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Looking at the BCS situation

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

Joe Ellison

Excluding the two recent seasons when undefeated teams met in the college football title game, the Bowl Championship Series poll has sparked nothing but controversy. This year is no exception. Last Saturday’s Oklahoma loss left the majority of fans wishing for a Louisiana State vs. Southern California national championship contest, but instead they will be watching LSU take on Oklahoma. The fans’ strongest argument is that since Oklahoma lost its conference championship game 35-7, the Sooners should be the one-loss team not invited to the title match-up.

But we should all remember that the situation could be worse. Two years ago Nebraska lost its final regular season game to Colorado 62-36. Because of the defeat, Nebraska was unable to win the Big 12 championship. In fact, the Cornhuskers didn’t even play in their conference title game because they failed to finish on top in their own North Division. Yet the Huskers amazingly ended up slightly ahead of Colorado in the final BCS poll and were invited to the national championship game.

What we learned in 2001 is that the timing of a loss is unimportant because the BCS relies so heavily on seven computer programs and strengths of schedules to determine its rankings. The computers look at the entire year equally, while human polls are influenced most by the latest games. Taking that approach, everyone can understand why Oklahoma and LSU wound up No. 1 and 2 in the BCS this season. They played in the tougher conferences.

In the Big 12, besides Oklahoma, there are strong teams such as Kansas State, Texas, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Texas Tech and Missouri. In the Southeastern Conference with LSU are quality teams like Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Auburn and Arkansas. But in the Pacific-10 USC’s strongest competitors were Washington State, Oregon and California, which clearly makes it the weakest of the three leagues.

Another way to separate the three teams would be to factor in who they each lost to. Oklahoma lost to a Kansas State squad ranked in the top 10. LSU was defeated by Florida, who is rated in the top 15. USC, however, was humbled by unranked California, a club with six losses on its resume, including one to Kansas State.

Furthermore, is it fair that Oklahoma played Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game in Kansas City? Is it fair that LSU played Georgia in the SEC Championship in Atlanta? Is it fair that USC’s PAC-10 doesn’t even have a conference title game? The answer to all three of those questions is no. The three top teams were never on a level playing field, and the one that went untested, USC, rightfully ended up being the one excluded.

In my opinion, the computers put the two strongest regular season teams in the BCS title game. Had Oklahoma lost first, and not last of the three colleges in question, the Sooners would currently be ranked No. 1 in the human polls. If LSU had lost before USC, the Tigers would be rated ahead of the Trojans in the media polls too. Since the computers do not factor in when a team lost, one must accept the Oklahoma-LSU match-up as legitimate.

But certainly the way things worked out raises some more questions. Doesn’t it seem overly geographically convenient that LSU is playing in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, and USC is playing in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena? Could there have been some secret numbers adjusting to the BCS poll to ensure excellent fan turnouts at both games?

The fact of the matter is, the university that should be complaining the most about everything, USC, isn’t complaining at all, so why should we? Trojan fans have never traveled well anyway, so staying home is much more attractive to them than going all the way to Louisiana. When all is said and done, if USC beats Michigan in the Rose Bowl, the Trojans can consider themselves the human, or peoples’ champion, and not the cruddy BCS champ.

College football fans now have two championship games to watch, which is entertaining, but if USC wins, a true national champion will not be crowned this year. One extra supergame after the bowls would determine a champion, but if an undefeated Oklahoma was forced to play a two-loss Michigan squad, how fair would that have been to Oklahoma? A four-team playoff would be the best way to go, but it does still create the possibility of a two-loss team winning it all, so even that has the potential of being controversial. We can only take it season by season, so let’s just hope USC loses so there will be an undisputed national champion this year, and worry about the BCS all over again in 2004.

– Heisman Trophy – My choice and prediction is Oklahoma quarterback Jason White. He led the nation in passing efficiency with 40 touchdowns and only eight interceptions, while sitting out about a game and a half in blowout victories. White also is the sentimental choice, having torn up a knee two years ago, and tearing up his other knee last season. Second – Eli Manning. Third – Larry Fitzgerald.

– Two bowl games will be played before next Friday.

New Orleans – North Texas went 7-0 in the Sun Belt, and last year the Mean Green beat Cincinnati 44-19 in this bowl. I like North Texas +5 against Memphis.

GMAC – With all apologies to Boise State, Miami-Ohio is the best non-BCS team in the country. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger should be an NFL first round draft pick. I’m taking Miami-Ohio -13 over Louisville.

Joe Ellison is the Nevada Appeal Betting Columnist. Leave a message for him at editor@nevadaappeal.com.