and Out” on Rich Rodriguez’s time at Michigan sent to me, and I must say it’s truly fantastic. I’m about a third of the way through, and can barely put the thing down, it’s gripping, gives good context to the situations at both West Virginia and Michigan and gives details on some other stuff (like the coaching search which brought Rodriguez to Ann Arbor) that I never knew before.

I’ll definitely have a more definitive review up at some point, but until then, I definitely recommend checking the book out.

10. Let’s wrap up with a quick editorial note: And announce that because next Monday is Memorial Day, there will be no Case of the Mondays. Sure, we’ll still have content; but just not this specific article.

So sit back, grab a burger and don’t stress, we’ll back two weeks from now with the same tomfoolery you’ve come to know and expect from us.

Until then…

About Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres works for Fox Sports, and was previously a best-selling author of the book 'The Unlikeliest Champion.' He currently uses Aaron Torres Sports to occasionally weigh-in on the biggest stories from around sports. He has previously done work for such outlets as Sports Illustrated, SB Nation and Slam Magazine.

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