This column gets written every season and honestly, it's probably a touch unfair. In terms of trying to decide the nation's top two teams without playing games on the field, I guess the BCS is probably about as good as it can get. The problem is the college football season rarely, if ever, produces a pair of teams that are head and shoulders above the others, making it painfully obvious to everyone but apparently those in charge that we need to settle this on the field. We could spend some time here talking about the travesty of an undefeated 2004 Auburn team not getting to play for the National Championship (an occurrence which should have led immediately and finally to a national playoff) but let's focus on this season, because this is a doozy.
This year, the BCS is extending it's ridiculous tentacles even further, stepping in to determine the Big 12 Championship Game participants. So Sunday we learned that 11-1 Oklahoma has edged out 11-1 Texas and 11-1 Texas Tech to earn the right to play in that game. And by "earn," I mean edging out the others in some convoluted combination of human votes and computer inputs.
So with that drama aside, the only games left to help us sort out this mess are the Big 12 Championship Game and the SEC Championship game. As things stand now we are sitting with one undefeated team from a major conference (Alabama), six one-loss teams from major conferences (Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, Penn State, USC and Florida) and three more undefeated teams from the so-called "non-BCS" conferences (Utah, Boise State and Ball State).
Now the clearest of also possible scenarios would be if Oklahoma loses to Missouri in the Big 12 title game and Alabama defeats Florida. Even that "BCS saving" scenario leaves us with undefeated Alabama in the National Title Game facing Texas/Texas Tech/USC/Penn State. That, of course, leaves out the other undefeated teams (from the "lesser" conferences") simply because they don't play with the big boys. (Let's conveniently forget that Boise State beat Oklahoma in a BCS game a couple of years ago... that just makes things more complicated.)
Things get really messy if the reverse happens and Oklahoma and Florida prevail. Then we would have SEVEN one-loss teams from the BCS conferences (Alabama, Florida, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Penn State and USC). In this case, I would assume that Oklahoma and Florida, powered by nothing more than the fact they played in conference title games and the others did not, would play for the national championship. In other words, the BCS system (read: lack of a playoff) would screw Texas and Texas Tech TWICE in one season. That's impressive.
The biggest problem with this system is that teams around the country don't play anywhere near the same schedule. You can't objectively compare them because there's no metric to compare them with. How can you tell me that Penn State can't stay on the field with any of these teams when we're two years removed from Boise State (playing in the woeful WAC) beating mighty Oklahoma of the Big 12? And speaking of the Big 12, how can you tell Texas (who beat Oklahoma), Oklahoma (who beat Texas Tech) and Texas Tech (who beat Texas) that after they've left their blood, sweat and tears on the field for 12 games they will be separated by thousandths of a point in an algorithm no one understands?
All of the pro-BCS arguments are old and done. Proponents will tell you the "Season is the playoff!" Really? Tell that to the aforementioned Big 12 teams. Or the 2004 Auburn Tigers who went undefeated in the nation's toughest conference. Or Alabama, the only BCS conference team that went undefeated this season ... but still figures to fall behind as many as four or five other teams in the BCS should they lose at the end of the season instead of earlier.
And don't believe for a second these college presidents and athletic directors who tell you they're looking out for the students. How adding a playoff would mean cutting into their study time. Oh really? Where was that argument when we started talking about conference championship games? What happened to the student's study time when everyone agreed to add a 12th game to the schedule last year? Those decisions created instant cash flow for the college coffers. Whereas creating a playoff means a complete alteration of the current money-making BCS bowl system. Would a playoff generate just as much money? Probably. But why mess with what you've got, right?
In the end, every other major collegiate and professional sport settles their championships on the field. There is no gnashing of teeth about how the postseason diminishes the regular season. Those aren't legitimate arguments, those are excuses. If college basketball or any pro sport announced they were eliminating their playoff system to create a poll/computer system to just throw two teams together to play for the title, all hell would break loose. Yet there are reasonably intelligent people that still insist this is the best system for college football.