All is well in the BCS world, unless …
When I wrote a few weeks ago detailing what I thought Boise State needed to happen for the Broncos to play in a January BCS bowl game, I received hundreds of emails from places like Meridian and Pocatello. Those are cities in Idaho. I had no idea.
Every hour, the emails would keep coming and coming. I’d never seen a fan base respond to an article with such swiftness, such immediacy, and with such collective force.
A few days later, I appeared on KTVB-7, Boise’s NBC affiliate, and went over the various scenarios with news anchor Mark Johnson. The segment, which I thought would be a quick 2- 3-minute piece during the sports portion of the hour telecast, kicked off the 10 o’clock news and lasted a solid 10 minutes.
In short, these Boise fans like their Broncos. Hell, who am I kidding? They love their Broncos like a teenage girl loves her “Twilight” movies. They’re fanatics. And this past weekend, the Boise faithful saw their boys in blue not only take care of their BCS business on the field Friday night, but get a lot of help in college towns across the country on Saturday, as well.
Joe Tessitore, ESPN’s resident WAC play-by-play man, spent the bulk of Friday night’s Boise State-Nevada telecast mimicking Gary Danielson’s now legendary 2007 SEC championship CBS broadcast. In that famous Arkansas-Florida viewing, Danielson, in his first year covering the SEC for CBS, broke out the yellow marker and the split screen and compared Michigan’s and Florida’s BCS résumés. He spent the bulk of the game’s second half explaining to a nation of viewers why one-loss Florida deserved a spot in the BCS title game over a one-loss Michigan squad that had fallen to Ohio State a few weeks earlier.
Though, granted, to a much smaller national audience than Danielson, Tessitore did essentially the same routine for Boise State on Friday night — emphasizing the Broncos’ BCS case well into the latter hours of the late evening telecast.
Who would have ever guessed that Tessitore’s two-hour lobbying act would end up being all for naught?
Oklahoma State, the Broncos’ chief competition for a potential at-large Fiesta Bowl berth, fell to Bob Stoops’ worst Sooners team of the decade 27-0 in Norman. The shutout loss knocked the Cowboys out of the top 14 in the latest BCS standings, likely eliminating them from an at-large bid. With three losses — one of which came out of conference vs. Houston — there’s virtually no chance for the Cowboys to crawl back into the BCS’s Top 14 next week. And even if they somehow did (it would take a strange series of events), an undefeated Boise would be the far more attractive option for the Fiesta selection committee than a Big 12 squad with three losses on its résumé.
A few hours later, Pittsburgh — a team several Big East enthusiasts thought deserved BCS at-large consideration had it finished with just two losses on the year — fell to unranked West Virginia. Pitt’s loss only hurt Cincinnati’s BCS at-large “sexy factor” in the process. If Pitt beats Cincinnati at Heinz Field this coming Saturday, a one-loss Bearcats team is no longer such an attractive at-large option. Say hello to the Gator Bowl, Cincy fans.
Georgia Tech, meanwhile, red hot entering Saturday’s rivalry weekend and all but assumed to represent the ACC in the Orange Bowl in January, fell to unranked Georgia. If the Yellow Jackets lose to Clemson in the ACC championship game, their case for a BCS at-large bid is all but non-existent. The Fiesta Bowl wants a three-loss ACC team in Arizona like it wants a curling competition. In other words, not at all.
Though I would never want to jinx the good folks of Meridian and Pocatello, the 2009 BCS picture is looking better now than it has all season for Boise State. To quote the great Larry David — Boise State’s BCS chances? They’re “pretty good” … “pretty, pretty good.”
Only one non-BCS conference team will receive an automatic BCS bid. The Mountain West champion TCU Horned Frogs, ranked No. 4 in the latest BCS standings, will receive that bid and most likely play the SEC championship game loser in the Sugar Bowl. In any other year, the three remaining at-large bids would go to BCS power conference runner-ups, regardless of a team like Boise’s record.
But this season, as uncanny a college football year as ever, has exactly zero one-loss teams. Boise State, unbeaten with convincing wins over Pac-10 champion Oregon and a solid Nevada team now on its résumé, is as worthy a BCS contender as any “big boy” out there. In down years in Los Angeles, South Bend, Norman and Ann Arbor, the “little guys” from Boise can hold their résumé up against any school in the nation, enrollment numbers and skyscrapers per capita be damned.
Of course, a Nebraska Big 12 championship win Saturday night in Arlington would send the entire BCS system into flux. In the process, it would likely send Boise’s BCS dreams down one large Idaho plumbing-system drain.
How? Let’s analyze two different scenarios.
First, something we’ll call the “B.C.S.” — aka, the NCAA’s “Best Case Scenario.”
The second? We’ll call that one the “Holy #$@E#*$#,” aka “College Football Armageddon.”
B.C.S., aka the NCAA’s “Best Case Scenario”
Texas beats Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game, Cincinnati beats Pittsburgh on Saturday at Heinz Field, Boise State handles 3-9 New Mexico State with ease, Oregon beats Oregon State (which actually happened Thursday night) and Georgia Tech takes down Clemson. No controversies, a silent mass of sportswriters who usually pound the NCAA for its postseason system, plenty of “We told you it would all work out” celebratory tweets from the new BCS Twitter feed, and lots of happy folks in Boise, Austin, Cincinnati and Fort Worth.
