I'll be very clear: Tonight's Fiesta Bowl represents nothing less than a de facto national semifinal game for next year's national championship.
That runs counter to the early lamentations that the BCS cabal shunted off its two interlopers to face each other in a bowl; it may have assured that one of them crashes the big game next year.
Both TCU and Boise State will be undefeated next year -- both teams, loaded, will be even better next year than this year. Both will have quality wins. Both will have this recent track record of being BCS-worthy.
Voters will have to decide between the two of them which one gets to play what I predict will be the lone undefeated team from a BCS conference.
The way they will do that is by looking back to this game as their playoff. If both teams are virtually the same and both unbeaten at the end of next season, this is a fair head-to-head comparison. And it will be used not just in the preseason rankings, but the postseason one, too.
This matters: I think that next season, either Boise or TCU could beat the best of the BCS conferences. So who survives Boise-TCU tonight will most likely to get that shot.
The BCS folks are adamantly against a playoff system -- ironically, they will get one tonight that will reverberate for the rest of the year.
(By the way, this would not be possible if they were split up, with each thrashing Iowa, Cincinnati or Georgia Tech.)
That sums up the lead of today's SN column. More you'll find:
*I don't mind the tanking of games by certain NFL teams. What I mind is the cynical attempt to avoid calling it tanking. What the Bengals did last night was even more intentional than an individual player throwing a game -- it was an institutional decision to throw a game. Again: I don't care if they do it. But I'd like for them to call it what it is.
*The Patriots are screwed. They won't even get past the Ravens next week. (And I was going to take them to win the AFC.)
*My Super Bowl pick: Chargers over Vikings. (Can you imagine the Favre Mania for the two weeks of Super Bowl lead-up? I'm already nauseous.)
*If it's possible for Gilbert Arenas to change the subject, he has with his Twitter barrage. There is no way this was a calculated attempt to distract, but it sure was effective.
*Tweeted this yesterday: Can you imagine how bad the OJ Mayo stuff REALLY was, if USC is penalizing itself? Of course, I'm not holding my breath for similar treatment for the Bush scandal.
*Kentucky's win over Louisville revealed some emotional fragility for the Cats, but didn't dissuade me that they are going to the Final Four. On the other hand, the win of the weekend goes to Purdue, over West Virginia.
Lots more in the column, found here. More later.