Tag:BCS Bowls
Posted on: January 5, 2012 4:51 am
 

What's to be done about 'rogue' AP voters?

Posted by Adam Jacobi

A report came out Wednesday night that some AP voters were prepared to vote LSU as the national champion even if Alabama beats the Tigers at the BCS Championship on January 12. There are conditions, of course; if 'Bama wins handily, there's not going to be much doubt who the deserving national champion is. But still, if the title game is another close, unconvincing affair that this time tilts in favor of Alabama, there are people on record who are at the very least open to the prospect of sticking with LSU.

"Awarding a championship to a team that loses its final game is beyond counterintuitive and may be un-American," said David Teel of the Daily Press in Hampton Roads, Va. "But if LSU loses narrowly, I will absolutely consider (voting the Tigers No. 1). That's how good the Tigers' regular season -- five wins over the top 25, four away from Death Valley, including at Alabama -- was." Another voter in Albuquerque told CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd that Alabama's win "would have to be like 63-0 or something" before he'd consider voting for the Tide over LSU.

[Doyel: Splitting BCS national championship 'stupidest idea ever']

The conundrum Teel raises along with his supposedly "rogue" compatriots is a real one, and one that cuts to the core of polling as a college football institution. At the end of the day, though, Teel is not only well within his right to wonder aloud about this game's effect on his final ballot -- if the conditions are right, he should follow his gut and go with LSU to win the title.

First, it's important to understand why polling even needs to exist in college football (which it does!) in the first place. The validity of determining a Top 25 in college football is dramatically hindered by two factors:

1) We just don't have much data to work with. Assuming one of the central maxims of college football and the BCS is correct -- that the most important determinant in whether one team is better than the other is what happens when they play each other -- then in order to justify a two-team playoff out of a 120-team league, we would likely need way more than 12 or 13 data points for each team (especially with two-thirds of nearly every schedule dedicated to common games with a highly consolidated group of conference opponents). Baseball uses 162 games in a 32-game league, and this year, it needed all 162 just to determine an 8-team playoff setup.

Now, the point can be made that MLB didn't actually need all 162 games to determine its playoff participants -- nobody was screaming about major league baseball's illegitimacy when the season was 154 games long (or less) for the first 85 years of the league's existence, after all -- but if we extrapolate college football's rate of missing opponents to the MLB, the season would be four games long, three of the games would be dedicated to intra-division play, and the fourth game would be for one non-division opponent. And then two title game participants are chosen. If MLB commissioner Bud Selig proposed this, he would be fired. He would be quadruple-fired. Then the riots would begin.

2) The data we do have is highly contradictory anyway. Even if we had a season with dozens upon dozens of games, upsets are so prevalent that the rankings would still be a relatively poor predictor of future games. We all like to believe that if one team beats the other, it's better than the other team, but here's the full list of the Associated Press Top 25* teams that have not lost to a team ranked below them: LSU, Alabama, Oregon, Arkansas, Virginia Tech, Georgia, and Penn State. In other words, even among what voters have determined to be the best 25 teams, 76% are ranked ahead of a different team that beat them during the season, and it took only 12-13 games to get to that point. For the next 25 teams, the ones with even more losses than 1-3 on the year, there would be utter carnage in trying to only rank teams ahead of the ones they beat. Consider that the next time somebody makes the all-too-prevalent argument of "How can Team X be behind Team Y in the rankings when Team X beat Team Y?" 

Now, even though college football is filled with game-changing factors that hinge on chance (weather, injuries, fumbles) this pattern of teams routinely losing to worse teams is not a phenomenon unique to the sport. Going back to baseball, losses are so prevalent that even the best teams rarely win more than two-thirds of their games. In professional football, the teams with the best regular-season record are barely more likely to make the Super Bowl than the average playoff-bound team. But those two leagues (and every other professional team sport) feature multi-round playoffs, so the contradictions are rendered meaningless through the process of the playoffs -- even as said playoffs routinely eliminate teams that would take a BCS Championship bid if such a system existed in the league.  

