The Bowl Championship Series turns 10 this season. Boy, time sure flies when you're exasperating everyone involved with college football.
No, the 10th anniversary of the BCS will not celebrated by most fans, or coaches ... or players. The system hasn't consistently produced an undisputed national champ, and now the conference commissioners have all but guaranteed there will be no major changes to the postseason for at least the next six seasons. So put the playoff talk on hold, please.
Still, there's plenty to discuss heading into the 2008 season, such as Tim Tebow's Heisman follow-up, Georgia's best team in decades, Ohio State at USC, a new Michigan man and all those quarterbacks making the Big 12 look like the old WAC.
In the end, two teams will play for the BCS title in Miami on Jan. 8, even if they wouldn't be everyone's top choices.
It's almost hard to believe the system survived this long. For 10 years it has been ridiculed, reviled and revamped. But instead of crumbling under the weight of all the criticism, it's grown stronger.
``We feel like it's never been healthier,'' Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford said back in March, when the BCS rejected a proposal to change to a plus-one format that would have created a four-team playoff.
The BCS has spent most of its existence as a work in progress, with officials responding to each of the many controversial matchups by tweaking one element or another. Rarely has a national champion been crowned in the past nine seasons without some doubt over whether the right team received the crystal football.
Last year was more of the same. In one of the strangest seasons ever, LSU became the first team with two losses to play in the national title game. The Tigers beat Ohio State, which came in with one loss.
Georgia fans felt jobbed. The Bulldogs were jumped by LSU in the final BCS standings and bumped from the title game.
The Tigers' title followed Florida's in 2006. Maybe 2008 will be the Bulldogs' season and the Southeastern Conference can pull of a first in major college football. Three different teams from the same conference have never been crowned national champion by The Associated Press in consecutive seasons.
Coach Mark Richt has built one of the country's best programs in his seven seasons with Georgia, but without a national title, Florida and LSU have overshadowed the Bulldogs.
With quarterback Matthew Stafford and tailback Knowshon Moreno providing the offense to go with a swarming defense that smothered high-scoring Hawaii in a 41-10 Sugar Bowl victory, Richt has never had a better team.
The problem is a brutal schedule that includes LSU and Florida, along with Arizona State, Tennessee and Auburn. That will make it awfully difficult for Georgia to win its first national title since Herschel Walker carried the Bulldogs to a championship in 1980.
``Our goal was to try to focus on the moment, not on way down the road,'' Richt said recently. ``I mean, people started talking national championship after the Sugar Bowl last year. That's too long to be chewing on that bone, so to speak.''
Tebow helped the Gators win a national championship as a freshman in 2006 and became the first sophomore to win the Heisman Trophy last year with a combination of bullish running and pinpoint passing.
This season he'll try to join Ohio State's Archie Griffin as the only two-time Heisman winner (1974-75). The last two returning Heisman Trophy winners, Oklahoma's Jason White in 2004 and USC's Matt Leinart in 2005, finished third in the Heisman balloting.
going to have pressure.''
Tebow's competition? Start with his teammate, Percy Harvin, a combo receiver/running back with highlight-reel moves.
Ohio State running back Chris ``Beanie'' Wells and West Virginia quarterback Pat White are getting plenty of preseason Heisman hype, too.
Missouri also has a quarterback-receiver combo with Heisman abilities. Chase Daniel finished fourth in the voting after passing for more than 4,000 yards last year and Jeremy Maclin was an All-American all-purpose player as a redshirt freshman.
For Daniel, simply making first-team all-Big 12 will be huge accomplishment considering the competition.
Six of the 25 highest-rated passers in the country last season played in the Big 12, including Texas Tech's Graham Harrell, who led the nation with 5,705 yards and 48 touchdowns, and Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, tops in the nation with a 176.5 rating.
Throw in Colt McCoy of Texas, Todd Reesing of Kansas and Zac Robinson of Oklahoma State, and the fact that only Iowa State is breaking in an inexperienced QB, and it could be another year when more than half the teams in the Big 12 score upward of 30 points a game.
``It's just amazing and it's really challenging for defenses to be in position and to play well and limit them,'' said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, whose Sooners again have national title aspirations.
Speaking of perennial contenders, Wells and the Buckeyes again are coming into a season trying to rebound from a lopsided loss in the national championship game.
Coach Jim Tressel brings back almost every significant player from last year's Big Ten champions, including two-time All-American linebacker James Laurinaitis.
These really should be high times in Columbus. Tressel's program is a big favorite to become the first team in the 113-year history of the Big Ten to win three consecutive outright conference titles.
But despite all the success, two straight championship washouts have tarnished the Buckeyes' reputation.
``People are going to have an opinion and some people might think, 'They've got a lot of people back, they're going to be good.' Some people might think, 'They run in the mud and they're slow,''' Laurinaitis said.
The Buckeyes can change that perception on Sept. 13, when they face Southern California at the Coliseum in what will likely be a matchup of top-five teams. It could end up being an elimination game in the national title race.
Up the road from Ohio State, the Buckeyes' biggest rivals are entering a new era. Rich Rodriguez brings his spread offense to Michigan, where the Wolverines are in extreme makeover mode. Not only are they learning new systems on both sides of the ball, but they're doing it with only 10 returning starters.
``We have so many guys being first-year starters in key positions,'' Rodriguez said. ``I think they're going to be OK, but until we get them in there, get the nerves out and get some experience, there'll be some nervous moments.''
The saga that was Rodriguez's departure from West Virginia, his alma mater and a program he turned into a national power, ended last month when the coach and his new employer agreed to pay a $4 million buyout and settle a lawsuit that WVU filed after he broke his contract in December.
The Mountaineers move on with Bill Stewart, promoted after leading them to a 48-28 pounding of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. West Virginia is the favorite in the Big East again, hoping to get to the BCS for the third time in four seasons.
Ah, yes, the BCS. The plan for the next two years, and at least the four after that when a new TV deal would be in effect, is to stick with the current format, which leaves only two teams with a shot to win the national title after the regular season. Bring on the controversy.
After the conference commissioners announced in May they would go with the status quo, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe joked about how in big business real changes only come with retirements and funerals.
Thankfully, none of the latter are planned any time soon. But not long after the BCS squashed the plus-one plan, both Pac-10 commissioner Tom Hansen and Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, two opponents of the miniplayoff, announced they were stepping down next year.
So maybe 2008 will ultimately be remembered not as the year of the Bulldogs, Buckeyes, Gators or Trojans, but as the year the BCS took the first small steps toward a major college football playoff.
AP Sports Writer Rusty Miller in Columbus, Ohio, contributed.

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