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Dec 09, 2013 11:00 AM EST

BCS Bowl Games: Why #8 Missouri, #9 South Carolina, and #10 Oregon Didn't Get An Invite

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*This story was edited to reflect a change.

The BCS Bowl games were announced over the weekend, exposing the selection system's usual flaws -- namely the restriction on conferences from sending more than two teams, the contractual obligations of bowl games, and the freedom of those games (and whomever is behind them) to choose "replacement teams" should conference champions end up in the national championship. Two teams, #11 Oklahoma and #12 Clemson, should not be in BCS games because they're behind three teams -- #8 Missouri, #9 South Carolina, and #10 Oregon -- in the computer rankings and didn't win their respective conference championships.

Missouri and South Carolina weren't even eligible for an at-large selection because "no more than two teams from a conferece may be selected" unless "two non-champions from the same conference are ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the final BCS Standings", according to the BCS rule.

Even if they were eligible, Missouri and South Carolina probably wouldn't have gotten in because the BCS has further rules to ensure conference variety. The two SEC teams didn't receive an invite to the Sugar Bowl because the game is contractually tied to the SEC champion. Since Auburn already made it to the big game, the Sugar Bowl chose Alabama as its SEC-replacement and then took Oklahoma as the other eligible at-large participant. Sugar Bowl organizers presumably wouldn't have wanted an all-SEC bowl game (ruling out Mizzou and SC), and perhaps shied away from Oregon because of the distance and their lukewarm finish to the year. They couldn't choose #4 Michigan State or #5 Stanford because the winners of the PAC-12 and Big Ten always go to the Rose Bowl. Nor could they choose #6 Baylor (tied to the Fiesta Bowl) or #7 Ohio State because, according to this year's rotation, Orange Bowl organizers were allowed to pick their at-large opponents before Sugar Bowl officials. Had the pick selection been switched and Missouri and South Carolina been eligible, the Sugar Bowl would have certainly snagged Ohio State and the Orange Bowl probably would have taken Missouri over Oklahoma, leaving only Oregon and South Carolina in the lurch.

The other half of the Orange Bowl goes to the champion of the ACC, or, in this case, the "next best thing" in #12 Clemson, which hasn't beaten a ranked opponent all season and was crushed 51-14 by Florida State and lost handily, 31-17, to South Carolina two weeks ago.

That leaves only the Fiesta Bowl, which had the last selection in the bowl draft this year to find an opponent for Baylor. They didn't have a choice; the University of Central Florida automatically qualified for a bowl game by winning its conference. (They play in the American Athletic Conference, formerly the Big East). The AAC champion gets an automatic bid but isn't assigned to a specific bowl.

Ironically, the game contested all season long by the media, fans, and many college coaches is the only game in which the BCS actually tried to deliver the two best teams. This year, they probably did: Undisputed #1 Florida State (13-0) will play #2 Auburn (12-1),  or the one-loss team from the best conference and with the best win all season (over Alabama, of course). 

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