With little hope of a national playoff in sight, college football power brokers on Tuesday turned the game over to computer geeks, unveiling a complicated four-pronged statistical system to determine the 1-2 matchup in the bowl championship series' annual national title game.
Seeking the fairest way in a non-playoff world to assure that the top two schools meet in an annual title game, the new formula will consider four variables:
* Polls. The Associated Press and USA Today-ESPN coaches' rankings will have less impact under the new system. The poll component will be calculated based on the average ranking of a school in each poll. For example, if a team is ranked first in one poll and second in another, the numbers are added, then divided by two, to produce a poll rating of 1.5
* Computers. This component melds current media rankings by the New York Times, Seattle Times and statistician Jeff Sagarin to produce another point calculation.
* Strength of schedule. Schools no longer will be rewarded for loading up on cream puffs. Two-thirds of this component will be weighted by a school's opponents' records, the other third on the record of the opponents' opponents.
* Records. Each loss during the season will represent one point for a school.
At the end of the regular season, the four components will be added and the schools with the two lowest point totals will be paired in the national title game.
Had the system been in place last season, the top six schools would have been Michigan, Nebraska, Tennessee, Florida State, Florida and UCLA.
"The purpose was to more clearly define and evaluate those teams with similar records at the end of the season," Roy Kramer, coordinator of the Bowl Championship Series, said on a conference call.
Initial rankings will not be released until early November, to allow time for the strength-of-schedule component to develop more meaning. The rankings will be used only to determine schools in the national title game.
What if there's a point-total tie between No. 2 and No. 3?
"We believe it's almost impossible to have a tie," Kramer said.
Another provision: Any school that does not have an automatic bowl bid conference tie, which would include independent Notre Dame and the recently splintered Western Athletic Conference, can earn a bowl series championship bid with a top-six ranking.