BCS gives us a nightmare schedule instead of a dream tournament

John Feinstein
December 4, 2011

Sunday night, I had a dream:

Now that was a thrilling Selection Sunday.

John Feinstein is a sports columnist for The Washington Post and also provides commentary for the Golf Channel and National Public Radio. View Archive

Oh sure, everyone knew that LSU, Alabama, Oklahoma State and Stanford were going to be the top four seeds in the NCAA tournament but no one had any idea how the last four spots would play out and there were plenty of surprises when the field was unveiled.

Boise State was seeded fifth, setting up a quarterfinal against Stanford that might come down to who has the ball last with Andrew Luck and Kellen Moore, the two most decorated college quarterbacks of recent years, going head-to-head. Wisconsin got the sixth seed after beating Michigan State to win the Big Ten title and will open against Oklahoma State. But the last two spots were real surprises: Baylor jumped from not even being on the bubble into the seventh slot after crushing Texas — who says the tournament takes away the meaning of the regular season? — and TCU, which looked like it was headed for the Las Vegas Bowl just a few weeks ago, got the coveted final spot and will open the tournament against LSU.

When the LSU-TCU matchup went on the board, one could hear the screams of pain and anger coming from Ann Arbor, Mich.; Manhattan, Kan.; and Fayetteville, Ark. There were barely whimpers from anyone in the ACC or the Big East. Those two leagues probably had their fate sealed when the committee voted against automatic bids for the tournament, meaning their three-loss champions will be headed for second tier bowls — which is where they clearly belong.

“When we set up the new system we said we wanted the eight best teams and, preferably, the teams playing the best football at the end of the season,” said committee chairman Gene Corrigan, the former ACC Commissioner who once helped invent the late, unlamented Bowl Championship Series. “This isn’t about what league you play in or how many tickets you might sell. This is about getting the best eight teams to play for a championship. Someone has to be disappointed, just like in the basketball tournament.”

The four quarterfinal games will be played on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, with LSU and TCU opening the proceedings on New Year’s Eve from the Sugar Bowl. The next day there will be kickoffs at noon (Alabama-Baylor in the Citrus Bowl); 3:30 (Oklahoma State-Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl) and 8 o’clock (Stanford-Boise State in the Holiday Bowl). The semifinals will be a week from Saturday in the Orange and Fiesta Bowls with the championship game the following week at the Rose Bowl.

As for the matchups . . .

Huh? What? It was all a dream? There is no NCAA tournament? There was no suspense at all on Sunday? The BCS matchups produced a rematch between Alabama and LSU for the national title? West Virginia got a BCS bid? Clemson? Virginia Tech?

Oh God, it’s all coming back now. College football is still ruled by the sleazy, only-money-and-power-matters BCS.

So this is what we have to show for the so-called best regular season in sports:

●A rematch of a field-goal-kicking contest for the national title. Yup, Alabama, which didn’t even win its division of the Southeastern Conference, will play LSU again in New Orleans for the national title on Jan. 9.

●A Rose Bowl matchup between a couple of two-loss teams, Oregon and Wisconsin.

●An Orange Bowl game between Clemson and West Virginia that has a real chance to be the first bowl game to actually record a negative rating. If Nielsen can measure the number of TVs turned off or to another channel when that game comes on it will dwarf the numbers of those actually watching.

●Virginia Tech, which didn’t beat a single team ranked in the final BCS top 25 and was hammered twice by Clemson — whose other signature win was over 7-5 Auburn at home — gets a BCS bid and goes to the Sugar Bowl to play Michigan, which got the second Big Ten bid because its fans will travel to New Orleans.

●Oklahoma State and Stanford playing not with a national championship potentially on the line but with, wait for it, the Fiesta Bowl on the line. Oh, joy.

Boise State goes 11-1, is ranked ahead of Virginia Tech and Michigan in the final poll but gets nowhere near a BCS bid.

Even Kirk Herbstreit, who works for the network that partners with the BCS to try to give it legitimacy, ripped the Sugar Bowl selections. “Virginia Tech could not have looked worse in the ACC championship game,” Herbstreit said. “The BCS at-large selections have come down to which teams will fill the most hotel rooms. We can’t get Kellen Moore and Boise State into a BCS game?”

No, we can’t. Because Boise State isn’t in a BCS conference and the only way the Broncos or any other very good team that isn’t from one of those conferences can even have a chance is to go undefeated. Once Houston lost to Southern Mississippi in the Conference USA championship game Saturday, the fate of the non-BCS conferences was sealed. TCU? No way. Southern Mississippi? Houston? Or, for that matter, Baylor, which has the most exciting player in the country in quarterback Robert Griffin III? The Bears are in a BCS conference but, as Herbstreit noted, they don’t “travel,” like Virginia Tech or Michigan.

Clemson, Virginia Tech and West Virginia all belong in what used to be the Peach Bowl. Let them alternate possessions.

Of course, that won’t happen. The notion of college football picking a true national champion remains nothing more than a dream. Our long national nightmare continues.

For more from the author, visit his blog at www.feinsteinonthebrink.com.

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