There is a lot of outrage from college football fans over the BCS "system". Teams are rewarded for glossy records, despite the weakness of competition, and punished for losing games when they play tough schedules. The competition level in nonconference is horrendous. Matchups between true contenders for the national title, in nonconference games, are almost unheard of. Truly the BCS system is terrible.
BUT....it used to be worse. At least now two teams RANKED 1 and 2 by the BCS meet for the hypothetical title. They may not in reality be top 10 teams (although they probably are)...but at least in the rankings they are 1 and 2. That used to be almost non-existent before the BCS. Back in those days there were unexplained shifts in votes for the final national champion after the bowls.
Case in point...1977. #1 Texas was playing #5 Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl. #2 OU was playing #4 Arkansas in the Orange Bowl. #3 Alabama was playing Big 10 CoChamp Ohio State in the Sugar. Generally what happened was that if the top ranked team lost, that the next highest ranked team that won their bowl would be crowned National Champion. Texas pulled their standard chokejob in the Cotton to Notre Dame. OU was soundly trounced by Arkansas, and Alabama stomped a mudhole in OSU's ass. Alabama or , less likely, Arkansas could be expected to be crowned National Champs. Wrong. #5 Notre Dame leapfrogged Alabama and Arkansas to be crowned National Champs.
The case for the Irish: They beat Texas. They soundly beat most the teams on their schedule.
Cons: They lost to a mediocre 6-5 (really 5-6, but Miss State had to forfeit the game) Ole Miss team.
I can understand Arkansas not being crowned...after all they didn't even win their conference and lost to the team ND crushed. But can not winning their conference be held against the Hogs in that case? ND isn't even IN a conference. In any case Alabama won their conference and stomped Ohio State. That was one of the worst cases I've seen of Notre Dame bias ever, and I've hated them with a passion ever since.
Another example of how the system was worse: 1984 BYU. BYU by virtue of a shiny 13-0 record "won" the National title in 1984. BYU struggled to beat 3-7-1 Pittsburgh, 7-4 Hawaii and 6-6 Wyoming. BYU then played 6-5 Michigan in the Holiday Bowl, eking out a meager 24-17 victory. The best team that year? Probably 11-1 Washington, which whipped our beloved Sooners in the Orange Bowl. Another note for that year...OU beat Nebraska AT NU by 10 points, and even with almost identical records, still finished 3 places lower than NU in the polls.
So it used to be even worse. Of course that doesn't justify the BCS. Basically by saying "it used to be worse" I'm polishing a turd. It's a shiny turd, but it's still a turd.
We NEED playoffs.