Whatever reservations you have about the BCS, you must admit one thing: it was an improvement upon the previous periods. There was the short-lived Bowl Alliance (1995-97) and the similarly short-lived Bowl Coalition (1992-94).
Before 1992, college football’s national champions were decided solely by national polls. During both the 1990 and 1991 season, college football finished the season with co-champions. This is antithetical to the idea of competitive sports. College basketball employs the Final Four, much as the soon-to-come CFP era will do for college football. College baseball has the College World Series.
The NFL playoffs have three rounds of playoff games that culminate in the Super Bowl. The idea is that after defeating a series of opponents beyond the regular season schedule, the two best teams face off and at the end of the season, there is only one champion. Now admittedly, teams can still hide behind the façade of being the AFC champion or the NL champion. Certainly, fans of the Buffalo Bills and Atlanta Braves have heard these terms tossed around often enough. But only fans who were paying close attention remember the Bills for their incredibly efficient, Pro Bowl-laden, no-huddle offense. The casual fan remembers the Bills as the team that made it to the Super Bowl and lost. The Bills were never the co-champion.
In fact, one of the biggest black eyes for the BCS era occurred at the end of the 2003 season when LSU won the National Championship game, giving them the BCS National Championship. However, USC was voted as the AP National Champion, re-creating the very thing the BCS sought to eliminate: the confusion of co-champions.
The CFP presents a potentially great opportunity both for fans and for the wallets of those calling the shots in college football. Generally speaking, the highest television ratings in sports involve the Super Bowl, followed by the most interesting NFL playoff games. Seeing this model, it behooved college football to try to follow suit. Sure, the National Championship game renders excellent television ratings, but what if there were two playoff games preceding a grand finale of a championship game? There is the potential for a ratings bonanza.
Based on this season’s ratings, blockbuster ratings are more likely if Alabama or Auburn were involved, or better yet, both teams. According to Sports Media Watch, the five most-watched college football games prior to bowl games were (in descending order): Auburn-Missouri, Michigan State-Ohio State (and many Auburn fans were likely watching this game for its championship game implications), Alabama-Auburn, Alabama-Texas A&M, and Alabama-LSU.
With Auburn playing in this season’s National Championship game, ratings are likely to be strong. One of the most intriguing questions about this year’s championship is: can Auburn continue the dominance of the SEC, and for that matter the state of Alabama. Between Alabama and Auburn, the last four National Championship trophies have belonged to the state of Alabama. The SEC has claimed the past seven National Championship titles. Since the start of the BCS era during the 1998 season, the SEC had accumulated nine National Championship titles. The Big-12 and technically the Pac-10 (remember the USC-LSU split?) were second with two championships.
With a win, Auburn would be tied with LSU and Florida for second-most National Championships during the BCS Era (2) with Alabama holding the most (3).
Meanwhile, Florida State has played in three National Championships during the BCS era, winning once. Tennessee defeated Florida State 23-16 following the 1998 season and Oklahoma beat the Seminoles 13-2 following the 2000 season, but sandwiched in between Florida State defeated Virginia Tech after the 1999 season, 46-29.
One last interesting note: in five of the seven consecutive National Championship titles captured by the SEC, the eventual SEC winner was the No. 2 BCS team much as Auburn is this season.