It was no surprise that Alabama and Notre Dame are going to be playing in the Discover BCS National Championship on January 7. But as the BCS matchups were revealed on Sunday night, there was a shocking shakeup centered around the Orange Bowl in Miami.
The Mid-American Conference got the first BCS bid in conference history, as the Orange Bowl selected 11-1 Northern Illinois, the MAC conference champion, to play the ACC Champion Florida State Seminoles. It’s also the first time in the BCS era that the Orange Bowl selected a non-BCS team to play in the game. Much of the opinion on Selection Sunday was against NIU, and pointed to this game as one reason college football is headed to a playoff system.
The BCS rules state the following in the Automatic Qualification section on Rule 3, Subsection B:
The champion of Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt Conference, or the Western Athletic Conference will earn an automatic berth in a BCS bowl game if … such team is ranked in the top 16 of the final BCS Standings and its ranking in the final BCS Standings is higher than that of a champion of a conference that has an annual automatic berth in one of the BCS bowls.”
Based on this rule, NIU was an automatic qualifier and had to be selected by one of the bowls. The Orange Bowl was the last bowl to select teams this year, so naturally they got the short end of the stick. The Sugar Bowl didn’t want NIU to face a big bad SEC team, so it reacted by selecting Louisville who, although ranked 21st and only in by virtue of being the highest ranked team in the Big East, is – on paper – a better team than NIU. Even so, the Sugar Bowl cut its losses with this game, and that’s a shame.
Then there’s the Granddaddy Of Them All, The Rose Bowl Game. It not only has Stanford – a team that won the Pac-12 by beating Oregon and UCLA twice – but a 5-loss Wisconsin team who destroyed the 12th-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Wisconsin wouldn’t be where they are without a little help. They only got a chance to play Nebraska because Ohio State and Penn State, the two teams ahead of Wisconsin in the Leaders division, were both postseason ineligible due to NCAA sanctions. It was thought that Nebraska would destroy Wisconsin in the second annual conference championship game in Indianapolis. That didn’t pan out.
This resulted in three bowls being relatively lackluster. And it’s terrible that teams like Georgia and Oklahoma don’t get to participate. So who’s to blame for this horrible lineup?
It’s useless to criticize the BCS system. First off, this system only has one more year left as the playoff system will be implemented in 2014. Secondly, the rules are the rules. NIU got in fairly according the system in place. It’s short-sighted to forget that this same rule allowed Boise State to enter into the BCS system in past years.
College football fans can instead blame the Big East and the Big Ten. The Big East almost had a marquee matchup in Week 14 between Louisville and Rutgers, as both teams were ranked going into Week 13. The winner of that game would be the conference champion and would have surely been ranked higher than NIU when the dust settled. However, both teams lost in Week 13 and the anticipation for that game died instantaneously.
Because of the NCAA sanctions placed on two of the top teams this season, they don’t get to play against Nebraska, the top-ranked team in the BCS from the Big Ten. And the 8-5 Badgers now get to represent the Big Ten against a pretty good Stanford team. It’s a shame to have a five-loss team competing in one of the most iconic games in college football.
This year’s BCS lineup is probably one of the worst since the games were created. Good thing it’s scheduled to implode in two years.