Thursday, May 22

It's Like a Time Portal to January 2008

If you read either this blog or ESPN's website - and, if you're reading this post, chances are that you do - then you know ESPN has finally gotten around to doing what I did in January. This of course lead to a fantastically hilarious phone conversation with my co-blogger, Chris.

ESPN's "BCS at 10" ranks The 10 BCS Champions
1. 2001 Miami
2. 2004 USC
3. 1999 Florida State
4. 2005 Texas
5. 2000 Oklahoma
6. 1998 Tennessee
7. 2003 LSU
8. 2006 Florida
9. 2002 Ohio State
10. 2007 LSU

I disagree with most of these by 1 or 2 spots, which for something so subjective really doesn't mean a whole lot... although no writer should be allowed to disagree with #1 or #10... and that's also not the point of this. They rank the Top Ten BCS Bowl games, eight of which earned spots in my top 9. (I'm not sure how the 2006 Orange Bowl or the 2004 Sugar Bowl qualify as classic games... my guess is that they needed two more to make ten, and for whatever reason don't have the same view of the meaningfulness of the 2000 Fiesta Bowl. Then again, I'd take the 2008 BCS Championship game over those as well.)

The Top Ten Performances was interesting. I'll just say, props to them for remembering Rohan Davey (I didn't), but be ashamed of yourselves for mentioning anything from the 2001 Orange Bowl as outstanding. That they ranked the top ten coaches is just hilarious. All that really needs to be said about that is the fact that the #1 guy on their list was outcoached by Mack Brown in the biggest game of the BCS era probably means such a list shouldn't exist. And how the hell is Stoops #3 with his current 4 game BCS losing streak? In fairness, it is the 10 most defining coaches, not the 10 best... and watching a Bob Stoops team choke in January has become definitive of the BCS. Around #7 or 8, you also realize that there aren't actually 10 coaches who have defined the BCS, so if they are going to violate rule #1 by making the list in the first place, it definitely should have been kept to a Top 5. It's like making a list of the Top 5 teams in the NBA West versus making a list of the Top 10 teams in the NBA West. You don't want the Portland Trailblazers making your list on account of being in the conference and winning exactly half of their games.

Then there's the top 10 calls of the BCS. Not surprisingly, two of the top 3 are by Boise State. Somewhere in the top 10, though, has to be Vince Young's never-publicized decision to ignore every call Mack Brown made in the 2006 Rose Bowl, instead audibling to himself. Good call, Vince.

The Top Ten BCS Snubs was interesting. Interesting because, some of them I agree with the decision (04 Texas over Cal), others I think have weak arguments against (01 Nebraska wasn't conference champion? By the way the Pac 10 awards titles, Texas Nebraska and Colorado all would have shared the Big 12... or conversely, under the Big 12 system, Stanford might have upset Oregon for the "Pac 10 Championship." The argument that gets skipped over - the argument that's actually good - is that Oregon was ranked #2, which of course is better than #4.), and most of them are judged in hindsight (if 04 USC destroys Auburn, we're sitting here arguing that Oklahoma clearly belonged in that title game, unknowningly dreaming of a game that in reality ended in a 55-19 massacre). It's when you get down to #6 (06 Florida over Michigan's rematch bid) that you realize they're not necessarily saying the decisions were wrong. That's a good point - it's very possible that the system itself simply guarantees that somebody will be unfairly screwed even if everyone else is equally deserving.

Let's take a look at these:

1. 2003 USC: left out of the championship in favor of LSU and Oklahoma.
My stance until recently was that only LSU and OU possessed the things needed to win a title: a top ten scoring defense and a junior or senior starting quarterback. Those teams had both, USC had neither. What's missing, though, is that a top ten statistical defense isn't a top ten defense. (like how LSU's defense was probably in the 7-10 range last season, but thanks to overtime games they were #14 or something - I forget the exact number) The Sooner defense without DC Mike Stoops just didn't have the same swagger that it possessed beforehand. So yeah, it should have been LSU vs USC. And LSU would have won.
Wrongness of decision: 5 - each team had the same record, USC had the weakest schedule.
Screwedness of the team: 9 - they were ranked #1, after all, so clearly in the eyes of the voters they'd done more than enough to prove themselves.

