The college football season is heading toward another dramatic showdown, and fans already are choosing sides.
Over here are those who want bedlam to win in a rout.
And over there, they are hoping instead for chaos.
Let's hear it for the BCS! The only championship system this side of figure skating that can take the attention away from the competitors and put it squarely on voters and computers.
Which is why so many college football fans seem giddy over the possibility of another BCS mess this weekend. Their thinking is that another bowl game disaster will nudge college football one step closer to a four- or eight-team playoff system. Either that, or they just find it hilarious when university presidents have to defend the indefensible.
Let's see how many doomsday scenarios we can envision this weekend:
• No. 20 Missouri beats No. 2 Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game, and the BCS ends up choosing an 11-1 Texas team that lost to an 11-1 Texas Tech team while an 11-1 USC team that won the Pac-10 is ignored.
• No. 4 Florida narrowly beats No. 1 Alabama but, because the computer rankings have not been enamored with the strength of the SEC this season, the Gators somehow fail to move past Texas in the BCS rankings.
• No. 6 Utah, the highest-ranked team without a loss, sneaks into NCAA offices to change everyone else's grades on the computer.
One way or another, there will be a mess. Even if Oklahoma beats Missouri, which it probably will. Even if Florida moves ahead in the rankings with a victory, which it probably will. Even if the Utes steer clear of breaking and entering, which may be plausible.
No matter what happens, someone is getting cheated. Which means they will join a long list of previous victims.
Like Miami in 2000. The Hurricanes beat Florida State head-to-head, and they both finished the regular season with one loss. Yet it was FSU that played Oklahoma for the national championship.
Like Oregon in 2001. The Ducks won the Pac-10, finished second in the AP poll and went 10-1. Yet it was Nebraska, which didn't even make it to the Big 12 title game, that played Miami for the national championship.
Like USC in 2003. The Trojans won the Pac-10 and finished 11-1. Yet Oklahoma, which did not win the Big 12, played LSU for the national championship.
Like Auburn in 2004. The Tigers were undefeated and winners of the SEC championship. Unfortunately, USC and Oklahoma also went undefeated to win their conference titles and ended up playing for the national championship.
So how does this year rank among BCS bungles?
In terms of quantity, pretty darned high.
Even if there are no major upsets this weekend, you could have a scenario where Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech, USC and Penn State will all be 11-1 or 12-1. And that's not even getting into the cases for Utah, Boise State and Ball State, all 12-0.
If you want a glimpse of the absurdity of this system, think about it this way:
After the USC-UCLA game, after the SEC Championship, after the Big 12 Championship, we still will not know for sure who is going to be playing in the BCS title game. The players will leave the field, the bands will pack up their instruments, the fans will head to their cars and the participants for the biggest game of the year will be determined overnight by a handful of anonymous voters and a bunch of incomprehensible computer programs.
I understand some people are college football traditionalists and want to keep the bowl system the way it is. I understand university presidents are making a ton of money and are in no hurry to change things. I even understand the coaches who like to spin the idea to their boosters that they had a successful season by making it to some meaningless bowl game.
But I do not understand those who ignore the injustice of the system.
There is simply no rational way to say USC or Penn State are lesser teams at 11-1 than Florida or Oklahoma might be. Maybe the Gators would whip Penn State. Maybe the Sooners are way better than USC. The point is nobody knows, and it's inherently unfair to deny the players at USC or Penn State the opportunity to prove themselves on the game's grandest stage.
For the past few years, the bowls had themselves a nice run. The BCS folks had gone several years without soiling the carpet. Sure, Michigan was bellyaching a couple of years ago, and the Boise State crowd had some legitimate complaints once upon a time.
But, for the most part, college football seemed to get the correct two teams in the national championship game in recent seasons. In scientific terms, this particular phenomenon is known as luck.
College football deserves better than that.
John Romano can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.