Answering the riddles of the BCS
Should Texas be in the championship game? What was the case for TCU or Cincinnati to join Alabama in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 7? And wasn’t Boise State supposed to get left out of the mix? The BCS often creates more questions than answers, so let’s try to clear up a few mysteries right now.
Q: Why does Texas deserve to be in the championship game ahead of TCU, Cincinnati and Boise State?
A: Texas started the season ranked No. 2 and never slipped below No. 3 in the polls. Critics will note that, as the season progressed, the Longhorns’ resume took some hits because the Big 12 wasn’t as good this season as last. Texas has two victories against teams currently ranked in the Top 25 of the BCS standings or AP poll. TCU has two. Cincinnati has three. Boise State? Just one.
Texas played a soft nonconference slate, its best win coming against UCF. TCU won at Clemson. Cincinnati won at Oregon State. Boise State beat Oregon.
But despite all that, Texas still played a substantially tougher overall schedule than any of the other three, according to both the NCAA’s rating and the Sagarin computer rating. And while the Big 12 was down, it still rated much better than either the Mountain West Conference (where TCU plays) and Western Athletic Conference (Boise State’s league) in the Sagarin ratings. The Big 12 did trail the Big East.
There’s no doubt the Longhorns’ pedigree and starting position helped them win this race, but they still have the best case for being No. 2.
Q: Should we be questioning Alabama’s worthiness, too?
A: No. The Crimson Tide’s resume is impeccable. Alabama had three victories against currently ranked teams (Virginia Tech, LSU and Florida). Its schedule was rated fourth-toughest in the nation by the NCAA and 20th-toughest by Sagarin, tops by far among the unbeatens.
The SEC was the No. 1-rated conference by Sagarin, and anyone who watched Alabama dismantle the Gators saw a team that should be playing for a national championship.
Q: What is TCU’s best argument for being in the championship game?
A: The Horned Frogs spent the second half of their season pummeling the opposition. TCU won its last six games by an average of 32 points, including routs of Utah and BYU. The Frogs look like a team that can compete with any opponent.
Q: What is Cincinnati’s best argument for being in the championship game?
A: The Big East’s relative strength compared to the Big 12. That, combined with the Bearcats’ victory at Oregon State and one of the best offenses in the country.
Q: What is Boise State’s best argument for being in the championship game?
A: The Broncos don’t have a case. Since beating Oregon they have spent the rest of the season playing teams that range from slightly above-average (Fresno State and Nevada) to terrible (San Jose State, Hawaii, Utah State and Tulsa), with more terrible opponents than slightly above-average ones.
Q: Wasn’t Boise State supposed to get shut out of the BCS once TCU earned an automatic bid?
A: Only one team from a conference without an automatic bid can earn an automatic bid by finishing in the top 12 of the final BCS standings. TCU locked that up. Conventional wisdom was the Broncos would get shut out like last year because the bowls aren’t thrilled about inviting teams from those leagues – not big enough fan bases and not interesting enough to casual fans. But as marquee teams such as USC, Notre Dame and Miami accumulated losses, the Broncos became the only viable option.
Q: Why did the Fiesta Bowl pair TCU and Boise State, two BCS busters?
A: Because the other alternative was Iowa against one of the two undefeated so-called outsiders, which is not much of an alternative. Now the Fiesta Bowl can tout a game matching two undefeated teams, something no BCS game other than the national title tilt has ever been able to do.
“We see it as taking a large chunk out of the glass ceiling,” Fiesta Bowl president John Junker said.
Q: Did any team that deserved to be in get left out?
A: Definitely not. There was talk Penn State (10-2) might get selected over Iowa (10-2) because the Nittany Lions and coach Joe Paterno have more national appeal. But the Hawkeyes beat Penn State.
Q: Aside from the championship game, which BCS game is a must-watch?
A: Hard to pass up Tim Tebow’s last college game. He should go out with a big performance against Cincinnati’s porous defense in the Sugar Bowl. It’ll also be interesting to see how the Bearcats’ potent spread offense matches up with the Gators’ talented defense. And by then everyone should know one way or the other if Brian Kelly is going to be Notre Dame’s next coach.
Q: Is college football any closer to having a playoff and getting rid of this frustrating system?
A: Maybe, but don’t count on it. The new four-year TV contract with ESPN starts next season. A four-team playoff was proposed and shot down before the new deal was signed. The constant nagging and threats from politicians, combined with too many lackluster BCS matchups such as Iowa-Georgia Tech, might sway the people in charge to change.
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