The Bowl Championship Series initiated its national championship game in the 1998-99 season. The concept was hailed as a great step forward from the seemingly archaic bowl system and promised a combination of rankings and evaluations that would produce the two best teams in a national championship game each January.
Now in its fourteenth season, the only thing widely agreed on about the BCS is that it causes more problems than solutions.
For all of the tweaks, minor adjustments, and significant overhauls that have been made to the formula, not a year goes by that doesn’t have at least a couple of schools crying foul when the postseason rolls around.
Even with a clear frontrunner for title of best team in the land this season — 11-0 LSU — there is still a possibility that mayhem and conflict could rule the national title discussion once again.
To highlight the nonsense that comes from a system that relies on off the field factors — read: voters and computers – to pick a pair of championship game participants, you don’t have to look any farther than this Friday’s slate of games in the SEC West.
In the division that includes the top three teams in the latest BCS standings, it’s entirely possible that not making it to the SEC championship game is the best bet for any team looking for a national title. To illustrate, let’s take a look at Alabama. Currently sitting at No. 2 in the BCS, the Crimson Tide needs to beat Auburn this week, but will still miss out on the SEC title game if LSU also wins. That should be just fine for Tide fans as the team surely won’t drop with a win this week and would likely remain the No. 2 team in the final BCS rankings.
Then, we have Arkansas. An upset of LSU on Friday will vault the Razorbacks over the Tigers and into one of the top two spots in the BCS, but Alabama would likely still be ranked higher, thus depriving Arkansas of a trip to Atlanta for the conference championship. Once again, that would work out well for the Razorbacks as they would be favorites to hold the No. 2 spot in the final rankings and wouldn’t have a chance to mess things up by having to play Georgia next week.
The lunacy of the BCS rankings is currently punishing LSU — the only major conference team yet to suffer a loss. A loss to Arkansas this week likely ends LSU’s hopes for a national title, but a win also requires another win in the SEC championship to secure the Tigers’ spot in the national title game — a spot that could be earned by two other teams in the Tigers’ own division that wouldn’t have to play a 13th game before bowl season.
No matter the scenario that plays out this season, the one thing that the BCS has all but assured the masses in its lifespan is that when the final rankings come out, just a few hundredths of a point here or there will make one school a title contender while leaving another — or possibly several more — crying foul.
And what goes into those miniscule point differentials? Technically, that would be a myriad of weighted stats looking at everything from the strength of a team’s schedule to the winning percentage of opponents of opponents that a given school has played.
But — to put it more simply — those tiny differences that will decide whether or not LSU, Alabama, Arkansas, or any other team will advance to the national championship ends up seeming dumb in context. Those final results will have more to do with the outcome of a meaningless Sun Belt Conference game that is tangentially linked to one of those top teams or the final ballot of some guy in the middle of Idaho than any of the games that the top teams actually participated in.
The fact of the matter is that college football has grown, and its time for the sport’s postseason to adjust accordingly.
We no longer live in a world where the same six or seven teams get all of the best recruits, dominate their schedules annually, and can decide a national title with a couple of bowl games. If last week’s showing by Georgia Southern against Alabama proves anything, it’s that the talent of players and coaches alike is growing at all levels and catching up to the old guard.
As much as the BCS wants to deny it, a playoff is the most logical solution to this problem. It doesn’t have to be a 64-team circus like college basketball. It doesn’t even have to be as expansive as the FCS playoffs.
But two teams just isn’t enough. Come next Sunday, there will be at least one 1-loss team headed to the national championship game and plenty of other teams with the same record sure of their ability to win a title if given the chance. No matter who wins it all this season, everyone would be a winner if a champion were to be decided through a couple of tough playoff games instead of generated from inside of a formula.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.