The BCS system worked as well as it could

The selection-day party the Rose Bowl threw Sunday at the Tournament House in Pasadena was going to be thrown no matter what happened Saturday.

Somehow, though, because of the political asteroid that was dodged the night before, the wine seemed more expensive and the finger-food crab cakes tasted sweeter.

People clanked glasses because wasn't it great to be alive?

Asked what he was doing when Texas kicker Hunter Lawrence lined up to kick that system-saving field goal against Nebraska, the Rose Bowl's outgoing chief executive, Mitch Dorger, responded, "I'll tell you what I wasn't doing . . . breathing."

This is the Bowl Championship Series as we know it -- slipping out of the ropes just before the train crosses the tracks.

What almost happened was way more interesting than what did happen because the BCS bowl lineup that was unveiled on Fox had already been unveiled in Sunday's newspaper.

Had Texas lost to Nebraska because its kicker missed the winning kick, or replay officials had not awarded the Longhorns one last tick on the clock, Mack Brown would still be walking back to Austin and the BCS would have been chopped up and served as appetizers at the congressional Christmas party.

Thankfully, though, when Texas said to the scoreboard Saturday, "Hey, you got a second?" -- the scoreboard said "yes."

If Texas loses, the BCS title game might have been Alabama vs. Cincinnati, not party-crasher Texas Christian.

That's right: Cincinnati jumped TCU into the No. 3 hole in Sunday's final BCS standings.

Imagine the outrage. Politicians from Texas would be drafting secession papers as they speed-dialed their anti-trust lawyers.

Had Texas lost, undefeated Boise State might have also gotten bumped from a BCS game because the Fiesta Bowl would have had to absorb three-loss Nebraska, the Big 12 champion, and Texas would have received an at-large berth.

"It would have been a real monkey wrench to the system had it turned out differently," Dorger said. "But it didn't."

The BCS theme song: "Luck Be a Lady Tonight."

Seriously, and serendipitously, look what tumbled out of the BCS dryer:

* BCS title game: Alabama vs. Texas. These are two of college football's most storied programs. Alabama hasn't played a postseason game at the Rose Bowl since Jan. 1, 1946, the last year before the game became a Big Ten/Pac-10 arrangement.

* Rose Bowl: Oregon vs. Ohio State. In a year when Pasadena is hosting two games, the traditional Jan. 1 game and the Jan. 7 BCS title, the tournament gets two 10-2 schools that have not played each other in the Rose since 1958. Oregon ended up No. 7 in the final BCS standings to Ohio State's No. 8.

* Fiesta: TCU (12-0) vs. Boise State (13-0). For the first time in BCS history, two schools from "non-automatic qualifier" conferences won BCS berths. My complaint is that they shouldn't be playing each other. It would have been better theater had TCU played undefeated Cincinnati in the Fiesta and Boise State played Florida in the Sugar.

Because bowl games are also about logistics and economics, though, Fiesta Bowl CEO John Junker said Boise made more cents than Cincinnati.

"Boise is almost a thousand miles closer to our game for accessibility to their fans," Junker said. "It's simply easier for fans from Boise to be here."

Junker said this pairing proves these programs are considered equals in the BCS system.

"We see it as taking a large chunk out of the glass ceiling," he said.

This is the first time two undefeated schools will play each other in a BCS bowl game that is not the championship. Junker can also boast that he bagged the school (Boise State) that defeated the Pac-10 champion.

* Sugar: Cincinnati (12-0) vs. Florida (12-1). This is a matchup of BCS No. 3 vs. No. 5. Again, Boise State vs. Florida would have been my preference.

* Orange: Iowa (10-2) vs. Georgia Tech (11-2). This was about as good as the Orange could do this year. Stung by the lack of interest in last year's Cincinnati-Virginia Tech pairing, the Orange Bowl is looking for Iowa to bring 30,000 fans and their checkbooks to South Florida.

Iowa's top-notch defense should also be a great test for Georgia Tech's intriguing triple-option attack.

The Orange could have considered Penn State instead of Iowa, but sided with Iowa because it won the head-to-head and finished No. 10, three BCS spots better than Joe Paterno's team.

Compared to the disaster that might have been, this year's bowl lineup is a hunk of top-10 sirloin.

There are undefeated schools in three of the five games -- four in two games.

For the first time in BCS history, the top 10 schools in the final standings all made BCS games. No team that didn't make a BCS game has a legitimate gripe.

This year's lineup still begs for the playoff so many people think is coming and/or is necessary.

TCU wanted to be in the BCS championship game -- but so did Cincinnati and Boise State.

The "plus-one" proposal that was rejected a couple of years ago would have seeded the top four teams in the final standings.

This year, though, that would have left out one of the undefeated schools, Boise State, which finished No. 6.

Despite the usual BCS hand grenade throwing that will surely ensue, it is difficult to find the conspiracy, or anti-trust legal case, in this year's lineup.

"I've never accepted that the system is illegal," Dorger said. "The system is as good as its components."

Dorger said voters this year fully acknowledged TCU and Boise State as being equal to other BCS conference champions.

"The system works better now than it's ever worked," Dorger said.

Yeah, and all it took this year was a replay official in Arlington, Texas, to put one second back on the clock for Texas and for a Texas kicker to make a 46-yard field goal under pressure he might not even have imagined.

You know that saying, "It's better to be lucky than good?"

Some years it applies to the BCS -- especially this one.

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