Ridiculous BCS System Needs Reform

Columnist Phillip Marshall analyzes the top football teams in the country, the BCS system and what needs to be done to fix the mess.

On something of a bizarre day, I'll start this humble offering with the way I would have voted the Top 10 had I participated in this year's Associated Press poll.

1. Auburn: The Tigers beat four teams ranked in the final top 15, including beating the No. 15 team twice. One of those victories was by 24 points, one by 18 and one by 10. No one else came close to matching that. Strength of schedule? It's a fabricated issue. Auburn, USC and Oklahoma, the three BCS unbeatens, played a handful of teams good enough to give them tests. In those games, Auburn was clearly better.

2. USC. The Trojans don't look as strong to me as they did last season, but they have a bunch of playmakers on offense. I think they will beat Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.

3. Oklahoma. The Sooners beat Oklahoma State because of a missed field goal. They beat Texas A&M, which had lost to Baylor the previous week, because Reggie McNeal was injured and missed most of the second half.

4. California: The computers say the Golden Bears play in the toughest conference in the nation. I say they play in no better than the fourth toughest conference in the nation. But of the once-beaten teams, their one loss was the most impressive. They really should have beaten USC.

5. Texas: The Longhorns have a terrific mixture of the run and the pass. If only they could beat Oklahoma, they might actually win a championship one day.

6. Utah: You have to give the Utes credit for going undefeated, but the truth is they probably wouldn't be in the Top 25 if they had to play in any BCS conference other than the Big East.

7. Georgia: The Bulldogs were terrific for most of the season. Their only losses were to Auburn and Tennessee. Their 41-16 rout of LSU was one of the more impressive performances of the season.

8. Virginia Tech: A blown call by a trusty SEC official might have cost the Hokies a win in their opener against USC, and eventually cost Auburn a berth in the Orange Bowl. They slipped up by a point against North Carolina State.

9. Louisville: Had a defensive back not dropped a sure interception against Miami, the Cardinals would be unbeaten and on their way to a BCS bowl.

10. LSU: The Bayou Bengals had to mix and match at quarterback all season. They struggled a lot, yet their only two losses ended up being to the No. 3 and No. 8 teams in the final poll.

Having been a voter half a dozen times, I know that different people look at it different ways. I always attempted to look at the season as a whole and not base too much on one game. The only legitimate reason I can find to vote USC or Oklahoma ahead of Auburn is that they were there in the preseason poll, and that's not a legitimate reason to me.

Courtney Taylor makes a touchdown catch vs. Tennessee in the SEC Championship Game.

It seems Auburn's 24-6 victory over Georgia, maybe the most impressive performance of the season by any team, was quickly forgotten because the Tigers didn't blow out Alabama and Tennessee.

So why did it happen?

1. Plain bad luck. It is rare for the preseason No. 1 team to go through the season unbeaten. It is unheard of for the top two to do it. Many voters are reluctant to move teams down if they don't lose. If Auburn had gone 12-0 in any other season in the BCS era, it would have easily been in the championship game.

2. Jealousy of the SEC. I believe this is a major factor. Since midseason, there has been rampant talk that the SEC is "down" this season. ESPN analyst Lee Corso said Saturday night that the SEC is the best league in college football, then he said East Division champion Tennessee was average and unbeaten champion Auburn didn't deserve to play in the Orange Bowl. Am I missing something?

3. The Citadel. It just didn't sound good. LSU played Division I-AA Western Illinois last season, but no one even seemed to notice. The Citadel just sounds like a cupcake.

4. Closer games at the wrong time. Most of Auburn's games were over at halftime, but the Tigers had some struggles against Alabama and Tennessee. That was the last impression some voters had.

Are those legitimate reasons? Not in my way of thinking, but it happened and that's that. The sad thing is that the BCS controversy has seemingly made it impossible for a lot of Auburn folks to enjoy a remarkable season. Auburn players obviously can't enjoy it as much as they deserve to enjoy it.

In my mind, this Auburn team can establish itself as the best in school history with a win over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. It's already done more than any team in the 1980s, probably the greatest decade in Auburn history, did. Considering where things were a year ago, that is one remarkable feat.

Maybe, as a result of this circus, the ridiculous system in place can somehow be changed. The logical thing to do is add one game after the bowl games to decide the national champion. There would still be controversy, but it's virtually impossible there would ever be more than four teams with perfect records from BCS conferences. This year that would mean USC playing Texas in one bowl and Auburn playing Oklahoma in another. You think that might generate some interest? The winners would meet for the national championship and add just one week to the season.

If those who run the BCS won't do that, they should just ditch the entire thing and go back to the old way. They won't do that because there is money in the new way. And never doubt that money is what it's all about.


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