BCS leaves little to be thankful for



Another Day, Another Dollar
Mar 1, 2002
On the eve of consuming 37 items in a span of 19 minutes, give or take an air bubble, I took a terrible risk with my digestive system Wednesday. I attempted to digest the college football rankings spread sheet. That and this report from the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Jeff Schultz
The BCS explainer standings fit nicely on an 8-by-10 sheet of paper, so long as you have the software to neatly align 18 columns, with ample room left below the chart for "EXPLANATIONS" on poll average, computer average, schedule rank, losses, quality win component, notes, two cups of flour, a half-teaspoon of vanilla extract and whether somebody really says, "Turn me on, dead man," when "Revolution 9" from the Beatles' White Album is played backwards.

When Georgia and Georgia Tech play Saturday, it will be about more than just the Bulldogs trying to get to the SEC title game and the Yellow Jackets doing everything possible to avoid a bowl game on blue turf in Boise.

For Georgia, it's all about the spread sheet. That the Dogs rank fifth on two polls is easy enough to understand. In the old days, when the only concerns were about bags of money and backroom deals and private agendas - not that we would ever see any of that in college athletics - polls were the only criteria for determining college football's champion. OK, so it had its problems. But you knew what you were getting into. You had arguments but it worked. Everything else was just strange window dressing.

Nobody could ever agree on a playoff system, so officials opted for the worse elements of both. The Bowl Championship Series, like a boil, was born. It was meant to pair the top two teams for the "title" but more often than not it constructs uninteresting match-ups and renders all other bowl games meaningless.

You have a problem with polls? I have a problem with this: computer polls, schedule rank, quality win component, notes. There are rankings by "Anderson & Hester" and "Billingsley" and "Colley Matrix" and "Massey" and "New York Times' and "Sagarin" and "Wolfe." (The computer rankings firm of "Larry, Curly and Moe" was dropped by the BCS after Curly inadvertently mixed up the gun powder and quality wins with the Bisquick and eggs in the pancake batter and, well, you don't want to know.)

Architects of the BCS believed that computers would take the subjectivity out of polls and add consistency to rankings. Consistency. Right. LSU, is ranked second, third or fourth on most polls - ninth by the New York Times poll. Texas is fourth, 10th, ninth, sixth, second, ninth and ninth. Florida State: sixth to 14th.

The computers agree that Oklahoma is No. 1. Well, thanks. Considering it's the only undefeated team, I could've figured that one out on my own.

Here's my proposal: It's not a playoff system. (And please don't e-mail me any more of your fail-proof plans. It takes too long to scroll down to the "Russian women even will be your carpool drivers" ads.) Let's go back to the way it was. No more BCS. No playoff system. Just bowls. Just bowl officials roaming the nation wearing ugly polyester jackets in colors that even Crayola wouldn't dare put in its crayon box.

People who want a playoff system fail to realize we have a playoff system. Georgia wants to win the national title, but loses to LSU and Florida. Georgia's out. Ohio State loses to Michigan. Ohio State's out. Bobby Bowden feels awful that Tommy Bowden might loses his job, so Florida State loses to Clemson. Pops is out.

Rankings - and arguments about rankings - is what makes college football special. They are tracked from pre-season to Thanksgiving to January. Take away the meaning of the polls from college football, you might as well take away the pep rallies, the tailgating and the SEC coach who "suspends" the convicted running back for the month February rather than a game because of - well, the rankings.

Subjectivity is fun. Subjectivity is tradition. Subjectivity and a dash of crookedness made for the best bowl match-ups. Before the BCS, there often were four bowls on New Year's Day that impacted the national title chase. A team ranked fourth and fifth on two polls could convince itself that if the other three games went a certain why, it could climb to No. 1. Now, that's out. Only the Sugar Bowl matters this year.

Go back to the way it was. Some bowls were closed-ended (Rose Bowl: Pac-10 vs. Big-10). Others were partially open (Sugar: SEC vs. Somebody). It worked. People liked the trips, the match-ups, and the bowl season. And if Notre Dame or Texas or Oklahoma held three bowls hostage while making a decision, that was fine by me. It was what made college football special. That and this report from the Atlanta Journal Constitution's Jeff Schultz


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