Monday, December 04, 2006

Why the BCS Got It Right ... This Year

2006 Big Ten Standings (from ESPN)
Ohio State8-012-0
Penn State5-38-4
Michigan State1-74-8

In college football, you cannot be the best team in the country if you are not the best team in your conference.

To add fuel to the fire, Florida won one more game, and won when it counted (on Saturday). Michigan did not (three Saturdays ago in Columbus).

The players have no one to blame but themselves. They lost. If Michigan had taken care of their business then, there would be no dispute. But in college football, there are no do-overs when you lose the last game of the season. You go to the Rose Bowl. To blame this on the BCS, or the coaches, or Jim Tressel for not voting, or anything else is cheap whining. The players had a chance to win and decided not to. They did not have what it took on that day to win. So take the blame and own your loss. And go play in the Rose Bowl against USC, and hope to win. If you lose that one, all the complaining you are doing now will seem even less well-founded.

And if there was ever a game that Michigan should have won, it was against OSU this year. They had the added "win one for the Gipper ... or the Bo" as it was. But they did not get it done, and that's the end of it.

But if you like Michigan, consider the upside: At least 2006 will not be the first year you lost to OSU twice in one year.


Brian Jones said...

Uh, how exactly is Wisconsin ahead of Michigan in your Big Ten final standings. True, they have identical records but Wisconsin lost to Michigan, so Michigan wins the tie breaker. That is one reason why Michigan is going to the Rose Bowl, not Wisconsin.

So, your little Big Ten final standings are skewed, deliberately?, to buttress your point about BCS being right this year.

But your point about the BCS being right is debatable at best. Consider these facts. First, Florida lost to #11(at the time, #9 now) Auburn. Michigan lost to #1 Ohio State. When the #2 team plays the #1 team, the #2 team should lose, or the rankings were incorrect. Michigan's close loss proves that they were not #1, but might be if they played on a neutral field. They remain #2 until someone else beats them. No one did. So I don't see how anyone can say that Michigan doesn't have a legitimate gripe, even if you disagree.

If Ohio State blows out Florida then the BCS system, and your argument, will be exposed as fallacious. Are you prepared to admit that the combination of big win by Ohio State in the Tostitos Bowl and a win by Michigan in the Rose Bowl will prove you wrong? If Flordia beats OSU or loses by 1 point, then I'll admit you were right. If they lose by 3, then they tied Michigan and probably deserved a chance. Short of that, this all remains debatable. A blowout win for OSU in the Tostitos game should end all debate and prove the BCS wrong absolutely.

Larry said...

First, they weren't my standings. They were copied from The Sporting News website. I wondered about the order. I assumed it was the points for and points against, in which Wisconsin won both, but I am not sure what the tie breaker is.

Secondly, how would an OSU blowout prove my argument fallacious? Does anyone here seriously think that USC is almost as good as UCLA because they only lost by four points? Of course not. So a close score doesn't indicate how close two teams are.

In the UM-OSU game, I think Michigan had a distinct advantage with the death of Bo, since it gave them an emotional edge and a "Let's go win one for him" motivation. And they still couldn't get it done. They had to mount a big comeback to get as close as three points.

Thirdly, and lastly, Michigan had the chance to win and earn a place in the championship game and they failed. Why should they get another chance because they "almost did it"? Does "almost" count now? When they played OSU, they knew exactly what was at stake. There was no thought in their minds that "If we don't win this one we will get another shot." That was a tournament type game with the winner moving on and the loser not. And Michigan didn't win.

Lastly two questions for you:

Regarding your statement that an OSU blowout would prove Michigan should have played OSU: Why doesn't an OSU blowout of Florida prove that Michigan was not that good, or that OSU just had a bad game against UM? Why doesn't it prove that Michigan merely had an emotional boost and played over their heads? (I think that is partially the case, but not entirely.) These kinds of arguments work both ways, and in the end don't prove anything. Just compare USC and UCLA and their common opponents. And remember, this is the same Michigan team that beat Ball State by eight points (the "playing the subs" line is a bad one) and had two weeks to prepare for OSU and still couldn't get it done. And Florida played a tougher schedule than Michigan, with an extra game.

