by Drew Giudice
I’d like to reflect on the end of an era. In a few short days, we will see the last ever installment of the BCS standings. In January, the final edition of the BCS National Championship Game will be played. Starting with the 1998 season and tweaked numerous times since, the BCS was created to match the top two teams at season’s end in the same bowl game. Yes, it may surprise some of you; the season didn’t always finish with the number-one team playing the second-ranked one. Prior to 1998, teams would be selected for bowls, the games would be played and voters decided the national champions Jan. 3 or 4.
This resulted in split national championships between the two major polls, voted on by the Coaches’ Poll and the Associated Press. In 1997, Nebraska was named the national champions by the Coaches’ Poll and Michigan claimed the AP national championship. In 1991, Miami was crowned by the AP while Washington took home Coaches’ #1 ranking.
Two different national champions? That sounds like a tie to me. And this is America, where Ricky Bobby says, “If you ain’t first you’re last.” The BCS was a major upgrade over the poll system, pitting #1 against #2 every year. The only problem? The difference between #2 and #3 isn’t always clear.
Take the 2000 season for an example. The final standings were #1 Oklahoma (12-0), #2 Florida State (11-1), #3 Miami (10-1), and #4 Washington (10-1). That season, Florida State lost to the #3 Hurricanes. Miami lost to the #4 Huskies.
In 2004, there was another problem. The final standings were #1 USC (12-0), #2 Oklahoma (12-0), and #3 Auburn (12-0). No luck for the Tigers; they were delegated to the Sugar Bowl where they handled Virginia Tech. USC beat Oklahoma, 55-19.
Starting next season, a selection committee similar to the one that picks the NCAA Tournament field for basketball will choose the top four teams and match #1 against #4 and #2 against #3. The winners of these two semifinals will play the following week in a championship.
Currently, Florida State and Ohio State are both undefeated and ranked in the top two. The wacky world of the BCS forces the argument whether an SEC champion with one loss should be ranked ahead of an undefeated Buckeyes team. Here’s to wishing football’s version of the Final Four was one year earlier.