Creature vs. Creature: Defending Florida's Schedule Strength
Florida Gator Feature Columnist Trey Jones goes head to head with Boise State Feature Columnist Lace Banachek in a war of words over numbers.
Lace Banachek’s thoughts on these issues can be found here:
A funny thing has happened on Florida’s path to repeat as conference and national champions this year… people have begun to notice that undefeated Boise State of the WAC has a higher Strength of Schedule ranking than the Gators.
That’s right, according to the BCS, the fourth-ranked Boise State Broncos have played the 38th toughest schedule so far this season and the top-ranked Florida Gators are in possession of the 46th.
This revelation is seen by some as the foundation of an argument that Boise should be ranked higher than the Gator’s in the BCS.
That’s big news if you’re a Broncos fan, supporter of the WAC, or label yourself as a BCS conspiracy theorist.
But it barely raises an eyebrow if you’re a member of the Gator Nation or a loyalist of the SEC.
Before we get into the details of that answer, let’s first congratulate the Boise State Broncos for finally improving their SOS numbers.
Over the past several years, the Broncos have blistered college football with the following SOS rankings: 94th in 2008, 113 in 2007, and 90th in 2006.
With the 38th toughest schedule so far this year, the college football world welcomes Boise State to the realm of “above average” schedule strength.
This year, Florida is taking a breather with an SOS ranking of 46. After successfully completing three seasons with SOS rankings in the top 10, the Gators finally earned a hall pass.
And since we’re on the subject, has anybody stopped to realize that an “easy” schedule for the Gators is only eight points below the “toughest” schedule the Bronco’s have played in years?
But, let’s get back to why Florida’s SOS should be of no concern to Boise State, the BCS, or anybody else this year.
First, regardless of how “down” the SEC is playing this season, SEC top contenders have proven themselves more than capable of successfully challenging for the national crown.
Since the creation of the BCS in 1998, the SEC is undefeated in national championship play. No other conference can post a 5-0 record when playing for BCS top honors.
This year, Alabama and Florida are paving the way for the SEC with the eventual conference champion a very likely invitee to the title game. Even if either of these teams stumble, as LSU and Florida have done in the past, the winning reputation of past SEC champions is enough to earn high rankings and a shot at the crystal ball.
Honestly, Florida shouldn’t care how high they are ranked as long as they make it to the SEC championship game. Should things work out and the Gators face the Tide in Atlanta, the winner will defiantly earn an invitation to Pasadena.
Second, there is an argument that Florida’s SOS is artificially low.
Yes, Florida has a spectacularly fluffy non-conference schedule but its conference opponents, Kentucky and Arkansas, have already faced, and lost, to two top teams. This adds four losses overall which dings SOS rankings.
Conference fratricide could be playing an early factor. But, by season’s end, things will get sorted out within the SEC and the teams Florida has played could end up providing stronger contributions to SOS calculations.
Third, by year’s end, Boise State’s higher SOS ranking really means nothing when you consider that the SEC, ACC, and Big 12 all play conference championship games.
Boise State may end the season with a top 20 SOS, but that pales in comparison to Florida winning the SEC east then defeating a very highly ranked representative from the SEC West. Or most any other conference champion game winner for that matter.
To make things even more convoluted, Florida could actually end up with a higher SOS than Boise State with a win in that 13th game.
Finally, perception still rules in the BCS.
As good of a team as the Broncos might be, they are hamstrung when it comes to impressing voters at the end of the season.
As illogical as it might appear, the BCS unconsciously funnels teams into the national championship game that have proven that they belong.
The Big Ten, by virtue of Ohio State losing big two years in a row, is currently a BCS outcast while the SEC, the golden child, can do no wrong.
The Big 12 is on the bubble. The PAC 10 and ACC are waiting in the wings.
To most of those who vote, the WAC and Mountain West still are looking up but not quite there yet.
What does this have to do with SOS rankings? In a world seen through the translucent eyes of the BCS, Boise State’s current SOS and ranking actually mean very little when compared to what the SEC has already accomplished.
Is this Unfair? Perhaps so. Is this true? Absolutely.
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