5 Thoughts - Bustin' Up The BCS

Posted Oct 20, 2008

What should happen if Utah, Tulsa, Boise State and Ball State all go unbeaten? What a main part of the BCS formula should be, in praise of the Texas grunts, the Terps, and more in the latest 5 Thoughts.

5 Thoughts ... Oct. 20

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It's The Schedule, Stupid

By Pete Fiutak   

1. Over the years I've been yelled at by the mathematician types about why six computer formals that no one knows about and no one understands should be a part of the BCS formula. More often than not I've been on the side of the computers, since they're the ones that come up with the objective, impartial looks at the season, as opposed to the human pollsters who couldn't name the starting quarterback for half of the teams they're voting for. But every year about this time I get annoyed that my beloved sport is so freakin' weird when it comes to deciding a champion

While I'd like to ditch the polls, assuming we don't have a playoff system in place, I do acknowledge the history and tradition of the game and the reason the polls are so important. I just wish Joe Six Pack could understand who to root for on a given Saturday when it comes to the BCS. Actually, I just wish I knew what to look for on a given Saturday when it comes to the BCS.

It's time to ditch the computers. I'm sorry, you can throw all the mathematical theories you want to about why having six are important, the formula, the system, and the sport would be far better if you just had one simple factor counting as 1/3rd of the equation, along with the two human polls.

Strength of schedule.

It's really not that hard. If you play a good schedule, you deserve the rewards. If you put together a great record against a garbage schedule, you should pay. If we're not going to have a playoff, it's about who deserves to be playing for it all, and strength of schedule would do that.

The subjective view is already covered by the humans with 2/3rds of the equation, the pollsters can adjust the market accordingly. You don't need six computers to tell you that Missouri has played the second toughest schedule in America and that Ball State has faced the nation's sixth easiest slate.

Penn State has faced the nation's 100th toughest schedule so far. Hmmmmmm, could that be what it has been so dominant? We'll know more this week against Ohio State, but as far as the formula, don't schedule Coastal Carolina and Temple. Penn State opponents have won 38% of their games. Compare that to Oklahoma, whose opponents have won 71% of their games.

I openly admit that this is way too simplistic, but shouldn't that be the point? Shouldn't it be just that easy for all of us to follow?

Now that I've become the champion of the good schedule, to do a 180 (or a 360, as Jason Kidd would say) and discredit everything I just wrote ...

Somewhere, Marcus Howard Would Be Drooling

By Pete Fiutak   

2. Do I think Ball State is better than Florida? No.

Do I think Tulsa would go unbeaten if it played in the SEC? Of course not.

Do I think Utah deserves to be in the national title discussion? Nope.

Do I think Boise State would beat Oklahoma in a rematch of the 2007 Fiesta Bowl? No way.

Do I think Ball State, Tulsa, Utah and Boise State should all be in the BCS if they go unbeaten? Sure. It might be cool.

I’m not saying any one of those four, if unbeaten, should be playing in the national championship, but it’s time to cut the charade and let the little guys know that they’re not just afterthoughts. Remember, the BCS isn’t a playoff; it’s a high-profile exhibition.

I know, I know, we’re all still scarred from the Georgia obliteration of Hawaii in the 2008 Sugar Bowl, but Boise State earned its stripes with the win over Oklahoma two years ago, and Utah already busted the BCS in the 2005 Fiesta Bowl.

Of course, to get all four teams in, assuming they all finish unbeaten, would mean that no BCS conference would get a second team in. Obviously that would never happen in a million years, Fox would never allow it, but your beef really wouldn’t be with Tulsa getting in over, say, Ohio State, or Utah getting in over Alabama. Your problem should be with a system that will automatically put in the ACC champion over the WAC champion. Your problem is with an automatic spot going to the Big East champion this season. Considering the success the Mountain West had against the Pac 10 this season, why does USC deserve to get in over Utah or TCU? (With all this said, I believe the BCS should take the top ten ranked teams, period, but that's for another argument.)

Utah is already 11th in the BCS rankings with at New Mexico, TCU, at San Diego State and BYU to play. If the Utes win out, they’ll likely move deep into the top ten and would get the automatic BCS spot. Few would complain.

Boise State is 12th with a win at Oregon on the résumé and a defense that gave up 7, 7, 3, 7, and 7 points in the five non-Duck wins. The Broncos play at San Jose State, at New Mexico State, Utah State, at Idaho, at Nevada and Fresno State. Yeah, the schedule it stinks, but again, the Broncos have earned their way in from the last performance.

Tulsa is 19th with the nation’s leading offense averaging 625 yards and 56.6 points per game. The Golden Hurricane plays UCF, at Arkansas, at Houston, Tulane and at Marshall. This is the team you'd want to see on a big stage, even if you don't know it yet.

Ball State is 20th with no one coming closer than 13 points so far, including Navy and Indiana, with Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, at Miami University, at Central Michigan, and Western Michigan to go before the MAC title game.

Fine, so all four teams aren’t going to finish unbeaten, I’m guessing Boise State is the only one that’ll do it, but if you’re a fan of chaos and if you’re a fan of calling out the BCS for being a hypocritical mess, then you know who to root for.

