Wednesday, July 18

And One? Rumor of the BCS adding an extra game.

Earlier this week, the NY Post reported that the BCS would be adopting the oft-discussed "+1" format starting in 2011. There's three likely ways this could be implemented:
1) Keep everything exactly the way it is now. Then have the new #1 and #2 teams play an extra game as the true championship.
2) Change the BCS structure so that the #1 and #4 teams play in one bowl and the #2 and #3 teams play in another. Winners advance to the championship... ie, a 4-team playoff inserted into the BCS structure.
3) Remove all seed matchups in the first round of the BCS - ie, all teams qaulifying for the BCS play according to conference tie-ins and whatnot. When that's all over, #1 plays #2.

I think it's fairly obvious that option #2 gives us the closest thing to what we want, #1 would be just about as good, and #3 has the potential to improve the system but by the least amount.

Nonetheless, what are we likely looking at if each of these systems were implemented?

1) The season ended with Tennessee #1 and Ohio State #2. Ohio State jumped from #4 to #2 by defeating Texas A&M as previous #2 Florida State lost to Tennessee, previous #3 Kansas State was upset by Purdue, and previous #5 UCLA lost to Wisconsin. So Ohio State would play against Tennessee for the national title. My pick: Ohio State
Anyone left out?
Wisconsin would certainly feel slighted, as they finished 11-1 with a Rose Bowl victory over UCLA, the nation's #1 defense, and probably the nation's top RB. Arizona would also feel left out with an impressive 12-1 record, albeit against a rather weak schedule. The BCS would have gotten lucky that Kansas State lost (otherwise, K-State and Ohio State would both have legit arguments to be the #2 team), but by forcing most would-be contenders to face a top 10 opponent before the 1vs2 game, the system is designed to give itself a good chance at breaks like that.

2) The seedings are #1 Tennessee vs #4 Ohio State, #2 Florida State vs #3 Kansas State. My picks: upset city. Ohio State beats Tennessee, Kansas State beats Florida State, and Ohio State defeats Kansas State.

Anyone left out?
Obviously, Arizona, UCLA, and Wisconsin would feel left out going into the playoff, and UA and UW would still feel that way after the playoff. I feel like Arizona has less of an argument, as with their weak schedule they needed to defeat UCLA to prove themselves amongst the elite contenders. UCLA would have had more of an argument going in, as they did defeat Arizona and played two 9-win teams, but arguments can also be made against such a terrible defensive team, and at the end of the bowls they couldn't complain as they were dealt a second loss. Wisconsin would have a legitimate gripe. I'll note that this is more the fault of the Big Ten than the "BCS +1 Playoff," since if Wisconsin and Ohio State had played each other, the winner would have been seeded #4 if not higher.

3) As always for this system, it would come down to the first round BCS matchups. I think we're looking at a strong possibility of Tennessee being unbeaten, along with Ohio State and a couple other teams having one loss. Wisconsin and UCLA still would have faced in the Rose Bowl, as Big Ten and Pac 10 conference champions. Obviously, it all comes down to what FSU does in their bowl game.

Anybody left out?
In all likelihood, we'd have 2 to 4 teams with 1 loss feeling very slighted.

1) The season ended with Florida State #1 and Nerbaska #2, as Kansas State was the only other major 1-loss team but had to settle for the Holiday Bowl thanks to a conference loss to Nebraska. My pick: Florida State.

Anyone left out?
Not since Kansas State lost to Nebraska. They had their chance.

2) The seedings would be #1 Florida State vs #4 Alabama and #2 Virginia Tech vs #3 Nebraska. My picks: FSU over Bama easily, but the other game is a real treat. I give Vick's Hokies a slight edge in this game, and we still get the entertaining yet decisive FSU vs VT matchup.

Anyone left out?
Again since KSU had lost to Nebraska, I don't think there were any teams with legitimate gripes.

