Time to bury and praise the college football championship process that’s dominated the landscape…goodbye Bowl Championship Series. The cocoon is finally off and the playoff butterfly will soar starting next year…but what a mind-boggling chrysalis stage it has been. And with a playoff on the horizon, let’s not forget the jenga puzzle that used to be New Year’s Day.
From 1968 to 91, #1 met #2 in a bowl game six times. In some situations the #1 team didn’t even face a school in the top 5: Texas topping #6 Notre Dame in the 1970 Cotton and Miami beating #11 Nebraska in the 1992 Orange just two of those examples. After consecutive split titles where #1 didn’t face #2 or even 3 or 4… the Bowl Coalition and then Alliance worked to unify the title process. Eventually the Bowl Championship series delivered the title tilt fans craved.
Except it created a season long argument of who belonged and who didn’t in the final game. And did a league champ with one loss deserve it more than an unbeaten champ from another conference. And the debate “what if three major teams go unbeaten?” even though that had only happened three times in the last 20 years (1979, 1987 and 1992). What bothered me about the BCS was the diluting of New Year’s Day. With games moved to the 2nd and 3rd in prime-time…football’s best day is now robbed of more than just the top two teams that play for the title. New Year’s used to be one incredible last-gasp buffet of college football–and now it’s merely a day long appetizer. You can only have so many scallops before three more days of salad before the main course.
While the BCS was able to correctly match the top two teams when there were only two major unbeatens all five times (major props!)…there were a few missed tackles…:
2000: 3rd ranked Florida State lost to 2nd rated Miami who lost to #4 Washington. Unfortunately the transitive property of college football did not apply…Seminoles advance.
2001: #4 Nebraska leapfrogs 2nd ranked Oregon and #3 Colorado…despite having lost 62-36 to the Buffaloes and the Ducks lone loss coming by 7 to a 9-2 Stanford. Biggest crime…at least until two years later.
2003: three one loss teams had #1 USC’s lone defeat coming in triple overtime to a Cal team led by Aaron Rodgers…#2 LSU’s lone loss coming to an 8-4 Florida…and #3 Oklahoma getting roasted 35-7 in the Big 12 Title game by an 11-3 Kansas State. Sooners and Tigers play for the title while the Trojans get robbed.
2004: payback for the Pac-10…as USC, Oklahoma and Auburn finish unbeaten with the Tigers boasting more wins over ranked teams than the Trojans or the Sooners.
2006: Florida gets the call over Michigan despite the Wolverines’ 3 point loss in Columbus to #1 Ohio State looking just a shade nicer than the Gators’ 10 point loss to then #11 Auburn. Flies in the face of the Sooners getting gashed in their conference title game…and sets the soon to be ignored precedent of “let’s stay away from rematches”.
2007: LSU wins the 2-loss team derby that includes Virginia Tech (Hokies lost to the Tigers in the regular season) while both the Tigers losses came in triple-overtime. They actually made the right move…
2008: Seven one-loss teams from major conferences. Oklahoma plays Florida despite losing to Texas by 10 (the Longhorns lone loss coming at then unbeaten Texas Tech by 6 in the last minute). USC’s lone loss came in September at a 9-4 Oregon State…and Penn State’s sole blemish was a 1 point loss at Iowa. Should have been Florida-Texas.
2011: Alabama gets the nod over Oklahoma State and Stanford in a one-loss derby…the Cowboys double overtime loss to Iowa State and the Cardinal’s 23 point drubbing by Oregon opening the door to the very rematch they wanted to avoid when it was two Big 10 teams.
2012: Alabama gets another pass over Florida (the transitive property of beating Georgia that beat the Gators working all of a sudden) and Stanford (this time Oregon exacts revenge in overtime)…while it feels a little fishy it’s definitely not as bad as ’00, ’01 or ’03.
So they got it right this year with Auburn’s win over Alabama giving the Tigers the tiebreaker against the Tide…and we begin the “who’s number 4” debate next year.
Bracket for Giggles: conference winners are in CAPS…with conference teams moved into different regions. This makes the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game a Bedlam battle for the bracket…and turns the “window dressing” Clemson-South Carolina contest a virtual play-in game…while rewarding everybody for either winning their league or having great seasons.
#1 FLORIDA ST–#16 LA-LAFAYETTE vs #8 South Carolina–#10 Oregon
#4 MICHIGAN ST–#13 FRESNO ST vs #5 STANFORD–#9 Missouri
#3 Alabama–#14 BOWLING GREEN vs #6 BAYLOR–#12 CENTRAL FLA.
#2 AUBURN–#15 RICE vs #7 Ohio St–#11 Oklahoma