BCS Beats Texas In Red River Sellout

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By Michael Wilbon
Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The pox that is the BCS is spreading. No longer does it ruin only the bowl season; its sinister influence is everywhere now. Take the Big 12.

That conference -- with its trio of one-loss teams, Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech -- just had its best season ever, maybe the best season any college football conference has had in 25 years. Three of the nation's top seven ranked teams come from the Big 12. The league is so deep Nebraska won eight games and isn't even in the Big 12's top five. They've had one spectacular game after another and been the absolute best thing about a memorable college football season.

That is, until Sunday night, when the people who run the Big 12 committed what should be an unpardonable sin. Faced with the decision of how to break the tie between Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech to represent the South Division in the Big 12 championship game, the league simply decided to send whichever team the BCS ranked higher. The Big 12 shirked all responsibility for taking care of its own business and gutlessly cowed to a system that has proved unable to select two teams, let alone one. However the Big 12 wants to break ties, no matter how controversial, it shouldn't be tied in any way to the BCS.

College football must be a wonderful game to survive what so many university presidents and conference commissioners have done to it in recent years. The latest BCS poll ranks Oklahoma No. 2 and Texas No. 3, despite the fact that Texas beat Oklahoma by 10 points in October on a neutral field. Fortunately, not everybody who deals with college football is covered in shame. The Associated Press poll of sportswriters and broadcasters ranks Texas above Oklahoma, as does the Harris Poll of former coaches and players, and sportswriters and broadcasters. In other words, nearly every ranking conducted by actual human beings concluded, even if by the narrowest margins, that Texas is ahead of Oklahoma.

Good. That's the way it should be. Texas Tech beat Texas in the final seconds, and needed home-field advantage to do it. Oklahoma trashed Texas Tech, but had home-field advantage. Texas, in a fabulous game, defeated Oklahoma and did not have home-field advantage. The Longhorns won the annual Red River Shootout in a stadium where the tickets are divided evenly between the two schools.

Texas Tech was humiliated by Oklahoma, leaving Tech out of the equation, most reasonable and unaffiliated folks would agree. And in any sport governed by reason, one would have to say the first tiebreaker goes to the team that won the head-to-head competition. This, of course, is where you can't get presumptuous because college football isn't governed by reason or rational thought.

The computer models, with whatever data they're being fed, say Oklahoma should be ranked ahead of Texas, damn what your eyes see or common sense tells you.

So those of us interested in justice will just have to root like hell for Missouri to beat Oklahoma on Saturday in the Big 12 championship game, allowing Texas (presumably) to advance to the BCS championship game (Jan. 8 in Miami) against the Florida-Alabama winner. This is what, in the absence of a playoff, we're rooting for.

And rooting for Texas doesn't mean feeling sorry for Texas Coach Mack Brown. Like an increasing number of coaches, including Southern California's Pete Carroll, Brown has come to favor a playoff system because it's in his own best interests. You would hope college football coaches, who preach to their players to act with the courage of their convictions, would actually do as they say. But no, we don't hear a peep out of college coaches about adopting a playoff system until their teams are in the position of perhaps being left out of the BCS picture. Then they get religion. Truth is, if high-profile coaches who have won championships -- such as Carroll, Brown and Oklahoma's Bob Stoops -- turned up the heat on their presidents to get a playoff system for big-time college football, we'd move closer to having one.

Instead, we get one great weekend of fabulous football followed by Sunday/Monday foolishness. At least the university spinmeisters have stopped trying to tell us there cannot be a playoff because it would take the players away from too much class time; schools really don't want to pursue this line of reasoning after selling the broadcast rights to games on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights. The best thing about having college football on those nights is we at least get to see some of the teams, Ball State for instance, that would otherwise be crowded out by the big conference schools.

And two of those schools would be in my eight-team playoff if the university presidents were smart enough to have one.

If Alabama wins the SEC championship game this Saturday, Florida would be bounced because it would have two losses, leaving Alabama, Texas, Oklahoma, Southern California, Texas Tech, Penn State, Utah and Boise State as my eight teams. If Florida wins the SEC title game, it would be a bit harder because the Gators would be in, knocking out either Texas Tech or Boise State.

What about the winners of the Big East and the ACC? They'd be at home, where mediocre winners of overrated big-name conferences belong.

No automatic bids in my system. Ohio State? Home. The Big Ten isn't any good this season. The Mountain West (Utah, BYU and TCU), which feasted on the Pacific-10, is at worst the fourth-best conference in the country this year, maybe third (behind only the Big 12 and SEC, which right now has just two fearsome teams, Florida and Alabama). Don't tell me we need to see Ohio State humiliated in yet another BCS game at the expense of Boise State, which went to a BCS game less than two years ago and clowned Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.

If the people who run college football had a speck of daring and imagination, we could be on the verge of watching eight really good teams, including Texas and Oklahoma, settle on the field the issue of who is best in college football. Instead we wait for a poll that tells us it's just fine for a team to be ranked ahead of a team with an identical record that it lost to on a neutral field. The BCS and all who aim to please it, like the simpletons who run the Big 12, ask us to disbelieve our very eyes -- and sadly there are just enough people out there who'll do it.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

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