There is a cliché frequently utilized among proponents of the Bowl system that says college football is the best example of amateur sport because 35 teams finish the (post)season with a win.
That distinction may be apt, but a more accurate description is that college football awards 68 teams with a consolation prize. We argue for a tournament every year, and beginning next year, we will get our wish, sort of.
Unfortunately, we have seen the BCS deliver a system that rewards mediocrity within the power conferences. The AAC has no power teams, yet still gets their spot. Had Louisville run the table as it should have, they would likely be in place to get thumped by FSU in the championship game. The Big 10 has provided such mediocrity that Ohio State is perceived as a powerhouse. The same problem exists with the ACC and the Big 12.
Sagarin was supposed to provide an independent, blind adjudicator rewarding difficult schedules and punishing the bland, whack-a-mole scheduling so common in some conferences. Strength-of-schedule should have helped the Pac-12 secure a second BCS game this year; instead, the West Coast was robbed.
In case there is question to Pac-12 superiority, the SOS rankings nationally fell like this:
Yup, the top seven most difficult schedules were in the Pac this year. The easiest schedule in the Pac-12 was Oregon’s at #28. The BCS Bowls awarded births to these teams (Sagarin rank and SOS in parenthesizes)
FSU (1, 63)
Auburn (6, 20)
Clemson (16, 55)
Ohio State (11, 57)
Alabama (2, 45)
Oklahoma (21, 44)
Baylor (5, 60)
UCF (39, 92)
Michigan State (7, 56)
Oregon is ranked #4 by Sagarin, but the late loss to Arizona removed a likely second BCS bowl for the Pac. MSU, Auburn, Baylor, FSU, and (God help us) UCF received automatic births. The AAC did not deserve one team, but contractual obligation require that the Knights participate.
The flaw in the BCS for the underdog (Oregon) was the selection following automatic bids. No one can argue that Bama deserved to be left in the cold, but easy schedules allowed for Ohio State, Oklahoma and Clemson to march into second BCS games mainly on name recognition. This decision by the bowls lost each Pac-12 team nearly $1 million.
Luckily the Pac-12 was able to send all their eligible teams to bowl games, but this robbery of Oregon could have also left one of those teams wondering what happened.
Next season we see a four game playoff. The benefit will be that more is determined on the field, but we will inevitably have a glut of one loss teams trying to make their argument for inclusion.
The inherent politics in college athletics is going to become more important in the coming years, and the Pac will have to start playing with the big boys if the statistical reality of conference strength is to penetrate the brains of the East Coast voters. Had a playoff been present this year, Stanford could have been left out of the mix.
Whatever arguments are to be made, we bid farewell to the BCS this year, and usher in the playoff we had all hoped for next year. Someday we will get to a sixteen team playoff, and teams with three loses will make their cases, but this year we are presented with a one loss SEC champion playing an undefeated champion from an undoubtedly weak ACC. It could be worse, we could be seeing the Buckeyes.
The present system leaves us with this: The true National Championships were played at Autzen and Jordan-Hare Stadiums during the regular season, and a shell of those great games will be delivered to us after the new year. Enjoy.