This will be the final year of the BCS as we’ve come to know and loathe it. The four-team playoff — officially dubbed, in prosaic fashion, the College Football Playoff — arrives next season. But now we ask: Do we really believe the benighted BCS will go out with a whimper?
Not to go all Creedence Clearwater Revival on you, but I can see a bad moon on the rise. I can envision a valedictory BCS title pairing that will tick off everybody in creation except Alabama fans. Just imagine …
Unbeaten Bama against once-beaten (or even unbeaten; in this what-if, it matters not) Georgia, again playing for the SEC title. Again the Bulldogs are driving to win. Again C.J. Mosley blitzes off the left side and tips Aaron Murray’s pass. Again Chris Conley catches the ball, but this time he doesn’t fall at the 5 as time expires. This time he falls into the end zone.
Georgia wins! At blessed last, Georgia plays for the BCS title! Which means: Alabama loses!
Except: Does Alabama ever really lose?
Back to our premise: An unbeaten Alabama playing for the SEC title would surely have been ranked No. 1 in the penultimate BCS standings. But would Alabama losing on a tipped pass be enough to drop the Tide to third in the final rankings?
Maybe. But somebody else would also have to be unbeaten. That somebody can’t be Louisville, which with its Downy-soft schedule in the former Big East is almost odds-on to finish 12-0. That somebody would have to be Ohio State, which is a Brand Name in a famous league and is coached by a guy with two BCS titles in his pocket, or maybe a Stanford.
But if Alabama winds up with one loss and that one a hairbreadth thing against Georgia, I’m telling you here and now: The Tide will NOT drop below Louisville and they will NOT drop below a once-beaten Ohio State or a once-beaten Stanford or a once-beaten anybody else. Because Rule 12, Subsection 2(a) of the BCS Code reads thusly: “When in doubt, Alabama must benefit.”
Yes, I made that up. Still, that’s how the BCS has come to work (the word “work” used advisedly). In November 2011, LSU beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa. In November 2012, Texas A&M beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Both times the Tide wound up playing in the BCS title game as the No. 2 team. Both times it won. It would be just Georgia’s luck to up and beat Bama and then discover it has to do it again.
I know, I know. Much has to happen for the BCS to bow out on this goofball note. This being the BCS, goofiness invariably carries the day. Much had to happen for Nebraska, which lost to Colorado 62-36 on the day after Thanksgiving in 2001 and didn’t play for its conference title, to make the BCS title tilt, but it did. Same with Oklahoma, which was beaten 35-7 by Kansas State in the 2003 Big 12 championship and still finished No. 1 in the BCS standings. Same with Alabama in 2011.
As we know, Georgia has never been BCS-blessed. In 2002 it was 11-1 but finished No. 3 in the final standings behind unbeatens Miami and Ohio State. In 2007 the Bulldogs were No. 4 in the next-to-last rankings, saw No. 1 Missouri and No. 2 West Virginia lose on the final weekend and somehow slid to No. 5. Last year Georgia, surely no worse than the fourth-best eligible team in the land, didn’t grace a BCS bowl — but Florida, which had been beaten by the Bulldogs, did.
Some of this nonsense will abate in 2014. First, though, comes 2013. We know the SEC champion will be one of the two teams playing in Pasadena. (Not-so-fun fact: The last SEC champ not to grace the BCS title game was Georgia in 2005.) We saw Alabama gain entrée to the 2011 BCS title game without even being the SEC champion. If Johnny Manziel isn’t eligible for the Tide’s game at Texas A&M on Sept. 14, Alabama will almost certainly be 12-0 when it plays for the SEC title. And if Bama loses that day, it could well be granted a mulligan.
And now you’re asking: Might it work the other way? If both Alabama and Georgia arrived at the Dome unbeaten and ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the BCS standings, would there be a clamor for a rematch if the Bulldogs lost a close game? From the local precincts, sure, but I’m betting the final BCS rankings wouldn’t yield one. I’m betting once-beaten Ohio State or once-beaten Stanford — though still not unbeaten Louisville — would get that nod.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the BCS has never been fair. I can’t imagine its final throes will break the pattern. At this late date, I’d be disappointed if sanity held sway.