BCS misfires through the years

In mulling over the man-vs.-machine debate that arises each time the Bowl Championship Series standings spark controversy, my mind drifts towards a Saturday Night Live skit of years past...

In a lampoon of ABC News Nightline, the setting is the aftermath of when chess maestro Gary Kasparov played – and lost – a game of chess to an IBM computer back in 1997. The incomparable Darrell Hammond's Ted Koppel character interviews a forlorn Kasparov. The Unabomber, played by Will Ferrell, rounds out the panel.

Ferrell's cheerful Unabomber, from his jail cell, feels his views are finally vindicated ("Hey everybody it's me, ‘craaaazy' Ted Kaczynski," he quips). Koppel soon becomes unglued over the prospect of man being dominated by the very machines it created.

"The metal ones will never take me alive!" he screams before leaving studio

Stanford's No. 4 BCS ranking – and the automatic BCS bid that comes with it – allows for peace of mind. The Cardinal have entered the clubhouse and carded their score of 11-1, mindful that the whims of the BCS computers won't send them to a second-tier bowl game.

Consider Stanford extra fortunate. Previous Cal and Oregon editions only wish they were as lucky. Their plights show that a Pac-10 side is better off securing its own destiny, instead of relying on a vague system for help. Here are years where conference teams have been beneficiaries – and victims – of the BCS machine. Can't blame Mike Bellotti for wanting go all Unabomber on the whole thing.

Winner: Oregon State (10-1). The Beavers shared the same record with Michael Vick and Virginia Tech but played themselves into the field after squashing 9-1 Oregon in the Civil War. Thankfully for them, the Fiesta Bowl was set on a West Coast team facing Notre Dame once Pac-10 champ Washington (10-1) qualified for Pasadena.

Loser: Oregon (10-1). His team a steady No. 2 in both major polls, Bellotti called the BCS a "cancer" after the Ducks weren't picked to face Miami in the Rose Bowl. The outcry was indeed universal, once Nebraska – a 62-36 loser to Colorado and a team that didn't even reach the Big XII title game – somehow made the cut instead.
Winner: Stanford (9-2), though that only looked great on paper. The Cardinal's No. 9 spot in the final regular season standings was a huge measure of progress, but it meant bupkus (Seattle Bowl) towards the postseason.

Loser: Logic. For the third time in four years, the human element was ignored and the BCS title game featured a pairing that defied reason. Once-beaten Oklahoma – which lost 35-7 to Kansas State in the Big XII championship – reached the Sugar Bowl over a USC (10-1) team that stood No. 1 in both the AP and ESPN polls.
Winner: Tradition. The Rose Bowl couldn't have asked for a better scenario, once the BCS spit out another system error. The Granddaddy featured a delicious matchup of the Trojans and fourth-ranked Michigan. USC became the first top-ranked team – not counting Miami in the 2001 BCS title game – to play in the Rose Bowl since Ohio State 23 years earlier.

Winner: USC. Until the probation posse rode into town, these Trojans were simply known as one of the Pac-10's all-time best teams.
Loser: Cal. Like Stanford this year, the Bears aimed for the automatic BCS berth that came with a No. 4 standing. In beating a solid Southern Mississippi team by ten points in the season's final game, how did the 10-1 Bears – No. 4 in both human polls – get locked out of the Rose Bowl in favor of a Texas team with the same record? Here goes.

The BCS computers favored the AP/ESPN No. 5 Longhorns' strength of schedule, putting them higher than the Bears. Texas closed the gap that existed between it and Cal, once the Bears won 26-16 and many coaches cast ballots for the Horns at No. 4. That narrowed margin combined with the computer bias to slip Texas into fourth in the BCS. Utah (11-0) made the Fiesta Bowl by virtue of its top-six standing, required for a non-BCS conference champ to get an automatic berth. Cal plummeted to the Holiday Bowl.

Winner: The Rose Bowl, considering the monumental game that took place there between USC and Vince Young's Longhorns.
Loser: Oregon. Just like Stanford Stadium this weekend, chants of "B-C-S, B-C-S!" filled Autzen Stadium as the Ducks dismantled Oregon State. A 10-1 record was blemished only by a loss to USC, but BCS No. 5 Oregon was still left out. The Fiesta Bowl tabbed Notre Dame (9-2) to face Ohio State (9-2), leaving the Ducks in the Holiday Bowl and television viewers in agony. Buckeye linebacker A.J. Hawk was dating Brady Quinn's sister, or so Brent Musburger reminded us about 78 times throughout the telecast.

Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!

The Bootleg Top Stories