Bowl Selections Becoming A Mess

Columnist Phillip Marshall takes a look at the problems surrounding this year's bowl selections in the SEC and around the country.

Colorado is angry.

The Buffaloes crushed Nebraska 62-36 just a couple of weeks ago, but they were beaten out by the Cornhuskers for right to play Miami in the Rose Bowl for the national championship.

Nebraska didn't even win its division in the Big 12, but its 11-1 record is better than Colorado's 9-2. Though Colorado was good enough to rout Nebraska, it wasn't good enough to beat Colorado State or Fresno State. How close was it? If TCU, a Nebraska opponent, had not come from behind to beat Southern Mississippi on Saturday, Colorado would have been in. TCU's victory gave Nebraska just enough points for strength of schedule.

Oregon is angry.

The Ducks finished 10-1, won the Pac-10 championship, and believe they should be playing Miami for the national championship. If the Ducks weren't going to be there, even Illinois is more deserving than Nebraska.

Ole Miss is angry.

The Rebels went 7-4, beat Alabama head to head and beat SEC champion LSU on the road. But the Independence Bowl took the Tide, at 6-5, and Ole Miss is staying home for the holidays. Ole Miss' nonconference schedule was pitiful, but it's not likely that was a factor.

Alabama has more name recognition and has never been to the Independence Bowl. The Rebels ought to direct their anger at the SEC office. Had things been handled properly, Ole Miss or Alabama would have gone to the Humanitarian Bowl or Seattle Bowl, leaving the Independence Bowl for the other.

Georgia is angry.

The Bulldogs had a fine season, going 8-3 and beating Tennessee in Knoxville. They thought they were headed for the Outback Bowl in Tampa. They ended up in the Music City Bowl in Nashville. Not much of a prize.

Auburn is happy.

Despite losing its last two and three of its last four, Auburn will play North Carolina in the Peach Bowl. That's what head coach Tommy Tuberville wanted even if his team got to the SEC championship game and lost.

Alabama is happy.

A bowl seemed all but out of the question when the Tide was 3-5, but three straight wins got it done.

Florida is happy.

The Gators lost at home to Tennessee just last week. They finished 9-2 and second in the East. Tennessee finished 10-2 and won the East. Florida is going to the Orange Bowl and Tennessee is left with the Citrus Bowl.

The bottom line is this: Two flawed systems came back to haunt college football Sunday.

The BCS, as it is currently constructed, is a bad joke. Computers can't adequately rate college football teams. Would Colorado have been more deserving than Nebraska if Southern Mississippi had beaten TCU? Does anyone really believe that should have anything to do with it?

The old system was better and more exciting for more teams. So what if one team won the championship in the Associatd Press poll and another in the coaches' poll? So what if two teams could buy big, gaudy rings and call themselves national champions? Is that a bad thing? It would be a bad thing in the NFL. Sadly, college football tries harder as the years go by to be a baby NFL.

A playoff certainly is not the answer. Those who relentlessly push for it, need to ask the players what they think. I have yet to find a Division I-A college football player who has any interest in a system that would add several games to the schedule.

The SEC bowl selection system is seriously flawed, too. Bowl invitation day was exciting back in the day when most spots were open to any team the bowl committees thought deserving. Now it's just so much more corporate dealing.

If the SEC office is going to play a part in the selection system, it needs to come up with criteria that make sense. There is no tiebreaker known to man in which Alabama would finish ahead of Ole Miss. The SEC needs to establish a set of rules the bowls must follow or stay out of the process altogether.

Things got downright comical after LSU stunned Tennessee to win the SEC championship. Instead of the Rose Bowl, Tennessee found itself in the Citrus Bowl. That shuffled South Carolina to the Outback Bowl. The Peach Bowl didn't want Georgia. The Cotton Bowl wanted Arkansas. Suddenly, the Music City Bowl couldn't keep its commitment to Alabama.

One of the few SEC bowl rules that is actually followed says a bowl must take a team over the next one in line if the lower team has two fewer wins. Georgia has two more wins than Alabama. Thus, the Crimson Tide was banished to Shreveport for Christmas..

It's a big mess, and it didn't have to be. It's a safe bet that Ole Miss officials are going to howl long and loud. Somebody should pay attention.


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