By Eddie Pells/The Associated Press
Alabama and Texas get to play in a national title game. For TCU, Cincinnati and Boise State, the math doesn’t quite add up but they still get a spot in a BCS bowl.
The quirky, imperfect method of choosing a national champion succeeded Sunday in matching top-ranked Alabama against No. 2 Texas in the BCS championship — a Jan. 7 game between undefeated teams that will bring together Heisman Trophy hopefuls Colt McCoy of the Longhorns and Mark Ingram of the Crimson Tide.
And, of course, it also produced plenty for the little guys to get upset about.
No. 3 TCU, No. 4 Cincinnati and No. 6 Boise State also finished undefeated. All three were included in the BCS, but none will play for the title — a predictable result that will renew the annual debate about college football’s way of determining the best team in the land.
“It’s a fair question,” said BCS executive director Bill Hancock. “The fact is that the charge of the BCS is to match 1 and 2 in the bowl system. It’s a limited charge. It’s what the BCS is designed to do. Based on the season’s play, we’re confident we’ve matched 1 and 2.”
Seeking its first national title since 1992, Alabama opens as a 3-point favorite for the game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. That’s the place where Vince Young almost single-handedly led Texas to a victory over Southern California in 2006 to claim the national title.
The other BCS matchups: Oregon against Ohio State in the Rose Bowl; Iowa against Georgia Tech in the Orange; Florida against Cincinnati in the Sugar and TCU against Boise State in the Fiesta.
The TCU-Boise State game also will pit a pair of undefeateds against each other, two teams from small conferences that don’t always get automatic spots in the BCS. This is the first time in BCS history that two of the small schools have been selected. Both should be expected to use the title-game snub as motivation.
“We’re here to prove a point,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “I voted for us No. 2 in polls today when we voted. We believe we have a great football team and we’re out to show we could be the No. 1 team in the nation.”
The Longhorns (13-0) have been on both sides of the BCS debate in the past.
Just last year, their chances for a national title were squashed when they lost a three-way tiebreaker for the Big 12 South title.
This time around, Texas defeated Nebraska 13-12 in the Big 12 title game Saturday to secure its spot in the national championship, though the less-than-dominating performance certainly left things open for debate.
Still, there was a big gap between Texas and TCU in the BCS rankings, the coaches’ poll and The Associated Press poll, which is not included in the BCS formula. The AP awards its own national championship.
“You can still win the AP, so that’s what our whole goal is within the next month,” Patterson said.
Behind 113 yards rushing and three touchdowns from Ingram, Alabama (13-0) defeated Florida 32-13 in the SEC championship game, an overwhelming victory over the defending national champions that made the Tide an easy choice for No. 1.
But is anything really easy when it comes to the BCS?
TCU was ranked 17th in the preseason polls and never really had a chance to rise above the bigger, more traditional programs that were ahead of them.
Cincinnati made it through the Big East, one of the six so-called power conferences, and needed a 21-point comeback against Pittsburgh on Saturday to move to 12-0.
Boise State finished its fourth undefeated regular season in the last six years, but still found itself ranked behind No. 5 Florida, in large part because it plays in the Western Athletic Conference.
A perfect scenario for an eight-team playoff, perhaps, but that’s years off. The current system is set for the next four years. And to hear the BCS officials tell it, there’s nothing really wrong with their system, anyway.
“We do feel like it’s working and college football is thriving,” Hancock said. “We recognize there are elements in each constituency that don’t like it, but the fact is, it has a consensus. The critics, the playoff proponents, do not have a consensus.”
Certainly, he’ll get no argument from Texas or Alabama, who meet for the first time since the 1982 Cotton Bowl — a 14-12 Longhorns win over the Tide and Bear Bryant.
“The system put us in the game,” Texas coach Mack Brown said. “We were told for the last three weeks if we won, we’d be in the game. We did that.”
Not by much, though.
It took a 46-yard field goal from Hunter Lawrence with no time left to lift the Longhorns to the victory over Nebraska. Now it’s Brown, long known for not being able to parlay all that Texas talent into a national title, who’s a win away from taking his second in five years.
Alabama, meanwhile, is in the midst of a resurgence brought about by Nick Saban, who three years ago took over a program in turmoil and now has the faithful believing again.
“There’s so much tradition and so much passion,” Saban said. “There are great expectations for what people like to accomplish around here, and it’s a feeling of tremendous self-gratification for everyone involved in the program.”