Tigers could fall prey to BCS mechanism

AUBURN, Ala. -- On Page 16 of the 2004 Bowl Championship Series media guide is the least-kept promise since George Dubya's old man said, "Read my lips: no new taxes."

I'm looking at ol' Page 16 right now. Under, History of the BCS, it says: "The [BCS] was created as a mechanism for providing a guaranteed matchup between college football's top two teams in a true national championship."

Well, the mechanism needs Mr. Goodwrench, and quick.

The best team in the country might -- I repeat, might -- be here in the loveliest village on the plains. That would be Auburn, home of the now 10-0 Tigers. Tommy Tuberville's team left all sorts of paw prints on late, great No. 5-ranked Georgia, which didn't record its first and only score until 2:13 remaining in the mini-rout.

"When you get beat like that, the only thing you can say is that you got whupped," said Georgia coach Mark Richt, who barely averted his first shutout.

But will it matter? Auburn did everything but take a rolled-up newspaper to the Bulldogs. It had more first downs, more rushing yards, more passing yards, more sacks. . . more everything. Auburn also could have had more points had quarterback Jason Campbell not committed his only mistake of the afternoon: a third-quarter interception with the ball on the Georgia 19.

"I'm just at a loss for words," said Tuberville, who was unable to do anything but smile when he first arrived at the postgame press conference. "One thing I'd say: I'd hate to play us."

Unless the BCS Standings have a change of heart between now and Monday, Auburn's postseason projection includes a Sugar Bowl appointment against the likes of either Boston College or Miami. Goose bumps everywhere just yawned.

Once again the BCS is shoulder-pad deep in controversy, thanks to the possibility, if not the likelihood, of the three top-ranked teams -- No. 1 USC, No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 3 Auburn -- finishing the regular season with undefeated records. If that happens, someone is going to get jobbed, and right now that certain someone is Auburn.

Of course, this whole BCS situation is as fluid as sweat. The BCS computers, or media poll voters, or coaches poll voters -- or a combination thereof -- could jump Auburn over Oklahoma. Then it would be OU's turn to twist in the wind.

"I'm sure the voters will be fair," said Tuberville.

He's not that sure. Tuberville has a vote in the ESPN/USA TODAY poll and he'll no doubt use it on his own team. And then he'll probably do some lobbying of his peers.

"My phone bill will go up a little bit tonight," he said.

Has it come to this? Coaches pleading their cases to other coaches? OU's Bob Stoops having to factor in margin of victory? If so, it's yet another reason to deposit the BCS in the nearest garbage disposal.

"All of us feel like we deserve a shot," said Auburn wide receiver Courtney Taylor of the USC-OU-AU combo. "They're good. So are we."

Taylor said he didn't have a clue how the BCS Standings worked. He isn't the only one.

"I'm just an ol' country boy," said Auburn tailback Carnell Williams. "I don't know much about the BCS."

But he said he knows this: if Auburn played either USC or OU, and played the way they did Saturday against Georgia, "we would not lose."

Fellow Auburn campaign manager, safety Junior Rosegreen, was equally blunt.

"I'd [tell people] that Auburn is for real," he said. "We're undefeated. This is the best conference (SEC) in the land. The BCS has got to give us some props."

No it doesn't. That's the problem with the BCS. The Orange Bowl fate of the Trojans, Sooners, Tigers and, to a slightly lesser extent, Utah, will be determined by 126 voters, almost all of whom weren't here or didn't see the entire game, and six computers.

"It's all up to the computers, to the poll voters, to whatever," said Taylor.

College football shouldn't have to settle for whatever. If it were up to Tuberville there would be a four-team playoff. "I think even the coaches and the media can come up with the top four teams," he said. Do that, he said, and it's "happy ever after."

Instead, we're stuck with potential BCS bedlam, as well as a repeat of 2003 (split national championship), but worse.

With about 2 minutes remaining in Saturday's game, Auburn's costumed mascot, Aubie, began mugging for the crowd and cameras in front of the crystal BCS championship trophy displayed near end zone's edge. An alert Orange Bowl rep handed Aubie its bowl logo and then stuck a bowl patch on its chest.

The mascot pointed to the Orange Bowl patch and pawed at the crystal ball. I was struck by a single thought:

Is this as close as Auburn will come to South Florida and that trophy?

Gene Wojciechowski is a senior writer with ESPN The Magazine. He can be reached at gene.wojciechowski@espn.com.