BCS keeps a bracket away another year info
SYSTEM HAS WORKED, BUT THERE REMAIN A FEW QUESTIONS
By Jon Wilner
Three days from Bowl Championship Series selection day, and the biggest winner is not top-ranked Ohio State, surging USC or hanging-with-the-big-boys Boise State.
The biggest winner is the system. It's working -- again.
It delivered a pulsating November.
If USC beats UCLA on Saturday, the system will deliver the national-title matchup most of the nation wants: Ohio State vs. USC. And if USC loses, it will deliver Ohio State-Michigan, which might not be perfect but is hardly the doomsday scenario needed to push the lords of college football closer to a playoff.
``Attendance is up; ratings are up; interest is up; regional games have become national games of import,'' Mike Slive, the BCS coordinator and Southeastern Conference commissioner, said on a teleconference Wednesday. ``The BCS helps make every weekend in a sense -- I hate to use the word playoff -- but in a sense, it is a playoff.''
The first portion of Slive's ``playoff'' system concludes Sunday with the release of the final BCS standings, the announcement of bowl pairings and the presumed grumbling from Michigan and Florida.
In anticipation of low-grade controversy, here's a selection day primer:
Is USC in the title game?
According to BCS analyst Jerry Palm, it's highly unlikely the Trojans would fall from the No. 2 spot if they win Saturday. They hold a 0.01 advantage over Michigan in the computers, a margin that could expand with a victory but certainly won't shrink, and also lead Michigan by 97 points in the Harris poll and by 46 points in the coaches' poll.
``Half the voters are going to have to change their mind between USC and Michigan,'' Palm said. ``That's not realistic unless USC wins on a bad call -- that's what would have to happen.''
No. 4 Florida, which plays Arkansas in the SEC title game, has even more ground to cover: 183 points in the Harris poll, 86 points in the coaches' poll, plus a deficit in the computers.
Is Notre Dame in the BCS?
The Irish are No. 10 in the latest standings and have completed their regular season. As long as they're in the top 14 on Sunday -- bet the college fund -- they will receive an at-large berth to the Rose Bowl or the Sugar Bowl.
Who's in the Rose Bowl?
If USC reaches the national-title game, the Rose Bowl will have to fill a spot opposite Michigan. The choices are Notre Dame and Louisiana State.
Notre Dame lost big to Michigan early in the season and just lost big to USC a few miles down the road from Pasadena. But the Irish are a huge TV draw -- what say you, ABC? -- and they haven't played in the Rose Bowl since 1925, when they were led by four guys on horseback.
Meanwhile, LSU has no history in Southern California and didn't even win its division in the SEC. But the No. 5 Tigers are ranked higher than Notre Dame and seen as a more worthy opponent for Michigan.
Of course, if USC loses to UCLA and Michigan jumps into the title game, then the Trojans will face LSU in the Rose Bowl. Count on it.
Where's Boise State headed?
The Fiesta Bowl, in Tempe, Ariz., makes the most sense geographically. Plus -- there isn't a polite way to say this -- no one else really wants the Broncos. They're a nice story, but they aren't much of a TV draw and probably won't sell many tickets beyond the Idaho state line.
The Rose, which has the first two picks of teams in the at-large pool, won't take the Broncos. The Sugar, which picks third, won't take them, and the Orange, picking fourth, doesn't want them.
That leaves the Fiesta, where the Broncos will face the Big 12 champion (Nebraska or Oklahoma).
Where did Cal go wrong?
The Bears got stomped in their two biggest games of the season, at Tennessee and at USC. But the defeat that doomed their Rose Bowl charge was the Nov. 11 come-from-ahead loss at Arizona.
Had the Bears held a 17-3 third-quarter lead, they'd be a two-loss team ranked in the top 14, making them eligible for an at-large bid.
``They'd be on their way to the Rose Bowl,'' Pacific-10 Commissioner Tom Hansen said. ``It's so sad.''
Is that instant-replay gaffe keeping Oklahoma out of the title game?
Had Pac-10 officials gotten that onside-kick call correct Sept. 16 in Eugene -- Oklahoma should have been awarded possession, not Oregon -- the Sooners would be a one-loss team ranked in the top 10. How highly?
``They'd probably be around fifth, behind Florida,'' Palm said. ``But they'd be part of the discussion.''
That's just what the Pac-10, which hoped the blunder wouldn't impact Oklahoma's season, wants to hear.