(h/t The Wizard of Odds)
While I certainly don’t think it’s perfect, I can live with the BCS per se. But I’ve had a longstanding problem with the conflict of interest that’s apparent in the coaches’ poll. What’s happened this week does nothing to lessen my convictions about that.
Here’s how things played out today:
Other than seeing every Big Ten team move up in the rankings – even though none of them played – there is little rhyme or reason to these changes. I’m particularly amused by Virginia and Auburn being tied in the rankings last week, neither playing a game this week and having Virginia move up one step in the rankings ahead of Auburn this week despite that.
Blame it on sloth, conflicts, stupidity, bias, whatever. The results aren’t pretty.
UPDATE: Tommy Tuberville must think Hawaii is a helluva team.
Let’s go back and summarize:
Strength of Schedule
The good: Florida, Georgia, LSU
The above-average: Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Missouri, Southern California
The mediocre: Ohio State, Oklahoma
The below-average: Kansas
Wins and Losses
The good: Ohio State, Georgia, Virginia Tech, LSU, Oklahoma
The mediocre: Missouri, Florida, West Virginia
The sub-par: Kansas, Southern California
Best of the bunch: West Virginia, Kansas, Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio State
Second tier: LSU
Third level: Missouri, Virginia Tech, Southern California
Last place: Georgia
Let’s start with process of elimination. The worst resumes on the list belong to Southern California, Missouri (the only schools not to register in the top group of any of the categories) , West Virginia and Kansas (two lower and lowest tier rankings combined with a good showing in statistics that is offset to some degree by their poor SOS). Florida shows out well, but not perfect; with the Gators being the only three loss team on the list, it’s hard to see where there’s enough in their numbers to overcome that.
That brings us to five. To my eye, the best of the remaining bunch is LSU. The Tigers do have two losses, but are in the top groups for quality wins and losses and strength of schedule and are in the second grouping for stats, and that, again, should be partially filtered through their SOS. LSU isn’t a perfect team by any means, but it shows out better than any other school here.
That leaves Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech. The weakest of these four is Virginia Tech, with only one top tier showing. Also, the Hokies’ statistical showing isn’t in the strongest group and neither is VT’s strength of schedule.
Now we’re down to three. Out of those, I’d lean towards taking Ohio State. The Buckeyes’ SOS is somewhat suspect (although it’s better than Oklahoma’s), but, on the other hand, they only lost one game. OSU is even with Oklahoma in the groupings, but it’s the Sooners that fall short with two losses.
Georgia? It’s a close call. The Dawgs are a top tier team in SOS and quality wins/losses (but so is LSU). And it’s not that their statistical showing is bad (remember, Georgia didn’t show up near the bottom of any statistical categories) – it’s just that it doesn’t show out as strongly as the other schools do. Particularly OSU’s. And that, plus one more loss means Georgia comes up just a little short in my book.
Let me make a few final points here. Even though I give a slight nod to a LSU-OSU matchup as being the most justified, I really wouldn’t have a problem with any pairing from the final group of five I listed (LSU, OSU, Georgia, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech), with one exception. It would be wrong to let Virginia Tech play for the MNC while keeping LSU out, based on the above analysis and LSU’s dominance of VT earlier in the season.
If Georgia doesn’t get to play in the finals, I’ll be disappointed, but I won’t feel cheated. Just like every other school here, Georgia had the chance to take care of business and didn’t. I thought at the time, and still do now, that Stafford missing Moreno on that wheel route in the South Carolina game would come back to haunt this team. If Georgia had beaten the Gamecocks, we wouldn’t be going through this exercise right now…
In trying to analyze the field of candidates for the BCS title game, I’ve taken a look at strength of schedule and at good wins and bad losses. It’s time to check out the last refuge of the geek: statistics!
Seriously, SOS and wins and losses don’t paint a complete picture of the quality of a team. What they do is help give those of us that don’t get to follow some teams as closely as others an indication of their merits. In other words, if the best team in the country plays a poor schedule, in and of itself, that doesn’t make it a lesser football team qualitatively; it may be that it’s harder to measure that team’s worth.
