Auburn, California are pricked by thorny BCS


Big Chaotic Situation.

Barely Clarified Scenario.

Bloody College Stink.

Take your pick, but any of the above seems more appropriate for the BCS than simply Bowl Championship Series.

From the logjam of unbeatens at the top that left third-ranked Auburn as this year's team that was kicked to the proverbial curb to the politicking by Texas coach Mack Brown that enabled his Longhorns to leapfrog over California for the last BCS invitation, the flaws in this imperfect system seemed even more magnified than before.

Although it wasn't a surprise that the top two teams, Southern California (12-0) and Oklahoma (12-0), yesterday claimed their spots in this year's BCS championship game, the Orange Bowl on Jan. 4 in Miami, or that Auburn (12-0) will meet No. 9 Virginia Tech (10-2) on Jan. 3 in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, the rest of the lineup showed why there needs to be another overhaul in the formula.

Even BCS coordinator Kevin Weiberg, the Big 12 commissioner, acknowledged a serious look at the process will be made in the spring.

"I don't think there are any regrets at this point, but it's clearly something that in the offseason, as we do every year, we're going to have to take a look at," Weiberg said in a national teleconference last night. "Clearly, the results of the games [Saturday] were important how some voters thought about these teams, particularly Texas and Cal."

How did Cal, which barely lost on the road to USC earlier in the season, finish fourth in both human polls but drop so drastically in the overall computer poll ranking (from fourth to sixth) after winning, 26-16, on the road Saturday night at Southern Mississippi, costing the bad-luck Bears a chance at a BCS invitation?

"We're obviously very, very disappointed," Cal coach Jeff Tedford, whose 10-1 team went from .0013 of a point ahead of Texas to .0129 behind the Longhorns, said in an interview on ABC's BCS selection show.

It's also interesting how No. 6 Texas (10-1) wound up playing No. 13 Michigan (9-2), the Big Ten's BCS representative, in the Rose Bowl.

First, the Longhorns jumped over Cal, then were picked by the Tournament of Roses executive committee to take USC's spot (as Pacific-10 champion) and finally got the blessing of the Fiesta Bowl, which usually hosts the Big 12 representative. Several factors played a part in the decision - the number of fans, television ratings and the matchups.

Brown, whose Longhorns earned their first BCS invitation and will make the school's first trip to the Rose Bowl, knows what it's like to be on the outside looking in. Fearful the same thing would happen this year, Brown lobbied hard for his Longhorns to get a BCS invitation after their 26-13 win over Texas A&M; on Nov. 26.

"There was so much BCS talk since we didn't get in as a No. 5, No. 6 or No. 7, our kids kept hearing, 'Are you going to get left out again?'" Brown recalled last night. "Before the A&M; game, I said, 'If you will play, then I will stand up for you and try to make the voters at least go look very carefully at our schedule and who we are.'"

Did it work?

"It was just more of an awareness. I don't think what I said made any difference," Brown said. "I do think that all eyes were on college football [Saturday], and that's probably what changed the votes."

The Texas-Cal debate overshadowed the fact that Auburn couldn't make it past either the Trojans or the Sooners, who began the season in the same position they finished and never moved from the first two spots. The Tigers steadily moved up, starting at No. 17 in the Associated Press poll.

There is an outside chance that the Tigers, if they can blow out the Hokies, could wind up with the No. 1 ranking in the Associated Press poll should both the Trojans and Sooners play poorly in Miami.

Tuberville said it's unlikely.

"We've been trying to convince the AP voters for a lot of weeks, and we haven't done very good," Tuberville said.

USC coach Pete Carroll, whose Trojans were left out of the national championship game last year but still managed to win a share of the title with LSU after the Tigers upset Oklahoma, could feel for Tuberville and his Tigers.

"Unfortunately because there are three of us, Auburn gets left out," Carroll said. "There's no question that they feel they're deserving, and they are, to be playing in a game like this. We made the most of our opportunity last year. The system was adjusted because of last year, and I hope it's adjusted again."

Another adjustment might come because of what transpired with the Big East this season. The league must hope its BCS representative, No. 19 Pittsburgh (8-3), doesn't embarrass itself in its Fiesta Bowl matchup with high-scoring, No. 5 Utah (11-0) in Tempe, Ariz., on New Year's Day.

Weiberg seemed resigned to the fact that no matter what system is in place - the current model, the so-called "plus one," where there would be a championship game played after the bowls, or an eight-team, NFL-like, single-elimination tournament - that someone is going to be left unhappy.

"Last year, we were taking criticism for too much influence of computers," Weiberg said, "and we tried to develop something that was weighted toward the human voters and we've taken a lot of criticism for that because of the impact of coaches' lobbying, and so the bottom line is that whatever formula we have at the end of the day is probably one that receives some significant criticism in some way, shape or form."

Here's another name: Being Criticized Severely.

BCS bowls

Rose Bowl: Matchup: No. 13 Michigan (9-2) vs. No. 6 Texas (10-1) When: Jan. 1, 5 p.m.

Fiesta Bowl: Matchup: No. 5 Utah (11-0) vs. No. 19 Pittsburgh (8-3) When: Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m.

Sugar Bowl: Matchup: No. 3 Auburn (12-0) vs. No. 9 Virginia Tech (10-2) When: Jan. 3, 8 p.m.

Orange Bowl: Matchup: No. 1 USC (12-0) vs. No. 2 Oklahoma (12-0) When: Jan. 4, 8 p.m.

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