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The BCS: Right or Wrong 2011? (Commentary)

The Bowl Championship Series has received as much scrutiny over the past few years as the war in Iraq, Occupy Wall Street, and Guantanamo Bay combined, but is it really that bad? Is the BCS terrible in its selection process, and does it constantly pick the wrong teams for the Bowl Championship Series each year? Even more than that question lies the real question. Since the BCS is just going to be picking the National Championship Game from here on out, is it fair?

Many would submit that a playoff system is a better system, and that could be the case, but many also believe that the BCS is a decent system if tweaked slightly.
Numbers tend not to lie, so let’s check it out.

Below are the BCS Championship games by year, with the teams that could have a case for being snubbed from participating in the championship game.  Keep in mind that each team would have to make a case that they could beat the ultimate champ and/or deserve to be in the championship game more than the ultimate champ and the other contender to count as a snub due to the simple fact that hypothetical arguments don’t actually hold any weight.  By using “realistic” hypotheticals we can get somewhere, but by reaching into the clouds with extreme situations, we are just running in circles, and will not accomplish anything.  

BCS Championship Game History broken down by year, teams that played, champion, and teams that were on the cusp of playing:

Disclaimer: I am basing all decisions as to whether the BCS was correct or incorrect on what trasnpired that season, hindsight on that season (team gets snubbed for another team, but that other team wins the title and snubbed team loses), Strength of schedule, and who beat who.

1998-1999:
Tostitos Fiesta Bowl:
Teams that played: #1 Tennesse 12-0 defeated #2 Florida State

The Tennessee Volunteers showcased great offensive talent in 1998 with RB Jamal Lewis, QB Tee Martin, and WR Peerless Price (pictured here) (AP Photo)

Teams that might have a case that they got snubbed:
1. #3 Wisconsin (11-1): Key wins: #14 Penn State at Home
Loss was to #15 Michigan at Michigan Stadium (The Big House) with 2 weeks remaining in the season Beat #6 UCLA in Rose Bowl 38-31.
Why they didn’t make it: Florida State’s regular season loss came in week 2 on the road to NC State, who finished 7-5 in 39th overall in the nation. Wisconsin’s loss was a much better one that FSU’s, but FSU’s was early in the year, and they beat quality opponents in #14 Texas A & M and #24 Georgia Tech on the road, with wins over #4 Florida in the final week of the year, #18 USC, and #12 Virginia at home. With 5 quality wins, Florida State clearly deserved to be in the title game over Wisconsin.
2. #2 Ohio State Buckeyes:
Key wins: At #11 WVU in season opener, #21 Missouri, #7 Penn State, #11 Michigan
Loss: Michigan State on November 7th, week 10
Why they didn’t make it: Ohio State maintained a #1 ranking for 9 weeks leading up to the devastating loss at home to Michigan State. After that they jumped down to #7 with one week left in the year against rival Michigan, and nobody in their right mind would b able to argue that after choking in week 10 Ohio State still deserves to play in the BCS title game over Florida State or undefeated Tennessee
#5 Arizona:
Didn’t win their conference after losing to UCLA on October 10 52-28.
#7 Tulane: Didn’t have the strength of Schedule over FSU, Tennessee, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Arizona,  or even Florida to be considered, even though they went undefeated
BCS 1-0

1999-2000
Sugar Bowl:
#1 Florida State (11-0) defeated #2 Virginia Tech 11-0 46-29

Teams with a possible case:
#2 Nebraska
Loss: At #18 Texas in week 7 dropped them from #3 to #8
Key wins: #21 Texas A & M, #5 Kansas State (moved them back up to #3), Big 12 Championship game beat #12 Texas kept them at #3, which they had regained behind Florida State and Virginia Tech
Case against: Nebraska needed one of the two teams ahead of them to lose and neither Florida State nor Virginia Tech did that until the Championship game. Nebraska played well at the end of the year and got the redemption against Texas, but making a case for a team with 1 loss to get in over 2 undefeateds is implausible.
BCS 2-0

2000-2001
Orange Bowl:
#1 Oklahoma (12-0) defeated #2 Florida State (11-1) 13-2

In only his 2nd year as Oklahoma's Head Coach, Bob Stoops led the Sooners to the National Championship (Getty Images)


