Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Potential BCS Nightmare That Could Lead To Justice

Controversy continues to surround the question of the College Division I Football Championship. Should there be a playoff or should things stay the way they are with Bowls. This year because of the chaos of the regular season, the controversy did nothing but intensify. Ostensibly, on January 7th, LSU will play Ohio State for the BCS National Championship.

Ohio State comes into the game ranked number 1 at 11-1, and having won their conference the Big 10 at 7-1. LSU comes in ranked number 2 with an 11-2 record and having won their conference championship (SEC) game against the Tennessee Volunteers 21-14. The week before the final games of the season it was doubtful either of these two teams would be in the BCS Championship. During the regular season both had held the number 1 ranking before suffering losses to teams that computers said they should have beat. LSU did it twice! However, LSU also is the only team in the BCS standings to have beaten 6 Top 25 teams on their schedule, leading one to openly wonder how the computers could rank OSU's schedule strength higher, another anomaly in the algorithmic world that is the BCS.

There is one undefeated team in the BCS, but since it's not from a "big name conference", Hawaii is ranked 10th (12-0 and Mountain West Conference Champions) in the BCS standings and will face 5th ranked Georgia in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on January 1st. Other major bowl match ups on this New Years weekend are: #3 Virginia Tech (11-2 and ACC Champions) vs # 8 Kansas (11-1 Big 12 North Regular Season Champs but playoff losers to BCS#6 Missouri 11-2 ). Missouri, #6 in the BCS Standings will play Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl. Arkansas finished their SEC season with a 50-48 overtime win over LSU, a 4-4 conference record and an 8-4 regular season. The Razorbacks are not in the BCS Top 25 and are ranked highest (24th) in the Coaches Poll. Why the Razorbacks are in a major bowl over so many other BCS ranked teams like: BCS # 25 Connecticut (9-3 overall, 5-2 and second in the Big East) who plays today in the Meineke Car Car Bowl, BCS # 23 Auburn (8-4 Overall and 5-3 in the same division of the same conference as the Razorbacks) or BCS # 15 Clemson (9-3 overall and 5-3 in the ACC) who meet on New Years Eve in the Chik-fil-a Bowl (formerly the Peach Bowl) in Atlanta; or the following additional teams all of whom are ranked higher than the Razorbacks in the BCS standings: #24 Boise State (who, lost a tight one in the minor bowl they made), #22 Cincinnati (8-3 in the regular season and winners of the "Papa John's Bowl" against Southern Miss on December 22nd so now with an overall record of 9-3), #20 Virginia (9-3 overall) who play in the generally lesser thought of Gator Bowl on New Years Day, #19 Texas (9-3 regular season and 52-34 winners over ASU in the Holiday Bowl on 12/27), #18 Wisconsin, #17 BYU (who finished the regular season 10-2, then won a rematch with the UCLA Bruins one of the two teams they lost to in the "Las Vegas Bowl" on December 22nd) is an question and indictment on whatever integrity the BCS purports to have. In the interest of brevity, I won't go through the other 5 or 10 teams clearly as deserving or more deserving of a major bowl bid then the Razorbacks.

I think there is ample data to point to the issues with the current "hybrid" BCS format. My points on the topic are simple: either have a playoff or don't; but if you don't institute a playoff then stop trying to make it sound like there is any reasonable level of objectivity or fairness in the current BCS Bowl Championship Series format. Would a 16 or 32 team tournament be perfect - heck no - but from an objectivity perspective it would be a lot more objective then what's there now. How would I do icould it be made to work? Simple keep the BCS basically as it is - top 25 rankings by the current imperfect algorithms get in automatically - but level off some of the advantages on strength of schedule, year to year, based on prior year tournament results for strength of conferences (a simple algorithm could be put in place for this so humans don't have to feel the need to manipulate it). Then have a selection committee (composed of sportswriters and coaches) to select the 7 final spots/seeds "at large." The tournament could be held starting the third weekend of December 32 teams, 16 games on one three or four day weekend - 4 days, 4 games a day it would be a television bonanza and big bucks for the NCAA. The sweet 16 games would then be two weeks later and could be played as the match ups for the current "major bowls". Two weeks after that would be the final four - two games on a Saturday and another financial bonanza for the NCAA. Finally, the National Championship Game held on Super Bowl Weekend a day or two before the super bowl. It's "legit" and it extends the current season only three weeks, it doesn't "upset" the current BCS Bowls or the current conference championship series, in fact the NCAA could mandate that all major conferences should have a playoff tournament - take that elitist Big 10. "Just sayin'" I think that's how to fix the mess we currently have and if you don't like that then lets just go back to what we had and drop the "fake" BCS title game on January 7th - this year proves it's meaningless and it'll get worse if/when LSU beats OSU and we have a "National Champion" with two losses while there will likely be several teams with 1 (or in Hawaii's case possibly 0) losses who can lay claim to the title as well.

Here's a scenario that really makes this year's BCS issues apparent for you. Start with Hawaii blowing out Georgia by 14 or more points in the Sugar Bowl. If Hawaii can make that happen and another set of numerous cards looks like this: in the Orange Bowl Virginia Tech beats Kansas but barely; in the Fiesta Bowl Oklahoma losses to a resurgent WVA by 7-10 points; in the Rose USC loses, basically at home, to Illinois who already has a 9-3 record so both teams finish the season 10-3; in the Capital One Bowl Michigan hands Florida their 4th loss and both teams finish the season 8-4; in the Gator Bowl it really doesn't matter who wins between BCS un-ranked 8-4 Texas Tech and BCS #20 9-3 Virginia as far as the standings in the top 10 are concerned; in the Outback Bowl BCS #18 Wisconsin (9-3) play BCS #16 Tennessee (9-4) in another game that is unlikely to affect the top 10 let alone the top 5. What could/would things look like after New Years day if things play out with these "upsets", etc. occur in a season that has seen so many twists. Well a 13-0 Hawaii would/should be in the Top Five if not ranked Third before the BCS Championship Game in at least one poll, if not the BCS standings. Then what happens if on January 7th the game is a stinker and squeaker that LSU barely wins in the last seconds of regulation? Since this is something LSU has done a couple times this season, and Ohio State is likely to have again been over-coached and under lots of pressure, this result isn't beyond possibility. How can you then look at a 13-0 Hawaii and not give them a share of the National Championship when every other viable contender has two or more losses and isn't playing exceptionally well at the end of the season?

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