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This week is another great example of why people should care about polls and rankings. It’s not just about the BCS championship game. Teams with higher rankings get better TV, radio and newspaper coverage… and sometimes they even help determine conference championships.
This week, one conference is depending on the BCS to sort out their champions: the Big Ten. Also, the Big 12 came very close to having a repeat of 2008.
The Big 10 still has the three-way tie I discussed at length last week between Michigan State, Wisconsin and Ohio State. Again, if you went in order of head-to-head victories, that is how they would be ranked: Michigan State > Wisconsin > Ohio State. Michigan State should be going to the Rose Bowl. Instead, they won’t be going to any BCS bowl because they are the lowest of the three in the BCS rankings.
Here is the actual rule that is causing all of the fuss (section B.5.e):
“If three teams are still tied, and all three teams have the same winning percentage of all games played, the highest-ranked team in the final BCS standings shall be the representative.”
Since all three teams have the same winning percentage (11-1 overall), The BCS standings are used. However, the rules don’t account for this year’s situation. There is no contingency for when there is a very clear set of head-to-head results, but all three teams haven’t played each other. The Big Ten obviously puts a lot of weight behind head-to-head results. It is the first applicable tiebreaker (B.2):
“If there is a tie for the championship, the winner of the game between these two teams shall represent the conference.”
However, the rules incorrectly throw out the head-to-head results when an extra team gets added to the mix, but when they don’t all play each other. The Big Ten set up the schedule for Michigan State, and the Spartans did what they needed to do considering they weren’t slated to play Ohio State. However, B.5.e robs Michigan State of the bowl game they deserve. The Big Ten, based on the order of their tiebreaker rules, states that head-to-head results are the most important factor in breaking ties, but then falls back on the BCS to resolve the current situation, trumping the head-to-head results.
The rules should have stipulated that the BCS would be used only when all three teams have a win over each other. That would make a circular reference that would be impossible to resolve by head-to-head results. However, that isn’t the case this year. Michigan State is the clear winner of the head-to-head matchups, and is the clear loser of the Big Ten rules. Some fans (particularly Wisconsin fans) don’t want to hear that, but it is the Big Ten that set up head-to-head results to be so important, and nobody complained about that. If they wanted BCS rankings to trump the results on the field, the Big Ten should have made the BCS rankings the first tie-breaker. Then the current situation would make sense. Instead, we end up with a mixed message. Head-to-head results are most important, but we’ll ignore them in this case.
The Big 12 and its tiebreaker rules, have a much easier situation to deal with this year. Since all three teams (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M) are in the same division, they are all guaranteed to play each other. However, there is still the chance of all three having the same conference record and one win over the others, which is the case this year. Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State. Oklahoma State beat Texas A&M. Texas A&M beat Oklahoma. They all have 6-2 records in conference. It would be up to the BCS to solve the problem, except that Texas A&M has on out-of-conference loss (Arkansas), so the Aggies’ overall record knocks them out of the title game (section b.1). That leaves Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, and RIGHTFULLY leaves the decision to the head-to-head results. That sends Oklahoma to the title game. The BCS has nothing to do with the Big 12 this year as some sources are reporting, although it did in 2008 when Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech tied and forced the Big 12 to resort to the BCS rankings as well.
If you’re reading this column, you likely know the importance of polls and rankings. However, there are still many who think they only affect two teams at the end of the season… the ones going to the BCS Championship. It is up to us to help people understand that there is so much more at stake for many teams, throughout the whole season. That’s why Pollspeak exists. Mistakes (or corruption) in the polls can potentially cost schools millions of dollars, and can cause fans immeasurable frustration.
Before I close, let me express the frustration of Nevada fans. They just beat Boise State in one of the WAC’s most publicized upsets. Technically, the Wolf Pack also has a better record than Boise State; yet they are ranked below the Broncos in every human poll. In the AP, 34 out of 60 voters still ranked Boise State higher. Yes, it was a home game for Nevada, and it was a close, overtime win, but that doesn’t excuse Robert Cessna from ranking Nevada 11 spots below Boise State. He actually has Nevada ranked the same spot as the week before. Man, that’s just biased. That’s biased, man.