Okay, technically it looks like the powers that control the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) got exactly what they desired: an undefeated champion from the SEC against an undefeated champion from the Big 12. Seemingly a dream come true. Yet, thanks to a lackluster performance by the Texas Longhorns, that dream has turned into a bit of a nightmare.
The purpose of the BCS formula is simply to ensure that the two best teams in college football meet in a championship game to decide the title. After enough situations over the years when teams like Penn State (multiple times), Alabama, and others finished seasons undefeated, but without even a share of a national title, this concept seemed to make sense.
However, what has become painfully clear over the last decade is that it only works when there are clearly two teams that are better than all the rest.
The formula worked to perfection following the 2005 season when an undefeated Texas squad defeated a previously undefeated USC team in a game for the ages. However, in other years, when two teams have not clearly been better than the rest, the system has received great criticism.
For most of the 2009 season, it appeared that the BCS formula was going to work out perfectly. Unlike recent years, when the top three spots in the BCS standings often proved to be a revolving door, in 2009 the three teams ranked at the top of the BCS standings in late October were all still there heading into the conference championship weekend.
With a pair of undefeated teams in the SEC and an undefeated Texas squad in the Big 12, it seemed clear that if Texas did as expected and annihilated Nebraska, then the Longhorns would face the winner of the Alabama-Florida game for the title in another epic matchup.
While those looking for big television ratings would have probably preferred a victory by Tim Tebow and the defending national champion Gators, a dominating win by Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide was still palatable.
However, what ended up leaving a bitter taste for the BCS happened later Saturday night.
The Big 12 title game seemed to be lined up as a coronation for Colt McCoy and the Texas Longhorns. After finishing second in the Heisman voting a year ago and suffering as his Longhorns were left out of the Big 12 title game and BCS title game, McCoy was going to seize both opportunities with a huge performance against an over-matched Nebraska squad.
Illustrating why they actually play the game, things didn’t turn out as scripted. Yes, the Longhorns won on a last second field goal, but the performance was hardly what was expected of a potential national champion.
Likewise, instead of stamping his Heisman ticket, McCoy tossed three interceptions and probably ensured that Mark Ingram will become the first Heisman winner in Alabama history.
Of course, BCS supporters argue that it is ultimately all about winning, and Texas did what it needed to do to get the victory.
However, style points seem to now be just as important to fan perception as victory itself.
Texas is probably very fortunate that the other contenders for the spot against Alabama all have their own flaws.
The University of Cincinnati finished as the undefeated champion of BCS member conference the Big East. But the Bearcats needed a miracle of their own to win their finale at Pittsburgh and plays in a conference that is perceived nationally as being relatively weak.
There are also undefeated champions from two leagues that are not part of the BCS automatic bid structure.
Many believe that the TCU Horned Frogs from the Mountain West Conference may indeed be the second best team in the country. They won on the road against Virginia, Clemson, and BYU and also had a huge victory over Utah.
Others point to Boise State from the Western Athletic Conference as deserving a spot in the title game. While the WAC is not considered to be as strong as the Mountain West or any of the BCS conferences, Boise State did post an impressive early season win over Rose Bowl bound Oregon.
One positive for the BCS leaders is that for the first time since Texas defeated USC, they are guaranteed of having an undefeated national champion. However, depending on the final bowl assignments, there could end up being three or even four teams with unblemished records.
As long as the current inequitable system for determining who belongs in the title game is in place, there will always be loud criticism of the system. A playoff structure wouldn’t be perfect, but if orchestrated correctly would at least give every deserving team a chance to prove their worthiness.
It seems like such a simple answer, but with the tens of millions of dollars now flowing through the current system don’t hold your breath waiting for that dream to come true.
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