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Series Finale?

With a seemingly inevitable log jam at the top of the BCS standings looming, 2011 will be the year that changes how college football crowns a national champion.

 Every year college football fans complain about the Bowl Championship Series and its many flaws in determining who should play for the crystal prize pictured above, but this year will bring about a perfect storm that should usher in actual change.

Let’s start with the fact that there may be an unprecedented number of teams at the end of 2011 that would have a legitimate claim to a national title.

Nearly every major conference features a legitimate national title contender, and those ever-present Broncos from Boise St. may just be the best mid-major team since the 1984 national champion BYU Cougars. The SEC features two super-powers in Alabama and LSU, the Big Ten boasts a powerful Wisconsin team, along with undefeated Michigan. The Big 12 is not without its powers, and it looks like Oklahoma and Oklahoma St. could both go into their season-ending matchup undefeated. Throw in Stanford from the Pac 12, a possibly unblemished Clemson or Georgia Tech from the ACC and Boise, and you have one heck of a mess at the top.

BCS executives will pray to God that the rankings come out with an SEC team facing Oklahoma so as to preserve the status quo. But, college football fans(Oklahoma and SEC fans excluded) should be openly rooting against that and hope it brings about a national outcry unlike any seen in the BCS-era.

Sure, we have seen deserving teams left out in the cold before. In 2000 Miami defeated Florida St, but a one-loss Seminole team played for the title over the one-loss Hurricanes. Still, Miami dropped a game, so you could make the case that they controlled their own destiny. In 2003 we saw traditional power USC get snubbed in favor of LSU and Oklahoma, but again, all three teams had a loss.

The following year saw an undefeated Auburn team held out for Oklahoma and USC, marking the first time an undefeated BCS conference team was not able to play for the title. Still, it has only happened once, and, while Auburn is an established power with a huge following in their home state, they are not a national brand the way schools like Texas, Ohio St, Alabama, Florida and Oklahoma are. So, if you are not a fan of any of the top teams and want real change, you should ideally be rooting for a Stanford-Boise St. national championship.

Not only would that cause a public outcry from millions of Alabama/LSU/Oklahoma/Wisconsin fans, it would probably be the lowest rated national title game since the BCS’ inception. It would also cause the most powerful conference commissioners, the SEC’s Mike Slive and The Big Ten’s Jim Delany, to question why they should continue to a support a system that could now potentially be costing their schools big payouts. The SEC and Big Ten have been the beneficiaries of a system favoring larger conference schools, but if a two-loss Alabama and one-loss Wisconsin were held out in favor of an undefeated Boise St, suddenly athletic director’s and university presidents of the powers in these conferences would realize that the margin for error is just too small to win a national title.

So, we move onto television. The money in college football is all about TV revenue, and the BCS has a contract with ESPN that will run through the 2014 season. This is, partially, why alternatives to the BCS are rarely discussed on the network, and never as a serious possibility. But, if this perfect storm were to occur this year and change the thinking of conference commissioners and university presidents, it should be fresh enough in their minds when it came time to negotiate a new deal in late 2012. Also, the network that gets the new TV rights may want a playoff if some sort if a computer-generated matchup of non-traditional powers yielded poor ratings.

There have been cries for change before, but this year represents the best chance for it to actually happen. An unprecedented number of teams with legitimate gripes about the system would send shock waves through fans, athletic directors, university presidents, conference commissioners and ratings hungry television networks. This is the year when powerful stake-holders realize the system no longer gives them a decided edge and larger margin for error. This is the season each side embraces a change that would lead to more revenue for all parties involved and, more importantly, more great football.

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