I usually find myself rooting for the underdog if I don’t have a horse in the race. In this year’s college football season, there is an outside chance that the greatest underdog of the BCS era may actually get their shot. Strangely, however, I don’t know if I want to see it.
It is an intense debate; there is no doubt about that. I understand the BCS is a system that is designed to ensure the top two teams in the country play each other for the National Championship as well as match 8 other top teams in the other BCS bowl games. Can anybody honestly say that Boise State is in the same class as the teams from the traditional power conferences? I’d say at the very least it’s a tough sell. The most common and logical argument is that everyone should have a fair shot and that the records should be a big factor in shaking out the polls. Boise State has a legitimate shot to go undefeated. That should put them playing for a title if there are no other undefeated teams, right? As ESPN’s Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast, my friend!” Let’s talk about the other side of the coin, competition. By the end of the season, Boise State will have played 10 non-BCS schools and 2 BCS schools. Those two BCS schools were Virginia Tech and Oregon State. Boise State defeated them both. Virginia tech however, lost the following week to James Madison, which could prove to be the biggest blow to Boise States’ chances. Oregon State is also a lackluster win; they’ve started 3-3 this season.
The major question is whether a 12-0 Boise State team deserves to be in one of the top two BCS spots over a 1 or 2 loss team from the Pac-10, Big Ten, Big 12, or SEC. Three straight weeks the number 1 team in the nation has lost (Alabama, Ohio St., and Oklahoma). In each case, teams below Boise State have jumped ahead of them in the polls. Now in the BCS rankings, Auburn and Oregon are the top two teams. Interestingly enough, though; The AP and Coaches poll have the teams ranked, Oregon, Boise, and then Auburn. This is a prime example of how strength of schedule and quality wins are factored in. Just how is it determined, you ask?
A breakdown of the ranking components:
I. Harris Interactive Poll (1/3rd)
Replaces the AP Poll. The first poll will be released October 10, then weekly through December 5. A team’s score in the Harris poll will be divided by 2,850, which is the maximum number of points any team can receive if all 114 voting members rank the same team as Number 1. Example: 2,850 / 2,850 = 1.0. If a team receives a total of 114 voting points (or 1 point/vote), an average of 25th place, their BCS quotient of this component would be .04. (1.0 / 25 = 0.04).
II. Coaches Poll (1/3rd)
A team’s score in the USA Today poll will be divided by 1,475, which is the maximum number of points any team can receive if all 59 voting members rank the same team as Number 1. Example: 1,475 / 1,475 = 1.0. If a team receives a total of 59 voting points (or 1 point/vote), an average of 25th place, their BCS quotient of this component would be .04. (1.0 / 25 = 0.04).
(Better understanding the polls: In both human polls, voting members fill out their own top 25 rankings ballot. Each team receives 1-25 points in reverse order of the way they are ranked. The 25th place team on each ballot receives 1 point, 24th place gets 2 points, 23rd receives 3 points… first place receives 25 points. This inverse point order is also applied to the computer rankings.
In the Harris Interactive College Football Poll and USA Today Coaches Poll, a team will be evaluated on the number of voting points it receives in each poll. The number of actual voters, which can vary, is figured into the computation on a weekly basis in stating each team’s percentage of a possible perfect score.
III. Computer rankings (1/3rd)
The computer rankings percentage is calculated by dropping the highest and lowest ranking for each team and then dividing the remaining total by 100, the maximum possible points. (Example: the 6 rankers have Team A ranked 2, 3, 3, 3, 3, and 4. Take away the 2 and 4 which leaves an average of 3rd place. The BCS quotient of this component would be 0.92. (23 / 25 = 0.92).
Simplifying the formula:
The percentage totals of the Harris Interactive Poll, USA Today Poll, and the computer rankings are then averaged. The teams’ averages are ranked to produce the BCS Standings.
A = Team is No. 1 in Harris Poll with all voters = 1.000
B = Same team is No. 1 in Coaches Poll with all voters = 1.000
C = Same team is No. 3 in Computer Rankings = 0.920
Result: (A+B+C)/3 = Total Score of 0.973
Boise State will receive an automatic bid to a BCS game if they win their conference, and rank higher than 12th in the BCS. Of which, is very likely to be the case. Obviously, a loss to anyone eliminates all possibility. They will only make it to the BCS National Championship if they are ranked #1 or #2 in the BCS, as is the case for anyone.
I still think they would need help to get there, in fact, so much help, I don’t see it. But here it is:
Auburn-loss to Ole’ Miss or Georgia
Oregon-loss to USC, Cal, or especially Oregon State (Boise State defeated them).
Michigan State-loss to Iowa or Penn State
Alabama-loss to LSU, or a 1 loss Auburn
Missouri-loss to Nebraska
If all of that goes down, then I don’t see how Boise State is left out of the top two spots.
Referring back to my opening point, I don’t know if that’s what I WANT to see. It was all very cute and valiant, and righteous of all of us to scream that Boise State and Texas Christian can play with anybody, and that it would be so great to see them play in a National Title game. But that was only the case when it wasn’t a plausible scenario. This year, however unlikely, is still plausibly going to have Boise State playing for the Coaches Trophy. I know it’s that way because I usually love the underdog story, and I don’t love this one. I don’t think its right to walk through a cream puff conference and then act like the prom queen that gets robbed of the crown.
I am a Big Ten guy; however, I am still objective enough to recognize that Alabama has the most talented team in the nation. Alabama’s schedule is a nightmare, every SEC team they face the rest of the way has a week off before to tune up just for them, and at this point they have one loss! C’mon, folks, that is impressive. At the very least, far more impressive than Boise’s collective body of work against two crappy BCS schools and a bunch of nobody’s to this point. I don’t care if you blow out Wyoming. Alabama, Auburn, Ohio State, and Oregon can all do that too, with ease. I don’t mean to sell Boise State short, they seem very athletic, talented, and well coached. But put even average teams from any power conference like Mississippi State in the WAC, and put Boise State in a real conference like the SEC and the results would be similar. Mississippi State would run the table and Boise State at best, would be .500.
Boise, be happy with your Cinderella, BCS buster role, you’ll get your automatic bid with a conference title every year, as long as your relevant. It’s a nice payday, good exposure, and it’s a lot more than most teams can say. But if you want to compete legitimately for national championships, then join a real conference, play some real opponents, the Mountain West doesn’t count, nice try. Good luck this week against the Southwestern San Diego Metro Area Vocational & Technical Training University for Working Adults. I think you guys are laying 370 points in that one…