For its latest trick, the BCS renders the SEC title game moot

"Which year is it? The year you have to win your conference or the year you don't?" (AP photo)

"Is this the year you have to win your conference or the year you don't?" (AP photo)

Q: When is a conference championship really just a exhibition game?

A: When the BCS “system,” whatever that happens to be in a given year, gets its maladroit hands on it.

LSU faces Georgia for the SEC title Saturday at the Georgia Dome. If LSU wins, it will play for the BCS title. If LSU loses, it figures to play for the BCS title anyway.

This is college football, where we’re told Every Game Counts. This year another big fat asterisk gets attached: Every game counts except the SEC championship, which lately has counted the most. And that’s not the worst part.

On Sunday I was speaking with Falcons center Todd McClure, who has a figurative dog in this fight. (He played at LSU.) When I mentioned that I’d rather be Alabama, which is guaranteed not to lose another game before the final BCS standings are announced, than the Tigers, he said: “Do you think that’s fair?”

No, I don’t think it’s fair. The BCS is never fair. Occasionally there comes a year in which the outcry is minimal, and invariably some talking head will say, “The BCS worked this time.” Reality check: The BCS never works. The best the BCS ever can hope is to get lucky.

Case study in inconsistency: In 2007 Georgia was ranked No. 4 in the next-to-last BCS standings. The teams ranked first and second — Missouri and West Virginia — lost on the regular season’s final weekend. Georgia didn’t play. It  finished atop the SEC East but was shaded by Tennessee on a tiebreaker. LSU, which had lost its final regular-season game to Arkansas, beat the Vols for the SEC title, and the Tigers got to play for the BCS title.

LSU moved from No. 7 to No. 2. Georgia didn’t play a game and slid to No. 5. Why? Because LSU coach Les Miles kept making the point that his team had “won its conference” and because the many talking heads on ESPN took up the cry. (As we know, what’s said on ESPN has an outsize effect on college football, the only sport in which opinions matter.)

Some of the same voices who’d lobbied for an Ohio State-Michigan rematch in the 2006 BCS title game dismissed Georgia a year later because It Hadn’t Won Its Conference. Never mind that winning your conference isn’t a criterion for BCS title inclusion. Never mind that Michigan hadn’t won the Big Ten the year before. This just seemed like the thing to say at that moment in time, and by golly those ESPN chatterers kept saying it until it became reality.

Georgia wasn’t passed just by LSU but also by Oklahoma and Virginia Tech; see, the Sooners and Hokies had won their conferences. After that season, the BCS considered making a conference title a prerequisite for a berth in the BCS title game but decided against it, which is a good thing if you’re Alabama but another pie in the face if you’re a fan of consistent thought.

If you’re a BCS hater — and who isn’t? — you have to root for Georgia to beat LSU and render this ongoing farce even more farcical. Picture the incongruity: The Bulldogs hoist the SEC championship trophy on Saturday night and trot off to the Sugar Bowl to play this year’s version of Hawaii, and 24 hours later not one but two SEC non-champions get invited to the game that’s supposed to reveal the nation’s best team.

And now you’re asking: Don’t LSU and Alabama look like the nation’s top two teams? LSU has been the absolute best team from start to finish, but the Tigers still have a game to play. The Tide lost its biggest game on its home field and has beaten two teams ranked in the BCS Top 25. If Oklahoma State, which is ranked No. 3 to Alabama’s No. 2, beats Oklahoma on Saturday, the Cowboys will have beaten five Top 25 teams and will be the Big 12 champ. Should Alabama get that nod just because it plays in the almighty SEC and is, you know, Alabama?

The problem with the BCS is that it can tweak its “system” until the cows come home and never be prepared for the vagaries of a given season. And with conferences expanding to elephantine size and schedules growing more imbalanced, this will only get worse. Four years ago Georgia was penalized for not playing in the SEC title game; this time Alabama could be handed a de facto semifinal bye.

Do I think the BCS is fair? Yes indeed. A fairly Big Crock of Sludge.

By Mark Bradley

810 comments Add your comment

Buzziswiser

November 28th, 2011
1:37 pm

1st ?, but not on Saturday

Trojan

November 28th, 2011
1:38 pm

Great article. Great point. BCS and ESPN make me want to puke.

Drganz

November 28th, 2011
1:39 pm

Mark
Right on the money – Dawgs had hottest team in the country in 2007 but couldn’t possibly go to the NC game cause they didn’t win their conference – what a joke if Alabama gets to play for it – who did they beat besides a bad Penn State team, a bad Auburn team, and an obviously not very good on the road Arkansas team? The whole system stinks and it stinks every year

RaleighDawg

November 28th, 2011
1:40 pm

RaleighDawg

November 28th, 2011
1:40 pm

….almost anyways….

amartindawg

November 28th, 2011
1:40 pm

Dawg in the Northwoods

November 28th, 2011
1:41 pm

could it be finally?

