The BCS Is at It Again And Still Can't Get It Right

By Michael Wilbon
Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Don't get me wrong, I love watching the University of Texas play football this season. I could make the case, if I still voted for the Heisman Trophy, that Vince Young, the Longhorns' fabulously versatile quarterback, is the best player in all college football. TV analyst and former Dolphins great Bob Griese made the point the other day, during the broadcast of the Longhorns' whipping of Texas Tech, that it was unfair for Young to be unleashed on Saturdays because he can only be tested by the pros.

No question, undefeated Texas is good. The Longhorns traveled to Columbus, Ohio, and beat Ohio State. They've beaten Colorado, which was ranked in the top 25 at the time. Just three days ago, they popped the Red Raiders, who came into the game undefeated. Texas might prove, by the beginning of January, to be the best team in college football.

Now, here comes the "however" part of this column.

Texas shouldn't be first in the BCS ratings. No one should be ahead of Southern Cal. The Trojans are two-time national champs. They've won 29 straight and counting. While Texas beat one ranked opponent on the road in the Buckeyes, USC defeated then-ranked Arizona State in Tempe and Notre Dame in South Bend. Excuse me, but nothing on Texas's rsum matches winning at Notre Dame. And while Young can carry a team, he's not as impressive as reigning Heisman winner Matt Leinart, all-American Reggie Bush and all-American candidate LenDale White.

To be rated higher than the two-time champion, you ought to have done something to demonstrate you're better than the champ -- and Texas has not done that. Neither has Virginia Tech, Georgia, Alabama or UCLA, all of them undefeated.

But this is what the BCS does. Every year, through some formulaic nonsense, the BCS tells us something most of us don't believe. And the sad, sad thing is, this flawed indicator determines who plays for the national championship in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 4 in Pasadena, Calif.

There are circumstances, however unlikely, that could leave Texas and Virginia Tech ranked ahead of Southern Cal at the end of the season because of what the BCS claims to value. That would mean the back-to-back national champs could go undefeated and not have a chance to defend their title.

An undefeated Virginia Tech would have beaten 13th-ranked Boston College, sixth-ranked Miami and perhaps 10th-ranked Florida State in the first ACC championship game. You think beating those teams wouldn't vault Virginia Tech? Admittedly, it's a little much to assume Tech will run the table. We've seen the Hokies go 7-0, 8-0 and then crash through the floor.

Meanwhile, Texas is already ahead of Southern Cal (even if only by the slimmest margin). And the Longhorns aren't likely to lose to Baylor (4-3), Kansas (3-4), Texas A&M (5-2) or Oklahoma State (3-4). It could be, however, that an undefeated Longhorns team gets hurt in the BCS ratings by a weak Big 12 schedule.

The point is, any system that makes it possible, no matter how remotely, that an undefeated Southern Cal team could be left out of the Rose Bowl is too stupid to live with. People (mostly college presidents) who defend this system and argue against a playoff shouldn't be able to wake up with a clear conscience.

Two years ago, a one-loss USC team had to settle for playing Michigan while Louisiana State and Oklahoma duked it out for the championship in the Sugar Bowl. Last year, an undefeated Auburn team most of us thought was one of the two best teams in the country was left out of the championship game while Southern Cal dusted overrated Oklahoma.

Some of us were hoping that the BCS would be embarrassed enough to go away . . . or be sent away. But we weren't that lucky. It's back, tweaked a bit and still embarrassingly inadequate.

I'm for an eight-team playoff, which this year would include USC, Texas, Virginia Tech, Georgia, Alabama, UCLA and probably Miami and LSU. If one of them slips, then Penn Sate, Florida State and Oregon would join in. Would one of the one-loss teams be angry over being left out? Yes, absolutely. But that's not as unforgivable as an undefeated team ranked in the top three having no chance to win on the field.

I'm wondering if the only quick way out of the BCS is to have something so unjust and infuriating happen that the public demands change. Though USC ought to be first in the BCS, perhaps I should be rooting for USC to go undefeated, yet finish third. A Texas-Virginia Tech Rose Bowl with Leinart/Bush/White playing anywhere else might help inch college football to a playoff.


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