Sunday, November 30

Fixing the System

In yet another controversial BCS, the voters have spoken. Yet again, the consensus #2 of the coaches and media panelists - by the slimmest of margins - won't be playing for a championship. It's come a week earlier than usual, and a victory by Oklahoma in the B12CG will likely move them up to #2 in the polls. But let's get this straight offhand - horrible of a tiebreaker as it is, the Coaches and Harris voters named Texas Big 12 South Champions. The BCS computers overrode that decision.

There will likely be some controversy over this, more so if Texas wins the Fiesta Bowl while Oklahoma gets bombed in the BCS Championship. Given OU's 0-4 BCS record post-Mike Stoops, I don't see how that could possibly happen.

Standardize Conference Championships

A fun fact is that if the Big 12 used the divisional tiebreaker rules of the ACC, CUSA, MAC, or SEC (that is to say, literally any other league broken into two divisions), Texas would be the Big 12 South champion. So not only should Longhorn fans be cursing the BCS computers, they should also be cursing the Big 12 for not following everyone else's format.
But actually, it's not like the other four 12-team conferences have some agreed-upon tiebreaker system. In the SEC, the lowest team is dropped from discussion and the top two are separated via to head-to-head. In the ACC, the opponents' combined record is the relevent tiebreaker. In CUSA and the MAC, their record against cross-divisional top teams.
I'm not sure which of these systems is necessarily best - though you can expect a post on this later - but the fact that inconsistent tiebreaker rules are determining divisional champions is ridiculous.

Ideally we would eventually be in a situation where every conference either has 10 teams that play round-robin (like the Pac 10) or every conference has 12 teams that play a championship-style finish such as the ACC/B12/SEC. However, since this relies upon conferences adding/dropping teams, the immediate solution is to simply standardize the way winners are chosen if their conferences are laid out the same way.

Minimize the Computer Weight

For all the hypothetical pros and cons of computer polls, what has their actual effect on the BCS been?
* Put 2000 Florida State into NC game over Miami despite head-to-head.
* Put 2001 Nebraska into NC game over Oregon.
* Put 2003 Oklahoma into NC game over USC.
* Put 2004 Texas as an at-large over Cal.
* Put 2008 Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship over Texas despite head-to-head.
All other BCS results featured the computers and voters roughly agreeing on ranking; at least close enough that it did not affect who was in the championship game or an automatic at-large selection.
In seasons when the computers might have actually done some good (2005 Oregon/Notre Dame for at-large), other BCS rules prevented them from doing so.
It's fairly safe to say that in 2000 and 2003, the BCS computers flat-out got it wrong, to the point of perhaps leaving the best team in the nation out of the championship. 2001 was also a very questionable call. Only 2004 serves as retribution for the computers over the voters. This still means messing up three national championship games and only correcting a non-championship BCS bowl in return. This season now marks the second time the computers have trumped the voters while ignoring a head-to-head result.

I'm going to backpeddle a little and say that there is room for the computer polls in the BCS. But clearly their influence must be minimized so that they cannot so easily overturn the voters' judgement. The problem is that any season when the teams are close, the voter polls are likely going to be closer than the computer polls unless the latter are tied. With only four polls being counted for each team, a change of one spot in a computer poll is worth 0.25 spots in the computers' average ranking. This may be greater than the entire difference in the Coaches or Harris poll. An ideal solution might be convincing the AP Poll to rejoin the BCS (which they might be agreeable to with the changes that were made in 2005 along with these changes to the scoring) such that each voter poll counts 25% and the computer average also counts 25%. Otherwise, perhaps the Coaches and Harris polls should each count double the computer average.

Count All Six Computer Polls

A team's "computer average" is actually the truncated average of their middle 4 computer poll rankings. Not only is this producing a loss of data, but it also means that team A and team B might be graded by entirely different sets of rating systems. For example, Texas's computer score this season threw out the results of Billingsley's and Colley's. Oklahoma's ranking kept both of their scores in these two, throwing out Anderson's and one of (Massey/Sagarin/Wolfe). Texas's and Oklahoma's computer scorecards, which determined who went to the Big 12 Championship game, used only 50% of the same judges. (Allow me to clarify that in this specific example, use of all 6 polls would have produced the same result.)

Allow Margin of Victory in Computer Rankings

Some computers are designed to use MoV. (Massey and Sagarin, for example) Others have always been designed to work without it. (Anderson and Colley) Forcing Sagarin to submit incomplete rankings based on partial data is as silly as trying to force Colley to take scores into account.

This season, removing MoV did not cause (that I can tell) any computers to flip Oklahoma and Texas. Sagarin has OU 1, Texas 2 in both his complete rankings and in the elo-chess portion. Massey has OU 1, Texas 2 in the rankings that include MOV, but OU 1, Texas Tech 2, Texas 3 in the rankings that do not. Indeed, the only computers which had Texas actually above Oklahoma were the ones designed to use only win/loss from the beginning - Anderson's and Colley's.

Removing MoV from the computer polls was an example of a knee-jerk reaction that the BCS made to try to fix previous mistakes. As I feared back in 2005, it has led to the computers coming up with less sensible results. A computer ranking Texas Tech over Texas is clearly not taking into account how extremely close their game in Lubbock was, nor how badly the Red Raiders were dominated by Oklahoma.

Force Computers to Rank and Include All Teams

Certain computers (Colley's for example) simply throw out games against FCS opposition and below. This plays a big factor in determining strength of schedule, as a team scheduling lowly FBS teams will be punished but a team scheduling FCS teams won't. Additionally, losing to an FCS team really needs to be taken into account in the rare cases when that happens.

Revisit Billingsley and Colley Rankings

There are two issues with Billingsley's.

1) It uses preseason rankings based on the previous season's final results. This means LSU started 2008 ranked #1, Kansas #2, USC #3, and so on...
All of Billingsley's results are based upon these preseason rankings. Four of the six polls had Oklahoma and Texas within one spot of each other. Of the two that didn't, one was Massey's which is an incomplete rating (his full rating had OU 1, Texas 2). The other is Billingsley. Could the fact that Oklahoma started out ahead of Texas in Billingsley's have made a difference? I can't say for certain. It also could be that if Oklahoma had not started out so many spots ahead of Florida, the final rankings would have had OU 3, Texas 4 - also a one spot differential. The fact that it's even a possibility should be enough to convince the BCS that the computer polls need to start with all teams seeded equally.

2) It appears to use a single-iteration stepwise process. What this means is that the week 1 rankings are FINAL and that these are used to determine week 2 explicitly. Then, week 2 rankings are FINAL and they are used to determine week 3 explicitly. So when Colorado beat West Virginia in week 4, for example, they were getting credit for beating the #13 team in the country and that credit was never modified. West Virginia finished the season ranked #30.

I've poked at Colley's a lot, but truthfully Billingsley is the most questionable poll. I'd go as far as to say that if these issues are not changed, the poll should be replaced with something else or dropped entirely.

Colley's, on the other hand, just seems to produce the most outliers. Colley had Texas #1 and he's had them there all season, even when Texas Tech was still unbeaten and had just defeated Texas. Colley was also the lone pollster to rank Florida #1 at the end of the 2006 regular season; a result that looks great in retrospect but certainly cannot be justified based on the results of the 2006 regular season alone. Colley's poll was one of the dropped polls for 2007 LSU and Ohio State, as well as giving Georgia their highest ranking.

Much as I rip on the poll, I'm not saying that for certain it needs to be changed or dropped. I am saying that it appears to show less concordance with the other polls, and should be looked at for that reason.

