Controversy constant along annual twisting BCS path
We should have seen this coming.
The fact that this messy, mesmerizing 2008 football season is scheduled to conclude in Florida should have sent off warning bells clear back before Labor Day. Every four years, the Sunshine State and the ballot box collide in controversy.
In 2000, the presidential election was acrimoniously decided by chads, hanging and otherwise, in Florida. In 2004, the nation's other vital, voter-driven enterprise -- college football -- decided its BCS national championship in Florida's Orange Bowl amid howls of protest from the undefeated team that was excluded, Auburn. And this season, with the BCS championship returning to Florida, a quadrennial quandary has arisen again.
Oklahoma and Florida are in.
Texas is jobbed.
By 0.0181 BCS points, the Longhorns were left out of the national championship party. Nobody understands the formula, but everybody understands that's a small margin.
And everybody should understand that Texas' 10-point, neutral-site victory over the Sooners should have been the deciding factor in splitting the ultra-fine hairs between those Big 12 South rivals. The Longhorns should have been granted the right to club Missouri in that league's title game and play for the big enchilada.
No matter how many late-game, pile-it-on points Bloodthirsty Bob's Sooners scored in recent weeks (a total of 38 in the last half of the last quarter of the past two games, against Oklahoma State and Missouri), they can't erase Texas 45, Oklahoma 35.
On the bright side, this simmering argument between hated rivals has dramatically boosted sales of plane-pulled signs in Big 12 territory. In this economy, that's something to be thankful for.
But it's time for the sniping to stop. That's officially a dead argument today. It's over, even though Bevo Nation isn't likely to stop complaining in this lifetime. When the story of the 2008 season is told, the Great Tiebreaker Debacle simply will be part of the quirky plot that brought us to this point.
And what better time to tell that story than now, looking back one last time before we look forward to an intriguing bowl season?
We wound up here because an overachieving true freshman safety for Texas let a deflected pass slip through his hands and onto the Texas Tech turf at precisely the wrong time. Blake Gideon surely does not deserve the blame for the Longhorns' last-second loss in Lubbock, but his dropped interception stands out as the biggest what-if in a night full of them for the Longhorns.
We wound up here because two running backs with double consonants in their first names -- Shonn (Greene) and Jacquizz (Rodgers) -- got bizzy bouncing two contenders from the unbeaten ranks. The backs went from unknown in August to giant-killers in autumn -- Greene running for 117 yards in Iowa's upset of Penn State, Rodgers for 186 in Oregon State's shocker over USC. Both wound up among the nation's leading rushers. At least the Nittany Lions and Trojans will meet in a pretty awesome consolation game, the Rose Bowl.
We wound up here because Michigan was history-making terrible -- so bad that it devalued what was supposed to be Utah's signature victory, in the Big House, leaving the undefeated Utes stuck in sixth place in the BCS standings. If the Wolverines were their usual selves, that win would be a huge factor in the computer rankings. Then again, if the Wolverines were their usual selves, they probably would have beaten Utah handily. And Toledo, for that matter.
We wound up here because it didn't matter who played quarterback at Cincinnati or Virginia Tech -- both teams were going to find a way. The Bearcats found a way to win the Big East with a guy who was supposed to be a fourth-stringer (Tony Pike). The Hokies found a way to win the Atlantic Coast Conference with a guy who was supposed to redshirt (Tyrod Taylor).
We wound up here because the Big 12 and the Southeastern Conference dominated this season from opening kickoff to closing argument. Four Big 12 teams at one time or another were ranked in the top two in the USA Today coaches' poll: Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech and Missouri. Four SEC teams at one time or another were ranked in the top two: Florida, Alabama, Georgia and LSU. Either a Big 12 team or an SEC team was on top every week of the '08 BCS standings. Either a Big 12 team or an SEC team was ranked No. 1 in each of the past 11 coaches' polls. And either the Big 12 or the SEC will win the national title for the fourth straight season.
We wound up here because of offense, offense, offense in the Big 12. The league has five of the top eight teams nationally in scoring offense, five of the top nine in total offense, five of the top 10 in pass efficiency and four of the top six in fewest punts. (Texas Tech has punted 22 times this season, which is just silly. Especially compared to Michigan's 90.)
We wound up here because of defense, defense, defense in the SEC. The league has five of the top 15 teams nationally in scoring defense, five of the top 15 in total defense and five of the top 17 in rushing defense.
We wound up here because Florida and Oklahoma had the good sense to lose in the first half of the season, then to go on absolute rampages after those losses behind quarterbacks Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford.
We wound up here because only six members of the preseason AP top 10 are still ranked. And only four of them are still in the top 10.
We wound up here because it was a very bad year for coaches who wear orange. Say adios to Phillip Fulmer, Tommy Tuberville, Tommy Bowden and Greg Robinson. Prominent exceptions: Mack Brown and Mike Riley.
We wound up here because it also was a very bad year for African-American coaches. Ty Willingham is out at Washington, Ron Prince at Kansas State, Sylvester Croom at Mississippi State -- and no matter what termination language was used, don't be fooled. All were asked to leave. Only three black head coaches remain in the 120-school FBS, only one at a BCS conference school. That's indefensible, yet somehow tolerated. Shame on college football.
We wound up here because the wrong team from Utah went undefeated -- it was supposed to be BYU. It wound up being the Utes.
We wound up here because the wrong matchup was the Game of the Year. It was supposed to be USC-Ohio State, springboarding the winner to the national title game. It wound up being Texas Tech-Texas -- which, truth be told, also failed to springboard a team to the title game.
We wound up here because East Carolina conquered, collapsed and came back. The Pirates shot into the AP top 15 after upsetting Virginia Tech and West Virginia, plummeted back out after three straight losses, then won six of their final seven to win the Conference USA title.
We wound up here because Notre Dame still hasn't beaten anyone of import since Brady Quinn was playing quarterback.
And finally, we wound up here -- with another December argument -- because it's the natural ending place without a playoff. The beguiling thing about the BCS is that, year to year, you never know where it will spring a leak in logic. A system assigned an impossible task seemingly finds a new way every year to leave America unsatisfied.
But it's always an interesting ride reaching this destination.
Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.
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