Monday, October 22, 2012

BCS Bashfest 2012

I'm sure the annual tradition of putting down the BCS has been going on everywhere since the first set of rankings came out just over a week ago.  It's only natural that when you throw 124 teams into one list of best to worst that only a handful of them will be happy while the rest moan and groan about the results.  As a Rutgers fan, I could not be happier with this year.  Number 15 in the nation, and undefeated at 7-0 is absolutely fantastic.  We're not at the top of the BCS rankings, nor do I think we should be.  Moreover, I'm not expecting my team to be playing for a National Title, but a Big East title and BCS bowl would be great.

Nevertheless, half of the Rutgers online community I frequent is up and arms about the fact that Rutgers did not move up a single spot this week while a certain former Big East school with back to back losses has only fallen to 19th.  From there, the conversation translated into the lack of respect the Big East gets, and how a 12-0 Big East school would not be in the running for a BCS National Title Game berth, and may not even be in the running for one of the four playoff spots next year.  To me, that is nothing short of unsubstantiated paranoia.

First, let's acknowledge that a 12-0 Big East team will certainly not get the level of respect this year as a 12-0 from any other BCS conference.  That simply won't happen.  Not saying whether they should or should not, but simply put, they won't.  Of course, that is assuming a 12-0 team even exists at the end of the season (Rutgers and Louisville are the only remaining unbeatens).  That isn't a surprise really, and falls in line with history over the past decade.  However, the discrepancy is not what some may think.

While the human polls are extremely biased, largely due to the stupidity of preseason polls, the BCS does not exactly force matchups that are not there.  Some like to spew that a 2-loss SEC is more highly regarded than some undefeated teams, or other 1-loss teams.  That really isn't the case except when it comes to BCS busters (and that truly is a while other argument).

In fact, since the BCS began in 1998, only once has a BCS team been chosen for a National Championship berth over another BCS team that had a superior overall record.  Never, ever, ever, ever has an undefeated BCS team been passed over by a 1-loss BCS team.  People seem to think the SEC continues to send overrated teams each season to the National Championship.  They clearly are not overrated when they win every year (not counting the travesty of last year), but more over, they never make it over more deserving Big East, ACC, Pac-12, etc. teams.

The only time a team with an inferior record showed up in a National Championship Game was following the 2007 season when 2-loss LSU went and beat Ohio State.  However, it should be recognized that the only team aside from Ohio State that had 1-loss was Kansas.  Kansas played a far weaker schedule that season, and didn't win the Big 12 or even the Big 12 North that season.  They dodged playing he Big 12 Champion, Oklahoma that year, by losing to Missouri, and thus couldn't play in the Big 12 Championship Game.

All that being said, an undefeated Big East team was passed up recently because of the biased of the polls.  In 2009, the preseason polls didn't rank a single Big East team in the top 25.  Cincinnati ran the table at 12-0, moving up to #3 by the time of the final BCS poll.  However, the Big 12 Championship (between 12-0 Texas and Nebraska) came down to the final play of the game.  Texas won, holding onto a 13-0 record, and played in the National Championship against 13-0 Alabama.  Had a borderline call on the last play of the Big 12 Championship went the other way, Cincinnati would have played Alabama for the National Title.  To be quite honest, Cincinnati deserved to be the team left out in the dark that year.  Instead, they played 12-1 Florida (Florida's only loss came to Alabama in the SEC Championship) in the Sugar Bowl, and were promptly crushed.

The Big East has had other chances, but until they can deliver undefeated teams it is not to be.  In 2006, three teams (Rutgers, Louisville, and West Virginia) went undefeated into November.  The three of them each beat one another, and Rutgers and West Virginia both lost an additional game that month.  Louisville had been 9-0 and #3 in the nation.  A win over Rutgers would have sealed a 12-0 season for them and all but guaranteed a National Title berth.  Ironically, an undefeated Rutgers team that season may have in fact been passed over by a 1-loss SEC team that year because Rutgers began the first four weeks of their season unranked.  Sadly, we are never able to see what could have happened if they ran the table as it may have argued against the whole point here.

A year later in 2007, a 10-1 West Virginia team climbed to #2 in the nation.  People seem to forget the Big East had two teams reach #2 in 2007 (South Florida being the other in mid-October), and everyone almost certainly forgets West Virginia did it in the final week of the season with one loss.  However, an incredible choke job on their part in the final game of the year against Pittsburgh cost them a chance at the title.  In fact, they were ranked above #3 11-1 Ohio State, and the aforementioned 11-1 Kansas team.  However, the loss not only dropped them to #9, it meant they only tied for the Big East Championship (with UConn).

That was followed two years later by the Cincinnati incident I mentioned above.  It proves the point the Big East is in the running for National Championships, but they need to win out to do it.  While a 1-loss may never make it to the title game (2007 was an incredible fluky season), that is often the way it is for many BCS conferences.  One-loss Pac-12 teams have not been considered over the past few years, and last year there was an SEC rematch because Oklahoma State lost their final game of the season.  Point is, the Big East is not that far behind everyone else in that regard.  Should Rutgers or Louisville continue their run at perfection this year, and others fall out from the mix, they could easily be in the conversation.

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