Snubbed?
#3 Miami (FL) (11-1)
Loss: #6 Washington
Key Wins: Florida State: Here is the first definite case for a snub. The Miami Hurricanes beat the Florida State Seminoles in the regular season. Miami was ranked #7 when they beat Florida state. Miami moved ahead of them with FSU only dropping to 7th. The score was 24-27, but because the vistory over Virginia Tech 2 weeks later wasn’t enough to jump Miami up in the polls, Florida State was able to leap them. Florida State won at #20 NC State and at home against #4 Florida, and @Clemson who finished #19th in the rankings so they were able to jump Miami. Here, ladies and gentlemen is our first, plausible snub of the BCS system. The BCS is 2-1 at this point. The best argument against this is that FSU lost very convincingly by a score of 13-2 for OU to remain the only AQ team undefeated.
BCS 2-1

2001-2002
Rose Bowl
#1 Miami(FL) defeated #2 Nebraska (11-1) 37-14

Snubs: This is the second straight year that the BCS seemed to have put a team that wasn’t necessarily qualified to play in the title game. The reason that Nebraska got into the title game was because the BCS formula did not take into consideration, time of loss. Usually a late season loss is associated with a team not being allowed to play in the title game, but this was not the case as Colorado defeated Nebraska, and then went on to win the Big 12 and was not allowed to play in the title game.
Team 1. Oregon Ducks (11-1) Oregon was the team that got snubbed the most here because they should have been propelled to the title game with the Nebraska loss. Florida had the inside track until they lost to Tennessee in Gainesville, not putting them in the SEC title game. After UF lost, with a win against Colorado in the Big 12 Championship game, Texas would play, but Colorado defeated Texas. Many fans and pollsters believed that (team 2) Colorado should have been in the title game, but in reality, they had two early season losses that kept them out.
The reason that Nebraska got into the title game ultimately came down to the teams with their own fate losing. Florida and Texas each had its own inside track and let down. This has become a trend in the BCS over the years (including this season).
For the case of this blog and sake of argument we will say the BCS is 2-2

2002-2003
2003 Fiesta Bowl
#2 Ohio State (12-0) defeated #1 Miami (FL) 31-24

This game showcased one of the most talent heavy National Title games of all time with many pro prospects and incredible players. The famous video from this game is Willis McGahee’s injury that ended his season and still is one of the most gruesome sports injury videos of all-time.
Snubbed: This game was played between the only 2 undefeated teams in College Football from AQ conferences and no other team has a real case to be made that they deserved to play in this game.
BCS 3-2

2003-2004
2004 Sugar Bowl
#2 LSU (12-1) defeated #1 Oklahoma (12-1) 21-14

snubs?
The season ended with six 1 loss teams: #1 OU, #2 LSU, #3 USC, #9 Miami (OH), #17 Boise State, and #18 TCU. This was the first time that the BCS saw potential mid-major controversy that has become a huge staple of the last decade in BCS controversy discussion.
1. #3 USC: USC has the best case to argue that they deserved to play in the title game. USC’s only loss came at California in an overtime classic 34-31, when USC was ranked #3. They dropped to #10 overall and with only one quality win over #6 Washington State after the loss they were unable to jump LSU. USC’s overall strength of schedule was 37th, LSU’s was 29th and OU’s was 11th. By that criteria LSU and OU were more qualified to play in the title game. None of these teams played each other in the regular season, so it is hard to qualify any of them based on that, so it appears as if the BCS got it right based on its criteria.
BCS: 4-2

2004-2005
Orange Bowl:
#1 USC (12-0) defeated #2 Oklahoma (12-0) 55-19

snubbed:
This is the year that most people talk about with a team truly getting snubbed for the National Championship.
The Auburn Tigers went undefeated through the regular season, finishing 12-0, the exact same record as Oklahoma and USC. Auburn’s strength of schedule was the lowest at 46th, compared to USC’s at 25, and Oklahoma’s at 6th, but Auburn won the Sugar Bowl against Virginia Tech on the legs of Caddillac Williams and Ronnie Brown, one of the greatest runningback tandems the league has ever seen. Auburn finished the season with an undefeated 13-0 mark, the exact same as USC. Many credit Auburn as the co-champions, but at the end of the day they didn’t have the trophy.

