BCS Chaos Theory: Let It Burn

“Pff, they beat a four-loss Iowa team. Big deal.”

This was said on ESPN’s inane BCS Countdown show, where they reveal the weekly BCS rankings and engage in contrived chatter for 30 minutes while most sane people watch Sunday Night Football, Bob’s Burgers or literally anything else in the world.

baylor bcs 2013

What was the quote attributed to? Were they discussing how Ohio State’s second-best win so far came at home against Iowa?

Of course not. They were continuing the unfair treatment of Northern Illinois by badmouthing their win, on the road, at Iowa. Oh by the way, it doubles as the second-best win for NIU too.

The myth that the BCS in any way helped college football is being destroyed this year, as the system we despise so much finally meets its maker. It is a fitting end that the last non-title BCS game – the 2014 Orange Bowl – will almost certainly be out-rated by the non-BCS Cotton Bowl going on at the same time on Fox.

The BCS was never meant to make good Orange Bowl games – and it surely didn’t. It was created to give us a national champion. And whether you hated or merely disliked the BCS, it succeeded.

From 1990 through 1997 – the 8 seasons prior to the BCS – there were four split national titles and another (1996) where the two unbeaten teams did not play in the bowl game. Only 37% of the time did #1 play #2. Until 1994, we were okay with it because all the games were played on New Year’s Day and you traded the best sports day of the year for a split title.

Then they ruined that in 1995. Then the split titles became too much to bear. So Roy Kramer devised the BCS and it has, for its sole intended goal, worked out pretty week. In the first 15 years of the BCS, there has been only 1 split national title, in 2003. Maybe it wasn’t the #1 vs. #2 that people wanted – the 2001 Nebraska fiasco jumps to mind – but the national champion every year appeared to be the best team.

The problem, of course, lies in everything with the BCS. The post-New Year’s Day games. The empty seats at the Superdome. The BCS buster concept. The tie-ins. The conference limits. The hypocrisy. The fallacy. The stupidity.

That is why, in the last year of this ill-fated system, I hope it burns. I hope it devolves into unabated chaos. I hope we look back at the wreckage of 2013 as when a true college football playoff began to take shape – not the façade of one we’re getting next year. But the first step to a true, 16-team, where every conference champion gets a bid, college football playoff.

Those who oppose a playoff point to the sanctity of the regular season and asks, tears in their eyes, if people would even show up to games in college football if there was a playoff. Ignoring the empty seats that plague games today. Ignoring the fact that just last night, 2 NFL teams guaranteed to make the playoffs played an instant classic in front of a packed stadium and Lord knows how many watching on TV.

But to get to there – to get to a month of December football that matters, to Ohio State hosting Clemson in December, to Alabama hosting Northern Illinois, to a championship won on the field – we must go through the mud first.

There is exactly one scenario in which the BCS works in 2013. Alabama must win out and either Florida State or Ohio State has to lose. That’s it. That’s the only one.

But, Sean, you’re saying, what if Alabama loses? Wouldn’t that make it work? No, because you’d almost certainly have a one-loss SEC champion prevented from playing for a title in lieu of two teams that had proverbial cakewalks for 12 of their 13 games.

How would you like to tell Auburn that consecutive wins over #1 Alabama and, say, #4 Missouri wasn’t enough because Ohio State didn’t lose to a stream of Big Ten cupcakes?

What if, in the most delicious disaster scenario, the top 3 all lose? Or, more realistically, Florida State finishes unbeaten with a slew of 1-loss teams behind it? What happens then?

If you think a four-team playoff is going to make any of this better, you haven’t been paying attention to college football for the past 50 years. Deciding on 1 and 2 is easy work compared to deciding between 4 and 5.

Even beyond the title fiasco, we are potentially heading for the worst slate of BCS bowl games in history thanks to archaic rules, incorrect rankings and coaches who vote for themselves.

Let’s start with the rule that’s about to go the way of the dodo – the limit on two teams per conference. The SEC has 3 top 5 teams right now. And one of them will be playing in a non-BCS bowl. Isn’t that grand?

Wisconsin could finish its season without beating a single team ranked in the final Top 25. Its reward? A potential trip to the Orange Bowl, while Auburn or Missouri is held out – what a system, right?

Then there is the last year of the BCS buster term and, again, we see how the BCS was not built for this. And never was.

UCF is ranked #19 for reasons I cannot possibly fathom. They are behind Louisville in the Coaches Poll despite having the same record and BEATING LOUISVILLE AT LOUISVILLE!  Their only loss is a home loss by 3 points to South Carolina.

