Despite fears to the contrary two weeks ago, the final BCS standings and selection for the major bowls featured little controversy or drama.
Ohio State lost in the Big Ten title game, clearing the path for Auburn to be the undisputed No. 2 team. Northern Illinois’ loss in the final week cleared the path for Oklahoma to be the final at-large pick, ironic given undefeated NIU pushed the Sooners out a year ago.
Perhaps the only questionable decision by the BCS game executives was the Sugar Bowl’s selection of Oklahoma to face Alabama rather than a higher-ranked Oregon team.
Maybe the matchup is less attractive for most viewers, but Oklahoma promises to bring more fans to a closer game site. The Sugar Bowl also will have an SEC-Big 12 matchup when the College Football Playoff begins next season. To the end, politics and tradition played a role in the selection of the top postseason games.
Here’s a look at the final pairings and the selection process in the final bowl lineup of the BCS era.
BCS Championship: No. 1 Florida State vs. No. 2 Auburn
Rose: No. 4 Michigan State vs. No. 5 Stanford
Orange: No. 12 Clemson* vs. No. 7 Ohio State*
Sugar: No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 11 Oklahoma*
Fiesta: No. 6 Baylor vs. No. 15 UCF
Other team eligible for at-large selections:
No. 10 Oregon
No. 14 Arizona State
Order of selection:
1. Florida State and Auburn were automatic bids placed in the championship game.
2. Michigan State and Stanford were automatic to the Rose, Baylor automatic to the Fiesta.
3. Orange selects Ohio State to replace ACC champion Florida State.
4. Sugar selects Alabama to replace SEC champion Auburn.
5. Orange selects Clemson as at-large.
6. Sugar selects Oklahoma as at-large.
7. Fiesta selects UCF as the final automatic bid.
Observations on the final standings (full standings as a .pdf)
• In the first BCS standings of the season after Week 9, Auburn was ranked No. 11, behind teams like Miami and Texas Tech. Auburn’s rise to the title game was the biggest of the BCS era, second only to LSU moving from No. 12 in the first rankings in 2003 to No. 2.
• Michigan State enjoyed a jump from No. 10 to No. 4 in the final rankings after defeating Ohio State 34-24 in the Big Ten title game. The Spartans were unranked in the first BCS standings in Week 8. Before Sunday, Michigan State had never been ranked higher than fifth in the BCS standings (Oct. 24, 2010).
• The SEC finished with four teams in the top 10 (No. 2 Auburn, No. 3 Alabama, No. 8 Missouri, No. 9 South Carolina), a year after the SEC had six teams in the top 10 a year ago. Eight different teams account for those 10 spots in the top 10.
• The Harris poll and coaches’ poll were in lockstep on the top four (Florida State, Auburn, Alabama and Michigan State). No top 25 team in either poll was separated by more than three spots.
• The computers continued to love No. 14 Arizona State compared to the human polls. The Sun Devils, who faced Wisconsin and Notre Dame in the non-conference schedule, ranked 11th in the computer average and in the top three in three of six computer rankings. The flip side was No. 6 Baylor, who ranked eighth or lower in four computer rankings and ninth in the computer average.
• The BCS standings ends where it started in a way with Florida State at No. 1. The Seminoles were No. 2 in the final BCS standings of the season when the rankings began in 1998. Tennessee, of course, was No. 1 that year and won the title, but the top 10 also included Kansas State, Ohio State, UCLA, Texas A&M, Arizona, Florida, Wisconsin and Tulane.
All-Time BCS Rankings At a Glance
For better or worse, the BCS standings have been a way to measure success for prominent teams, here’s a look how teams have fared in the BCS standings since 1998:
Most weeks in top 25
Most weeks at No. 1
Most teams in top 25
Most BCS Game Appearances
1. Texas, 104
1. Oklahoma, 20
1. SEC, 555
1. Ohio State, 10
2. Oklahoma, 100
2. Alabama, 16
2. Big 12, 499
2. Oklahoma, 9
3. Florida, 92
T3. Ohio State, 15
3. Big Ten, 433
3. Florida State, 8
4. LSU 89
T3. USC, 15
4. Pac-12, 381
T4. Florida, 7
5. Oregon, 85
5. LSU, 10
5. ACC, 374
T4. USC, 7
6. Ohio State, 84
6. Florida State, 9
6. Big East/AAC, 186
T6. Alabama, 6
7. Virginia Tech, 82
T7. Florida, 7
7. Mountain West, 137
T6. Virginia Tech, 6
8. Florida State, 80
T7. Miami, 7
8. WAC, 79
9. Michigan, 77
T9. Nebraska, 5
9. C-USA, 78
10. USC, 73
T9. Tennessee, 5
10. Independents, 51
T11. Georgia, 72
11. MAC, 44
T11. Wisconsin, 72
13. Alabama, 66
T14. Boise State, 64
T14. Miami, 64