On the BCS, Part II

Posted by: Avinash on Friday, December 7th, 2007

bcsI’m sure you already know the story. Missouri got HOSED. HOSED I say! Chase Daniel is a Heisman finalist damnit! Sadly, in a month no one will remember their cries. The reward for the #1 team the next-to-last week of the season is to face Darren McFadden in what’s basically his NFL audition. This will probably not end well for the Tigers, who could end up in a Cal 2004 situation and completely get wiped off the map.

But that’s speculative. It’s time for reality. Something tangible. A physics lesson, if I may.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics: The entropy, or disorder of an isolated system which is not in equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium.

Generally, the second law is great for existentialists and Creationists everywhere to build up pointless philosophical discussions about disorder and meaninglessness in the Universe and all such related garbage that is beyond the scope of this blog. But at least for our purposes, it can appropriately describe the madness of the BCS, which just produces more chaotic, more absurdist matchups than the year previous to this one. Every correction to the system just produces more disorder.

1999: The “Kansas State” rule (where #3 Kansas State was hosed out of a BCS spot), which necessitates the inclusion of the third seed (or the fourth seed if the third seed if necessary). This rule would later screw over Cal from inclusion in the BCS when it fell to #5 and provide the Bears with a good Holiday Bowl stomping.

2000: FSU, despite losing to Miami, passes both Miami and Washington (who BEAT the Hurricanes) to earn. This leads to quality wins and SOS tweaks, creating a system where the SEC (always the strongest conference) lies in a dominant position for getting to a title game with only one loss, opening the door for the LSU’s and Florida’s of the world. (Perplexingly when an undefeated team does emerge from the SEC, they do not play for the title).

2001: Nebraska gets beaten down in Boulder in their last regular season game but still makes it to the title game despite finishing 4th in the human polls and not even playing in their conference championship game–the BCS does not include time of loss in its scale, a clause that allowed LSU and Ohio State to slip back into #1 and #2 at the end of the season.

2003: The Oklahoma-USC-LSU fiasco spells the beginning of the end of the AP’s role in determining a national champion, putting it in the hands of coaches who are never ever biased, and the Harris Poll, a group of market research cyborgs who probably watch as much college football as they do rhythmic gymnastics.

2004: The aforementioned Texas-Cal nonsense comes to pass, something that I don’t want to talk about for fear of destroying my laptop.

2005: BCS #5 Notre Dame screws over BCS #4 Oregon, because the Irish are guaranteed a BCS spot if they’re in the top eight, and all you Pac-10 whiners forget that Notre Dame is the College of Football, goddamnit! Knute! Four Horseman! Drunk Catholics! RUDY! The Irish lose yet another bowl game, and the Ducks pull a Cal and fall meekly to Bob Stoops.

2006: SEC roulette. Auburn beats Florida and LSU, but loses to Georgia and Arkanasas. Arkansas loses to LSU in a classic Les Miles Pepto Bismol game, allowing LSU to go to the Rose Bowl. There were plenty of Big Ten/SEC teams in the top 12, but only four (Ohio State, Michigan, Florida, LSU) were allowed in because of the two team per conference limit, suggesting that the limit is a terrible constraint on who deserves what.

Additionally Boise State’s undefeated run suggested that Ohio State and Boise State should have been battling for the title. A similar suggestion could be made for Hawaii this year, who finished undefeated even though their only quality win was…Boise State. But the national powers want big schools, so Florida gets the nod, and, well, you know what happened.

This all leads to…

2007: Messy. Star Wars Turkey messy.

[youtube NbYczbBlatA]

Missouri beats Kansas, loses to Oklahoma and gets passed over for the Orange Bowl by…Kansas. But the Rose Bowl loves tradition and needs its hearty share of Big Ten football, so Illinois gets in. Arizona State then gets shafted from a bowl and gets sent off to the Holiday Bowl although the griping is minimal because ASU had two good chances to prove themselves and failed both of them pretty decisively.

(Just a sidenote: Missouri also beat Illinois.)

Oh, the BCS. It’s just bound to make your blood boil.

To be honest, my anger here in 2007 is minimal. The bowl matchups look fairly solid on paper–yes, even Georgia-Hawaii, which I’ll get to next week. But I still think there is something fundamentally flawed with a system that has to continually tweak itself each year to suit the needs of determining a faux national champion that only satisfies the fans of the school that is crowned.

Only one scenario ever satisfies me under the current BCS–#1 undefeated vs #2 undefeated, with no other undefeateds crowding the litter. All other scenarios have produced mainly either blowouts or turgid affairs without a shred of competitiveness.

The solution to this will have to be radical–not a playoff, not a reversion to the old ways, but something that satisfies everyone. I don’t have the answer right now because entertaining the possibility is beyond my scope. How would you improve it?

Next week in the series: Bowl previews, ending with the BCS matchups.

(Image: Trojan Wire)

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