How the Big 12 South race turned me against computer polls

As I sit down to write this, the ESPN/USA Coaches Poll, Harris Interactive Poll, and the now-meaningless AP Poll results have all been released. The margin is small enough that it will only matter if the computers are deadlocked. Sagarin's is the only computer poll which has been released, although Colley's and Massey's (canceling each other out) are 99% certain.

I've been a longtime supporter of the inclusion of computer polls in the BCS formula, but the results surrounding the end of this season have caused me to rethink that. Before elaborating, let me talk about some of the reasons I have been for including these polls in the past.

The basic argument was always one of subjectivity vs objectivity. Computer polls are objective, unlike voters. The best example is the ridiculous amount of "respect" ND gets in the polls anytime they look even remotely good, and the computers balance this out. This balances out common sense and creative rationality as things the voters have which the computers do not.

Perhaps no season illustrates the potential positives of computer polls like 2004. USC and Oklahoma started out #1 and #2, and they stayed there for the entire season. (changing the date of the first poll or getting rid of preseason polls would NOT have affected this) Make no mistake, this was a result of two bigtime media giants being ranked above a small-market school. Only in the computers, all but one of which (Billingsley) started all 119 teams on equal footing, would have given Auburn a chance to play for the championship. When a I-A opponent (Bowling Green?) backed out at the last second, Auburn had to add the Citadel, a I-AA opponent which absolutely tanked their computer ratings. In the end, it didn't make a difference, but with just a slightly tougher schedule it could have allowed a team with less of a big name to have a chance.

Likewise, in 2005, the pollsters had Irish fever, ranking Notre Dame ahead of Oregon despite the Ducks being 11-1 with only a loss to #1 USC. The Irish had two losses, one of which was to an unranked Michigan State team! However, the computer polls consistently had Oregon on top, and in fact ranked Notre Dame 10th which was probably about where they belonged. The Irish still got a BCS bid thanks to their special clauses with the BCS, but at least the computer polls gave us the correct results in the standings.

Indeed it was during the 2005 season that I launched an in-depth personal investigation of the computer polls. I read as much as I could to determine how the polls that are used work. (Colley's, Massey's, and Sag's elo-chess are pretty straightforward; on the other hand, I have literally no idea how the other 3 work, and my understanding is that Billingsley's uses the final standings from the previous season as seed values!) I researched the changes mandated in the computer polls via the BCS. Then I created my own computer poll, within the limits of BCS regulations, so that I could test small changes in the systems myself. This was no joke of a poll, it tracked all 712 teams and was retrodictively accurate at the same level (insignificantly higher, actually) than the polls used by the BCS. This tentatively put my suspicion of the computer polls, caused by the numerous tweaks made by BCS non-mathematicians, to rest.

But the comps still completely lack common sense or the ability to make any sort of deep analysis. Let's talk about this past weekend:

Last week, I boldly predicted a +1.0 average lead for Texas in the computer polls if all games played out according to odds. And indeed, Texas beat A&M, Texas Tech beat Baylor, and Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State. What didn't go according to odds was Kansas (faced Texas and OU) upsetting Missouri (faced just Texas) and Georgia Tech upsetting Georgia (best win for both Alabama and Florida). The difference in Colley's is clear: you can actually plug in the games and see that if Georgia had beaten GT, Oklahoma would be #3 rather than #2.

Likewise, Texas' rating in Sagarin's elo-chess is negatively impacted by Missouri's loss. Impossible to say for sure, but the margin is so close that it's likely that the Mizzou loss swung this. Alabama's rating in Billingsley (which may allow Oklahoma to pass them) will be negatively impacted by Georgia's loss; by how much is again impossible to say.

The Big 12 South race could be determined by a game played in the Big 12 North and a game played between the SEC and ACC. For it to come down to this is just absurd. That's a side of the argument I'd never really considered - completely tangential games are determining the computer standings. For Texas to need Missouri to win because Missouri was Texas's toughest non-common opponent with OU is iffy but comprehensible. For so much of the rankings to hinge on Georgia Tech and Georgia, two teams outside the top ten neither of whom faced any Big 12 teams all season, to even have a role in the final margin is just comical. Regardless of how the final computer polls play out over the next 12-24 hours, it's becoming clear that computer rankings should play no role in the BCS model. Until we finally get the playoff system that college football deserves, the voters picking #1 and #2 is the less-(though still horribly)-flawed option.

Thursday, November 27

Which SEC teams...

....are tops in their divisions?

Man, this one's easy. Sometimes it's nice to write about a conference that's entirely figured out before the championship game.

Wednesday, November 26

The Numbers Behind the Big 12 South

I posted earlier about what should happen in the Big 12 South - with as much objectivity as is possible, Texas or Oklahoma should represent the division in the conference championship game and one of these two teams should represent the conference in the BCS Championship game if at least one of them finishes with just one loss. Which of those two teams is more deserving is largely a matter of personal opinion.

Now the question is what will happen?

To avoid too many possibly outcomes, I am going to assume that Texas and Texas Tech win their games this week, in which both schools are favored by more than 4 TDs.

If Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State
* The 3-way tie is between Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech. The tiebreaker is BCS ranking, which means it is a contest of whether Texas' lead in the computers can outweigh Oklahoma's lead on the ballots. We don't typically see huge movements at the top when all teams win unless something really wild happens (say, UF/FSU going to overtime while OU wins by 70), so the current ballot margins will likely remain about the same. Oklahoma is +.076 in the Harris over Texas and +0.275 in the ESPN/USA. This means Texas would need to be +0.351 in the computer average - ie, ahead by a cumulative 4 spots after the high and low are thrown out. What this means is that the Texas magic number is one - if Texas is on average one full ranking ahead of OU in the computer average, they go to the conference championship. Currently, Texas leads Oklahoma in four of the six computer polls.

Anderson: Texas #3, Oklahoma #4
*** Defeating #2 Texas Tech (.815) moved Oklahoma from a .768 rating to a .786. Oklahoma State is currently #14 at .706. Texas is currently rated .803. Utah is sitting at .805 and their season is over, so Texas would likely pass the Utes. I am going to predict that the Texas lead holds in Anderson, Texas +2.
Billingsley: Oklahoma #2, Texas #3.
*** Texas won't fall below #3 in one week, thanks to USC not playing UCLA just yet. Could Oklahoma hop to #1 over Alabama? It's possible, but I'd say unlikely. Oklahoma +1, maybe +2.
Colley: Texas #1, Oklahoma #5
*** Colley's allows us to plug in results. Using Texas > A&M, OU> OSU, Alabama > Auburn, Florida > FSU, we get: Texas #1, Oklahoma #3. Texas +2.
Massey: Oklahoma #1, Texas #2
*** This seems likely to hold, as Alabama is a bit far below Texas to make the jump based on beating Auburn. Oklahoma +1.
Sagarin: Texas #1, Oklahoma #4
*** Texas has a wide margin here, but #2-4 are very close. Expect Texas #1, Oklahoma #2. Texas +1.
Wolfe: Texas #2, Oklahoma #4.
*** Alabama and Texas are well ahead of the pack. Texas Tech and Oklahoma are practically tied, so expect Texas #2, Oklahoma #3. Texas +1.

This is so close. I'm going to assume Oklahoma finishes #2 in Billingsley's, above #3 Texas. Then the scores are:
Oklahoma: 4, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 = 2.5 truncated average.
Texas: 2, 3, 1, 2, 1, 2 = 1.5 truncated average.

This gives Texas exactly enough to stay ahead of the Sooners. Note that if the gap in Anderson is Texas +1, the gap in Billingsley is Oklahoma +2, or if Sag or Wolfe flip, that would give the Sooners the edge. While it seems like Texas needs everything to go right in order to avoid this outcome, the hidden factor is that any boost to Oklahoma's rating is going to slightly boost Texas' rating as a result of their head-to-head. (Billingsley might not do this, amazingly, but Billingsley is also not a poll where that is likely to matter as the real question is how he ranks Oklahoma relative to Alabama.)

