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Hefferon: Enjoy final year of BCS madness (Dec. 4)

Jack Hefferon | Tuesday, December 3, 2013


For all the complaints about the current BCS system written in columns over the years (and there have been plenty), this is supposed to be the year that not even a computer can screw up.

In the 15 years since the system was adopted, there’s been seasons with five undefeated teams, there’s been seasons with no undefeated teams. There’s been plenty to be argued about each year, and the Wikipedia article titled “BCS Controversies” has a fairly lengthy entry for each and every season since the system was enacted. It’s an unpopular system, and has managed to infuriate the country every winter, without fail. The BCS reign has come to an end though, as the outcry of a nation – and some of our Congressmen and Presidents who apparently have nothing better to do – has successfully lobbied to enact a four-team playoff next year.

The BCS should be riding off into the sunset with a can’t-miss matchup this year. From the six major conferences with automatic bids (ACC, AAC, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12), just two teams have emerged from their regular seasons undefeated: No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Ohio State. A few weeks ago things looked much less clear, but losses by Alabama and Oregon paved the way for an easy BCS pairing. If the Seminoles and Buckeyes can survive their conference championship games this weekend and move to 13-0, they’ll meet each other on January 6 in Pasadena. Easy as can be, right?

Not so fast, my friend.

While those in Tallahassee and Columbus inarguably see a win this Saturday as a ticket to the title game, plenty of folks in other towns have inserted themselves in the conversation, too.

The entitlement starts, as it usually does, in the SEC. When Auburn pulled off their miracle, greatest-ever finish to shock Alabama last week, they knocked off their conference’s last undefeated team, vaulting them over the Crimson Tide into the SEC title game against Missouri. As of now, it would seem that No. 3 Auburn would need some help from either Duke (against FSU) or Michigan State (against OSU) to spring them into the title game. But the SEC, which has won seven straight national titles, is not one to be content on the outside looking in.

“The winner of the SEC championship game belongs in Pasadena,” Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs said this week. “It would be, quite frankly, un-American for us not to get a chance to go to Pasadena if we’re able to beat Missouri, and I believe the same about Missouri.”

The fever has spread further than the South, too. No. 14 Northern Illinois, out of the MAC, is the country’s other undefeated team, and boasts a bonafide Heisman candidate and an average margin of victory of nearly 20 points. With a win in the MAC Championship over Bowling Green, the Huskies will have bested every team on their schedule, but still appear to have no shot of playing for the crystal football. Even Mark Dantonio, whose No. 10 Michigan State team lost to an unranked team from Indiana, said that his one-loss Spartans should be a possibility for the title game as well. The motto for these teams has been “We Want ‘Bama,” and while the opponent they’d face has changed, their stubborn sentiment hasn’t.

(But don’t mention this to Alabama fans, who don’t believe something as small as a late-season loss should separate them from the BCS three-peat that’s rightfully theirs.)

Supporters of the current system always assert that the one virtue of the BCS is that it protects the sanctity of college football’s regular season. The argument goes that without a playoff at the end of the year, each game is a playoff game in its own right, where one loss can eliminate a team from title contention. Yet, when it comes time to find the game’s two worthiest teams to compete for its ultimate prize, the regular season results still seem to take a backseat to hype and style points.

So thank goodness for the coming playoff system in 2014-2015, which will set a championship matchup based on what happens on the field – as opposed to biased ballots and mysterious computers. But in the meantime, be sure to enjoy one last go-round with the nationwide insanity that is the BCS.

It’d be un-American not to.

Contact Jack Hefferon at wheffero@nd.edu.
    The views expressed in this Sports Authority are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.