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The usual BCS mess

With the college football season drawing to a close, we can turn our attention to our real favorite sport, the game of What’s Wrong With The BCS This Season? We’ve got a twofer this year, as one of three undefeated teams (Auburn) will get shut out of the championship game, while the mandated inclusion of a crappy Big East titlist – Pittsburgh, perhaps – forces the likes of once-beaten Texas and unbeaten Boise State to the lower bowls. Even the sop to the second-class conferences is causing heartburn, as Utah’s guaranteed spot thanks to their top-six BCS ranking helped do in the Longhorns.

The system is what it is, and it will do what it’s designed to do, even after all the ad hoc jerryrigging, which is to have the #1 team play the #2 team. It’s a stupid and arbitrary system, in my opinion, but that’s what it’s supposed to do. Personally, I think it should be clear that a better system would recognize that more than two teams could be legitimately considered championship contenders. You could simply pick a top eight, or you could let in the champs of all eleven major conferences – would anyone argue this year that Utah, Boise, and Louisville are less deserving that whoever the Big East sends? – plus five at-large choices to get sixteen; either way would be preferable. Every other division of college football, from 1-AA down to III, does this sort of thing. If that means enforcing an eleven-game schedule to ensure that the teams who ultimately play for the title don’t have a longer season than the pros, so be it.

But hey, what do I care? College hoops have started, and it’ll be pitchers and catchers before you know it. Enjoy the mess, fellas. I’ll enjoy laughing about it.

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23 Comments

  1. William Hughes says:

    I don’t have a problem with Utah knocking Texas out of the BCS. I don’t have a problem with Auburn being knocked out of the championship game based on strength of schedule.

    I have a serious problem with Pitt or Syracuse getting into a BCS game. I had the pleasure of watching Pitt struggle for three quarters against that great football powerhouse, Temple, before they pulled it out in the 4th. Syracuse, however, lost to Temple, yet they still get into a BCS game if South Florida beats Pitt. Either one of them will get run over by Utah.

    Boise State doesn’t play a strong enough schedule for a BCS game, however, Louisville, with one loss on the season, can’t even get a New Year’s Day game (They’re in the Liberty Bowl 12/31).

    Pitchers and Catchers should be in Florida around 2/15/05. 🙂

  2. Kent says:

    I’ve been following this BCS mess as closely as anyone and frankly I can’t think of a single year in which the BCS hasn’t totally f*cked up the post-season. This year is just the latest travesty. Unless I’m mistaken, the only time we’ve ever had a legit #1 vs #2 was in 1999 when Florida St. beat Virginia Tech.

    What is obvious to any serious fan is that the BCS has totally ruined the New Years bowl games without producing the assurance of a legitimate national championship. As a Univ. of Washington alum I can recall 1991 when the Huskies went 12-0 after opening a can of whoop-ass on Michigan in the Rose Bowl and then ended up sharing the title with 12-0 Miami after the coaches poll went with UW and the AP with Miami. Seattle was a festive place. Was there some resentment about not being outright champions? Sure, there was talk of how a UW-Miami match-up would have looked. But there wan’t nearly the sense of being cheated out of something that USC felt last year after being excluded from the so-called title game. At least in the old bowl system, when there wasn’t an obvious #1 at the end of the year that was just how it turned out and no one got screwed by a computer.

    A playoff is obviously the way to go. Absent that, let’s go back to the old bowl system with regional matchups. Pac-10 vs Big-10 in the Rose, SEC in the Sugar, etc etc.

    My own preference would be a 16-team tourney with the top seeds earning home games during the first round. Give the winners of all the big conferences home games during the first round. That will ensure full stadiums and reward local fans. Then have the final rounds played at traditional bowl locations in warmer climes. There’s no reason to drag it out past the first week of January. Right now these teams have a 4-5 week stand-down between the end of the season and the bowl game. No reason why the few top teams can’t play through that time in playoff games. They wouldn’t miss any more class than today and as an ex-HS player I can state that game weeks aren’t any more grueling the bye weeks. You still run just as hard and hit just as hard during practice weeks and probably do more of it.

    The only major downside to a playoff is that it would make travel difficult for the fans. Right now with the bowl system you have over a month to make those travel plans to that big bowl in some sunny state. With a playoff you might only have a week’s notice of where the next game is going to be and if your team is going to be there. Last minute airfare and hotel reservations during the peak holiday season would be far more difficult for the fans who wanted to travel. That’s why I would propose home games for the top seeds for at least the first round.

