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Thursday, September 29, 2011
BCS is actually pretty damn good idea

By Sarah Phillips
Special to Page 2

BCS logo
Take a good, hard look at the BCS, and you just might agree it's a pretty damn good system after all.

Politicians have asked, "Why do you exist?"

Mark Cuban has offered millions to put you out of existence.

Fans, coaches and athletic administrators have nightmares over you.

You are the BCS.

Discussing the BCS is as appealing as tasting battery acid to most college football fans. Not me, though.

Here's a look at the good, the bad and the ugly of the BCS.


The Good: SEC is a synonym for BCS

Your favorite team isn't that good -- if it were, it would be in the SEC: The SEC champion has been selected to participate in seven of the 12 BCS title games, going 7-0 in those appearances. Floyd Mayweather Jr. might be dodging Manny Pacquiao, but the SEC doesn't avoid anybody. The league has rained down the infamous "S-E-C! S-E-C! S-E-C!" chants with three BCS championship wins over the Big 12, two over the Big Ten, one over the Pac-10 Pac-12 and one over the ACC.

The value of the SEC's BCS championship record is amplified when compared to the other five BCS conferences. The ACC, Big East, and Big Ten are each 1-2 in BCS championship appearances. The Big 12 is 2-5, and the Pac-10 Pac-12 is 0-1 (sorry about that vacated title, USC). That's a combined winning percentage of .294!

If the SEC were a casino game, it would have the best odds: The current AP poll has four SEC teams -- LSU, Alabama, South Carolina and Florida -- ranked in the top 12. If you ranked teams based on their average current odds to win the BCS championship, the list would look like this: No. 1 Alabama (3:1), No. 2 LSU (7:2), No. 3 Oklahoma (4:1), No. 4 Wisconsin (5:1), No. 5 Stanford (13:2), No. 6 South Carolina (7:1), No. 7 Boise State (8:1) and No. 8 Florida (10:1). This is significant, because each of the previous 12 BCS champions entered Week 5 as one of the top eight odds-on favorites to take home the title. With the SEC occupying half of the top eight, it appears the SEC has an excellent chance to earn a sixth consecutive national championship.

To be the man, you gotta beat the man: Please take notice: The SEC is the man.

During each of the past three seasons, the SEC champion has beaten an average of five ranked teams -- six, if you include the national championship. The past three losers in the national title game have been equally tested. Oregon, Texas and Oklahoma each played five ranked opponents along their roads to the championship game. For not being a true playoff system, the NCAA regular season sure does a good job of walking and talking like a playoff system. Right?

This season is no different. Gimme the SEC champion versus whoever you got.


The Bad: Darwinism, anyone?

I don't start watching the ACC and Big East until late in the season -- basketball season. The ACC and Big East are a combined 8-18 in their BCS bowl appearances. Neither league has ever produced an at-large BCS bowl qualifier.

Since the BCS is reportedly revising the current two-team-per-conference limit, BCS executive director Bill Hancock should strongly consider eliminating automatic qualifiers to enhance the level of BCS competition.

The top eight (not 10 -- this will make sense later) teams in the final BCS standing should qualify for a BCS bowl. Period. Mix and match the group however you like, but reward the best teams with BCS berths.

Trust Charles Darwin, the strongest will survive.


The Ugly: "Playoffs? Don't talk about ... playoffs? You kiddin' me?"

Most anti-BCS extremists are fixated on the idea of using an extended postseason playoff to cure all the ailments in the current system.

But will an extended playoff really solve anything?

As with other sports, a playoff system would devalue the regular season. Take the Bills' climactic win against the Patriots as an example. Great win for Buffalo, right? Too bad it probably won't mean anything in the long run. The Patriots will probably still win the AFC East, and in a couple months few of us will remember that Buffalo beat New England. Conversely, regular-season games have championship implications every week in college football. Call the folks in Eugene, Ore., in a couple years and ask if they remember who beat the Ducks to open the 2011 season. LSU will be tattooed in their memory. That's the beauty of the BCS.

A playoff system won't eliminate complaints about lack of inclusion, either. The NCAA men's basketball tournament has increased to 68 teams, but all the bubble teams who don't make the cut still complain about the injustice of the system. Bitching is a tendency which will never be resolved. Just ask my future mother-in-law.

A playoff system with a single-elimination format still doesn't guarantee the two best teams will meet in the championship. A couple injuries, some lucky bounces, a few ill-advised penalties, and you wind up with the football equivalent of Butler in the Final Four. Shooting 19 percent in basketball is bad enough. We don't need to see what that looks like on the football field.

A plus-one scenario, on the other hand, is a compromise that should appease most fans. The regular season would identify the participants for the Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl and Fiesta Bowl. Among the winners of those four games, the top two teams in the BCS standings would meet for the championship.

It's not really a playoff, but it should be close enough to satisfy politicians, Mark Cuban and the rest of the BCS critics.


This week's college picks

All games are Saturday unless otherwise noted.


