Sunday, August 13, 2006

BCS "Blunders"

The good folks over at have a weekly section imaginatively titled "Ask CFN", and this week one of the reader-submitted questions was an inquiry into the worst BCS blunders since the inception of the BCS. The Nebraska travesty of 2001 and the Oklahoma fiasco of 2003 were correctly noted, but then talk veered into more questionable "blunders" such as Florida State over Ohio State in 1998 for the Fiesta Bowl bid, and Florida State over Miami in 2000 for the right to get blasted by Oklahoma.

DISCLAIMER: This blogger graduated from Florida State University in 1995, bleeds Garnet and Gold, thinks the War Chant belongs in public schools just after the Pledge of Allegiance, and so on and so forth. So feel free to question my reasoning, but not the facts outlined below.

Any debate between Florida State and Ohio State for the '98 Fiesta Bowl bid is almost a non-starter. The Seminoles deserved the bid. FSU lost to 7-5 NC State in early September, and then rolled through the remainder of their schedule, with the closest game a 23-12 win over #4 Florida (with Marcus Outzen at QB in place of the injured Chris Weinke). Furthermore, FSU had beaten 4 other teams listed in the final Top 15 BCS poll (Texas A&M, Florida, Virginia, Georgia Tech). Additionally, the Noles had beaten the two teams who made the whole "debate" possible: Miami, who knocked off 10-0 UCLA, and Texas A&M, who upset 11-0 Kansas State on that incredible December Saturday.

Ohio State certainly played well throughout the '98 season, in fact rising to #1 in late October. However, a Michigan State team that would finish 6-6 and bowl-less came into Columbus in early November and walked out with a win. The Buckeyes didn't even play anyone ranked in the final BCS poll. Debate over, thanks for playing Bucks, your parting gift was suffering through just 2 more years of the John Cooper era.

The 2000 debate gets a little stickier. The most disengenous portion of most '00 arguments is that it boils down to just Florida State and Miami, and leaves out Washington and (to a lesser extent) Virginia Tech and Oregon State. Let's take a little trip back to the final BCS poll of the 2000 regular season and see what a mess we had:

Final BCS poll - Dec. 4, 2000
1- Oklahoma (12-0)
2- Florida State (11-1)
3- Miami (10-1)
4- Washington (10-1)
5- Virginia Tech (10-1)
6- Oregon State (10-1)
7- Florida (10-2)
8- Nebraska (9-2)
9- Kansas State (10-3)
10- Oregon (9-2)
11- Notre Dame (9-2)
12- Texas (8-3)
13- Georgia Tech (9-2)
14- TCU (10-1)
15- Clemson (9-2)

So, we had one clear-cut undefeated team and 5 one-loss teams. Having 5 one-loss teams in and of itself is messy enough, but considering the fact that each of those 5 squads played at least one of the other 5 one-loss teams, and you get another brand of insanity altogether. Breaking down the games between each one-loss squad, this is what we get:

-Florida State (0-1): lost at Miami 27-24
-Miami (2-1): lost at Washington 34-29, beat Florida State 27-24, beat Virginia Tech 41-21
-Washington (2-0): beat Miami 34-29, beat Oregon State 33-30
-Virginia Tech (0-1): lost at Miami 41-21
-Oregon State (0-1): lost at Washington 33-30

For the remaining schedules, the breakdown goes as follows (remaining overall record, then other losses and/or notable wins):

-Florida State (11-0): beat #7 Florida 30-7, beat #13 Georgia Tech 26-21, beat #15 Clemson 54-7
-Miami (8-0): no other victories over BCS ranked teams
-Washington (8-1): lost at #10 Oregon 23-16; no other victories over BCS ranked teams
-Virginia Tech (10-0): no other victories over BCS ranked teams
-Oregon State (10-0): beat #10 Oregon 23-13

After reviewing the two categories above, it seems an obvious call to drop Virginia Tech from consideration. I would also drop Oregon State from consideration, due to the fact that they went 0-1 vs. the other 4 teams and played just one other ranked BCS team, albeit a victory.

So that leaves us with Florida State, Miami, and Washington. Miami played 3 of the other 4 one-loss teams and went 2-1; very impressive. But they didn't play anyone else of consequence after that. Florida State played just one of the other 4, and lost; not so great. But they beat 3 other BCS ranked teams, two of which were blowout wins; very impressive. Washington played two of the other 4 one-loss clubs and won both; most impressive. But they played just one other BCS-ranked team and lost; not so good.

So who should've gone? Well....not Miami. Of the "Big Three" one-loss teams, the team that gets the most sympathy in all the arguments - the Hurricanes - seem the least deserving of the three. Florida State played a better overall schedule and demolished much of that competition; Washington beat Miami head-to-head. Either way, Miami comes up short. They lose the overall schedule and margin-of-victory argument to FSU, and they lose the head-to-head argument to Washington. So explain to me why the Canes get all the love in these debates?

As for Oklahoma's opponent in that Orange Bowl? It probably should've been Washington. But maybe not.

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