Top-ranked Alabama and Texas to play for BCS title

AP National Writer

There were five undefeated teams and only two spots in the title game.

Alabama and Texas came out winners in that bit of BCS math, while TCU, Cincinnati and Boise State were left with nice consolation prizes.

The imperfect method of choosing a national champion paired top-ranked Alabama against No. 2 Texas in the BCS title game - a Jan. 7 meeting that will bring together Heisman Trophy hopefuls Colt McCoy of the Longhorns and Mark Ingram of the Crimson Tide.

And, of course, Sunday's bowl bids also produced plenty of fodder for second-guessing.

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 championship - a predictable result that will renew the annual debate about college football's way of determining the best team in the land.

"We absolutely recognize that there were five undefeated teams that had very good seasons, and the fact is, only two could play in the game," BCS executive director Bill Hancock said.

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 OhioState 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.

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, Texas defeated Nebraska 13-12 in the Big 12 title game 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.

Alabama, meanwhile, got 113 yards rushing and three touchdowns from Ingram to defeat Florida 32-13 in the SEC championship game, an overwhelming victory over the defending national champions that made the Tide (13-0) an easy choice for No. 1.

But is anything really clear-cut 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. The Bearcats finished third in the BCS rankings and would've taken Texas' spot had the Longhorns not pulled out their last-second win.

"We were within one second of playing for a national championship," coach Brian Kelly said. "It's not crazy (for Cincinnati) to play for a national championship."

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, formerly 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."

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


BCS idea of 'consensus': make everyone mad


The Bowl Championship Series matchups are set and no matter how they play out, a postseason that begins with five unbeaten teams is guaranteed to end with more than one having a legitimate claim to the increasingly mythical national championship.

So here's a suggestion for those without a dog in any of those fights: Root for Texas congressman Joe Barton instead.

As rule, fans should oppose making a federal case out of any matter that can be decided on a playing field. But because the BCS effectively controls college football's postseason through its TV contracts, that won't happen until 2014. Unless, that is, Barton's version of an end-around - a bill called the College Football Playoff Act of 2009 currently winding its way through a House subcommittee - makes it onto President Barack Obama's desk

"The president has told me directly that he'll sign the bill," Barton, a Republican, said in a recent interview.

The measure would require the BCS to conduct a playoff, or else drop the word "championship" from its title to avoid violating truth-in-advertising statutes governing interstate commerce.

It's a longshot, to be sure. But Barton is convinced he'll gave enough the votes to get the bill out of committee and the full House, and into the Senate where Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, one of several senators sympathetic to the idea of a playoff, will pick up the ball.

"It will happen," Barton predicted one more time, "the pressure is building."

But he wasn't above offering the BCS a face-saving compromise first.

"Just drop the word 'championship' and call it the "Big-Time College Football Series,' or the 'Dollar Maximization Series.' Because the way it is now," Barton added, "you're not telling the truth about what you are."

The BCS has had a problem with credibility since its inception as the Bowl Coalition nearly two decades ago. Its latest campaign to convince a skeptical public was a charm offensive built around a Facebook page and Twitter account. Fans bombarded both with scorn, but that hasn't stopped the BCS from trotting out the same talking points provided by a high-priced public-relations firm barely a month ago.

"We do feel like it's working and college football is thriving," new BCS executive director Bill Hancock said during a conference call with reporters Sunday night to discuss the bowl matchups. "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."

The fact is the BCS doesn't have a "consensus," unless what Hancock meant is that nine out of 10 fans and an overwhelming majority of coaches and players oppose the way the organization goes about crowning a national champion. Playoff proponents, on the other hand, would coalesce around a scheme that involves as few as two teams or as many as 16 and incorporates the current bowl system.

"Start with 16 teams and eight bowls and do it that way, or go whole hog and include every bowl, or at least the 32 bowls that are out there," Barton said. "I don't care. ...

"They claim they're about picking a national champion legitimately on the football field, and that's flat disingenuous," he added. "They're about maximizing revenue."

Not exactly, since a playoff, by some estimates, would make more money. What the BCS is really about is controlling how the money is divvied up. When a team from one of the six major conferences whose commissioners rule the BCS appear in one of the big bowls, they split the purse with the teams in their league. When one of the teams from the five smaller conferences makes into a big bowl, the purse is split with members of all five leagues.

"This should not be a political issue. and yet, the only time that we've seen change is because there's been threat of political intervention," said Western Athletic Conference commissioner Karl Benson. "It's not that the underrepresented conferences ... haven't suggested change in the past. there just hasn't been any leverage or any power within the system for us to mandate change."

But the threat of lawsuits forced the BCS to open the system up to those smaller conferences, which made it possible for TCU and Boise State to face each other in the Fiesta Bowl. Unfortunately, no matter which of the two undefeated teams wins, their claim to the championship will be no more than a faint echo in the clamor surrounding the Texas-Alabama winner.


Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.