November 30, 2008
First things first: Of the two relevant polls that have been released as of this writing, the Coaches poll and Jeff Sagarin's computer poll both rank Oklahoma ahead of Texas. The margin in the Sagarin poll is .44 points, out of a possible 100 for any given team. The margin in the Coaches' poll is one point out of a total 19,825 points across the entire poll. Because the BCS uses voting percentages in its calculations, not the rankings, Oklahoma's advantage there is 7.05 percent of all points to Texas' 7.04 percent. Seriously: It's one-hundredth of a point according to the coaches. They're separated by literally one vote.
The mysterious Harris poll and the other computer polls won't update until later today, and I'll be somewhere thousands of feet above the Lonestar State when the hammer officially drops on the Longhorns or Sooners tonight (better the hammer than my plane). But if I had to guess -- and it's only a guess because I'd put my money on Oklahoma coming out a sliver ahead, earning the Big 12 Championship bid against Missouri and inspiring heroic acts of anger and anxiety throughout Texas over the next week.
This is not fair. There is no fair: As I've written before and re-emphasized after Oklahoma's win over Oklahoma State, fair is not an option here. The only fair system would include both OU and Texas. Either team is screwed by a BCS snub; I'm guessing that team is Texas not only because of Oklahoma's standing lead in the human polls and strength-of-schedule boost in beating OSU, but because of its overall resumé.
For OU and Texas, the margins of victory, strength of schedule (according to Jeff Sagarin) and opponents' winning percentages are virtually identical. What you make of this depends on your emphasis: Texas fans (obviously) are most interested in the Longhorns' head-to-head win, as they've gone to great effort and expense to demonstrate. I'm more interested -- and I think the computers are more interested -- in the number of quality wins over ranked teams and other major teams with solid (7-8 wins) records. Oklahoma's advantage here is more obvious when you look at the entire schedule:
The order and "tiers" are based on Sagarin's rankings (if you're wondering why Rice is as high as it is under Texas' schedule, ask him), but the specific order isn't remotely as important as the number of games Oklahoma has in the top tiers compared to the other two. Essentially, the difference is that, as blowout non-conference wins go, TCU and Cincinnati are significantly better than Rice and Arkansas. That's what I see, and I expect that's what the computers will see. That's it.
Of course, I have no idea because I'm not running algorithms, and I can't predict which computer numbers will be thrown out or what effect that might have. I know someone named the "BCS Guru" agrees with me for basically the same reasons. It's not right or wrong -- the fact that we have to have this argument and split these atoms is fundamentally wrong. But as long as one team has to win, Oklahoma is probably going to be that team. We'll sort through the numbers tonight in the weekly "BCS Bustin'" item.