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BCS Gets Break with Mostly Controversy-Free Year

This column It was written by Jerry Palm.

Both teams had to wait for this chance, but now it has finally arrived.

Auburn demolished South Carolina 56-17 behind six Cam Newton touchdowns and finished No. 1 in the BCS standings. The Tigers increased their lead over Oregon, and actually passed the Ducks in the Harris poll. Auburn was undefeated and finished third in the BCS in 2004. This time, there was no denying the Tigers.

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Oregon won the Civil War over Oregon State 37-20 and will also play for the championship. The Ducks are the top rated team in the coaches poll and ranked second in all six computers. Oregon, too, was left out of the title game once before when it felt it should have been in.

In 2001 the Ducks finished second in both polls, but the polls were only 25 percent of a much more convoluted BCS formula back then, and Oregon only finished fourth in the BCS, behind Nebraska, which played for the title without even winning its division, and Colorado, the Big 12 champion. They, too, have waited a long time to make up for that.

In fact, Oregon is the reason margin of victory is no longer used in the computers. One of the things that held the Ducks down that year was that they won several games by a touchdown or less, so the computer rankings that included margin of victory had them 7th. MOV was done away with after the season.

There was no such knee-jerk reaction to Auburn's exclusion in 2004.

TCU probably finds no solace in finishing third. The Horned Frogs have finished the regular season undefeated two straight years, but can't quite break through to the title game. They are an automatic at-large team and will get to face Big Ten champion Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, which is probably the most compelling of the non-title BCS games.

Stanford also qualified as an automatic at-large team by ranking fourth. The highest rated AQ conference non-champion gets a spot in the BCS if it finishes third or fourth (the Kansas State rule, which was enacted in 1999 after the Wildcats were left out as the No. 3 team). The Cardinal have to travel cross-country to Miami to play ACC champion Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl. The Hokies beat Florida State 44-33 in the highest scoring ACC title game in the event's relatively brief history.

Connecticut got a 52-yard FG with 17 seconds left to beat South Florida 19-16 and win the Big East's automatic berth. The Huskies are the first unranked team to appear in a BCS game. UConn did not appear in the top 25 in any week this season. They did manage to crack the top 50 of the computer rankings this week, though.

The Huskies will play Big 12 champ Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. The Sooners beat Nebraska in the final Big 12 title game 23-20. Nebraska now moves on to the Big Ten, and the Big 12 will no longer have enough teams to stage a championship game.

The Big East did finish with one team in the top 25. West Virginia beat Rutgers 35-10 and moved up a little in the rankings to No. 22.

The Sugar Bowl had the luxury of choosing first and being able to take two at-large teams. It chose seventh-rated Arkansas to replace SEC champion Auburn, and selected No. 6 Ohio State as the Hogs' opponent. The Buckeyes are back in New Orleans for the first time since the 2007 BCS title game, which it lost to LSU. This is the Razorbacks' first trip to the Sugar Bowl as a member of the SEC. Their last appearance was in 1979, which was a 24-9 loss to Alabama.

The highest rated team to be left out this year is No. 8 Michigan State, however no at-large team got in that was ranked below the Spartans. They will face their old coach, Nick Saban, and Alabama in the Capital One Bowl.

This ended up being a relatively controversy-free year - in the BCS anyway. Folks in Ft. Worth may disagree. Still, I doubt we'll see any changes next year, at least as far as the formula is concerned.