IS the BCS an improvement over the old system?
Regardless, it seems like the BCS has become the whipping boy for everything that is "wrong" with college football. But, let's take it for what it is: a system that is designed to match the two supposed best teams in the country in a winner-take-all game at the end of the year; essentially, a two-team playoff.
And, let's look at what it replaced: an antiquated system in which conference affiliations ruled the bowls, and if you were one of two undefeated teams, you'd better hope that one of you was an independent so you could play each other. With the Big 8 locked into the Orange Bowl, the SEC into the Sugar, and the Pac 10 and Big 10 into the Rose Bowl, there was always the possibility that THREE high-profile teams would emerge undefeated.
Is the BCS an improvement? Well, let's see. Since it started in 1998, let's look at it year-by-year....
1998: Tennessee 23, Florida State 16. At 12-0, Tennessee was a no-brainer. Florida State was probably the best of the one-loss teams (Kansas State and UCLA). Even playing with their third-string QB Marcus Outzen FSU gave the Vols a tight game. Kansas State, bumped from the BCS entirely, lost to Purdue in the Alamo Bowl, and UCLA lost to Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. Under the old system, independent FSU probably would've met Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl, unless the Sugar Bowl brass decided that the bowl-hungry KSU fan base was too lucrative to ignore. Did the BCS get it right? Yes.
1999: Florida State 46, Virginia Tech 29. Florida State was a wire-to-wire #1, and Virginia Tech ran the table as well. Under the old system, these two independents meet in the Fiesta Bowl. Did the BCS get it right? Absolutely.
2000: Oklahoma 13, Florida State 2. As the only major undefeated, Oklahoma was a shoo-in. Florida State lost at Miami, who lost at Washington, who lost at Oregon. In the end, the computers selecting Florida State, who was completely shut down by OU's stifling defense. Miami and Washington cruised in their bowl games. Under the old system, chances are, Miami meets OU in the Orange Bowl, Washington still meets Purdue in the Rose, and FSU probably gets shunted down to the Fiesta to play either Oregon State or Notre Dame. Did the BCS get it right? We'll say no, but I doubt anyone would've beaten OU that year.
2001: Miami 37, Nebraska 14. Nebraska, who failed to even reach their own conference championship game after being routed by Colorado, was selected over one-loss Oregon, who beat Colorado 38-16 in the Fiesta Bowl. Under the old system, Colorado meets (and likely gets slaughtered by) Miami in the Orange Bowl, Oregon faces Illinois in a rare trip to the Rose Bowl for the Illini, and Nebraska gets busted down to the Cotton Bowl. Did the BCS get it right? Absolutely not; this was probably the biggest failure in BCS history.
2002: Ohio State 31, Miami 24 (2OT). Probably one of the most exciting college games in history, and no controversy at all. Under the old system, Ohio State is forced to go play Washington State in the Rose Bowl, and Miami more than likely draws a Sugar Bowl matchup with Georgia, leading to the likelihood of a split title. Did the BCS get it right? Very much so.
2003: LSU 21, Oklahoma 14. Three BCS conference teams finished with one loss this year: LSU, Oklahoma, and USC. USC. The odd man out due to a supposedly weak schedule (OOC: Auburn, Hawaii, BYU, Notre Dame) beat Michigan 28-14 in the Rose Bowl. LSU's OOC: Louisiana-Monroe, Arizona, Western Illinois, Louisiana Tech. Oklahoma's OOC: North Texas, Alabama, Fresno State, UCLA. With the juggernauts that LSU faced, it becomes apparent that USC was penalized for being in a weaker conference and not for their OOC, which means that even the BCS doesn't view the conferences as equal. Under the old system, USC, Oklahoma and LSU are all sent to the Rose, Orange and Sugar Bowls respectively, probably all win, and nothing is resolved. Did the BCS get it right? No way - but it certainly didn't fare worse than the old conference tie-in system would have.
2004: USC 55, Oklahoma 19. Three BCS teams -- USC, OU and Auburn - all finished undefeated, as well as Utah and Boise State. Auburn was the odd-man out, despite having the highest-rated strength of schedule. The probable reason for this is that Auburn suffered in the human polls for their weak OOC schedule (Louisiana Monroe, Louisiana Tech and The Citadel). Under the olds system, again, these three teams all go to different bowls, with USC facing Michigan in the Rose, OU facing Virginia Tech in the Orange, and Auburn facing someone....most likely Pitt....in the Sugar, with all three teams probably cruising to easy wins. Did the BCS get it right? Probably not; looking at all three teams, I would've put OU and Auburn in the BCS Championship. Then again, Auburn did barely beat ACC Champ Virginia Tech team in the Sugar Bowl.
2005: Texas 41, USC 38. USC and Texas, the wire-to-wire #1 and #2 teams, gave us a game for the ages. Vince Young's touchdown scramble is one of the greatest plays in history. Under the old system, these two teams are denied the chance to face each other, as USC faces an overmatched Ohio State team in the Rose Bowl, and Texas draws a yawner against either West Virginia or Florida State in the Orange - bottom line is, we are denied one of the greatest Bowl games in history. Did the BCS get it right? Yes.
2006: Florida 41, Ohio State 14. Florida got the nod over one-loss Michigan, due primarily to the fact that Michigan's loss came in November to Ohio State, as well as the fact that Florida benefited from the exposure of playing in the SEC Championship game the week after the Michigan loss. The resulting bump they got in the human polls gave them a slight edge, and they validated the BCS by routing Ohio State. Under the old system, Ohio State faces off against USC in the Rose Bowl for the third time in four years, and Florida draws Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, with OSU winning the National Championship. Did the BCS get it right? It certainly seems that way, based on Florida's dismantling of Ohio State as well as Michigan's lackluster Rose Bowl performance.
In summation, the BCS has accomplished its goal of matching the two best teams in football 5 out of 9 times; while the system relies on subjectivity, it not only get it right more than half the time, but continuously self-corrects. But what's really important to keep in mind is the tremendous improvement it is over the "old" system; other than in 2001, the BCS clearly delivered a better matchup than conference tie-ins would've dictated.
Love or hate the BCS, it's here to stay, because you know if a playoff is instituted there will have to be some sort of BCS methodology used to determine the at-large teams, and probably the seeding as well. It's one thing to deny a 20-12 major college basketball team a shot at a National Title by not letting them in a 64-team tournament; it's quite another to deny an 10-2 major-conference College Football team a shot by shutting them out of an 8- or 12-team tournament. Whatever selection method is used, it will have to be methodical, understandable and transparent, which are all attributes on which the BCS improves each year.