It would stand to reason that a very good team playing less than a top shelf schedule should be able to dominate its competition in a way that perhaps an equally good team playing a tougher slate could not. And that should be reflected in the team stats.
So, let’s take a look at how the top 10 BCS schools look in the NCAA stats. We’ll grade each on how many categories (the NCAA tracks a total of 17) each school appears in the top 12 and bottom 12 of them (twelve representing 10% of the 119 D-1 universe). As general propositions, (1) good teams should appear more at the top; and (2) good teams playing weaker schedules shouldn’t be poor statistical performers.
Here’s what you get through yesterday’s games:
So what can we determine from this? Georgia is the only team in the bunch not to appear in the top 10% of any statistical category monitored by the NCAA, although the Dawgs manage to offset that somewhat by not appearing in the bottom twelve schools of any stat categories, either. The best performers on the list are West Virginia, Kansas, Florida, Oklahoma and Ohio State.
The Buckeyes, by the way, are the only team on the list that finished first in the country in more than one statistical category.
OK, I looked at strength of schedule as one component in evaluating who is – or maybe more accurately, who isn’t – worthy of a BCS title game berth this season.
Now I’ll turn to evaluation of the top 10 schools’ schedules in terms of the wins and losses. More specifically, I will tally each team’s good wins (defined as victories over bowl bound schools) against each school’s bad losses (defined as losses to schools that aren’t going to a bowl game, at least based on the latest projections). Then we’ll see if that adds anything to the analysis.
It’s pretty easy to weed out the bad resumes here. Kansas and Southern Cal have the weakest ledgers of the group. USC also has by far the worst loss on the board. Missouri, Florida and West Virginia are in the next group, the “meh” programs. The rest of the pack? Again, no other school has a showing here that by itself should disqualify them from appearing in a BCS title game this year.
One strange thing worth noting – you’d think with no unbeaten schools on this list, there would be several wins over BCS bound teams. In fact, there are only two: Missouri over Kansas and LSU over Virginia Tech (probably the most impressive win of the 2007 season).
Rigor mortis had barely begun to set in on West Virginia’s national championship aspirations when ol’ Herbie and Brent began sizing up the hole to bury Georgia’s in last night (now there’s an extended metaphor for you).
The gist of it all for Herbstreit – as opposed to Musberger’s semi-facetious endorsement of Hawaii in the title game – is that Georgia should be pushed aside because the Dawgs didn’t win their conference.
There’s one little problem with that: there is no rule prohibiting a team that’s not a conference champ from playing in the BCS title game. As Mike Slive told Tony Barnhart:
Q. Are you comfortable with the possibility that a team that did not win its conference championship, like Georgia, could play for the BCS title?
A. It’s tempting to limit the BCS championship game to only conference winners. But when you have a system like the BCS that is based on polls, you understand that people will make subjective decisions about teams. What you can’t do is put an asterisk by someone in the BCS standings. A team like Georgia or Ohio State could benefit from not playing, but that is the system that we’ve all agreed on. It keeps the door open for a team that struggled early but finished strong. It gives the voters a chance to evaluate their entire body of work.
This isn’t to argue that there is something unjust if indeed LSU winds up second in the BCS rankings. Personally, I think you can make strong cases for both Georgia and LSU to be there. But to argue that the voters should decide based on a rule that doesn’t exist seems like a strange rationalization at best. And it’s one I doubt we’d ever hear to prevent Notre Dame from playing in the title game.
Herbstreit the pundit hasn’t exactly been on a roll lately, either. Maybe this is an olive branch he’s extending to Les Miles in the wake of the Michigan job debacle that Herbie set in motion earlier. Or maybe he’s just jonesing so badly for a USC-Georgia (“two of the hottest teams in the country!”) meeting in the Rose Bowl that he needs an impediment to Georgia playing for the MNC.
In any event, this is supposed to be about putting the two best teams in the title game. If the voters are considering any other issues besides that, shame on them.
UPDATE: Here’s what Herbstreit had to say about voting for the BCS title game participants last year. I know, that was then, this is now.