BCS By Committee

by David Mihm | December 7th, 2003

First off, I have no rooting interest in any of the three teams involved in this year’s controversy. And let me say that everyone associated with USC football has plenty to gripe about. The “#1″ team in America, voted by the coaches AND the writers, will not be playing in the official national championship game. IF the Trojans are able to beat Michigan in Pasadena in the Granddaddy of them all, then I think we’re going to have a disputed national champion.But I’ve heard about enough of college football media like John Saunders and Craig James whining that the “#1″ team is not playing for the national title. Last time I checked, the BCS was designed to ensure that the two BEST teams in the country play for the national title each year. This year, the system objectively did just that in choosing Oklahoma and LSU. Putting all of the financial (and other) inequities for smaller conferences aside, until the NCAA and major TV networks can get together and agree on a 4- 6- or 8-team playoff format, the BCS is not a bad alternative for selecting the national championship participants.

Basically everyone agrees that LSU, whose only loss was a close game against the Gators, deserves a shot at the title. But Craig, John, and everyone else, I’ll give you your wish. Let’s take a look at the scenario, if, as you suggest, college football hired a panel of experts to choose the national title game participants.

Here’s a look at the Oklahoma and USC football teams from the standpoint of the NCAA Basketball-Selection-Style Committee:

Overall record/”RPI”: Basically a wash. Both have 1 loss. RPI 1/2.

Road/Neutral Record: Sooners 5-1*. Trojans 4-1. *=marquee win @Texas. Sooners have a slight edge.

Last 10 Games: Both teams 9-1. If we look at a number more proportional to football than basketball, (last five games), the Trojans have a slight edge at 5-0 vs. 4-1.

Overall strength of schedule. Here the Sooners (11) have the clear edge over the Trojans (39). One could argue that USC shouldn’t be penalized for playing in the relatively weaker Pac-10. But, if you KNOW you’re at a disadvantage in the conference SOS department, it’s your responsibility to schedule tough non-conference games. This isn’t a “mid-major disadvantage” situation either–it’s hard to believe that a school with the tradition and reputation of USC would struggle to find strong non-conference opponents. Now granted, the Auburn Tigers were expected to have a much better year than they did, but let’s ask the USC coaching staff, why not schedule a Big Ten or Big 12 team instead of BYU or Hawaii in weeks two and three?

(This is why you have to respect teams like Gonzaga and Temple on the basketball side of things: these programs know they are going to have a tough time making the NCAA Tournament on the strength of their conference schedule, so they go out and schedule top competition in the nonconference.)

Quality Wins. Trojans: Auburn (questionable), Washington State. Sooners: Texas, Oklahoma State. Since we already gave the Sooners the slight edge in the Road/Neutral department, we’ll call this one a wash.

Bad Losses. The Sooners lost to a dangerous Kansas State team also ranked in the BCS Top 10. The Trojans lost to a mediocre Cal team who had to beat Stanford on the final weekend of the regular season just to become bowl-eligible. Edge: Sooners.

CLEAR ADVANTAGE: Oklahoma Sooners.

Again, no disrespect intended towards USC. But the only reason there’s an uproar is the timing of Oklahoma’s loss at the end of the season. If one looks objectively at both teams’ “body of work” throughout the entire season, it’s clear that the Sooners are a better team. And until the powers-that-be in college football opt for a playoff system to let the contenders decide the outcome on the field, the BCS remains the best possible alternative.

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