The BCS works! (it just needs a new job description)

20 Nov

Every year it seems that there is a large conversation about whether the BCS is good for college football or bad. And while I am less than completely satisfied with the BCS, it is a definite improvement over that which came before. It is essentially A two team playoff system that selects what we believe are the two best teams in the country. There have been a couple of times where it has been disputed. The first is the year (2004 bowl for 2003 season) that USC was ranked number one in the AP and was excluded from the Championship game. The next year USC was included in the game (and won), but Auburn was an undefeated AQ conference team that did not get a chance to participate.

While the above two examples are less than ideal, the reality is that these were both situations where the BCS was able to accomplish exactly what it was intended to do. Differentiate between top teams that are difficult to distinguish. The BCS is a system which can only do one thing—pick the top two teams. When people argue that the system is broken or not working, remember that it only does this one thing. When people say that the BCS worked “this” year, they are usually merely stating that the two best teams were obvious. The BCS only chooses two teams from among all the college football teams.

What I want to discuss, however, is the one year where the BCS didn’t “work.” The 2007 BCS Championship Game was the one time that most experts agree that the best two teams were not even arguably in the game. In the final 2006 ballot, there was a vote sway (or, as Michigan fans correctly point out, a defection) of 180 points from the next to last ballot to the last, despite the fact that Michigan did not even play a game, and the only game Florida played in between was a game that they did not cover the spread against a presumed vastly inferior team—Arkansas. The reason the BCS didn’t work was because voters finagled their ballots to assure that it did not.

Now, I am a huge fan of Colin Cowherd as a sports caster and think he normally does a very good job of being objective. Before the game, he (like everyone else) believed that the two best teams were not in the game. After the game, which the double digit underdog Florida Gators won by 27, Colin changed his position and asserted that a small playoff would be beneficial. I am not sure if he still rides that idea, but I’ve recently heard him stating that he wants to see the best two teams play and the BCS should do that. But I think he may be missing something this year.

Now, here’s the deal. I believe that LSU and Alabama are, in fact, the two best teams in the country. I, also, am a believer (much like I was [against most experts] in the 2006-07 season) that the SEC is the best conference in college football. But, I believe the voters did the correct thing then by “defecting” against Michigan, and I think the best thing this year would be to see a “defection” against Alabama. Now, I saw the LSU-Alabama game, and I believe that Alabama was the better team. And if they do play again, I would favor Alabama (and possibly even root for them). But, just because most of us believe the SEC is the best, how do we know that we aren’t deluding ourselves, as we were in 2006, when we thought the Big Ten was vastly superior?

If I presented you a team whose schedule was Oregon, Northwestern State, West Virginia, Western Kentucky, Kent State, Penn State, North Texas, Georgia Southern, Missouri State, New Mexico, Troy, and Texas A&M; most would say that this schedule stinks. It ranks #84 in Division 1 FBS Strength of Schedule right now. Whose schedule is it? It is the out of conference schedule of the teams currently ranked number 1, 2, and 3 in the BCS. The presumed best teams have that weak schedule on which to hang their hat. The rest of the schedule is merely beating up on fellow SEC teams, which may be artificially inflated. If you want to tout the rest of the SEC proving its strength in its out of conference schedule, the SEC East Division champion was completely dismantled by the Mountain West runner-up Boise State.

In the arbitrary schedule above, Oregon is a very good team; Penn State is a potential conference champion; West Virginia and Texas A&M are teams we thought were good, but the other teams show that these SEC “juggernauts” largely beefed up on non-contenders. And who can blame them? The system rewards a 3-point win over a Division II team more than a a 3-point loss to the number one team in the country. Nevertheless, to just assume that a conference deserves the top two spots is a problem. What if we find out by halfway through the bowl season that the SEC is clearly a weaker conference than, say, the Big Ten. No one really thinks we will, but all the experts were convinced the top Conference was the Big Ten back in 2006-07.

Colin’s main argument is that every other sport allows rematches and we should be OK with rematches in College Football. Let me state that I am fine with rematches in general. And, I’d love to see an (at least) 8 team playoff system (which is still fewer teams than every other NCAA football division has in its playoffs) where we are able to see abundant rematches, and perhaps even see teams try to have a more difficult out-of-conference schedule in preparation. But when we are merely choosing the best two teams in the country, I think it should be impossible to prove that you are the best team merely by beating teams within your conference. At the minimum, we need to make the SEC champion beat a great team from another conference to prove that they are the best team in the country. Then we need to make the BCS (which is almost always successful in its job) have a different job—like maybe picking the best eight teams.

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4 Responses to “The BCS works! (it just needs a new job description)”

  1. Steve Atwater November 22, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

    Interesting perspective. Is it safe to say the SEC is better the the NFL AFC West?

  2. AskThePhatMan November 26, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    Well, in his last two years in the SEC, Tim Tebow went 16-2 (26-2 overall). So far, he's 2-0 against the AFC West (4-1 overall). Small sample size, so I'll give it an incomplete.

  3. Jenni December 30, 2011 at 4:41 am #

    I do not care about football. But I love your blog!!

  4. Cheddar January 5, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    Good job….I was just thinking about the 2006 season yesterday when the Gators beat Ohio State 41-14 after all the complaints that Michigan deserved to play in that game…clearly the Gators more than deserved that game. And I do understand the comments about Oregon possibly being left out…but I think the SEC has shown it's outright dominance especially IN the Nat. Champ. games the past 8 years or so.

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