Friday, November 03, 2006

B(C)S Questions

In the wake of Louisville's impressive 44-34 victory over fellow Big East behemoth West Virginia the B(C)S Championship picture is starting to clear up. The problem with that clarity is that it exposes some pretty serious flaws in the B(C)S logic that could (and will) lead to much bitching and moaning once the participants in the National Title game are announced. If you're being fair this should be the list of contenders right now:

Ohio State
Southern Cal
Notre Dame
West Virginia

That's every BCS conference team with at most one loss that's currently in the BCS top 15. Now you'll look through that list and say "wait a minute, no way are some of those teams contenders!" Well, that's kind of the point. Teams such as Rutgers and Arkansas have no realistic shot at making it to Glendale, despite the fact that they could wind up with a resume as good or better than the so-called contenders above them...

Consider Rutgers' case: so far they're 8-0 with a Heisman candidate at RB who's leading the nation in rushing. Over their final four games they play #5 Louisville and #3 West Virginia. Should Rutgers win out they could boast an undefeated season with wins over two top 10 teams...just like Michigan. Yet there's absolutely no way Rutgers will play for the National Championship.

Consider Arkansas' case: so far they're 7-1 with a Heisman darkhorse at RB who's leading the SEC in rushing. Over their final four games they play Tennessee and Louisville, with a potential rematch against the Vols or a showdown with Florida in the SECCG. Should Arkansas win out they would own victories over Auburn, LSU, Tennessee, and possibly Florida which would be the strongest resume in the SEC and would trump either Texas or the Ohio State/Michigan loser. Yet there's absolutely no way Arkansas will play for the National Championship.

And what about West Virginia? Should they win out they would have one loss on their record - a 10-point road loss to a top 5 team - that would be a "better" loss than Auburn's or Texas' losses. If Louisville loses to either Pitt or Rutgers does West Virginia leap back into contention based on having the "best" loss of any one-loss team? Of course not... West Virginia's title hopes died last night. But is that fair when Auburn is still a contender?

And then there's Texas, who was blown out at home in their biggest game of the year and have narrowly escaped defeat the last two weeks against one average team (Nebraska) and one bad team (Texas Tech). They play in a remarkably weak conference, so why are they getting a free pass when on paper they have one of the weaker resumes out there? If they win out they're only behind a one-loss SEC champ in the line for National Title Game participation.

My point is that at the end of the season every team should be judged based on what they've done - who've they beaten, where, and by how much - yet there is clearly a bias when it comes to picking teams for the Championship game, and that bias is very much a product of the pre-season polls. Why are we using polls that are based on assumptions and speculation and applying them at the end of the year when there's a full season of empirical evidence to guide us?

I realize this is an old argument at this point, but could we just go ahead and agree that the 'C' in BCS is extraneous..."BS" is a much better description of the current system. What is the point of the polls if they won't objectively rank teams based on their actual accomplishments instead of their rep? Of course the answer is so plainly obvious that it will never happen... with an eight-team playoff we could be free of these ridiculous compare/contrast exercises to pick between teams with similar resumes. This season is shaping up as the perfect example of why we need to get rid of the ludicrous system currently in place in favor of a decent, respectable playoff system. Kind of like every other sport on the planet.

Not that it would do FSU any good, but still...


At 2:21 PM, Anonymous Halleck T. said...

Can you even imagine how loud the carping from Notre Dame, Cal and Tennessee would be if they got left out of an 8-team playoff in favor of other 1-loss teams? You'd have just as much bitching, posturing and politicking with a playoff as you do now.

At 3:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In regards to a playoff- Last night's Louisville-WVU game would have meant next to nothing if we had a playoff system. Ohio St-Michigan in a few weeks would mean nothing if we had a playoff system.

That said, I agree that preseason polls contribute greatly to the end-of-season-so-and-so-got-screwed- arguments. Still, unless an unbeaten major conference team is left out (which has happened just a few times in the modern era--Auburn 04 being the most recent), I don't find too much fault with the system. In fact, I'd rather scrap the BCS poll and just go back to the AP and coaches' polls, combine their votes and let 1 and 2 play. I've never liked that computers play any role in rankings.

All those one-loss teams in contention have only themselves to blame if they get left out of a title shot. They lost.

90% of the time, if a major conference team goes unbeaten, they get their ticket punched to the big game. Teams know that going into each season. Auburn's case was unfortunate, but someone had to get left out in the USC-Oklahoma-Auburn trio of '04. That's the only time in 25+ years (I believe) that 3 major conference teams went unbeaten. It's almost always 2 at the most, just one usually, and sometimes none at all.

Getting back to my original point, I just don't think a playoff compensates enough for the loss of meaning to each game in the regular season.

At 3:46 PM, Blogger mobius said...

Sorry, but I'd rather have bitching and moaning about the 8th-spot than the 2nd. And last night's Louiville/West Virginia game would have determined who made it into the National Championship Tounament, since it's unlikely the Big East would get a wild card team in over the Ohio State/Michigan loser and a one-loss Tennessee team that could get left out of the SECCG.

There's never more than four teams that earn a shot at the Championship Game anyway so I wouldn't even mind a "plus-one" scenario, but with the current system there's a worthy contender left out almost every year. When thing work out as intended - like they did last year with USC/Texas - and it's considered an anomoly, there's a serious problem with the system.

Bottom line: I-A football is the ONLY NCAA sport that doesn't have a playoff (including football at every other level). That's just wrong.

At 6:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could go for a "+1" set up, but only on an "as needed" basis. Which means, going into each season, we wouldn't know if we'd have that +1 game until December.

That would likely be the best solution, since we know TV and the college presidents see no need for a playoff at all, and if they don't see the need now (after the ontroversies over the last 6 years), they never will.

Looking back, a "+1 game" would've solved pretty much every controversy the last several years...

2005- no need, Texas clear #1
2004- USC-Auburn
2003- USC-LSU
2002- no need, Ohio St clear #1
2001- no need, Miami clear #1 (even though they screwed up Miami's Rose Bowl opponent)
2000- no need, Oklahoma clear #1
1999- no need, Florida State clear #1
1998- no need, Tennessee clear #1

At 10:44 AM, Blogger JTS said...

They should not have polls until at least the 4th or even 5th week of the season. Pre-season polls are just flat out speculation and overrate "name" teams.

I don't think a playoff system solves the problem either. What happens when you have a clear #1 that loses in the playoff to a team they already beat during the regular season?

There is no reason to have a fabricated singular championship game via the BCS or playoffs. Play the bowl games and let the polls determine whose #1. Who cares if we end up with co-champs?

The only playoff system I could get behind is one composed of conference champions. A playoff system based on polls is just adding a wrinkle to the BCS system.


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