Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Nuts & Bolts...WVU gets...

I couldn't have said this better (nor am I actually capable...as I do not have the time or the resources...or the sports writing skill set.)

An excellent read from Dave Hickman appeared in today's Charleston Gazette newspaper:

Breaking down the BCS mess
By Dave HickmanStaff writer

MORGANTOWN — We pause from our regularly scheduled West Virginia-Louisville coverage to take yet another shot at the Bowl Championship Series, which is admittedly the best thing that has ever happened to the process of crowning a national champion. But that’s kind of like saying that a chocolate covering is the best thing that ever happened to raisins.

Not to anger the raisin lobby or anything, but isn’t that just making something that tastes bland a little bit better?

The point to be made today about the BCS is this: West Virginia has realistically — but not completely — lost its chance to play for the national championship for a variety of reasons we will now enumerate.

If you agree that any, except the first, should have even an iota of bearing upon who eventually does wind up in the title game, you are either a college president (the ones who steadfastly resist a playoff structure) or a sports columnist or talk show host (the ones who thrive by talking about the lunacy of the system).

At any rate, the reasons:

  • West Virginia lost to South Florida. This is the one that supersedes all others as far as logic is concerned and is the reason that, no matter what else happens, any complaints on behalf of the Mountaineers will be greeted as sour grapes. It’s simple, folks. Win. Win them all. That might not guarantee Hawaii or Kansas a spot in the title game, but if West Virginia had won them all, the Mountaineers would be No. 1 right now. Period. They didn’t and they aren’t. Deal with it.
  • Kansas hung 76 points Saturday on a Nebraska team that might give up 76 to Temple. Keep that in mind, because it’s merely the latest in a recurring trend. As is this: Last week, Kansas was ranked behind West Virginia. The Mountaineers didn’t play. Kansas scored a billion points. Now Kansas is ranked ahead of West Virginia.
  • Oklahoma pounded a bad Miami team 51-13 on Sept. 8, a week after putting 79 on North Texas and right before scoring 54 against Utah State and 62 against Tulsa. The Sooners were ranked five spots behind WVU in the preseason Associated Press poll, two spots back after North Texas and one spot ahead after Miami. By the way, North Texas is 1-7 now, Miami is 5-4, Utah State is 0-9 and Tulsa is 6-3.
  • Florida jumped over West Virginia when it scored 59 against Tennessee on Sept. 15. WVU beat Maryland easily that week, on Thursday, but it had been all but forgotten by the time the polls came out. Two weeks later, the Gators began a string of three losses in four games.
  • West Virginia dropped from No. 5 to No. 13 after the loss on the road at South Florida, a team that two weeks later would be ranked No. 2. Boston College, by contrast, dropped from second to eighth, six spots, after losing at home to unranked Florida State on Saturday night.
  • Oregon, which a week earlier lost at home to California, put 53 on the board against Washington State on Oct. 20 and went from one spot behind West Virginia to two spots ahead in the AP poll. It was the same week the Mountaineers led Mississippi State 31-0 one play into the second quarter, but scored only one more touchdown and coasted 38-13. Washington State, by the way, is now 3-6.
  • Arizona State began the weekend of Oct. 27 one spot behind WVU in the AP poll and beat sliding Cal 31-20, the same day West Virginia beat Rutgers 31-3. The next day, Arizona State was ranked ahead of the Mountaineers.

OK, so what does it all mean? Well, you might be wondering why we’re talking about positions in the AP poll when that doesn’t even factor into the BCS ratings. But public opinion does factor into the BCS rankings in a huge way. Two of the three factors in the BCS formula are the Harris and coaches’ polls (the third is the composite of the six computer ratings) and the AP poll is usually a virtual mirror of those two. The same sort of juggling happened in those two polls.

The point is that a great deal of the BCS ratings is public opinion and that, unfortunately, has been swayed tremendously this season by teams posting big numbers in meaningless games. The computers supposedly take that out of the equation, but given the relatively small part (one-third) the computers play in the BCS standings, it just hasn’t happened. When voters see Oklahoma or Kansas or Oregon or anyone else put up big numbers they take notice.

It’s not just the scores that sway public opinion, either. The talking heads on ESPN these days — and there are about a thousand of them, it seems — love to jump on those same bandwagons. I heard a group of them agree just on Sunday that Ohio State “is clearly the No. 1 team in the country.’’ Oh yeah? Like the Buckeyes were clearly the No. 1 team in the country last year? Are they the same people who demanded that poor Michigan last season deserved a rematch with Ohio State for the national title because the Wolverines lost a shootout to that “clear No. 1 team?’’ That would be the clear No. 1 that was trounced by Florida in the title game.

(By the way, to understand just the mentality — not to mention the biases — at play here among those talkers, I swear Lou Holtz on Saturday defended Nebraska coach Bill Callahan, saying it wasn’t his fault and that he just needed to find 11 guys who wanted to play. Really, he did.)

Again, this would all be moot from West Virginia’s standpoint if the Mountaineers had beaten South Florida, so it’s hard to put up much of a fight. West Virginia still might get a shot at the title, but for the record three of the following four things have to happen in order for it even to become a possibility: Ohio State loses to Michigan, LSU loses in the SEC title game, Oregon is upset by UCLA or Oregon State, and Oklahoma is upset by Oklahoma State or Texas Tech and then beats the Kansas-Missouri winner in the conference title game.

But is this the way we really want to choose a national champion, by having teams — WVU included — jockey for position all season long by running up scores and hoping people sitting on their couches at home take notice? All so that when the first week of December rolls around, they still have a chance to impress those same people?

Wasn’t this exactly what the BCS was supposed to help eliminate?

No comments: