My friend Chris defends the honor of PSU over at his blog, taking issue with the people who are saying PSU should be kept out of the National Championship game owing to the weakness of the Big Ten. I posted this comment in response:
On the other hand, if there are three undefeated teams, someone has to get shut out. A few years ago, it was Auburn. Given how poorly the Big 10 has done in their non-conference games this year, it would have to be PSU *if* there were three undefeated teams. But I would probably take an undefeated PSU team over a 1-loss team, given how impressively they’ve walked through the Big 10 ( so far).
I just find it hilarious that we see this every year. Fans get offended in advance for something that has yet to happen.
Expanding on that last point, I’m getting calls from fellow Georgia fans offended that Georgia is “only” number 8 in the polls. I’d say the same thing to them. The season isn’t over yet. If Georgia beats Florida, Auburn, Georgia Tech and Alabama to win the SEC, then we can complain. Georgia is currently ranked #6 in the BCS. If they roar past everyone, they will still have to hope that Texas or PSU loses, but they’ll be well-positioned.
But should a 1-loss SEC team be behind an undefeated Big-10 team? Or an undefeated Big-12 team? What about USC? Let’s just look at the three undefeated teams for now and their non-conference schedules:
Alabama: at Clemson, Tulane, Western Kentucky, Arkansas State (11-18)
Texas: Florida Atlantic, at UTEP, Arkansas, Rice (14-17)
PSU: Coastal Carolina (AA team), Oregon State, at Syracuse, Temple (12-19)
Not too impressive. All three have fattened up on patsies, once again demonstrating that the key to a national championship season is often an easy schedule. Compare what these three teams have faced to USC:
USC: at Virginia, Ohio State, Notre Dame (17-7)
and you begin to see why I’m not terribly happy about the current system. Any rational person would judge a 1-loss USC team to be at least equal to a zero-loss Texas, Bama or PSU team.
Conference strength matters too, since the bulk of any team’s schedule is within their conference. Consider the bowl records of the major conferences over the last five years.
Pac 10: 19-16
Big East: 18-16
Big 12: 24-23
Big 10: 19-24
Rankings are often a bad way of judging conference strength since there’s a certain circularity to them (Texas is good because they beat Oklahoma; Oklahoma is good because they played Texas). But consider the number of ranked teams:
Big Twelve: 5
Big Ten: 4
Big East: 1
So what’s the upshot?
The upshot is that you can make any argument you want. You want Texas? You can point to their walloping of Missouri and Oklahoma. You don’t want Texas? Point out that the entire Big-12 has fattened up on easy targets.
You want PSU? Point out that the only team that even challenged them was OSU in the Horseshoe and Paterno has a great bowl record. You don’t want PSU? Point out that PSU’s scheduled included Coastal Carolina and the conference they are dominating has the worst bowl record over the last five years and their defending conference champ was demolished by USC.
You want ‘Bama? Point out that the SEC has the best bowl record and that they clobbered a great Georgia team on the road. You don’t want ‘Bama? Point to their easy non-conference schedule.
If we end up with three undefeated teams .. or one undefeated team … or no undefeated teams .. or a 1-loss USC arguing for their inclusion over a 0-loss PSU, you can expect to see arguments like the above dusted off. All of them are valid and all are of them are bullshit. Whichever one happens to grab enough of the media will determine the BCS match-up. The media will then insist that it’s obviously the right matchup even though history has shown their bold proclamations to have slightly less foresight into BCS results than my liver.
The fact is that there is no way to determine, based on 12-13 games, who are the best two teams in the country. People who engage in these arguments (including me) are playing a fool’s game. We might as well be arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
The difference between me and the Sports Media Twerps is that I won’t claim otherwise. I won’t say that I know who the best two teams in the country are. I don’t. No one can. Neither the smartest media guy nor the most sophisticated computer can tell you that.
Once again, we are proving why we need a playoff. If we had a playoff, no one would give a shit about the Big 10′s lousy bowl record or Missouri’s pathetic non-conference schedule or Bama being coached by a turd. If we had a playoff system, the SMTs’ opinions would be for entertainment purposes only, not the basis of a championship system. The actual championship would be determined by what happens on the field, not whose fans scream loudest with their biased arguments.