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In End, BCS Packs a One-Two Punch

All teeth gnashing and nail-biting aside, victory could be declared Sunday for the first-year bowl championship series format primarily because, well, all hell did not break loose.

The computer nerds, in the end, did not take over the world, and no school was aced out of the national title by a pocket calculator.

It took two Saturday games-for-the-ages and a load of antacids to get there, but the final BCS rankings revealed no decimal point drama.

When all the numbers in the four-part BCS formula were crunched, Tennessee (12-0) finished first with 3.47 points and Florida State (11-1) was a solid second at 4.91.

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Easy as pie (charts), the schools will meet in the Jan. 4 Fiesta Bowl for, pretty much, the undisputed national title.

Kansas State finished a distant third in the BCS rankings at 9.60, trailing the leaders like a 100-to-1 nag, and Ohio State was fourth at 10.37.

UCLA, at 10.90, dropped from second to fifth.

The other BCS bowls also fell into place. Ohio State (10-1) and Texas A&M; (11-2) will meet in the Sugar, Syracuse (8-3) and Florida (9-2) in the Orange and UCLA (10-1) and Wisconsin (10-1) in the Rose.

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See?

Weren’t all those BCS bigwigs right when they said this would all work out?

“We’re thrilled about the matchup,” Fiesta Bowl Executive Director John Junker said. “We’re thrilled it’s a consensus No. 1 versus No. 2 with big universities and tradition. It’s all that we could have asked for.”

Yet, while the BCS achieved its goal of matching No. 1 against No. 2, it remains obvious that any system short of a playoff will always be fundamentally flawed.

Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden, thrilled as he was about his one-loss school vaulting over two one-loss schools in the rankings to get to the national title game, knows good fortune when he sees it.

“It looks like a situation where Tennessee came through the front door and we kind of came in through the back door and now we’re going to meet in the middle of the room,” he said.

This year, more than any other, there were no clear-cut powerhouses.

Tennessee and Tulane finished as the only Division I-A unbeatens.

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To achieve this, Tennessee needed a pass-interference call and last-second field goal to beat Syracuse, a Florida kicker to miss a field goal in overtime and a miracle against Arkansas.

Tulane needed a Pop Warner schedule.

This year, you could have made an equitable Fiesta Bowl matchup by drawing at random out of a hat the names of Tennessee, Florida State, UCLA, Ohio State, Arizona, Florida and Kansas State. Maybe even Texas A&M.;

Florida State won the BCS battle of once-beatens because it had the good sense to lose its game early, rather than late, in the season.

Of all the one-loss schools, which was more deserving?

Florida State lost to North Carolina State, 24-7.

Ohio State lost by four to Michigan State.

Kansas State lost in two overtimes to No. 10 Texas A&M.;

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UCLA lost a four-point road game to a 7-3 school. Arizona lost to UCLA.

Yet, because of the what-have-you-done lately nature of poll voters, UCLA, Kansas State and Ohio State were knocked out of contention with their first defeats and Florida State had two months to make up ground.

“We haven’t been that lucky in the past,” Bowden said. “It was great for us. I’ve never accomplished so much doing nothing yesterday just sitting on the couch.”

Tennessee and Florida State may well be the best two schools but, without a playoff, who knows?

Even Bowden is changing his mind on the subject. Once opposed to the notion, he is now in favor of a playoff. “I’ve had a feeling the last two weeks that we’re getting closer to playoff,” he said. “I heard too many scenarios about who was going to play in this game. Several other teams probably deserve to be in this game.”

Sunday, Tennessee Coach Phillip Fulmer, Florida’s Steve Spurrier, Ohio State’s John Cooper and Syracuse’s Paul Pasqualoni all endorsed a playoff system.

The problem: college presidents and bowl officials do not want a playoff. Also, ABC paid $518 million over seven years for the rights to televise all BCS bowls under the terms now in place.

There is an escape clause in the deal, but not until after the 2001 season. “It’s not going to happen for awhile,” Spurrier acknowledged. “It’s just my idea as to what would be the best way to do it.”

The other problem with status quo is that the BCS says it’s only responsible for matching the No. 1 and No. 2 schools. The rest is back-room politics.

Ask Kansas State about it.

Despite an 11-1 record and a No. 3 BCS ranking, the Wildcats were bypassed for a $12-million game.

“How can we go from one point away, one play away from playing Tennessee for the national title to playing Purdue in the Alamo Bowl?” Kansas State President Jon Wefald said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Meanwhile, three-loss Syracuse and two-loss Florida get to split a $24-million pot in the Orange Bowl.

With higher-ranked schools available, how does this happen?

Syracuse earned an automatic bid to a BCS game by winning the Big East. Florida beat out Kansas State for logistical, economic and sentimental reasons. It will be the Gators’ first appearance since 1967, when Spurrier was the starting quarterback at Florida.

“I’d be lying if I said that did not play a factor,” Orange Bowl spokesman Keith Tribble said of Florida’s appeal.

Ohio State was the No. 1 team in the country until its loss to Michigan State, but the Buckeyes didn’t clinch a berth in the Sugar Bowl until UCLA and Kansas State lost on Saturday.

The major bowls were lukewarm on the Buckeyes because its fans did not buy that many tickets to last year’s Sugar Bowl.

This may not be right.

But this is BCS reality.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

ASSOCIATED PRESS

1. Tennessee: 12-0

2. Florida State: 11-1

3. Ohio State: 10-1

4. Kansas State: 11-1

5. Arizona: 11-1

6. UCLA: 10-1

7. Florida: 9-2

8. Texas A&M;: 11-2

9. Wisconsin: 10-1

10. Tulane: 11-0

ESPN/USA TODAY

1. Tennessee: 12-0

2. Florida State: 11-1

3. Ohio State: 10-1

4. Kansas State: 11-1

5. UCLA: 10-1

6. Arizona: 11-1

7. Florida: 9-2

8. Wisconsin: 10-1

9. Texas A&M;: 11-2

10. Tulane: 11-0

BCS

1. Tennessee: 12-0

2. Florida State: 11-1

3. Kansas State: 11-1

4. Ohio State: 10-1

5. UCLA: 10-1

6. Texas A&M;: 11-2

7. Arizona: 11-1

8. Florida: 9-2

9. Wisconsin: 10-1

10. Tulane : 11-0

OTHER TOP BOWLS

OrangeFlorida vs. Syracuse

SugarOhio State vs. Texas A&M;

CottonTexas vs. Mississippi State

CitrusMichigan vs. Arkansas

OutbackPenn State vs. Kentucky

GatorGeorgia Tech vs. Notre Dame

HolidayArizona vs. Nebraska

AlohaOregon vs. Colorado

COMPLETE LIST: PAGE 10


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