OXFORD, Miss. — BCS supporters can point to this season as an example of how well the system works.
The BCS’ motto is “Every Game Counts,” and the drama that has taken place in recent weeks would have been diminished if a playoff system were in place.
LSU’s victory Nov. 5 at Alabama wouldn’t have been as beneficial to the Tigers, or as potentially damaging to the Crimson Tide if a playoff were looming. Both would have still been headed to the postseason and would have just been jockeying for seeding edges.
Similarly, the stakes wouldn’t have been nearly as great for Stanford when it lost to Oregon on Nov. 12, or for Oklahoma State when it lost to Iowa State on Friday, or for Oregon or Oklahoma when they lost to USC and Baylor, respectively, on Saturday.
November games can be elimination or near-elimination games under the current system. Every game counts.
On the other hand, supporters of a playoff system can also point to this season to make their case. If No. 3 Arkansas beats No. 1 LSU on Friday in Tiger Stadium, and No. 2 Alabama beats Auburn on Saturday, LSU, Alabama, and Arkansas will all be 11-1 and 7-1 in the SEC, tied for the West Division title. Head-to-head tie-breakers would be inconclusive, because Alabama beat Arkansas, LSU beat Alabama, and Arkansas would have beaten LSU.
So those teams would be intertwined in what would be a three-way, flat-footed tie on the field. It would be a perfect storm of confusion and, ultimately, unfairness for somebody. The subsequent BCS rankings would sort out who would go to Atlanta to play SEC East champion Georgia for the conference title and a berth in the BCS title game.
The rankings would also decide which of the three would be second among equals and remain alive for a rematch in the BCS title game, as well as who would be third among equals and headed to a non-BCS bowl. Who would be 1, 2 and 3 in that scenario is anyone’s guess and irrelevant to making the point that this season could provide the most messed-up BCS yet.
Of course, LSU will be favored to beat Arkansas, which would simplify things if it happened, and the BCS may well produce what it’s supposed to produce — the two best teams in the country playing for the BCS Championship.
But the drama, surprises, upsets and jockeying of the past few weeks have crystallized what the BCS.-vs.-a-playoff controversy is all about — is enhanced drama during the regular season a worthwhile tradeoff for a potentially unsatisfying conclusion?
There may be more surprises to come in the final two weeks, or perhaps things will settle down.
But if anything is constant throughout all of this uncertainty it seems to be this: LSU and Alabama are the two best teams in the country.