Navy runs over Army, 42-13

As regular season ends, let BCS debate begin

3 perfect teams expose flaws of imperfect system

December 05, 2004|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

After an unpredictable day of blowouts and shootouts to finish college football's regular season, here's the most predictable conclusion to the mess that has become the Bowl Championship Series standings: Until a playoff determines the champion in Division I-A, somebody is going be left steaming.

In this case, Auburn's Tommy Tuberville is at the top of that list and Mack Brown of Texas could be joining him today if the Longhorns get snubbed again by the BCS. The third-ranked Tigers, who finished with an unbeaten record and a Southeastern Conference championship after last night's 38-28 win over No. 15 Tennessee, will now be playing in the Consolation, uh, Sugar Bowl against Atlantic Coast Conference champion Virginia Tech.

The Longhorns, ranked fifth, went 10-1 and spent last night rooting hard for Southern Mississippi to upset No. 4 California. When the Bears prevailed, 26-16, it meant their .0013-of-a-point lead over Texas in last week's BCS rankings could be in jeopardy of disappearing pending the outcome of today's final vote.

Those supporting the BCS are breathing a sigh of relief that their imperfect system was not thrown into total chaos, since top-ranked Southern California narrowly escaped rival UCLA in Pasadena, 29-24, and second-ranked Oklahoma clobbered Colorado, 42-3, in the Big 12 championship game in Kansas City.

For those who haven't been following what has been a fairly routine season when it comes to the top two teams in the BCS, USC (12-0) and Oklahoma (12-0) are expected to be invited to the Orange Bowl. But there was plenty of doubt cast on the other BCS games after what happened last night.

Do you think college presidents - the group that is holding up the playoff system in Division I-A while allowing one on every other level in every other sport - were quietly (or loudly) rooting for the Trojans to hold on after Reggie Bush fumbled in the last couple of minutes?

Do you think second-tier bowls - the group that is backing up the presidents and the BCS because they don't want to see their games become more meaningless than they are already - were pulling for the Sooners and Bears to win as to not give more substance to why a playoff system would work better than the BCS?

Do you think Kevin Weiberg, the Big 12 commissioner and BCS coordinator this season, won't be squirming just a little as he anticipates more questions today from the national media - not to mention from Brown, a Big 12 coach - when those other two pairings are decided today?

Do you think Brown was trying to find someone else to plead his case to when Cal managed to squeak by Southern Mississippi - a team ranked somewhere between 65 and 75 depending on what dot-com power ranking service you subscribe to - in the fourth quarter last night?

After more than three months, the BCS came down to a game delayed more than two months by Hurricane Ivan. It then came down to a blocked extra-point attempt by Cal, an 85-yard return (for a safety) by linebacker Wendell Oliver, and a subsequent long touchdown run by J.J. Arrington to quiet Southern Miss.

But that won't end the debate, at least about the last spot in the BCS.

There is still plenty of intrigue left to this discombobulated discussion.

It will come when the votes are tallied in the human polls, as well as those cryptic computer programs, to see whether Cal's win kept the Bears at No. 4 or moved them down a notch, with Texas moving into the cleanup spot at No. 4. (USC had too large a lead on Oklahoma for those two top teams to flip-flop.)

If Cal remains at No. 4, the game Texas thought it should have been invited to - the Fiesta Bowl - will feature No. 6 Utah (11-0) and No. 23 Pittsburgh (8-3), the Big East's representative. Cal (10-1) will meet Michigan (9-2) in the Rose Bowl.

If Texas jumps to fourth, the bet here is that the Longhorns get shipped to the Big 12's old stomping grounds, the Fiesta Bowl, to meet Utah, with the Panthers getting pushed out further west to the Rose Bowl to play Michigan in a totally meaningless Rose Bowl.

Here's another prediction: No matter how the BCS formula is tweaked again next spring, as happened last spring when the human polls became more important and margin of victory was supposedly taken out (see if that holds up when the Cal-Texas argument is settled today), somebody will be left steaming.

For now, it's Tommy Tuberville's turn.

And, maybe, Mack Brown's.

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