The Bowl Championship Series, better known as the BCS, has been the source of much controversy among college football fans since its inception in 1998. The system combines polls and computer rankings to decide which teams will be in the national title game and the three other major bowls.
Common complaints revolved around the fact that the BCS was biased toward the major conferences. Others felt a playoff system was the better solution. Critics reasoned that if the status quo was to be changed, why not use an eight-team playoff to find a winner? Its backers argued that it would allow us to find a true national champion, similar to how college basketball uses a 65-team tournament to find the country’s best team.
But the beauty of the current BCS system is that every contest is a de facto one game playoff for every national title contender. Once a team loses a game, its lofty ranking in the BCS drops, and the chance to play for the national title is lost. Last weekend proved that very point.
Coming into action over Thanksgiving weekend, Miami and Nebraska were the clear front-runners for the two spots in the Rose Bowl this year. Win their remaining games and their tickets to Pasadena would be punched. Waiting in the wings were Oklahoma and Florida, eager to take part in the festivities if the leading contenders were to fall from their perch at the top.
The Cornhuskers were the first to play last weekend, facing off against Colorado Friday. A win in Boulder and the Huskers would be just one win away from playing for the national title. But the Buffaloes had different thoughts. Two victories would give them the Big 12 title and a berth in a BCS bowl. Colorado came out fired up and crushed Nebraska 62-36. Nebraska had never given up that many points in a game, and with the loss went its title hopes.
Oklahoma was next up, playing a 3-7 Oklahoma State team. A win for the Sooners and they would be a victory in the Big 12 title game away from a trip to the Rose Bowl. Instead, Oklahoma State shocked them, 16-13, killing its in-state rival’s national title aspirations.
Normality was finally restored Saturday night when Miami remained undefeated by demolishing Washington 65-7. With a victory against Virginia Tech, the Hurricanes will be going to Pasadena Jan. 3 to play for the championship.
So Florida, without even stepping onto the gridiron this weekend, jumped into second place in the BCS rankings and gained the inside track to a Rose Bowl bid. A win next weekend at home — where they are 68-4 since 1990 — over Tennessee and the Gators will play for the national title.
The beauty of the BCS system lies in the fact that every single game is crucial for your title run. There is very little margin for error on the path to greatness. In a playoff system, a team like Oklahoma could lose two games in the regular season, still sneak into the tournament, and win the national title. Under the BCS system, a team’s chances are completely extinguished by that second loss. This year, barring another upset-filled weekend like the last, we will see Miami face off against Florida — the two best teams in the country — for the national title. And the BCS will have done its job again.