  3. Kent says:

    Oh, and one more thing. Let’s not get too rightous about strength of schedule when talking about non-BCS league teams. Schools like Boise St. have been willing to go anywhere and play anyone during their non-league games and frankly they scare the pants off most of the big schools who flat-out refuse to play them. I watched Boise St. demolish Oregon State the week after Oregon St came within a missed extra point of beating LSU and let me tell you Boise is definitely a top team. If schools like Texas want to whine about strength of schedule when complaining about a school like Boise St then they had better be willing to play them in the pre-season. Not to pick on Texas though, the SEC teams are much worse when it comes to scheduling patsies in the early season.

  4. Patrick says:

    Beano Cook point something out last night about the national championship and the BCS. He said the under the old system of bowl tie-ins, USC would be playing in the Rose Bowl, Auburn in the Sugar and OU in the Orange. None of them would have played each other.

    I don’t feel the least bit bad for Texas. They knew the rules of how the BCS would be picked coming into the season and the only thing they could do to control their destiny was left undone as for the 5th straight year they failed to beat OU.

    Utah is definitely more deserving. They knew what needed to be done and did it, plus they routed the Aggies without the benefit of a 1 point safety.

  5. Froman says:

    Each time the system is updated, we have about 1 to 2 seasons prior to meltdown. This season is by far the most complicated meltdown. So many different perfect screw-ups to illustrate a permanently flawed system. In terms of NCAA Picks it is all guess until a playoff system is in place. That’s why games are actually played. The NCAA will never allow it, but it is such a simple solution. Let the teams battle it out!

  6. Kent says:

    OK, imagine a 16 team tournament as follows:

    1. The first round of the tourney is played at the home fields of the top 8 seeded teams. The remaining seven games are played at traditional bowl sites with the championship rotating as today.

    2. Winners of the six BCS conferences earn automatic home seeds in the first round. That way winning your conference still means something but if you are a Texas or Cal you still have a path to the championship.

    3. Winners of the top two non-BCS conferences capture the remaining two home games based on BCS rankings or some other power ranking formula against which entire conferences can be ranked. This year that would be Utah and then either Boise St. or Louisville depending on how you ranked them. Both are high enough to make the playoff anyway, it’s only a question of which gets the first round home game.

    4. The remaining top 8 teams in the BCS standings are seeded according to their BCS standing.

    If the tourney were played with today’s conference standings, the bracket would look like this:

    ROUND ONE

    #15 Tennessee at #1 USC
    #13 Iowa at #2 Oklahoma
    #11 LSU at #3 Auburn
    #10 Miami at #6 Utah
    #9 Louisville at #8 Boise St.
    #7 Georgia at #12 Virginia Tech
    # 6 Texas at #14 Michigan
    #4 California at #23 Pittsburg

    By giving the conference winners automatic seeds the only thing that happens is that Pitt comes in ahead of #16 Florida St. I can live with that.

    Assuming the favored teams win the first round, that would bring up the following quarterfinal matchups.

    USC vs Cal
    Oklahoma vs Texas
    Auburn vs Georgia
    Utah vs Boise St.

    Semifinal matchups would be

    USC vs Utah
    Oklahoma vs Auburn

    Now this year the brackets would have brought a lot of same-conference teams against each other in the quarterfinals. But to avoid that you have to mess with the seeding more.

  7. Mike in Austin says:

    Patrick-

    Excuse me for taking issue about Utah being in a BCS bowl vs. Texas being in a BCS bowl.

    If you look at the teams they played this season, there’s no real comparison. Utah played a weak schedule and beat only one ranked team (A&M).

    They beat
    Texas A&M (7-4) #22
    Arizona (3-8) #82
    Utah St. (3-8) #103
    Air Force (5-6) #71
    New Mexico (7-4) #58
    North Carolina (6-5) #42
    UNLV (2-9) #108
    San Diego State (4-7) #87
    Colorado St. (4-7) #77
    Wyoming (6-5) #70
    BYU (5-6) #72

    Texas, on the other hand, lost to the #2 team in the country and beat everyone else.

    Texas beat:

    North Texas (7-4) #59
    Arkansas (5-6) #47
    Rice (3-8) #96
    Baylor (3-8) #86
    Oklahoma (11-0) #3
    Missouri (5-6) #61
    Texas Tech (7-4) #21
    Colorado (7-4) #28
    Oklahoma St (7-4) #26
    Kansas (4-7) #69
    Texas A&M (7-4) #22

    Texas Opponents: 66-55 (avg. ranking 47.09)
    Utah Opponents: 52-69 (avg. ranking 72)

    (all rankings according to Sportsline 117).

