The college football season is winding down and, as usual, there are questions about the Bowl Championship Series. The problem is one that has occurred many times since the BCS was created – determining who is number two in the standings.

This problem is emerging because computers determine the BCS. Now, the computer shows no controversy, but for those that watch games, there is reason for argument. Those who watched Ohio State play Michigan would argue that Michigan is clearly the second best team in the country. The computers currently say that the University of Southern California is number two. Others who live in the south will say that Florida is the clear choice for number two. After you get through that argument, you come to another argument, the at-large bids to the BCS games.

This is an argument that emerges from some clarity. The argument about at-large bids emerges when teams are eliminated from national championship contention. For those of you unfamiliar with the BCS system, there are five BCS bowl games (Rose Bowl, Sugar Bowl, Orange Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and BCS Championship Game) and six automatic bids (for the six BCS conferences).

The problem comes up with who the other four teams will be. This is where the at-large bids come in. The purpose of the at-large bids is to reward teams that had great seasons but did not necessarily win their conference or win a non-BCS conference. The problem is that there are many really good one-and two-loss teams. Teams like Michigan, LSU, Boise State University of Wisconsin and certain other teams can come up in this argument, depending on the results of next week’s games.

There are a number of big games this coming week that will drastically affect the BCS. We’ll start off with a rivalry game between the USC Trojans and the UCLA Bruins. Right now the Trojans have already locked up an automatic BCS bid and will clinch a berth in the title game with a victory. Next we have a biggie between Rutgers and West Virginia. This is huge because if Rutgers wins, they will clinch an automatic berth into a BCS bowl game, but if they lose, Louisville will take the automatic bid (assuming Louisville will roll over Connecticut).

Then there are the conference title games for the Big 12, ACC and SEC, which will determine the last three automatic bids. For the Big 12, you have Nebraska against Oklahoma, in the ACC you have Wake Forest against Georgia Tech (who would have thought that one up?) and for the SEC, Arkansas battles Florida, a team that still has an outside shot at the title bid and also a team that will be considered as a strong candidate for an at-large bid if they lose.

This brings us back to at-large bids and what teams are real candidates. We’ll start with the Boise State Broncos, who went undefeated this season. Now the problem many people have with a team like this is that they play in a “mid-major” conference. One has to realize that although the conference is not a major conference, the Broncos should still be rewarded for a fantastic season and should receive an at-large bid.

Next up is the Michigan Wolverines, who are definitely getting an at-large bid because they had a great season and cannot be penalized for losing their only game to the number one team in the country.

Then we come to the LSU Tigers, who had a strong season in the SEC with only two losses. After them we have the Auburn Tigers, who also went through season with only two loses and their case is strengthened by the fact that they beat both Florida and LSU. Notre Dame is sitting at number 12 and is very much alive for a berth.

One final thought on the at-large bids, there are two teams (Florida and Louisville) who can emerge as candidates for this list if certain events come to pass.

With this in mind, we will go into the last week with many things still up in the air. On Sunday we will see if the BCS agrees with our picks (in all likelihood it will not). We will then commence arguments about who got shafted and passed over and who got a gift.

As long as the BCS continues as it has, there will be controversy (almost always) and until colleges stop loving money (something they will never do), they will never truly get it all right.

Gillenson is a member of the class of 2010.



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