5 Thoughts - Tweaking the BCS
What changes should be made right now to the BCS? The little mistakes that added up to big problems, the importance of simply winning, the busting of the top ten, and dangerous Oregon team that could be the class of the Pac 10, in this week's 5 Thoughts.
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If it's mid-October, the
whine must be ready
I've just declared myself the czar, or tsar, if you
prefer, of college football. While I'm the ruler of all
I survey, I can't control the college presidents or any
of the other big-wigs from getting you a full-blown
playoff system that almost no one would be able to agree
on. I stuck in the working confines of the BCS, and I
realize it's not going away. It's an imperfect way to
crown a champion, and some would say it's criminally
silly, but in lieu of an actual playoff, it's really not
as bad as everyone is making it out to be. However, it's
flawed, and it needs a quick change right now. We're
only one week in. Most won't notice the changes, and I
defy anyone out there, even the BCS head honchos I can't
control, to argue that any one of these changes wouldn't
make the system better and more fair in this craziest of
1. Plus one. There's no need for a full-blown playoff
with a ton of teams. That's what the regular season is
for. But if you took the top four conference champions
according to the BCS rankings (if you can't win your
conference, you don't deserve to play for the national
title) and played 1 vs. 4 in the Rose, 2 vs. 3 in the
Sugar, and took the two winners and played them in the
BCS Championship game, there wouldn't be one reasonable
argument against it.
You're the fifth team in the hunt? Too bad; you did
something to get there. Play a better schedule next
time, get in a better conference, or be more impressive.
You're still in a BCS game, but you're not in the big
show. Last year, Ohio State would've played Louisville
and Florida would've played USC. LSU would've been out,
but it had no beef; it couldn't win its own division.
Michigan had its shot in Columbus and lost.
2. Blow up the automatic bids. If you're in the top ten
according to the rankings, you're in the big money game
no matter what. There's no need to pander to the little
guy, and no need to make excuses for the power leagues
that might dominate in a given season. Sure, you can win
your conference title. Bully for you. But if you're not
among the top ten teams in America, we probably don't
care if you're not in the spotlight for our
3. DIminish the humans, boost up the computers. The
overreaction after No. 1 USC didn't get into the title
game in 2003 has stuck. The computers take into account
the entire season, while the humans are knee-jerk
reactionaries to last week's game. No one likes to admit
it, but the six computer polls are far more fair than
the flawed humans, who don't actually watch enough of
the games to have a real opinion, The humans care about
the highlights, while the computers care about what
4. Strength of schedule, strength of schedule, strength
of schedule. This should be the number one non-win/loss
factor in the mix. It's a tough concept to grasp, but a
two loss Florida team (currently with the third toughest
schedule) might actually be more deserving of a top spot
than an unbeaten Boston College (with the 51st toughest
schedule) or Kansas (68th).
Now make it so.
Oregon is not
losing another game this season. There, I said it. Will an 11-1 record
will be good enough to win the Pac-10 and a round trip ticket to
Pasadena? Since Cal won in Eugene two weeks ago, that’ll depend on
whether or not the Bears lose a second game this year. Either way, the
BCS better get Mike Bellotti’s office address because it’ll be sending
him an invite, possibly to the Fiesta Bowl, early in December. Why so
much Duck love all of a sudden? It’s rooted in Oregon’s performance on
Saturday afternoon, a 53-7 rout of Washington State. Yeah, the Cougars
are going nowhere fast, but that doesn’t matter. Saturday’s game was
the crossroads variety for an Oregon team that had every reason to be
sluggish after losing a gut-wrencher to Cal, and then having two long
weeks to think about it. The Ducks chose the left lane of the freeway,
zooming past Wazzu with a quick strike, balanced offense, and a Nick
Reed-led defense that made a dozen stops for loss and created three
turnovers. They won’t look back, putting pedal to metal until reaching
Glendale, Ariz., or Pasadena with a little help from Cal’s second-half
BCS or Bust ... Bust
3. Before each season, we all
speculate as to what team in the pre-season top ten will be a major
bust. Our guess this year was Michigan and, well, we were half right.
