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Dandy Dozen: BCS making a mess of title chase
Question of the Day
An overwhelming majority of college football fans agree that the Bowl Championship Series is a poor way to run a postseason.
Forget about the possible antitrust lawsuits and whether the dollars are properly distributed, it simply does a poor job of producing good football games and a clear cut champion.
With the table set for more controversy this season, here are the top 12 BCS messes _ examples of how the system to crown a national champion has broken down.
1) 2001, Husker Don’t. Eric Crouch and the Cornhuskers were undefeated and first in the BCS standings when Colorado handed them an epic beatdown. CU won 62-36 and Nebraska was eliminated from Big 12 title contention. But when Tennessee lost in the SEC title game two weeks later, Nebraska rose to No. 2 in the BCS standings and “earned” the right to play Miami for the championship. It was 34-0 Hurricanes at half in the Rose Bowl and Oregon fans are still wondering how their team got left out.
2) 2003, Splitsville. The Sooners were being talked about as one of the great teams in college football history _ until Kansas State trounced them 35-7 in the Big 12 title game. That wasn’t enough to keep Jason White and Oklahoma out of the BCS title game. Southern California, the No. 1 team in both polls being used by the BCS at the time, was left out. LSU beat Oklahoma in the championship game, USC beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl. The AP voters stuck with the Trojans as No. 1. The coaches, contractually obligated to vote for LSU, made the Tigers No. 1. Want to see an LSU fan boil? Just mention the 2003 USC national championship _ then duck.
3) 2004, Three’s a Crowd. The season ended with three perfect teams from power conference _ Southern California, Oklahoma and Auburn. All had perfectly reasonable cases to play for the national championship. But in a system that only rewards two, the BCS might as well have thrown the three names in a hat and picked two. Somebody was getting …. let’s say slighted. It ended up being Auburn. And when Matt Leinhart and the Trojans blasted Oklahoma 55-19, it only infuriated Tigers and SEC fans even more. Oh, one more thing. Utah finished the season unbeaten, too.
4) 2000, Head-to-Head I. In early October, Miami and Florida State played another classic game in their classic rivalry, and the Hurricanes beat the Seminoles 27-24. The teams finished with the same 10-1 record and Miami was ahead of Florida State in both polls, but behind the ‘Noles in the BCS standings. Florida State went on to play Oklahoma for the BCS title. The Seminoles and Heisman winner Chris Weinke promptly face-planted, losing 13-2. Miami throttled Florida 37-20 in the Sugar Bowl. And all but forgotten in this mess: Washington beat Miami early in the season and also finished 11-1.
5) 2008, Head-to-Head II. Texas beat No. 1 Oklahoma 45-35 in the Red River Rivalry to vault to No. 1 in the polls. A few weeks later, the Longhorns lost a last-second heartbreaker at Texas Tech and later Oklahoma pounded the Red Raiders. That left a three-way tie atop the Big 12 South that, as per league rules, was broken by the BCS standings. The high-scoring Sooners mesmerized poll voters and came out on top. They easily won the Big 12 title game, before losing the national championship to Florida. Want to blame the Big 12 for this one? Fine, but the BCS was complicit.
6) 2004, Lobbying Longhorn. Some might say Mack Brown got what he deserved in ‘08 after what happened in ‘04. While the Trojans, Sooners and Tigers vied for the top spot in the BCS, Texas was meanwhile trying to squeeze into the Rose Bowl. California, which came up one play short of beating USC, seemed to be sitting pretty for its first Rose Bowl appearance since 1959. But as the season wore on, Brown was everywhere talking up his team and trying to sway voters. Ultimately, Texas edged ahead of Cal and the dejected Golden Bears got relegated to the Holiday Bowl _ where they lost 45-31 to Texas Tech. The Longhorns? Their trip to Pasadena ended with a 38-37 win over Michigan.
7) 2009, The Kiddie Table. Undefeated TCU earned its first BCS Buster bid and Boise State became the first team from a conference without an automatic bid to receive an at-large berth. But instead of matching one of the upstarts against the big boys _ think Tebow vs. Boise State would have drawn some people to the TV for the Sugar Bowl? _ the BCS gave fans TCU vs. Boise State in the Fiesta Bowl. You guys run along and play together while the adults take care of business. Final score: Broncos 17, Frogs 10.
8) 2007, Punching a Ticket. Kansas, dominating a mediocre schedule, was in the hunt for the national championship going into its huge rivalry game against Missouri. The Tigers beat the Jayhawks 36-28 and had a chance to play for the national title going into the Big 12 championship game. Knowing Jayhawks fans would gobble up tickets to their biggest bowl game in decades, and not wanting to rely on dejected Missouri fans making another long trip, the Orange Bowl invited Kansas and Missouri was shuffled off to the Cotton Bowl.
9) 2006, Rematch Mess. A step away from the championship game, USC slipped and opened the possibility of a Michigan-Ohio State rematch for the national title. Florida coach Urban Meyer took a page from Brown’s playbook, touting his team while Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr went typically low-profile. Even TV analyst Gary Danielson lobbied for the Gators during the SEC championship. The Gators went on to win the national title, justifying their inclusion, but the way they got there was an indictment of the system.
10) 1998, Championship or Bust. Kansas State was going to play for the national championship. KANSAS STATE! Once the laughingstock of major college football, the Wildcats were unbeaten and only needed to beat Texas A&M, which was 9-2, in the Big 12 title game to land on the biggest stage of all. Bill Snyder’s team fell short, losing 36-33 in overtime and dropped all the way to the Alamo Bowl. The Wildcats lost that 37-34.
11) 2001, ‘06, ‘07. In Over Their Heads. Anytime Notre Dame is eligible for a spot in the BCS, you can guarantee the Fighting Irish, with their national following, will be picked. Problem is Notre Dame has not been able to compete with top competition. So for the sake of a boost in television ratings the BCS has given fans: Oregon State 41, Notre Dame 9 in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl; Ohio State 34, Notre Dame 20 in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl; and LSU 41, Notre Dame 14 in the 2007 Sugar Bowl.
12) 2006, ‘08. Unbeaten and Unfulfilled. In 2006, Boise State was the only undefeated team in the country at the end of the season and was never even in contention to play for the BCS national championship. In 2008, Utah did the same thing. It’s taken a few years for college football fans and the media to come around to the fact that teams from outside the power conferences can compete on the highest level. But if more than two teams were given an opportunity in the postseason to win the championship, we wouldn’t have to waste so much time arguing about whether the “little guys” should get a chance to play in the only game that really counts.
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