Furthermore, the chips would fall in such a way that the NCAA could at long last legitimize the BCS and counter any arguments from Congress that the current system makes it impossible for two non-BCS conference champions to qualify for the final field of 10.
The NCAA’s “Best Case Scenario” would most likely lead to the following BCS bowl matchups:
Title game: Texas vs. SEC winner
Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Ohio State
Sugar Bowl: SEC runner-up vs. TCU
Fiesta Bowl: Iowa vs. Boise State
Orange Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Georgia Tech
“Holy #$@E#*$#”, aka “College Football Armageddon”
Yet, if we’ve learned anything in the 11 years of the BCS, it’s never that easy. Something quirky — like an unranked Pitt beating a “win and in” West Virginia team in the Backyard Brawl in ’07 or Texas A&M beating No. 2-ranked Kansas State in the 1998 Big 12 championship game — tends to happen in the final week of the college season.
In this year’s case, that “quirky” situation lives and dies in Arlington next Saturday night. If Nebraska beats Texas in the Big 12 championship game — something I boldly predicted a week ago — “it” completely hits the fan. With that outcome, chips would fall in such a destructive fashion that there’d be waves of fury in college towns across America demanding the entire BCS bowl system be blown up and destroyed forever.
The good folks in Idaho — the ones who write the passionate emails four minutes after articles are posted online and open their local newscasts with highlight packages from wins over Utah State — would be crushed. With a Nebraska win, the ‘Huskers would go to the Fiesta Bowl. The at-large BCS bid that once had Boise’s name written all over it would go to one-loss Texas, instead. Hello, Hawaii Bowl.
Worst of all, though, would be the horrific implications for the BCS title game.
Since early September, it’s been all but assumed that the winner of the SEC championship game would play Texas for the BCS championship. But what if Texas were to lose? At first glance, you’d assume No. 4 TCU (or Cincinnati if they were to leap”frog” TCU in the standings), the next unbeatens in the BCS pecking order, would be given a shot at the SEC winner. Or at the very least,one-loss Texas would still go to Pasadena, similar to how 11-1 Oklahoma played LSU in the 2003 title game despite a Big 12 championship game loss to Kansas State.
Though the latter scenario would cause outrage in Cincinnati and Fort Worth, it’d be small potatoes compared to the outrage that an alternative possibility would cause.
Yes, if there’s anything worth pointing out in the latest BCS standings released on Sunday night, it’s how much both the humans and the computers absolutely love the Florida Gators.
There’s a huge gap between the No. 1 Gators and No. 2 Alabama in the latest BCS standings, and there’s an even bigger gap over No. 3 Texas. The computers have Alabama and Florida tied for first, but curiously have Cincinnati ranked above both Texas and TCU. ‘Bama and Florida are both a solid distance from the Bearcats, Longhorns, and Frogs.
If Alabama were to beat Florida in an all-time classic on Saturday afternoon in Atlanta, there’s an outside chance — hide your eyes, Horned Frog fans — that the computers still rank a one-loss Florida team over unbeaten TCU, unbeaten Cincinnati, unbeaten Boise State, and one-loss Texas.
And don’t just assume that the human voters would immediately bump Florida below TCU or Cincy with a loss, either. The human voters could reward one-loss Florida — with just one loss to the No. 1 team in the nation on its resume — the nod over an unbeaten Horned Frogs squad out of the Mountain West.
What would that mean?
Yep, you guessed it: an SEC Championship Game re-match a month later in Pasadena for the national title. For every college football fan north of the Mason-Dixon Line, this would be the equivalent to a college football nuclear meltdown; The Day the College Football World Stood Still.
To throw some more junk in the formula, let’s say Pitt beats Cincinnati, completely knocking a one-loss Bearcats team out of the BCS picture and putting a Big East champion with losses to underwhelming West Virginia and North Carolina State in, instead. Let’s also put four-loss Clemson, fresh off a bad loss to unranked South Carolina last weekend, in as ACC champion. And for the heck of it, let’s suggest Penn State gets the Fiesta Bowl at-large nod over Iowa, a team that beat the Nittany Lions head-to-head in Happy Valley back in late September.
This, my friends, is what we would call “College Football Armageddon.” The hideous, gunk-filled envelope, please:
Title game: Florida vs. Alabama (again)
Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Oregon
Fiesta Bowl: Nebraska vs. Penn State
Sugar Bowl: TCU vs. Pittsburgh
Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Texas
With a Texas win in next weekend’s Big 12 championship game, the NCAA, the Ari Fleischer-led PR firm hired to promote the BCS, and the kind folks in Meridian and Pocatello, Idaho, will all go to sleep happy after the BCS bowl pairings are announced Sunday night on FOX.
With a Nebraska win in next weekend’s Big 12 championship game, we could be looking at College Football Armageddon.
In other words, Holy #$@E#*$#.