For college football, mess of a BCS in the works
Coach Les Miles and his LSU Tigers will likely be a shoo-in for the BCS title game, providing the team beats Arkansas on Friday.
November 25th, 2011
10:23 AM ET

For college football, mess of a BCS in the works

The chase for the college football crown has come to this fateful weekend. And the BCS – that would be the Bedlam, Controversy and Squabbling – has never been messier.

Friday’s LSU-Arkansas game may all but decide 50% of the national championship, but the variables, plots and subplots that make the case for other title contenders are as interwoven as the laces on a football.

Let’s start with the easy stuff: LSU will likely be a shoo-in for the BCS title game, providing it beats a loose-playing, freewheeling Arkansas team that isn’t afraid to play like, well, wild hogs.

LSU-Arkansas preview

And they’ve sort of owned LSU recently, winning three of the last four games, including a memorable three-overtime, 50-48 victory over the then-No. 1 ranked Tigers in 2007. Interestingly, that two-loss LSU team still got the nod to compete for the national title, where it beat Ohio State.

Sports blogger J. Danielle at  said the Tigers may even be able to play for the national championship with a loss, considering that they will have faced an unprecedented eight top 10 teams (SEC East champion Georgia will likely make the top 10 after this weekend), including suspensions for key players at one time or another.

“I think this LSU team could potentially be considered as having one of the best runs in college football history,” she said. “Obviously Alabama is LSU’s most likely opponent right now.”

But what about Oklahoma State? Where is Boise State in this thing? And Houston, we’ve got a problem.

Yes, the BCS is a mess.

Part of the reason is because it is governed equally by three components: The coaches' poll, the Harris poll and the computer rankings. While humans control two of these entities, it’s the computer rankings that often can throw a wrench into things.

In Bowl Championship Series theory, the algorithms calculated by the computers should be offset by the principled judgment of human pollsters (sports writers, coaches) who challenge themselves in selecting the two best teams. The problem comes when the computers run the numbers against the nuances that humans see when the games are played: Like Alabama had no business being locked in a 6-6 tie with LSU at the end of regulation on November 5 (still kicking themselves?) and therefore should stay ranked ahead of other one-loss teams. Like how Texas A&M has had six losses by a total of 17 points and led in the fourth quarter in most of them.  Or Ohio State who, after an early 24-6 drubbing by Miami, lost four games by a touchdown or less despite adjusting to offseason controversy which led to the dismissal of their coach and quarterback. And we all know what 9-2 Penn State has been through. Nuances.

And Houston’s problem? Poll voters don’t respect their competition, mainly Conference USA. At 53 points per game, the 11-0 Cougars have one of the most potent offenses, not only of the season but this century. If they win, they’ll get an automatic bid to a BCS bowl game, but not a shot at the championship.

America's best college football stadiums

No. 4-ranked Oklahoma State, a team that has scored at least 60 points three times this season, has one loss, in an overtime game in which it committed five turnovers. It must take care of business against a wounded but proud Oklahoma squad ranked No. 9 in the country.

No. 3-ranked Arkansas has BCS title game dreams, as well, but it must beat the Bengal Tigers in Baton Rouge, whip Georgia in the SEC title game and hope Alabama gets upended in the Iron Bowl. Even if all that happens, Arkansas would need help, but that’s where being in the mighty SEC would come into play.

To add to the pressure, Friday is Senior Day for LSU. Using his particular brand of phrasing, Coach Les Miles stressed to reporters this week that his team understands the need to finish strong.

"I promise you they will be playing a very impassioned game in their last event in Tiger Stadium,” Miles told the Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper. “I can imagine the emotions that will run through them. I will also encourage them to understand that they need to put them away because they are facing a game with its own impact.”

Also with a horse in the race is the 10-1 Oklahoma State Cowboys, which could get in if LSU loses by enough points (thanks, computers) or if Alabama loses at all.

If Oklahoma State makes it to the BCS title it would be the first appearance by the Big 12 since after the 2009 season (Texas).

The 9-1 Boise State Broncos are still alive, as they should be. Their one loss? A one-point defeat to TCU. One point! Even then the Broncos would have to nearly walk on water to play for the national championship, despite a quality win against Georgia.

And now for the elephant in the room: Alabama.

It’s going to be awfully hard for the Crimson Tide to not secure at the very worst the No. 2 seed with a decent win against Auburn on Saturday in the Iron Bowl. The computers already have the Tide juiced up with enough points so that if the Tide survives Auburn they will be playing for their second national title in three years.

There will only be one problem: Alabama may not be its conference champion, a major sticking point from years past (cue the one-loss Virginia Tech and Stanford Cardinal).

