How the BCS Failed Fans and College Football in 2012
The 2013 BCS matchups were announced on December 2, and in the days that have followed, the college football world can't seem to stop talking about the travesty that is the impending slate of BCS games.
While Notre Dame is clearly alone at the top and deserving of its spot in the BCS National Championship Game, the rest of the selections this season seem to only add credence to those who wholeheartedly believe the system is so far beyond repair, a wholesale change is the only thing that can fix college football.
While a playoff of sorts is on its way for the 2014 season, we're stuck with the Bowl Championship Series until then—and what a long season of discontent 2013 will be.
The 2012 college football season only served to prove the BCS should rightfully be killed off and buried. Not only did it fail fans across the nation, but it yet again did a huge disservice to college football as a whole.
Equal access is a decent philosophy to have in life. Just not when you're talking about college football.
Sooner or later we're going to have to face the fact that while we are all equal under the law, not all athletes are equal on the football field. It may be an uncomfortable truth for some but the Big East just doesn't measure up to some other conferences.
The same can be said about the Sun Belt, WAC, MAC, Mountain West, and Conference USA.
This season, Northern Illinois becomes everyone's favorite culprit. What's more, NIU has become the first non-AQ program to make the BCS with a loss on its résumé.
Obviously, Northern Illinois is going to feel a little slighted by all the naysayers out there. “Suck our Oranges, ESPN” signs to not-so-clever t-shirt slogans make clear that Huskies fans are feeling as if they're backed into a corner.
While we won't blame NIU for making it to the BCS, it's absolutely ridiculous to think that college football and its fans are better served with a Florida State-Northern Illinois matchup than seeing Oklahoma in the BCS.
Yes, the BCS is doomed and already on an unalterable path towards its grave. But the 2012 selection of 12-1 Northern Illinois to play in the Orange Bowl will only serve to convert the last few BCS-philes left in America to die-hard playoff proponents.
Can Someone Put the Big East out of Its Misery Already?
We have long considered the Big East to be the weakest of the BCS automatic qualifying conferences.
When two football powers in Miami and Virginia Tech bolted for the ACC after the 2004 season, many wondered how long the Big East could survive as a BCS conference. West Virginia stepped forward to fill the void left by the Hokies and Hurricanes, but even the Mountaineers have since left for the greener pastures of the Big 12.
Now comes word that Rutgers is headed for the Big Ten.
What's left is a collection of unranked programs fighting over the rubble left behind after so many defections. The conference “powers” of Louisville and Cincinnati can't even find a way to cling to Top 25 rankings deep into the season. BCS games for the conference champion have turned into laughable one-sided blowouts.
Now, the Big East is desperate. As cold reality settles in, the conference has thrown open its doors to any and all who wish to join. The “open admissions” policy of the conference is reflected it in its future membership: Houston, SMU, ECU, Memphis, and Tulane.
With the WAC folding as a football conference, someone had to step up (or is it down?) to fill the void left in the FBS cellar.
Apparently, it's going to be the Big East.
Freedom of Information
In an era where even the most tightly guarded government secrets—not to mention Lane Kiffin's ballots—are shared on the Internet for all to see, we still don't know exactly how the BCS figures out who plays where.
Sure, we get the gist of it. The AP Poll is one-third, the Coaches' Poll is another third, and the computers make up the rest. But it's those pesky computers no one can understand—and that's just the way the BCS likes it.
The BCS uses six computer rankings, then drops the highest and lower rating while averaging the remaining four. Sounds simple enough, except for one little problem: no one, save the people or organizations that run the computer ranking systems know exactly how they work. In the final 2012 rankings, Northern Illinois's computer rankings ranged from No. 12 to not ranked. Clemson's scores ranged from No. 13 to not ranked.
Maybe the computers got it right. Maybe they didn't. The point is, we'll never really know. The way the computers figure things out remains a mystery to the masses.
The Fraudulent SEC Mythology
Football fans of the south, prepare to put your hate-mail composition caps on.