    Is Utah a good team? Yes. Is it amazing they went 11-0? You bet. Do they CLEARLY belong in a BCS bowl over UT? Not clearly. No way.

  8. Jack Cluth says:

    It all about the Benjamins….

  9. Yes, Utah clearly belongs in the BCS over Texas. There is the fact that they handily beat North Carolina, which then turned around and beat Miami the next week. And the biggest point — because of the bias toward the so-called BCS conferences to begin with, Texas’ schedule is artificially strengthened because beating 4-7 Kansas is considered a bigger accomplishment than Utah beating 4-7 San Diego State.

    So my first piece of BCS reform? Abolish the distinction between the so-called BCS conferences and everyone else. Utah and Boise State, who would play as tough a schedule as anyone would want if the so-called BCS schools would schedule them (as someone mentioned upthread) are proving right now how ridiculous that particular distinction is.

  10. Tim says:

    Hear hear. Any discussion about whether it’s right or wrong for the so-called “second class conferences” to crash the BCS party should begin and end with a discussion about whether the Big East deserves a guaranteed bid. Had Texas lost and the planets aligned strangely, Boise or Louisville could have found themselves in. And had Louisville not imploded and choked in the second half against Miami in their only loss, they’d be in easily, and perhaps Utah would be out.

    Utah, Louisville and arguably Boise are all better teams than anything the Big East has to offer this year.

    So any team that gets shutout because of Utah’s bid should direct their ire toward the Big East’s lock bid, not the Utes or the method for allowing the “have nots” to crash the party.

  11. Kent says:

    Utah definitely belongs in the BCS this year. Just ask Texas A&M which team gave them a bigger spanking; Utah, Oklahoma, or Texas.

    As I recall, Utah was leading A&M by something like 34-7 going into the 4th quarter when they finally put in their subs. That was the worst beating I’ve seen anyone lay on A&M in a long time. By contrast, Oklahoma and A&M were tied late in the game before Oklahoma finally pulled it out.

    Here’s another idea for an interesting national championship.

    First, the major BCS conferences should ramp up to 12 teams. The SEC, Big-12 and ACC are already there. The PAC-10 needs two new teams, the Big-10 needs one, and the Big-east needs to go away. Notre Dame is the logical 12th team to add to the Big-10 as they are geographically in the heart of Big-10 country. Utah and BYU are the two logical teams to add to the Pac-10 to make the Pac-12. That would create a true conference championship game for all the power conferences.

    That would open the door for the remaining 6 mountain west teams to re-join the WAC which has been revitalized with the recent success of Boise St, UTEP, and Fresno St.

    That would leave 5 “power conferences” and five lesser conferences, the:

    Big-East
    Conference USA
    MAC
    WAC-Mountain-West
    Sun Belt

    We could design an 8-team national championship in which the winners of the 5 power conferences get automatic seeds and the remaining three seeds are distributed as follows:

    The five mid-major conferences get two seeds decided by a one-game playoff between the top two eastern and top two western conferences. Some type of conference ranking would need to be created to decide which 5th and weakest conference would be left out. This year it would obviously be the Sun Belt.

    The winner of a MAC-Big East playoff gets a seed.

    The winner of a WAC/Mt. West and Conference USA playoff gets a seed.

    The final 8th spot is a wild-card spot that goes to the winner of a one-game playoff between the the top 2 remaining teams in the BCS rankings that aren’t conference champions. This year it would be Texas-Cal.

    That would set up the following 8 team tournament:

    #1 USC vs Big-East/Conf USA winner (probably Louisville)

    #2 Oklahoma vs WAC-Mt West-MAC winner (probably Boise St.–remember Utah is now in the Pac-10)

    #3 Auburn vs Texas-Cal winner

    Michigan vs Virginia Tech (Big-10 champ vs ACC champ)

    As the top seed, USC has the easiest route to the championship game having to play Louisville and then the Michigan-Virginia tech winner. Auburn has the toughest path having to play the winner of Texas-Cal and then probably Oklahoma. But they still get a chance to win it on the field.

    What it the highest ranked team that would get left out of this sort of 8-team playoff that relies heavily on conference championship games for the seeds? This year it would be #7 Georgia.

  12. Patrick says:

    Mike, I appreciate the research but I don’t like to rely on ranking systems like CBS Sportsline because they begin with a bias instead of starting on equal footing and even as the year progresses they are subjectively judged.

