Even though the promise of a playoff is alluringly close, the truth is we are still stuck with the current BCS system, a stark reality that means that somebody is about to get screwed.
Indeed, as November fades into December we can look forward not only to answering the lingering questions about which teams will rise to the top of the charts, but we will also find out who will be left out of the BCS and relegated to the “other” bowls.
As it stands, the at-large scheme that fills as much as three of the 10 total BCS slots is about as subjective of a system that you could hope for (or fear) in a championship team sport.
The way the at-large method works is that once the BCS title game is filled with the No. 1 and No. 2 teams and then the remainder of the AQ conference champions are “honored” with bowl bids, any open slots filled by programs that fit certain criteria.
Yes each at-large candidate must be in the Top 14 of the final BCS standings and have a minimum of nine wins, but what makes the design wholly questionable is that the nominees aren’t picked in the order of their respective finish in the final rankings.
To illustrate, in 2011-12 Boise State (11-1) and Kansas State (10-2) finished at No. 7 and No. 8, respectively, in the final BCS rankings but were relegated to the Las Vegas and Cotton Bowls in favor of the selection of No. 11 Virginia Tech (11-2) and No. 13 Michigan (10-2), both of which made it to the BCS Sugar Bowl via at-large bids.
The following slideshow pinpoints the teams that will become the 2012-13 version of Virginia Tech and Michigan (the last two teams to make it to the BCS dance via at-large bids) and then this season's Boise State and K-State (or the teams that will be left out in the cold).
It’s the tale of the screwed and the lucky, and it’s a story that could only be told in the context of the BCS era in modern college football.
It’s important to point out that the 2012-13 BCS picture is somewhat unique due to the lack of an undefeated non-AQ team, meaning that in reality three at-large bids are up for grabs.
Before the Sooners accept their record-tying ninth program BCS bowl bid, the Florida Gators will have already punched their ticket to the money dance by virtue of sitting out of the SEC title game and remaining at only one loss (that is if they beat Florida State in their finale).
Plus, it’s pretty easy to argue that the BCS would be thrilled to extend a bid to a school that travels as well, and shows on TV as well as do the Gators.
If Oklahoma can take care of business at West Virginia, against Oklahoma State and then at TCU in the next three weeks then the Sooners will finish 10-2 and will be the second highest ranked Big 12 team in the final BCS standings.
What will also help the Sooners is their attractiveness as a major bowl team. This seems almost absurd, but when you look back to 2011-12 when Kansas State was looked over for a much lower ranked Michigan team you get the idea.
Of course it won’t hurt that Oklahoma won’t have a pesky conference championship to play in either.
If the Sooners win out, they are BCS bound, again.
With the Sooners and Gators established as at-large berths, the third and final wildcard bid goes to Clemson, a team that, like Florida, will make the BCS regardless of the fact it didn’t even win its division.
The Tigers are currently 9-1 and even if they drop a game to NC State or South Carolina in the next two weeks they’ll likely stay afloat in the BCS rankings as the highest two-loss team that is not from the SEC or Big 12.
This is crucial because of the BCS rule that prohibits more than two teams from any one AQ conference making the BCS bowl bonanza, meaning that even with two losses Clemson could easily grab the last at-large bid over the likes of Georgia, Texas A&M or LSU.
The other option for filling the final at-large bid is Stanford, but if the Cardinal loses to Oregon this Saturday (a likely scenario) then three losses could bump them out of the Top 14 in the final BCS rankings.
If nothing else a three-loss Stanford team should finish below a one or two loss Clemson squad.
In a line of reasoning that is uniquely flawed in a kind of BCS way, Georgia may have cost itself a BCS bid by virtue of winning the SEC East.
Yes, the Bulldogs can make the Sugar Bowl if they beat the champion of the West (presumably Alabama) in the title game, but if not they pick up a second loss which is costly in a top-heavy SEC.
If Georgia loses the SEC championship then suddenly a one-loss Florida can finish ranked higher in the final BCS standings and the same irony (winning the division, losing the title game and being left out of the BCS) that befell Michigan State last season will squash the Bulldogs this year.
And since the BCS admits only two teams from each conference—Alabama and Florida are in and Georgia is out.
Of course this is all worthless if Georgia doesn’t manage to win-out, but still the possibility of this type of scenario coming to fruition is yet another reason to declare the BCS system wholly unsavory.
The logic for LSU and Texas A&M being left out of the BCS extravaganza is virtually identical; the only real difference being that the Tigers have a slight advantage over the Aggies in the BCS standings.
If both teams manage to win out (a realistic expectation), LSU will probably remain narrowly ahead of A&M in the final tally, but both teams (and a two-loss South Carolina team) will get relegated out of an earned BCS berth for the same reason.
And it’s because they all play in the SEC.
Yes, if LSU beats Ole Miss and Arkansas and if the Aggies ice FCS Sam Houston State and Missouri, they’ll both still likely be out of the BCS because of the rule limiting more than two teams per conference.
Again, we’re assuming that Georgia or Alabama win out, and then the winner of SEC title game goes to the Sugar Bowl, while a one-loss Florida team (that has beaten Florida State) trumps the loser and grabs the league’s one at-large bit.
Even if Florida drops a game, it’s plausible that the Bulldogs and Tide, regardless of who picks up a second loss in the SEC title game, finish ahead of A&M and LSU in the final BCS standings.
This all becomes more fraught when you realize that six of the current BCS Top 10 teams are from the SEC.
And the obvious irony here is that Texas A&M finally finishes in the Top 14 of the BCS standings and doesn’t make the dance for the first time since 1999 because of it moved from the Big 12 to the SEC.