Chaos came on schedule for the BCS, just like always. Like the morning train that shows up at precisely 7:24 a.m.—with or without you—or that six-month dentist appointment you can’t run from, the expected unfolded right on time.
The debate will rage on (per usual), but the circumstances of the beleaguered system have again sorted themselves out. And despite feeling some nostalgia over its passing, cherishing the small bits and pieces we’d love to take with us, this final stretch of the BCS could be summed up somewhat simply.
Good night, and good luck.
A pool of worthy undefeated teams incapable of losing a game…lost. At least many of them did. Baylor’s potent offense was iced out on a frigid Stillwater evening, Oregon ran into trouble—or more specifically, trouble ran into (and over) it…twice. And yes, Alabama’s undefeated mark was undone in one remarkable second by its rival.
Now, barring complete and total chaos in the final week—which no one should discount given recent happenings—the final BCS National Championship will end with a simplistic whimper. This whimper will be accompanied by ample screaming, whining and Internet angst, but the scenario is suddenly crystal clear.
If Florida State and Ohio State are victorious, they will almost certainly meet in the final BCS National Championship. The possibility of Auburn looms—and the networks will play this controversy up plenty for ratings purposes—although the writing is on the wall.
Florida State and Ohio State should be written in with pencil, one more so than the other. The Seminoles aren’t a lock, although they’ll enter the ACC Championship as more than a four-touchdown favorite. Assume nothing, not yet at least.
This is Duke football, and this unfamiliar presence alone should have you on high alert.
For Ohio State, it’s much more complicated. The Buckeyes’ game against Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship will serve as their biggest test of the season—likely by a significant margin. It won’t be easy, but a victory will propel them to the title game.
Regardless of how it appears, the campaigning for the SEC has already begun. And Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs has taken it upon himself to speak for the nation. We can only assume that he is doing so holding 14 sparklers while wearing a Budweiser T-shirt, blasting Hulk Hogan’s entrance on repeat.
Ah, yes. The BCS in its finest form.
"I think it would be, quite frankly, un-American for us not to get a chance to go to Pasadena." - Auburn AD Jay Jacobs, on BCS chances— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 2, 2013
To the surprise of absolutely no one, SEC commissioner Mike Slive echoed the sentiment about an SEC team playing for a national championship. He didn’t go as far to call it “un-American” to not have a team playing for the crystal football, but he made his stance clear.
Mike Slive on @CBSSports920 : Regardless of what happens this weekend, a one-loss SEC team deserves to play for the National Championship.— Tim McKernan (@tmckernan) December 3, 2013
For Auburn, however, its biggest obstacle will arrive on Saturday. And while the talk of championship worth will drown out all reasonable conversations about critical games, a talented Missouri team is waiting for its chance. The winner of this game will have to hope that the Spartans play spoiler in Indianapolis.
Otherwise, despite further campaigning to influence voters, the king of the SEC will be sent to the Sugar Bowl unless voters develop a sudden case of SEC fever (or anti-Ohio State fever).
The winner of the SEC Championship will have a case against Ohio State. Taking it one step further, the winner of this matchup featuring two Top Five teams will have a legitimate gripe as being the nation’s best team. Unless it gets help, however, we will be left with debate and nothing more.
On the other side of this argument, Ohio State should play for the championship if—and it’s still a significant if—it beats Michigan State. The same can be said about Florida State versus Duke, as the Seminoles are a deserving No. 1.
Therein lies the importance of the impending playoff and the necessity for change. Each season brings about its own unique 15-week path with various teams warranting consideration. In recent years—despite the possibility of undefeated madness—the games have helped simplify the discussion.
The losses have come—as they have again this year—and the two-team matchup has been enough. It could prove to be again, especially if Ohio State is upset and the SEC Championship serves as a de facto semifinal for the second consecutive season. Hoping and waiting for further losses and clarity, however, is a tired ritual, one that will undergo a significant overhaul in the coming year.
BCS purists and debate enthusiasts will tell you otherwise, saying that the conversation and controversy is a part of the college football experience. They’re not wrong. This is part of it, and it always will be. That doesn’t necessarily make it right.
No reasonable playoff—save your 64-teamer for another day—will completely eliminate the discussion over certain teams’ worth. The incoming four-team College Football Playoff won’t just remove these discussions, it will shift them to a handful of teams hovering around the No. 3 and 4 spots.
Teams like Alabama, Oklahoma State and Arizona State would suddenly be thrust into the conversation heading into this final week. And yes, the rankings near the top will be questioned, as they are right now.
Controversy won't go away, but the task of crowning the nation's best team will suddenly become more complete. It will be far from perfect, but this will remove the strain on needing losses to give us a clean title game, a process that is still unfolding with a week remaining.
Debate is great, welcomed even. Solving such debate with actual games, however, is a more desirable alternative. And thankfully, it's a place we're headed.