College football does not have the luxury of expanding its schedule to adequately address either of the the above factors, especially in light of the FBS' mammoth number of programs -- football is debilitatingly brutal as it is, plus the prospect of trying to turn a profit in the postseason is prohibitively difficult for athletic departments even with a one-week schedule -- so it has to make do with its small, weak set of data in order to determine championship participants. In must step pollsters to interpret that data in their own way, and generally, those pollsters do a very good job of contextualizing the data and putting together a (temporarily) coherent Top 25 -- at least in the poll's weekly aggregations. So given the limitations of college football scheduling, there's really no other way to delineate between specific programs than by subjective ranking.

The rankings are each pollster's individual interpretation of the entire season, and if there's any doubt about that, regard the amount of teams that find themselves ranked second in the season's very final poll without playing in the BCS Championship because they won their bowl games while ranked third while the BCS Championship loser was thumped so soundly it couldn't hang onto the second-ranked spot. Those votes as No. 2 aren't protest votes to suggest that the BCS took the wrong team to challenge the top-ranked team or that a plus-one needs to be enacted immediately, they're reflections of each team's work on the season as a whole.

So given that, it's particularly backwards of the BCS and Coaches Poll to require that the winner of the BCS Championship be voted as national champion while allowing the loser to be ranked lower than second if need be. The season as a whole is what it is, and if AP voters determine that a potential slim Alabama victory over LSU at a (semi-) neutral site in the BCS Championship doesn't constitute enough of a reason to like Alabama's season more than LSU's, those voters should absolutely rank LSU first in their final ballots. They should be prepared to defend the decision, of course, but they should do it; otherwise, what's the point of being granted a vote in the first place?

*The AP Top 25 was chosen because the Coaches Poll and BCS exclude Southern California for reasons that are not germane to this particular topic.
 

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Posted on: October 20, 2011 3:19 am
Edited on: October 20, 2011 1:16 pm
 

Mountain West commish proposes 16-team playofff

Posted by Adam Jacobi

In one of the strongest overtures yet to a revamped offseason in college football, the Mountain West Conference has proposed a 16-team playoff in the current FBS -- and a complete dismantling of the Bowl Championship Series.

Craig Harris of the Arizona Republic reports that MWC commissioner Craig Thompson has submitted the plan to the NCAA, and says it could increase playoff revenue multiple times over:

Mountain West Commissioner Craig Thompson, in an interview with The Arizona Republic, estimated a playoff would generate $700 million annually for college football, more than three times the nearly $182 million the BCS generated last year.

"What we are trying to do is offer an alternative with the current system. We have not been comfortable with the current system," said Thompson, who based his financial projections on current television contracts with various conferences.

The Mountain West plan would make it easier for champions of all 11 Football Bowl Subdivison conferences to qualify for the post-season as long as a team is ranked among the top 30 in the country. The rest of the tournament would be filled with at-large selections, and a committee would determine the seeding. Teams not making the tournament could play in minor bowl games.

CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd has all the details of Thompson's plan, which you can peruse here.

Now, the odds of this proposal actually being adopted are somewhere between "no" and "NOOOOO," because there's nothing to suggest that Thompson has the support of any of the BCS conferences. Plus, if the current logjam atop the polls works itself out to the point that there's two clear BCS Championship participants, a playoff suggestion would be political kryptonite for at least 12 months. "The system works," the powers that be will all crow, and let's face it: they'll have a point.

However, if let's say Wisconsin and Stanford are both undefeated and left out of the playoff situation -- or if somehow a one-loss LSU or Alabama overtakes a BCS conference team -- the tide could theoretically turn against a BCS system in favor of a playoff. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany has long enjoyed his conference's relative power in the current BCS arrangement, when a 12-0 Big Ten team never has any problem garnering a BCS Title Game invitation for its troubles. Change that arrangement, though, and who knows what enmity Delany will be garner?

That all said, while the number of 16 teams sounds admrably inclusive, there exists the pesky problem of dilution of quality. Here are the current Nos. 11-16 teams in the 2011 BCS standings as of October 19.

11. Kansas State

12. Virginia Tech

13. Nebraska

14. South Carolina

15. West Virginia

16. Michigan State 

That group of teams -- which also comprises 11-16 in the AP poll but in a different order, so there aren't any unpopular shenanigans with determining that tier --  is not bad. It's also depressingly mediocre compared to Nos. 1-6 in the same polls, and in no way a group of teams that has any legitimate claim at the national championship. And that's if we ignore Thompson's plan to incorporate conference champions who are in the Top 30 of the BCS standings. That would sub out Michigan State for Houston, and No. 28 Notre Dame and No. 32 UL-Lafayette might be sniffing bids too. This is the Mountain West's plan.

