BCS matchup: As good as it gets
Even a Texas Longhorn would admit it’s been breathtaking to watch the Oklahoma Sooners the last few weeks.
Saturday night after Saturday night, live on ABC for all the BCS voters to see, Sam Bradford and company would take the field and drive down for a touchdown like it was a no-contact scrimmage.
Texas Tech couldn’t stop them, Oklahoma State couldn’t stop them and Missouri couldn’t stop them. OU’s offense wound up scoring more points than anyone, ever (albeit with extra games).
In the end, the combination of brilliant playmaking and monster exposure meant even a head-to-head victory by Texas, the one team that did stop them (occasionally) couldn’t keep the Sooners from earning a title game matchup with Florida next month.
You can only wonder what would’ve happened if poll voters were more impressed by a historic defense than a mind blowing offense. Or if all those prime-time national games featured the Pac-10, not the Big 12?
What if Southern California’s late season rivals in and out of conference (UCLA, Notre Dame) hadn’t bottomed out and offered no opportunities to impress voters?
Would it be the Trojans and their defense – which allowed an eye-popping 7.8 points a game – that would be headed to South Florida?
No one knows. No one ever does with college football.
In the end we get Florida vs. Oklahoma; an intriguing and possibly great matchup. Both are fantastic teams and are as qualified as anyone. It’s as good of a pairing as any other.
Not better, mind you, but just as good.
You can’t definitively say it is any more correct than USC-Florida or Texas-USC or maybe even Utah-Oklahoma. What about Penn State-USC, which actually will be played but due to the system has no more value than the Motor City Bowl.
No one can say those games are better than UF-OU. And no one can say they aren’t.
It’s just a hall of mirrors.
That we get Florida-Oklahoma isn’t just a testament to why the BCS is a lousy way to conclude a great sport. It also shows that in a little over a decade the BCS has become painfully outdated for its even minimal goal – matching up the two best teams.
Pre-BCS, Florida would be in the Sugar Bowl, Oklahoma in the Orange and no one would have any idea which team was better. They’d just hold a vote at the end and pick one. It was ridiculous.
The idea back then was that since the top two teams were often easily identifiable why not create a system that could get them together?
It wasn’t the worst idea and while still full of corruption, duplicity and stupidity, it helped fuel the very surge in popularity that makes it so useless in current times.
The number of college football programs that are truly competing for a national championship has grown exponentially in just a decade. We’re talking facilities, coaching salaries, staff budgets and, perhaps most importantly, fan intensity.
College football is far more competitive than it once was. Everyone is on television so recruits will play just about anywhere. These aren’t the old days, when top players would gladly sit on the powerhouse bench for three years just for the chance as a senior. Now they go find playing time.
In the SEC just this season, coaches who owned a national title, a perfect season and the most recent league coach of the year honors were all out of their jobs. Each of them had a winning season in 2007.
That just didn’t happen in the mid-1990s.
When the suits were drawing this up, they assumed that most years, two teams would navigate the season with perfect records. That’s how it used to be. The selection process would be nice and easy.
They designed for the future based on the past. Then the future changed so quickly the past doesn’t even seem like the same sport.
What we have now is the new normal. Not only did no one go undefeated last year, two-loss Louisiana State won the championship. Every year there are an increasing number of teams that are in contention at season’s end.
So it comes down to marketing; which team can convince fickle voters they are more deserving than the other teams of essentially similar résumé.
There is no rhyme, nor reason. No strategy that makes sense. No collective sense of what the system values. Is it whom you beat and how? Is it who you lost to and how? Is it strength of schedule?
Is it OU’s mighty offense? Or USC’s incredible defense?
How can you tell when the voters make no sense.
Consider Oklahoma. Three weeks ago, after a blistering victory over then No. 2 Texas Tech and a big politicking effort by coach Bob Stoops, it moved ahead of Texas in the combined BCS opinion polls.
The next week, Texas defeated a bad Texas A&M team and OU won impressively at a good Oklahoma State team. Rather than OU strengthening its lead, it was Texas that moved back ahead with voters. The reason? A massive campaign by the school and coach Mack Brown that swayed some voters. (Due to the computers though, OU earned a Big 12 championship game berth.)
This week, with Texas’ season over, the Sooners defeated an overmatched Mizzou team that Texas had already beaten. The same voters decided that doing what everyone expected was enough to flip flop and put the Sooners back ahead of the ‘Horns.
None of those three moves made any sense. It was voters correcting corrections of corrections that shouldn’t have been corrected in the first place.
That’s your BCS.
Coaches are notoriously biased and distracted voters. The Harris Poll folks are often just incompetent – twice this year a voter forgot to vote. Then there is the following passage from Berry Tramel’s Dec. 1 column from the Daily Oklahoman:
True story from the Boone Pickens Stadium press box Saturday night.
I asked Harris poll voter Pat Quinn, the former Oklahoma State University sports information director, how he would vote OU and Texas if the Sooners won Saturday night.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Quinn said. “Doesn’t really matter.”
“I think Alabama and Penn State will probably play for the national championship,” Quinn said.
“They’re the only undefeated teams, aren’t they,” Quinn said.
Uh, actually, Penn State has a loss.
“Oh well,” Quinn said, “those Big Ten teams have a lot of votes.”
You’d hope the computers are more reliable, but two weeks ago Jerry Palm of CollegeBCS.com discovered that one of them – The Colley Matrix – miscalculated its own formula.
That six or seven teams have a legitimate claim on a spot in the BCS title game is how it is now and will be going forward. Like the NFL, college football is too competitive for perfect seasons to be common.
Yet the championship system is built for just that thing. It’s built for the 1990s.
Four conference commissioners – the Big East’s Mike Tranghese, the Big Ten’s Jim Delany, the Big 12’s Dan Beebe and the Pac-10’s Tom Hansen voted last spring to refuse to even discuss a forward-thinking plan brought forth by the ACC and SEC.
Tranghese and Hansen were pathetic enough to vote against the future only to promptly announce their retirements.
Clearly college football is lacking courage, vision and competency. Those commissioners fear that any adjustment to the current antiquated system would prove so popular and profitable people would want more and more of it.
So they prefer this inexplicable crap shot. They prefer voters who don’t even know who’s undefeated. They prefer to keep the parking brake on the sport, stick their heads in the sand and pretend this is working.
Three of the last four years, their system has produced a boring mismatch.