TEXAS: Victim of the BCS

Garrett Ley

If you previously supported the Bowl Championship Series system, hopefully you changed your opinion last Sunday when the latest BCS standings were revealed.

The Texas Longhorns and the Oklahoma Sooners have identical records (11-1), yet Texas is ranked lower than the Sooners in the BCS poll despite a 45-35 victory in the teams’ head-to-head showdown in October. More importantly, the Sooners’ No. 2 ranking gives them the inside edge to play the winner of Saturday’s Alabama-Florida match-up in the National Championship game on January 8. Consequently, Texas if left out to dry.

And therein lies the main defect in the BCS system. The top two teams in the nation (as judged by a computer) play for the National Championship while the other 117 Division I-A teams sit back and watch.

Sure, there are other bowl games–a mind-boggling 33 in fact–for teams who fall short of the title game. No offense to the PapaJohns.com Bowl, but most of these lower-tier bowl games feature a pair of 6-6 teams battling to finish over the .500 mark.

The reason that millions of sports fans love college basketball’s March Madness is because 65 teams reach the NCAA Tournament, and each has an opportunity to claim the National Title. Unfortunately, the current state of college football’s postseason system, namely a series of independent bowl games, doesn’t elicit nearly as much excitement.

The worst part about the BCS, though, is the controversy surrounding the ranking system. It seems as though every December, one or two deserving teams are neglected by the computers. This year, Texas is the perfect example. An argument can also be made for Texas Tech, another Big 12 team that ranked seventh in the latest BCS standings, yet knocked off Texas and finished 11-1. Mid-major schools like Ball State, Utah and Boise State each finished the season a perfect 12-0, but have no chance of making it to the title game.

When one-loss teams like Penn State and USC suffered a defeat, and they were put out of the title picture. Their losses were caused immediate condemnations, and they instantaneously dashed their national title dreams. The Nittany Lions lost on a last-second field goal to Iowa in November, and fell from No. 3 to No. 8. Top-ranked USC fell to Oregon State in September, and when the first BCS standings came out on October 19, the Trojans were still down at No. 5. Both teams were long shots to play for the national title after suffering one defeat.

Granted, there are four other BCS Bowls–the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl and Sugar Bowl–but these bowls act more like consolation games for teams who “weren’t good enough for the computers.”

This is why there should be a College Football Playoff. It’s been talked about for a few years now, ever since the extremely unpopular BCS came into effect during the 1998 season. And if you don’t believe me, ask President-Elect Barack Obama about it.

Obama went on CBS’s 60 Minutes on November 16 and echoed the sentiments he has expressed to ESPN’s Chris Bermann during the half-time show of a Monday Night Football broadcast a month earlier. “If you’ve got a bunch of teams who play throughout the season, and many of them have one loss or two losses, there’s no clear decisive winner,” he said. “We should be creating a playoff system.”

But how would that work? How many teams would go? Teams are already playing 12 or 13 games in the regular season, and with a playoff system the season would be dragged on forever, right?

Said Obama: “Eight teams. That would be three rounds to determine a national champion. It would add three extra weeks to the season. You could trim back on the regular season.”

And there you have it. The President-Elect has spoken. But he has to remember that there are 119 Division 1-A football programs in the nation, and under his system, 111 teams–many of them probably qualified to compete for the national title–would be snubbed.

That’s why I believe a 16-team playoff is a better option. It gives the two-loss and three-loss teams an opportunity to redeem themselves.

Yes, a 16-team playoff would take four weeks to complete. But it’s not like the bowl season ends any sooner under the current system. There is an awkward month gap between regular season finales and bowl games. So while the playoff system would add more games for some teams, it wouldn’t necessarily lengthen the season.

The college football playoffs, then, would resemble the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, where ideally no controversy engulfs the winner of the tournament. If you win March Madness, you’re No. 1 in the nation, no questions asked.

Nothing was more controversial than college football’s shared National Championship in 2004. LSU knocked off Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl to win the BCS national title, but the Associated Press named USC the national champion after the Trojans beat Michigan.

While not everyone will agree with my 16-team playoff proposal, it is certainly an improvement from the current BCS system, and instances like the 2004 split national title would be a thing of the past.

College Football Playoffs. It’s a change we can believe in. Barack knows what I’m talking about.