For any red-blooded college football fan, Dec. 2 ought to be a day to get angry. That's when the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), a university-backed collection of computer and human-derived polls, will spit out the rankings that will determine the top two teams that will play for this year's national championship on Jan. 7 in New Orleans.
As of Nov. 30, the BCS's top two teams are Missouri and West Virginia. But with several of the top teams, including both Missouri and West Virginia, scheduled to play on Dec. 1, it could end up being Ohio State, Georgia, Kansas, or someone else. Heck, even USC, with a disappointing 9-2 season and currently sitting eighth, could be in the running yet again for the big game.
About the only thing guaranteed is that no matter which teams get the top two BCS slots, they will be criticized, demeaned, and generally held up by their cleats as unworthy of the honor. Bank on it.
Create Your Own Playoff Brackets
That's why ESPN (DIS) has signed on with AccuScore, an L.A.-based sports statistics company, to create a way for folks at home to fiddle with teams, play them off against one another, and formulate their own mythical championship (in the event they're disappointed in the one served up by college football). The service, AccuScore College Football Playoff, is due to start shortly after the BCS rankings are announced on Dec. 2. It gives folks the ability to rank their own top 16 teams, pairing them off against one another in eight brackets that winnow down the winners until the top two compete in a final game.
O.K., so it's not real live gridiron action. "It provides good entertainment value," says Jason Manasse, chief executive and co-founder of AccuScore. Manasse's company, which generates tons of statistical information on head-to-head games and individual athletes, spits it out as analyses, projections, and handicapping information for fantasy players on sites that include Yahoo! Sports (YHOO), CBS SportsLine (CBS), and others.
Naming a Fans' Champion
AccuScore's sports include everything from the NFL to major league baseball, pro basketball, and college basketball and football contests. Manasse says his company—which during the college football season collected stats on 119 teams—has narrowed its rankings down to 25 potential championship teams, giving online players the opportunity to substitute their own choices, ones the BCS might have missed, for those the BCS actually makes.
In all, AccuScore says it has more than 110 various permutations of how a team might perform, including how it plays on natural grass, indoors or outdoors, against wishbone quarterbacks, or in stadiums away from home. Can it predict a winner? Probably not. No one seems able to do that.
But for a few minutes, after setting up the standings, you can watch your favorite collegians take the field for one last chance at the big prize. Why shouldn't fans at home get in on the action? It seems everyone else has had a shot at naming a national champion in a system that many say is flawed from the get-go.