Secondly, if Michigan loses to USC, will you admit that the BCS got it right, even if the method was flawed?

In the end, Michigan had a chance and lost. And you can't be the best team in the country if you are not the best team in your conference.

Frank Sansone said...


I agree (somewhat) with Brian. Michigan is more deserving than Florida to be in this game. I have laid out My Case for Michigan here.

Since I did not address this particular argument in my post, I will add here that I don't think that the 12 verses 11 wins is impressive when you consider that two of twelve included University of Central Florida and Western Carolina.

The Bo factor can go both ways, by the way. It is just as likely that players were disturbed by the news (especially as it was relatively unexpected) rather than motivated by the news. I actually think that neither team (OSU or MICH) played their best football on that day in Columbus.

I will also say that home field advantage is generally counted as a 3 point difference. Since Michigan's lone loss was by three points on the road to the number one ranked team, a rematch on a neutral field would only seem fair to me.

As I mention on my blog, I am not an UM fan, per se, but I do think they have a stronger case than Florida.

If you took the conference factor out of it (imagine UM was an independent like Notre Dame and everything else was the same - their only loss was a three point loss against OSU at OSU) and I think Michigan's case is obvious.

Anyway, just my thoughts.

I will be posting my solution to the BCS in the next week.

Frank Sansone

Brian Jones said...

Larry, you wrote, "If Michigan loses to USC, will you admit that the BCS got it right, even if the method was flawed?" Yes I will admit it if that happens or if Florida beats OSU. If Florida loses by 3 points or less, I might admit it then, too.

You wrote, "And you can't be the best team in the country if you are not the best team in your conference." You've written that twice now, but that is not a BCS rule. Conference championships were how the old bowl system worked, not the BCS. And, as anyone who watched the OSU-UM game knows, those two teams are very close. So OSU had home field advantage this year--maybe that was their edge. I don't think Bo's death is a "distinct advantage" when you are playing at OSU. Home field is a much bigger advantage than the death of a coach whom none of these kids played for. If it had been Michigan's turn to host that game, it is not unrealistic to think that UM would have won, so let's see them on a neutral field.

You wrote, "Michigan had the chance to win and earn a place in the championship game and they failed." So did Florida. All the Gators had to do was win all their games, but they lost to Auburn #11. So instead of earning it on the field, their coach had to beg for votes in the media.

Unfortunatetly there was only 1 undefeated team of BCS caliber--Ohio State. Michigan is the only one loss team of BCS caliber to lose to the #1 team; Florida, the other 1 loss team with an argument, lost to #11 (at the time). You are a smart guy. Can't you see how logical this is? Put it another way, how can you say that Florida might be the best or second best team after they lost to the 9th or 11th best team? And, to counter your Ball State example, Florida had a lot of struggles against weak teams: They beat Florida State by only 7; beat Georgia by only 7; beat Vandy by only 6; beat South Carolina by only ONE point. But this is the second best team in the country?

To answer your question, an OSU blowout would prove that Florida is not a legitimate #1 contender, because they couldn't even compete on a neutral field in the championship game. Michigan was very competitive even though OSU had the home field advantage. Therefore it is likely that on a neutral field, with the National Championship on the line, Michigan could "upset" the #1 team and win the Tostitos. If Florida doesn't win or lose in a very close game, then that adds a final damning piece of evidence to demonstrate what everyone (besides you and Urban Meyer) thinks is an unjust result here.

You write, "Why should they get another chance because they "almost did it"? They shouldn't get another chance because they almost did it, but because they were the only one loss team whose loss was to the #1 team. Why is this so hard to understand? Do you really think that there isn't a legitimate argument for Michigan here?

If there were 3 legit undefeated teams: Ohio State, Michigan, and Florida, then you would have to turn to "strength of schedule" and "style points" to get the best 2 teams, because we have no playoff system. That's not the case here; two legit one loss teams arrived at that record through different means. One lost to #1, the other lost to #11 (or #9, if you like). Given this, and Florida's struggles with the mighty Gamecocks (et al), I don't like their chances against OSU and I think the Tostitos championship is going to be mighty disappointing for everyone but Ohio State and its fans.

