11 November 2010

Leaves, Contenders and Excuses Continue to Fall

As foliage diversifies in color then drops across the country, college football has entered into the final third of its season. The controversies surrounding the Bowl Championship Series continue to build like piles of leaves at this time of year. The proponents of the BCS point to the regular season games as de facto playoffs. If that is true, losses by Utah, Alabama and Oklahoma have winnowed the forest of red-hued contenders for the two slots available in Glendale, Arizona, at least in the opinions of the defenders of the status quo.

However, this picturesque and orderly scene deceives those who deny the BCS's flaws. Pundits switched from mentioning Alabama’s self-determination to reach the BCS title game to speculating on what must occur for Louisiana State to finish in the top two after the regular season. Additionally, since Saturday, the media has frequently debated about which of the nine teams with one loss could or should surpass Boise State or Texas Christian in the polls. The concept of eliminating challengers each week seems spurious. Actually, the rankings appear like a freshly raked lawn, which is quickly re-cluttered by the appearance of more leaves.

Four weeks remain before the final BCS poll will determine the contestants for the mythical national title game. The presence of two undefeated teams from minor conferences in the top five of the polls has spawned a tremendous amount of debate. The acrimony will spike even higher if Auburn or Oregon lose. If the Ducks or Tigers or both drop a game, who should replace them in the BCS title game? Should a one-loss champion from Big Ten or Big Twelve leap over undefeated Boise State or TCU? If LSU finishes with only one loss but does not play the Southeastern Conference’s championship game, do the Tigers deserve a shot at the BCS title instead of the Frogs or Broncos? If the top four teams all finish 12-0, the media and fans will scream thunderously for a “plus one” game after bowls long touted by critics of the current system.

The controversy will not exist solely around the pairing of opponents for the last game of the season. If Boise State or TCU do not play in the BCS Title Game, in which bowl will they conclude their seasons? The Atlantic Coast Conference’s champion will play in the Orange Bowl despite having at least two losses. The winner of the Big East will receive an invitation to one of the four other BCS bowls despite having at least three losses. Would the four bowls prefer to choose an also-ran from the SEC, Big Ten or Big Twelve in lieu of one of those undefeated teams without a guaranteed BCS bid for winning their conferences? The debate in the backrooms among bowl executives will weigh the value of larger fan bases and more name recognition versus the allure of underdogs with perfect records. This issue will also spawn more threats of lawsuits and Congressional intervention plus calls to strip automatic BCS berths from the ACC and the Big East.

There remains one final question to ponder. Will this year’s batch of thorny issues finally kill the BCS and give birth to a true playoff system? Lovers of college football can only wait and hope that the beauty of this and future seasons will cease their annual dreary conclusions.


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