Wishful Thinking

Imperfect BCS leaves some happy, prompts questions about its future

Dec. 2, 2007

College Football Recap: Week 14

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> The Red Zone  |  Tape It Up  |  Strike The Pose  |  Breaking The Code
> Run & Shoot: LSU Pulls Out SEC Title  |  USC Rose Bowl Bound, Again  |  Pittsburgh Stuns West Virginia
Don't Call The Sooners Spoilers  |  Comeback Powers Hawaii To Undefeated Season
> Palm: Losses Leave BCS In Disarray

By Adam Caparell




Adam is CSTV.com's football editor and national football writer.
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So did the BCS get it right this time around?


All the craziness that was the 2007 regular season - the most exciting or maddening season we've ever seen, depending on how you look at it - certainly hasn't stemmed the call for a revamped BCS system, a plus-1 model or the ever-elusive playoff.


"It's not so much the system as it is the year," BCS Coordinator Mike Slive said.


But there are definite problems with the system and Slive would be the first one to tell you it could definitely use some tweaks. And there are a few teams would like those tweaks to happen overnight.




For starters, you have a Georgia team trying to understand why it was leapfrogged by LSU for a spot in the national title game when the Bulldogs watched Ohio State slip into the Jan. 7 game without playing a game the past two weeks.


And secondly, you have a Missouri team, the No. 1 team in the nation a little over 24 hours ago, that was told it's not welcome to the BCS party after losing in the Big 12 Championship game. And to add insult to injury, they had to watch two teams they beat during the regular season, Kansas and Illinois, earn BCS berths despite the fact the Tigers were ranked ahead of both in the BCS.


So did the BCS get it right this time around? Depends on your prospective.


LSU and Ohio State will be playing in the national title game as was widely speculated after Missouri and West Virginia were knocked for their perch at No. 1 and 2 respectively. Ohio State moved up from the No. 3 spot in the BCS last week to No. 1 Sunday and LSU jumped five spots from No. 7 to No. 2. To those two teams, the BCS got it right.


But Georgia thought it could share the same fate as Ohio State. They sat around Saturday, hoped everything would break right and that they could waltz into the national title game. It almost happened, but the voters saw to it that their dream - maybe a little too far-fetched - didn't happen.


Georgia dropped in the BCS standings from No. 4 to No. 5 because voters did not feel comfortable putting a team that only tied for the SEC East division title ahead of one that won the SEC.


Nowhere in the BCS rules does it state that you have to have played in a conference championship or have won your conference to play in the national title game and that was Georgia's biggest argument for getting into the game. But did the voters know about that when they cast their ballot? You'd hope so, but they showed they didn't care.


The BCS itself does not butt into the voters business, does not outline any specific requirements that they should take into consideration. They just assume they know what they're doing.


"We've really kept a wall so to speak, we've kept our distance from the voters," Slive said. "We don't really communicate with them."


But maybe that will change. Come April, Slive will take some recommendations with him to BCS meetings on possibly setting an outline for principles and values voters should take into consideration when they cast their ballots. 


"But they're free to make their decisions any way they deem appropriate because otherwise they're not a voter," Slive said.


Also free to make their own decisions are the BCS bowls who get to pick whatever teams they want to play in their bowls. That was the case with the Missouri, which was snubbed big time. After losing to Oklahoma Saturday, they weren't going to play for the BCS Championship and they weren't going to play in the Fiesta Bowl. But they had to watch the Jayhawks, whom they beat two weeks ago, earn a bid to the Orange Bowl.


"What it shows is that in a system agreed to by all, once you introduce a pool of at-large teams, then the bowl has its own decision to make and makes the selection for its own reasons," Slive said.


The Orange Bowl took a number of things into consideration, but it seems like more than anything they were swayed by the lasting impressing Missouri left on the nation.


"Perhaps a loss diminishes some of the things you evaluate," Eric Poms, the Orange Bowl Chief Executive, said.


In retrospect, the loss didn't diminish Missouri's chances. It squashed them, just like Georgia's loss to Tennessee earlier in the season ultimately cost it a chance at the national title, unbeknownst to the Bulldogs at the time.


But Georgia can't get carried away here crying about not making it. This isn't an Auburn situation where the Tigers were left out of the BCS title game despite having an undefeated record in 2004. There are certainly issues with the system that need to be fixed, areas that need to be tweaked or clarified, and they reared their ugly head Sunday.


A crazy year like this, where there was so much movement in the rankings and with several teams playing their best football of the season as the year wound down, has yet again lent credence to the idea of a plus-1 system, which would get more deserving teams into the championship mix. 


"Is this year an anomaly or is this year a precursor to what we might see in the future?" Slive said. "Trying to analyze that question leads us to the discussions of whether or not this format needs an adjustment. And therefore it's a segue into my continuing interest in continuing to look into this format for the plus-1."


Every year it seems like Slive is more and more open to the idea of having a plus-1 system. This is his last year as the BCS Coordinator, but being the SEC Commissioner means he still holds a considerable amount of clout and influence in the BCS discussions. Will we see the plus-1 anytime soon? Not for at least two more years, until the Fox TV contract with the BCS runs out.


But the plus-1 certainly isn't the perfect answer, either. And there could easily be some years where the plus-1 isn't necessary.


"If you go to the plus-1 you're going to have years when it's very appropriate and years maybe like this one when its isn't all that appropriate," Slive said. "The only way to solve that is to have a flexible format and just make sure we look at the standings and decide how to finish the year."


Slive was kidding, of course, about the flexible format. He joked that basketball has its Final Four and football could have its Flexible Format where as the season winds down and if it looks like there are four worthy teams with legitimate calls for a title shot, they could scrap the current BCS format.


Just a little wishful thinking. But the bottom line is that a change could be on the horizon. Momentum continues to gain for it. Slive's behind it.


"Whether or not this year is good or bad for a so-called plus-1, I'm still interested in exploring it in great detail," Slive said.


And you'd have to think Georgia is as well. They'd just prefer Slive, the conference commissioners and the presidents around the country speed the process up by cramming two years' worth of planning into a few hours.