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Friday, January 4
BCS keeps getting No. 1 right

By Gene Wojciechowski
ESPN The Magazine

The BCS has enough warts to keep the Compound W people in business for years, but a simple truth remains: like it or not, the best team won the national championship this season. . . last season. . . the season before that. . . and the season before that. The BCS works -- sort of -- because it keeps getting No. 1 right.

No. 2 is another story.

Nebraska, the BCS' second-rated team, was clearly overmatched in its 37-14 Rose Bowl loss to mighty Miami. So naturally the postgame knee-jerk chatter was that someone needs to set a match to the BCS formula and collect the insurance money on a playoff system. That way we'll know once and for all who should be the real national champion.

Wonderful. Now if you'll just explain to me who would have beaten Miami Thursday night I'll happily hop aboard the Anti-BCS train.

DJ Williams
D.J. Williams and Miami dominated Eric Crouch and the Huskers.
Oregon? "C'mon, man," said Hurricanes tailback Clinton Portis. "Oregon don't want no part of us." Or as UM defensive end Jerome McDougle so eloquently put it: "We'll whup the crap out of Oregon."

Maybe. Probably. The Ducks have the remarkable Joey Harrington at quarterback, a running game, speed, but a defense that gave up 20 or more points in seven of its 12 games. So we'll get back to you on the Oregon thing.

Colorado? "If you're not undefeated, you can't even talk to us right now," said Miami wide receiver Kevin Beard.

That rules out the Buffs, who entered the bowl season with two losses and enough Gary Barnett indignation to last a lifetime. Now CU has three losses, thanks to its sparkling 38-16 loss to Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl.

Florida? Tennessee? Better matchups, but we'll have to wait until next season for those. Miami travels to Knoxville and Gainesville in 2002, but it won't be the same -- especially against the Gators, who are now without the ol' ballcoach, Steve Spurrier.

In short, the Hurricanes have nothing left to prove. "There's no more questions about that," said all-America safety Edward Reed. "We're 12-0."

But if Oregon coach Mike Bellotti did call and offer the national champions a game. . .

"Give us a week off," said Reed. "We can do it next Saturday."

Actually, there's a better chance of that happening than seeing the BCS deposited in a nearby trash dumper. The BCS is here to stay until at least through the 2006 bowl season, which means four more years of assorted whining. A year ago it was Miami. This time it was Barnett and Bellotti. Next season it will be someone else. Deal with it.

The six conference commissioners (Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, ACC and SEC) who oversee the BCS will meet soon to discuss more adjustments in the formula. But right now -- and perhaps the Big Six will think differently behind closed doors -- there doesn't seem much chance of wholesale changes in the way the BCS determines its two national championship finalists.

Consider the possibilities:

  • Award bonus points to conference champions.

    Sounds good, doesn't it. That way Colorado would have been rewarded for winning the Big 12 and Nebraska wouldn't have skipped ahead of the Buffs in the final BCS computer polls.

    Problem is, the Buffs still would have been on the short end, what with Oregon getting bonus points for winning the Pac-10. So Oregon would have played in the Rose Bowl -- which would have been fine -- but it wouldn't have made Barnett any happier.

    And with all due respect to the WACs and MACs of the world, but does anyone really think it's just as hard to win, say, the SEC championship, as it is to win the Conference USA title? Or look at the Big Ten: No way was the winner of that league (Illinois) the equal to the winner of the Big East (Miami), the SEC (LSU, which beat Illinois in the Sugar Bowl), the Pac-10 (Oregon). Yet, you want to award equal bonus points?

  • Insert a rule prohibiting non-champions from playing in the BCS title game.

    Not bad, but will the commissioners pull the trigger on that one?

  • Appoint a blue ribbon panel to clean up any BCS standing messes at regular season's end.

    Don't hold your breath. The commissioners don't want to become the equivalent of the NCAA men's basketball committee.

  • Minimize the importance of the eight computer polls.

    Now we're talking. We could see the commissioners tweaking those numbers enough that the computer figures had less of an effect on the overall rankings.

    Whatever happens, the news isn't likely to stop the presses. The BCS is the commissioners' baby and they're not giving the little thing up for adoption anytime soon.

    Sure, Nebraska stunk it up in Pasadena. But that was more Miami's fault than the BCS'.

    "We beat them fair and square," said Miami's McDougle.

    Beat the Huskers. Beat 11 other teams. And the way the 'Canes played Thursday night, they would have beaten Oregon and maybe the Carolina Panthers.

    No, the BCS isn't perfect. But Miami was.

    Gene Wojciechowski is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at

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