Carnell "Cadillac" Williams and Ronnie Brown both had Doak Walker caliber seasons, but Auburn was not given a chance to play in the National Championship. (Photo Courtesy of PlayersInk.com)

In 2010 it was announced that the USC Trojans had violated NCAA regulations and have vacated the title and trophy, as well as Reggie Bush (Heisman Winner, RB) vacating his award.
This raises many questions about whether Auburn should have been awarded the National Championship, or Oklahoma should have been given the trophy.
Many mid-major advocates also dispute that Boise State and Utah should be considered for the title as well, both teams being undefeated through the regular season with Utah coming away victorious in the Fiesta bowl over #20 Pit and finishing the season ranked #6. Boise State lost to #7 Louisville in the Liberty bowl.
This was a true BCS fiasco.
BCS: 4-3

2005-2006
Rose Bowl
#2 Texas (12-0) defeated #1 USC (12-0) 41-38

Snubs?
This season only had two undefeated teams, both coming from BCS conferences in the Big 12 and the Pac-10. This was a breather for the BCS officials after the debacle that occurred in 2004.  In one of the most incredibly heroic games by any individual player Texas QB Vince Young put his team on his back with 467 all purpose yards, 200 of those rushing and 3 rushing TD’s.
BCS: 5-3

2006-2007
BCS Championship Game (First Ever)
#Florida (12-1) defeated #1 Ohio State (12-0) 41-14

Snubs?
#3 Michigan: The Wolverines could have a case to play in the title game over Florida because a re-match of #1 vs. #2 would have been an incredible match-up, especially the way that the first game ended 42-39, but in this case the system dubbed the Florida Gators, a better fit for the championship game. Florida’s only loss came mid-season to #11 Auburn at the time, and that loss alone was enough to keep them out of the #1 ranked spot going in, but obviously they were qualified to play in the title game.
#8 Boise State: Against Boise went undefeated, but their strength of schedule hindered them from getting into the big game. Boise went into the Fiesta Bowl and upset #7 Oklahoma and Adrian Peterson who came back from an injury, with the trickery that we now associate with the Broncos.
All-in-all The BCS got it right. Michigan vs. Ohio State would have been a great rematch between the two most storied programs in the sport, but they got it right to keep Michigan out after it’s late season loss
BCS: 6-3

2007-2008
BCS Championship Game
#LSU (11-2) defeated #1 Ohio State (11-1) 38-24

Ohio State was the clear-cut National Title contender sitting at the #1 ranked position with only 1 loss, coming to Illinois (who went on to be ranked #13 and play in the Rose Bowl) in week 11. Even though the Buckeyes dropped back to #7 in the polls, the win over #23 Michigan in the final week was enough to jump them back up due to all of the upsets and losses that occurred in the championship games and final weeks.
This year was dubbed as the year of the upset because so many high profile, highly ranked teams lost to unranked opponents.
#3 Virginia Tech: Would have a case to play, with only losses coming to #2 LSU and #2 Boston College, but LSU was clearly the better team, routing Va Tech 48-7, so LSU clearly gets in over them.
#4 Oklahoma: Lost at Colorado and at Texas Tech, neither team was ranked at the time. Ended up losing in the Fiesta Bowl to #9 West Virginia
#5 Georgia: Lost to South Carolina and Tennessee, neither good losses
The BCS got it right, even though there was some incredible madness before we actually got there. Remember Appalachian State beating #5 Michigan at “The Big House” in week 1?
BCS: 7-3

2008-2009
FedEx BCS National Championship game
#2 Florida (12-1) defeated #1 Oklahoma (12-1) 24-14

This season saw one of the most intriguing match-ups int he BCS Championship game between Heisman Trophy Winner, QB Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow who received 1,575 votes to Bradford’s 1,726 for the Heisman.

