Wiedmer: BCS must change to work right

Wiedmer: BCS must change to work right

December 5th, 2011 by Mark Wiedmer in Sports - Columns

Let T. Boone Pickens' threatened lawsuits begin.


This isn't to say I don't think the Bowl Championship Series got it right in pitting top-ranked, undefeated LSU against No. 2, once-beaten Alabama in its title game on Jan. 9.

The Bayou Bengals' spot was justly cemented with their overpowering 42-10 win over Georgia in Saturday evening's SEC championship game. The Crimson Tide earned their way there by losing in overtime to LSU, albeit at home, then pretty much beating the bejeezus out of everyone else on its schedule.

But before you decry T. Boone Billionaire's threat to launch an investigation if his beloved Oklahoma State Cowboys didn't reach the BCS title game after their 44-10 thumping of Oklahoma Saturday night, consider the following two facts:

A) The Cowpokes beat one more ranked team than Alabama (4-3).

B) OSU won four more games (7-3) than Bama against teams with above .500 records. Unfortunately for Okie State, it also lost to Iowa State, which finished 6-6.

Yet right there -- within that understandable controversy between the Tide and Cowboys -- is where the BCS breaks down. Just as undefeated TCU deserved a shot at Auburn last year after AU won the recognized title game against Oregon and the Horned Frogs knocked off Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, if Alabama defeats LSU and Oklahoma State drops Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl, the Cowboys should get a crack at Bama to win it all.

After all, both would have one loss. Both would have won difficult bowl match-ups. And as ESPN's Brad Edwards noted early Sunday evening, "If you threw out just one of the computer polls, you would have had the closest finish ever between Alabama and Oklahoma State for that second BCS spot."

Given that Bama officially nipped State .942 to .933, Edwards was asked how close it could have been. "So close," said Edwards, "that Oklahoma State giving up that late touchdown to Oklahoma might have been the difference."

You could fix this year's BCS issue between 11-1 Bama and 11-1 Oklahoma State with the cumbersome "If necessary, plus one plan," which argues that if three or four teams are worthy heading into their bowls, the two winners meet for a "Plus One" game after the bowls.

Since LSU is the only unbeaten among the Tigers, Tide, Cowboys and Stanford, should the Tigers defeat Alabama, season's over. You're the only undefeated team going into the bowl and you win the bowl, case closed. You're No. 1. Head for Disney World.

But if Bama and State were both to win, much as Auburn and TCU won last year, there needs to be an extra game.

Or, even easier, why not have a four-team playoff utilizing the existing four BCS bowls -- Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar? Every two years, two of the four host these seeded semifinals -- this year it would be LSU versus Stanford and Bama versus Okie State -- with the BCS championship game played a week later, which it basically is anyway.

Yes, it would add one more game for the winners, but everything else would remain largely unchanged.

And while somebody will always be mad -- after all, twice-beaten Oregon did wax once-beaten Stanford by 23 points -- the Ducks did have one more loss, even if it was to LSU.

Point is, nothing's perfect. But few athletic formulas are less perfect than the BCS.

Or can you explain 11-1 Boise State -- which routed Georgia at the start of the season inside the Georgia Dome -- failing to make a BCS bowl instead of Virginia Tech, which was routed by Clemson in the ACC title game, but will still play in the Sugar Bowl against Michigan while Boise plays 6-6 Arizona State in the MAACO Bowl in Las Vegas on Dec. 22?

Said ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit in the best talking head line of Sunday night: "If [BCS] at-large selections have become about how many people are going to come to a [bowl] city and fill up hotel rooms, if I'm the AD at some of these schools, I'm scheduling nothing but I-AA teams in September."

Alabama scheduled its one I-AA (sorry, Football Championship Subdivision) team in November by playing Georgia Southern. Okie State's weakest foe was Sun Belt Conference member Louisiana-Lafayette, which the Cowpokes clobbered 61-34.

But it was the best team on Bama's schedule that caused Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy to lament, "Alabama had the opportunity to beat LSU. We just hoped we'd have the same opportunity."

Instead, the BCS formula ensures the SEC of a sixth straight national title, regardless of which league team wins.

And that's probably as it should be, even if Oklahoma State's Big 12 was oddly considered the stronger league. Still, it certainly would have been an intriguing pairing to watch the Cowboys' crafty offense take on the Tigers' terrifying defense.

But perhaps no less intriguing than watching T. Boone Billionaire throw a few dollars at dismantling the BCS off the field. Now that's a showdown that might unite every college football fan. At least all of them not rooting for the SEC.