By Michael Schwartz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Team A ranks fifth in the current Bowl Championship Series standings, sports a 9-1 record in one of the toughest conferences in the country and has only lost a close game to the nation's second-best team.
Team B holds the 21st spot in the BCS, has gone 7-2 in a conference with no teams ranked in the top 20 of the BCS and has fallen to two unranked teams.
Conventional logic says that Team A would have a lock on a BCS spot, while Team B would be lucky to be playing in a New Year's Day bowl.
However, the BCS's contract with the Big East guarantees Boston College, Team B, a spot in one of its bowl games if they can finish off two mediocre opponents while Texas, Team A, will likely be banished to the Cotton Bowl for the fourth time in seven years despite its impressive résumé.
Even if the Eagles fall, Big East rival West Virginia, currently ranked 23rd in the BCS with a record featuring two losses, would be poised to take Boston College's place.
The BCS assures the conference champions in the Pacific 10 Conference, Big 12 Conference, Southeastern Conference, Big Ten Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference and Big East Conference an automatic spot in its four major bowls: the Orange Bowl, the Fiesta Bowl, the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl.
Boston College will clinch its spot despite the fact that teams in non-BCS conferences such as the Mountain West, Western Athletic and Conference-USA have higher-ranking teams. Still, most years a fifth-ranked team like Texas would lock up one of the at-large bids handed out by the BCS. This year is different.
Assuming the Golden Bears beat Stanford, the Rose Bowl will likely select fourth-ranked California with its at-large bid to set up a classic Big/Pac-10 showdown against likely Big Ten champion Michigan. With a victory over Brigham Young, Utah will clinch the first ever BCS appearance for a team outside of the six major conferences since the BCS was formed in 1998.
According to the BCS rule book, a non-BCS conference team "will earn a guaranteed slot in one of the BCS games should (it) be ranked sixth or higher in the final BCS standings - unless more than two teams meet this criterion."
Even though the Longhorns own a higher ranking, Utah will take this final BCS spot from Texas. They will likely play in the Fiesta Bowl, potentially in a matchup of undefeated teams if Oklahoma wins out but does not reach the national championship game.
As any Zona Zoo member will tell you, both Utah and California very much deserve this BCS consideration. Even with a home slate featuring Wisconsin, whose loss to Michigan State last week dropped them to ninth in the human polls and ended an undefeated season which let the Utes back into the BCS picture, these two teams dominated Arizona on its home turf like no other.
The Bears crushed Arizona 38-0 and nearly upset top-ranked Southern California on the road in a narrow defeat. The Wildcats' defense held the Utes' offense well below its 45.7 points per game average, but still could not muster anything on offense in a 23-6 loss.
While the Longhorns are the more deserving team and would make for a more interesting matchup for all fans outside of the Boston area, college football fans will be stuck with an inferior team and likely a blowout in the Eagles' bowl. Nothing would make this system look worse than if the Mountain West's Utes get matched up with the Eagles in the Fiesta Bowl and do what they have done to power conference teams like Texas A&M and North Carolina this season: Blow them out.
Fortunately, the current BCS contract runs only through the 2005 regular season and 2006 bowl season. While fixing the entire system to determine a more accurate national champion through a playoff or other means will be the most important issue, the Big East's guaranteed BCS spot should also be eliminated.
When Miami and Virginia Tech left for the ACC before the start of this season, the Big East lost its top two programs and most worthy BCS candidates. In fact, Miami's dominance the past few years made other teams in its conference irrelevant, since it would likely earn a BCS spot.
With the rise of Utah and other non-BCS conference teams such as Louisville and Fresno State, the Big East's automatic BCS berth would be better used as an at-large spot for a non-BCS school like Utah or a power conference team on the outside looking in like Texas. They could even appease the Big East by returning its spot if it places a team in the top 10.
It's a shame that a consistently strong Texas team that has never cracked the BCS will be turned away when it's finally deserving, while a Boston College team which would not even be sniffing the BCS if it played in any other conference in America will be playing on the big stage.
By being forced to take Team B over Team A and failing to create the best matchups with the most worthy teams, the Big East's automatic berth has turned the BCS into a Boston College Sham.
-Michael Schwartz is a journalism freshman. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.