Before we set forth to explain changes in the bowl championship series rankings, allow us to start with the good news:
You and your national championship contender do not have to worry about this until the first BCS rankings are released in late October.
Bottom line: The four-year-old BCS rankings, a four-pronged system implemented in 1998 to determine which teams meet for the national title, has undergone a face lift.
Change was all but mandated in the aftermath of last season's chaos, when Florida State edged out Miami by .32 BCS points, earning the right to play No. 1 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl, even though Miami had defeated Florida State on the field.
In the off-season, commissioners of the six major conferences modified the BCS rankings to address two major concerns: margin of victory and head-to-head competition.
Let's take these issues one at a time.
Margin of Victory
Problem: Last year, seven of the eight BCS computers had a component for margin of victory. Coaches hated being put in the position of having to run up scores on inferior opponents to increase their BCS rankings.
Action taken: The commissioners told computer operators they had to diminish the margin of victory component or leave the BCS. The New York Times and Dunkel Index opted out and were replaced by systems operated by Peter Wolfe and Wes Colley.
Wolfe caps margin of victory at 21 points; Colley has no margin component.
Of the remaining six systems, Richard Billingsley and Ken Massey removed the component, and systems run by Jeff Sagarin, David Rothman and Herman Mathews will significantly diminish margin of victory after 21 points.
How it shakes out: This was a good move, if only for perception's sake, but margin of victory has not been removed from the system.
The BCS' poll component, an average of the Associated Press writers' and USA Today/ESPN coaches' polls, represents one-fourth of the BCS rankings and is entirely subjective. Meaning coaches with agendas looking to move up in the polls might still be motivated to run up a score.
The BCS did make an adjustment that makes sense, announcing it will toss out a school's highest and lowest computer scores in calculations. Last year, only a team's worst ranking was discarded.
Head to Head
Problem: Miami beat Florida State on the field, but Florida State edged Miami in the final computer tally.
Action taken: The commissioners came up with an addendum to the BCS called the "quality win," a sliding scale that awards bonus points to teams that defeat teams that finish the regular season ranked in the top 15.
A team deducts 1.5 points for a victory against No. 1, and 0.1 of a point for a win over No. 15, the points coming off that team's final BCS ranking. The two teams with the lowest point totals advance to the title game.
How it shakes out: This move has already been derided by some BCS watchers as potentially flawed and reactionary.
One of the eight BCS-sanctioned computer operators says the "quality win" component "subjects us to additional ridicule."
The BCS commissioners had a problem because some teams play additional "exempt" games and two of the six BCS conferences have season-ending title games.
The BCS first said exempt games would not count in the quality-win component, then last week reversed course and announced exempt games would count in all BCS elements but would not count toward the nine-game win total needed to qualify for at-large consideration.
A team that defeats another team twice in a season--possible only in a rematch in either the Big 12 or SEC title game--will receive bonus points for only one victory.
However, if the game is not a rematch, the victorious team in the conference championship game will get quality win points for a game it would have not played in four of the six BCS conferences.
Is the system perfect?
Is it better than last year's?
That remains to be seen.
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BCS Championship Games
* 1999 SEASON--Sugar Bowl: Florida State defeated Virginia Tech46-29
* 2000 SEASON--Orange Bowl: Oklahoma defeated Florida State13-2
2001 SEASON BOWL SERIES
The Bowl Championship Series committee will select the eight teams for the four bowls from the champions of the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pacific 10 and SEC conferences, plus two at-large teams. The two top teams computed by the series formula will play for the national championship. The bowl series games:
* Jan. 1, 2002: Fiesta Bowl2 p.m. PST
* Jan. 1, 2002: Sugar Bowl5:30 p.m. PST
* Jan. 2, 2002: Orange Bowl5 p.m. PST
* Jan. 3, 2002: Rose Bowl, championship game5 p.m. PST
FUTURE CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES
* 2002 season: Fiesta Bowl; 2003 season: Sugar Bowl; 2004 season: FedEx Orange Bowl; 2005 season: Rose Bowl.