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Kevin Schnepf, Published December 06 2010

Schnepf: FCS serves as a lesson to BCS

Do you have college football fever?

Oregon vs. Auburn. Can’t wait.

Oh, wait a minute. I guess we will indeed have to wait for that national championship game – 37 days of killing time to be exact.

By the time Jan. 10 arrives when the Ducks play the Tigers (sounds like nicknames made up in a Disney movie), Cam Newton’s dad will have lobbied for more money, Oregon fans will have started preparing for another track and field season, Lee Corso will have just gotten the Harry Husker mascot face pried off his head, Mel Kiper will have gone through 34 tins of Dapper Dan hair creme and 34 meaningless bowl games will have been played.

That’s BCS football in December. BCS may stand for Bowl Championship Series, but it should stand for Boring Christmastime Stretch.

The BCS should take some lessons from the FCS – the Football Championship Subdivision – which once again is proving a playoff system can generate just as much excitement as the Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl. It also proves a playoff system can spawn magical runs by unsuspecting teams – a phenomenon that has made the NCAA men’s basketball tournament so popular.

One of those unsuspecting teams is North Dakota State – the last of 20 teams selected for the FCS playoffs. After back-to-back wins, the Bison are now one of the final eight teams that will be playing quarterfinal games this weekend.

Just imagine, for a moment, if the FCS were set up like the BCS.

NDSU would have its football equipment packed up. Craig Bohl and his coaches would be sifting through recruiting tapes and their players would be lifting weights. And No. 1 seed Appalachian State would have a month to prepare for its national championship game with No. 2 seed William & Mary.

Georgia Southern, also one of the last teams to make the FCS field, is alive and well and has a shot for its seventh FCS title thanks to the playoffs. Defending champion Villanova is still playing thanks to the playoffs.

With a playoff system, teams like NDSU have a chance to get hot and make a run.

Left for dead three weeks ago after a 3-0 loss at Missouri State, the Bison snuck into the playoffs. The extended season has allowed the defense to become as healthy as it has been all season, arguably becoming one of the most dominating units NDSU fans have ever seen. The extended season has allowed the offensive linemen to create a powerful running game that is sorely needed – especially with a non-existent passing attack.

The longer the season goes, the more confident the Bison have become.

“There’s a great camaraderie around our whole football team,” Bohl said after Saturday’s 42-17 second-round win at Montana State. “A lot of it is just attitude. They enjoy being around one another. What’s fun is this group just wants to keep playing.”

You can bet BCS teams like Texas Christian, Wisconsin, Stanford, Ohio State, Michigan State or Arkansas wish they had one last shot at a national championship. They could if the BCS opted to at least set up an eight-team playoff.

Instead, they will get weeks to prepare for a bowl game that really doesn’t mean much – other than they and their fans can suntan in some warm-weather city. And if they win, they can make an argument for a playoff system, which will fall on the deaf ears of the money-hungry bowl sponsors and BCS football powers.

In the BCS, the current buzz isn’t the playoffs, or Cam Newton’s bid for a Heisman or his Auburn’s team bid for a national title. The buzz is the alleged $200,000 payment Newton’s dad was offered for his son to play quarterback at Mississippi State.

In the FCS, the current buzz among Bison fans is the $1 million Eastern Washington spent to install a red-colored field – the surface the Bison will be playing on Saturday –thanks to the playoff system.

Yes, the BCS should take a lesson from the FCS, where 20 different teams have won national titles in the 32-year history of its playoff system.

Those are 20 teams that may not have gotten a shot at a national title without the playoffs.

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549 or kschnepf@forumcomm.com. Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com