Ron Morris: BCS's season-long elimination tournament works again

Florida State and Auburn will play for the National Championship this year.

Florida State and Auburn will play for the National Championship this year.

As much as college football coaches and fans do not want to hear it, I am here to proudly proclaim for the final time that the BCS system worked ... once again.

Few would argue that the two best teams in the country — Florida State and Auburn — will meet to determine the final BCS national champion. Just in case you need to be reminded, the BCS accomplished its primary purpose of matching the top two teams.

Most coaches and fans who detested the BCS system wanted it to flame out with all kinds of controversy in its final season of operation. Instead, just as happened in all but three of its previous 16 seasons, the BCS worked to near perfection.

The system created the greatest regular season in all of sports, a week-to-week elimination tournament. Some 90 programs began the season with a chance to reach the title game. Several teams were eliminated each week, all the way to the conclusion this past weekend of conference championship games.

The last team standing, Ohio State, fell to Michigan State in the Big Ten championship game Saturday, leaving undefeated Florida State of the ACC against once-beaten Auburn of the SEC to play for the title.

If you want to understand how much different — and less dramatic — it will be next season with the advent of a four-team playoff, go back and replay the ending of Auburn’s stunning victory over Alabama in the regular-season finale for both teams.

When Auburn’s Chris Davis returned a missed field goal 100 yards for a game-winning touchdown, it kept the Tigers’ hopes alive of winning the SEC championship and of playing in the BCS title game. The loss eliminated Alabama for all championships, including a chance to win a third consecutive national title.

Had next season’s playoff system been in place, much of the drama for Alabama would have been diminished. The Crimson Tide would not have played in the SEC championship game, instead beginning preparation for the four-team playoff.

Enough whining

South Carolina fans apparently are upset that their football team defeated Clemson in the regular-season finale yet are headed to the Capital One Bowl while the Tigers head to the BCS and the Orange Bowl.

First of all, head-to-head results rarely, if ever, determine the destination of bowl teams. That USC defeated Clemson is largely irrelevant in bowl pickings.

What matters most is a team’s standing within the conference. A 10-2 record with losses to BCS No. 1 Florida State and No. 9 USC left Clemson as the second-best team in the ACC. When Florida State reached the BCS national title game, Clemson jumped into the Orange Bowl slot as the representative of the ACC.

USC, on the other hand, also compiled a 10-2 record but with losses to BCS No. 22 Georgia and unranked Tennessee, which finished with a losing record. USC was considered the third-best team in the SEC behind Auburn, which is playing for the national title, and Alabama, which was extended a BCS invitation to the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

In essence, the loss to Tennessee cost USC a shot at playing in the SEC championship game and ultimately a chance to claim it deserved a spot in the Sugar Bowl as the league’s second-best team.

Left out

By season’s end, 79 of the 126 major-college programs were eligible to play in bowl games. That means 47 teams suffered losing seasons.

With 35 bowl games being played, nine teams were eligible to play in the postseason but not extended invitations. Hardest hit was the Sun Belt Conference, where seven teams were eligible by posting 6-6 records or better. Yet only Louisiana-Lafayette (New Orleans Bowl) and Arkansas State (GoDaddy.com Bowl) reached the postseason.

Western Kentucky (8-4), Louisiana Monroe (6-6), South Alabama (6-6), Troy (6-6) and Texas State (6-6) were left out, joining Florida Atlantic (6-6) of Conference USA, Toledo (7-5) and Central Michigan (6-6) of the Mid-American Conference, and San Jose State (6-6) of the Mountain West as teams that were bowl eligible but stayed home.

Chance to lose

At least those aforementioned 6-6 teams will not get the chance to finish the season with a losing record.

Seven teams will play in bowl games and could go home with 6-7 records. They include Washington State in the New Mexico Bowl, Oregon State in the Hawaii Bowl, Pittsburgh in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, Syracuse in the Texas Bowl, Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl, North Carolina in the Belk Bowl and Mississippi State in the Liberty Bowl.

Sponsorships

Just about every bowl game now has a sponsor’s name attached to it. The exceptions are the Military, Texas and Rose bowls.

The best of the titles this season include the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl and the TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl.

Surely, the Cook-Out Columbia Bowl is on the way.

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