Friday, March 20, 2009

BCS not perfect but give it an edge over March Madness

I know many purists swear by the NCAA Tournament in college basketball and swear at the BCS in college football.

You can bet the deed to your house that people will go gaga for the next few weeks during March Madness and cries of a playoff in football will be in full bloom by early-to-mid October.

Heck, our president Barack Obama has already gotten on his soapbox about college football needing a playoff system. Don’t you think our country has more pressing needs at the moment? Like fixing the economy. Like addressing the war in Iraq.

I'm in the minority, while the BCS (Bowl Championship series) is not perfect, I don't think a playoff (a la NCAA March Madness in basketball) is the cat's meow either like some people are inclined to believe. OK, I know what you’re thinking. “Lay of the bong, Vince.”

For the record, I do enjoy March Madness. Like most people, I fill out my office pool but I refrained from asking Rick Neuheisul for any advice. Sorry, I could not resist. However, you’re not going to hear me say that March Madness is the greatest thing since the Great Wall of China.

You see, before the BCS came into being in the 1998 season, we frequently had two undefeated teams. The problem is that they seldom matched up against each either: 1991 Miami-Washington, 1994 Nebraska-Penn state, 1997 Nebraska-Michigan. Did those teams play each other on the field? No.

Why? Because the Pac-10 and Big 10 were so hell-bent on keeping their Rose Bowl tradition but when they had an unbeaten team, they'd whine about either getting a split National title (i.e. Michigan in 1997) or no National title (i.e. Penn State in 1994). I say, sorry folks. You can't have it both ways (i.e. keep your tradition and whine about a split National Title). The reality is that Penn State screwed itself out of the National title in 1994 by going from Independent to Big 10.

The BCS hasn't been without its controversies either. One loss Florida State instead of Miami (also a one loss team) played unbeaten Oklahoma in 2000. One loss Nebraska instead of Oregon (also a one loss team) played unbeaten Miami in 2001. One loss Oklahoma instead of one loss USC played LSU for the BCS title in 2003. One loss Florida instead of one loss Michigan played Ohio State in 2006. Of course, no one was complaining when in 2002 (Ohio State-Miami), 2004 (Oklahoma-USC) or 2005 (Texas-USC) were a battle of two unbeaten teams.

The 2006-2008 seasons, however, were jumbled beyond belief. In 2006, you had two one loss teams playing for the title as Florida met Ohio State, while one-loss Michigan and undefeated Boise State were left in the cold.

In 2007, you had a two-loss LSU team meeting a one-loss Ohio State team. In the two process, many people lobbied for USC and/or Georgia (a pair of two loss teams) to play in the title game.

In 2008, two one-loss teams (Florida and Oklahoma) met for the title while unbeaten Utah and one loss teams USC, Texas, Penn state and Alabama were left in the cold.

Ohio State lost both of its title games (41-16 to Florida and 38-24 to LSU) as viewers of the game wasted four hours of their lives they will not get back. Florida defeated Oklahoma 24-14.

The interesting subplot to the whole matter was that Boise State and Utah (two nonBCS schools) made noise. Boise State defeated Oklahoma 32-21 in the Fiesta Bowl in 2006. Well, 2006 regular season/2007 bowl game. While Utah defeated Alabama 31-17 in the Sugar Bowl in a game that really wasn’t even that close.

I’m perhaps in the minority but I think Boise State and Utah should have been awarded a share of the National Title or been allowed to play in the title game. And please, don’t come at me with the strength of schedule argument or the notion of “they would have gotten blown out.” And if they do, so what, I don’t see how it’s any worse than watching Ohio State get its doors blown off.

The BCS has been tweaked over the years with things such as quality win points, computer rankings, strength of schedule, etc. The anti-BCS folks have been equally tweaked and want say a four-team or and eight-team playoff with the preservation of the bowl games. Unfortunately, they forget one thing.
For example, suppose we have one undefeated team and four one-loss teams. How are you then going to justify leaving out one of the one-loss teams? Some would say make it eight teams. OK. Let's say you have two unbeaten teams, four one-loss teams and three two loss teams? How then do you justify leaving out one of the two loss teams.

I find it almost comical how fans, media and talk show hosts whine and complain about the BCS just like they whined and complained about Nebraska (2001) and Oklahoma (2003) not winning its conference but yet still playing for the title. Yet they don't say boo, yeah or neah about a team finishing seventh in its basketball conference and getting an NCAA tournament bid.

The pro March Madness folks would then say but "at least it's played on the court." True but it doesn't stop teams that were "on the bubble" from complaining about not getting an NCAA tournament bid.

The NCAA men's basketball tournament might be exciting but it's nothing more than a gimmick and de-emphasizes the regular season. Fans that love it say that a team can "get hot" all of the sudden. My argument is that any team can "get hot" all of the sudden but once they lose a game, the pressure is gone.
Whereas going undefeated is a bigger accomplishment. It's like pitching a perfect game in baseball. With each win, the laws of averages are not on your side because that team has a Bull's Eye right across its ever loving chest.

Again, March Madness is exciting but the field of 64 teams is watered down worse than a flat Budweiser and please don't come at with the George Masons of the world either. I say cut the field to 16 teams and have truly the best teams.
If the idea is to find out which college basketball team is the best by having a tournament and having everyone play it off, then when play the regular season in the first place? The BCS might need its share of tweaking but I've always argued that it comes closer to crowning a true national champion than college basketball does.

The best way to make a playoff in football a plausible situation is to make Notre Dame join a conference. I believe that’s as big of a reason as any why there is no playoff. Others have come up with a solution of matching up all conference winners. I like that scenario in that there is no ambiguity but some years one conference is appreciably strong while another is weak. I’d say just take the Top eight BCS teams, conference champ or not.

Of course, for a playoff to work Notre Dame must get off its high chair and join a conference but given their elitist mentality that’ll never happen.

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