Gregg Doyel wrote a great column for CBSSports.com a few weeks ago that outlined what so many of us have suspected for years: the SEC has cracked the code.
In a nutshell, Doyel correctly points out that the SEC has built a reputation based upon beating up on lesser teams (Wofford, Towson, Western Carolina and the like) while losing only to other SEC teams each season.
It's not like the SEC is top-to-bottom the greatest conference—unless SEC fans really want to argue that Arkansas, Auburn, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ole Miss and Missouri were powerhouses this season. By the way, with a collective 25-47 record in 2012, we just named half the conference.
The SEC's rankings have also become a self-fulfilling prophecy each and every season. If you start Team X off at No. 3 in your poll, have them load up on non-conference fluff, gobble up a few SEC cupcakes, and then play one or two tough games a season, it's not all that amazing to see how this team maintains a top ten spot all season long.
Take South Carolina as an example.
The Gamecocks played East Carolina, UAB, FCS Wofford, and Clemson in non-conference play this season. South Carolina did not play Alabama or Texas A&M, and lost to LSU and Florida but beat Georgia.
Florida, for its part, lost to Georgia, but beat LSU. The Gators also had a pretty uneventful (and mostly boring) non-conference schedule with Bowling Green State, Louisiana-Lafayette, and FCS Jacksonville State before the season finale against rival Florida State.
Florida also ended its conference schedule on November 3. So much for running the gauntlet down the stretch.
No matter how you slice it, the SEC can't be honest with itself while continuing to claim a “murder's row” schedule. Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, Auburn and Ole Miss just weren't impressive teams in 2012.
Yet those wins somehow matter more than wins against 8-4 Penn State or 10-2 Oklahoma?
They do when you subscribe to the circular logic of the Southeastern Conference's dominance argument.
Complete and Utter Failure
The BCS was created to make the bowl season “better” than it was in the past. Specifically, we weren't supposed to have those dreaded shared national championships any more.
While the BCS has been successful—most years—in keeping that from happening, its method of doing so has been a smoke-and-mirrors act. Today's national champions have as much claim to the title as David Copperfield has to making the Statue of Liberty actually disappear.
After the “national championship game,” the winner is presented with the “Coaches' Trophy,” emblematic of the No. 1 team in the nation in the final USA Today College Football Coaches' Poll. The trouble is the coaches haven't voted yet!
What's more, the coaches have been bound by a contract between USA Today and the BCS to place the winner of the BCS National Championship Game in the top spot on their final ballot.
But what happens if a coach has a change of heart? What happens if the team that wins clearly wasn't the best team in the nation at the end of bowl season?
Just think about it for a minute. Imagine Alabama beats Notre Dame in Miami next month. But instead of a rousing victory, Alabama is fairly well contained by the Irish, and the Tide only win because of a blown call by the officials or some other extenuating circumstance.
Now, assume Oregon knocked the ever-loving stuffing out of Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl or Florida absolutely steamrolls Louisville (which isn't actually that hard to picture). Isn't it fair to believe that there might be some coach somewhere in the nation who might want to put Florida or Oregon ahead of this hypothetically hapless Alabama team?
Well, they can't. The coaches are contractually obligated to vote for a particular team.
If the voters are forced to vote a particular way how can the results hold any legitimacy?
In reality, the BCS has more In common with communist China, Venezuela or Iran than it does with good, old-fashioned American republican democracy.
The BCS does a great job with PR. Every in-depth look into the system has the feel of a Michael Moore exposé about the Cuban health care system. Sure, it looks really great on the surface, but what they don't tell you is that what you're seeing is just a façade.
Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!
In reality, the bowl system is now completely driven by money and some misguided idea that clearly biased coaches are the best judges of which team is better than the others. Instead of a fair and open bowl system, we now have ranked slots and contractual tie-ins that prohibit all but two programs from playing for a national championship.
Instead of improving the postseason, the BCS has somehow made things much, much worse—failing miserably in its stated goal to make things fairer for all involved.
Is it 2014 yet?