Let’s just win Saturday and let the chips fall where they may.

Brian Harris-Georgia Southern University

November 28th, 2011
1:42 pm

First.

Well said. It is amazing to think that two teams that are from the same conference may play for the National Championship and neither won the conference. If UGA wins this weekend then the BCS delivers another blow to college football fans everywhere. I go to Georgia Southern and I can tell you that there is nothing like playoffs in college football. The atmosphere surrounding a win or go home game is unrivaled. BCS needs to go and playoffs for FBS need to be figured out.

Sid

November 28th, 2011
1:42 pm

“maladroit” damn it, had to look that one up…………..

Rebel Roy

November 28th, 2011
1:43 pm

First!

One idea is for the sponsors to refuse to buy advertisement during the game until there is a playoff. Although that will never happen!

DDPO

November 28th, 2011
1:43 pm

If OSU beats OU, then they should have a shot at LSU. The Big 12 has been very competitive this year. Bama lost to LSU on their home field.

If Bama beats LSU, then do you have a split title?

Mark Bradley

November 28th, 2011
1:44 pm

Kudos, Buzziswiser.

Sid

November 28th, 2011
1:44 pm

Don’t know why, LSU should win the game …………but I gotta gut feeling Georgia wins this one with Munson calling the game from the Heavens.

Trojan

November 28th, 2011
1:44 pm

Is it corruption?

RD

November 28th, 2011
1:44 pm

So, why blame Alabama for this BCS fiasco? Most believe that the two best teams this year are LSU and Alabama…..you can’t ignore that? If Alabama doesn’t play LSU, what of the remaining teams are you going to “select”?
The BCS system is what it is. Live with it or change it. Better yet, put pressure on the college Presidents and demand a change. Quit complaining and live with it. The same people complain about the same thing year after year. Nothing changes, so live with it.

Perhaps....

November 28th, 2011
1:44 pm

The only reason LSU, Bama and Arkansas are so highly ranked is because they were able to avoid playing UGA this year!

DDPO

November 28th, 2011
1:45 pm

Excellent point by Drganz

nola dawg fan

November 28th, 2011
1:46 pm

good read as always Mark.

MB – do you think if UGA wins, the ESPN talking heads will start pushig for OKie state? I say they will… and OK ST will jump Bama (assuming they beat OU of course)

Mark Bradley

November 28th, 2011
1:46 pm

That’s kind of the point, RD. Nothing gets done. The presidents won’t touch this issue because the bowls are almighty.

Mark Bradley

November 28th, 2011
1:47 pm

I think there’s a slight chance of a late Oklahoma State backlash, nola dawg fan. A slight chance.

UGA 11

November 28th, 2011
1:48 pm

RD – “Nothing changes, so live with it.”

Great advice right here. If history teaches us anything it’s that sitting idly by will guarantee results. Just look at every revolution to take hold – they would have happened infinitely faster if everyone had just sucked it up and lived with it!

atl29fan

November 28th, 2011
1:48 pm

Amen Mark! Preach it! As a Dawg fan, I am constantly amazed that no one in the media mentions the 2007 scenario that cost Georgia a shot. It doesn’t fit their agendas this year, so why bring it up?

RichtOWNStech

November 28th, 2011
1:48 pm

Spot on Mark, great point about Les moaning about having to win your conference, yet Bama fairs better for not having done so.

Other issue is if UGA loses (as predicted) then they get punished for the loss by going to the Outback Bowl and sending the Gamecocks to the higher paying Capitol One. (yet the Gamecocks lost at home to a LOUSY Auburn team)

Go Dawgs!

Durrty Dogg

November 28th, 2011
1:48 pm

Hey Mark. You prove my point once again. ESPN does not like Georgia. Not just UGA. Everyone of our teams. Yet, we still watch and we still support them.

midga gtfan

November 28th, 2011
1:49 pm

The BCS is setting itself up for failure. If the BCS title game is a rematch of LSU-ALABAMA who in the nation besides the SEC faithful are going to watch that game. Three quarters of the country will be happily going about thier lives not caring about the BCS game.

Murphy

November 28th, 2011
1:49 pm

@ Sid,

Totally agree. Munson and Erk will give us a dose of Ole Lady Luck on Saturday

nola dawg fan

November 28th, 2011
1:50 pm

thanks Mark as always for the quick reply. I am calling it here… if UGA can pull the big upset ESPN WILL NOT allow 2 non-conf champs play for MNC. It will be LSU vs OK St

Scott

November 28th, 2011
1:50 pm

Thanks Mark. Good points indeed. As a Georgia fan I am frustrated by the inconsistencies of the system. Its not that I think UGA deserves a shot this year; its just that the logic we were sold in 2007 doesn’t apply this year. I have come to believe that the only trophy that has meaning is the conference (SEC) championship and UGA will get a shot at that one on Saturday night! Go Dawgs!

