2011-12 College Bowl Preview (Part 1)
by Larry Ness
Boise State coach Chris Petersen unleashed his frustration with the BCS on Monday. His 11-1 Broncos finished No. 7 in the final BCS standings but were left out of all five of the BCS Bowls (national championship game plus the Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar Bowls). "Everybody is just very tired of the BCS," Petersen said. "I think that's the bottom line. Everybody is frustrated. Everybody doesn't really know what to do anymore. It doesn't make sense to anybody. I don't think anybody is happy anywhere."
Many of the people who decry the BCS just don’t seem to get it. The idea that the BCS has somehow “messed up” college football is patently false. College football has NEVER had a playoff system and has always been decided by a vote (subjective by its very nature), rather than determined strictly by the results on the field. I remember back in my youngers years (1960s and 1970s) when the year’s final No. 1 team (or in some case teams) in what then the two major polls (AP and UPI) were appropriately referred to as “the mythical national champions.” The BCS is far from perfect but I believe it’s the best format the sport has ever had, since it continues to seem unlikely that a playoff system will be implemented.
I think it’s likely safe to say that even Democrats and Republicans will likely agree that LSU is deserving of its spot in the national championship game and I refuse to waste time any more time discussing whether Alabama or Oklahoma St is the most-deserving opponent for the Tigers. However, I will point out to the BCS ‘bashers’ that without the current BCS system, the bowl matchups would have looked remarkably similar to the ones we will see this bowl season. “In the good old days,” LSU would have been sent to the Sugar Bowl as winners of the SEC while Oklahoma St would have been sent to host the Orange Bowl as the Big Eight champ used to be (that was also the case for the first two seasons of the Big 12 in 1996 and 1997). When the BCS came into being in 1998, the Big 12 champ (if not in the BCS title game) became the host or “anchor team” of the Fiesta Bowl. So either way one wants to look at it, pre-BCS, LSU and Oklahoma St would NOT have met in a bowl game this year.
Without the BCS, we would have had Wisconsin vs Oregon in the Rose Bowl, with LSU hosting the Sugar, Oklahoma St hosting the Fiesta and Clemson (winners of the ACC and now that bowl’s anchor team), hosting the Orange. Those three bowl committees (Fiesta, Orange and Sugar) would then have "’battled it out’ for which teams to match against those three conference champions. Would the Sugar have opted for a Alabama/LSU rematch? We’ll never know but since LSU is No. 1 and Alabama No. 2 in both traditional polls (AP and Coaches’), why wouldn’t that have been the choice? If so, then why wouldn’t the Fiesta have chosen Stanford for a Luck vs Weeden showdown. Moving to the Orange, with no guarantee for the pathetic Big East, the Orange would have been free to choose Michigan.
So there you have what the four major bowls would have likely looked like, pre-BCS. Just in case I’ve lost you, I’ll recap it. Alabama/LSU in the Sugar, Oregon/ Wisconsin in the Rose, Oklahoma St/Stanford in the Fiesta and Clemson/Michigan in the Orange. Sorry BCS haters, that lineup seems very familiar to what we currently have. The biggest injustice of Sunday’s bowl announcements was not Alabama playing LSU nstead of Oklahoma St but rather that Virginia Tech somehow ”earned” its way into a Sugar Bowl date with Michigan by embarrassing itself in losing the ACC championship game 38-10 to Clemson.
Let’s look a little closer. For the first time in its 14 years in the Bowl Championship Series, the Atlantic Coast Conference has had two teams selected to participate in BCS Bowl games in the same year. A check of the history books reveals that since 2005, the ACC has had 58 teams invited to postseason games. The SEC, with 61 teams, is the only conference that has had more bowl teams during that span. That being said, no conference, even the much criticized Big East, has done as poorly in BCS Bowl games as the ACC has.
Florida State joined the ACC in 1992 and dominated its new league. The BCS was formed prior to the 1998 season and the Seminoles made the first three BCS championship games. They lost to Tennessee in the 1998 game, beat Va Tech (then a member of the Big East) in 1999 and then lost to Oklahoma in 2000. No ACC team has made a BCS title game appearance since and over the entire previous 13-year history of the BCS, an ACC team has won just one other BCS Bowl appearance. That win came at the end of the 2008 season, when Va Tech beat Cincinnati 20-7 in the Orange Bowl. Doing the math, ACC schools are a horrific 2-11 in BCS Bowl games and for us sports bettors, a money-burning 4-9 ATS, as well. In comparison, the much-maligned Big East (since Miami-Fla and Va Tech left after the 2003 season) has gone 3-4 in BCS Bowl games, including West Va beating No. 8 Georgia 38-35 in the 2005 Sugar Bowl and the Mountaineers taking down No. 3 Oklahoma 48-28 in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl.
I began this article with a quote from Boise State head coach Chris Peterson and while I disagree with his overall assessment of the BCS, his team got a raw deal again this year. The Broncos have gone a spectacular 49-3 in the four years in which QB Kellen Moore has led this team and in only ONE of those seasons have the Broncos gone to a BCS Bowl (beat TCU 17-10 in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl). Incredibly, the team’s three losses during Moore’s four-year career have come by a grand total of just FIVE points. Missed FGs have cost the Broncos in each of the last two seasons and both times, Boise St has gone from a likely BCS Bowl berth to an appearance in the Las Vegas Bowl. Last year, Boise State faced a 10-2 Utah team but this year, to insult in injury, the Broncos draw Arizona State. The Sun Devils opened this year 6-2 but lost their final four games and fired head coach Dennis Erickson.
How Va Tech was chosen over Boise State just makes no sense. Also on the outside looking in on the BCS Bowl ‘pool’ were 10-2 Kansas State, which finished No. 8 in the final BCS standings and No. 12 Baylor, which may feature a Heisman-winner in QB Robert Griffin III (Va Tech’s final ranking was 11).
Join me Friday, as I conclude my initial 2011-12 Bowl Season preview with some random thoughts on this year’s entire bowl schedule. Just a note, my therapist calls it “thoughtful commentary.”
Get all of Larry's winning sports picks
at Vegas Experts.