Be careful what you wish for.
That’s always sage advice, especially at this time of year.
But the same principle should have been applied to college football, though it may be too late to do any good.
All the pundits spent Sunday night applauding the Bowl Championship Series for getting the right teams in its final championship game. Certainly Florida State against Auburn is the game almost everyone wants to see. When the dust cleared Saturday night, they were the two teams left looming over the rest of the field.
Thank you, Michigan State.
Without the Spartans thrashing of previously unbeaten and untested Ohio State, you’d have a fine argument over the respective merits of the Buckeyes and Tigers.
But with that argument rendered moot, BCS executive director Bill Hancock could pound his chest. “What a final season for the BCS,” he exclaimed to Greg Bishop of the New York Times.
“We’ve gotten it right way more times than we’ve created controversy,” Hancock added. “I find it interesting that people tend to focus on the times we’ve had debate.”
People focused on the debate because when controversy erupted, passions were inflamed. Arguments were heated. How do you pacify the 2004 Auburn team that went undefeated but stood by while Southern Cal and Oklahoma played for the championship?
What do you tell the 2007 Georgia team, which at the end of that season was playing the best football of any team in the country, but still got shut out?
The system was indeed flawed, as Urban Meyer pointed out recently. But all it was designed to do was create a game in which the top two teams in the country met at the end of the season. As Hancock savors pointing out, in the 56 years before the BCS, the nation’s top two teams closed out the season against each other eight times.
During the BCS era, the top two teams in the Associated Press rankings met 13 times in 16 years.
The BCS did indeed do what it was intended to do, but college football fans demanded more. They wanted a full playoff, but the BCS stood in the way. The best way to get rid of the BCS was to embroil it in controversy and criticism.
And so, next season, it will come to pass that a new era shall dawn. We’ll finally have our playoff, though a mini-playoff with only four teams.
Get ready for more raging controversy.
You think the arguments over the nation’s top two teams were heated? Guess what? When you add two more teams to the mix, you multiply the number of teams that feel they merit consideration. More teams, more arguments.
The top four teams in the final BCS standings released Sunday were Florida State, Auburn, Alabama, and Michigan State. What if this was 2014?
Florida State remains the nation’s only undefeated team, and most dominant team on the planet. Only Boston College stayed within four touchdowns of the Seminoles.
Auburn, the one-loss champion of the toughest conference in America, with a victory over the two-time defending national champion on its resume, certainly belongs.
But what then? Alabama seemed invincible despite a close win at Texas A&M. Yet two computer rankings have the Tide fifth and sixth. Three coaches voted the Tide out of the top four as well.
Michigan State pounded an Ohio State team that hadn’t lost in two years. But this is a team that chose to play South Florida and Youngstown State. Big Ten rules required that they play Indiana and Purdue. How can you condone such scheduling?
And what about the Baylor Bears? They slipped badly at Oklahoma State, but thrashed Texas with the Big 12 title on the line. And we’ve detailed the Bears’ amazing offense previously in this space. Can you imagine the track meet they might create with Florida State or Auburn?
Of course, you’d have to give Ohio State careful consideration as well, as fairness dictates including all the one-loss teams. However, most were quick to dismiss the Buckeyes after Saturday’s loss. And realistically, one-loss Central Florida, Louisville, Fresno State and Northern Illinois didn’t play schedules worthy of final four inclusion.
How close is the final call? Consider that 23 of 62 voters in the coaches’ poll had the Spartans out of the top four on their latest ballot. That’s 37 percent, which tells us there is plenty of room for debate.
Meanwhile, 17 coaches (27 percent) had Baylor in the top four.
Which team do you choose? Which team do you send home?
Without a doubt, we’ll find out a year from now. It’s what we wished for.
Denton Ashway is a contributing columnist for The Times. His columns appear Wednesdays.