Ohio State Runs Up Huge Scores, but Do They Help BCS Cause?

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Ohio State Runs Up Huge Scores, but Do They Help BCS Cause?
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In the last two weeks, Ohio State has outscored its two hapless Big Ten opponents, 119-14. Did that improve its prospects of landing in the BCS Championship Game?

In a word: No. In fact, Ohio State's blowout wins have hurt more than helped.

Granted, Urban Meyer is in an unenviable position. He's damned if he does, and he's damned if he doesn't. The Ohio State coach is staring at a distinct possibility of going 25-0 over two seasons without being able to play for the national championship in either. The fourth-ranked Buckeyes have four games remaining, with three for certain against unranked and uninspiring opponents.

But if Meyer was running up the score with the intention of helping his team's BCS cause, he was going about it the wrong way. He should've first consulted the following manual (the Cliff Notes version of Manipulate the Scores for Dummies):

 

1. Computers won't be impressed by inflated scores because ...

in 2002, the BCS decreed that margin of victory (MOV) be removed entirely as a component in the BCS computer rankings. Since the BCS never checks, we don't know if this is done for certain, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the computer operators have held up their end of the bargain. Since a 31-point victory is worth exactly the same as a 1-point victory in the "eyes" of the computers, running up the score has no impact on the computer rankings.

What's OSU's Most Impressive Win So Far?

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Of course, this is wrong, because a one-point victory is not nearly the same as a 31-point victory. When the selection committee takes over next year, let's hope they would only consult computer ratings that do take MOV into consideration. A computer ranking without consideration for MOV is a bogus one, not worth the dust particles stuck on its hard drive.

 

2. Voters are impressed by inflated scores ...

only if it's against ranked and high-profile opponents, particularly on the road. Keep in mind that many voters (most, in particular, in the Coaches Poll) never see more than the game they're personally involved in. They rely heavily on highlights or simply the score log to decide what goes on their ballots. When they see Florida State destroying Clemson and Miami, two unbeaten teams ranked in the top 10 when the games took place, they'll give these blowouts their due consideration.

 

3. Voters are not impressed by inflated scores ...

when it's against hapless and unranked opponents, such was the case when Ohio State beat up on Penn State (63-14) and Purdue (56-0). It didn't help that Meyer's intentions were so transparent (challenging the spot late in the Penn State rout) that they were noted in highlight packages. The Buckeyes actually lost vote shares in the polls after each of those two wins.

In fact, the Buckeyes have steadily lost vote shares throughout the season, thanks to a schedule that may end up to include only one ranked opponent—in the Big Ten Championship Game. There is virtually no chance for them to improve either their computer ranking or poll position without the three teams ahead of them losing, even if they finish the season 13-0.

Ohio State Vote Shares in BCS Polls
Week Coaches Poll Harris Poll BCS Score Result
0 .9206 - - Preseason poll
8 .8916 .8842 .8553 Def. Penn State, 63-14
9 .8871 .8850 .8840 Def. Purdue 56-0
10 .8832 .8827 .8720 Current ranking

BCS Guru

There are more artful ways to manipulate the scores, but they only help to a degree. And they will only help to influence the voters, since the BCS computers are immune to effects of MOV:

1. Beat overmatched opponents decisively, but don't give a hint of any behavior that might be construed as running up the score.

2. The final score is the only one that really matters, so don't give up (too many) concession scores at the end to make the game seem closer than it really is.

3. By all means, run up the score when you play a highly ranked opponent—in those games, you can't possibly win by too much.

4. When you're stuck in a close game, don't take a knee on the opponents' 5-yard line to end the game. Punch it in, and don't worry about the dead-fish handshake afterward.

Ohio State's Remaining Schedule
Date Team Record Computer Ranking*
Nov. 16 @ Illinois 3-5 80
Nov. 23 Indiana 3-5 72
Nov. 30 @ Michigan 6-2 31
Dec. 7 B1G Championship TBA -

Massey BCS Ranking

When the BCS poobahs forced the removal of MOV from the computers a decade ago, they thought it would force the coaches to behave in a more civil fashion, but it had nearly the exact opposite effect. Good thing there are only six more weeks of this nonsense before the BCS goes the way of Carthage.

On the other hand, don't be naive in thinking that running up the score will be a thing of the past when the committee takes over in the College Football Playoff next season. It'll still matter, just in a slightly more nuanced way. We'll deal with that in 2014.

 

Follow on Twitter @BCSGuru

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