Tebow may not have won the Heisman in 2008, but his performance in the National Championship got him a different kind of trophy(Photo Courtesy of Sports Illustrated)

Snubs?
#3 Texas: Even though Texas gave Oklahoma it’s only loss, Texas had the National Title in it’s grasp against #5 Texas Tech on November 1st. Michael Crabtree reeled in a pass on the sideline in the waning moments of that game from Graham Harrell and Tech came away with the victory 39-33 essentially keeping Texas out of the title game. This wouldn’t be a big deal and Texas might have got into the title game, had OU not routed Tech 65-21 in Week 12. Oklahoma beat 5 ranked teams, 3 straight to conclude the year and get into the title game
# Alabama: Alabama was the #1 ranked team going into the SEC Championship with a very convincing season, but in the SEC championship game #2 Florida was able to come away with the win 31-20 and seal a spot in the title game.
# 6 Utah: Utah was undefeated going into the BCS Sugar Bowl against Alabama. They ended up winning the game, ultimately giving more argument for the mid-major advocates, but at the same time, with Utah’s strength of schedule, beating only #24 Michigan, #11 TCU, and #14 BYU compared to the juggernaut victories of OU and UF, Utah didn’t deserve a spot.
The BCS got this one right.
BCS 8-3

2009-2010
Citi BCS National Championship
#1 Alabama (13-0) defeated #2 Texas (13-0) 37-21

The 2009-2010 season saw a lot of controversy in the BCS selection due to the number of undefeated teams. Before bowl season there were 5 undefeateds including #1 Alabama, #2 Texas, #3 Cincinnati, #4 Texas Cristian, and #6 Boise State.
All of these teams played in BCS games, with the other BCS teams being #7 Oregon against #8 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl, #5 Florida in the Sugar Bowl against Cincy, and #10 Iowa vs. #9 Georgia Tech in the FedEx Orange Bowl.
Snubs?
#3 Cincinnati: Head Coach Brian Kelly led his Bearcats to an undefeated season with 4 wins over ranked opponents, 3 of those coming on the road at #24 Oregon State, #21 South Carolina, #15 Pittsburgh in the Big East Conference Championship. The other ranked opponent that they beat was #23 West Virginia. This team had a case to be in the title game because they are in an automatic qualifying conference, won it, and didn’t get in. In hindsight, the Tim Tebow-led Florida Gators destroyed the Brian Kellyless Bearcats in the Sugar Bowl. Kelly had left the team after the regular season to pursue his “dream job” at Notre Dame (another topic for another day). The question of strength of schedule for the Bearcats was always in the minds of everyone all season. Snubbed, maybe. Deserving to play in the title game, probably not over Bama and Texas
#4 TCU: Strength of schedule was very poor with the only wins over a ranked opponent coming on October 24th against #16 BYU in Provo, and Utah at home on November 14. Strength of schedule and the fact that they were not in an automatic qualifying conference hurt them. Hindsight: lost to Boise State in Fiesta Bowl
#6 Boise State: If any team has an argument to play in the title game it is Boise this season. They got not respect even though they beat Oregon in the opening week of the year 19-8 in the Legarette Blount punching fiasco
watch?v=R_3299v-A1o
Boise didn’t have a marquee win all season after that, even though Oregon proved to be a huge win. Boise was known for beating opponents heavily, but the strength of schedule kept them ranked #6 in the BCS.
Overall the BCS got this right, because it seemed to not be in question that Alabama and Texas were clearly the best two teams in the country in 2009, but there is something to be said about the mid-major, non-aq teams not being recognized. The age-old argument is that if these teams want to be taken seriously, they will need to realign into automatic qualifying conferences. Boise State, TCU, and Utah have all managed to arrange that for the future.
For the sake of argument I will consider this one unfair, even though by most accounts it is fair because the best two teams in college football played for the title in most peoples unbiased opinion
BCS: 8-4

2010-2011
Tostitos BCS National Championship Game
#1 Auburn (13-0) defeated #2 Oregon (12-0) 22-19

Controversy swirled Cam Newton all season, but the Auburn QB led his team to a National Championship with a Heisman caliber season (AP Photo)

Snubs?
#3 TCU: TCU had a great season, going 12-0 with wins over #24 Oregon State and at #6 Utah, but didn’t have the strength of schedule that Oregon and Auburn had with the same degree of talent (not a criteria, but plays a significant role in pollsters) with Heisman winner Cam Newton, Oregon RB Lamichael James, Doak Walker award winner. Oregon’s coach Chip Kelly was awarded coach of the year by the AP. Oregon won 3 games against ranked opponents, and Auburn beat #12 South Carolina, #12 Arkansas, #6 LSU, #9 Alabama in one of the best 24 point comebacks in the history of the sport, and again over #18 South Carolina in the SEC Championship Game. There was no question that these two teams, in automatic qualifying conferences deserved the title game over TCU.
BCS: 9-4