2. 2004 Auburn: left out of the championship in favor of USC and Oklahoma.
Well I think if you go unbeaten in the SEC they should just pencil your name into the BCS title game - at least with the current strength of that conference. But without the benefit of hindsight, which of the other two do you leave out? This season is the slam-dunk argument for a playoff - you CANNOT fairly deny an unbeaten BCS conference champion the opportunity to play for the national title. Again it doesn't matter in this specific case - USC beats Auburn it's just a closer game.
Wrongness of decision: 6 - Again, the teams had identical records. Auburn did play in the toughest conference, though they also faced the weakest nonconference schedule. (which was partially not their fault, but still two of those games were by choice and that's what happens when you bank your nonconference schedule on one game)
Screwedness of the team: 10 - it doesn't get much worse than winning all of your games and being left out.

3. 2001 Oregon: left out of the championship in favor of Nebraska.
Oregon won a lot of close games while Nebraska won big. Nebraska also lost big while Oregon lost a close one. Somewhere in the mix, Colorado had an argument that started with "Ignoring the fact that we lost more games than those other teams..." and ended with nobody listening. In the end, it's more a question of which team would have lost to Miami by the fewest points anyway.
Wrongness of decision: 6 - I'd almost rather watch Nebraska vs Oregon in the Fiesta and let Miami beat on Colorado. (better yet, have that be round 1 of the Plus One) I don't like the conference champions argument as a) the conferences don't decide champions the same way and b) the Big 12's way is retarded, but there's a legitimate argument that Nebraska lost their last game while Oregon's loss was in mid October. On the other hand, at the time of the BCS selections, nobody on Oregon's schedule had won more than 9 games, and their nonconference schedule was Utah, Utah State, and a Wisconsin team who finished 5-7. Nebraska defeated a Sooners team with 10 wins and lost to a Colorado team with 10 wins, though their nonconference schedule pathetic. For what it's worth, this would have looked like the wrong call either way.
Screwedness of the team: 5 - They had a loss and were ranked #2 by the voters with a weak SOS. It's really not that tragic compared to the first two.

4. 2000 Miami: left out of the championship in favor of Florida State.
Five teams finished this season with just one loss, and all but Oregon State had a schedule in the top 15. There were also four head-to-head games played in the group: Washington beating Miami and Oregon State, Miami beating Florida State and Virginia Tech. Washington's lone loss came on the road to Oregon, who finished the regular season 9-2. Apparently, back when SOS was a part of the formula, good teams tried to schedule each other. Interesting, that. In my opinion, Miami and Washington were #1 and #2.
Wrongness of decision: 9 - Are you kidding me? Miami beat Florida State and was ranked higher. They also hadn't lost since the second week of the season. Washington would have been a stronger choice than FSU, honestly. (Washington may have had the strongest argument.)
Screwedness of the team: 8 - Miami lost a nonconference game on the opposite side of the country by 5 points in the second week of the season. They beat the team who was chosen over them and they were on a 9-game winning streak. The schedule included three teams with double-digit wins two of whom's only loss was to the U. All but 3 teams on their schedule had winning records, and their combined November score was 154-34, all against winning opposition.

5. 2004 Cal: left out of the BCS in favor of Texas
The Cal Golden Bears won their first three games by a 49-12 average to set up a showdown with defending AP champion USC. The game did not disappoint, as Cal drove the field in the final minute but saw a potential winning TD slip through the hands of one of their best WRs. They rebounded by stomping UCLA, beating the state of Arizona by a combined 65-0, and really only being challenged in two games - Oregon and Southern Miss. Unfortunately, USM was their last game and their statement game, and apparently the win alone wasn't enough of a statement. Texas won their final game convincingly enough against A&M, although people apparently forgot the 4th down heroics needed to slip by a weak Kansas team the week before. The image of 50-point outbursts by an offense lead by Vince Young, and some late season campaigning by Mack Brown, provided Texas with a slim edge in the final tally. Perhaps more tragically, an 8-3 Pittsburgh squad boasting of two losses to .500 and below teams was given an automatic berth over Cal, Texas, and Utah.
Wrongness of decision: 4 - They made arguably the right choice for the wrong reasons (politics). Well, the voters actually chose Cal, but not by enough to offset the computers all choosing Texas with Utah between the two.
Screwedness of the team: 9 - When is losing to the eventual BCS champion in a close game enough to disqualify you from an at-large? Clearly, in a freak year when a midmajor runs the table while playing a decent schedule and another BCS team loses only one game to an unbeaten. Forget the decision - most seasons, a team of this caliber wouldn't even have to teeter on the edge of selection. I'd feel a little sorry for whichever of these three teams was left out.

