Monday, October 27, 2008

Old BCS Debates Renewed

Tony Barnhart (despite being a nauseating SEC homer) is a primo college football writer, analyst and fan. Well, except in this entry last week from his Mr. College Football blog at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I expect more from ol' Tony than these tired half-assed explanations of BCS controversies of yore:

2000: Miami beats Florida State head to head during the regular season but finishes third behind the Seminoles in the final BCS Standings and gets shut out of the game. Florida State loses to Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl
Every time I read one of these critiques about 2000, I feel like I'm living in bizarro-world. Why is Washington (and Oregon State and Virginia Tech to lesser extents) always left out of this discussion? Yes, Miami beat a nailbiter. Two weeks earlier, Washington had beaten Miami, in a more dominating fashion (not necessarily by the score, but I watched both games). FSU, Miami, Washington, Oregon State and Virginia Tech each finished with one loss. Washington's one loss was on the road to an Oregon team that finished 10-2. Is it provincial bias? Sheer ignorance? How the hell do you distill 2000 to a debate over two teams when five BCS-league squads finished with one defeat, and each of the five teams played at least one of the other five? I actually analyzed the 2000 situation two years ago and I haven't changed my opinion in the slightest.

2001: Nebraska played for the BCS championship but didn’t even win the Big 12. The Cornhuskers were embarrassed by Miami in the Rose Bowl.
I don't recall a lot of "didn't even win the SEC" arguments regarding Georgia last year when many pundits - Barnhart chief among them - exclaimed (inexplicably) that the Dawgs might really deserve to be in the BCS title game. Personally, I don't have an issue if a team gets a BCS title shot without winning their league. It's not uncommon for the champion in NCAA hoops or baseball to not have a conference crown as well. But getting back to the Nebraska argument...I don't recall the main sticking point being that the Huskers didn't win the Big XII. The big problem with Nebraska getting to the Rose Bowl that season was that they got curb-stomped 62-36 by Colorado in the regular season finale.

2003: Southern Cal finishes No. 1 in both of the human polls but No. 3 in the BCS formula. LSU and Oklahoma play for the BCS championship and USC settles for the AP title. This game changed the BCS formula to weight it more heavily towards the human voters.
Tony leaves out half of the cause of the '03 debate...that Oklahoma got violated 35-7 in the Big XII championship to a three-loss Kansas State team, yet still got a BCS title shot. It's still bad that the #1 team in both human polls got left out, but when a team gets drilled by four touchdowns in early December and still gets a BCS championship game bid...that's the real problem.

2004: Auburn wins the SEC championship at 12-0 and gets shut out of the BCS championship game.
Short of an actual playoff, there is no system that would've solved this dilemma. This same situation would've happened under the old pre-BCS bowl system, except worse - USC would've played in the Rose Bowl, Oklahoma in the Orange (or Fiesta), and Auburn in the Sugar. At least the BCS got two of the three to play. And poor little Auburn's case would've been helped greatly if they hadn't nearly blown the Sugar Bowl to Virginia Tech in a 16-13 final, while USC was abusing Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.


Brian said...

great read, marcus

Lee said...

The BCS is so very messed up. First they neuter the computers by taking out the margin of victory. Then they give more weight to the human polls when they are a bigger part of the problem then the computers. If they stupid pollsters had dropped Oklahoma to #5 where they belonged in 03 after they were demolished by K State they wouldn't have been in the BCS title game. Thank God the team I root for (Maryland) isn't good enough to get screwed by this system or I would really be pissed off about it...

Bryan said...

what needs to happen is that the Big 10 needs to find another team to have a championship game. The Pac-10 and the Big East play everyone so they are legitimate champions.

I'm not sure if you've read the Wetzel plan, but in my opinion the 16 team playoff format would be the best for college football fans, though we might need to consider going back to 11 game regular seasons.

Marcus said...

I'm not a playoff proponent. At least not yet. If you look back at the regular season polls since the BCS inception in 1998, it was the BCS formula that screwed things up.

If we had the BCS "system" in place - minus the ever-changing formula - we would have had these title games if we just averaged the human polls at the end of the regular season:

1998 - Tennessee v. Florida State
1999 - Florida State v. Virginia Tech
2000 - Oklahoma v. Miami
2001 - Miami v. Oregon
2002 - Ohio State v. Miami
2003 - USC v. LSU
2004 - USC v. Oklahoma
2005 - Texas v. USC
2006 - Florida v. Ohio State
2007 - LSU v. Ohio State

Using the human polls would have resulted in the same matchups 7 out of 10 times, GREATLY improved matchups two other times (2001, 2003) and resulted in an equally debatable matchup (2000).

The BCS was good for breaking up the bowl tie-ins that resulted in split titles and prevented true, undeniably just title games (1994- Nebraska v. Penn State, 1996- Florida State v. Arizona State, 1997- Michigan v. Nebraska). Adding the computer formula and various weighting mechanisms was just asking for trouble.

Bryan said...

I guess it comes down to opinion on the computer system. I'm a big fan of ratings such as sagarin (though I am not a fan of how the BCS uses it). In my opinion, losing earlier is definitely better than losing later, however human pollsters weight it way too much.

If these teams are one-loss, and the just happened to lose in week 3, while I lost (knowing full well I've earned a spot in the title game regardless of the result, Oklahoma and Nebraska) in the conference championship, why should I be penalized so much? Obviously, Nebraska and Oklahoma got blown out in the title game which is a strong argument for the other side.

At least we all agree that 1) The system is better than before and 2) It's still severely flawed.

Marcus said...

Trust me, I have major problems with both human polls, but moreso how they consistently overrate SEC and Big Ten teams in the preseason and during the season and shaft the ACC. But the AP and Coaches' polls usually get #1 and #2 correct at the end of the regular season. And that's what matters in this day and age.

I don't think losing late has hurt many teams when you think about it. In 1993, FSU won the title despite losing in mid-November. In 1996 Florida won the title despite losing in the last regular season game. LSU won it last year despite losing - for the second time that year - in the last regular season game. I think the human pollsters can be goofy during the season, but things usually get righted in December.

I don't have an issue so much with when teams lose. HOW they lose is a big deal, though and how Nebraska '01 and Oklahoma '03 lost should've been automatic DQ's.