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Oklahoma football: Why Northern Illinois made the BCS

by Berry Tramel Published: December 3, 2012

Northern Illinois is in the Orange Bowl, and OU is not in the Sugar Bowl, and the reason is clear. A BCS rule. A complicated, but clear, BCS rule.

Maybe you don’t like the rule. Maybe you don’t like the BCS. But before you take up swords and torches against the BCS rules, remember what that means. BCS rules put the Sooners in position to be in the Sugar Bowl in the first place.

Want to get rid of the rules and just use the rankings to serve up the major bowl matchups? OK. Then OU still would not have made the Sugar or Orange or Fiesta bowls. The Sooners are ranked 11th. There are 10 BCS berths. The Sooners would have been in the Cotton Bowl, against someone lesser than Texas A&M.

Want to get rid of some rules and keep others? What about getting rid of the Northern Illinois rule AND the rule that limits a conference to just two teams per year in the BCS? In that case, the Sugar Bowl would have had first pick and chosen Florida. The Fiesta Bowl would have had second pick and chosen LSU or Georgia or Texas A&M. Some team in the SEC. The Sugar would have had third pick and chosen Oregon. Still no Sooners.

See what I mean? The way to get OU into the Sugar Bowl this season is to pick out particular BCS rules to keep and particular BCS rules to scrap. Scrap them all, and OU’s out. Keep them all, and OU’s out. Change some, and it depends on what you change.

Railing against particular rules immediately after events doesn’t do much for me. If you don’t like a rule, work to change it. If a rule is unfair, it’s unfair before it affects your team. The Northern Illinois rule was based on solid thought. A good mid-major could be left out in a season in which one of the power conferences has a down year.

Thus the advent of the rule that says a mid-major can get automatic qualification if it finishes in the top 16 of the BCS rankings AND finishes ahead of an automatic qualifier.

The bowls clearly don’t like that rule and others. The new four-team playoff format coming in 2014 is largely rid of such rules. Expect more than two teams per league to be eligible. The highest-ranked team from the Big East, Conference USA, Mountain West, Mid-American and Sun Belt conferences gets an automatic berth in one of the six major bowls. The new rules will be streamlined.

But like I said, streamline the rules to the max this season, and still OU wouldn’t have made the Sugar Bowl.



by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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