3) It really comes down to the seedings. In all likeliness, FSU wins their bowl, and at least one of Nebraska and VT win (probably both if they don't play each other). If it's VT, then we have two unbeatens and thus a clear choice. If it's Nebraska over VT, then the Huskers would have earned their way into the 1vs2 game. But I think there's a good chance that FSU and VT would actually play each other as an ACC-Big East showdown, and the winner (FSU as it happened) would play against Nebraska and likely win.

1) The season ended with Oklahoma #1 and Miami #2. My pick: Miami

Anyone left out?
Washington finished with just one loss and had a win over Miami. Oregon State also had just one loss, also to Washington. Therefore, Washington would have the most legitimate complaints. Virginia Tech also suffered just one loss, but didn't have any impressive victories.

2) The seedings would be #1 Oklahoma vs #4 Washington and #2 Florida State vs #3 Miami. My picks: Oklahoma over Washington, Miami over FSU. Then Miami over Oklahoma.

Anyone left out?
Oregon State would probably feel left out, but with a loss to Washington they could only blame themselves. Virginia Tech also suffered just one loss, but didn't have any impressive victories.

3) Assuming an ACC-Big East Orange Bowl, the Miami-FSU rematch would give a decisive #2 seed. In all likeliness, we're looking at Oklahoma #1, Miami #2, Washington #3, and Virginia Tech and Oregon State at #4 and #5. My pick: Miami

Anyone left out?
As with option 1, Washington is the most slighted team.

1) The season ended with Miami #1 and Oregon #2. My pick: Miami

Anyone left out?
With three losses, Colorado gets to go sit in the corner. Illinois and Maryland lost their bowl games too, so Oregon was the clear choice for #2.

2) The seedings would be #1 Miami vs #4 Oregon, and a rematch with #2 Nebraska vs #3 Colorado. My picks: Miami crushes Oregon and Nebraska defeats a cooled-down Colorado. We still get the epic beating that was Miami vs Nebraska.

Anyone left out?
Illinois and Maryland would feel slighted to have been left out in favor of a Colorado team with more losses than them. Unfortunately for both squads, the Big Ten and ACC didn't have strong seasons that year.

3) It comes down to the seedings, and I don't think they help. Oregon goes to the Rose Bowl and plays Illinois, presumably a Duck victory. Miami likely plays and crushes Maryland. Nebraska wouldn't be matched up with Colorado, and I don't think any team not listed so far would have been able to beat them. So we still end up with Miami #1, Nebraska #2, and Oregon #3. Miami beats Nebraska.

Anyone left out?
Oregon at 11-1. Illinois and Maryland would have both lost big-time. Although if Illinois pulled off the upset of Oregon, then it would just be a different team that got left out.

1) The season ended with Ohio State #1 and Miami #2. Now ain't that funny. We're probably looking at a Miami-OSU rematch one week later, unless there's a rule against it. And guess what? My pick is Miami. Freaking 3-peat, unbelievable. (if there is a no BCS rematch rule, then Ohio State plays either Georgia or USC, probably Georgia who had one fewer loss. In either case, Ohio State would be my pick to win)

Anyone left out?
If it's OSU-Miami II, then Georgia has to be feeling a little slighted.

2) The seedings would be #1 Miami vs #4 USC and #2 Ohio State vs #3 Georgia. My picks: Miami over USC, Ohio State over Georgia. I'd take Miami over OSU, but we know that it didn't turn out that way. (so for the final comparison purposes, I take OSU)

Anyone left out?
Iowa might be feeling left out, with only one loss now that they don't face USC in the Rose Bowl. Again it's more of a Big Ten problem than a BCS problem. Iowa should have faced Ohio State to crown a definitive conference champion.

3) Unfortunately, Washington State was the Pac 10 champion rather than USC, and so the Rose Bowl would have featured Ohio State vs Washington State. Miami would face and annihilate a lowly FSU in the Orange Bowl. If we're lucky, Georgia would have faced Iowa, or even USC, to put them clearly at #3 or #2 should Miami or OSU be upset. In all likeliness, Miami and Ohio State both win their bowls, and we have exactly two unbeatens. Again I'd take Miami over OSU, but we know that it didn't turn out that way. (pick: OSU)

Anyone left out?
With exactly two unbeatens, nope.

