J.R. and Henry: The BCS is already a mess
“Blow it up.” That was our initial reaction when the Bowl Championship Series rankings were announced Sunday. The BCS, for all its intended virtues, is nothing more than a money grab for colleges and athletic departments. Only rarely does it achieve its true objective: to put the best two teams in college football in a championship game.
The BCS has become a $100 million enterprise once you factor in payouts, television exposure and recruiting opportunities. Major conferences, along with Notre Dame, love it. And why not? For the six BCS conferences, it’s easy money, and in years when they get two teams in, it’s even better. For this reason alone we’ll never see a true playoff in college football.
And what a shame that is. But this isn’t a column about how or why a playoff system would work. We’ll save that for the last weeks of the season when the BCS formula computes something truly absurd, like a re-match between Ohio State and Michigan in the BCS title game. For now, we’re focused on 10 mild-to-moderate absurdities present in the initial rankings.
No. 1: Auburn. The Auburn Tigers, victims of an Arkansas Razorback beat down at home just two weeks ago, sit in fourth place in the BCS rankings. While they’re several BCS points behind Michigan, if the Tigers continue to win, it’s likely that they’ll lock up one of the coveted “guaranteed” spots afforded to BCS conference teams who finish in the top 6 of the BCS rankings. We have to give credit to the Tigers. They beat Florida on Saturday and LSU a few weeks ago. But they were trounced by the Razorbacks 27-10 on their home field. The game wasn’t even close. Yet, the Tigers were hardly penalized by the pollsters or the computers. It’s like the loss to Arkansas never happened. Totally forgotten on the national scene.
No. 2: California. What is it with the Pac-10? The California Golden Bears, victims of a straight whipping by the Tennessee Volunteers during the first week of the season, sit comfortably at 10th in the BCS rankings, one spot ahead of the Volunteers. Cal gets a lot more love from the computers than the Volunteers and we’re not sure why. It’s no secret that the SEC is the toughest conference in America and the Vols have played Cal, Florida and Georgia, with its only loss a one-point heartbreaker to BCS No. 6 Florida. The Bears have played Oregon. The human polls put the Vols three spots ahead of Cal, but the BCS doesn’t. Did we mention that Tennessee beat Cal?
No. 3: Boise State. Give us a break with this Boise State nonsense. Thankfully, they’re 15th in the BCS ranking, which makes it almost statistically impossible for the Broncos to play for a national title. But that’s not what bothers us. We’re bothered because the cowards of the BCS gave in to pressure from college football powerhouses Fresno State, TCU, Boise State to allow a non-BCS conference team to be guaranteed a spot in the BCS if they finish in the top 12 of the BCS rankings. Top 12! So all the Broncos have to do is keep winning and thanks to moronic pollsters and stupid computers (the Broncos are rated higher by the gobots than Clemson, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia) Boise State will have a ticket to the Fiesta Bowl. But, hey, who wasn’t impressed with the Broncos' 12-point win over New Mexico State last night? What a joke.
No. 4: The Championship Game penalty. What penalty, you say? Yes, there is one. With the birth of power conferences, so came the birth of the championship game – the extra game that pits the winner of both divisions against each other on neutral turf. The championship game makes perfect sense, but there’s no reward for it in the BCS formula. It’s just another game. However the Big 10 doesn’t use it, instead leaving it to scheduling to work out the best teams in the conference. This year, it might work with Ohio State and Michigan both likely to be undefeated at years end (they play the last game of the season in Columbus). But still, it’s a regular season game. The conference championship games are bonus games and have become a hindrance, not a help, to get to the BCS title game.
No. 5: Undefeated = BCS Championship Game. There’s a good chance that Ohio State and West Virginia will be undefeated at year’s end. Ohio State will have played a tough schedule, beating Texas, Penn St., Iowa and Michigan on the way to an undefeated Big 10 title. That merits a spot in the BCS title game, we think. But can the same be said for West Virginia? The only truly tough test they have this season is Louisville on the road. Yes, they play Rutgers, but come on. It’s Rutgers. Does the fact that the Mountaineers went through the ultra-weak Big East (and an even weaker non-conference) undefeated mean they deserve a shot at the title over say a 1-loss Florida, USC, Notre Dame or even Arkansas?
No. 6: A Michigan/Ohio State re-match. The way the BCS standings sit right now, it’s a three-team race. Auburn, which sits in fourth place, is nearly two tenths of a point behind Michigan. That’s quite a deficit. USC, which still has to play Notre Dame, Cal, Oregon and UCLA, is in second place, but only two one-hundredths of a point ahead of the Wolverines. If the Trojans were to lose, then Michigan would climb into the second spot. Votes would likely consolidate in the computers and human polls and distributed between the Buckeyes and Michigan setting up a clear 1-2 showdown in Columbus on Nov. 18. If it’s close, perhaps a team wins on a fluke play or a poor call by the refs, is it possible that the polls and computers keep the rankings the same? The ways these numbers look now, it’s entirely possible, and even probable.
No. 7: The human factor. At some point, if the Razorbacks keep winning, the humans who vote in the polls (and perhaps even the folks behind the gobot formulas) are going to have to correct the discrepancy between Auburn and Arkansas, right? After all, the Hogs won that game straight up at Auburn. Are you telling us that if Arkansas and Auburn both win out, Auburn deserves to be ranked ahead of the undefeated SEC champions? Again, the national writers and uninterested coaches who vote have basically forgotten all about Auburn’s loss to the Hogs in the wake of the Tigers’ win over Florida.
No. 8: 1 loss teams. There’s a chance that the winner of the Michigan/Ohio State game is the only undefeated major conference team. As many as ten major conference teams could have 1 loss. What a mess.
No. 9: SEC. The SEC is very good this year. With Auburn’s victory over Florida, no team will make it out of the season with a perfect record. We don’t much care for Tommy Tuberville, but we agree that it’s almost impossible for the SEC to produce an undefeated team, which is why college football needs a playoff. See No. 5.
No. 10: The Arkansas Razorbacks. We are as proud as we can be that the Razorbacks are in the initial BCS rankings. There’s a mathematical possibility, as slim as it may be, that the Hogs could work their up to the #2 spot. Still, we think the Hogs deserved to be higher and because of a lack of respect from the pollsters, the Razorbacks sit just two spots ahead of Boise State. That’s unfortunate but expected when a team hasn’t been ranked at the end of a season since 1999.
Speaking of the Hogs, kudos for thumping Southeast Missouri State 63-7 last Saturday. The Hogs ran, passed, kicked and caught their way to an easy victory over a very poor opponent. There’s not much else to say about that.
J.R. and Henry blog their sports column on Little Rock every Monday and Thursday.