Commentary

This BCS mess lies at the feet of the Big 12

Originally Published: November 30, 2008
By Ivan Maisel | ESPN.com

Let us pause while BCS proponents try to clear their throats and their logic.

The BCS proponents insist their system is the best because Every Game Matters. Their system is the one that declared Oklahoma, and not Texas or Texas Tech, the Big 12 South champion. Their computers boosted the Sooners over the Longhorns in the most recent standings. Every Game Matters, but the games at the end of the season do matter more.

[+] EnlargeOklahoma-Texas
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesPerhaps Texas' victory over Oklahoma came too early in the season for the Longhorns.
The human element of the BCS formula actually shifted toward Texas in the voting released Sunday. In the combined voting of the USA Today and Harris polls, the Longhorns went from 63 points behind the Sooners to five points ahead. That may be recount territory, but the polls rated Texas ahead.

The BCS formula's six computers sided with Oklahoma. That may represent the larger truth. Try selling that on the Forty Acres in Austin. All they know is that the Longhorns' 45-35 victory over the Sooners has plummeted in value.

What we have here is a Burnt Orange portfolio of General Motors stock.

"I bet you Oklahoma moves ahead of them," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said Sunday morning at his media breakfast. "... I was just thinking Texas would be there unless Oklahoma had a big win over Oklahoma State."

The Sooners defeated the Cowboys 61-41 at Stillwater on Saturday night.

"That's fresh on the voters' minds," Bowden said.

Bowden has been a beneficiary of similar BCS logic. In 2000, Florida State lost to Miami, yet finished ahead of the Hurricanes and played in the BCS Championship Game. There is also 1993, when Florida State lost to Notre Dame, yet finished ahead of the Fighting Irish in the final poll.

The lessons are (a) lose early, and (b) if you must beat a top-five team, don't lose afterward.

The largest truth is there is no answer that will placate Texas, save for a Missouri upset of Oklahoma on Saturday night. Even then, the Longhorns would have to sweat out two possibilities that would prevent them from rising from No. 3 into the top two.

One, No. 1 Alabama could lose a close game to No. 4 Florida and the BCS would provide a rematch in the BCS Championship Game.

Two, the voters may recoil from giving the Crimson Tide or the Longhorns, neither a conference champion, the opportunity to play for the crystal football. In that case, No. 5 USC could benefit from the voters' cold feet.

A playoff is not the panacea to cure college football's ills. A playoff would present as many problems as it does solutions. A playoff is politically unfeasible unless the regular season is shortened, which is financially unfeasible. A playoff could suck the life out of the regular season, much as it has done to college basketball.

A playoff wouldn't ratchet up the tension throughout November -- National College Football Arguing Month -- the way the BCS does.

This episode does the sport no favors. It makes college football look as if its search for logic entered a traffic rotary and can't find an exit. There isn't a dime's worth of difference between Texas and Oklahoma. Both played well throughout the season. Both finished strong. Both lost to very good teams. The Sooners lost to the Longhorns and won a loophole.

That's because, in the end, the blame for this mess lies at the feet not of the BCS but of the Big 12. The Big 12 tiebreaker states that in the event of a three-way tie in which all other tiebreakers have been exhausted, the team rated highest in the BCS will be the division champion.

The Southeastern Conference tiebreaker says that in the event of a three-way tie, the team that is rated the highest will be the division champion unless the second-highest team is within five places in the BCS standings. Then it reverts to head-to-head competition. You can bet emphasis is added. And you can bet that the Big 12 will revisit this rule after the season.

College football has a bad habit of fixing rules after they have wreaked havoc.

Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Ivan at Ivan.Maisel@ESPN3.com. His new book, "The Maisel Report: College Football's Most Overrated & Underrated Players, Coaches, Teams, and Traditions," is on sale now. For more information, go to TheMaiselReport.com.

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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