Commentary

Conference titles shouldn't affect title-game eligibility

Updated: November 16, 2008, 6:49 PM ET
By Brad Edwards | Special to ESPN.com

It's time to settle this once and for all.

It started when Nebraska reached the BCS Championship Game in 2001 without winning the Big 12 North.

And it escalated in 2003, when Oklahoma reached the BCS Championship Game after losing by four touchdowns in the Big 12 title tilt.

[+] EnlargeColt McCoy
Kenny Felt/Icon SMIWould you like to see the No. 1 BCS squad left out of the title game?

Ever since that time, there have been cries from media and fans alike that something should be done to make sure this never happens again. Yet, BCS administrators have refused to take that step.

So if you've ever wondered why a team is still eligible to play for the national championship even if it doesn't even win its conference ... well, here you go.

Let's play the ever-popular game of BCS hypotheticals.

Now, these aren't crazy, worst-case-scenario hypotheticals. None of these requires a team to lose as an overwhelming favorite.

• Oklahoma beats Texas Tech and Oklahoma State and wins the three-way tie in the Big 12 South, then loses to Missouri in the Big 12 title game. Missouri (11-2) is the Big 12 champion.

• Florida loses at Florida State, then wins a close game against Alabama. Florida (11-2) is the SEC champion.

• Oregon State beats Arizona and Oregon to win the Pac-10 title with a 9-3 overall record. USC also wins out to finish 11-1.

• Penn State beats Michigan State to win the Big Ten title with an 11-1 record.

• Utah beats BYU and wins the Mountain West with a 12-0 record.

If all of this happened, my best guess is that the final BCS standings would have a top 3 of No. 1 Texas, No. 2 USC and No. 3 Texas Tech. And it's possible Alabama could be ranked No. 4.

But if a rule existed that allowed only conference champions to play for the BCS title, then none of those four teams would be eligible to compete for the ultimate prize. In this scenario, the championship game would likely be played between Penn State (11-1) and Florida (11-2), while Missouri (11-2) and Utah (12-0) would also have arguments to be included.

Some might ask why USC, as Pac-10 co-champion, would not be considered eligible. The explanation is simple: If the Big 12, SEC and ACC can have only one champion because of a title game, then the other conferences can't have two or three champions. Tiebreakers would have to be used to break ties for a conference title when those situations occurred. (Thus, Oregon State would be the Pac-10 champion based on its victory over USC.)

So, anyone who would feel fulfilled by watching No. 5 play No. 6 for the national championship can keep demanding that teams be required to win their conference titles to earn a spot on the BCS big stage.


Following a weekend with no losses by the top 15 teams in the BCS standings, there were no significant changes in the national title hunt. We now await the latest Big 12 game of the year, Saturday's showdown in Norman between No. 2 Texas Tech and No. 5 Oklahoma (ABC, 8 ET).

Among the minor developments from last weekend, Ohio State's win at Illinois probably ended any realistic chance that two non-BCS-conference teams could play in this season's BCS games, so the focus on that front now turns to Saturday's BYU-Utah showdown.

If the Utes win, they will receive one of the four at-large bids to the BCS, although that wouldn't become official until Dec. 7. If BYU wins, that bid will be Boise State's to lose, starting with Saturday's game at Nevada. If Boise also loses ... tune in next week for the full report.

Brad Edwards is a college football researcher at ESPN. His Road to the BCS appears weekly during the season.

• Analyzes college football and the BCS as part of ESPN's Stats & Information Group
• Analyst for both College GameDay on ESPN Radio and the ESPN College Football app