1) Ah yes, that year. LSU is #1 in the BCS after defeating Oklahoma, and USC is #1 in the polls (#2 BCS) after defeating Michigan. In the +1 game, LSU squares off against USC. My pick: LSU via Keys to a Championship

Anyone left out?
Everyone else had two or more losses. Nope. Oh wait, there was 13-1 Miami University and future super bowl champion Ben Roethlisberger!

The seedings would have been #1 Oklahoma vs #4 Michigan and #2 LSU vs #3 USC. Oklahoma shuts down Michigan, and I'm going with LSU's defense and experience in our next matchup. We still get LSU facing OU in the +1 game, edge LSU.

Anyone left out?
Oh there might have been some who felt that way, but they all lost 2 games which in my opinion eliminates you from championship discussion.

We know we'd get USC vs Michigan in the Rose Bowl, game USC. So it comes down the the question, who do LSU and Oklahoma play and how impressive are their victories? If we were lucky, LSU would have wound up facing OU to set up a clear LSU vs USC matchup. If we were unlucky, all three would wind up winning their bowls and probably either USC or LSU is on the outside looking in. It all depends on how the polls and SOS change after the bowls.

Anyone left out?
Yeah, somebody.

1) Ah yes, that year. USC is #1 in the BCS after defeating Oklahoma, and Auburn is #2. USC faces Auburn and that game probably goes to USC. The structure of the pseudo-playoff would have helped Auburn though, as there's only a week to prepare which de-emphasized what was probably USC's greatest advantage, gameplanning. It's a close call but USC is the more likely of the two to win.

Anyone left out?
Damn yes. Utah is unbeaten.

2) The seedings would be #1 USC vs #4 Texas and #2 Oklahoma vs #3 Auburn. Barring VY finding his 2005 form a few months early, USC advances. With a superior defense, QB, and RB duo, Auburn wins but it's low-scoring. Then USC faces Auburn, and I've given the edge to USC.

Anyone left out?
Damn yes. Utah is unbeaten. This season is actually a good argument for having the ability to change who's selected. #4 Texas has lost to #2 OU, #5 Cal has lost to #1 USC, and #6 Utah is unbeaten. A committee should have been able to substitute Utah in at #4.

USC would face Michigan in the Rose Bowl, for a second straight season under this format. Again, USC is the prohibitive favorite. The question is - will Auburn or Oklahoma be #2 in the final week? Fortunately, I think the BCS might adopt the Cotton Bowl which could in fact pit the Big XII champion against the SEC champion since that is the conference rivalry, and would likely be an Auburn victory. If the SEC champion goes to the Sugar Bowl and the Big XII champion to the Cotton Bowl, then we're in more of a pickle. Strangely, Utah's bowl could determine whether it is Auburn or Oklahoma that faces USC. If Utah faced OU, I would actually give Utah the edge in that game via the Jason White factor. If Utah faced Auburn, an impressive victory by the Tigers could allow them to hop OU in the rankings, although I wouldn't give that odds above 50%. Looking at the championship picture, all three of these teams would probably lose to USC, some more likely than others.

Anyone left out?
At the end of the day, I think either Auburn or Utah - possibly both - are unbeaten and still left out.

1) Texas is #1 in the BCS after defeating USC. USC remains #2, and again we're wondering if there is a rematch. If not, Texas would simply pound replacement Penn State into the ground. If there is a rematch, we're looking at another epic game - with these offenses, there's no reason not to. I'd like to say that Texas's defense gives them the edge, but these offenses are great on an historic level. It comes down to whether or not Vince Young can pull off another Jordanesque performance. I didn't see much in the game that did take place to think USC could stop him if Texas needed a score.

Anyone left out?
Since USc was clearly the #2 team in the nation, had played Texas the week earlier and lost, and Penn State just won a horribly ugly game, I don't think either team can complain much if the other is chosen.

