The BCS released earlier this week a list of 20 teams still under consideration for the nine remaining BCS bowl positions. Ohio State has already secured a Rose Bowl spot as the Big 10 Champion. The list included the following teams:
Clemson, Georgia Tech, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Nebraska, Texas, Oregon, Oregon State, Florida, Alabama, Boise State, BYU, Iowa, LSU, Miami (FL), Oklahoma State, Penn State, USC, TCU, and Virginia Tech.
The first 10 teams are obvious since they can gain an automatic berth by winning their conference championship. It is the second 10 that is perplexing. TCU and Boise State are givens to be on this list, since they are in the top 6 and undefeated. Iowa, Penn State, and Oklahoma State are understandable; they are the next best teams from conferences that have an automatic berth for their champions. However, the rational and common sense starts to get fuzzy with LSU, Miami (FL), USC, and Virginia Tech. Each school has three losses, and no team with three losses, except for Illinois in 2007 as Ohio State's replacement in the Rose Bowl, has ever played in a BCS bowl game. The BCS could really get itself into trouble if one of these three loss teams is invited while an undefeated Boise State is not. I don't know what could be better evidence that the BCS is unfair and that money comes first in the BCS.
The first explanation I can offer is that this is all politics. For the BCS to appear equitable it needs to show that schools from conferences without automatic bids for their champion have the same chance to get a BCS invite as any non-champion from those conferences with an automatic bid for their champion. This reminds me of 1996 when then BYU head coach LaVell Edwards was invited to the selection show for the Bowl Alliance, the precursor to the BCS. In 1996, BYU was the third highest ranked team available for the six alliance bowl spots, and the highest ranked team that was not guaranteed a spot as a conference champion. BYU was not invited to play in one of the Bowl Alliance games and having Edwards present was merely a gesture to make the Alliance appear to be an equitable system. In reality, BYU will not be invited to play in a BCS bowl, even if every team with two or three losses loses again and Boise State and one of the undefeated SEC teams lose their two remaining games. The BCS just won't let it happen. My second explanation is that BYU is the next highest rated team after TCU and Boise State from a conference that does not have an automatic bid for its conference champion. In their effort to appear fair, the BCS just did the simplest thing. That is why it was BYU and not Utah. My third explanation is that BYU was the second team from the Mountain West Conference on the list. The BCS bylaws prohibit a conference from having more than two participants in BCS bowls. Maybe if Utah was in the Western Athletic Conference or some other conference the Utes would have made the list, but since they are below BYU in the standings and in the same conference as BYU and TCU, Utah was left off.
In the end, I find one other question more pertinent than all others. Why does the BCS put out this list? There is still a lot of football left to play. The changes that can occur, and have occurred in the past, in the BCS standings can propel a team to the forefront of discussion that is out of the picture now. Why open yourself up for more criticism and controversy? Just let the games be played and tabulate the final BCS standings and make the selections from those results.