Remember back at the beginning of the season? I know; September seems so far away now. Remember how chaotic is was, with a top five team losing every week? It was madness, madness I tell you!
And now, a little over a month later, folks are wondering if this season is headed for a boring ending. The Florida-Alabama-Texas trio is not likely to topple, after this weekend most conference races will be mere formalities, and we're left just trying to figure out the bowl slots.
On the one hand, this is exactly what we asked for in the preseason. Florida and Texas were far and away the two front runners, and the only thing that has changed is that Alabama has shoved its way into the picture. Either way, it's still Texas vs. the SEC champ. On the other, it's an abnormal year where a combination of upsets, scheduling, and good or bad luck have resulted in conference leaders being roughly set by the second week of November's games.
If there's one thing this year does prove though, it's that every week is certainly not a playoff. In fact, the BCS's structure is preventing 2009 from having a wildly entertaining finish.
Just imagine if we has a plus one set up. Now, you've got six teams vying for four spots. A non-BCS team would probably have a shot at a national title at last, between TCU and Boise State. That is assuming of course that the loser of the SEC championship game doesn't still get a spot in the Final Four. Would the voters really do that? What kind of firestorm would occur in that scenario? That's gold, Jerry. Gold!
The exclusionary nature of the BCS is brought to the forefront in a season like this, where the preseason storyline actually comes true. We're probably headed for another 2004 situation where the preordained teams (SEC champ and Texas) run the table and other undefeated champions of good conferences (Cincinnati, TCU) are prevented from playing for the national title simply because they stated the year farther down in the polls. I doubt the outcry will be as severe as when an SEC team got left out, since no one hollers quite as loudly as we do down here, but it will likely be more widespread if the reaction to Utah last year is any indication. Let's also not forget about Boise State either, as the Broncos look like they will have a perfect regular season for the third time in four years without getting a shot at playing for it all.
If anyone really thinks every week is a playoff, just look at Texas' schedule. Thanks in part to better teams pulling out on them, the Longhorns have four non-conference cupcakes. Their three Big 12 North opponents (Colorado, Kanas, Missouri) are a combined 4-11 in conference play. They have the cellar dwellars of the Big 12 South (Baylor, Texas A&M) as well. That leaves a total of three teams that you would expect to put up any sort of fight: Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma. Three decent opponents out of 12 does not make a playoff every week.
I don't mean to pick on the Longhorns, because it's not just them. Florida has three cupcakes plus the burned out husk of Florida State in its non-conference slate, and it's got the two worst teams of the SEC West along with Kentucky and Vandy on its SEC schedule. Alabama has three non-conference cupcakes, the worst of the SEC West, and none of the top two of the SEC East. Cincinnati has four terrible non-conference opponents, and the bottom four or five teams of the Big East are awful.
Even in the best case scenario (Alabama), none of the top teams have more than six games where the other team could be expected to give them a good game. That doesn't mean there won't be trap games here and there where a top team underwhelms (Florida versus Arkansas, Cincy versus Fresno State, Texas for much of its game with Colorado), but that doesn't make it a playoff every week. That adds one extra interesting game for each, and they're all still under Alabama's total of six.
Because these top teams only get challenged in at most half their games, just picking two teams at the end is not enough. It's a system whose rewards encourage situations like this year and that punishes teams for going out and scheduling like Georgia did. Maybe the Bulldogs weren't up to it as a team in this particular season, but if they could end up with just one loss after going down their gauntlet, then that would be far more impressive than playing three decent teams like Texas will have.
Yet, a 13-0 Texas team would be above that hypothetical 12-1 Georgia team in the pecking order because that's how the poll system works. So it goes in life with the BCS.