Binge drinking. Excessive homework. The BCS system. What do these three have in common? All can leave you with one nasty headache. Luckily, this flowchart will tackle that last item, the Bowl Championship Series, as well as illustrate why it’s so dang hard for Boise State to make it to a BCS bowl game. Let’s dive in:
How the BCS works:
A product of the previous bowl selectors, the Bowl Coalition and Bowl Alliance, the BCS was created in 1998, championed by former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer. Despite the previous two selection groups, the BCS technically allows any school from any of the major or mid major conferences to be in contention for one of its four bowls (Orange, Sugar, Fiesta and Rose) as well as its championship game. Not so fast though, as the conference, ranking and television red tape play a big role in the “who’s in, who’s out” game.
For the BCS rankings themselves, there are three major components to it: a coaches’ poll that is conducted by USA Today, a poll done by Harris Interactive, and a group of six computers ranking the teams. From wins and losses as well as strength of schedule and conference play, the BCS ranks the top 25 teams in the nation. The No. 1 and No. 2 overall team in the BCS standings at the end of the college season rightfully play in the national title game. But for the other bowls, it becomes a bit murky. Here is the breakdown of the BCS bowl system.
National Championship game:
This year: No. 1 Notre Dame vs. No. 2 Alabama
Jan. 7 6:30 p.m. MT on ESPN
The first BCS National Championship game was played in 1998 and resulted from the “Bowl Alliance” system between the Big Ten Conference, the Pac 10 Conference and the Rose Bowl. The Bowl Alliance, in an extended format, became the Bowl Championship Series, or BCS. The only confusing thing about the national title game is that it rotates between the four bowls and their respective location. For instance, this year the game will be played at the Orange Bowl location in Miami, Fla.
Notre Dame took the top spot overall for going undefeated (the only team aside from the bowl-ineligable Ohio State Buckeyes) and it’s strength of schedule, defeating four ranked BCS teams throughout the season. Alabama took the No. 2 spot for similar reasons as the Fighting Irish: its brutal SEC schedule in which the Crimson Tide defeated four ranked opponents but lost to Texas A&M on an upset.
This year: No. 6 Stanford vs. Wisconsin
Jan. 1 3 p.m. MT on ESPN
The Rose Bowl, typically played on Jan. 1st, carries the nickname “The Granddaddy of Them All” because it is the oldest BCS bowl game. First played in 1902, it has been the most widely-attended bowl game since 1945. For this bowl, the winners of the Pac-12 and Big 10 conferences head to Pasadena, Calif. for one of the more historic bowls in college football history.
The Stanford Cardinal, ranked No. 6 overall, found their way into this year’s Rose Bowl as Pac- 12 conference winners, defeating UCLA in the Pac-12 title game 27-24 on Nov. 30. For the unranked Wisconsin Badgers, beating the Nebraska Cornhuskers 70-31 on Dec. 1 in the Big 10 title game was the key to their trip back to Pasadena for a third consecutive year.
No. 15 Northern Illinois vs. No. 12 Florida State
Jan. 1 6:30 p.m. MT on ESPN
Tied with the Sugar Bowl for the second-oldest bowl game in the BCS, the Orange Bowl has been played annually for more than 75 years. Before the National Championship became a stand-alone game, the Orange Bowl hosted the top two BCS teams several times. Initially having a conference connection with the Big East, the Orange Bowl now takes the winner of the ACC and at-large team, a team which the bowl selects within the top 16 of the BCS standings
Florida State took home the ACC crown by taking down Georgia Tech 21-15 in their title game on Dec. 1. For Northern Illinois, it’s a bit of a different story. As members of the MAC, the conference is considered a “non-AQ” and must finish in the Top 16 and ahead of a major conference winner to qualify for a BCS spot. The Huskies did just that, finishing at No. 15 in the final BCS rankings and ahead of Big 10 conference winner Wisconsin.
No. 3 Florida vs. No. 21 Louisville
Jan. 2 6:30 p.m. MT on ESPN
The Sugar Bowl, tied with the Orange Bowl, is the second-oldest BCS game. It was first played in 1926, when New Orleans held a community celebration centered around a football game. The festival idea was scrapped, but the football game stayed to be renamed the Sugar Bowl. The bowl itself has a conference tie-in with the SEC and an at-large pick.
With Alabama heading to the national title game, the bowl selected No. 3 as its SEC representative. While the Big East does not have any conference tie-ins, it does qualify as an at-large pick. This year’s Big East winner was Louisville, defeating Rutgers 20-17 on Nov. 29 for the conference title.
No. 4 Oregon vs. No. 5 Kansas State
Jan. 3 6:30 p.m. MT on ESPN
The Fiesta Bowl began with the Western Athletic Conference’s frustration in attempting to obtain bowl invitations for its teams (sound familiar?). First played in 1971, the Fiesta Bowl quickly began attracting high-profile teams from larger conferences. In 1978, it dropped its tie-in with the WAC. Now, the bowl takes the winner of the Big 12 conference and an at-large pick.
Kansas State took home the Big 12 title with its 42-24 win over Texas to head to Phoenix, Ariz. for the bowl. The bowl then selected Oregon as its at-large team to square off against the Wildcats, the Ducks fourth straight BCS bowl appearance.
Boise State has had quite a rep with the Fiesta Bowl in recent years. In 2007, the Broncos finished the season undefeated at 13-0 and defeated Big 12 conference winner Oklahoma 43-42 in overtime in one of the more remarkable and uncanny Fiesta Bowls. In 2010, the Broncos made history as they squared off against TCU for the first BCS bowl game featuring two non-AQ teams, two who were both undefeated at the time. Boise State took home its second Fiesta Bowl title with a 17-10 over the Horned Frogs.