6. 2006 Michigan: left out of the championship in favor of Florida
On November 18, 2006, Ohio State and Michigan faced off in the greatest college football game ever played. It was so breathtakingly perfect, many Big Ten fans wanted to see it again 50 days later. Ultimately, CBS and the BCS denied America this opportunity.
Wrongness of decision: 1 - A rematch for consecutive games against Ohio State would have been ridiculous and unfair not only to the Gators who hadn't lost since October, but also to the Buckeyes who would have faced the prospect of having their victory over the Wolverines practically reduced to the status of a scrimmage. The only reason this isn't a 0 is because some voters changed their minds specifically to avoid the rematch despite thinking that Michigan was the legitimate #2 team, which isn't really in the spirit of the polls system.
Screwedness of the team: 0 - They wanted to play Ohio State for the title. They did play Ohio State for the title berth. Gotta win with the chance you get.

7. 2007 Georgia/USC/Oklahoma/etc: left out of the championship in favor of LSU
Of the roughly nine teams with arguments that they should face Ohio State in the BCS title game, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and West Virginia all lost in November. Hawaii's schedule was outside the top 100 (again, not joking about that) and Kansas's sucked too. LSU had annihilated Virginia Tech. That leaves Georgia, USC, and LSU. Eh, you call it. Probably any one of them would have beaten Ohio State, and I'd say that LSU beats USC who beats Georgia who beats LSU, all based on style of play and positional matchups.
Wrongness of decision: 3 - This season was really just baffling. I'm not sure if there was a right decision to be made here, but LSU seemed like the best choice of a bunch of questionable possibilities. And hey, they won the game.
Screwedness of the team: 0 - Come on, you all lost two games get over it. Well, except Kansas and Hawaii, but look at who they scheduled. For shame.

8. 2007 Missouri: left out of the BCS in favor of Kansas
The word nemesis exists for examples like this one. Missouri beat a number of quality teams but their lone regular season blemish was losing a 10-point decision to Oklahoma on the road. Joy of joys when they had to face that same team who had their number for the conference title. OU won again to deny Missouri the conference crown. Ultimately, the voters recognized that while Missouri had two losses, they had only lost to one team. This point was lost on the Orange Bowl selection committee.
Wrongness of decision: 10 - When all was said and done, five teams ranked below Missouri went to the BCS. Missouri had actually beaten two of those teams, and one also finished with a worse record (Illinois). Really, it's the Illinois decision that was most baffling. Did USC's pummeling of a helpless opponent really add to the legacy of the Pac 10-Big Ten rivalry? For shame, Rose Bowl committee.
Screwedness of the team: 8 - Missouri did have not one but two chances to beat Oklahoma. Bad selection decisions aside, if they were truly an elite team they would have at least split the Sooner series. Also, they probably should have beaten Kansas by 20+ points - great teams don't stop playing with 10 minutes to go unless it's truly out of reach.

9. 1998 Kansas State: left out of the BCS in favor of Ohio State and Florida
For most of the season, Kansas State was on the outside track of the national championship hunt. They cruised to an 11-0 record, outscoring opponents by an average of 49-11 although facing a schedule that ranked in the middle of the NCAA's top division. In the Big 12 Championship, KSU lost a close battle to then 11-2 Texas A&M, 36-33. This was their lone blemish.
Wrongness of decision: 9 - There is no reason other than "we don't want a team from a small state" and that's just sad. Did anybody watch these guys? That offense put up a lot of points, even if they do play in the less-famous Manhattan.
Screwedness of the team: 10 - KSU is the highest-ranked team ever left out of the BCS at #3. You'd typically think that the highest-ranked team not in the title game would at least play in some other BCS bowl.

As a bonus, Kansas State finished the following season 10-1 with a loss to 11-1 conference champion Nebraska. Maybe to prove a point, they followed up that loss with a 66-0 win over Missouri to finish the season. They were ranked #6 in the BCS standings, but the at large bids went to #5 Tennessee and #8 Michigan - both of whom had two losses. That's cold.

10. 1998 Tulane
1999 Marshall
2004 Boise State
2004 Utah
2006 Boise State
2007 Hawaii

Of these, 04 Utah and 06 Boise were the only teams who faced a decent enough schedule to warrant inclusion in the BCS. Indeed, 07 Hawaii was a sham as 20 teams could have gone 12-0 against those opponents. But for Utah or Boise to have been included in the championship game while only facing a handful of decent teams (to say nothing of good teams) all season would have also been ridiculous.
Although, 04 Boise deserved it more than 04 Pitt, for sure ;-)

Be sure to keep checking for more hilarity and this site for more write-ups about the hilarity.