Despite what you may have heard on Tuesday night, color the following states red: New Jersey, New York, California, Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Texas and Indiana.
More accurately, color them scarlet. The Rutgers Scarlet Knights’ surprising victory over Louisville has thrown the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) into turmoil or talk radio and blogger heaven, depending on your point of view. Rutgers, despite its current undefeated record, has no chance to play in the national championship game against the winner of Ohio State-Michigan. That leaves, in order of current BCS ranking, the following one loss teams still officially in the mix: Florida, Texas, Auburn, USC, Cal, Notre Dame, West Virginia, Arkansas and Louisville (once it is re-ranked). My home state Boise State Broncos, even if they finish undefeated, have no shot. The number-crunchers seem to think that Florida and USC, because of strength of schedule, have the inside track over the other schools if they win out.
I have mixed feelings about Thursday’s game as I do generally about the current structure of college football. (Set aside the fact that money rules absolutely – if it is corruption, it is magnificent corruption – but that is a story for another time.) The games are always more interesting when the traditional power programs – Ohio State, Michigan, USC, Notre Dame, etc. – are competing for a national championship. On the other hand I dislike the fact that the BCS system is so openly an oligarchy, skewed to protect the big programs and power conferences from the upstarts, more so even than college basketball. Merit can only slowly overcome bloodlines and deep pockets, and usually not for long. Rutgers simply does not have the multi-year track record to convince the system that it belongs. West Virginia and Louisville, two other Big East schools with a chance to go undefeated, did have sufficient pedigree, but barely and then only because enough traditional powers had lost at least one game. And Rutgers will probably soon slide back into the equestrian class at best. Reality – and the probable departure of its outstanding coach, Greg Schiano - will out.
An example of big big school arrogance: those who argued that there should be a rematch of Ohio State-Michigan for the national championship if their first game was close, rather than allow an undefeated Big East team into the title game.
The best case scenario under the current system would have been a mixed regime, where a big name (Ohio State) played a credible, high-powered upstart (Louisville) for the national championship, with the other bowls having intriguing traditional matchups (e.g., USC-Michigan) and a mixture of the new (Notre Dame-Boise State). Rutgers’ win should be celebrated for its own sake but ironically it did not help the immediate cause of the less big guys. I say less big because in the world of Division I-A college football, there are no true Horatio Alger stories. Rutgers is as close as one can get, but the system won’t allow us to see it through.