Obviously, it still comes down to voting. Oklahoma needs to increase their lead over Texas in the ballot polls by about 14% in order to overcome this predicted computer edge for the Longhorns. This will largely be determined by how both teams perform this weekend, as well as how Florida performs against Florida State since they are the interloper.

If Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma
* The Big South tiebreaker is Texas Tech's head-to-head victory over Texas. The Red Raiders are division champions.
* If Missouri defeats Texas Tech, then it's pretty clear that Texas would be the conference's highest-ranked team. Sitting at 11-1, the only teams with arguments to be included above the Longhorns would be Alabama if they lost the SEC Championship Game (12-1), USC (11-1), and Penn State (11-1). A two-loss Missouri is not getting in over Texas, mostly because of record, but also because the head-to-head result negates the conference champion argument. Realistically, this outcome sends Texas to the national championship.

If Texas Tech beats Missouri, things get more complicated.
* Currently Texas is +0.17 in the harris average (just over 4 spots, mathematically) and +0.19 in the ESPN/USA (just under 5 spots). The teams between them are USC, Penn State, and Utah. Utah and PSU cannot lose, and USC is unlikely to lose. Oklahoma would likely fall below both teams, which helps Texas Tech more than it helps Texas. The same happens after the SEC Championship (for sure if Alabama wins; if Florida wins, that might help Texas more than TTU). In any case, Texas should be a full 3 spots ahead of TTU before we start analyzing the impact that a Red Raider victory over Missouri. I think a best-case scenerio for the Red Raiders is to move up to being more-or-less tied with Texas following a win in the B12CG, leaving it all up to the computers.
* Texas is currently +2 spots over TTU in the computer average. Notably, the Longhorns are ahead by 1-5 spots in every computer poll. Playing Missouri would help the Red Raiders. Colley's Matrix allows us to plug in up to five hypothetical games. Using UT > A&M, OSU > OU, TTU > Baylor, TTU > Missouri, and either result of the SECCG, Texas ends up either 2 or 3 spots ahead of Tech depending on the SEC outcome (closer if Alabama wins). Given this result, I'm going to project that Texas Tech cannot overtake Texas in the computer polls.
* If Texas defeats Texas A&M, the Red Raiders' national title hopes are essentially over, barring some massive SEC cannibalism that results in an all-Big 12 championship game. Keep in mind that if Texas loses to A&M, Oklahoma would go to the conference championship via tiebreaker if they win over OSU. This deprives Tech of the quality opponent Missouri to boost their computer averages. Therefore, Texas Tech can only advance to the national championship game if both Texas and Oklahoma lose in the next two weeks. Even then, they still trail USC in the BCs standings. Practically speaking, their national title hopes are over.

In conclusion:
* Texas has two routes to the national championship game if they defeat A&M: getting voted into the B12CG over Oklahoma and defeating Missouri, or OU losing either this week or in the B12CG.
* Oklahoma has one route into the national championship game: winning on Saturday, getting voted into the B12CG, and defeating Missouri.

Of these, Oklahoma's path is probably the most likely to unfold should the Sooners win out. I personally think the voters will shift by enough to put OU in over Texas, largely because the voters have screwed or tried to screw Texas at every chance they get, while continuing to give the Sooners the benefit of the doubt despite multiple tankings in BCS games. Okay, so it was objective up until that last point.

Tuesday, November 25

Which Big 12 South team... tops in the division? Here in college football's toughest division, we've got exactly the end-of-season mess we knew we were going to end up with. Texas beat Oklahoma on a neutral field way back in early October. Texas lost on the road at Texas Tech on a last-second bomb to the end zone a few weeks ago. Then Oklahoma blew out Texas Tech at home just last weekend. It's the bizarre combination of timing, margin of victory, and game location that make this debate the most interesting.

For the purpose of argument, let's assume each team ends up 11-1. This means Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State on the road, Texas beats Texas A&M at home, and Texas Tech beats Baylor at home. Obviously this does more for Oklahoma than it does for either other team, whose victories would be about equally (un-)impressive. Who deserves to play in the Big 12 Champioship game, with the opportunity to go on to play in the BCS Championship?

First looking at the head-to-head games.

Texas beat Oklahoma 45-35 on a neutral field in Dallas, about equidistant from both campuses, on Oct 11. Texas outgained OU by a paltry 3 yards, but held a 161-48 advantage in rushing, a +2 turnover margin (practically speaking +1, as Bradford's meaningless final heave into the end zone was intercepted), had a 96 yard KO return, and a +12 yard average punt length. The powerful offenses played to a standstill while Texas won the turnovers and special teams contests.

Texas Tech beat Texas 39-33 in a home game on Nov 1. In a tale of two halves, the Red Raiders led 22-6 at halftime but were outscored 27-17 in the second half. Texas Tech's two second half touchdowns came off a pick-six and of course the game's final drive. The Red Raiders outgained Texas by 205 yards and were +1 in turnovers, but the Longhorns partially negated this with a red zone defense that forced three short field goals. The Horns blocked another FG attempt in the third quarter and Jordan Shipley returned a punt for a TD, as the Horns again won the special teams battle.

Oklahoma beat Texas Tech 65-21 in a home game on Nov 22. The Sooners' 35 point outburst in the second quarter put the game almost beyond doubt at halftime. The Sooners outgained the Red raiders by 219 yards and Sam Bradford threw the ball the manly way, averaging 16 yards an attempt. OU was also +2 in turnovers.

Head-to-head games pretty much narrow it down to Texas and Oklahoma. The Texas victory was by double digits on a neutral field, and the Oklahoma victory was by such a ridiculously lopsided margin that it likely didn't matter where the game was played. On the other hand, the Texas Tech victory came down to the last drive at home, and included a dropped interception which could have ended it with about 12 seconds left. On the basis of this, Texas has the most forgivable loss while Oklahoma has the most impressive victory.

Now looking at other games.

Oklahoma has the strongest nonconference wins, both home wins over Cincinnati (9-2, this week's Big East leader) and TCU (10-2, Mountain West #2). On the down side, they have scheduled a FCS team, Chattanooga, and the only winless team from a BCS conference, Washington. Oklahoma drew Kansas, Kansas State, and Nebraska from the North. Their statement road win would be a victory over Oklahoma State.

Texas has the strongest conference wins, as they are the only team of the three to face Missouri - a 56-35 home victory that was 35-3 at halftime. Texas also drew Kansas and Colorado from the North, both on the road. The Longhorns' nonconference schedule is unimpressive as they have faced Florida Atlantic, UTEP, Arkansas, and Rice. However, all four opponents are FBS teams and anywhere from 1 to 3 will be bowl eligible.

Texas Tech has faced a complete joke of a nonconference schedule - Eastern Washington, Nevada, SMU, and Massachussetts. UMass and EWU are FCS teams and SMU is sitting at 1-10. Within the conference, they did not face Missouri from the North, drawing Kansas State, Nebraska, and Kansas instead.

Again these games seem to simply eliminate the Red Raiders from discussion. Texas's victory over Missouri is the most impressive of the bunch, but OU's win over Cincy will look pretty good if (when) the Bearcats win out against Syracuse and Hawaii. TCU is also a reasonably impressive victory, and Oklahoma State will be a road game for the Sooners. On the other hand, scheduling FCS teams is a major detractor, and Washington is just awful. (the latter not being the Sooners' fault; then again, the results that Arkansas, TCU, and Cincy have posted weren't imminently obvious when these games were scheduled either)

Style Points?

Oklahoma has the #1 offense in the country, averaging a shade over 52 ppg. On the other hand, Texas is the only team in the bunch allowing under 20 ppg on defense.

