Sunday, January 4, 2009

BCS Shenanigans

As some of you know, I am a huge University of Utah fan. I come to it quite naturally, being born into a family of Ute fans. (We still think my brother Shane is adopted because he is a BYU fan.) Naturally, football season is a big deal for my family. It was huge in 2004-5 when the team went undefeated and was the first team from a non-BCS conference to "bust" into the BCS bowl games. They gave the Utes lowly Pitt to play, whom they blew away 35-7. They finished ranked 4th that year, after blowing everyone away that they played. Then coach Urban Meyer took the job at Florida, and Utah started rebuilding.

Of course, then other non-BCS conference teams did likewise: undefeated Boise State beating Oklahoma in the 06 Fiesta Bowl, and undefeated Hawaii getting blown out by Georgia last year, which increased the distinctions made between BCS and non-BCS teams. Highly ranked non-BCS teams were not invited to the BCS bowls before, and under pressure from congresspersons the rules were changed to guarantee that any non-BCS conference teams that were ranked in the top 12 received a guaranteed spot. Still, most of these teams have been kept out of the top 5 of the polls, supposedly because of their "weak strength of schedule."

The BCS system was supposed to satiate those fans that desired to see a playoff system to end the long past of questionable national champs based on two separate polls. Instead, it has created a system that is updated almost every year to change the weaknesses exhibited that year. BCS conferences were assumed to be tougher conferences, and hence, a Boise State, Hawaii, BYU, TCU, or Utah team was automatically suspect because of the conferences they are in. And when an undefeated team from a non-BCS conference breaks in, it is supposed to be enough for them to get one of the other BCS games, rather than the championship game.

Here is how ESPN was talking about the Sugar Bowl on December 7th.

That argument was just blown out of the water by an undefeated University of Utah team that entered the game against Alabama as a 9.5 point underdogs. Utah didn't just beat the Tide by a greater margin than Florida did, but it dominated them from the very get go with a stunning 21-0 first quarter. Alabama fans were shown on television in shock, and a significant number were shown walking out of the stadium with four minutes left in the game. Of course, this surprised the analysts on ESPN, and those who see the SEC as the toughest conference in FBS college football. But should they have been surprised? This was a Mountain West Champ who beat the Oregon State team that beat USC. Utah also beat ranked teams in its own conference such as TCU and BYU, and the Mountain West Conference went 6-2 against Pac-10 teams this year.

So, why doesn’t the MWC get an automatic bid to the BCS bowl games? Because the NCAA has allowed the college presidents from the BCS conferences to run the BCS system, rather than creating a genuine playoff system like it does for every other college sport. Perhaps this is why a 12-0 Boise State from the WAC, ranked number nine in the country, was not given a BCS bowl game as well as Utah. The BCS system offers the highest payout per game, and BCS conferences love it when they are able to get two teams into one of these top games, rather than just their conference champions. So, despite the numerous calls for a playoff system, even a limited playoff with the top 8 teams, has fallen on deaf ears because the BCS bowl system is a huge cash cow.

Even ESPN analysts are getting in on the new BCS controversy.

So, who should be named National Champion? USC coach Pete Carroll said, “I don’t think anybody could beat us.” With one loss, he thinks his team is just as good as any other BCS conference one loss team. Texas was left out of the BCS Championship game because of a Big 12 tiebreaker rule that uses the BCS ranking, which depends on national polls instead of head to head wins. Texas beat Oklahoma earlier in the season, but lost to Texas Tech later in the season. Florida’s loss to unranked Mississippi was early enough in the season to allow them to rebound in the rankings, and their 31-20 win over Alabama in the SEC championship vaulted them into the BCS Championship game. Left out again was an undefeated Utah team that finally had the opportunity to show they can play with the top teams of the BCS conferences. Yes, we need a playoff season. Yes, we need to return college football bowls to the control of the NCAA itself. And yes, we need to allow the student athletes themselves to prove whose team is best, rather than rankings voted upon by their coaches and the media that cover their games. The nation is too big and the parity between teams is too close to continue to allow the most popular conference, and the teams with the largest fan base, to determine who gets to play in the postseason. I am voting Utah number one until we get a real playoff system to prove it on the field.


Doug said...

I'm still a Gator fan happy with this year's result, but this is a good post giving us a lot to think about.

Jimmy Mac said...

Gators Suck!!!! You can't expect to be champion of anything, when you don't have the best record. Utah is the only real undefeated National Champion!! The Gators are like the equivalent of the Orange Bowl Champs, that's all.