Paving The Way For The Heisman

Richard Cirminiello   

3. Colt McCoy has been a transformational figure in college football this season, executing at a higher level than any other quarterback—or player—in the country. He has been brilliant. Vince Young-brilliant. All of the attention and accolades being heaped on the junior has been warranted, especially during the recent Texas two-step versus Oklahoma and Missouri. Of course, he hasn’t been a one-man gang. McCoy’s offensive line, a mild question mark entering the season, has been almost flawless in its ability to protect the quarterback, create space for the playmakers, and get a push in short yardage.

Yeah, receivers Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby have been dynamic. RB Chris Ogbonnaya has started coming into his own in his senior year. FB Cody Johnson has been automatic near the goal line. However, when your singing the praises of top-rated Texas, be sure to save a tune for a front wall that’s been the catalyst for the nation’s second-highest scoring offense. Back in August, only RG Cedric Dockery was listed     
on the Preseason All-Big 12 Football Team. Today, few units are performing better. Dockery is joined by RT Kyle Hix, C Chris Hall, LG Charlie Tanner, and LT Adam Ulatoski to form an outstanding and stable offensive line that’s making everyone’s jobs in Austin just a little bit easier.

McCoy has been the face of Texas’ unforeseen success in 2008. Dockery, Hix, Hall, Tanner, and Ulatoski are doing their part to make sure that face remains untouched and free from black eyes.   

Fearing And Figuring Out The Turtle

By Richard Cirminiello

Note to self: Stop even trying to make sense of Maryland. It’s a waste of time.

Fear the turtle? Darn right I do. I fear that I’ll never get a pulse on this program. I also fear that the Terrapins will continue giving me an inferiority complex. Check this out for schizophrenic: The week before Maryland stunned Cal, it barely showed up in a loss to Middle Tennessee State. The week after upsetting then-No. 20 Clemson, it was whitewashed, 31-0, by an average Virginia squad. And just when it looks like I’ve read the Terrapin tea leaves, they go ahead and ambush Atlantic division favorite Wake Forest, 26-0. Just how good is Maryland? Well, there’s enough talent, especially at linebacker and running back, to capture a wide-open ACC. Or enough holes to completely miss a bowl game. It’s anybody’s guess where this team will be when the 2008 rollercoaster ride finally comes to a stop.

This week, the Terps get a visit from 2-5 North Carolina State, the league’s bottom-feeder. Maryland is the superior and the hotter team. In other works, be safe and take the Pack. When it comes to Ralph Friedgen’s kids, nothing in College Park makes much sense these days.

But Texas vs. Alabama Really Would Be Interesting

By Matthew Zemek

5. So, rumor has it that the BCS standings have been disclosed for the first time this season, setting off lots of debates at the water cooler about rankings and résumés.
Here's a friendly word of advice, then, as you dissect each win and compare margins of victory, conferences, and individual opponents (etc., etc.): Just wait and allow the season to play out.
If this 139-year-old sport has taught us anything, it should be exactly that: Wait. Wait for the eleventh, twelfth, and (in the Big 12 and SEC) thirteenth games to run their course before making any firm conclusions about the two best teams in college football. In this decade, only two seasons--2002 and 2005--have provided perfect pairs of undefeated teams at the end of Autumn. Under any other scenarios, identifying the two best teams is mostly a guessing game, and any honest football writer has to be honest enough to admit as much. Twelve regular-season games, with only four non-conference tilts (three in the Pac-10), just don't allow for a sufficient number of cross-conference matchups that can determine the top two teams, barring the one and only magic scenario involving two (and only two) unbeaten squads.
Why this need to wait, you say? Yes, it's partly a matter of exposing the BCS as a system that always claims to be objective and pure, but which is just as political and flawed as the other systems that have come down the pike.
With that said, the even more important reason to plead for patience at this point in the college football season is to pound home an emphasis on winning games. That's right: winning games. It sounds strange, but college football fans (and far too many pundits and writers) seem to have lost an appreciation for merely winning.
One of the reasons so many writers and talking heads buried Ohio State with an avalanche of criticism in the first half of this season is that the Buckeyes didn't win impressively. Anyone remember a certain team in 2002? Fourteen times, that team just posted a modest-looking "W," on the road to a national championship. Somehow, the Ohio State Buckeyes just won games. A simple concept, right?
But in 2008, style points are seducing far too many otherwise intelligent people. The media, on a collective level, basically booed OSU off the national stage following the loss to USC. Instead of giving the Buckeyes points for scheduling the kind of game that many SEC schools are too spineless to consider, the press threw dirt on Ohio State's grave. And even when Tressel Ball produced ugly wins such as the 16-3 triumph over Purdue, the vultures were out in force when--if they wanted to find a real underachiever in college football--they should have been reporting on Clemson, Auburn, Illinois, or another team that's falling far short of expectations. The Buckeyes have lost only one game in 2008. In the sport's most important statistical category--wins--OSU has been getting the job done. Yet, the obsession with style points has led the critics to shout down the sages.
This Saturday, guess who will be playing for the Big Ten championship against Penn State? Yeah, the same team that's had to absorb a whole lot of acidic attacks and assaults on its quality.
Ugly wins--such as the ones recently being turned out by Ohio State and also Alabama--are still far more beautiful than the prettiest losses. Come the first weekend of December, all the talk about BCS resumes will mean very little for the teams that keep on posting "Ws," ugly though they may be. Margin of victory means something when comparing two one-loss clubs. But if a team finds the mental toughness to win every week, the other comparisons quickly become secondary, peripheral, and ultimately irrelevant.
Just win, baby, and just let this season--like every other college football odyssey--to simply run its course.