Crash the party.

In response to my post about Tulsa coach Todd Graham’s “if Boise State and Hawai’i can, why not us?” pitch for his team to play in a BCS game if it runs the table, Jerry Hinnen writes

… Senator Blutarsky proves the point I made last January about Hawaii: all the work done by Boise the year before to legitimize mid-majors’ right to crash the BCS party has been undone. It’s not that I mind the skepticism regarding Tulsa’s legitimacy for a BCS berth, but they shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand, either–sure, the defense sucked last year, but if it improves to the point where they’re blowing teams out 55-20 on a weekly basis, I’m not sure that or their schedule should matter. It’s simply about how good they are, and anyone who paid close enough attention last year would have realized that a Hawaii team that needed overtime to beat Louisiana Tech just plain wasn’t. (Good, I mean.) A better schedule would be nice, but if even the likes of the Golden Hurricane romp all over it, the JCCW’s official position is that they’ll deserve their shot. Too bad that thanks to Hawaii, it seems a whole lot less likely they’d get it.

I’m not sure if I’m being misconstrued here or not.  If Jerry’s point is simply that an excellent mid-major school deserves a shot at a BCS game, no argument here.  If he’s saying that Tulsa shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand because Hawai’i crapped the bed last year, well, that depends.

Look, the lesson that Hawai’i should have taught the pollsters is that while it’s nice for a school to go undefeated with a nice, shiny toy of an offensive system, you’ve got to make some objective effort to look at the journey a school takes to get there.  And for a school in a non-BCS conference, I can only see two ways to judge that:  either by playing a credible schedule, or by dominating opponents on a week-in, week-out basis.  Hawai’i did neither last year.  But a lot of voters (and certain pundits at a certain sports network) were blinded by the record and the offensive stats.  There should be a better way to evaluate than that.

So what are the reasonable expectations for Tulsa in ’08?  Well, whatever credibility it garners shouldn’t come from the schedule, which I’ll charitably call mediocre.  (Compare Tulsa’s to Utah’s and Fresno State’s for some perspective on this point.)  So that leaves on-field dominance.  Is it likely that Tulsa will score a lot of points this year?  Sure – after all, the Golden Hurricanes were first in total offense last year.  But defensively, as I noted in my initial post, this team was less than impressive.  The good news for 2008 is that Oklahoma isn’t on the schedule (Tulsa yielded 62 points to the Sooners last year); the bad news is that Tulsa only brings back five starters on defense this year.

Jerry says that if Tulsa rattles off a stretch of 45-20 wins, that’s a likely indication of the team’s worthiness for consideration.  Assuming for the sake of argument that’s true, what’s the basis for that premise in the first place?  Tulsa lost four games last year. It was smoked by the only ranked team it played, it lost to UCF twice and was beaten by a 4-8 UTEP squad.  It held teams to twenty points or less only three times last year.  From such things greatness should not presumed.

Bottom line here is that Hawai’i shouldn’t be a bar to non-BCS conference schools’ participation in the big games.  Should Fresno State run the table with who it plays this year, there won’t be any need to parse the results.  But a source of healthy skepticism?  Absolutely.  There should be some context to going undefeated as a member of C-USA.  So don’t blame me for knocking Tulsa.  I’m not the one who brought up the “if them, then us” pitch in the first place.

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4 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, College Football, The Blogosphere

4 responses to “Crash the party.

  1. Kit

    I’ll get lambasted for this, but I was (and still am for that matter) of the mindset that Boise State didn’t deserve to play Oklahoma in the first place.

    To say that I’m a big proponent of scheduling tougher to earn your seat at the table would be a huge understatement. On paper, you can’t convince me that Boise State deserved to be in a BCS bowl because their schedule, in my mind, never proved different in my eyes.

    By the numbers (and by numbers I mean opponents played) Oklahoma should’ve had no problem with Boise State. They played tougher teams in a tougher conference, with an extra game on top of that. However, any given Saturday…

    So, while I believe that game was probably one of the best ever, I still don’t know if I agree with how it got to that point. To me, if you’re from a weaker conference, then you have to schedule tougher to earn your seat at the table. Personally, I doubt anyone was terrified of playing Boise State, since the year prior they traveled to the SEC and got trounced. Again, ON PAPER, they showed nothing that should’ve made a team from a more established conference tremble since they were in their first year without Hawkins and in their one true test the year prior, got the brakes beat off of them by UGA.

    Just my opinion. I could be wrong.

  2. Senator, first, thanks for taking my ramblings seriously enough to respond.

    I wholeheartedly agree with you on a lot of things here: Hawaii was unqualified, Tulsa’s schedule is awful, if Tulsa doesn’t lay waste to it they don’t deserve a BCS bid, and that it’s very, very unlikely their defense will allow they to lay waste to anyone. You’re absolutely right that just going undefeated isn’t enough at the C-USA/WAC level, and that Tulsa shouldn’t expect to be granted the same largesse from the pollsters Hawaii received.

    I guess what I would take issue with is your closing statement from the last post: “If these guys run the table, they’ll probably get some talk about being in the mix. Big mistake.” I think if Tulsa does indeed run the table, it’s not a mistake to at least discuss their merits–as you point out in this post, if they “dominate opponents on a week-in, week-out basis” they’ll deserve a look. I’m not sure your previous post makes an allowance for that domination, between the last line and saying pollsters would “deserve all the contempt likely to be thrown their way” for including Tulsa at all.

    It’s certainly true you didn’t argue Hypothetical Undefeated and Dominant Tulsa should be ignored–just that Hypothetical Undefeated Tulsa should be, and if you feel like I’ve misconstrued your argument in that post by sorta leaping from the latter to the former, I apologize. My point–and reading this post, I’m pretty sure we’d agree on it–is simply that there’s a distinction between these two Tulsas, and that pollsters should learn to recognize it, neither automatically giving a mid-major the benefit of the doubt based on their record nor automatically rejecting one outright because Hawaii proved to be such a fraud.

    Thanks again, Senator, not just for this but for the must-read work you do here in general.

  3. I’m not sure your previous post makes an allowance for that domination, between the last line and saying pollsters would “deserve all the contempt likely to be thrown their way” for including Tulsa at all.

    Jerry, fair point. I was irritated enough at Graham’s suggestion that the record would be sufficient to merit consideration that I didn’t lay out my case as clearly as I should have.

    I do hope the poll voters learned the right lesson from Hawai’i last year, but I have to admit I’m not holding my breath. You’re probably on to something when you fear a backlash may be the result instead. That would be a shame if it turns out that either Fresno State or Utah turn out to be for real.

    By the way, since we’re throwing praise around, I really enjoy your blogging – even the part that involves mid-majors basketball. ;)

  4. Wow, even the mid-major hoops stuff? Great! That makes, oh, call it three people.