In this entry I will explain how the BCS bowl system does not give all teams a fair chance to win the National Championship. In addition, I will evaluate the system based upon how the current playoff system affects the college football regular season negatively.
The college football postseason system that is currently in place does not meet the expectations of college football fans. First, not all teams have an opportunity to win the National Championship. For example, teams from non-BCS conferences, meaning those from conferences other than the SEC, Big XII, Big Ten, Big East, PAC 10, and ACC, may go undefeated and still not even have the opportunity to play for a National Championship. Only three seasons ago, the Boise State Broncos, from the Western Athletic Conference, or WAC, went undefeated. However, the team was not placed in the BCS Championship Game but the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. Boise State played one of the most flawless games in college football history and defeated the mighty Oklahoma Sooners to cap a perfect season. The BCS Committee decided that Boise State did not deserve a chance to play for a National Championship, instead of letting the teams decide that for themselves.
Last season, the Utah Utes, from the Mountain West Conference, also played an undefeated regular season. The team was assigned to the Sugar Bowl against the formidable Alabama Crimson Tide, who had lost in a nail biting game in the SEC conference championship to the eventual National Champion Florida Gators. Utah outplayed Alabama in every aspect of the game, even though nearly every expert thought that Utah could not match up with Alabama’s size. The BCS Committee decided that Utah did not deserve a chance in the BCS Championship Game.
These examples of small teams defeating some of the country’s best teams are numerous. However, these teams enter spring practices knowing that they can not become National Champions. That is not was the NCAA is about. The NCAA claims to focus on giving all student athletes the opportunities to succeed. This is not the case in college football. The injustice does not end there. Extremely talented teams, often with one loss, do not have a chance to prove that they are the best team in college football.
For example, nearly every year, the USC Trojans have one loss, often against a lesser foe that the team seems to “look past.” Each year, there are either two undefeated teams from BCS conferences, or one loss teams from the SEC or Big XII that play in the National Championship instead of USC. Last year, Penn State was beaten by one point, in one game, by a field goal made with one second left, on the road against Iowa. Why does Penn State not have a chance at the National Championship? Why does USC not have chance at the National Championship? Because the way the BCS bowl system is arranged, only two teams enter the postseason with a chance to become champions. The system in place today does not meet the high standards demanded by such an entertaining sport.
While most college football fans realize that the BCS does not give all teams opportunities to win the National Championship, most do not realize that the BCS affects the regular season negatively as well. The poor setup of the postseason affects the quality of play in the regular season. Teams know full well going into each season that one loss can end their BCS hopes. Therefore, teams often lighten their schedules in order to eliminate the chances of losses. For example, Penn State’s 2009 out of conference schedule included the following: Akron, Syracuse, Temple, and Eastern Illinois. Those four teams are horrific, and the team that had the closest point differential against Penn State was Syracuse with 21. Why does Penn State do this? The athletic director and coaches know that if the team plays Florida and Oklahoma out of conference and loses to either one of those teams, another one loss Big XII or SEC team would still top Penn State’s bid for the BCS National Championship Game. Why should Penn State take such chances? Realistically, they should not. Therefore, Penn State focuses solely on going undefeated in regular season play and hopes that other big name teams lose so that Penn State can sneak into the title game.
Who loses when teams soften their schedules in this way? The fans. The reason college football is considered the most entertaining sport with the most entertaining regular season is because fans can watch marquee games every week with big name programs squaring off. That trend is changing. With the scheduling the way it is now, it is rare to see a non-conference game between two highly ranked teams. Therefore, in college football today, the BCS system is even affecting the regular season in a negative way.
The answer to this problem is to create a college football playoff system. For my take on what type of playoff system is best for college football, see my December 2nd blog entry, “Why College Football Needs a Playoff System…And Why an 8 Team System is not the Answer.”