Oregon running back LaMichael James and Auburn quarterback Cam Newton… (Photos by Getty Images and…)
From Scottsdale, Ariz. — Three words you thought you'd never hear will be shouted across the nation Monday night, wrinkling noses, raising eyebrows, rising from the depths of two college football teams that are in exactly the right place at precisely the right time.
The BCS works.
That's right. You heard me. You will hear them. You will be hearing them all night long.
The BCS works.
The maligned college football championship system that has spawned hatred from beer-stained parking lots to the White House has never worked better. The butt of jokes from Boise to Leno has never made more sense.
In its 13th year, the Bowl Championship Series is no silly teen. It has slowly become a sensible young adult with passion and perspective. Invented to solve college football's problems at the top, the BCS has instead changed the sport from the bottom, raising all 120 major college teams to the height of the American sports conscience.
Because of the BCS, college football has never been more popular. Because of the BCS, college football's championship has never been more consistently dramatic — witness the hype surrounding Monday's intersectional title bout between top-ranked Auburn and second-ranked Oregon at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. The game will feature the most expensive ticket in the history of sports, with single seats selling for as much as $8,600, but it's just BCS business as usual.
It will be the 10th time in 13 years that the Associated Press' top two teams have met in the BCS championship game. In the 56 years before the BCS, the nation's top two teams met in a bowl game eight times. Even in the vaunted NCAA basketball tournament, No. 1-seeded teams have met in the finals six times in 31 years of seeding.
Auburn has felt burned by the BCS before, finishing unbeaten in 2004 yet losing the title to unbeaten USC, yet even Auburn Coach Gene Chizik, who was the team's defensive coordinator that year, admitted that it has merit.
"I have been on both sides, but usually if you go back more times than not, the BCS formula has been right on," Chizik said Sunday.
Oregon also has felt cheated by the system after being denied a title shot while losing only once in 2001, yet Ducks Coach Chip Kelly refused to criticize it.
"Just tell me the rules of the game and I will play by it," he said Sunday. "Let me put it this way: I don't agree with the speed limit, but I've got to follow it."
OK, so he sort of criticized it but, then, seemingly everyone criticizes the BCS, everyone pining for the sort of national championship tournament that works so well in basketball even though the bowl system is too entrenched in money and ego for university presidents to ever agree to change it.
The reasons for the BCS still being here may be questionable, but the results are not. Nothing — not even Jim Harbaugh — has done more for college football than the system that everyone thinks is ruining it.
Because of the BCS, college football has the most exciting regular season in all of sports, every weekend a playoff weekend, every snap potentially the most important of the season, September to December Madness.
The regular season began with Boise State capturing the nation's attention with a comeback drive to beat Virginia Tech, and without the BCS, has anybody even heard of Boise State?
The regular season ended with Boise State keeping the nation awake by blowing two late field goals to lose to Nevada, and without the BCS, is anybody even watching that game?
For all of the beauty of March Madness, it has rendered most of the college basketball season irrelevant, teams simply beefing up their resumes and prepping for the tournament. The BCS ensures that nothing is irrelevant. Just ask Ohio State, which lost a game Oct. 16 that will haunt the Buckeyes for years.
Because of the BCS, college football also has the most appropriately gratifying postseason in college sports. The best postseason belongs to basketball, of course, but what is so wrong with 35 bowl games that make players of 70 teams and their fans feel special? What is wrong with a college sport actually providing a competitively educational experience for more teams than just the best ones?
Some will argue here that the BCS is horrible because college football's third unbeaten team — Texas Christian — did not get a chance at the national title. I would argue that because of the BCS, TCU had the experience of a lifetime in the Rose Bowl, decorating the joint in delightful shades of purple and passion, finishing a perfect season in the perfect style befitting a team whose schedule simply wasn't good enough for a place in Monday's finale.
My younger brother is a University of Florida graduate and a diehard Gator. He attended Florida's victory over Penn State in the Outback Bowl and pronounced it one of the purely fun college football experiences of his life, absent of the angry tension of a normal Southeastern Conference game, a reward for fans and players of both teams.
The BCS does this. The BCS gives us our college Super Bowl while allowing the rest of the sport to appropriately finish the season like a giddy student. The BCS gives us one shining moment without dulling the previous four months' worth.
The BCS will give us No. 1 versus No. 2 for the national championship Monday night, and even if you can't understand the system, you surely can understand that.