How does the BCS work?

A team’s BCS score is the average (technically, the arithmetic mean) of its computer, Harris Poll, and Coaches’ Poll scores. There are six BCS computers.  For any one team, its high and low computer rankings are discarded. Points are assigned in inverse order of rankings – from one point for a team ranked twenty-five up to twenty-five points for a team ranked number one on a particular computer.  The four resulting numbers are added, and a team’s BCS computer score is the ratio of the total to one hundred.  The ratio ranges from 0.00 to 1.00. For both polls, points are again assigned inversely to rankings – that is – a team gets one point if it ranked number twenty-five, and gets twenty-five points if it is ranked number one by an individual voter.  There are 114 voters in the Harris Poll and 59 voters in the Coaches’ Poll.  Therefore, the Harris score is the total number of points divided by 2875 (115 * 25).  The Coaches’ score is the total number of points divided by 1475 (59 * 25).

The “BCS National Championship Game” matches the #1 and #2 ranked teams.  The other BCS bowls are the Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl, Rose Bowl, and Sugar Bowl.  The champions* of six conferences (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, AAC, Pac-10, and SEC) are guaranteed spots in a BCS bowl.  Another team in one of these conferences thats earns a final ranking of #3 or #4 will almost certainly play in a BCS bowl.  One, and only one, champion of any other conference (Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, Sun Belt, and Western Athletic) automatically gets invited to a BCSbowl with a top-twelve finish or if it has a ranking of #16 or better and is ranked higher than one of the BCS conference champions.  If Notre Dame finishes in the top eight of the BCS rankings, it also is assured of a berth.  Otherwise, to be eligible to play in a BCS bowl, a team must have at least nine wins and a final ranking of #14 or better (or #18, #22 … if necessary to fill the 10 BCS bowl spots).

* Conferences which do not hold championship games may have co-champions.  Conference rules determine which team will get the automatic BCS bowl bid.

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