The Nightmare BCS Scenario That No One Wants Is Starting to Take Shape

Lisa Horne@LisaHornePac-12 and Big 12 Lead WriterOctober 20, 2008

The BCS rankings are out, and there are some obvious winners and losers. Florida got dinged (No. 12) by the non-humans, while USC got a lot of love from the humans as well, but not from the non-humans (No. 10).

But there's an ominous scenario lurking in the BCS poll—the possibility of a conference champion getting leapfrogged by its second-place team and going on to the title game.

Oh no. Not again.

USC is currently No. 5. If USC wins out, and Oregon State wins out, then Oregon State will be the Pac-10 champion by virtue of tiebreaker. Both teams will have had one conference loss, but Oregon State lost to Stanford and beat USC. USC's only conference loss was to Oregon State. The Beavs move on due to head-to-head competition.

Now, what if Alabama loses a game, or Penn State loses a game? They will drop, with Texas at No. 1, Oklahoma at No. 2, and USC at No. 3.

You getting the picture yet?

Texas and Oklahoma have already played, and only one can represent their division in the conference championship. Throw in Oklahoma State as a possible roadblock for Texas, and USC and Oklahoma could both easily end up in the top two spots, with Oklahoma State possibly taking one of their places if they beat Texas this Saturday.

If any of those three Big 12 South teams lose in the Big 12 conference championship, USC will get shoved into the top two spots, assuming they win out. Oklahoma could also take the other top spot, without ever playing in the conference championship.

Remember, Texas has to lose twice for the Sooners to represent the South (assuming the Sooners win out). If a Mizzou or Kansas, both not ranked in the top 10, were to beat the South champ, say Texas or Oklahoma State, then Oklahoma gets the benefit, because at this point, it's unlikely that the North champ will jump to the top two spots.

It is here where the problem begins. USC at No.2 would not be the Pac-10 champ unless Oregon State drops one later on. What if the Beavs don't? They are currently not ranked in the top 25.

USC, ranked in one of the top two spots, would be sent to the BCS title game while Oregon State would go to the Rose Bowl.


Remember 2001? Nebraska got smoked by Colorado 62-36 in the final week of regular season play and didn't even play in the Big 12 conference championship, yet were sent over Colorado and Oregon to play Miami in the 2002 BCS Rose Bowl title game. They lost the game, 37-14, and the game wasn't as close as the score seems to indicate.

The obvious solution is to mandate that only a conference champion can move on to the title game, but that rule is not in place. The BCS mandates that the No. 1 and No. 2 teams play in the title game, and all conference champions get an automatic bid to their respective tie-in bowl.

In the above scenario, Oregon State goes to Pasadena, and USC goes to Miami.

Fair? Hardly.

The good news is that the non-human polls are taking into consideration the quality of opponents these teams are playing—so far, the Big 12 has the strongest conference play, based on the current rankings.

The Pac-10's conference play has not helped USC, but as more and more teams lose, some Pac-10 teams and ACC teams will move up in the rankings—like Virginia and Oregon, two teams that USC beat.

The SEC has Florida and Georgia playing in two weeks, and one of those teams will have two losses. With Auburn, Tennessee, and South Carolina suddenly not helping conference strength, the SEC's SOS will drop as well.

In the meantime, some Big 12 teams will drop lower in the rankings due to the South's having to play each other. Their SOS will drop. The only conferences that benefit from this are the Pac-10, the Big Ten, and the ACC.

Hard to believe, but it's a legit concern. Suddenly, USC vs. Ohio State could be playing in Miami if Penn State loses in Columbus.

Let the debates begin.