5 Thoughts - Tweaking the BCS

Posted Oct 14, 2007

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.

Five Thoughts: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4
Week 5 | Week 6

If it's mid-October, the whine must be ready

By Pete Fiutak   

1. 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 seasons.

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 entertainment.

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 actually happened.

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.

Attack of the Quack

By Richard Cirminiello

. 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 opponents.   

BCS or Bust ... Bust

By John Harris

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

By Pete Fiutak   

4. 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 else's schedule.

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 mistakes

By Matthew Zemek

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 teams games.

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.