Associated Press
Running back Bilal Powell (15) did some celebrating for Louisville two years ago in a glorious game called the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl.

The college football bowl season starts later this week with the illustrious New Mexico and Famous Idaho Potato bowls. In this, the 14th year of being held hostage by the BCS, college football has given us another doozie of a bowl lineup.

Every time you think the bowl situation can't get worse or sillier, college football and the BCS manage to top themselves. They're so stuck in the past that they are still actually patting themselves on the back because they manage to put the top two teams in the same bowl game. "Thanks to the BCS, the top two teams have played each other 13 times in 13 years," the official BCS website crows.

Apparently, they consider this feat equal to the discovery of electricity.

The BCS, the website notes, is "designed to ensure that the top two-rated teams meet in the national championship game while creating exciting and competitive matchups among either other highly regarded teams in four other games."

This is where the train leaves the tracks. Thanks to the BCS, we have: No. 15 Northern Illinois meeting No. 12 Florida State in the Orange Bowl; No. 21 Louisville meeting No. 3 Florida in the Sugar Bowl; and unranked 8-5 Wisconsin against No. 6 Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

Under the convoluted rules of the BCS, this makes sense; in the real world, it's just plain idiotic.

It's refreshing to see the rare team from a non-BCS conference gain a berth in a BCS bowl, but Northern Illinois? When non-AQ schools Utah, Boise State, Hawaii and TCU pulled off this feat in the past, they were highly ranked and unbeaten. Northern Illinois is neither.

Meanwhile, Georgia, which barely lost to No. 2 Alabama in the final seconds of the SEC championship, got shipped off to the Capital One Bowl, whatever that is. And Oklahoma and Texas A&M — two excellent teams — got shut out of the BCS bowls and were sent to the Cotton Bowl.

The BCS … still a mess.

On the official website of the BCS, there is a question and answer section. I don't like the answers, so I thought I'd give it a shot myself.

Question: Why can't the BCS institute a playoff for Division I-A football?

Answer: Because our bowl friends in cities around the country — the good ol' boy network — are making truckloads of money, and so are the BCS conferences. We like to say a playoff can't be done even though our friends at the Division I-AA level — now called the FCS or Football Championship Subdivision — have been doing it for years. It consists of five rounds, including the championship game. The semifinals will feature North Dakota State vs. Georgia Southern and Sam Houston State vs. Eastern Washington. They do this by playing football throughout December instead of taking a month off like we do.

The current BCS works so well that we're going to trade it for a better-than-nothing, four-team playoff in a couple of years even though we've been insisting that the current system is best. So, starting in January 2015, you can pretty much ignore everything we've ever said about the superiority of our system.

Question: What is the BCS anyway?

Answer: A collection of conferences and schools that united to stack the deck in their favor and create a college football monopoly. That's why only a handful of schools from non-BCS conferences have ever been invited to BCS bowls.

Question: How does the BCS standings formula work?

Answer: Not very well. If it did, we would rid ourselves of automatic tie-ins for conference winners and BCS bowls — like the one that let 8-5, unranked Wisconsin into the Rose Bowl. If our formula worked, we'd rely solely on the rankings and fill the five BCS bowls with the top 10 ranked teams. Thus, we would have 1 vs. 2, 3 vs. 4, 5 vs. 6, 7 vs. 8 and 9 vs. 10. But that makes too much sense, so instead we have No. 21 playing No. 3 and No. 6 playing an unranked team and so forth.

Question: So how does the BCS standings formula work? It's simple really ...

Answer: The BCS standings — also known as a poll — utilizes a formula that consists of a coaches' poll, the Harris Interactive College Football Poll, an average of six computer rankings, multiplied by the hypotenuse of the square root and the denominator, plus the Dow Jones Industrial Average for the year. We think the formula was created by Stephen Hawking. Anyway, it works so well that each December we get all the old tired arguments about who deserves what bowl and strength of schedule and who beat whom.

Question: What is the BCS's current contract arrangement?

Answer: To feature as many bowls as possible — 35 this year — and, more importantly, to ensure that the bowls have the silliest commercial names. Why? Because we are complete sellouts. Imagine being a college senior who has dreamed all his life to play in a bowl game and he has to tell his grandkids someday that he played in the (fill in the blank — Belk Bowl, Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, the Gator Bowl, or, my personal favorite, the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl). There is also the BBVA Compass Bowl. What does BBVA stand for? I have no idea.

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