    I prefer to look at objective measure to form opinions. Utah dominated every team they played. Only one team got within 2 TDs of them all year (Air Force 49-35). They beat the 3 BCS Conference opponents by 17, 20 and 30 points. In 11 games they trailed only twice, only one team led them going into the second quarter and no team led them at halftime.

    And while Utah’s opponents didn’t have the greatest years, they did prove they could knock off some quality BCS opponents teams. Victims include Arizona State, Clemson, OK State, Texas Tech (x2), Notre Dame and Miami. All are bowl eligible.

    On the other hand Texas has limped through several games winning 3 by less than 10 points all against non-bowl eligible teams and 2 of those games were decided in the final 2 minutes. Texas scored the game winning TD with 30 seconds after a highly questionable offensive pass interference call against Kansas. Arkansas fumbled the ball inside the 15 yard line with under 2 minutes to play when a FG would have put them up 23-22.

    So in my mind, yeah, it’s pretty clear that Utah deserves the nod over UT. But it is also pretty clear that UT is much more deserving than any team from the Big East.

  13. matt w. says:

    man, kent’s list of hypothetical playoff matchups would have made for some great games. i can’t believe the networks haven’t backed up the truck to pay the NCAA to implement something like that. but then again, i have no knowledge of how the money behind bowl sponsorships works.

    by the way, who is the shadowy figure(s) who would approve/implement a playoff system?

  14. Kent says:

    Matt:

    The directors of each of the six BCS conferences plus the athletic director for Notre Dame sit down in a room and make all these decisions. No one else gets to sit at the table, not even the networks. Of course the directors of each conference serve at the pleasure of the university presidents. So it comes down to that. The BCS is what the folks running the BCS conferences want. End of story.

  15. Jeff G. says:

    And what they want is more than 16 teams getting a payoff! We’ve got 28 bowls this year which means 56 teams playing in December and January and that’s what they really want.

    Why should a conference (picking at random) like the ACC, which played reasonably well out of conference but not greatly, get stuck having one MAYBE two teams in a 16 team playoff when they can have 6 or 7 teams in a bowl game? It’s not in their interest, nor is it in the interest of any of the other big conferences.

    The fact is, Texas especially, but also California need to stop whining. They could be in the National Title hunt if they won all their games. But they didn’t and that was their own fault. Auburn needs to play someone challenging in their schedule if they think they deserve to be in the title hunt. The AP voters in the South largely voted for OU over them. So it’s a good sign that Auburn isn’t all that great.

  16. Tim says:

    There could still be bowl games with a 16-team playoff system that includes all 1-A conference champs and a few at-large bids. Most likely, 15 bowl games would become part of the playoff, and the other lesser bowls could still involve other teams.

    Perhaps the four current BCS bowls could rotate as the championship game as they do now.

  17. Patrick says:

    Auburn needs to play someone challenging in their schedule if they think they deserve to be in the title hunt.

    Well, that’s just silly. Take a look at the current BCS rankings. OU has 1 game (Texas) on the schedule against teams in the BCS Top 15. USC has 2 games (Va Tech and Cal) against the BCS Top 15. Auburn has 4 games (Georgia, LSU, and Tenn x2) against teams in the BCS Top 15.

  18. Jeff G. says:

    Let’s double check your numbers Patrick

    Texas – undefeated save Oklahoma
    Va Tech – likely ACC champion
    Cal – undefeated save USC
    No to mention Auburn hasn’t beaten Tennessee the second time, the game’s happening this weekend. And oh yeah.. Tennessee lost to 6-5 Notre Dame this year.
    Georgia – Other loss to Tennesse non SEC opponents were Georgia Southern (H), Marshall (H), and the Ga Tech rivalry game (happens to be H this year) hmm.. tough schedule there.
    It’s a down year for the SEC, they’re a traditional power, but they don’t have a tough out of conference schedule to give them any weight.

  19. Kent says:

    A 16-team tourney doesn’t need to eliminate all the minor bowls. What I would propose is the following:

    1. Round one of a 16 team tourney should be home games for the top 8 seeds. These would be 8 NEW games that are not already played.

    2. The remaining seven games in the tourney should be rotated around the major bowls.

    3. All the minor bowl games would proceed as normal by picking teams that aren’t in the top 16.

    One of the major complaints about a playoff is the extra games that would be played. But if you do the math, a 16 team tourney would result in only 7 additional games being played compared to today:

    Four additional games for the quarterfinal round
    Two additional games for the semifinal round
    One additional game for the final round.

