Published: Thursday, November 22, 2007
Mystery abounds with BCS
The annual whining hasn't begun because there's still a few games to go, and not even those sequestered deep inside the BCS computer silo somewhere on the Great Plains have been able to figure out where this year's football follies will take us.
Their mission is to bring us a national championship game worth watching. So far they've done little to inspire confidence in their success.
This is the same group, after all, that had to tweak their formula this week because there might not be enough schools eligible under the old rules to play in the five biggest postseason bowl games.
Good thing they did. They might have forgotten about it in their arcane jumble of formulas, but the first rule of a successful bowl season is having at least two teams for every game.
Having corrected that at just the right time, the powers that control the biggest college games of the year can move on to other issues, beginning with what to do with a potentially undefeated Hawaii team that can't get any respect mostly because everyone on the East Coast has long gone to bed by the time they play on Saturday nights.
Everyone, it seems, loves an underdog. But they don't necessarily want to watch them in a BCS game, and Hawaii's selection as an at-large team isn't guaranteed as long as the first mission of the BCS operatives is to keep their rich television sponsors happy.
Fox may not be terribly interested in Hawaii in a big bowl, but the network has bigger things to worry about. At the top of the list is a national championship game that could pit Kansas against West Virginia, two schools with little marquee value.
That has to keep the programming executives up at night, and it's not all that far-fetched of a scenario. If Kansas beats Missouri on Saturday and then wins the Big 12 championship game and LSU loses either to Arkansas or in the SEC final, West Virginia could move up in the BCS rankings and get a spot in the Jan. 7 championship game in New Orleans.
There are a million other scenarios keeping the geeks who study this kind of stuff awake at night. The rest of us can be content to find out Dec. 2 how this all pans out.
LSU should be worrying, though. Because uneasy is the head that wears the crown in a season which, so far, has had three different No. 1's, seven different No. 2's, and 11 top-five teams that have lost to unranked teams.
There has never been a year in college football quite like this season, where absolutely nothing can be taken for granted. It began with one of the biggest upsets ever when Appalachian State beat Michigan, and continues on Saturday when two teams not even ranked to begin the season (Kansas and Missouri) meet with a potential spot in the BCS title game at stake.
It all begs for a real playoff system, instead of the contrived rankings that are always going to be subjective no matter how many computers and polls are involved. But there's little incentive for that to happen, especially now since Fox wrapped up the rights to all but the Rose Bowl through 2010 in a deal with the major conferences that operate the BCS.
So for now we're stuck with this, a system few can understand and works in mysterious ways. A team (LSU) with one loss is the No. 1 team in the country because it suffered that loss at just the right time, while teams like Ohio State and Arizona State got their only losses when it was too late in the season to rebound in the BCS rankings.
Meanwhile, unbeaten Hawaii may have to rely on charity to get in, even if it beats last year's Cinderella team, Boise State, which has lost only once this year but once again is not being taken seriously by anyone outside the WAC.
The various possibilities are enough to make your head spin. About the only certainty is that there will be a lot of whining from coaches and their athletic directors before it is over.
Actually, the national championship game that might be the most fun to watch would be LSU against Ohio State, if the Buckeyes take advantage of some losses and move up to No. 2. Not only would the title game have two perennial powerhouses, but there's a chance LSU coach Les Miles might be coaching the Tigers for the last time before taking over for Lloyd Carr at Michigan.
Of course, we all know that all Michigan coaches are handed the same mandate: Beat Ohio State.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press.
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