So you’re saying, if UCF had beaten a cupcake by 50 instead of battling a Top 10 SEC team, they’d be in the national title race??

Now, as a UCF fans, this shouldn’t bother you. If UCF wins out, whether they are ranked #9, #19 or #39, they will play in a BCS bowl whether anyone likes it or not. Okay, maybe it should bother you, but it won’t ultimately affect you.

The criminal under-ranking of UCF does affect, well, everything else. Many people don’t think Northern Illinois and Fresno State deserve a BCS bid this year because of their ridiculously soft schedules – Fresno’s best win, no lie, may be over a 5-5 Rutgers team in overtime that was last seen getting demolished by UCF. I wonder how Fresno would do versus South Carolina?

So while the ESPNers complain, if UCF was ranked correctly – i.e., ahead of Fresno and Northern Illinois – this wouldn’t be an issue right now. But why bring that up when you can make fun of an undefeated MAC team for a month?

Also, on Sunday night, Northern Illinois jumped Fresno State based on its computer rankings jumping through the roof. Part of this is due to Iowa beating Michigan. Part of this is due to the BCS computers being forced to not account for margin of victory. Why? Because the BCS is stupid. The gurus behind the computers admit that they have BETTER rankings that the BCS bars them from using.

When do I queue up the circus music?

ohio state snowThe next system will have no computers, only old men and Condi Rice, who has already been discredited for being a woman who hasn’t played football. Why? Because of the dreaded “eye test” that somehow should decide who plays for a national title.

In college basketball, teams are chosen for the NCAA Tournament based on their merits. Who did they beat? Where did they beat them? How tough was their schedule?

In college football, Florida State gets credit for beating 3 ranked teams, despite the fact Maryland and Miami are long gone from the Top 25.

In college basketball, teams are punished for scheduling cupcakes.

In college football, Florida State and Ohio State are rewarded for playing 8 nonconference games with a grand total of 1 bowl-bound team (Buffalo).

In college basketball, there is no myth about every game meaning something, yet UConn and Indiana still light up Madison Square Garden on a Friday night in November.

In college football, the myth perpetuates despite Alabama being crowned national champions in two straight seasons with losses in November.

In college basketball, Cinderella’s are to be lauded – cue the Dunk City montage.

In college football, they are to be mocked – cue the negative NIU montage.

The BCS needs to burn a fiery, painful death because the entire system needs to burn a fiery, painful death.

The BCS was finally extinguished in 2011 because no one wanted to see LSU play Alabama again. It begat the four-team college football playoff, which is not perfect, but better.

The system will eventually crumble – there are too many teams playing too few games against each other to pick four teams logically. It’s literally impossible. There’s not even data, even if we move to 13 games. It cannot work.

That’s okay. For the good of the game, everything needs to fail.

For now, we can only root for pure chaos and bathe in its afterglow.

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  1. *Note to self* Don't click on a link from Sean O'Leary again.

  2. Sean, I disagree with some of what you say.

    Why do you quote the rankings as those are solid rankings? Sure they are THE rankings, but do you honestly feel Auburn and Missouri should be ranked 4 and 5? What have they done to be ranked that high? Missouri hasn't beaten a current top 10 team. Auburn beat A&M with Manziel injured. Their only common game is Georgia, in which Missouri convincingly won and Auburn got a gift. So should Auburn even be ahead of Missouri?

    Clemson also beat Georgia convincingly. Why isn't Clemson ahead of Auburn?

    Ok State just beat the snot out of Baylor. Why aren't they 4 or 5?

    Why is Baylor 9th? Its only because they lost recently. If Auburn lost to LSU this past weekend instead of early this year they wouldn't be 4.

    To blindly accept these rankings and claim there is some injustice is ridiculous.

    Iowa lost to 2 undefeated teams (NIU and OSU), a one loss team (MSU), and a two loss team (Wisc). They were all close games. Are they a great team? No. But they're not a "cupcake" team.

    A&M has lost to every ranked team they played. 2 were close and this weekend's was not. Why are they deemed good?

    Why are MSU and Wisconsin ranked behind every other 1 loss and 2 loss major conference team respectively?

    Why is Wisconsin behind Oregon after Oregon's loss this weekend? Oregon's only win now is UCLA who is 22-23 in the nation.

    The SEC's best OOC win this year is against UCF, with the conference having multiple losses to other conferences. Why should they have 3 of the 5 top ranking slots just for playing each other?

    1. Sorry Missouri hasn't beaten a top 25 team is what i meant to say.


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