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BCS flaws getting personal

As you know, I'm a big proponent of a college football playoff. Over the years, it has become exceedingly evident that the BCS is a stupid way to determine a national champion. For me, it was a strictly objective viewpoint.

It's personal now.

I have an emotional stake in the process. Missouri, my alma mater, has risen to No. 1 in the BCS rankings after its win over Kansas last Saturday night. The Tigers are one win away from the national title game. If they beat Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship this Saturday, they'll likely meet West Virginia for the national crown.

It's staggering to even write those words. Missouri. National champions. I seem to recall them winning it in baseball once, and in track and field. They had some nice runs in basketball -- though it pains me to admit that Mizzou might be the most accomplished program never to make the Final Four.
But football? I remember the days when we would have been thrilled to play in any bowl game, no matter how small, when beating Oklahoma once a decade was a fond, unreachable goal. A national championship would have been beyond our wildest imaginings until a few weeks ago.
So I should be happy today. But I'm conflicted, angry, because under college football's convoluted format, a team can be No. 1 in the country one day and out of the national title picture a few days later, before the postseason even gets under way.
If Mizzou beats Oklahoma, it's in the title game. If they lose, some other team jumps over them -- presumably Ohio State, which doesn't play in a league with a conference title game. So the Buckeyes can sit in front of their TV sets this weekend, hoping Chase Daniel and Co. stumble against Oklahoma.
This is no way to find a champion. It's an infinitely flawed process, destined to create controversy, wounded feelings and needless negative publicity for a sport that has enjoyed one of its most compelling seasons in memory.
The Big Ten has no conference title game. So Ohio State can profit by the fact that Mizzou, by playing a 13th game, has an extra chance to lose for a second time and lower its ranking. Does this make any sense? I realize it can work both ways: A conference title game can give a team an added chance to win and jump ahead of teams that don't play one.
The point is, there's no reliable way to determine which two teams should play for No. 1, especially in an era of increasing parity, where it's necessary for the computer to sort through one-loss -- and even two-loss -- contenders.
It doesn't work. It's an embarrassment to the sport. We should be celebrating Kansas and Missouri, Navy over Notre Dame, Appalachian State over Michigan, all those amazing overtime games. Instead, we'll get the annual debate about the BCS, and whether it selected the right two teams.
What college football needs is a playoff system. This isn't a novel concept, but a 16-team playoff would be ideal. That would reward teams like Kansas, which was unbeaten before losing to Mizzou; or LSU, which has two losses, both in overtime; or Hawaii, which hasn't lost but has no chance to prove itself under the current system.
Don't tell me a playoff will involve too many games. Most teams already play 14 games if they reach the national championship. You could limit all D-I teams to 11 regular-season games, which would require only the final two teams to play 15. The current system needs to go.
I'll feel the same way if Missouri wins the national title. Of course, as a Mizzou grad, I'll also tell you it was one of the rare times when the BCS got it right.

e-mail: jsullivan@buffnews.com

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