This article is an attempt to help some of you make some sense of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS). Most of you probably prefer to call it the BS system and I for one do not blame you. We'll start with something simple first. I think most of you are familiar with the components that comprise the BCS rankings, but for those of you that do not know, here it is:
BCS Ranking Formula:
Harris Poll 1/3
Coaches Poll 1/3
Computer Rankings 1/3
If you are a brave soul and would like to know more about the BCS, see you after the jump...
I commend you for having a thirst for knowledge. I really tried to simplify this the best that I could. Having said that, I hope you have some Tylenol handy.
Here goes nothing...
The first thing that you need to know is that all eleven conferences are considered BCS conferences. There are, however, six conferences that automatically qualify for a BCS game. Those conferences are the following: Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, and Southeastern Conferences. The champion of each one of those conferences will earn an automatic BCS Bowl berth. There is one other part of this equation that many fans are not aware of. There is a clause that allows Notre Dame to also earn an automatic BCS game if the school finishes 8th or better in the final BCS standings. Since the BCS came into existence in 1998 Notre Dame has never been able to achieve this goal.
Even though there are six conferences that have an automatic BCS bowl berth, as I mentioned before ALL eleven conferences are considered BCS conferences. The difference is that there is simply a different criteria for the remaining five conferences to earn a BCS bowl berth. These five conferences are most commonly referred to as non-automatic qualifiers. They consist of the following conferences: Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain West Conference, the Sun Belt Conference, and the Western Athletic Conference. There are many in the college football world that believe the different criteria for the non-automatic qualifiers make it somewhat more difficult for one of these teams to make a BCS appearance. This is something that will probably always be up for debate and there are many different opinions on the topic. There are two main ways for a non-automatic qualifier to make a BCS Bowl. The first way is for one of those teams to be ranked in the top twelve in the final BCS standings. The second way is for one of those teams to be ranked in the top sixteen in the final BCS standings AND the team must be above one of the conference champions from the automatic qualifiers.
Are you confused yet? If not, you're about to be.
If there are fewer than ten teams that earn bowl berths in the ways that I just explained, then the remaining spots will be filled by an at-large team. An at-large team is any team that meets this criteria: The team must be bowl eligible, it must have at least nine wins, and it must be in the top fourteen in the final BCS standings. No more than two teams from one particular conference can be selected. It doesn't matter if they are an automatic qualifier or an at-large selection, there can be no more than two teams from one conference. The lone exception to this rule is if two non-champions from the same conference are ranked number one and two in the final BCS standings.
If fewer than ten teams meet these criteria to become at-large, don't worry because there is another way. The bowls can select any team that has nine wins, is in the top eighteen in the final BCS standings (keep in mind the two team limit listed above). They are also subject to the following: Any conference that has two or more teams in the top fourteen must have at least two of those teams selected. Also, a bowl can select any team ranked from fifteenth to eighteen in the final BCS standings if the team has fewer than two teams in the top fourteen.
It's okay folks...I have a headache too. Hang in there...we're almost done.
As far as the national championship goes, I think everyone pretty much understands that the top two teams in the final BCS standings will play for that beautiful crystal football. Unless a conference champ is in the national championship game, the conference champions of the six automatic qualifying conferences are contractually obligated to participate in bowl games as followed:
Big Ten-Rose Bowl
Big 12-Fiesta Bowl
The Big East rotates each year among one of the BCS Bowls with an at large bid. This year it's the Orange Bowl.
If two of the above bowls lose a contractual host due to being in the national championship game, then the bowl will replace the team with another BCS qualifying team or an at-large team (If the Rose Bowl loses both Pac-10 and Big Ten teams, the bowl will get two replacements.)
The site of the national championship game rotates between the Orange, Rose, Fiesta, and Sugar Bowls. This year's national championship game will be played at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, AZ.
I realize that you are probably still confused about the BCS process, but it is my hope that you are at least less confused than you were before you started reading.