Now yes, looking at the NCAA basketball tournament, mid-majors with middling resumes are not universally a bad thing. Butler, in particular, was an extremely compelling Cinderella team -- in 2009.

But Thompson would be much wiser to look at Butler in 2010, when the team was seeded at No. 8 again and made an unlikely run to the title game again, only to stink up the joint in a loss to heavily favored UConn, a game so bad it sort of cheapened the Huskies' NCAA title and made some grumpy fans wonder how, precisely, this was all the NCAA could muster for a supposedly authoritative championship game. And when the BCS has faced similar complaints about quality, it's been from its placement of BCS-conference teams -- even when they're ranked, ohidunno, 16th -- into bowl games where they clearly don't belong. And now we want to open the door for those teams to, in theory, make the championship game?

So that's the test for how deep a playoff's cutoff really ought to go: not whether fans would enjoy seeing a team of that seed compete for a championship, but whether that low seed getting blown out in a championship round would tarnish the tournament for a significant portion of fans. If your playoff plan can't pass that test, it's not an improvement over the current BCS, which -- for its maddening lack of credibility and fairness -- does a fine job of putting deserving teams on the field with the championship on the line. Pretty low hurdle to clear, really, but I'm not sure Thompson's plan does that job.

Posted on: November 11, 2010 3:52 pm
 

Boise's Rose Bowl hopes aren't dead yet

Posted by Tom Fornelli

There's a little known rule in the agreement between the Rose Bowl and BCS that could end up meaning a trip to Pasadena for Boise State this year should they miss out on a chance to play for a national title.  You see, when the Rose Bowl entered into a partnership with the BCS, it did so under the grounds that should one of their traditional choices -- the champions of the Pac-10 and Big 10 -- be chosen to play in the BCS Championship Game, the Rose Bowl would get the first choice of BCS-eligible teams to replace them.

A choice that has never included a non-BCS conference school.

In fact, the six times that a non-BCS team has played in a BCS bowl over the last few years, all six teams have played in the Fiesta or Sugar Bowls, with the Fiesta hosting four of them -- including both TCU and Boise State last January.

So as part of a new deal, the other BCS bowls approached the Rose Bowl and asked them to take a non-BCS school once during the next four years should one of its traditional choices not be available.

Which is a situation that looks very possible this year, with Oregon on top both voter polls and second in the BCS.  Should Oregon win out, odds are they'll be playing for a title, not in the Rose Bowl.  So the Rose Bowl would be looking for a team to replace them.

Now, they could take Stanford, and keep the traditional matchup against the Big Ten champion.  Or they could go TCU, but there's also a chance that TCU will qualify for the title game should Auburn drop a game before then.

Considering all the Cam Newton drama, and the fact that the Tigers have three games left against Georgia, Alabama and whoever wins the SEC East, this isn't exactly a longshot.

Still, if TCU went to the title game, the Rose Bowl wouldn't be obligated to take Boise this season because only one non-BCS conference school needs to be selected each season.  That being said, it may make more sense for the Rose Bowl to take Boise this year, and the Rose Bowl's director of media, Gina Chappin, says it's something the bowl has been considering.

“We have discussed it because of the situation that we’re in and the current landscape of the season so far,” said Gina Chappin.

“We entered this year with the reality that this was going to happen sooner or later. I don’t think any of us expected to get through this four-year cycle and not have this be something that would be a reality.”

If you think about it, it would make a lot of sense for the Rose Bowl to take Boise State over Stanford.  First of all, if you are required to do so at some point in the next four years, why not do it quickly and get the obligation out of the way?

There's also the fact that Boise State is a really good football team right now, and there's no guarantee that three years from now, should the Rose Bowl find itself in the same situation, that a non-AQ school will be available that is as good as this Boise State team.

Also, Boise State has already shown that it can compete and win BCS bowl games, and that it has a fan base that will travel and scoop up tickets in droves to the games.

It's possible that more Boise State fans would make the trip to Pasadena than Stanford fans would.  The Broncos are also a television draw, not that the Rose Bowl needs any real help there, but plenty of college football fans would be interested in seeing Boise State take on the Big Ten champion.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com