Bottom Line.

Every argument involving all three teams seems to simply put Texas Tech as the 3rd-best team in the bunch. Their victory over Texas may have indeed been a fluke, as Texas basically didn't show up until halftime and even then TTU needed a dropped interception to win the game. But does the "fluke" loss make Texas #1? I don't know that you necessarily reward a team for pissing away an entire half of football in a known marquee matchup. At least when Oklahoma lost, they played well enough so that the only reason Texas was able to win was by elevating their own level of play in the second half. (the injury to OU's MLB also helped; then again, he's lost for the season so that can't really be written off)

However, if Texas Tech is clearly third in the group for multiple reasons, then the head-to-head matchup matters that much more. I think the tiebreaker goes to Texas, and the win over Missouri (more impressive than a win over Cincy) ices the deal.

What about Bob Stoops' argument?

Bob Stoops made the argument that ranking Texas ahead of Oklahoma on the basis of head-to-head also implies that Texas Tech should be ahead of Texas on the basis of head-to-head. Obviously, it is impossible to rank all 3 teams on that basis, as Oklahoma also beat Texas Tech.

Stoops' argument is one of retrodictive accuracy in polling, and it ignores one thing. Of the six possible ways to order these three teams, three such sets produce one ranking violation while three sets produce two ranking violations. The Occam's Razor solution is to try to have a set of rankings which relies on as few outcomes being "flukes" as is possible (and rational). Those three sets are:

1. Oklahoma, Texas Tech, Texas
2. Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech
3. Texas Tech, Texas, Oklahoma

A better version of Mack Brown's argument is that, once we have decided that Texas Tech is the #3 team, which it seems like just about everyone agrees on, it makes more sense to use the order
Texas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech
than it does to use the order
Oklahoma, Texas, Texas Tech
because the former only produces one ranking violation while the latter produces two. Or said another way, either way we are assuming that Texas is better than Texas Tech despite their head-to-head. Adding on top of that Oklahoma being better than Texas despite their head-to-head means having to ignore even more results of important games.

The great irony here is that the counterargument relies on margin of victory - only the OU-TTU result was a blowout where one team was clearly better than the other; therefore, its result is the most likely to be indicative of the teams' relative strengths, while the other two games could be considered coin flips that just happened to come out the way they did. A power rankings which include MoV could say that OU > UT > TTU, say at each time by a small amount (enough that upsets aren't too unlikely), but the two little gaps combined imply that OU >> TTU. Such a sophisticated ranking system would use both homefield advantage and margin of victory as well as how recently the games were played. HFA gives Texas an advantage, while MoV and timing give OU an advantage. The computer rankings are explicitly not allowed to include MoV in part because that helped Texas get a BCS berth over Cal in 2004. Texas may now benefit from a rule that was designed to "correct" the system for how it helped them (and thwarted the Rose Bowl/Jim Delany) several seasons ago. The non-explicit implication of this was that the BCS valued retrodictive accuracy over predictive power (also implied by the widespread outrage over the selection of 2000 FSU over Miami and 2001 Nebraska over Colorado - nevermind that choosing Miami ignores Washington, and choosing Colorado would ignore overall record). So in addition to throwing out margin of victory, the computer polls used in the BCS also stopped using HFA and most (if not all) stopped using the timing of the games.

Monday, November 24

Week 14 Pac 10 Preview

For years it's seemed unfathomable, but the Pac 10 might have a champion whose name isn't USC in 2008. The irony is that this comes in one of the conference's weakest seasons in recent memory - not Aaron Rodgers' Cal, not Dennis Dixon's Oregon, but Lyle Moveao's Oregon State Beavers would be the team to finally dethrone the King.

USC sits at 9-1 and have, for the most part, laid waste to every opponent they've faced with a stifling defense. One bad half cost them a game to Oregon State, who sits at 8-3 with their final game vs Oregon coming up this week. But alas, two of these losses are out of conference (Penn State, Utah - not a bad bunch) making the Beavers 7-1 in conference with the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Trojans. Oregon State hosts Oregon this Saturday, and a win sends the Beavers to the Rose Bowl. Due to the Ducks being 6-2 in conference (with loss to USC), and everyone else having 3 or more conference losses, if Oregon wins then that probably ensures that USC will get the conference crown even if they lose to UCLA, as long as they don't also lose to Notre Dame.

UCLA @ Arizona State
Both sitting at 4-6, these are the two worst teams in the conference from outside the state of Washington. Both teams have swept the Washington schools and beaten Stanford, but bonus that UCLA's win comes over Tennessee. Oh wait, Tennessee isn't going to be bowl eligible, and just lost to Wyoming. Eh. So yeah, don't watch this. Honestly.

Oregon @ Oregon State
As mentioned, this is the de-facto Pac 10 Championship Game. Yeah, we didn't see that coming 3 months ago either. Not only would a win send Oregon State to the Rose Bowl to rematch Penn State, but it would likely keep _Buckeye._ out of the BCS. Always a plus. So with no hostility intended towards USC, go Beavs! Unfortunately, Jacquizz Rodgers may be out for this game, which obviously would have a huge impact on how it plays out...

Notre Dame @ USC
Notre Dame just lost to Syracuse. This is going to be every bit as awesome as it looks.

Washington State @ Hawaii
WSU looks to follow up an "epic fail" game with a simple "fail."

Week 14 Big 12 Preview

It all comes down to this. One week, two teams battling for that top spot in the Big 12 South.

Can we just assume Texas Tech beats Baylor? Okay, assuming that.

Obviously, if Texas A&M upsets Texas once again, the Big 12 South goes to Oklahoma, provided they beat Oklahoma State.

What's more interesting is what happens if Oklahoma State upsets Oklahoma while Texas Tech and Texas win. Texas Tech would be the Big 12 South champions, but even winning the Big 12 title might not be enough to boost them over Texas and into the BCS Championship. Texas Tech got KILLED by Oklahoma, and the voters are going to remember that. The computers are looking at games against Eastern Washington, Nevada, SMU, and Massachussetts which are tanking the Red Raiders' average. (except Colley's, who throws out games against FCS teams. Yay Colley's Bias-Free Rankings! and by "Bias" we mean "Logic") I'm not making arguments here; that's for another post. This is to state objectively that at this point TTU is not going to pass either Texas or OU in the BCS rankings without those teams losing.

Texas A&M @ Texas
The Longhorns can virtually guarantee themselves either a BCS bid or a spot in the Big 12 Championship game by winning here. At 4-7, the school famous for the 12th man is sitting at the 11th spot in the conference, below even Baylor and Kansas State. There is really no reason Texas should lose this game. But A&M has upset the Longhorns each of the last two years. Crazier things have happened. That said, look for Texas to really be out to make a final statement they they should be awarded the Big 12 South title, and bring a little something extra to this one.

Colorado @ Nebraska
After a poor 3-3 start to the season, Nebraska has turned it on to win 4 of their last 5 games and clinch bowl eligibility. The only real surprise in here was a close win over Kansas, who has been on the decline after an outstanding 2007. Colorado's season has gone quite the opposite way. After a blistering 3-0 start including an upset of West Virginia, the Buffs have gone 2-6 in their last eight games. The wins have been close wins over bad teams (Kansas State, Iowa State), while many losses have either been bad (A&M) or blowouts (Missouri). This is a rivalry game, so to some extent we can look past these numbers. Last season, Colorado won an exciting 65-51 game which featured (obviously) a ton of offense and trick plays. Additionally, CU is playing for bowl eligibility. But I think it comes down to the fact that Nebraska is just playing better football right now. After embarassing losses to Virginia Tech (not the score; losing to an ACC team) and Missouri, the Huskers rebounded to nearly beat Texas Tech on the road. That game was a turning point for NU, and they have since beaten everyone except a red-hot Oklahoma team. Looking good for Nebraska here.

