The Bowl Championship Series, or BCS for short, was the first college football playoff arrangement to inevitably produce a championship game between the (alleged) top-two teams in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision. Before the BCS was established in 1998, there was no surefire way to ensure that the top two teams played one another following the regular season. Several sources chose the “national champions,” and conferences agreed to have their champions face off in specified bowl games.
When possible, conference champions continued to play in their customary bowl matches, and the host of the championship game continued to rotate. The Fiesta, Orange, Rose, and Sugar Bowls were the four most important bowl matches when the BCS was established. One of these four bowls was to host the National Championship Game, with the location changing annually. Two additional at-large teams were added to the BCS in 2006, and the National Championship Game has moved away from the bowl it was played.
The final rankings were decided by the BCS using a mix of computer algorithms, coach and press voting, and other techniques. However, it was generally agreed that the BCS may have made mistakes on many occasions, including 2001–2004, 2008, and 2011. This was changed over time over which specific polls and computer technologies to utilize. With teams like Utah, TCU, and Boise State being left out of the National Championship Game while having undefeated regular seasons, the BCS prioritized universities in prestigious conferences.
If these “mid-major” teams finished in the top 12 of the overall BCS rankings, the BCS began allowing them to participate in BCS bowl games as at-large teams in 2004.
The BCS was finally replaced with the College Football Playoff beginning with the 2013 regular season due to complaints from fans, reporters, coaches, and even former president Barack Obama. While many consider the Playoff an improvement, it is nonetheless critiqued for not including teams from leagues outside the “Power Five.”