One second.

A single tick of the clock is all that separated this year's college football season from becoming a BCS (Bowl Championship Series) fiasco.

Texas kicked a field goal with one second remaining in the game to squeak past Nebraska Saturday in the Big 12 Championship game Saturday night, preserving its undefeated season, and setting up a national championship game against unbeaten Alabama in early January. The game will pit the top two teams listed in the various poles, and in the BCS computer.

Had that last second on the clock expired, or had the Texas kicker missed the game winning field goal, chaos would have reigned. Who would play Alabama for the national title? Would it be third ranked TCU, No. 4, Cincinnati, or No. 6 Boise State. All three teams have two things in common – they're all undefeated and they all won their respective conference crowns. They all have a legitimate argument that they should be given a chance to compete for the national title.

But they won't. They'll have to be content with a consolation prize, trying to win their respective bowl games and maybe having a chance to finish as runner-up to whomever is crowned national champion.

To call the current BCS method imperfect is an understatement. It's a plan that not only has outlived its usefulness, it's a method that should never have been enacted in the first place.

Everyone deserves the opportunity to crown a legitimate national champion – the schools, the players, and the fans. Under the current setup, we're being deprived of a true playoff that would crown a clear-cut champion.

Meanwhile, in the lower divisions – 1-AA, Division Two, and Division Three – playoffs are currently under way that will eventually determine a true champion in those classes. The last team standing will take the crown, and there will be no argument as to who is the best of the best.

But in the biggest division, where there is the most interest and the most public exposure, there's no such thing as a tournament to declare the winner. And it doesn't appear that there will be one in the near future.

"We absolutely recognize that there were five undefeated teams that had very good seasons, and the fact is, only two could play in the (bowl championship) game," said BCS executive director Bill Hancock.

There are five undefeated teams, yet only two are getting the opportunity to play for the biggest prize, and the biggest paycheck that goes to the winning school.

The main reason we won't likely see a playoff format for many years is money. The big bowl games, with their lucrative television contracts, don't want to upset the apple cart. There's too much cash to lose.

But a 16-team playoff format, that would incorporate the major bowls, could be worked out if the BCS put its mind to it. Imagine some of the great matchups that would occur in the preliminary rounds leading up to a national championship game.

The fans, those who fill the stadiums every week, and those who purchase the products of the advertisers who bring those games into our living rooms every Saturday, are entitled to a playoff. Several congressmen, and even President Obama, expressed their desire to see a playoff format. It's time we had one. A whole nation is begging for it.

Bob Urban

rurban@tnonline.com [1]