The right answer would’ve been the entire top ten. Here’s the
pre-season AP Top 25: 1. USC 2. LSU 3. West Virginia 4. Texas
5. Michigan 6. Florida 7. Wisconsin 8. Oklahoma 9. Virginia
Tech 10. Louisville. Every single one of those teams has a loss or
three. Then, compare that top ten to the BCS standings that came out on
Sunday. Of that top ten, only one team has improved its ranking in the
BCS – Oklahoma is up to five from an initial spot at nine.
There are six teams in the BCS top
ten that weren’t even ranked in the top 25 at the beginning of the year
– USF, BC, Arizona State, Kentucky, South Carolina and Oregon. What in
the name of 85 schollys and parity is going on? I don’t know, can’t
explain it but I look forward to every single weekend of college
football more than I ever have. So, it’s time to play a new speculative
game. When does #1 lose? I’ve two weeks in my pool – think that’s safe
money? I do this year.
Just Win, Baby
Cry and whine all you want about the tough game your
team just played, or a nasty conference schedule, or the
upcoming road showdown that'll probably keep your team
from the BCS. But at the same time, in this wackiest of
wacky years, there's no more beefing about someone
Of course Kansas hasn't played a murderer's row of
teams, with the toughest test coming against Kansas
State. Hawaii's best win so far was against, well, UNLV?!
Ohio State has hung its hat on wins over Washington and
Purdue, which don't come remotely close to comparing to
South Florida's wins over Auburn, at Auburn, and West
Virginia. However, this year, wins are wins are wins are
wins are wins.
When you have Appalachian State and Stanford on the tip
of everyone's college football tongue, and when you have
Kentucky and Colorado beating the biggest of the big
boys, and when Syracuse can beat Louisville, and then
look like it couldn't beat a JV high school team, and
when Illinois can become a major player by beating Penn
State and Wisconsin, and then lose to a bad Iowa team,
and when South Florida, Boston College, and Kentucky are
being talked about as national title contenders, when
teams like Michigan, Texas and Notre Dame have been
eliminated from the discussion long ago, and when week
after week after week there's something new and
something wacky we haven't seen before, all that matters
is winning the game, surviving, and moving on.
The unbeatens will get their say. Boston College and
Arizona State have all the conference big boys coming
up, South Florida has to deal with Cincinnati,
Louisville and Rutgers, and Ohio State has to go to Penn
State and Michigan, and get past Illinois and Wisconsin
at home. There are a million crazy things certain to
happen over the next several weeks, but in this
all-timer of years, one thing is for absolute certain.
If you go unbeaten, no matter who you are, you'll have
truly earned a bus ticket to New Orleans.
Boys will be boys ... and they'll make
5. We all know that coaching
is enormously significant in college football, but it bears
repeating that when 20-year-old male members of the human species
are involved, a coach--no matter how decorated or
accomplished--lacks full control over Saturday outcomes. (Or Friday
outcomes, or Thursday outcomes.)
This weekend in college football was noteworthy not because of the
mistakes we saw across the country, but because those mistakes
happened to carry unusual weight and importance.
On many occasions, a mistake costs a team a first down or a field
goal or 20 yards of field position. This past weekend, mistakes cost
San Jose State kicked Hawaii's rear end, but one late fumble decided
the issue in favor of the boys from the Island.
A brain cramp by a tight end--who lined up improperly--cost Illinois
an 83-yard touchdown and a win against Iowa.
A fumble cost Vanderbilt a win over Georgia. Period.
A holding penalty cost Notre Dame a touchdown and a legitimate shot
of making Boston College sweat in the final minutes.
And these are only the foremost examples of how one lapse, a
three-second loss of focus, affected the other 59 minutes and 57
seconds of a football game.
This once again proves that while certain amounts of resources are
needed to provide for a top-flight football program, the amount of
money invested in college football (and other big-ticket college
sports) is simply exorbitant. The coaches who make bank would be
hard-pressed to disagree with that statement, especially the ones
who get fired simply because one young man made one huge mistake at
the worst possible time. Deep in their souls, college football
coaches would probably trade some of their earnings for a
substantially increased amount of job security. After this past
weekend, you should know why.
And if you want to donate money? Well, there are water tanks,
unpaved roads, and micro-loans that need attention in the Third
World. All the money in the world can help those who are dying, but
it won't prevent a 19-year-old from fumbling near the goal line in
the final minute of a tied ballgame.