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5 Thoughts - Bustin' Up The BCS
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
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
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
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 ...
Howard Would Be Drooling
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
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
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
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
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
to self: Stop even trying to make sense of Maryland. It’s a waste of
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
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
But Texas vs. Alabama Really Would Be
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
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
Just win, baby, and just let this season--like every other college
football odyssey--to simply run its course.