Sunday, December 2

If You Throw Shit at the Wall and Nobody Sees it, Does it Still Stick?

Last week I said that Oklahoma was the best team in the country, while Missouri was the best one-loss team but might not be in the top 3 overall. I said that Ohio State vs West Virginia must be avoided as the two teams have combined to beat absolutely nobody... therefore, we can't really say that they're legitimately top 2 material.

If all of those turned out true, then you might suspect that I have some answers for the BCS Title Game matchup. Unfortunately I don't, other than the always-correct response of "Ask Phil Steele."

In the past I've always had strong opinions about that coveted #2 spot. I really thought Ohio State should have gotten it in 1998... how you watch them and Florida State and think the Noles were better is beyond belief. I was with the national consensus in thinking that Miami, who beat FSU in 2000, should have gone on to face the Sooners. However the following season, I thought Nebraska was a better choice than Oregon as the defensive disparities (secondaries in particular) were greatly in the Huskers' favor. I felt that LSU and Oklahoma had done much more than USC in 2003, and that Auburn should be rewarded for taking the toughest road in 2004. I thought that an Ohio State-Michigan rematch, in light of Florida's resume of impressive wins, would be an insult to college football and rely on the questionable reasoning that beating Texas and Notre Dame makes the Big Ten head and shoulders above all others.

Which makes it funny that in this season, perhaps destined to be the most controversial yet, I don't have much of an opinion. OK, if we're assuming that Ohio State gets the #1 nod, I'd choose #2 in this order:
1. Oklahoma
2. LSU
3. USC
4. Georgia
5. Missouri
6. Kansas
7. Virginia Tech
8. Hawaii

But really, if USC goes I don't have a complaint. If Missouri goes I'd write it off as the same loss twice, rather than losing to two different teams. If it's Kansas... they also have one loss and did they really accomplish that much less than Ohio State? Georgia may not have won their division, but they killed Florida who LSU had trouble with and they won their final six games. Va Tech proved that their loss to BC was the product of a 4-minute brain fart. (actually, I'll have complaints if VT goes... due to the head to head result with LSU... but right now that doesn't look likely anyways)

I don't have the final BCS rankings, and when those do come out this will of course be irrelevant. So let's just look at each team's pros and cons for BCS NC game selection:

* went into this weekend ranked #4
* won final 6 games
* quality wins over Florida and Auburn
* two losses, of which the South Carolina loss looks pretty bad
* did not even win own division of the SEC

* only unbeaten team in the nation
* do have a good win over Boise State
* even cupcake schedules aren't this easy

* best record in the Big 12
* only loss in a close game to Missouri
* cupcake regular season schedule avoided the three best teams in the South division

* SEC Champion, probably the most number of quality wins on this list
* if there's justice, you can ink them in over VT after that blowout
* two losses to unranked teams in which the defense collapsed

* quality wins over Kansas, Illinois
* though they have two losses, only one team has beaten them
* that said, how do you justify them going over Oklahoma?

Ohio State
* only one loss, and to a ranked opponent Illinois
* no real quality wins, though beating Wisconsin is semi-impressive
* If you take the letter that appears on the helmets of their first 4 opponents, it spells out Y-A-W-N. No joke.
* they were a better team last year, and we remember what happened then

* beat Missouri twice, Texas once
* only loss since September came w/o starting QB
* lost to Colorado?
* 2003 and 2004 count against the program

* loss to Stanford came with a dozen injuries, loss to Oregon was when they were an elite team with Dixon
* win over Arizona State, who should be in the BCS if it were done by rankings alone
* no other quality wins as Cal and Nebraska tanked
* it's freaking Stanford, your backups should still win

Virginia Tech
* avenged loss to BC
* pounded by LSU 48-7

West Virginia
* still haven't even played against a BCS top 20 team
* loss to Pitt are you kidding?
* Big East weakest conference (Big Ten fans rejoice!)

Why Oklahoma?
If the BCS and the voters really believed that Missouri was the #1 team in the country - and not just by default since Ohio State and West Virginia also had just one loss - then Oklahoma has beaten a truly elite opponent two times... the second time in a blowout. Though Texas stumbled in their final game, it's still a really impressive result for the Sooners' third-best victory. The loss to Colorado is inexcusable but it was over two months ago and you expect early struggles from a freshman QB. That said, Bradford leads all starters in QB rating and OU's only loss since September came with him on the sidelines against a team you almost have to beat in a shootout.

The Good News

Every team I listed in my 8 choices has a better resume than West Virginia. It's very likely that we'll end up with a championship game "combined resume" much stronger than we would have gotten had merely Missouri lost without WVU losing as well.

At This Point, Is There Really Any Question...
That we need a playoff? We've got two-loss teams and teams who lost their final game in the NC picture. Ohio State looks to be at the front of the pack, and even they can boast of losing their second-last game, losing to the only decent opponent they faced, and essentially backing into the title game. And that's the best resume of the bunch. Even just the plus-one would force some team to win two in a row against top 5 competition, which I guess goes a long way in negating the blemishes on each team's resume at this point. The 8-team option seems to be gaining ground, that would feature Ohio State, Georgia, LSU, USC, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech and two more good teams. Sixteen gets you every conference champion (nobody can claim they didn't have a chance) plus Georgia, Missouri, Kansas, Florida, and a few others.

And Dan Wetzel brought up the valid point that the Rose Bowl location is a huge advantage to the Pac 10 team over the Big Ten team. (both in terms of proximity to fan base and in terms of weather conditions, as the plodding midwestern teams were built to win November games in a snowstorm not to air it out on a 60 degree day in December) Of course that was just the example he chose - the Orange Bowl is a similar boon to the Florida schools and playing the Sugar Bowl in SEC heartland is a daunting task for the other conferences. Giving home field advantage throughout the entire tourney - or just up until the final game - would make things more fair for northern teams and increase the meaningfulness of the regular season. Particularly for those who fear that going to a full playoff like the rest of the NCAA does would hurt the meaningfulness of regular season play, the opportunity to play round 1 at home against a weaker opponent is something teams would be fighting for. Besides that, rivalry games are meaningful *every* season, whether there's national championship hopes, a conference title, bowl eligibility, or just plain ol pride on the line. Seriously, was Auburn-Alabama diminished just because LSU had already wrapped up the SEC West? Nope.