BCS Bowl Selection 2013: Explaining Procedures, Order, Format, Tiebreaker Rules

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured ColumnistDecember 5, 2013

The BCS has been much maligned since its implementation in 1998, and while it will be replaced by the College Football Playoff next season, it is still in place to determine this year's biggest bowl matchups.

Despite the fact that this is the 16th year of the BCS' existence, there are still many college football fans who are confused by the rules. That isn't surprising since there are so many moving parts and regulations that it is difficult to keep track of everything.

Even though the BCS is on its way out, it isn't too late to come to an understanding regarding the system, especially with Selection Sunday looming.

Here is an in-depth look at how the BCS goes about deciding which teams are eligible and which bowls those eligible teams will play in, as well as essentially everything else that goes into the BCS process.

*All BCS rules information courtesy of BCSFootball.org.


Automatic Qualifiers

There are a number of ways to get into a BCS bowl, but the easiest is through automatic qualification. This puts the big-conference teams at an advantage since the ACC, AAC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC champions are all automatically granted a BCS berth.

That doesn't mean that small-conference teams are restricted from qualifying automatically, however. It is simply much more difficult. The champions of Conference USA, the MAC, the MWC and the Sun Belt Conference can earn automatic qualification into the BCS if they are either ranked in the Top 12 of the BCS standings or ranked in the Top 16 and ahead of a conference champion from an automatic-qualifying conference.

That figures to come into play this year since Northern Illinois out of the MAC is currently ranked 14th, while prospective AAC champion Central Florida is No. 16. Assuming the Huskies beat Bowling Green in the MAC Championship Game, they will automatically qualify for a BCS bowl.

Unfortunately for non-AQ teams, only one can earn a berth per season unless non-AQ teams are ranked first and second in the BCS standings, which is nearly impossible. That could have been an issue this year, but after Fresno State's loss to San Jose State, it won't be.

The only team mentioned by name in the BCS bylaws is Notre Dame since it is Independent. Due to the prestige of the Irish, they are granted special automatic qualification if they finish in the Top Eight of the BCS standings, although that won't come into play this season.

To round out the rules for automatic qualification, if all 10 BCS spots aren't yet filled, the No. 3 team in the BCS rankings will become automatic qualifier if it resides in an automatic-qualifying conference and isn't already a conference champion, unless an at-large team from the same conference is in the BCS National Championship Game. The same rule applies to the No. 4 team in the standings if there is still an open spot.


At-Large Eligibility

Assuming less than 10 teams automatically qualify for the BCS, which is almost always the case, at-large teams will be selected in order to round out the field. A team is eligible for an at-large berth if it has won nine or more regular-season games and if it is in the Top 14 of the BCS standings.

The major caveat when it comes to an at-large bid is that no more than two teams from the same conference can qualify for the BCS unless two non-champions from the same conference are ranked No. 1 and No. 2, which is nearly impossible and won't come into play this season.

If there still aren't 10 BCS-eligible teams under those guidelines, then teams from the Top 18 in the BCS standings can then be chosen from. In the unlikely event that expanding to 18 potential teams doesn't satisfy the requirement, the selection field will expand by blocks of four teams until 10 BCS teams are chosen. With that said, more than two teams from the same conference still can't be chosen.

That means it is possible for the No. 4 or No. 5 team in the nation to miss out on a BCS bowl in favor of a team ranked lower than No. 18, but that is the way the cookie crumbles under the BCS system.



Since so many factors go into determining the BCS standings, it is quite rare for there to be a tie. If there is a tie, however, there are rules in place to settle it.

The first tiebreaker is head-to-head result, which means the winning team of that contest would earn the spot. If the teams in question did not play each other during the regular season, though, the tiebreaker then relates to the result of both teams against the highest-ranked common opponent. If that doesn't settle things, then the teams' BCS rankings are recalculated without throwing out the highest and lowest computer rankings.

If it turns out that the teams are locked in the tie to end all ties, and the first three tiebreakers don't suffice, then luck comes into play, as a drawing is conducted to determine the winner.


BCS Bowl Selection Procedures

While there is some freedom among the bowls in terms of which teams they choose, there are some hard-and-fast rules in place. Of course, the No. 1 and No. 2 teams will meet in the BCS National Championship Game. Also, certain conferences are obligated to be represented in certain bowls. The ACC is linked to the Orange Bowl, the Big Ten and Pac-12 with the Rose Bowl, the Big 12 with the Fiesta Bowl and the SEC with the Sugar Bowl.

If a bowl loses one of its teams, then it receives a replacement pick before any other selections are made. If two bowls lose their teams, then they both receive replacement picks, with the bowl that lost the No. 1 team picking first. Also, the Rose Bowl gets two replacement picks if it loses the Big Ten and Pac-12 champions to the BCS National Championship Game, but that won't come into play this year.

And if two bowls lose teams, the bowl that selects a replacement first cannot take one from the same conference as the No. 2 team unless the bowl selecting second allows it.

Following those steps, any remaining spots in BCS bowls are then filled. The order of selection this year is the Orange Bowl first, Sugar Bowl second and Fiesta Bowl third.

Some adjustments are allowed to be made based on factors such as whether a team is playing in the same bowl for two consecutive years, whether two teams who already played each other in the regular season will play each other in a bowl, whether two teams will play each other in a bowl in consecutive years or whether different pairings would significantly alter ticket sales and television ratings.


Mocking This Year's BCS

In the interest of figuring out how the BCS picture might look after this weekend's conference championship games, here is a projected look at the Week 16 BCS standings assuming the games play out as expected:

Projected Final BCS Standings
1Florida State
2Ohio State
5Oklahoma State
8South Carolina
10Michigan State
12Arizona State
13Northern Illinois
23Fresno State
24Texas A&M

If this holds up, then No. 1 Florida State will meet No. 2 Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game. With the Orange Bowl losing the No. 1 team, it will get the first replacement selection. Since Alabama is the best non-automatic qualifier on the board, the Orange Bowl will almost certainly go in that direction. The Rose Bowl would get the second selection, and it would take Michigan State out of the Big Ten to play Pac-12 champion Stanford.

In that scenario, the bowls would then look like this:

Phase 1 BCS Bowl Projections
BCS National ChampionshipFlorida State (No. 1)Ohio State (No. 2)
Rose BowlStanford (Pac-12 champ)Michigan State (Big Ten at-large)
Orange BowlAlabama (at-large)TBD
Sugar BowlAuburn (SEC champ)TBD
Fiesta BowlOklahoma State (Big 12 champ)TBD

That would leave three open spots, and the Orange Bowl would select first. Despite eligible at-large teams such as Baylor and Oregon on the table, the Orange Bowl would probably take Clemson due to the ACC link.

The Sugar Bowl would then have a choice between Central Florida and Northern Illinois. Since it's more likely that UCF fans will make the trip to New Orleans, the Knights will be the pick. That would leave the Fiesta Bowl with an Oklahoma State vs. Northern Illinois matchup.

The final BCS bowl picture figures to look something like this:

Final BCS Bowl Projections
BCS National ChampionshipFlorida State (No. 1)Ohio State (No. 2)
Rose BowlStanford (Pac-12 champ)Michigan State (Big Ten at-large)
Orange BowlAlabama (at-large)Clemson (ACC at-large)
Sugar BowlAuburn (SEC champ)UCF (AAC champ)
Fiesta BowlOklahoma State (Big 12 champ)Northern Illinois (MAC champ)

The BCS is far from a perfect system, and that is why it is being replaced, but its complexities will make for an interesting Sunday, particularly if the conference title games don't go as expected.


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