How the BCS system works

Formerly known as the Bowl Alliance, the Bowl Championship Series utilizes a system of college football rankings to determine who will play whom at the end of the college football season in the quest to win the National Championship.  The Bowl Championship Series is a five-game series that is designed to showcase the talents and abilities of college football teams.  Moreover, it is designed to ensure that the two top-ranking teams in the country end up as opponents in the championship game while not sacrificing the competitive and exciting matchups in the other four games of the series.

All 10 conferences in the NCAA compete for what is known as automatic qualification (AQ).  Only some conferences (such as The Atlantic Coast and the Big Ten) met the necessary criteria for AQ and thus have contracts that allow their champions to automatically qualify for the BCS.

The BCS uses a standings formula that works like this:  During the regular season, the main factor that is taken into consideration for the standings is the team’s performance on the field.  There are three components to the evaluation:  The USA Today Coaches Poll, the Harris Interactive College Football Poll and an overall average taken from six computer ranking systems.  The first standings are released in October, approximately halfway through the regular season, not in the preseason.  Why?  Because it is believed that it should be based on a team’s performance during the actual season.

The BCS was originally formed in 1998 and it was in 2004 that it was expanded to include all the FBS conferences.

Initially, there were only four bowl games in the BCS:  The Rose Bowl, The Sugar Bowl, the Orange Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl.  Now there is an additional game that serves as the championship game to decide the ultimate winner.  Where that fifth Bowl game is played rotates among the four stadia in the BCS.

The Harris Interactive Poll

Harris Interactive is a market research company commissioned by the NCAA. These specialists in internet research compiled a poll especially for college football whereby a group of 115 previous players, coaches, management and media identify the top 25 teams each week by way of a vote, beginning in September and carrying on through to the end of the regular season.  To keep things impartial, the actual panelists are selected randomly by Harris Interactive, selected from a pool of nominees put forth by the FBS conferences as well as some other, independent institutions. The final poll results for the week are posted to the Harris Interactive website every Sunday.  The votes are typically kept anonymous throughout the season except for the final poll at the end of the calendar year, in which the votes are made public.

The USA Today Coaches’ Poll

This is another poll designed to rank the NCAA teams, this time through votes by members of the American Football Coaches Association.  Each week, each team’s head coach submits his ballot on which he ranks his choices for the top 25 teams in the league.  They also submit a vote in the pre- and post-seasons, unlike the Harris Interactive.  The team that gets the most votes is declared the winner of the BCS National Championship.  That team is also awarded the Waterford Crystal National Championship Coaches’ Trophy.

Computer poll

This is the last of the elements that go into compiling the rankings.  The compute ranks each team by way of four computer ranking systems used by each team.  The system automatically discards the highest and lowest ranked teams and averages out the remaining teams.