- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 13, 2001

If I'm having trouble feeling the Colorado Buffaloes' pain this morning, perhaps it's because I can remember a time, not too long ago, when they lucked out and won college football's national championship. I refer to the infamous fifth down they received against Missouri in 1990, which helped them beat the Tigers and, ultimately, share the No.1 spot with Georgia Tech.
By all rights, Colorado should have finished 9-2-1 that season and gone to the Citrus Bowl or someplace. But because an officiating crew couldn't count, the Buffs wound up going to the Orange and eking out a one-point victory over Notre Dame to steal a slice of the national title.
So when Colorado loses out in the BCS shuffle to Nebraska, a team it vanquished 62-36 a few weeks ago, and coach Gary Barnett bleats, "It's hard to be gracious at this moment," my gut reaction is: "Tell it to the hand, Gary. This is what's known as Things Evening Out. I know you didn't have anything to do with the Fifth Down Game that was on Bill McCartney's watch but somebody has to pay the piper."
As you can see, I'm in kind of a grouchy mood today, worn down by college football's mathematical stein would have difficulty grasping, the sport has decided that the Cornhuskers, so recently bowled over in Boulder, should play top-ranked Miami in the Rose Bowl for the "national championship."
To most fans those who don't live in Lincoln, that is this is like saying Harold Stassen should take another run at the presidency. Nebraska had its shot … and missed not just the basket but the backboard. And now it gets a do-over? What a joke.
"I'm not even gonna watch [the Rose Bowl]," a sportswriter friend groused the other day.
I'm not gonna watch, either. What else is on that night, "Temptation Island 2"? Think I'll curl up with a bag of Cheetos and watch that. The Miami-Nebraska matchup will resolve nothing other than whether the Hurricanes' mascot, Sebastian the Ibis, can get through a bowl game without drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty (as he did last year in the Sugar).
Not that any of the other potential pairings were all that appealing. Miami-Oregon? What exactly did the Ducks do to be ranked No.2 by AP and USA Today/ESPN? They didn't even play Washington. And you all know my feelings about Colorado: What goes around comes around. (Plus, the Buffs lost at home to Fresno State.) The other contenders Florida, Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma have no one to blame but themselves.
You know what would be really funny? If Nebraska got squashed in the "title game" 62-24 or something. Wait, scratch that. It's already been done by Florida six years ago (against the 'Huskers, if I'm not mistaken).
This is what happens when you allow the fate of college football to be determined by a consortium of coaches, sportswriters, numbers crunchers and assorted other ne'er-do-wells. Just who is this Jeff Sagarin person, anyway and would somebody please confiscate his calculator? I'm reminded of that gorilla in the zoo who used to "pick" NFL games. Maybe we should have him (or was it a her?) choose Miami's opponent. It would be just as scientific.
College football has been eating the NFL's dust since the '50s, and one of the reasons is that it's still giving us "national championship" games like this one. It would have been nice, in '97, to see unbeaten Michigan meet unbeaten Nebraska, but the system didn't work that way. It also would have been nice, seven years earlier, to see how good Georgia Tech really was, rather than sticking the Yellow Jackets in a lesser bowl because their conference lacked clout.
The BCS was supposed to eliminate that nonsense, and for the most part it has. It brought No.1 and No.2 together the last three years. But this year, with no clear-cut second choice, the computer threw a rod and, amid much smoking and rattling, spat out "Nebraska" as one of the finalists.
(Must not have been the same IBM model that taught chess champ Garry Kasparov a lesson. Must have been one the BCS picked up on sale at Best Buy. They were probably lured by that "no payments until 2003" promotion. In fact, I just figured out what BCS stands for Bought Computer on Sale.)
Obviously, the formula needs some tweaking a cup of common sense, perhaps, or a jigger of logic. People have suggested awarding bonus points for winning conference championships, but how about just weighting late-season games more heavily than early season games, like they do in basketball. Then a team that might have started a little slowly but was peaking at the end (e.g. Colorado) would have a better chance to play for the title.
But why am I even talking about this? Like I said, I'm not even gonna watch the game this year.
Well, OK, I might take a little peek.

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