Kansas @ Missouri
Last season, this was a more one-sided game than the 8-point margin indicates. Since losing to Texas, Missouri has been on fire while Kansas is losing to teams (USF, Nebraska) that they would have easily beaten in 2007. What looked like a great game in September is looking like a blowout in November, sorry Jayhawks.

Baylor @ Texas Tech
After a blistering 10-0 start, Texas Tech's complete dismantling at the hands of Oklahoma may have left them having to hope Texas or OU falters for them to avoid a trip to the Holiday Bowl. On the other hand, an upset here would put the Longhorns' fate in their own hands! Gogogogogo Cream!

Oklahoma @ Oklahoma State
If everything goes according to chalk, Oklahoma will be in a position of needing a win to set up a 3-way tie for the Big 12 South title which would come down to the voters and computers to break. I'd estimate Oklahoma has a 55-60% chance of winning that vote over Texas (TTU has no shot of winning the 3way tie). So it's fitting that this will be the last conference game of the season. It's also fitting that this is Oklahoma's first road test of the season -- their other road games being winless Washington, Baylor, Kansas State, and Texas A&M. Oklahoma has the talent advantage here, but Oklahoma State is the host and they are playing to salvage their season - a loss pretty clearly puts them at #4 in the toughest division in college football, which is not where the Cowboys envisioned themselves after beating Missouri. Be sure to tune in here, as it'll likely determine the Big 12 South champion and possibly a national championship game participant.

Friday, November 14

ACC Week 12 Games

(Disclaimer: there’s a strong possibility that the winner of the ACC will have three or more conference losses. Should anyone actually take this winner seriously, Left Field Bluffs strongly recommends psychotherapy treatment, in particular any game involving the following teams: Wake Forest, Virginia, NC State, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Boston College, Miami, Georgia Tech (Jekyll version), Duke, and Clemson. God yes, Clemson.)

So we head into ACC Week 12 in good shape for the god-awful all shit breaking loose scenario: everyone in the conference having three losses. Six teams – half the conference – are still short that elusive third loss. Fortunately, of those six teams, four play this week. You know what that means; next week there will be no more than four teams having two losses. Fuck yes, let’s do this.

What we’re not going to do is talk about Virginia Tech and Miami, since I completely fail at getting this up on time. Um, again. Yeah, I know.

Duke @ Clemson

Clemson completely fucked up the “everyone in the ACC has four losses” dream scenario by not beating Florida State; since both these teams have four losses already, that’s out the window now. Even Clemson can’t get a doomsday scenario right this year. Real Americans root for Duke – at least for now.

Wake Forest @ NC State

God help us all, even we’re not crazy enough to think NC State has a shot to win any of their remaining games. Fortunately, we don’t need them to.

North Carolina @ Maryland

Maryland Black Hole theory predicts Maryland in a rout. Fortunately, both these teams only have two losses, so I’m okay with the Black Hole.

Boston College @ Florida State

We need BC to win this game, since they’re already sitting on three losses. Fortunately, Florida State just lost 5 guys to suspension for this game, so even though I’m fucking screwed and get this game as my 8 PM special.

Tuesday, November 11

... and it happened?

From our Preseason Preview/Top 25

Auburn finishing seventh or higher would be Chris’ AND IT HAPPENED call of 2008.

Missouri ending Oklahoma’s run of Big 12 championships (and Fiesta Bowl losses) would be James’ AND IT HAPPENED call of 2008.

Obviously Auburn sucks. What I'm more interested in is that Missouri winning could not only make me right, but also at this point Missouri beating Texas Tech or Oklahoma is probably Texas' best chance to go to the national championship. Hm.

Big 12 Week 12 Preview

We're ten games into the season and things are starting to settle into place in the conference and national championship hunt.

Texas Tech is the conference's lone remaining unbeaten. After a classic game against Texas coming down to a dropped interception followed by a throw to the end zone on the next play, TTU followed up their victory by completely annihilating Oklahoma State, looking almost unstoppable on offense. The Red Raiders now have two weeks to prepare for a trip to Oklahoma which could likely determine whether Mike Leach's team can play for a national championship.

Oklahoma is the team with the next-best odds of controlling their own destiny; however, they face a difficult road to get there. OU obviously must upset TTU in two weeks, and then most hang on to defeat Oklahoma State and (likely North champion) Missouri to finish 12-1.

OU and TTU both have this week off to prepare for what should be an epic display of offensive firepower in two weeks.

Texas @ Kansas
2008 has been a surprising season for both of these teams. Texas lost the conference's leading rusher of 2007 and three of their top five receivers including a very productive tight end. They had holes on defense but a new defensive coordinator from the SEC, Will Muschamp. Colt McCoy had suffered from a sophomore slump and looked like a questionable quarterback. At 9-1, the Horns boast one of the nation's top QBs and top WR duos. Special teams have stepped up and the defense has seen a huge improvement from 2007. Kansas, on the other hand, is struggling at 6-4 after finishing 12-1 a year ago. Two defensive losses have proven too much to handle as a defense that gave up 16 ppg to be ranked #5 a season ago is now giving up 28.2. The tougher schedule has something to do with it, but the fact is that this Kansas team would not have won more than 9 or 10 games with last season's schedule. What looked like a great game at the beginning of the season will probably turn into a comfortable Texas victory.

Nebraska @ Kansas State
Nebraska has been very on and off this season, but at 6-4 they are already bowl eligible and the good news is that they are past the hurdles of Virginia Tech, Missouri, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma - all losses, but at least three of those understandable. Other than Kansas, Nebraska has also racked up a bunch of unimpressive wins, so there's really not a lot to say at this point. Kansas State has dropped some games they really needed to win - such as Louisville, Colorado, and perhaps even Kansas. This game is a must-win for the Wildcats to have a shot at bowl eligibility, and frankly I don't think they will get it done. Nebraska is nothing special, but they have consistently outplayed the teams that they have a talent edge over. Expect more of the same this weekend.

Texas A&M @ Baylor
With the Bears sitting at 3-6, going on 3-7, Robert "Cream" Griffin III surely must have glanced across the sidelines and wished that he could be throwing to Jordan Shipley and Quan Crosby. Well, Cream, you can! And I will continue to write about this every chance I get, not least of all every time I write about Baylor. The Big 12 South anti-title is on the line here, folks, and A&M has to feel good about their chances of finally winning it.

Missouri @ Iowa State
Chase Daniel got back to his early season form, and with Kansas slumping his Tigers have a chance to go 10-2 and reach the Big 12 Championship game. Amazingly, their BCS hopes are still alive - odds of going to the championship game are slim, but beating Texas Tech or Oklahoma in the conference championship would give them the conference's automatic berth. Iowa State, on the other hand, is 0-6 in conference with losses to both A&M and Baylor. This will be a blowout.

Oklahoma State @ Colorado
Much of Denver is excited to see Zac Robinson return to where he played high school ball. They shouldn't be. OSU was humiliated on both sides of the ball against Texas Tech, unable to stop the juggernaut offense and surprisingly quiet against a defense that is both a little underrated but also mediocre nonetheless. The Cowboys will be playing like they have something to prove, because frankly they do. At this point, even we're not sure whether the team who beat Missouri and played a good game against Texas is the real OSU, versus the team who was run out of Lubbock a few days ago. Colorado is struggling to reach bowl eligibility, had a QB controversy, and are giving up 50 ypg more than they gain. None of this is a good sign. I don't expect this to be a very good game.