Murphy

November 28th, 2011
1:51 pm

nola dawg fan,

Or Bama vs Okie St

gaBuck

November 28th, 2011
1:52 pm

Enter your comments here they should just call it the “ESPN” national championship game.

Buckeye

November 28th, 2011
1:52 pm

It will be moot regardless.

It will be an exhibition of LSU dominance. The dogs will not be able to keep up with the SEC speed….or at least the Big 2 of the SEC West speed.

You Ain't-Know Gaily Whacker

November 28th, 2011
1:52 pm

Cry me a river!!!!!!!!!!!! If you want a college football playoff do not attend the first home game in

2012. Money talks. Otherwise, just win your games.

nola dawg fan

November 28th, 2011
1:52 pm

good point Murphy… i just think on blogs, discussion boards ,talk radio, etc… there will be a rallying cry saying you can’t let 2 teams that didn’t win their conf play.

Bill

November 28th, 2011
1:52 pm

Georgia got shaded by Tennessee? Is that the term UGA is using instead of “loss?

Murphy

November 28th, 2011
1:53 pm

Buckeye,

We all know you are an expert at watching the speed of the SEC!

Hogfish

November 28th, 2011
1:54 pm

If Georgia beats LSU on Saturday (and that is a big IF), is the BCS going to allow 3 teams from one conference into BCS games assuming LSU and Alabama play for the championship and Georgia to the Sugar Bowl

PMC

November 28th, 2011
1:54 pm

The only thing that’s going to change it is if people en masse stop supporting bowl games.

PMC

November 28th, 2011
1:55 pm

College presidents don’t care about who wins, or even matchups. They just want the money Lebowski.

St Simons - we're on Island time

November 28th, 2011
1:55 pm

Why does ESPN hate Georgia so much?

Murphy

November 28th, 2011
1:55 pm

@Hogfish,

Yes there is a provision in the BSC for this situation.UGA would play in the Sugar Bowl

Jason

November 28th, 2011
1:55 pm

Lsu also lost two games that year by i think 5 points and one was in ot. Uga had two losses one a 21 point blowout by tenn. Had they lost close that year, it probably would have been different so they have no room to complain. As for lsu, what other team deserves a chance? Everyone else has had a stink game. Do you put ok state with a bad loss to an unranked team ahead of lsu or bama? All this is solved with a plus one anyway but the idiots that run college football are just that..idiots.

RunningDog

November 28th, 2011
1:56 pm

Do we really need any more proof as to how ridiculous the BCS system is? All we’ve heard is how “every game is a playoff game” during the regular season. The emperor has no clothes. Pay not attention to the man behind the curtain.

piermontdawgny

November 28th, 2011
1:57 pm

dawgs win 42-31

Red-N-Black

November 28th, 2011
1:57 pm

midga gtfan

November 28th, 2011
1:49 pm
The BCS is setting itself up for failure. If the BCS title game is a rematch of LSU-ALABAMA who in the nation besides the SEC faithful are going to watch that game. Three quarters of the country will be happily going about thier lives not caring about the BCS game.

You my friend are 1billion percent correct, and being a Dawg lover I will be doing the same why? Because the best team in the SEC (should UGA win) will have already played and let’s face it watching Saban lost it’s appeal years ago.

Ted M

November 28th, 2011
1:57 pm

Great blog Mark.

I could easily do away with all the conference champ games and have a 16 team playoff. Which, of coarse, would be great thing ever in sports.

Tar Tar Sauce

November 28th, 2011
1:58 pm

Amen Mark, its all a crock of half baked bullsheet!!

Red-N-Black

November 28th, 2011
1:58 pm

Mark is there any way possible to deliver this to the ESPN college game day crew email addy’s? I’ll do it if you can provide me with the addresses. ;)

Ted M

November 28th, 2011
1:59 pm

“I” could easily do away…ha ha ha oops..”They” could easily do away

Seth

November 28th, 2011
2:00 pm

Alabama has one lost in ot to the best team in the country. They have blown out everyone else. Ga lost two games that year, one being a blowout. Don’t even try to compare. And the conference thing…that’s the problem when you have the two best teams in the same division. Just because ga won the east doesn’t mean crap. The sec east is awful this year. Alabama deserves the rematch becsause they earned it with their record and play. Ok state had their chance and lost to a bad iowa st team. But if the morons running the ncaa had a clue, they would adopt at least a plus one game and 1 plays 4 and 2 plays 3. And guess what. You’d still have a bama lsu rematch.

tmc

November 28th, 2011
2:02 pm

everything with the NCAA, BCS and the bowl system screams:
CORRUPTION!

I hate the all.