The college football season is entering the final third, and every college fan has eyes on the polls and rankings. Entering week ten, there has already been some great upsets and the so-called curse of number one. Alabama went down at South Carolina, Ohio State lost at Wisconsin, and Oklahoma fell at Missouri.
Then in week nine, two more highly ranked and undefeated teams, Missouri and Michigan State lost on the road. This past Saturday saw Utah fall to TCU and Alabama drop its second game of the season to LSU. With the results of these last five weeks, it has everyone talking about the possible chaos that could occur when the dust settles on the season.
Scenario one is the simplest and would eliminate confusion at the end: Auburn and Oregon win out. If this happens, they are playing each other in Glendale. The only problem is the likelihood of this playing out is slim to none. Oregon goes to Cal next week, a place where the Bears are perfect, and still has fifteenth ranked Arizona to play. Then the final roadblock is the Civil War Rivalry at Corvallis against Oregon State.
With rivalry games anything can happen, and Corvallis is a crazy place to play with a not-so-kind history for highly ranked teams. The biggest question for Oregon is if they can stay focused and composed in the remaining games, which they are expected to win.
Auburn has played one of the toughest schedules in the country and has somehow maintained an unblemished record. Some close calls against Clemson and LSU have given this team an edge of toughness, but the SEC is a grind regardless of who is on the schedule.
Proof for Auburn came in the form of Mississippi State and Kentucky, two road games won by a total of six points. They had an easy change of pace against Chattanooga, but at Ole Miss and home against Georgia could be interesting contests.
Then finally, the day after Thanksgiving, is the Iron Bowl clash at Alabama. Auburn leaving Tuscaloosa with a win is a huge hurdle, especially with rivalry bragging rights on the line.
So if Oregon and Auburn stumble, who would take the number two position in the BCS Rankings? Right now, aside from Oregon and Auburn, there are two other undefeated teams: Boise State and TCU. The big battle of top five teams turned into a massacre at Utah, as TCU rolled past them and sent a clear message. Meanwhile, Boise State just keeps rolling against a weak conference schedule. When all is said and done, I think only Oregon, Boise State and TCU will remain undefeated.
So, if at the end of the season, Oregon, Boise State and TCU are the only undefeated teams, who plays each other for the National Championship? Oregon is a given. After that, there is a huge gray area of subjective opinion where people will discuss whether Boise State or TCU is deserving of a title shot and how if they were in a power conference would they still be as dominant. Alabama’s second loss added more questions than answers because now Auburn has a game advantage to play with in the SEC West.
LSU is just sitting, buying time with a strong schedule and the possibility of a slip up from teams ranked higher than them. As the season unwinds, the support that LSU gets from pollsters will be telling as to how the end of the season could play out for Boise State and TCU. That is what makes the BCS so controversial; the season hardly ever plays out neatly and perfectly to determine a championship matchup.
On the other end of the spectrum, what would happen if all of these undefeated teams stumbled and finished with a single loss? Then everyone, except non-BCS conference schools, would have some kind of argument for a national title shot. So what would happen to all these one-loss teams? They would get sent to certain BCS bowls, while only two teams determine a national title.
The fact that computers determine the worthiness of a team just seems illogical when you think about it. Saturday after Saturday, athletes pour blood and sweat into games for a win that a computer may or may not deem beneficial enough to help your ranking. That just doesn’t make sense. Arguments for the BCS include how it stresses the regular season and every game matters, unlike the NFL where twelve teams make the playoffs. I understand and respect that argument until multiple teams have the same record.
If multiple teams have the same record, it comes down to the BCS determination, which essentially takes it out of players’ and coaches’ hands. How crucial is the regular season if multiple teams go undefeated, or at least have the same record, and only two play for a title. That is what is looming for this 2010 season: multiple undefeated teams that have their worthiness determined by a computer.
So the regular season really doesn’t matter that much if you are on the outside looking in. Or in a year when multiple teams have one or two losses, what then? Again, rankings and computers are the determining factors, so the regular season becomes irrelevant when a team loses a game but loses out to other one-loss teams. So the argument becomes maybe a team just shouldn’t lose so it can’t complain. Here again, understandable but the parity in college football makes going undefeated harder than ever.
So, what would be the best way to go about fixing this system? Many have said a playoff system makes the most sense. How would it work? If the NCAA wanted to keep the BCS, they could keep the six automatic qualifications and then have wild cards for other worthy teams. Perhaps two other wild cards can make an eight-team bracket. Then all teams can just play out the games and the last team standing is considered the national champion.
Would the “best” team win every year? Probably not, but it would have the opportunity to prove it is the best by winning in a tournament. That’s what makes the playoff system intriguing. It would give multiple teams the opportunity to stake a claim as the best team of the season.