College football’s regular season is winding down with just one weekend left of play before the always-interesting final BCS rankings are revealed Sunday.
We all love to hate the BCS. Normally, this is the time in the season when heated debate begins about who will be chosen to play for the national title and, more notably, who is going to be swept under the rug.
Yet here we sit near the end of November with as little controversy surrounding the title game as possible under the current system.
The SEC Championship between Western Division winner Alabama and Eastern Division winner Georgia will not only crown a champion of the nation’s most prized conference, but will also serve as the semifinal play-in for the BCS National Championship game. The No. 2 and No. 3 teams, respectively, each enter the SEC finale with a single loss to a conference opponent, and both hold valid claims of their superiority over the other.
The winner will earn the SEC title, but more importantly will head to Miami for a final matchup with top-ranked Notre Dame.
At the start of the month, four teams were marching down a path of regular season perfection and an undefeated team or two was likely going to be shut out of a chance to play in the national championship. As we witnessed, that quickly became a distant prospect.
With the direction the season appeared to be heading, the simplicity and clarity that sits before us should be a sigh of relief for the BCS powers and for anyone with half an interest in the integrity of the championship game.
There will always be the what-if fans looking to poke blame at the — mildly put — less than perfect system. My guess is most will come with ties to Columbus, Ohio. It would have been an interesting debate, whether an undefeated Ohio State team — assuming a Big Ten Championship game victory — would have played the Fighting Irish in the title game over a one-loss SEC champion. But if it were any other team than the Buckeyes, I would offer some empathy to this team (my Badger pride won’t allow it).
The other four BCS bowl games will surely have their own set of debates. Kent State has already sparked talk with a guaranteed BCS bowl game should it move up from its current No. 17 spot.
None of this, however, will equate to the almost annual drama that surrounds the title game.
Remember last year when Alabama beat Oklahoma State to the No. 2 BCS ranking by just .0086 of a point? There was talk about the possibility of a split national champion if Alabama had not beaten LSU outright in the final game. And two years ago, undefeated TCU was left out of a title game birth behind Auburn and Oregon because of a weaker schedule.
It’s a repetitive cycle, driven by the subjective approach to quantifying schedule strength used by the BCS rankings, which continues as you keep looking back at past seasons.
In 2009, there were five undefeated teams.
Utah, slapped with a schedule deemed too weak to qualify for a title game, was held out of a shot at the title game even though it was the only undefeated FBS team in 2008.
And who could forget 2003, when USC ended up as the final No. 1 team in the AP Poll without even playing in the title game after the computer rankings shut them out of a spot to contend.
The bottom line is that this system has failed. But the way the cards have fallen means the BCS is going to be given a break this year.
The Georgia-Alabama SEC matchup foreshadows the years to come of a four-team playoff that finally became a serious discussion after the TCU debate two years ago. The game will surely not disappoint fans who want to see these two relatively equal teams duke it out on the field instead of in a complicated ranking equation.
The two top-rated quarterbacks — the Bulldogs’ Aaron Murray and the Crimson Tide’s AJ McCarron — will trade off command on the field Saturday. Murray’s ability to compete against Alabama’s defense will be critical if Georgia wants a chance at winning. This season he has been less-than-spectacular against top teams, throwing three first half interceptions against Florida and completing just 11-of-31 passes in the team’s only loss this season to South Carolina.
If Murray and the Georgia offense can find a rhythm Saturday, Alabama is not in for an easy game. The Crimson Tide needs to shut down the Bulldogs from the start. Otherwise, another episode of what unfolded against Texas A&M is very possible — only with much more devastating consequences.
While I suspect a close Alabama victory in Atlanta, whoever comes to face Notre Dame is not going to have an easy time earning the SEC’s seventh-straight BCS title.
I have no true attachment to any of these teams and find either potential title game intriguing. But for the first time in a long while, there will be no reasonable arguments against the matchup itself.