 

No. 8 Nebraska at No. 7 Wisconsin, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
During this past offseason, star quarterback Russell Wilson traded an N.C. State uniform for a Wisconsin uniform, and Nebraska traded the Big 12 for the Big Ten. The immediate impact of these moves will be tested in prime time as the Cornhuskers travel to Madison to meet Wilson and the Badgers -- the first Big Ten conference game ever for Wilson and the Huskers. Something tells me Russell will have a warmer Big Ten initiation than Nebraska. Wisconsin is undefeated against the spread in their past 11 games, and with the home team favored by nine, the numbers are on the side of the Badgers celebrating a double-digit win.
Pick: Wisconsin (-9)


 

No. 3 Alabama at No. 12 Florida, 8 p.m. ET
The Gators have solidified their position as a second-tier SEC team. That sounds dubious, but keep in mind that entering Week 5 last season, most experts identified No. 11 Auburn as second-tier. For Florida to catapult into championship contention the way Auburn did, the Gators need to beat Alabama at home this week, then beat LSU on the road next week. However, the Gators are 1-4 against the spread in their past five games after scoring more than 40 points in their previous game. This inconsistency is compounded by the fact that Alabama is 7-1-1 against the spread in its past nine meetings with Florida. Maybe Florida's position is dubious after all.
Pick: Alabama (-3)


 

No. 13 Clemson at No. 11 Virginia Tech, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Virginia Tech seems to follow the same story line every year. No one believes in the Hokies to begin the season. Then they fly under the radar and pick up steam in October and November. Before you know it, they've qualified for a significant bowl game and the nation takes notice. But when the bright lights shine on Blacksburg, they often do the Hokey Pokey, turn themselves around and wind up on the wrong end of an embarrassing loss. That's what they're all about. Fortunately for Hokies fans, their team is currently in the "pick up steam" phase. Last October, the Hokies went 4-0 against the spread. It's a midseason tradition for this program. So is dominating Clemson. Virginia Tech is 5-0 against the spread versus the Tigers in their past five meetings.
Pick: Virginia Tech (-7)


 

No. 14 Texas A&M vs. No. 18 Arkansas, noon ET, ESPN
Texas A&M's strategy of moving to the SEC is based on recruiting and money. The Aggies want to be cool by association when it comes to using the SEC's brand to win recruiting battles against archrival Texas. Here's what A&M hasn't anticipated: five-star athletes don't want to commit to getting their butt whooped for four years. Texas A&M is winless against the spread in its past seven meetings against SEC opponents. This includes a 41-24 Cotton Bowl loss to LSU last season. This feels like a classic, "Be careful what you wish for" situation.
Pick: Arkansas (+3).



This week's NFL picks

All games are Sunday unless otherwise noted.


 

Lions at Cowboys, 1 p.m. ET
While pundits are suddenly jumping on the Detroit bandwagon, bettors have been singing their praises since the offseason. Detroit opened as high as a 35:1 favorite to win the Super Bowl but quickly dropped to 10:1 prior to the start of the season. The Lions are trying to reinvent themselves after living among the bottom feeders for most of the past decade. Performing well against upper-echelon opponents will get them there. Detroit is 9-1 against the spread in its past 10 meetings versus teams with winning records. Get ready for a "Transformers 4" preview in Arlington on Sunday -- Megatron on the Jumbotron.
Pick: Lions (+1.5)


 

Steelers at Texans, 1 p.m. ET
The NFL standings might as well already reflect the Texans clinching the AFC South with the standard "y-Houston." Peyton Manning is almost certainly done for the season -- I haven't actually kept up with Colts owner Jim Irsay's tweets. Is Manning done for the year? Or not? Or is he playing next week? Or are the Colts signing Brett Favre? Which means, the Colts are essentially done for the season. Jacksonville and Tennessee were pretenders to begin with. Frankly, Houston doesn't need this game. On the other hand, if the up-and-down Steelers don't win this game, they will severely damage their playoff chances. The Steelers have made no sense this season. Vegas has noticed the Steelers' inconsistency by dogging them in Houston. That's OK though, Pittsburgh is 8-3 against the spread in its past 11 games as underdog.
Pick: Steelers (+4)


 

Patriots at Raiders, 4:15 p.m. ET
Only a winning quarterback can pull off an UGG boots campaign and maintain credibility. Being a winning quarterback is easy when you seldom lose consecutive games. Dating to 2003, the Brady-Belichick combination has only lost back-to-back games twice. That's bad news for the upstart Raiders. It gets worse. New England is 5-0 against the number in its past five games following a loss.
Pick: Patriots (-4)


 

Jets at Ravens, 8:20 p.m. ET
The Jets and Ravens are mirror images of each other. They rely on trash talk first, defense second, running game third and quarterbacks last. If success were measured in self-promotion, these teams would have won the past 10 Super Bowls. Like the Steelers, little has made sense about the Jets and Ravens this season. The Ravens opened the season by routing Pittsburgh, then they lost to a terrible Tennessee team before rebounding with a blowout win over St. Louis. The Jets were given a gift win by Tony Romo in their opener, blew out the hapless Jaguars in Week 2 then lost to Oakland. The only thing consistent about these teams is inconsistency. Here's the tiebreaker: The Ravens are 6-1 against the spread versus the Jets in their past seven meetings.
Pick: Ravens (-3)


Sarah Phillips is a featured columnist for the sports betting information website Covers.com.
You can follow her on Twitter @RealSarahPHI.


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