Sunday, November 9

Championship Game Hopes: Second Edition

The first weekend in November cleared up our title picture quite a lot. In fact, it went very far into clearing up the BCS picture as a whole. Oklahoma State was eliminated from the title race with a blowout loss, and Penn State was virtually eliminated as well.

Championship Contenders

1. Alabama
It wasn't pretty, but after getting by LSU on the road, Alabama closes with home games against two teams who might both miss the bowls this year (Auburn, Mississippi State). With Penn State's loss, the Tide could probably afford to drop one of these games and still make it to the title game by beating Florida in the SECCG.

2. Texas Tech
With a commanding blowout of a top ten opponent, Tech gained ground on Alabama in the voters' minds while further boosting their scores in the computer polls. TTU faces a slightly more difficult remaining road to being unbeaten than the Tide (at Oklahoma + B12CG > Florida), but anyone who watched them blow out Oklahoma State must realize that it is hardly a long shot.

3. Florida
Florida is ahead of our other Big 12 schools because they control their own destiny, while Texas and Oklahoma do not. If Florida wins out, they would be chosen over a one-loss USC or Penn State as they are both higher in the rankings right now and have tougher games remaining. The Gators face South Carolina, the Citadel, Florida State, and Alabama.

4. Texas
At this point, Texas' best shot at making the title game has been lost as Texas Tech defeated OSU this weekend. The good news is that both of their remaining regular season games look very winnable, so the Horns should at least get their part of the bargain done. Their two remaining realistic paths are:
a) OU > TTU + OU > OSU, then hope they wind up ahead of both of these teams in the BCS standings before the conference championship, sending the Longhorns to that game where they have a chance to win and claim the conference crown. They are helped by the fact that they are the only team of the three to face Missouri, which could put the Horns ahead in the computer polls.
b) OU > TTU + OSU > OU + TTU loss in B12CG. This scenerio would have the Longhorns tied with TTU for the Big 12 South - tiebreaker goes to TTU (head to head). Then Missouri eliminates the Red Raiders, leaving UT as the lone 1-loss team in the conference. Texas would be in for sure over Penn State, but the question is how voters would regard them compared to USC if the Trojans are Pac 10 champions but the Longhorns are not the official Big 12 champions. Currently Texas is ahead of USC in every poll component, so there's a good chance that would hold if both teams win out.

5. Oklahoma
Like everyone after #2, Oklahoma cannot afford another loss or they will be eliminated. Oklahoma's remaining regular season games are hosting Texas Tech in two weeks and then travelling to Oklahoma State the following week. If they win both, they will have to hope the voters and computers are kind enough to rank them above not only the Texas Tech team they would have just beaten (likely), but also the Texas team who defeated them earlier this season. I think that would probably be the case, but it's far from certain. Let's suppose that happens. The Sooners would then face Missouri for the conference crown. It would be a very tough stretch to go 3-0.

6. USC
What USC needs to have happen is for either Florida and Alabama, or Texas Tech and Oklahoma and Texas to all lose a game. They might need Alabama or Texas Tech to lose 2 games; it's impossible to say. This is in addition to beating Stanford, Notre Dame, and UCLA, obviously. The Trojans don't have a tough opponent left, and while that makes winning out likely, it also means it'll be tough for them to climb into the top 2 of the final BCS rankings.

7. Penn State
We mention the Lions in name only. With a recent loss to an unranked team and with the schedule they played, Penn State only gets ahead of teams based on record. Therefore, in addition to winning out, PSU needs two of:
a) OU loses to OK State, TTU loses to OU and B12CG, and Texas loses to Kansas or A&M
b) Florida loses to FSU, and Alabama loses to Auburn/Miss St and Florida
c) USC loses to Stanford, Notre Dame, or UCLA
In short, Penn State's hopes are slim.

Other Spots/At-Large

The Midmajor qualification rule is that if they finish in the top 12, the highest-ranked midmajor is automatically qualified for a BCS spot. However, this does not apply to all midmajors in the top 12. Recall that each conference is allowed at most one at-large spot.

Big 12: Oklahoma, Texas, or Texas Tech (note that Missouri can make it by winning the B12CG)
SEC: Alabama or Florida (loser of SECCG)
Midmajor: Boise State or Utah. Ball State could be chosen if both of those first teams lose.

Last Slot?
We hate this as much as you, but at this point we're left with only two real options. Either a second midmajor will be chosen. Or Ohio State will be chosen (assuming they win out). If you are a BCS Bowl and you care about money/ratings, who do you pick? That's right. Ohio State will almost surely be in the BCS.

How can this be avoided? If Oregon State wins out, then despite being 9-3 they would receive the Pac 10 automatic berth on account of being 8-1 in conference with the head-to-head tiebreaker over USC. A 11-1 or probably a 10-2 USC (and honestly, who are they going to lose to?) would then be chosen at-large over Ohio State. Go Beavers!

Saturday, November 8

SEC Week 11 Games: Saban Bowl!

Well, last week pretty much defined a hierarchy among the SEC’s top four; the last question we have is whether or not Florida is better than Alabama, and we’ll get that question answered in …oh, 4 weeks or so. Five, if I’m doing the math wrong. Other than that, Ole Miss opened up a little bit of separation in the second-third tier and made some headway on LSU, South Carolina pretty much nailed down third place in the SEC East, and everyone else may or may not a whole barrel of suck. Also, Arkansas won a game – what the hell?

UT-Martin @ Auburn

Well, this should be a win for Auburn, right? If this was UL-Monroe I’d be a little concerned, but even the clanky, broken-down offense currently up in blocks in Jordan-Hare Stadium, the Tigers should be able to push it around enough to squeak out a win here. That being said, it’ll still likely come down to the defense.

Wyoming @ Tennessee

Let’s get the clunkers out of the way; first off, be glad this game is only available on PPV, as nobody would pay money to watch orange, yellow, brown, and white all on the same field (unless you’re a fan of the 70’s era Vancouver Canucks one-piece jerseys). While you’re wondering if you took a time trip back to the ‘70’s, can you tell the decade to take Tennessee’s offense back, please? We’re done with it here, thanks.

Arkansas @ South Carolina

South Carolina should roll here, especially since there’s not a whole lot of difference between Arkansas and Tennessee on offense. As usual, the margin of victory depends on how effective South Carolina is on offense, but unlike last week, don’t expect tUSC to die out in the red zone time and time again (thanks, Tulsa).

Georgia @ Kentucky

Remember how Kentucky played Alabama close? It’ll be kind of like that, except don’t expect Kentucky to score as much as they did in that game; first off, Georgia’s probably pissed as hell, and secondly, 21 points is a veritable offensive outburst for this moped of offense. Don’t expect that to continue; Georgia should get up a TD early, and then just slowly choke the life out of the Wildcat offense.

Florida @ Vanderbilt

If you watched Georgia / Kentucky before watching this game, you’ll be forgiven if you think you’re watching a repeat. Well, it’s a repeat only in the loosest sense of the world; Florida should knock Vanderbilt six ways from Sunday in the first half alone, setting up the stage for a Vandy / Tennessee showdown to determine bowl eligibility. Shouldn’t that be how it happens?

Alabama @ LSU

Oh, hell yes. Words can’t even describe how excited I am for this one, and I can only hope it’s less of an unrequited blowout than the anticipated-as-hell Georgia / Florida tilt from last week. I hope for massive, massive amounts of pain, and a LSU win, further confusing the title picture. At this point, it’s really all about the chaos.

Thursday, November 6

ACC Week 11 Games: Whirlpool of Shit

(Disclaimer: rooting for any ACC team other than Georgia Tech or Duke is un-American. Since we only have another couple of months to say this, might as well get it out while we still can – TERRORIST!)

