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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Friday, June 14, 2024

Column: BCS system flawed in its limiting of conference representation

The Badgers have understandably received, and will continue to receive, jabs from college-football experts for “backing into” their current position: Despite a 4-4 Big Ten record, Wisconsin is just one win away from a third consecutive conference championship and Rose Bowl berth. The Badgers are in this situation, of course, because the Big Ten champion receives an automatic trip to Pasadena. Quite frankly, I don’t have an issue with the Bowl Championship Series’ rule that all six BCS “power conference” champions ensure themselves a spot in one of five BCS games. While a playoff setup would be preferable, I can respect a system that rewards teams in the postseason for winning their conference during the regular season.

I’m not just saying that because Wisconsin benefits from the setup this season, either. Take a look across sports and you’ll notice the dominant leagues place a significant value on conference or division championships, from college football to the NFL, MLB and NBA. Seattle won a dismal NFC West in 2010 with a 7-9 record, sparking conversation of possibly changing the NFL’s playoff format. The Seahawks beat the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card round one week later.

No matter how “down” a part of a league might be, there’s something to be said about being the best team in one’s conference or division. The BCS rewards that accomplishment with a berth in one of its bowl games, and the Badgers—no matter how textbook-definition average they’ve been this season—fully deserve to be 60 minutes from the Rose Bowl.

All right, enough defending the BCS—I wouldn’t be a college football fan if I didn’t have some sort of issue with it.

My beef with the system is its rule that only allows two teams from a particular conference to play in a BCS bowl per year.

I’m fine with giving each of the six power conferences representation in the bowl series, as that conference-champion-to-postseason bid is a common theme across sports. Limiting a conference’s representation, however, is where I think the BCS wets the bed.

With six of the ten bowl game spots set aside, I realize this limitation could affect a maximum of three teams per season. In fact, there is often just one team that truly gets the raw end of the deal. However, it damages the level of competition nonetheless.

This season, only two teams between No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia, No. 4 Florida, No. 7 LSU, No. 9 Texas A&M and No. 10 South Carolina—all Southeastern Conference teams—will receive a BCS bid. The conference championship game loser (between Alabama and Georgia) will likely miss out on the BCS altogether.

The SEC is one conference in particular that has suffered from the BCS’ limitations in recent history. In the last six years (excluding last season, when Alabama and LSU met for the national championship), the SEC is 8-2 in BCS games, outscoring its competition by more than two touchdowns per game. One of those losses, a five-point Ohio State win, has since been vacated.

The Big Ten is the only other conference that has sent two teams to the BCS in each of the last six seasons. It hasn’t had nearly as much success as the SEC, however, compiling a 4-8 record (and again, one of those wins no longer counts). Also, none of those three wins have come in the national championship, in which the SEC currently holds a six-game win streak.

Over the last four Capital One bowl games, in which the SEC’s third-best team (the one “left out” of the BCS) has played, the SEC has outscored its opponent by 17 points per game. One of those four games, a two-point victory for Penn State, has since been vacated. No matter how many BCS-caliber teams the SEC has had, it has been awarded just two bowl spots per season.

I’m not necessarily saying we need three SEC teams in the BCS every year, I’m just saying a conference shouldn’t be limited to two teams. This season, however, has exposed the BCS’ limitation rule more than ever, with so many SEC teams more deserving than an Oklahoma team that will likely receive a BCS berth.

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The BCS is justifiably ripped every year. After all, it’s a computer system that takes into account a laundry list of factors before determining how many percentage points a particular team has earned, which then decides where teams rank in the poll. Everyone understands the general gist, but nobody could explain how the system actually works.

I’m probably in the minority as someone who doesn’t flat-out hate the BCS, but this one particular rule is a glaring issue in the system. It’s too bad there’s no time to change things before college football transitions to a playoff setup in 2014.

Do you have an issue with the BCS limiting conference representation? Hate the system altogether? Let Vince know by sending him an email at

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