In a few hours, the final standings will be out, the envelopes will be unsealed and the long-awaited BCS championship date in Pasadena will be set. Assuming the two halves of that equation are Alabama and Texas, as we've expected for the last two months, the controversy over the system snubbing unbeaten TCU and Cincinnati may turn out to be fairly minimal -- not too many torches have come out in the past for the plight of the nouveau riche in the Big One.
With any luck, though, enough people will look past the much-anticipated collision of undefeated, name-brand powers and sort 2009 in with the long line of BCS train wrecks when it comes to picking a championship. In fact, it's almost a straight redux of the most spectacular crash in the short history of the BCS, in 2004, which also saw five teams finish the regular season undefeated, three of them from "Big Six" conferences, and three of them emerge from the bowl wringer that way. Compared to Texas -- a team with no notable nonconference wins, no wins over a top 15 (or top 20, depending on the poll) team, and two narrow escapes by a combined four points against the only Top 25 defenses it's faced -- Cincinnati and TCU both stack up well enough to complain as loudly as Auburn did about being snubbed at 12-0 five years ago. And their basic flaw is the same: They started from too far behind in the polls.
That's not an argument that the Bearcats or Horned Frogs (or Boise State, the upstart's upstart with the first-rate win over Oregon) deserve anything more than Alabama or Texas, only that any system that culls the field to two contenders by means other than actual football has no business calling itself a "championship." For at least the ninth time its 12-year life, the BCS can't possibly fulfill its mission of matching the top two teams head-to-head because it automatically excludes most of the qualified applicants.
If certain members of Congress have their way this week, the "Championship" part of the Series may actually be on its way to becoming illegal, like false advertising, without a playoff backing it up; good luck with that. Until then, everyone else has to keep reminding themselves that just because Fox/ABC/ESPN say it doesn't make it so.