If Alabama beats Auburn in the Iron Bowl, they can make the same argument LSU made back in 2006, which is that it is “undefeated in regulation,” losing only to the No. 1 team in overtime by three points.

Did I mention the BCS was a mess already?

In football, they say it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. But for the BCS, it may be how you see it, as well.

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soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. James

    I'm pretty sure Texas is in the Big 12 and played (and won) the championship in 2005, which is the most recent big 12 team, not oklahoma in 2003

    November 25, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • David

      What about the 2008 Sooners against the Gators?

      November 25, 2011 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  2. Nodule

    Texas just played in the National Championship game in 2009. Colt McCoy getting hurt......? Anyone remember? A little research before writing an article goes a long way.

    November 25, 2011 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • nicky

      reading the article helps. big 12 texas (2009)

      November 25, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  3. TallinOK

    The BCS is a joke. At the beginning of each season, large Division 1 schools flat out stomp smaller schools and run up the scores for BCS points. If you don't believe me, look at the scores of the major Division 1 schools. My alma mater (about 8000 students) got the privilege of playing 3 top ten schools in their first 4 games. The scores were obscene. I think the BCS is not only a joke, but is obscene when it rates by computer these kind of pairings.

    November 25, 2011 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
    • But the real hoax is...

      Boise State. They have their own little game. Scheduling a big name school at the first of the season when no team has yet jelled, they hope for a lucky win, and if they get it scream that they're number one, all the while playing the rest of their patty-cake schedule in which anyone could win with their hands tied behind their back.

      November 25, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Matt

    I'd like to hear more about the anti-trust suit brought against the BCS. This whole system is ridiculous, and needs to be replaced with a playoff system.

    November 25, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • smooth

      College already has a playoff. It just starts the first game of the season.

      November 25, 2011 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  5. ivan

    and Texas in 2010....

    November 25, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  6. Henry

    8 team play off is the answer.

    November 25, 2011 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
  7. drp146

    The BCS is a joke. No chance of a Cinderella story. It's rigged to a certain extent to favor the large schools and conferences.

    November 25, 2011 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  8. Raymond Peters

    Let's face it. As long as Colleges and Universities as well as coaches are making big money the BCS will continue to be played as is. It's all about the Benjamin's Gentlemen! Incredibly enough I don't see why that we don't do a play off season like the NCAA Basketball season. Let the best team standing win!

    November 25, 2011 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  9. bwargle

    Did Les Miles write this article using "his particular brand of phrasing"? I had to read half the sentences multiple times, some of which still didn't make much sense afterward.

    November 25, 2011 at 11:57 am | Report abuse |
    • layo24

      do I smell some 'hateration'- LOL

      November 25, 2011 at 1:29 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Sean

    the BCS blows and ruins college football.

    long live the NFL

    November 25, 2011 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Grog Says

      I have a problem with the NFL.
      This NFC/AFC thing.
      Its all good during the regular season
      but when the playoffs start,
      toss out the NFC/AFC part,
      slot all of the teams, and the superbowl
      should be the last two standing.

      You will never see a Dallas/Green Bay superbowl.
      Pittsburg/New England.
      Also winning your division is great,
      but when a 7-9 team wins its division and makes the playoffs
      while 2 10-6 teams sit, doesnt seem fair.
      Keep the current conferences (for rivalries)(just have 8 divisions)
      but do away with NFC/AFC,
      hey....they are ALL NFL teams.

      This needs to be fixed.

      November 25, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bobcat ( in a hat )


    November 25, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Brock275

    Let's be very clear. Installing an 8-team playoff will only change the NCAA into something very near to the NFL. Is that what we really want? I understand the heartache, particularly if your favorite team is locked out. However, this type of controversy is the unique quality to NCAA football that draws everyone's attention. We want each and every game to be important (unlike NFL when they sometimes sit their 2st string and throw the game for playoff purposes). With all that said, I think the computer scores are suspect – but they are balanced out somewhat by the human factors.

    November 25, 2011 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bobcat ( in a hat )

    It may not be exactly what we want, but it would be a step in the right direction. There have been a lot better teams eligible to be in these games. But instead, they base it on the opinion of a few people. I never have agreed with that.

    November 25, 2011 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Daniel

    alot of teams dont get high rankings because they play a bunch of nobodies throughout the year. and then QQ when they are 11-0 and dont get into the BCS championship

    November 25, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
  15. GoRemoteKCl

    I was going to be easy until Iowa State beat Oklahoma State in double OT last week......Hard to believe the article doesn't mention that great game.

    November 25, 2011 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
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