So there are a total of five teams in the ACC that don’t have two losses in-conference: Maryland, Clemson, Boston College, NC State, and Duke. Quick, which one of those teams has less than one loss? Admit it, you had to think about it. You wonder why I think this conference sucks goat rocks – well, now you know.

Virginia Tech v. Maryland

This should be …well, pretty idiotic. On one hand, Virginia Tech will be lucky if Sean Glennon plays a snap; they’re rolling out converted “QB” Cory Holt under center, with a backup TE serving as the emergency holy fuck we’re toast please don’t kill us too badly QB. They’ll be running an offense that would be one-dimensional if they’re lucky; really, they’re something less than a point. On the other hand, Maryland’s ranked and playing in a game they should win. Call it a draw. The Whirlpool of Suck calls for Virginia Tech to lose, increasing the number of three-loss conference teams; on the other hand, the Maryland Black Hole theory recognizes that Virginia Tech has no talent on offense and thus will allow over 30 points.

Boston College v. Notre Dame

JIMMAH! There’s no reason – god help us all – the Fighting Irish shouldn’t roll in this game; on the other hand, they’re coming damn close to ACC stupidity and Boston College hasn’t lost a non-conference game this season. (Ignore their non-conference slate has all the quality of warm poo.) BC’s fortunately already at three conference losses, so they’ll look a lot better by comparison next week regardless of what happens here.

Duke v. NC State

Look, someone’s gotta play at 12 PM on Raycom, and why not these guys? Both of these teams are already past the two-loss threshold, although an NC State loss would help to continue the conference’s pull towards the center, as five teams are going to lose a conference game this week. Pull for the Blue Devils and keep the whirlpool going. (Actually, in a mild shock, this game isn’t on Raycom. I had figured this was going to be a pile of shit the likes of which public access ACC football couldn’t avoid.)

Wake Forest v. Virginia

The wheels have fallen off at Wake, although that really implies the wheels were ever on at some point, which is flagrant and obvious bullshit. Sorry about that. Of course, Virginia just fucking blew it against Miami of all teams, so it’s not like we can count on them to do anything either. Someone’s going to get their third loss, and the team that doesn’t fuck it up will probably back into leading their division. People will think that means one of these teams is good. People are morons.

Florida State v. Clemson

Man, this game would’ve been a whole hell of a lot more fun if Tommy Bowden was still under fire. Would Bobby willingly put the ax to Tommy and move closer to having a shot at a bowl game much better than FSU deserves? Of course, Tommy went and fucked it up, so might as well take Clemson to roll comfortably here, since they’re in such disarray they have no business winning this game. Dabo Sweeney will call for an orange-out, even though the game’s on the road. If Clemson wins this, FSU picks up their third conference loss (which means maybe people will finally stop ranking this team – they beat TWO 1-AA teams. That’s why their record’s decent, pollsters.)

North Carolina v. Georgia Tech

Here we are – the two teams in the ACC that actually don’t look like rabid ass most of the time. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a good game, but it might be decent. Of course, since it might actually be a decent game it’s on at 12 PM and is now a Raycom special. This means 7-3 awesomeness and a questioning of why the fuck we rank any teams in this terrible conference. On the plus side, someone’s guaranteed to pick up a third conference loss.

Tuesday, November 4

GOBAMA does not mean Rolll Tahhhde!

Ordinarily, political advertising bugs the shit out of me. The extreme drama, deliberately misleading statements, the focus on completely irrelevent side issues. The not-so-subtle implications that if I don't vote to increase ethanol subsidies by 8.5% instead of the scheduled eight-and-a-quarter, terrorists will bomb us and we'll be flooded by melting ice caps. Truth be told, the best part about November 5th is that people will finally leave me the fuck alone. Next weekend I'll finally be able to cheer for Oklahoma State to push Texas towards an improbable title berth without the constant reminder that 97% of the people who run this country are, in fact, tools.

But here's one political ad we'd love to see here at LFB:

Voiceover is done by this guy because, christ, his tone by itself makes it sound like this one ammendment is going to start the economic apocalypse. (Also, I've also seen this ad, seriously, 50 times already. And the only TV I even watch is college football.)


[starts off with highlight reel of 1994 Nebraska & Penn State, 1996 Florida & Ohio State, eerie background music hits a climax and we're looking at 1997 Nebraska & Michigan]

Ten years ago, we were promised an end of the postseason charade and champion-by-popularity system. What happened to that promise?

[highlights of 2000 Miami beating Florida State followed by FSU failing to score an offensive point in the Orange Bowl, 2001 Nebraska getting destroyed by Colorado then getting destroyed by Miami, 2003 USC shutting down Michigan, consecutive highlights of Jason White throwing off his back foot and getting intercepted by 2003 LSU and 2004 USC]

They said that a new formula would fix everything.

[highlights of 2006 Florida and 2007 LSU routing Ohio State]

What they don't tell you is that the BCS has special rules giving favorable treatment to the Big Ten and the Rose Bowl

[highlights of 2007 Illinois getting annihilated by USC]

and even more favorable treatment and larger payouts to Notre Dame...

[highlights of Brady Quinn sacks and turnovers against 2005 Ohio State and 2006 LSU]

larger payments, even when they don't qualify for a bowl game.

[highlights of pretty much anything from the 2007 Notre Dame season]

Jim Delany and his fat cat friends make a fortune off this system, but who pays for it?

[random shots of fans from various stadiums, slow shot of 2004 Auburn raising a banner reading 13-0, SEC Champions]

Small-market teams and you, the fans.

[changes to a shot of Barack Obama on Monday Night Football, 11/3/08]

"I think it is about time that we had playoffs in college football. I’m fed up with these computer rankings and this and that and the other. Get eight teams — the top eight teams right at the end. You got a playoff. Decide on a national champion."

Now Jim Delany and the BCS powers want another ten years of postseason debacles. But you have a choice. Tell Jim Delany to go fuck himself. The BCS: too shitty for college football.

(Don't Cry Out Loud Political Action Committee is responsible for the content of this advertisement.)


If you're still undecided after that ad, you might as well write in Lou Holtz.

and factcheck:

Monday, November 3

Championship Game Hopes: First edition

It's November, and that means it's officially time to start speculating about the BCS. While it may be early to guess about at-larges (Rose Bowl: USC vs Ohio State DCOL rematch. We love you, Jim Delany!) we can start looking at the Championship contenders:

Alabama controls their own destiny more than any other team in the country. There is roughly ZERO chance that an unbeaten Bama gets left out of the championship game.

Alabama's path to Miami includes this weekend's trip to LSU, then home games against Mississippi State and Auburn. In all likeliness, Alabama will be either 12-0 or 11-1 heading into the SEC Championship - most likely opponent Florida.

Alabama could also lose a regular season game but contend for a BCS title spot by beating Florida to finish 12-1. This might require Missouri winning the Big 12 Championship... but hey, it's some possible room for error.

Texas Tech
The Red Raiders are also in control of their own destiny. They are currently #2 in the BCS standings with Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and the Big 12 Championship potentially on the platter. This will only narrow the gap Penn State has over them in the USA Today and Harris Polls while strengthening TTU's position in the computer polls, possibly leapfrogging them to #1 in the machines' vote.

Really, the only chance an unbeaten TTU has of being left out of the BCS Championship is if the voters want to send out a retiring JoePa with a championship opportunity. But can those sentiments even offset the equally strong sentiments that the Big Ten is a second-tier conference which has given us a recent string of Championship and Rose Bowl flops? Realistically, these is less than a 1% chance TTU would get left out for Penn State.

