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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Filed under: Sports • U.S.
soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. Timus

    Just have playoffs for goodness sakes!!! The perennial sweetheart teams are fighting it because they know they'll fade into obscurity but everyone else will benefit!!

    November 25, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Danram

      Couldn't agree more. An 8-team playoff is the optimal solution. But to be honest, right now I'd be quite satisfied with just the "Plus One" which would, in effect, be a 4-team playoff.

      November 25, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mischa

    How about Wisconsin? Their only two losses came on the road against solid teams who beat them on their last play? One of which was a Hail Mary that should have been called for Offensive Pass Interference?

    November 25, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Should have been called for offensive pass interference. Ooops sorry I didn't know you were one of the replay judges in that game. You sitting back in your chair watching it on TV must have done a better job than trained officials who saw the same replay over and over like you did. The play was contested. Michigan State got the touchdown. It's over. It was a fair call. Deal with it.

      November 25, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • whiner

      wisconsin who

      November 25, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wisconsin

      Badgers deserve nothing...2 losses equals losers

      November 25, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Safira

    A lot of good points – but you never mentioned Stanford so you became irrelevant.

    November 25, 2011 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • d-rew

      "(cue the one-loss Virginia Tech and Stanford Cardinal)." Yeah he did.

      November 25, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • SoCal70

      That's because Stanford really isn't that important anymore after Oregon wiped the floor with them. After that loss, THEY became irrelevant.

      November 25, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Joe

    I think Alabama should *NOT* get in the national championship game if LSU wins out. They both played, at Alabama, and Alabama lost. What will another game do on a neutral field? Ok also what if Alabama somehow wins? What then? They both have one win against the other. How can Alabama say they are national champs? LSU winning at Alabama is bigger than Alabama winning on a neutral field against LSU. Hate to say it. But if Alabama and LSU play for the national championship.. and LSU loses by 3 or fewer points.. this might be the first time the loser is crowned national champion.

    November 25, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • ryman

      Sorry – but this doesn't hold water – in every sport you can beat the eventual champion in the regulkar season and then lose in the playoffs. In many sports you could lose multiple times to a team, and then beat them in the final. The real travesty is not having a playdown system, but "choosing" who gets to play.

      November 25, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Putz

      Your statement is spoken like a true hater LSU fan! Bama takes it ALL!

      November 25, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Jim

    "How can Alabama say they are national champs?" I assure you they will havd no problem. They are a laughing stock for some of the "championships" they claim now. One year they came in third in the SEC and everyone but one obsure rating service had undeated Minnesotat the NC. Also there are those "championships" where the poll was taken before the bowl games and then they lost. We really need the NCAA to appoint a panel to go back and review every year and name one National Champion so that the term will mean something.

    November 25, 2011 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. mike

    The BCS is a complete joke and has nothing. When you come down to the end it's a popularity contest.

    November 25, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Al

    Sorry Ryan poor comparison. In college football the whol seasons the playoff. It's not comparable to other sports with true playoffs.

    November 25, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Abolish College Football

    Enough of the money and crap in sports. Abolish college football, and leave colleges for academics and not redneckery football. What's next? College NASCAR?

    November 25, 2011 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • shut_up


      November 25, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Janet

    Looks like I'll be boycotting the BCS Championship Game again. Wake me up when we have a playoff.

    November 25, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Moron

      No one wake this idiot....then we dont need to see anymore retarded posts by em!

      November 25, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. lineman

    In the old days when the champion was determined by the various ratings services they called it the mythical national champion. With the BCS nothing has really changed.

    November 25, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. WHat about penn state.

    I like penn state

    November 25, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Let's Get Real

    If we end up with a BCS championship game between 2 SEC teams (I don't care which ones) where one of them could NOT EVEN QUALIFY for the conference championship game, then we truly have a NON CHAMPIONSHIP idiocy. The SEC champion should play the most qualified team from outside the SEC, be it the Big 12 champion, the Big 10 champion, the PAC 12 Champion, or the ACC champion. Or maybe Boise State or Houston. (I left out the little East on purpose.) A championship game is between champions, not a redo between teams in the same conference.

    November 25, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Danram

    *** sigh *** Can we PLEASE have an 8- team playoff now? American college football is the only major team sport on the planet that doesn't determine its champion with a playoff. The BCS system is asanine. The only positive thing that can be said about it is that it is better than what came before it.

    I vote that we keep the current BCS system, but instead of having just #1 vs. #2 at the end of the season, have a single-elimination playoff with the top 8 teams in the final BCS standings after all of the conference championship games are played. #8 would play at #1, #7 would play at #2, #6 would play at #3, and #5 would play at #4.

    It's so simple and it would remove all of the current foolishness.

    November 25, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |

      that would be to easy,... duh..

      November 26, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
  14. Mark

    Do away with college sports. Problem solved.

    November 25, 2011 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ECK

    How hard is it to come up with a playoff system? I think it should be more than the top eight. The various major bowl winners at the very least. I know these kids are in college for an education, but would another couple of weeks really ruin their academic careers?

    November 25, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
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