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Mythbusters: What Chaos?

After tabulating all the rankings, calculating a computer average and tossing out any formulaic conclusions reached by M.I.T. grads who never even watch football, we have come up with a timely myth to puncture this week.

The rumblings of discontent have already begun. What if the BCS fails to deliver one nice and tidy championship package? We'll witness The BCS Apocalypse: 2008. Internet message boards and sports radio phone lines will explode. The streets will erupt in riots and protests. Middle-aged men who still wear their fraternity letters will sulk around their living rooms. The glaciers will melt (more). The dead will rise from their graves. Fans will never, ever forget.

But before everyone gets worked up over BCS doomsday scenarios, we have some helpful, rational advice.

NOBODY PANIC!

You know why there won't be a BCS meltdown this year? Because we won't be that lucky.

We want the system to implode. We need more controversy to drive this thing into collapse and give us a real on-the-field playoff. But even though it seems like the BCS makes an annual habit of screwing up the postseason, the system has this annoying tendency of catching a break every now and then. When all hope seems lost, the system delivers a perfect matchup and the chorus of unrest temporarily subsides. Like a celebrity defendant, it always gets off the hook. And we're just about due for it to happen again.

It might sound crazy, but take a look at the turbulent nine-year history of the BCS and see what's transpired:

1998: Tennessee 23, Florida State 16 -- After a pair of unbeaten teams (UCLA and Kansas State) suffer last-gasp stumbles, FSU sneaks into the title game ... even though the Seminoles lone loss was a 24-7 smackdown against N.C. State. But then the nation's only unbeaten team, Tennessee, takes care of business. The BCS is off the hook.

1999: Florida State 46, Virginia Tech 29 -- Through a stroke of divine providence, the nation's only two unbeaten teams face off. It's a fun game, no dogs are killed and the BCS is off the hook. So far, so good, right?

2000: Oklahoma 13, Florida State 2 -- Controversy starts to simmer: One-loss Miami gets passed over for one-loss FSU, even though the 'Canes won their head-to-head matchup against the 'Noles. One-loss Washington isn't even in the conversation, despite beating Miami. But the nation's only unbeaten, OU, shuts down FSU in the first of what looks like many glorious BCS title games for Bob Stoops. Controversy over. BCS off the hook. Again.

2001: Miami 37, Nebraska 14 -- This year, there's some real concern. Nebraska loses its final regular season game to Colorado 62-36 ("loses" being a polite term for the 60-minute shanking the Buffs doled out to the Blackshirts) and doesn't even advance to the Big 12 title game. Yet the Huskers somehow slide into the BCS title game over one-loss Oregon. The Ducks blast Colorado and wait to claim at least a share of the title ... but Miami smacks the Huskers to remain the only unbeaten team. Sneaky little BCS, wiggling off the hook again. BCS gurus proclaim the system works and say there's no way a Pac-10 team would ever split the national title (those of you who don't get the joke should pay particular attention to 2003).

2002: Ohio State 31, Miami 24 -- With the BCS backlash growing after two-straight muddled title game matchups, whaddaya know!, the only two unbeaten teams meet in the Fiesta Bowl. The BCS is off the hook again. The system works! Huzzah! BCS controversy threatens to ride off into the Arizona sunset.

2003: LSU 21, Oklahoma 14 -- The Year The BCS Stood Still. The Sooners, so dominant throughout the regular season, get their heads kicked in by Kansas State 35-7 in the Big 12 Dr. Pepper Game, sending USC to the top spot in the polls. So naturally the Trojans finish ... third in the BCS. They perform their customary dissection of a Big Ten team in the Rose Bowl to claim the AP title, while LSU beats OU in the Sugar Bowl to claim the crystal football. The so-called "split" national title opens up deep psychological wounds from which USC and LSU clearly have not healed. Never fear, though -- the growing USC-SEC national title rift could have been patched up had the next season gone according to BCS clockwork...

2004: USC 55, Oklahoma 19 -- Holy Role Reversal, Batman, now it's an SEC team getting shafted while the Trojans reap the benefits. The apparent dress rehearsal for 2008 ends with Auburn getting left out, Oklahoma failing to even get on the plane to Miami for the Orange Bowl, the Trojans rolling and, in the wake of that performance, some of the anger subsiding. The BCS is sort of off the hook (unless you're from the Plains).

2005: Texas 41, USC 38 -- With the system wobbling and threatening to implode under the weight of its own absurdity, the BCS manages to not only give us the only two unbeaten teams, but also a corker of a title game. BCS completely off the hook once again. (Side note: Thanks to all of you who wrote in with your own suggestions for "best game ever," as well as the substantially more of you who passionately, and sometimes profanely, defended this game as the best ever. If the crown were awarded based on enthusiasm, this game would win in a landslide.)

2006: Florida 41, Ohio State 14 -- Like the swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano, controversy returns to the BCS. Michigan drops a three-point decision to the unbeaten Buckeyes in Columbus for its only loss, but one-loss Florida leapfrogs the Wolverines on the season's final day. Anger and debate ensues until the Gators bottle up Troy Smith and ignite a Big Ten-SEC feud that still hasn't subsided. BCS off the hook, again.

2007: LSU 38, Ohio State 24 -- Pretty much every decent team lost at least twice except for the Buckeyes, and with America clamoring to see OSU lock horns with another SEC program, this is the matchup the computers spit out. Then the two-loss Tigers convincingly emulate Florida's Buckeye-crushing formula and lift their first non-shared national title in 49 years. BCS - you guessed it - off the hook again.

So as much as it seems like the BCS courts disaster every season, the system has an amazing knack for pulling off a perfect title game matchup every few seasons. You just can't kill this thing. It's like a monster that keeps mutating. You cut off an arm, it grows another leg. You cut off its legs, it sprouts two heads (both of which look like Roy Kramer, the spiritual godfather of this semi-annual debacle).

Sports writers and media types love to create BCS doomsday scenarios and vent about the matchups we do get. But they then promptly find themselves so swept up in the title game glory and so hypnotized by that beautiful Waterford football that they forget about the controversy. And despite what looks like a potential three-team trainwreck at the top of the rankings, you can expect more of the same this year.

That's all for this week. Remember: Just because college football fans think it's true, doesn't mean it is.

Got a myth you want us to bust? Contact Phil at mythbusters.sportsillustrated@gmail.com.

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