The BCS has robbed the fans of the best matchup, why? Because we saw it already and don't want a rematch? Maybe, but there's probably more money in having two teams from different conferences.

By the way, do you disagree with Lloyd Carr's statement: "I don't think they [Florida] would have moved ahead of us if USC would have won the game,"? You would have to, wouldn't you?

Finally, thanks for clarifying the thing about the standings. I retract my dig at you about it. If there is so much weight on PF/PA that a team that you beat can finish ahead of you with an identical record, that is bizarre.

Larry said...

Interestingly enough, Brian, one of my objections to a tournament is that tournaments are not always won by the best team. If the point of the polls and bowls is to determine the best team, you can’t do that through a tournament.

So who is the second best team? I think a case could be made for USC, Florida, or Michigan. I don’t think there is much difference between them. The bigger point is that Michigan had their chance and didn’t get it done. So why should they get another? Perhaps the 3 point loss was an anomaly, UM playing way over their heads. Look at the common opponents. I think OSU beat every single one of them by more than UM beat them. By your score comparison (using the 3 point loss vs. whatever the Florida score might be), that means Michigan was not merely three points worse, but actually much worse.

That is why I don’t think the score comparisons work. And for a witness, I call the UCLA-USC game. No one in this country thinks that UCLA is better than USC by four points. And no one thinks that because UCLA beat USC by four points, that all the teams UCLA beat would beat USC. In fact, the evidence shows us otherwise. Which is why I don’t think score comparisons are a good argumentative tool in most cases. There are too many variables from game to game.

Your contention that a OSU blowout win over Florida would prove that Florida was not a title contender also falls short argumentatively in that it might just as easily show that Michigan played on a tremendous emotional high and played close to a team that was much better who simply had a bad day on Michigan’s good day. Witness ORU and Kansas basketball. Kansas should have blown them out, but ORU played over their heads and “got lucky.” So again, score comparisons don’t really work in most cases, especially among top teams.

As for the best team in nation/best team in conference argument, it isn’t the BCS rule, though it is inexplicable to me why it isn’t. Perhaps the real reason is because it is a logical argument. The BCS is not particularly known for that.

The reason why I think the death of Bo was a plus for Michigan was because none of these players played for him, so it was not a particularly hard loss, so to speak, but certainly an emotional boost because Bo was Michigan football.

As for Carr’s comments about Florida moving ahead if USC won, two thoughts: First, Carr complained that the Florida coach was talking about it, and then he did the same thing. Which is fine; I just found that ironic. Second, yes, I think there is a good chance that Florida would have moved ahead with a win even if USC won. I think the final standings would have been OSU, USC, Florida, and Michigan. The real question is not “Do you get worse when you aren’t playing?” It is “Does a win show that a team is better?” Yes, depending on who they play and how the game is. So I have no problem with an idle team getting passed by a team that played.

The (only?) good thing about the BCS? It gives fans something to talk about and complain about. As great as March Madness is for basketball, it generates very little controversy and discussion.

Larry said...

Frank says,

I will add here that I don't think that the 12 verses 11 wins is impressive when you consider that two of twelve included University of Central Florida and Western Carolina.

So is Michigan’s 11 wins less impressive because two of the eleven included Western Michigan and Ball State? Plus their conference schedule included Indiana, Iowa, Northwestern, and Michigan State, which are conference games that can’t be chosen, but they are still against very weak teams.

This is one reason why I think USC has a strong case: Their three non-conference games were Arkansas (#11), Nebraska (#22), and Notre Dame (#12). So they definitely scheduled up, not down.

If you took the conference factor out of it (imagine UM was an independent like Notre Dame and everything else was the same - their only loss was a three point loss against OSU at OSU) and I think Michigan's case is obvious.

I think it’s the same. They lost the last game of the season when they knew what was at stake. If Michigan-OSU played in the middle of September or October, I would be more sympathetic to that argument. But they didn’t.