The Bowl Championship Series inevitably creates more questions than answers. Often there are no good answers, just dissatisfying explanations.
As best we can, let's try to sort this out.
Q: Should Texas be playing Florida in the BCS championship game instead of Oklahoma?
A: The by-the-book answer is no. The BCS formula uses two polls (the USA Today coaches' poll and the Harris poll) and a compilation of six computer ratings to come up with the consensus top two teams in the country and match up them in a title game. The polls had Oklahoma (12-1) and Florida (12-1) as the top two teams, despite the fact Texas (11-1) beat the Sooners 45-35 on a neutral field in October. The computers put Texas second, ahead of Florida, not Oklahoma. Even the AP Top 25, which isn't factored into the BCS standings, has Florida and Oklahoma on top.
The Sooners should not have to apologize because an imperfect system chose them over the Longhorns. Behind one of the greatest offenses in college football history, Oklahoma has been a dominant team. The Sooners also played a more difficult nonconference schedule than Texas, routing TCU (10-2) and Big East champion Cincinnati (11-2). They are a worthy finalist.
All that said, Texas and their fans have every right to feel they've been wronged. BCS supporters like to say the regular season in college football is like a playoff, the games are so important. If that truly was the case, shouldn't Texas be playing for the national title?
Q: Can Texas still win the AP national championship if it wins its bowl and Oklahoma beats Florida?
A: Highly unlikely. Oklahoma is already ahead of the Longhorns in the media poll. Even if Texas routs Ohio State in the Fiesta, it's doubtful the 'Horns jump ahead after the Sooners beat a better team.
Q: So if Texas can't play for the national title, why can't we at least get the Longhorns against Alabama in one of these games?
A: After the top two teams are matched up, the BCS is not drawn up to create games matching the other teams by ranking. The other four matchups are set in part by contractual tie-ins between bowls and conferences, and taking into account which teams will draw the most fans to the host cities and television sets.
While the Sugar and Fiesta bowls would have both been thrilled to have Texas vs. Alabama, neither wanted to be left with Utah vs. Ohio State. So this is the "compromise."
Q: Ohio State? Again?
A: Some high-profile beatings the last three seasons have left the Buckeyes' reputation in tatters. It's not fair. Ohio State (10-2) has gotten better as the season has gone on, and its only losses were to top-10 teams. The Buckeyes are deserving of this bid. Plus, a school with 61,000 students and a massive alumni network never fails to put fans in seats and in front of televisions.
Q: Why not unbeaten Boise State?
A: The BCS only guarantees one spot to a team from the five non-automatic bid leagues - Mountain West Conference, Western Athletic Conference, Mid-American Conference, Sun Belt Conference and Conference USA - that finishes in the top 12. Utah was ahead of Boise State because the Utes' conference (MWC) is better than the Broncos' (WAC). So Utah is the BCS buster. Boise State could have gotten the at-large bid that went to Ohio State, but it's hard to argue the Broncos are better than the Buckeyes. Ohio State's opponents had a record of 82-62. Boise State's opponents were 64-81. And did we mention Ohio State has 61,000 students and a massive network of alumni? Sure Boise State's Fiesta Bowl win against Oklahoma a couple of seasons ago was fun, but it doesn't matter much in this discussion.
Q: Why isn't Southern California in the national title discussion?
A: The Pac-10's down year killed USC. The Pac-10 had two of the worst teams in the country (Washington, Washington State) and another really bad team in UCLA. Losing to Oregon State on the road, the way USC did, is probably no worse than losing at home to Mississippi, the way Florida did. But the Trojans didn't face enough formidable opponents (composite record, 69-76) to make up for it.
Q: Which is the best team not in the BCS?
A: Texas Tech, no doubt. The Red Raiders fell victim to the rule that does not allow a conference to have three teams in the BCS, unless it also has both championship game participants. That rule is more about money than anything else. Conferences get about $17 million per team from the BCS, and the guys in power want to spread the wealth and keep everybody happy. Poor Texas Tech (11-1), which beat Texas, has been forgotten in the Sooners-Longhorns debate and relegated to the Cotton Bowl.
Q: How did the Orange Bowl get stuck with such a lackluster matchup?
A: What, a matchup of league champions doesn't do anything for you? The Virginia Tech (9-4 and the Atlantic Coast Conference champion) and Cincinnati matchup, even more than the Texas-Oklahoma controversy, is why the BCS will one day switch to a four-team playoff called a plus-one. Too often, bowls get stuck with who-cares? games. A plus-one increases the chances for bowls to have meaningful games.
Q: When is that plus-one thing coming?
A: The 2014 season - hopefully.