    Four teams (the quarterfinal losers) would play one additional game compared to today.

    Two teams (the semifinal losers) would play two additional games compared to today

    Two teams (the finalists) would play three additional games compared to today.

    Frankly I don’t see the big deal. They are practicing daily during the month-long down time between the end of the season and the bowl games today. Throwing in a few more games for the elite teams is no big deal and wouldn’t lengthen the season anyway.

  20. Jeff G. says:

    Well one.. it would definitely hit finals season, during which the Universities to ban practices. Indeed UNC said they would not accept a bid to one particular bowl because it happened during finals season.

    Two the bowls would be against it, at least those that don’t get the national title game. Bowls make their money (aside from TV revenue) by selling tickets to alumni etc. Alumni would make one trip, but I doubt they’d make four. It’s not like they can sell the tickets because they’re home teams. If you’re going to do a playoff you have to begin with home field games.

    Besides the bowls largely despise the BCS being able to make one bigger than the other. Now they’d have to share the spotlight with even more bowls (up from 4 to 7). I don’t think that’d happen.

  21. Patrick says:

    Jeff, you’re struggling dude. First I didn’t imply that Auburn had won the second game against Tennessee simply that they would play them twice meaning that of the current BCS top 15 teams, Auburn would play 4 games – a third of their schedule. That is indisputable. Just as a matter of perspective, that is more games against top 15 teams than USC and OU combined. I think that quite clearly that is “challenging”.

    Secondly I’m not sure you want to get too deep into deconstructing the Auburn opponents and giving a cursory treatment to the other teams listed. Virginia Tech still has a tough game left before they can claim that ACC championship – at Miami. And one of the Hokie losses was to 5-5 NC State.

    BTW Cal’s season isn’t over either. They still have to visit Southern Miss this weekend.

  22. Jeremy says:

    If you would like to open the strength of schedule debate with Auburn, then go check out how the NCAA ranks the toughest schedules in the country.

    Auburn – 10th toughest schedule in the country

    Oklahoma – 22nd toughest schedule in the country

    USC – 28 th toughest schedule in the country

    Now lets talk about strength of schedule? All I see is Auburn getting screwed because they don’t carry the same name as “Oklahoma” or “USC”.

    Let’s face it if Alabama or Florida were undefeated and the SEC champions they would be playing for a national title. Auburn is left out because they are not the marquee team of the SEC.

    And if there were any doubt left Oklahoma remembers quite well what happened last year when they played the top team from the SEC.

  23. ben burchfield says:

    Ok, the fact that auburn was left out, its fine, it was expected. I’ve been an auburn fan for over 25 years, i can’t remember once when auburn actually caught a break in football. auburn could go 12-0, be the only undefeated team left, and still not be able to play for the championship. What we folks in Auburn wanna know, is how the person in charge of the bcs is also in charge of the big 12. It blows my mind how you can put that kind of power over a system that has failed time and time again. and as for the bcs system, it did succeed. it succeeded in serving up a team that oklahoma will kill. thats right, oklahoma will kill usc. mark it down. you heard it here first. i cant see how anyone in there right mind that has seen usc play a game can think they are the best team in college football. auburn was played down after an eight point win in tuscaloosa over an alabama team. usc, who won on a bogus call, at home, against ucla. the bogus call came when reggie bush fumbled the football after a reception, but, someone forgot to tell the ref. that they werent playing two hand touch. if not for that call, and a fumble by the ucla player, which i cant remember the name, as he danced into the end zone, auburn would be making preparations to go to the orange bowl, and we would be hearing about how that ref. made a horrible call. what needs to happen is people need to remove there heads from there rectums, and realize when you swing something as big as that people will notice. its about the same as farting in church and thinking no one will notice. guess what, we in auburn notice!!!!! guess what else, we dont care. we dont care because we know who the best team in the country is. we know who could beat either of the those teams for the battle of number 2. so i make a proposition. i make it right now. you people west of the mississippi can play your orange bowl. and you can even call that team number one. after all, theres a lot of money in it. us over here east of the mississippi will play our national championship in the sugar bowl. our teams are auburn, a team that beat 4 teams in the top 15, and virginia tech. a team that gave usc everything they could handle in the first game of the season, and would beat usc if they lined up on the field right now. and i guess we will just play our game for something silly like pride. heck, you can keep the money. for us college football isnt about money, its about knowing you are the best. not the best politician. (see mac brown.)