published Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Wiedmer: Maybe BCS is better than we think

To paraphrase that early Bowl Championship Series supporter Billy Shakespeare, could there be the slightest chance that we all doth protest too much regarding the BCS process?

Could it be that the formula is perfect and we're the train wreck, a football nation of Chicken Littles needlessly obsessing over scenarios that never seem to arise?

Check the BCS standings today and you'll see two undefeated teams from major conferences at the top of the standings: No. 1 Florida State and No. 2 Ohio State.

Not three teams. Or four. Or six.

Just two.

The perfect number.

And should those two teams escape their conference title games this weekend, they'll both likely reach the BCS championship game on Jan. 6 at the Rose Bowl, once more perfectly executing a formula that has exhibited a serious flaw just thrice in its 15-year history to date. Let that rightness jump to 13 of 16 on Sunday and the BCS will have worked as planned 81 percent of the time.

If only marriage, diets and Alabama field-goal kickers could claim such success rates.

Not that those three imperfections should be ignored. Especially not this week, when Auburn figures to be affected by the BCS format for a third time.

As anyone who's ever joyously shouted "War Eagle!" will quickly remind you, the first and worst of those BCS flaws surfaced in 2004, when an undefeated Auburn was passed over in favor of fellow unbeatens Oklahoma and Southern Cal. Beyond that, Utah also finished unbeaten and unloved, though it did reach that year's Fiesta Bowl out of the Mountain West Conference, a non-BCS league at that time.

The second imperfection came in 2008, when Utah again went undefeated, was left to play once-beaten Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and thoroughly laid low the Tide, 31-17.

That was followed by a slight argument in 2009 by Cincinnati, which ran through the Big East Conference but fell short of eventual national champ Alabama and Texas in the BCS rankings. By losing its bowl game, however, the Bearcats lost any right to complain.

That was less true of TCU in 2010. Auburn won the BCS crown by defeating Oregon but was spared playing fellow unbeaten TCU, which nipped Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.

No one will ever know if those 2004 Auburn and Utah squads, that 2008 Utes bunch or that 2010 TCU team could have knocked off those season's proclaimed champs, but those remain the only serious examples where the system may have faltered.

So even if it hasn't been perfect, it's been right far more than it has been wrong. In fact, the 2004 Auburn team probably remains the only program that has a serious beef about the process, especially given the fact the SEC has won the last seven BCS titles.

That fact alone is almost enough for War Eagle Nation to make a compelling argument that this year's outrageously magical season -- even if it doesn't ultimately squeeze the Tigers into the BCS title game -- is some sort of cosmic payback for that 2004 slight.

But Tuesday also produced another reason to root for Auburn. Or any other school dealing with rumors that its head coach is headed out the door before he can at least oversee the final game of this season.

According to Sports Illustrated's Pete Thamel, a former New York Times reporter, Malzahn should jump to Texas, a school that is said to have grown tired of Mack Brown. There are rumors that the Longhorns are Malzahn's dream job and there is little doubt that few programs anywhere -- even Alabama, Southern Cal and Ohio State -- can match Texas' bottomless pockets.

But couldn't all this wait a few days, at least until after Saturday night's SEC championship game? Whatever you think of this bizarre Auburn season, shouldn't every fan base in the Tigers' situation get to enjoy the ride until the ride ends?

Maybe Auburn wins on Saturday and maybe it doesn't. Maybe it won't matter. Let Ohio State and Florida State both wrap up their seasons with 13-0 records, and regardless of what you think of their schedules, they did all they could do. They won them all.

As for whether the Seminoles would have won them all without quarterback Jameis Winston, who's being investigated for sexual assault, that's another story for another day.

But for this day, and the remaining days leading up to Saturday's conference title games, the inconvenient truth is that the BCS has done its job pretty darn well most of the time. If we ever learn to view patience as more of a virtue than a vice in this country, we might finally recognize that.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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WilliamRscott said...

2 words regarding Auburn's 2004 season: The Citadel.

Billy-In-Brainerd

December 4, 2013 at 11:23 a.m.
MocTastic said...

With regard to the BCS maybe getting one right...remember, even a blind squirrel occasionally finds an acorn.

December 4, 2013 at 12:07 p.m.
Dirtdobberz said...

Exactly what I've been saying for years Mr. Wiedmer. The BCS wasn't built to be perfect. It was built to keep undefeated teams from going to opposite bowls. 20 years ago, FSU would've gone to the Orange Bowl, while Ohio State would go to the Rose, and Auburn/Mizzou would go to the Sugar. Then the biased polls would have decided the National Champ. It is much much better than the system prior. And next year will be one step better....

December 4, 2013 at 11:06 p.m.
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