2) Seedings are #1 USC vs #4 Ohio State and #2 Texas vs #3 Penn State. I think Ohio State would perform well and generate the preseason hype for 2006, but ultimately USC is too good for them. Penn State was lucky to have just one loss (although, in another sense they were unlucky not to be unbeaten) and they can't match up with Texas. We still get the epic USC vs Texas game in the end.

Anyone left out?
Oregon might feel shafted since Ohio State had more losses, but since Oregon lost to USc and Ohio State lost to both Penn State and Texas, neither one could really complain much.

3) In the Rose Bowl, USC would face Penn State which would be an easy Trojan victory. I don't know who Texas would face... it's possible that they rematch Ohio State, although what I'd like to see is VY set a bowl TD record vs Notre Dame. Whatever happens, it's all but a lock that USC and Texas are still set up to play against each other.

Anyone left out?
Exactly two unbeatens. Nope.

1) 2006 was the first year when the BCS was really controversial going in, and it actually worked itself out. Ironically, USC - which had been involved in the 2003 and 2004 controversial selections - helped the system by defeating Michigan. What we're probably looking at is a rematch between #1 Florida and #2 Ohio State. In fact, in this case I would favor the rematch, because LSU and USC both had two losses while Ohio State only had one. Although what I would really liked to have seen is Florida vs Boise State. Come on, they're the only remaining unbeaten in the nation and they just shocked Oklahoma. Give the Broncos a chance! But in reality, Boise couldn't match up with Florida, and they're probably ranked too low to be chosen anyways. So we have Florida vs Ohio State II. This time Ted Ginn plays the entire game and Ohio State isn't coming into the game thinking they've already won. And yet, I see no reason to believe that they would actually have a good chance to win this game. Florida wins, but Ohio State gives a more respectable showing.

Anyone left out?
Probably Boise State. Man, that sucks.

2) Oh this would be a good one. We've got #1 Ohio State vs #4 LSU and #2 Florida vs #3 Michigan. That first game really could go either way, since LSU and Florida both had similar defensive strengths. In fact, LSU's secondary might have been even better than Florida's. But I'm not sure that LSU's offense was really the kind that would worry Ohio State, so I'm going to hesitantly go with the Buckeyes. Michigan's power running game could give the smaller Florida defense some problems, but likewise Florida's speed and passing game would be tough for Michigan to stop. But in the bowl games that did happen, Chris Leak played like he had something to prove, and Chad Henne still didn't. Edge Florida. Then we get the Florida vs Ohio State game, edge Florida.

Anyone left out?
Boise State. Although before beating Oklahoma, their schedule didn't warrant a playoff invite.

3) Ohio State would face USC in the Rose Bowl. Unlike Florida, USC's style of passing isn't something that would shred the OSU defense, and they wouldn't give USC much more running room than Michigan did. Unlike Michigan, Ohio State wouldn't be afraid to go to the air early against USC, and so I think Ohio State wins by about two scores. If anyone could beat Florida, it would be LSU, but there's no way they pit two SEC teams against each other, and so Florida still winds up playing against Ohio State. The only way I can see that falling apart is if UF got a really weak bowl matchup and Michigan got a strong opponent but still won. (on the other hand, I could see LSU and Florida both able to beat Michigan if they faced off)

In the end, I *think* we'd get OSU vs Florida. But with Wisconsin beating Arkansas and Penn State beating Tennessee... probably OSU over USC as well... Michigan's got decent odds of jumping Florida if both teams won. In fact, this really warrants some deeper analysis:

Teams in the BCS:
ACC: Wake Forest
Big East: Louisville
Big Ten: Ohio State, Michigan (at-large)
Big XII: Oklahoma
Pac 10: USC
SEC: Florida, LSU (at-large)
Other: Boise State, Notre Dame

Orange: Wake Forest vs Louisville
Rose: Ohio State vs USC
Now if the Cotton Bowl is added to the BCS, that's SEC vs Big XII. So Florida vs Oklahoma.
That leaves Boise State, LSU, Michigan, and Notre Dame.
This leaves three remaining options:
a) LSU vs Notre Dame, Michigan vs Boise State
b) LSU vs Michigan, Boise State vs Notre Dame
c) LSU vs Boise State, Michigan vs Notre Dame

If Florida beat Oklahoma and Michigan beat Notre Dame, that does more to help Florida than it does Michigan (since it lowers the value of Michigan's earlier victory over ND), so I think in the case of c) we still get OSU vs Florida if Florida can beat OU.

