- Ted Miller, ESPN Staff Writer
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We've all experienced at least one crazy, tempestuous relationship, right? It was toxic yet also sometimes thrilling beyond measure. The highs were extraordinary, and the lows miserable. There were raving arguments full of frenzied recriminations, but somehow you stayed together for a surprisingly long time. Alas, eventually, sanity prevailed and you went your separate ways.
On Jan. 6 at midnight, college football will break up with the BCS after a tumultuous 16 seasons. The sport will move on to a new relationship in 2014 with the four-team College Football Playoff. This one promises to be more stable and mature.
So as we move toward this inevitable split, how do we feel? We know this is for the best, but certainly there will be some bittersweetness to the parting.
The BCS, after all, stopped us from ending seasons the way we ended 1997, when twin unbeatens Michigan and Nebraska eyeballed each other from across the country because the old bowl system didn't allow them to settle things on the field. Simply, the BCS tried to find the best way to put the Nos. 1 and 2 teams together for a winner-take-all game, which, at the time of its creation, seemed like a great idea. While it was unquestionably an imperfect system, it gave us Texas' 41-38 win over USC in 2006, which might well be the greatest college football game ever played. It also gave us Ohio State's shocking double-overtime win over a seemingly invincible Miami squad in 2003, which has a spot on the same list.
Further, while some insist the BCS made the postseason all about one championship game, that point can be strongly countered. What about Boise State's overtime win over Oklahoma in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl? Or Michigan's overtime win -- led by Tom Brady! -- over Alabama in the 2000 Orange Bowl? Or Texas' one-point victory over Michigan in the 2005 Rose Bowl? Those were fantastic games with great storylines that can still inspire goose bumps with their recollection.
Of course, most would argue the BCS gave us more ugliness than beauty, starting with the championship game itself. Only five of the previous 15 were decided by single digits. Six have been decided by three or more touchdowns, including the past two.
The BCS inspired congressional hearings. It created new terms: "BCS-buster" and "AQ" and "non-AQ." It tweaked its complicated formula nearly every year, a quasi-comedic exercise of men in suits frantically sticking their fingers into a leaky dike only to see a new stream of water spew forth the following December.
The SEC has won nine BCS titles overall and seven in a row, with a chance to make it 10 and eight when Auburn meets Florida State at the Rose Bowl. That's inspired plenty of justifiable chest-pounding down South and consternation in all other parts, where folks either fret the SEC's dominance or feel the system is merely rigged in its favor.
That -- widely divergent yet deeply ingrained subjective perspectives -- is the overriding theme of the BCS era, and that quality of creating near-annual controversies provided college football fans with what approximates a masochistic joy. The ranting and raving from fans and media started early just about every season, concerning comparable strengths of schedule and quality of conferences and how this unbeaten team was obviously better than that unbeaten team, but more often than not, things mostly worked themselves out.
Mostly. Certainly not always.
What's your favorite BCS controversy? Do you go big? "Top-ranked USC screwed out of BCS title game by stupid computers!" Or "Unbeaten SEC champion Auburn jilted by system that forgot the SEC should always get the benefit of the doubt!" Or "LSU and Alabama get all-SEC rematch in title game!"
Or do you go for the more nuanced moments? Kansas State getting screwed over after both the 1998 and 1999 seasons because it seemingly wasn't fancy enough for BCS bowl organizers. Or the one-loss, transitive-property conundrum of 2000, when Florida State lost to Miami, which lost to Washington, but the Seminoles played Oklahoma for the title. Or a late-season blowout loss being meaningless when Nebraska played for the title in 2001 (despite its 26-point defeat to Colorado) and when Oklahoma played for it in 2003 (despite losing by 28 to Kansas State).
California fans didn't shed many tears when Mack Brown announced he'd be stepping down at Texas on Saturday. In 2004, Brown openly and aggressively lobbied for voters to move the Longhorns up in the rankings in order to eclipse Cal, and more than a few voters in the AP and coaches' polls lined up like lemmings to deny the Golden Bears their first Rose Bowl berth since 1959. That shady politicking and voting is one of the reasons the AP withdrew its poll from the BCS formula.
What about Missouri in 2007? It beat hated archrival Kansas 36-28 on Nov. 24. Its only two losses came to Big 12 champion Oklahoma, which Kansas didn't play. It was ranked higher than Kansas at season's end. Yet the Orange Bowl picked the Jayhawks over the Tigers.
You even had officiating kerfuffles connected to the BCS. Remember that extra second Texas got in the 2009 Big 12 title game against Nebraska, which allowed the Longhorns to kick the game-winning field goal, remain unbeaten and then play Alabama for the national title? Cornhuskers coach Bo Pelini strongly suggested afterward that it was all a part of a BCS conspiracy.
Fact is we've all been co-conspirators, particularly media sorts -- who, us? -- who have learned through these BCS years all the right buttons to press to enrage and engage various fan bases. In our interactive age, controversy attracts eyeballs, which generates revenue, which is pretty much the motivation for everything in college football.
What's undeniable is the sport is more popular than ever, and the BCS has been the guiding force while the game has climbed to unprecedented heights.
Still, we are breaking up with the BCS. It's for the best. The College Football Playoff will certainly be better for us all.
At least until the selection committee rates your team fifth.
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