It's the BCS, stupid!

The surest bet of college football's annual overload of wild and woolly bowl action is simple, Southern California will not capture a third consecutive national championship, no matter what everyone keeps saying.

Oh, the Trojans may defeat Texas in January's Rose Bowl, host site for this season's Bowl Championship Series title game, but only hype or revisionist history says it would mean a three-peat for SC.

A second title? Sure. Pete Carroll's team whipped Oklahoma last year in the title game to win it all. Do it again and you get back-to-back.

But that certainly isn't three, because the year before it was LSU coach Nick Saban (not Carroll) who hoisted that ugly glass football that goes to the "champion" of the national system that each Division I-A football program (USC included) agrees each season to play under.

Why everyone is saying otherwise is beyond me.

Regular readers know that you can't oppose or detest the BCS more than I do. They also know that in December of 2003 we called Oklahoma's selection over USC into the title game against LSU "a fraud."

But our sympathy to SC's plight back then doesn't change the basic reality of sports, namely that the rules are the rules are the rules. In 2003, just as last year and this one, USC and its representatives of the Pacific 10 Conference, agreed that the system of determining the national champion of college football was the BCS.

That's how all sports work. Before the start of the season, everyone gets together and determines how to crown a champion. Some leagues, such as the NBA or NHL, have a series of playoff series. Some, such as the NFL, have a single elimination tournament. Some, such as NCAA hoops, have bigger fields. Some, such as major league baseball, have smaller ones.

College football's is the most controversial because it is the most ridiculous, designed to protect long standing power and profit in six major conferences (including the Pac 10) rather than equitably determining a champion. Fans hate it. Players hate it. Most coaches hate it.

None of which matters. The powers-that-be who count the money love it, or at least love it enough to agree to it every year. And back in 2003, once Pac 10 Commissioner Tom Hansen, on behalf of USC, did that, the Trojans had to live with the result.

That meant a complicated formula weighing computer stats and human polls determined that LSU and Oklahoma got to play in the championship game even though they, like, USC, had suffered a loss. Most people thought USC was better than OU, but the system factored more than what most people thought. The computers liked OU and once that happened, USC had no claim, ever, to the 2003 national championship.

Yes, the Trojans wound up being crowned champs by the Associated Press pollsters, which is fine and dandy, but that has no official bearing on anything. Before the 1997 creation of the BCS, the AP was about all anyone had, so it is understandable why teams cited its results. But post-'97 it is meaningless.

The agreed upon system was and is the BCS, not the BCS or a popularity contest if it turns out a certain team doesn't like the BCS. You can't rewrite the rules after the fact just because it benefits you.

Now, we understand why the Trojans would lay claim to the 2003 title. The BCS is so pathetic, untrustworthy and impossibly bad, it is human nature to just selectively ignore it. But intellectually it doesn't work that way. The official 2003 champion was LSU.

Why the media says (and will say it a million times in the next two weeks) USC won it all that year is baffling because it certainly isn't factual. I guess if everyone repeats the lie long enough, they no longer think they are lying. Who knows?

It is not like the silly formula hasn't assisted SC through the years. While it is my opinion the BCS screwed them back in 2003, it's also my opinion that it helped them last year. It was then that the formula decided that USC and Oklahoma should play for the title while three other undefeated teams sat out, Utah, Boise State and, most formidably, Auburn.

USC pounded an OU team that was the puffed up product of a weak Big Twelve Conference. It wasn't the Trojans fault, but the reality is they got a cupcake championship game. Considering what Auburn's two great running backs (Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams) are currently doing to NFL defenses, is there any doubt the Tigers would have been a much more formidable opponent?

That's the thing with the BCS, some years it helps, some years it hurts. Given the chance, maybe USC would have won it all in 2003. But maybe Auburn would have won it in 2004. We'll never know.

As long as we have the system we have, we can only go with the facts, no matter what the newspapers and television analysts say. In this case, USC and their 34-game and two-Heisman win streak are gunning for their second consecutive national title.

Win the Rose Bowl and next season they can go for the three-peat.