2011-2012
BCS Championship
#1 LSU (13-0) vs. #2 Alabama (11-1) Score to Be Determine January 9th, 2012

Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide will have a chance at redemption in January against Les Miles and the Tigers (Photo Courtesy of Getty Images)

Snubs?
It seems to be perposterous to call any team a real snub this season because of one simple fact. Not a single other team other than the Alabama Crimson Tide, with one loss to LSU in Overtime, and the Louisiana State Tigers, who were the only undefeated team in College Football this year proved to be worth it. Let’s break it down by all the teams that “could” be considered snubs.
#3 Oklahoma State (11-1): Oklahoma State has one of the best arguments, only because of the fact that nobody outside of the SEC wants to see an SEC re-match, and that is a decent argument, but who did OSU lose to? Iowa State. I think that statement speaks for itself. Sorry Oklahoma State, but you are the first example of my main point here: When you take yourself out of the race, you can’t expect to play in the title game.
#4 Stanford (11-1): Stanford has a decent case because losing to Oregon is a good loss, but by the same token, they didn’t even win the Pac-12 because of it. The best team in the Pac-12 this year isn’t even bowl eligible and that is hurting this conference. USC could have been the Pac-12 Champion and could have had the clout to get in over Alabama, but that isn’t the case, thanks to NCAA sanctions
#5 Oregon (11-2): Oregon could make a case, but they lost twice, one of those losses coming to USC in a tough match-up and the other coming to LSU. Oregon got beat 40-27 against LSU, Alabama only lost 9-6 in OT. Oregon has another loss. Sorry Ducks.
#7 Boise State (11-1): Please. They lost to TCU at home, and didn’t even win the Mountain West. Don’t get me wrong here, TCU is a good team with its only real blemish coming against SMU, because the Baylor loss has looked better and better after RG3 locked up the 2011 Heisman Trophy.
Right, wrong, or indifferent from what we all might want, LSU and Alabama are the two best teams in 2011, and both deserve a shot at the title game. Why do re-matches get such a stigma in the first place? Remember the B1G Championship Game this year? That game was fantastic between Michigan State and Wisconsin. It came down to one of the best defenses in the country getting redemption by stopping one of the best offenses, and then a penalty keeping them from being set up to win.
BCS 10-4

The BCS is a broken system, but how broken is it really? Looking back at the history of the BCS, there have only been 4 cases that a team can make to be playing in the BCS Championship and even with all of those cases, there is still a determining factor that keeps them out.
Below is a list of what is keeping teams out and a simple fix:
1. Strength of Schedule: Only once did this actually hinder a team, Auburn in 2005, who went undefeated in an AQ conference. The simple solution to this. Well, there isn’t one. One time out of 13 is 7%. Nothing to really write home about, and in hindsight that season was practically an anomaly anyway because of all the scandal hitting USC and Reggie Bush.
2. Non-AQ teams not getting a shot: The answer here is simple as well and many of these teams are realizing this. Get into an AQ conference, or schedule pre-conference schedule games with big name opponents. Boise State continues to make the argument that nobody will schedule them before the year, but they are neglecting to mention that the amount of money to be lost by Alabama, Florida, or Texas by taking a 2-1 (2 games in Boise and 1 away) deal is astounding. Hence, Boise, TCU, and Utah are all realigning to be in AQ conferences
3: Not winning the games you are supposed to. I am looking at you Oklahoma State (2011). All you have to do it beat Iowa State. You didn’t. You don’t deserve any charity.

Now after I have written an essay longer than any school assignment I have had this year, I leave you with this final thought.
Before you start jumping to conclusions about how much “better” of a system a playoff would be, please look at these numbers. If you still believe a playoff system would work better, then be my guest, but there will always be somebody complaining that they didn’t get a chance. That is just the cold hard truth of College Football.  Through all of this I have learned that each individual season is unique and that is where the biggest problem lies, but would a playoff fix that? Maybe. That is for us to speculate at and the “professionals” to decide…

 

(BCS Photo Courtesy of Sportige.com)


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