Also realistically, one if not both Oklahomas could beat Texas Tech. Missouri could win a crazy shootout with them in the conference championship. TTU enters a stretch of games nearly as difficult as the one Texas just got through, and as we just saw, playing 14 quarters of good football wasn't good enough for the Horns. I think it is likely that TTU will lose a game between now and BCS selection time. Sorry, Raiders fans. (and sorry, college football fans, because this means we'll be watching Penn State get DCOL'd)

Penn State
First of all, Penn State must be unbeaten to make it into the Championship game. They don't have the strength of schedule to hope to recover from a late season loss. Fortunately, this is very likely that they will win out, as Iowa, Indiana, and Michigan State may not be able to field a top ten-caliber roster combined.

If the Nittany Lions do win out, they will need Texas Tech or Alabama to lose. Both of these teams have three games they could potentially lose remaining, so it is very likely that Penn State will wind up controlling their own destiny.

With a loss already against them, Florida has no room for error. Fortunately, playing in the SEC, they would have the opportunity to knock off Alabama themselves and then be in the position of simply needing Texas Tech or Penn State to lose.

Last season, almost every sportswriter in the country was saying that Ohio State did not belong in the title game. But when the Buckeyes were 11-1 while everyone else was 11-2/10-2, they ranked Ohio State #1 regardless of strength of schedule and regardless of their perception of the quality of the teams. Even if they are a better/more deserving team, a 12-1 Florida team will NOT go over a 12-0 Penn State team. (unless Penn State changes their name to Kansas, in which case it's okay to leave them out for teams with lesser records) So let's get that idea out of the way right now.

Given Penn State's extremely likely 12-0 finish, this means Florida is rooting for Texas Tech to lose. They would really prefer this to happen in the Big 12 Championship, as it's forseeable that Oklahoma or Texas could leapfrog the Gators if both teams finish 12-1 (indeed, Texas is actually ahead of Florida right now in the BCS standings, and Oklahoma is going to see a huge schedule boost in November)

After a road loss on a 28 yard pass with 1 second left to an unbeaten team, Texas dropped a surprising six spots in the Coaches poll and five in the Harris, including falling below an Oklahoma team they'd already beaten and who has fewer quality wins. Yes, my bias is showing here.

On a positive note, one crazy Harris voter is still giving Texas his #1 vote, and one crazy computer still has Texas #1. What this means is that Texas is 3rd in the computer average behind only Alabama and Texas Tech. Texas is 4th in the BCS standings, and if Texas Tech plus one other team above them loses, UT would certainly have strong computer support for inclusion in the BCS Championship assuming they win out and win the Big 12. I'm going to project that a 12-1 Texas would be ahead of a 12-1 SEC champion in the computers, so UT would really just need the human polls to be close.

However, there are complicated rules leading to rather specific scenerios for them to win the Big 12 South. Obviously there are more possible outcomes than I want to look at right now, but basically Texas needs to win out and have Texas Tech lose two games. Texas holds the tiebreaker over both Oklahoma schools, but in a three-way tie involving Texas Tech, they would probably not be the highest-ranked team (which is like the 20th tiebreaker).

The Sooners are ranked #4 in the Harris and #5 in the Coaches' Poll, but are just 9th in the computer average. This isn't cause for serious alarm, as OU still has OSU, Texas Tech, and possibly the conference championship remaining. Winning out would be a huge boost to their objective numbers and would be a very convincing November display for the voters.

OU's best route to the conference championship is probably for them to win out and Texas Tech to beat Oklahoma State, setting up a three way tie for the South title which the Sooners would likely win. Alternately, they could win out and Texas could lose a game - say, to Kansas.

If all of this happens, it's really a tossup as to whether or not they would be selected over a 12-1 Florida team. Needless to say, Oklahoma would need either Alabama or Penn State to lose for sure.

Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State is in almost an identical situation that Oklahoma is in terms of making it to the conference championship, as both teams have lost to Texas, both teams face each other, and both teams face Texas Tech.

The Cowboys are hurting a little more in the polls, where they are ranked 8th and 9th. We expect their #11 computer ranking to rise if they win out, as their remaining schedule is very difficult.

However, OSU's path to the title game probably means winning out, having TTU beat OU, then having Florida and Alabama each lose one game. (alternately, Penn State losing a game)

As the Pac 10's strength has fizzled, USC unfortunately has little chance of making it to the title game. This is because USC is just 10th in the computer average, and their remaining schedule does little to boost their ranking compared with the TTU/OSU/OU Big 12 South circle that's going to play out in November, or the likely Florida/Bama SEC showdown.

USC can also benefit from Missouri upsetting the Big 12 South champion. This is important because I think it is likely that either Texas or Texas Tech or Oklahoma or Oklahoma State will enter the conference championship game with just 1 loss. Any of those teams finishing 12-1 would probably be ranked above USC. It's unlikely that all four will lose in November (the latter three going rock/paper/scissors plus Texas losing to Kansas?), so Missouri is the key.

That said, crazier things have happened. USC could win out and see an extreme rash of Big 12/SEC cannibalization - or, just one of the two coupled with a Penn State loss. Therefore, their championship hopes are still alive - if only "alive" in the sense of how after you die, some of your cells are still preserved, and at least in The Fifth Element they can reconstruct you from that.

Anyone Else?

The ACC and the Big East are each a disaster, and every team has already lost at least two games. Cross them out. The Big Ten and Pac 10, aside from their leaders and likely champions, are not looking particularly strong, and these teams all also have at least two losses. Let's just say I'll eat my words if Cal somehow climbs from #21 to enter the title discussion.

Last season was proof that a two-loss big conference champion will go over an unbeaten midmajor, so let's forget about Boise State and the like. Quality wins, folks!

So then, are there any other Big 12 or SEC teams?

Missouri is sitting at 7-2 and will likely play in the Big 12 Championship game. Unfortunately they do not face Oklahoma or Texas Tech during the regular season, so the conference championship would also be their only quality win.

Georgia needs Florida to lose to both Vanderbilt and South Carolina to win the SEC East. This is extremely, extremely unlikely. On the plus side, the SECCG would then be a rematch game with the chance to upset Alabama and partially negate that earlier loss.

LSU needs to beat Alabama and then have the Tide lose to either Miss State or Auburn to win the SEC West. This is extremely unlikely. (but note how I didn't say "extremely" twice)

Keep in mind that not only would these teams need to win their conference, they'd also need everyone else in their conference to finish with 2 losses, and then they would also need two of: USC loses a game, Penn State loses two games, the other B12/SEC conference champion has two losses, and even then hope the voters are kind. So the answer is no, none of these teams have a chance worth discussing at this point.

Winning the Big 12 South

The Big 12 South champion will likely be involved in the title game discussion, assuming they go on to win the conference championship game. An interesting scenerio is what happens if three teams are tied for first place in the B12S (if it's two teams, the head-to-head result is the tiebreaker). The tiebreaker is basically:
* if one team has beaten the other two, they're B12S champs.
* if they're all 1-1 against each other, then the highest-ranked team is B12S champs.

For various reasons, I think that if the latter occurs, the team with the earliest loss will be the highest-ranked team. This means Oklahoma or Oklahoma State. So what are the paths to the Big 12 South title?

Texas Tech:
* finish 12-0
* finish 11-1 with loss to OU or OSU, but that team then loses to its rival Oklahoman school
* finish 11-1 with loss to Baylor (unlikely loss, but if this happens they still have tiebreakers over everyone else)

* finish 11-1 with Texas 10-2
* finish 11-1 with Texas Tech also 11-1, setting up a three-way tie

Oklahoma State:
* finish 11-1 with Texas 10-2
* finish 11-1 with Texas Tech also 11-1, setting up a three-way tie

* finish 11-1 with Texas Tech 10-2

Saturday, November 1

Your Possible Week 10 LiveBlog

Let's give this a shot. No idea if it'll work, but if it does, we're here at 2:30 until Mack Brown only knows.