Tuesday, November 16, 2010

An Unbiased Summary of the BCS

It's near the end of the college football regular season, and it's now the time to hear constant complaints about the BCS. People will talk about how it isn't fair to non-AQ schools, and how 1 loss teams from BCS schools are better than teams like Boise State or TCU. Few people talk about the positives of the BCS (here's looking at you Tim Cowlishaw) and why it's actually not that horrible. This is meant to bring all of those arguments together. Why is this being done? To tell everyone that the BCS is going to be stuck with us for awhile, and that we can't do a thing about it. This isn't your typical BCS rant.

One of the overwhelming positives of this system is that it makes every game in the regular season matter. This is a common point, but here's another way to look at it. Would you care more about a college basketball game at midnight between Ohio State and Florida, or a college football game between Boise State and Virginia Tech in the way beginning of each season? Probably the latter. The BCS forces every game to be interesting, and it forces the "BCS Busters" to schedule tough games in order to look better in front of the American public, and coaches of college football. The ratings for Boise/ Virginia Tech were much higher than Ohio State/ Florida, each in the beginning of their seasons. Every game in the college football regular season matters, and carries much more weight than a game between two top 10 teams in college basketball in November.

Another way to think of this is how much better this system is at getting a National Title game than say, the Bowl Alliance or Bowl Coalition. In the 3 Alliance Bowl national title games, the average margin of victory for the winners was about 32 points a game. Yikes. And, Bowl Alliance didn't include the "Grandaddy of 'em All", the Rose Bowl. Only 1 at-large team was able to qualify for this system, whereas now up to 4 can. And, the possibility of split National Titles was rampant with the Rose Bowl not being included in the Bowl Alliance. The Coaches Poll and AP Poll had 2 different #1 teams after 1997 because of this system. Now look at the BCS. Boise State, Utah, and TCU would have had no shot at a national title under the 2 bowl systems of the '90's. Even though they have a small shot now, it's still a shot. The BCS is light years away from where the previous systems were, and few people look at that as a major positive.

Finally, for the pro side, even though the BCS Buster likely can't compete for a national title, the way that the national title contenders and participants in the BCS is no different from how college basketball teams are picked to play in the field of 68. The same discussions are had about quality of wins, bad losses, records against better teams, etc, just with different people, and a different sport. The same thing holds true if a lock for the BCS loses say, in a conference title, and 1 at-large bid goes away. Just like in the build-up to the NCAA tournament.

Now, that last argument probably sparked many of you to say, "Well, in College Basketball there is a tournament to play out, and in the BCS, it's pre-selected games." This brings up the negatives of the BCS, and though there are many, only a select few jump out.

The first one of those is the possibility of a team with 7 or 8 wins playing a much better team in a BCS bowl game. This issue is very prominent when talking about the Big East champ, which is locked into a BCS bowl game, and therefore takes away an at-large bid from a much better team. For example, in 2004, the Big East champs, the Pitt Panthers who were 8-3, took a spot away from either Iowa, LSU, Boise State or Louisville (when they were in C-USA). Boise was 11-0 that year, but because of the bad Big East champ, Boise lost that spot. This year, the same problem may come up with the Big East champ taking away an at-large bid from a potentially undefeated team. The Big East leader right now is Pitt, and they are unranked in the BCS. According to CBS Sports, their projected Big East winner, USF (6-3 overall), takes a spot away from Oklahoma State or LSU, and they could come in with one loss. This problem isn't readily fixable, but here's a suggestion. How about having all of the BCS teams have a win requirement, or BCS average requirement. Even though that may undermine conference titles, it means that the best 10 teams in the country will play for the BCS bowls, not some chump change champ to get sacrificed to Nebraska or Stanford. The Big East is an example, but the ACC of late has had this issue too.

And onto the major issue with this system is of course, no playoff. The playoff is instituted in every other NCAA sanctioned sport in every division, except here. It's common place now to know why the BCS needs a playoff, or plus 1 system in order to let all the teams have a chance to compete for a National Title. If college basketball can have 68 teams possibly win a title, why can't 8 or 16 teams compete for a national title in football. 8 teams compete for D-2 and D-3 national titles, so why can't D-1 teams? Give Boise State a chance to beat the big boys, or TCU, or a 1 loss Stanford or Wisconsin. The selection process of these 8 or 16 teams would be problematic, but at least it would give every team a shot to win.

There you have one of the only unbiased summaries of the BCS ever. Sure it has its positives and negatives, but, the fans of the college world are stuck with it, at least until 2014-2015. Congress can't change it, so what makes us think that the college presidents would change it? Money still drives this world, and it sure as heck drives the BCS. If the world hasn't ended by the time that changes can happen, something will likely change, but until then, the college football world will be left to watch every Saturday to see teams chances at a crystal trophy smashed because of 1 loss. As much as change is needed, nothing can be done right now. OK, a new AQ conference could be added at the end of next season, but that still won't change the entire system, it will just tweak this one. The drama that surrounds the BCS, on and off the gridiron is what makes college football so interesting. A Saturday with no interesting matchups could smash a teams hope. And for the Saturdays where interesting games abound, there is so much drama, and America is sucked in by it. High drama: who doesn't love that in sports? That's what the BCS brings, and we're stuck with it.

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