If Michigan beat LSU, that would mean bowl losses for the top three teams that Florida beat during the regular season and a major boost to Michigan's SOS, so Michigan would be in a good position to hop Florida and face Ohio State. At the same time, if Michigan beat LSU, they'd have earned it. And I don't think they would actually beat LSU anyway.

If Michigan beat Boise State and Florida beat OU... well, that's tricky. Boise State's computer average was 7 while Oklahoma's was 16, so that breaks the computer tie between UF and UM and swings it strongly in the Wolverines' favor. However, Oklahoma was #8 in the polls while Boise was #9 and viewed as a little lucky to be in the top ten, so I don't see anyone changing votes from UF to UM because of that. Nor really do I think many Michigan supporters in the polls would change their stance to pro-Florida. But recall that we've got USC losing to Ohio State. I did a lot of number crunching before the BCS made its final decision in December 2005, and I cam eto the conclusion that there were a number of ballots reading 2) Florida 3) USC 4) Michigan. Michigan gains ground in those ballots. If Michigan beats Boise State, I think they jump Florida... and you've got to think that UM had a good chance of doing that.

So it's looking like the title game depends entirely on the bowl matchups, even if we still have the case where Florida and UM both have one loss. Florida had two likely ways to get in (due to the fact that I think LSU takes Michigan), while Michigan had just one, so I'll say that there's a 2/3 chance that we still see a Florida victory over Ohio State.

Anyone left out?
* Boise State, unless they lose to Michigan or in another BCS bowl (such as vs LSU).
* Florida, if Michigan wins their BCS bowl and jumps them in the rankings.
* Michigan, if they win their BCS bowl but can't jump Florida.
* Louisville at 12-1 with an Orange Bowl victory.

It's funny how much the little details matter. Despite all being called "BCS +1" and all being basically the same idea, I have these systems producing different champions in several seasons. Comparatively:
System 1 and System 2 produce different champions in: 2002*
System 1 and System 3 produce different champions in: 1998, 2002*, 2003**, 2006***
System 2 and System 3 produce different champions in: 1998, 2003**, 2006***

* In 2002, the choice of team for system 1 depends on whether or not the BCS allows a rematch of a game that was played the previous week.
** In 2003, the final #1 and #2 for system 3 strongly depend on bowl selections. I would actually say that a Cotton Bowl featuring Kansas State vs LSU is likely if we continue to bring 10 teams into the BCS, which leaves open a lot of possibilities for a championship assuming USC, LSU and OU all win their games.
*** In 2006, the final #1 and #2 for system 3 strongly depend on bowl selections. I don't know that there would be much rhyme or reason as to which at-large team goes where, so Michigan's final ranking leaves a lot to chance.

From looking at these systems, I think it's very clear that option 2 - a BCS that includes 1vs4 and 2vs3 games followed by winner vs winner - is the best way to go. Option 1 - leave everything the way it is now and have one more game added later - isn't too bad, but I also don't see why they would do things this way since that actually makes it advantageous to be ranked #3 and therefore not have to play in the "king of the hill" game twice in a row. Option 3 - no 1vs2 game until after the first week of the BCS - is a little more likely than option 1 I think, but it also does the least amount to help, and in some cases (2006) it could actually hurt the best team's chances of getting into the title game. It leaves too much to luck of the draw in the first week's BCS matchups.

So here's hoping that, should the BCS indeed implement a "+1" system, they make that in the form of a simple 4-team playoff. Though I think it is clear that the extra game will, more often that not, be an opportunity for the best teams to add to the clarity of the final #1 ranking.