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Virginia Tech To Sugar Bowl Proves BCS Is Flawed By Design

Does the LSU vs. Alabama national title game best prove the BCS is crooked? Or is it Virginia Tech's undeserved entry into the Sugar Bowl? There's so much to choose from!

BLACKSBURG, VIRGINIA - NOVEMBER 17:  Virginia Tech Hokies players take to the field prior to their game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Lane Stadium on November 17, 2011 in Blacksburg, Virginia.
BLACKSBURG, VIRGINIA - NOVEMBER 17: Virginia Tech Hokies players take to the field prior to their game against the North Carolina Tar Heels at Lane Stadium on November 17, 2011 in Blacksburg, Virginia.

The most shocking revelation from Sunday's BCS fallout wasn't that there's a rematch in the BCS title game (or maybe it was if you read my Dewey Defeats Truman piece), but that Virginia Tech was picked to play in the Sugar Bowl.

Yep, the Virginia Tech that just got pasted, for the second time this season by Clemson, in the ACC championship game. The Virginia Tech that played Appalachian State, Arkansas State, Marshall and East Carolina out of conference, and was shut out in the second half by Duke before eking out a 14-10 victory.

If you're a Kansas State or Boise State fan, you might think you have a right to be indignant. But you'd be unclear on the concept: The bowls, whether they're of the BCS variety or not, are just exhibition games. They're staged so the hosting party can make a million bucks or two. They're not any different from an NFL preseason game, or a Harlem Globetrotter performance. It's a show.

The Sugar Bowl grabbed Virginia Tech to face Michigan because the Hokies are a proven draw. They bring the fannies to fill the seats and hotel rooms in the Big Easy. Without an SEC team to choose from and with the locals expected to spend their money on the BCS title game at the same location a week later, the Sugar Bowl needed two teams that can fill the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Michigan was a no-brainer - and let's not forget that the Wolverines were actually ranked two spots lower than VT, though with a better resume overall. Once they were eligible to be selected by finishing in the top 14 of the final BCS Standings, of course the Wolverines were snapped up with the first pick by the Sugar Bowl.

Sugar Bowl CEO Paul Hoolahan explained his rationale pretty clearly - and we've provided the helpful translation (in parenthesis) from bowlspeak to plain English:

"I think Virginia Tech ... will perform extremely well (in terms of buying up its allotted tickets)," Hoolahan said. "I think that’s a team that will be a great performer (on Bourbon Street food and beverage sales) for us.

"Obviously, it was a difficult decision (trying to tally the number of K-State and Boise State fans). ... In the final analysis, we just felt the two teams we have chosen really give us in the long run the best opportunity to put together a matchup that will provide a very exciting football game (even if it's 45-0, as long as the no vacancy signs are hanging from the French Quarter to Metairie and you can't get a reservation at Commander's Palace)."

The Sugar Bowl controversy perfectly illustrates one of several BCS-manufactured problems, which also included the intractable conference realignment issue. Because BCS protocols dictate how and who may be selected for the BCS bowls, they have over the past decade produced numerous undesirable matchups that tarnished those venerable bowls.

In the past, the bowls, even with tie-ins, generally picked the best pairings they can get. So even if the games were exhibitions, at least they were compelling and evenly-matched. For instance, absent the BCS provisions, the Sugar Bowl would've been glad to have sixth-ranked Arkansas and paired it with eight-ranked Kansas State. The Orange Bowl certainly wouldn't have been stuck with a barely ranked West Virginia, since there were at least a dozen better options.

That's why at the BCS meeting last month in San Francisco about a proposal (likely backed by the Big Ten's Jim Delany) to eliminate the BCS's participation in bowl games was floated out. Basically, the BCS could be set up only to decide a 1-vs.-2 matchup, leaving all bowls to make their own deals as they wish. By extension this proposal would eliminate the need for conferences to use the BCS Standings to break ties, since there truly would be no reason to use the standings for anything other than for the top two ranked teams.

Ah, the standings. That's another powder keg ready to blow.

The BCS reached the LSU-Alabama title game this year by virtue of one of the six computers placing Alabama ahead of Oklahoma State. Had the rankings been flipped on that single computer, then the Alabama-Oklahoma State decision for No. 2 would've come down to a handful of votes. 

For the alleged national championship game matchup to be decided by a system that utterly lacks transparency and safeguard procedures is frankly irresponsible. Five of the six computers are proprietary and not subject to any audits or verification. Neither the coaches nor the Harris poll releases its individual ballots until the last week of the season, and the coaches even fought that. Are we really sure that there were no data entry errors (which occurred last year) that could've changed this year's matchup?

We'll never know.

This week's ...

Big Winners

ACC - In the previous 14 years of the BCS, the ACC has never received an at-large BCS berth. And had favored Virginia Tech won the conference title game over Clemson, that streak would've been extended. Instead, VT won by losing, not only receiving an at-large bid, but also got a much more attractive matchup in Michigan than conference champion Clemson did with West Virginia in the Orange Bowl.

Michigan - To the Victors go the spoils. Michigan was such a lock to be a BCS pick that the only suspense was whether it would be eligible. The Wolverines' three-year purgatory of the Rich Rodriguez era is officially over. And they even got a break with a much more beatable opponent than either Kansas State or Boise State.

Cotton Bowl - Not being in the BCS actually has turned out to be quite a blessing, as the Cotton Bowl is free to choose whatever teams it wants outside of the BCS. This year we get Arkansas-Kansas State, the second best matchup (after the Fiesta Bowl) besides the BCS title game. With its large payout and fabulous venue at JerryWorld, the Cotton Bowl isn't missing much by not being in the BCS.

Big Losers 

Non-AQ conferences - For the first time since the BCS expanded to five games in 2006, there will be no non-AQ conference participants. Houston's loss in the CUSA title game was very costly to its conference, and then when TCU failed to make the top 16, the bowls were free to skip all the little guys. Boise State, for the second year in a row, is consigned to the Las Vegas Bowl because of a key missed field goal.

Oklahoma State - One inexplicable loss, thanks to a missed easy field goal late in the game, was all that separated the 'Pokes from their first BCS title game appearance. Mike Gundy has built a powerhouse program in Stillwater, but you wonder if the Cowboys will ever be this close again.

LSU - This much we know - despite the BCS motto of "Every Game Counts," LSU's Nov. 5 victory in Tuscaloosa meant absolutely nothing. A Tigers loss in the BCS title game will mean everything was for naught - beating two BCS conference champions (Oregon and West Virginia), playing the No. 1-ranked schedule, winning every game but one by at least double-digits, achieving the first perfect score in the BCS Standings. Make no mistake, if LSU loses to Alabama in the rematch, all it's going to get is No. 2.

Samuel Chi is the proprietor of and managing editor of RealClearSports. Sam's college football and BCS analysis, exclusively for SB Nation, will appear on Sundays and Mondays throughout the season. Follow him on Twitter at BCSGuru.