- The Washington Times - Monday, December 8, 2003

Welcome to the ultimate BCS debacle.

One unthinkable upset and several seconds of microchip madness has left us with a Bourbon Street bust.

Its easy to blame the computers for the sour Sugar Bowl matchup the BCS formula spit out yesterday. Thanks to the Deep Blue element of the BCS equation, this seasons supposed title game in New Orleans will feature No.2 LSU vs. No.3 Oklahoma. Meanwhile, the Southern California squad both human polls agree is No.1 will meet No.4 Michigan in the Rose Bowl. A divided national title is likely universal ire is a guarantee.

Go ahead, smack the nearest PC. Unleash the Luddite within. Then turn your rage on the Pocket Protectors, the never-played-a-snap geeks who came up with the programs that couldnt figure out Southern Cal was the one of the three teams in question that should never have been shut out of the Sugar Bowl.

USC stayed below Oklahoma in the final BCS standings because somebody decided margin of victory shouldnt play a factor in computer rankings. It was a well-intentioned decision intended to discourage running up the score. It also was incredibly stupid, because the resulting computer programs cant recognize the obvious difference between USCs three-point, triple-overtime, early-season loss at Cal and Kansas States, season-ending, 28-point decimation of the Sooners in Saturdays Big 12 title game.

And USC fell below LSU in the BCS because those same computer programs determined that the Tigers played a tougher schedule than the Trojans. Lets take a closer look at that comical determination.

In the only part of the schedule they had any say in arranging (the nonconference slate), LSU booked Louisiana-Monroe, Western Illinois, Louisiana Tech and Arizona. Thats three garden variety directionals and the Pac-10s predictable doormat. USC, however, scheduled trips to preseason SEC favorite Auburn and seemingly resurgent Notre Dame on top of home dates with respectable mid-majors BYU and Hawaii. If you need a computer to tell you which of those two schedules is more daunting, you probably also need a bib and feeding tube.

Should it be held against USC that the Pac-10 was a bit weaker than usual? Should the Trojans cop it because they almost single-handedly turned Auburns season into a shambles with a season-opening 23-0 beatdown of the SEC power on the Plains? Should it be held against USC that the Pac-10 doesnt feature a money-grubbing league title game so it could bolster its strength of schedule numbers with a superfluous 12th victory?

To anyone with a mind instead of a microprocessor these questions seem ludicrous.

All the Trojans did after their September misstep at Cal was humiliate their next eight opponents by an average margin of 26.9 points. All USC did over the final two months of the season was evolve from a dominating defensive team into a scheme-mocking offensive juggernaut featuring the fast-maturing talents of underclassmen like quarterback Matt Leinart, receivers Mike Williams and Steve Smith and tailbacks Reggie Bush, LenDale White and Hershel Dennis.

The computers were obviously too busy cranking out chaos on Saturday to pay attention to USCs 52-28 trouncing of Oregon State. The Trojans emasculation of the Pac-10s erstwhile top defensive unit was defined by the exploits of Williams, who made both the seasons best catch and unloaded the seasons best block in the same half sending anyone with a Heisman vote and a conscience scurrying for a little Jason Whiteout.

Fact is, the Trojans are so good that even their punter (Tom Malone) would be a Ray Guy Award lock if he ever got to showcase his skills. Malone leads the nation in average (49.2 yards) but doesnt appear in the NCAA statistics because the Trojans have to kick so rarely that Malone lacks the requisite 3.6 punts a game to qualify.

Yet this is the team the BCS has decided shouldnt go bowling on Bourbon Street. Brilliant.

That said, dont feel sorry for USC. The Trojans arent going to get cheated out of anything other than a five-hour flight, beads and beignets. No matter what happens in the Sugar Bowl, if USC drops Michigan, you can be certain AP voters will give the Trojans their share of the title (see 1997).

And frankly, thats easily the more legitimate half of the crown. After all, just think how fraudulent the other poll will seem when the same coaches who voted USC No.1 yesterday are forced to anoint the Sugar Bowl champion next month even if USC pounds the Wolverines and LSU and Oklahoma produce a poorly played yawner.

Nope, dont feel sorry for USC feel sorry for yourselves. Once again, the BCS has cheated you, the fans, of your deserved dose of drama. The same flawed system that gave you Florida State instead of Miami vs. Oklahoma in the 2001 Orange Bowl and an obviously overmatched Nebraska team that like this seasons Sooners wasnt even the Big 12 champ in the 2002 Rose Bowl, the BCS has failed us all again.

Perhaps this latest, greatest BCS disaster will precipitate a playoff (beautiful dream). Four teams would do it this season, with the Sugar Bowl winner meeting the Rose Bowl winner in the first ABC Bowl (anything for resolution). Heck, its already seeded for the suits behind the curtain.

Barring this obvious evolution, lets at least agree on one future change to the current format: If both human polls feature the same top two teams, then there should be no need to use the BCS standings. Thats a bit of common sense that wouldnt hurt anyone but the no-shows from Norman.


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