The BCS system seems determined to go out with a cackle and an upraised middle finger. It’s not going to be retired from college football without causing another debate about the postseason spectacle.
We were treated to one of the wildest finishes of any game in any sport Saturday, when Auburn did more in one second than other teams have done in 14 weeks to influence the outcome of the season.
With the score tied at 28, Auburn’s Chris Davis caught Alabama kicker Adam Griffith’s missed 57-yard field goal nine yards deep in the end zone, then eluded one tackler, tip-toed along the sideline and sprinted past Alabama’s waddling offensive linemen for the winning touchdown.
The sight of Davis’ improbable run, Nick Saban’s expression of shocked disgust and mobs of Auburn fans deliriously stampeding onto the field brought a smile to the lips of fans not loyal to the Crimson Tide.
College football always provides, year in and year out.
Now we’ve got Alabama probably — but not certainly — denied a chance at a three-peat, Florida State elevated to No. 1, Ohio State to No. 2, Auburn to No. 3 and more arguments about the BCS title game matchup.
Plus, upsets are still possible in conference championship games prior to Selection Sunday.
When the playoff format is implemented next year, count on a wave of nostalgia for the old-fashioned method of choosing worthy foes.
We’ll miss the lobbying, such as the comments from Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs, who said it would be a “disservice to the nation” if an SEC team is not in the national title game contending for the conference’s eighth consecutive crown.
Jacobs has a valid point in implying that undefeated No. 2 Ohio State is not more deserving of a title shot than Auburn.
Strength of schedule was supposed to count heavily in the BCS formula. Gorging on cupcakes was supposed to be exposed as meaningless. But here we have Ohio State, with a schedule ranked No. 61 by Jeff Sagarin, and Florida State (No. 66) rewarded for sparkling records in weak conferences.
Contrast with the tougher schedules of one-loss SEC schools Auburn (No. 25 and No. 20 in Congrove’s Computer Rankings), Missouri (No. 41 and No. 15 in Congrove) and Alabama (No. 48). When Ohio State plays No. 10 Michigan State for the Big Ten title, it will be Ohio State’s highest-ranked opponent of the year.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is quite a lobbyist himself.
In 2006, when his 12-1 Florida Gators won the SEC title, Meyer argued Florida deserved a national championship game berth against undefeated Ohio State. As fate, voters and computers would have it, UCLA upset No. 2 USC, and Florida leapfrogged over one-loss No.3 Michigan to get its chance, and capitalized by beating Ohio State 41-14 — starting the SEC streak.
Seven years later, we’re saying farewell to the BCS rankings but revisiting the SEC superiority scenario. Will we be complicit in a fraud if an SEC team does not play in Pasadena on Jan. 6? Is a slightly blemished Auburn or even Missouri or Alabama of a higher quality than the perfect Buckeyes from the mediocre Big Ten?
It’s a close call. If Ohio State beats Michigan State and Auburn beats Missouri on Saturday, Ohio State will have defeated five opponents with losing records compared to Auburn’s two. Ohio State’s slate of opponents has a combined record of 73-71 compared to 88-56 for Auburn. Auburn’s only loss was 35-21 at LSU. Missouri’s only loss was 27-24 to South Carolina in double-overtime after a missed field goal.
Alabama, considered one of the finest teams of all time, lost after Saban reclaimed that one second on the clock with a review and then, it could be argued, got unlucky on a fluke play. Ohio State’s best win was against marginally top-25 Wisconsin. Florida State has been a convincing winner, but its two top wins were against early pretenders Clemson and Miami of the so-so ACC.
Give strength of schedule its proper weight, get the computers whirring, and Florida State vs. Ohio State for the national title is not a sure thing even if both win their conference titles.
The Seminoles, ranked No. 1 for the first time since 2000, should have an easier road to Pasadena considering they are 29-point favorites over Duke. But if Ohio State struggles against Michigan State’s stingy defense while Auburn wins, Auburn deserves the championship game. Auburn really should be No. 2 now, having defeated the nation’s dynastic No. 1.
If Ohio State and Auburn lose, look for Alabama to shove aside Missouri. And if Florida State and Ohio State lose, beware an SEC lovefest: Auburn vs. Alabama II.
More drama is in store, more friction, angst, family feuding, splitting of hairs, parsing of data. The beauty and the curse of the BCS carries on.