King Kaufman’s Sports Daily

Any way you look at it, USC belongs in the national championship game. Unless "you" are the BCS.

Topics:

There are a lot of logical ways to answer the question about which two of the top three teams in the country — Oklahoma, LSU and USC — should go to the national championship game. All of those ways result in the same answer: USC vs. LSU.

Here’s the way the Bowl Championship Series computers answered it: LSU vs. Oklahoma.

That would be the same Oklahoma Sooners who were last seen, Saturday night on national TV, getting their hats handed to them by Kansas State. They got spanked 35-7, and it was one of those 35-7s where the game wasn’t as close as the score would indicate. It was a cover-your-eyes butt-kicking, a mugging, a whanging on the skull with the back of a shovel. The Sooners ought to be embarrassed to play in the title game directly after being swatted so thoroughly. Nebraska should have been embarrassed two years ago when it did the same thing. Instead the Cornhuskers just got embarrassed in the title game by Miami.

Oklahoma dropped to third in both the AP and ESPN/coaches polls, which are part of the BCS formula, but stayed on top of the BCS standings. LSU jumped past USC to No. 2 based on strength of schedule.

Here’s a bold prediction: This offseason, officials will announce a new rule dictating that if a team is No. 1 in both polls, it gets to play in the national championship game regardless of where it ends up in the BCS standings. We in the typing classes will dub this “the USC rule.” And then next year when the BCS spits up some new problem, officials will get together and talk some more.

“Why isn’t there a contingency plan that says, look, if you’re the No. 1 team in both polls, forget about it, we’ve gotta have you?” asked Trev Alberts on the ESPN show announcing the bowl matchups. “It’s never proactive, it’s always reactive. ‘Well, we’ve got a problem, we’ll fix it the next year.’ That’s the problem. Disconnect with the fans.” Alberts declared the BCS “irrelevant.”

This is of course what’s so great about the BCS: It’s complete nonsense. It was supposedly designed to end these end-of-year arguments over who should be named the national champion by presenting a championship game between the top two teams. It does no such thing. But here’s a shocking secret: That wasn’t the real purpose. You mustn’t tell anyone.



The BCS ought to be used in business schools as a lesson in how not to approach problem solving. The Cliffs Notes version is that the people trying to solve the problem have to have clear, attainable objectives, and they have to be free of conflicts of interest.

The professed objective of the BCS is to crown a true national champion. If that were really the goal, the plan would be to figure out a way to have a playoff system, same as they have in Divisions I-AA, II and III. Simple. But the real purpose is to crown a national champion using a system that increases profits and consolidates power for the six biggest conferences, the four biggest bowls and the TV networks, the parties that created the BCS. That’s a very different thing, and an impossible one.

A playoff system is clearly the best way to solve the national championship problem. The existence of the major bowls is the only real stumbling block to a playoff system — any system that included the major bowls would go too deep into January and put college football in direct and hopeless competition with the NFL playoffs, and any system that excluded the major bowls would doom them to unlucrative irrelevance. So a group protecting the interests of the major bowls is not going to come up with the best solution, a playoff. It’s a classic conflict of interest.

This will be on the midterm.

Anyway, never mind Oklahoma, over there in the corner rubbing the knot on its collective head and wondering if anyone got the number of that truck. How about how LSU leapfrogged USC in the BCS standings and into the title game, which this year is the Sugar Bowl. That happened because Syracuse beat Notre Dame and Boise State beat Hawaii on Saturday, seemingly random scores that hurt USC’s strength of schedule score in the rankings because USC beat Notre Dame and Hawaii this year.

Your strength of schedule, you see, isn’t based on the strength of teams when you play them, but on their strength throughout the year. Let’s say you beat a team that’s 5-0 and ranked third, and the next week that team loses its quarterback, top running back and best defender for the season in an unfortunate car wreck, then loses the rest of its games. Your victory back at midseason gets less and less impressive every week, even though the team that’s losing now is vastly inferior to the great team you beat. The system thinks you beat a 5-7 team.

This is an exaggeration, in the sense that it’s never happened, though it could. The point is that the BCS is a system that lets the No. 3 team pass the No. 2 team while the No. 2 team is in the process of beating a 7-4 team in a major conference by three and a half touchdowns and the No. 1 team is getting beat like grandma’s rug, all because of something that happened in the Boise State-Hawaii game. That’s a bad system.

In other words, you can make a pretty good argument against any of the three teams in question going to the title game. Except USC, the team that’s not going.

“If you’re a USC fan or you’re a guy out in the street you have difficulty understanding why USC’s not in the game,” said Mike Tranghese, the Big East commissioner and this year’s BCS coordinator, on that ESPN announcement show.

“I’m not ‘a guy off the street,’” ESPN college football expert Mark May said, pointedly, a little later. “And I don’t understand.”

Here’s a clue, Mark:

Alberts asked Tranghese his question about why there’s no contingency plan, no way to add the human element to the process, to say that if a team is the consensus No. 1 in the nation, as USC is, it should go to the title game.

“We’ve talked about introducing the human element,” Tranghese said. “We had a long, long debate about it two years ago. In fact, we spent nearly an hour and a half just on that subject, and there just wasn’t a consensus for doing it.”

Can you imagine “nearly an hour and a half” being considered “a long, long debate” if they were talking about how to divide the money?

- – - – - – - – - – - -

  • Bookmark http://www.salon.com/sports to get the new Kaufman column every day.
  • Send an e-mail to King Kaufman.
  • To receive the Sports Daily Newsletter, send an e-mail to kingnewsletter@salon.com.

  • More Related Stories

    Featured Slide Shows

    • Share on Twitter
    • Share on Facebook
    • 1 of 17
    • Close
    • Fullscreen
    • Thumbnails
      John Stanmeyer

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.

      Lu Guang

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China

      Carolyn Cole/LATimes

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti

      Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      “Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA

      Google Earth/NOAA, U.S. Navy, NGA, GEBCO

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.

      Garth Lentz

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada

      Cotton Coulson/Keenpress

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway

      Yann Arthus-Bertrand

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.

      Stephanie Sinclair

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.

      Mike Hedge

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million

      Google Earth/ 2014 Digital Globe

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.

      Daniel Dancer

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

      Peter Essick

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.

      Daniel Beltra

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico

      Ian Wylie

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Slide 13

      Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.

      R.J. Sangosti/Denver Post

      Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot

      Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.

    • Recent Slide Shows

    Comments

    0 Comments

    Comment Preview

    Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>