There has been a lot of discussion recently about the validity of the Bowl Championship Series and not just because the 2010 season’s first BCS rankings were unveiled on Sunday evening. Yahoo! Sports writer Dan Wetzel has been a driving force behind a recent anti-BCS storm with the release of his new book, Death to the BCS. In it Wetzel states facts that support his argument that the BCS system should be done away with but many people have backed the system and the way it is used to determine a national championship.
The BCS is designed to pair the top two teams in college football in a national championship game. The truth is more often than not it works but the years in which there is an undefeated team, or a team with fewer wins than the national champion, are the ones that turn a mild shower in to a full blown thunderstorm with gale force winds. Last season that was a concern as Alabama, Texas, Cincinnati, TCU and Boise State each finished the regular season undefeated, and two finished the bowl season without a loss. Of course only one team could be named champion (Alabama) so Boise State was left to celebrate their Fiesta Bowl win with a complimentary bag of Tostitos chips and a jar of salsa and like it.
Other teams have seen an injustice in the BCS as well. In 2003 USC was the unanimous #1 team in college football according to the polls and had one loss on their schedule, a triple overtime loss to Cal. But LSU (whose one loss was by double digits to 8-5 Florida) and Oklahoma (lost in Big 12 championship game to Kansas State 35-7) were picked by the computers to play for the BCS championship. A year later USC got their chance, against Oklahoma, but that left Auburn out of the mix despite going undefeated. Nebraska, in 2001, was given the opportunity to play for a BCS title despite not even winning their division in the Big 12. That sat real well with 11-1 Oregon, second in the nation in both polls. The list goes on and on.
So you see, the BCS still has flaws, but what would have happened if Penn State had the benefit of a BCS system in 1994? What about one of Joe Paterno’s other undefeated, an un-rewarded, teams?
1994 Penn State
The 1994 Nittany Lions had one of, if not the, best offenses in college football history. That season the decision was between Nebraska and Penn State for #1 votes. With no BCS in place it did not matter that Penn State obliterated most of the teams on their schedule, including a 63-14 thrashing of #21 Ohio State and a victory over #14 USC or a road triumph at #5 Michigan. Penn State was contractually obligated to play in the Rose Bowl as the Big Ten conference champion. They played #12 Oregon instead of #1 Nebraska, who defeated #3 Miami the night before in the Fiesta Bowl.
With the BCS Penn State and Nebraska would not have been a lock to play in the championship game. Miami had scored victories over #3 Florida State, #13 Virginia Tech, #10 Syracuse (really!) and #25 Boston College. In November Miami outscored their opponents by 66 points, or 16.5 points per game, including two ranked opponents. Penn State’s average margin of victory was the same, but they did it against unranked opponents. You can blame Illinois and Indiana for that one. Still, an unbeaten Penn State team would have been the logical choice ahead of a once beaten Miami team, but can you trust anything?
Odds are the computers would have given Penn State a chance to play Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl if only it had been around four years earlier. Penn State may have been one of the contributing factors to the dawn of the BCS age, but it was not until Michigan and Nebraska earned a co-national championship in the polls three seasons later that the foundation for the BCS was put in to place. In 1998 the BCS was introduced.
What about 1973? 1969?
1973 would have been a BCS nightmare. Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Alabama, and Penn State all ended the regular season without a loss (OSU and Oklahoma had a tie in the mix) and aside form a season finale victory against Pittsburgh the Penn State schedule was lacking of attractive games. The defense probably could have gone up against anybody but not even a mathematical formula would have rewarded them the opportunity that season.
The BCS may have helped Penn State in 1969. Finishing the season ranked second in the nation Penn State had followed through on a prior commitment to play in the Orange Bowl in Miami, where they shutdown Missouri 10-3. The BCS, if around, probably would have sent them a different sparring partner in top-ranked Texas, who faced Notre Dame (ranked ninth in the polls) in the Cotton Bowl.
Where do you stand?
You can go through history for each college football program, not just Penn State, and come up with “what if” scenarios and wonder if the BCS would have been a benefit in the past or a detriment, and the debate will continue to grab attention. For now the bowl system is not going anywhere and it will likely be a long time before any change does happen.
Do you think the BCS should remain untouched or would you modify it with a plus-one format? Would you rather just ditch the whole thing and open the door to a playoff. I know where I stand on this issue but am curious which side you are on. Share your ideas on the BCS, playoffs, plus one and bowl games in the comments below.
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