Thursday, December 15, 2011

The BCS Strikes Again

Those of you expecting to read a bashing of The Rematch have come to the wrong place. LSU and Alabama are clearly the two best teams in the country, having already faced each other or not. In fact, one thing the Bowl Championship Series formula usually does well (critics be damned) is get the title game matchup correct. It is a fairly effective and fine way in determining who deserves to play for the national title.

Yet imagine my surprise coming home from work last Sunday night and reading the other BCS game matchups. As a Virginia Tech fan and alum, after our loss to Clemson in the ACC Championship, I assumed the season was over insofar as we would be relegated to another inconsequential Chick-Fil-A Bowl against some mid-tier SEC foe. Snore. Upon seeing the listings, namely the Sugar Bowl’s choice of competitors, I was stunned; perhaps beyond stunned. I ventured on to Facebook and Twitter, demanding more information, confirming ESPN had not made a mistake. These things happen. It was of course possible one line of editing had shifted my beloved Hokies from irrelevance into the BCS by accident.

Upon further review, it was all true. Virginia Tech will be playing Michigan in the Sugar Bowl.

Beyond the absurdness of this was utter delight. We had, after all, been rewarded by losing our conference championship. Clemson, the team that had destroyed us not once, but twice this season, and won the aforementioned ACC title, would be trotting out to the Orange Bowl against West Virginia. Meanwhile, the team they crushed would be heading to a better bowl game against a better opponent. Whodathunkit? For the uninitiated, an Orange Bowl trip against the Big East champion is usually trouble. It is a lose-lose situation through and through. Win and you were supposed to; lose and be prepared for ridicule and embarrassment. The Orange Bowl is The Cleveland Show of BCS bowl games.

Instead, the Hokies will travel to New Orleans and face a national power returned to glory in the Michigan Wolverines. A win is tremendous, validating a season in which quality wins are few and far between. A loss is not the end of the world as the BCS bowl berth was really the season’s reward anyways.

That gets us back to the Sugar Bowl’s decision. And yes, it is their decision. They chose to pit the 11th ranked team in the country against the 13th. Neither Virginia Tech nor Michigan was in the top 10 in the final rankings. These two teams were chosen because of expected television ratings and fan followings, generating the most revenue for the bowl game.

Sugar Bowl constituents could have chosen Boise State or Kansas State or both to play here instead. Each of these teams finished ahead of each of the two teams actually chosen. But it didn’t and doesn’t come down to that. After the championship matchup and conference title tie-ins are delegated out, it is up to the bowl game itself to choose its desired matchup. It worked in my favor this year but it worked against a few other fan bases. And just imagine my disgust if Michigan had been chosen to play Boise and Tech was left out after having a better year than the Wolverines.

So the BCS, even getting the title game correct (although it was easy this year) still has its problems. Is it right that at-large BCS teams are chosen based on their ability to generate money rather than their season success? No, probably not. Will I complain about it? Not this year. Go Hokies!

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