If McDonald’s or any other company got only one out of every four orders right, the place would be empty the next day.

Not the Bowl Championship Series.

Business has never been better. The people in charge have more money to throw around, more of their pals at the chambers of commerce are sharing in the take and their TV partner couldn’t be happier, largely because the suckers who pay the freight by tuning into the games aren’t going anywhere.

Meanwhile, college football’s national championship is more “mythical” than ever.

Since hijacking the game’s postseason in 1998 with the promise of matching No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the title game, the BCS has delivered exactly twice. Once in 2002, when undefeated Miami and Ohio State met, and again in 2005, when Texas and Southern California did the same.

This year?

Don’t ask.

Befitting a season that began with a colossal upset and got more unpredictable as it unfolded, Ohio State will play LSU on Jan. 7 in New Orleans. The Tigers’ appearance marks the first time a two-loss team made the championship game. That means any of the four other two-loss teams that are ranked among the top seven – Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, Georgia and USC – could win their bowl game and make a plausible argument about being national champs.

Still, when it comes to tortured logic, they’d all have to take a back seat to the BCS.

“I don’t think that it’s so much the system as it is the year,” BCS chief and Southeastern Conference commissioner Mike Slive said Sunday night, in a classic case of blaming the victim.

It’s not the teams’ responsibility to sort themselves out, Mike. That’s what championships are for.

The difference is that just about every other sport at every other level decides those on the field, without worrying about whether it’s good for tourism, Fox Sports, their cronies, apologists and hired computer geeks.

But their cynicism doesn’t end there.

In the past, the BCS fended off demands for a playoff by “tweaking” the format – a half-dozen times in its brief tenure – only to find another tweak or two is needed the following year. What they’ve done the past two years to escape the blame for the mess they’ve made is suggest they might be ready to change.

“What I find interesting about this year … is this year an anomaly or is this year a precursor to what we might see in the future,” Slive said. “And then trying to analyze that question leads us to the discussion we have had on numerous occasions about whether this format needs an adjustment”

Slive and his pals back at headquarters already know how the “format” should be adjusted – and have from the beginning: a playoff of some sort. That’s why a fifth BCS game was tucked into the current TV deal that runs through the 2011 bowls. Known as a “plus-one,” it could be played after the four BCS games as a kind of college football Super Bowl.

Yet when Slive was asked during a conference call how soon it might happen, this is how he answered (keep in mind that he’s a lawyer by training):

“We have to put this one in the mix and look at it. If you go to a plus-one, you’re going to have years in which it is just very, very appropriate. You’re going to have years where it may not be so appropriate. … The only way to solve that is to have a flexible format and just make sure that we look at the standings and then decide how to finish the year.”

Translation: We ain’t changing any time soon. We like things exactly the way they are and as long as we have the TV rights and the backing of the university presidents from the power conferences, we’ll keep making it up as we go along.

If the truth-in-advertising laws applied to college football this season, the BCS would just go-ahead and cancel the title game.

There’s no clear No. 1 – Ohio State hasn’t beaten a Top 10 team and lost to Illinois, which was unranked when it beat the Buckeyes and is No. 13 in the current BCS rankings. There’s no clear No. 2, either. LSU lost both its games in triple overtime – but against teams that finished 8-4 (Arkansas) and 7-5 (Kentucky) and outside the BCS Top 25. The cases for all the other contenders get even weaker from there on out.

College football’s national champions were “mythical” long before the BCS inserted itself into the process. Teams played in bowl games based on conference ties, and afterward, writers weighed in and people argued over their handiwork for decades.

All the BCS has done is take over the tabulating, add a dose of psuedo-science – check out the three computers that ranked Missouri ahead of Oklahoma, even though the Sooners beat the Tigers twice, once on a neutral field – and pocket a nice chunk of the profits.

McDonald’s couldn’t get away with that, either.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.