What is the BCS

BCS – Bowl Champion Series

According to the official BCS Website, the BCS is “a five-game showcase of college football. It is designed to ensure that the two top-rated teams in the country meet in the national championship game, and to create exciting and competitive match-ups among eight other highly regarded teams in four other bowl games.”

Now, if you ask us and the majority of die hard college football fans, we will tell you the BCS (Bull Crap Series) is seriously messed up and based on personal opinions and computers which cannot possibly be able to accurately determine who the best teams are. We will tell you it is a flawed system and a playoff system similar to the one in the NFL, or even College Basketball, is needed. We will also tell you the BCS is about money, not about who the best team is in college football. Based on the uproar that occurred when Alabama played LSU for the 2011 National Championship, the BCS decided to implement a small playoff system beginning in the 2014 season. We will see how it turns out and if it truly fixes some of the problems with how the BCS operates. Without a playoff system it is hard to figure out who is the best.

On the flip side, many think a true play-off system in college football is not practical due to the large number of teams and the difficult toll the game takes on a player’s body. It’s not like basketball or baseball where the body is fatigued but not ‘beaten’. You also have to remember that these ‘kids’ are not getting paid either.

How the BCS works

This is the beginning of where this craziness happens. We’ll start with the rankings first.

The BCS ranks the teams for the last 8 weeks of the season. There are three components to the rankings and they all carry 1/3 of the weight of the total score.

  1. Harris Interactive Poll: The Harris Interactive Poll is made up of former players, coaches, administrators, and current and former media who cast their votes for who they believe the top 25 teams are each week. It was designed to replace the AP poll and is designed to be a fair representation of FBS and Independent schools. A team’s score in the Harris poll will be divided by 2,875, the maximum number of points any team can receive if all 115 voting members rank the same team as Number 1
  2. The Coaches Poll: The USA Today Coaches Poll is comprised of 62 Head Coaches at FBS schools. A team’s score in the USA Today poll is divided by 1,475. This is the maximum number of points any team can receive if all 62 voting members rank the same team as Number 1. In both of these polls, the voters fill out their own top 25 rankings ballot.
  3. Computer rankings: There are 6 computer polls managed by people, newspapers and the BCS itself that are used to determine this third of the overall ranking. They are: Jeff Sagarin, Anderson & Hester, Richard Billingsly, Colley Matrix, Kenneth Massey and Dr. Peter Wolfe. The computer rankings percentage is calculated by first dropping the highest and lowest ranking for each team and then averaging the scores of the 4 remaining different computer rankings. That total is then divided by 100, the maximum possible points.

The percentage totals of the Harris Interactive Poll, USA Today Coaches Poll, and the computer rankings are then averaged. The teams’ averages are ranked to produce the BCS Standings.

Now is that crazy or what! And we didn’t even get into how some of the computer rankings work to quantify somewhat qualitative things like ‘strength of schedule’. Don’t get us started!

BCS Bowl Games:

There are 4  BCS Bowl games: Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, and Sugar Bowl. The Rose Bowl is always played on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, CA. The teams are the Big Ten Champion vs. the Pac 12 Champion. The Fiesta Bowl is played in Tempe, AZ and is between the Big 12 Champion and an at-large team. The Orange Bowl is played on New Year’s Day in Miami, FL. It is between the ACC Champion and an at-large team. The Sugar Bowl, played on New Years Eve in New Orleans, hosts the SEC Champion and an at-large team.

Then there is a 5th bowl game for the Championship between whichever two teams are ranked #1 and #2 at the end of the season BCS rankings. This was implemented after the 2006 regular season. The 5th game rotates between the 4 sites listed above.

BCS Bowl Selection Process:

OK, this is where it gets really crazy. Somehow, the 10 teams that are in these ‘best of the best’ bowls must be selected. One might think that #1 plays #2 and #3 plays #4 and #5 plays #6, etc. but that person would be dead wrong!! There is a LOT of money at stake here along with a bit of bragging rights, nice trophies and a fun trip so this is really important to these teams!!

Here is how it is decided which 10 teams go to which BCS bowl games. First, we go through which teams automatically qualify to be in one of the bowls. Then there is what they call ‘at-large’ bids to help fill any remaining teams in the 10 needed.

Automatic Qualifiers in the BCS Bowl Games –

1. The top two teams ranked by the BCS will play in the National Championship Game. That’s the obvious one. It really is just #1 vs  #2 (well, #1 and #2 according to all those people and computers anyway).

2. The  champions of the ACC, American, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, and SEC are in a BCS bowl. That’s 6 more possible teams so we could be up to 8 of the 10 selections. Why ‘could be’ instead of a definite ‘are’? Well, if the winner of one of those conferences is either #1 or #2, things get changed up a bit.

3. The champion of the smaller conferences: 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 only if either:

a) The team is ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS Standings, or
b) The  team is ranked in the top 16 of the final BCS Standings and is ranked higher than a team in one of the ‘big’ conference winners mentioned in #2 above.

However, only one of these teams can qualify. Well, sort of….a second team could be considered for an ‘at-large’ bid if they meet the same criteria in (a) or (b) above.

4. Notre Dame is automatically in one of these games if they end up ranked 8 or better in the final BCS Standings (We know this one ticks a lot of people off. Some people just think Notre Dame is special – maybe the geniuses that came up with the BCS are Catholic, who knows?). Part of this is because they are an Independent team with no conference to win.

5. After that, if there are still more wholes to fill in the 10 teams, they go through some more craziness about rankings and automatic qualifiers and at-large bids to fill them. It’s crazy. Not worth trying to explain in any form of English normal people want to understand.

How the At-Large bid works in the BCS –

Seriously? If you think the automatic qualifiers was difficult to understand, this is even worse. Suffice it to say that if after all the steps to find 10 automatic qualifiers did not result in 10 teams, then the bowls will select at-large teams.

An at-large team is any Football Bowl Subdivision team that is bowl-eligible and:

  • The team won at least nine games, AND
  • The team is ranked in the top 14

No more than two teams from the same conference may be selected unless two non-champions from the same conference are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the final BCS Standings. (This is how Alabama and LSU played for the title in 2011).

Still can’t make ten teams? Then they open it to those that are in the top 18 in the final rankings with a couple more ridiculous rules.

Even more crazy is if they can’t find what should be the top 10 teams in the country within the top 18 in the BCS poll that these guys thought up and think is so amazing, then they continue to look at the next 4 teams in the rankings.

Somehow, in the end, they have accepted enough bribes or something to decide who is going to play in these 10 spots. After that, all the other bowls that are not the BCS bowls get to really get creative about who they have play in their bowl. Sometimes that is tradition. Sometimes that is location. Sometimes that is who will be fun to matchup against each other or whose fans travel better. In the end, it is all about MONEY!

BCS Championship –

The Championship game is played between the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams by the BCS provided that each team is bowl eligible.

BCS Future –

There will be a 4 team playoff system beginning in the 2014 season. The semi-final game will be played on either New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. There will be a Championship Monday that will be the first Monday in January that is at least days after the playoff. The first Championship will be played on January 12, 2015. We can only hope that this is the beginning of a larger playoff system.

Explanation of College Football Conferences

College Conferences and Teams List

College Bowl Games Schedule for 2013


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