The BCS rankings are out, halfway through the 2009 season. While many people are watching, intrigued at the process by which computer polls can bless or curse certain teams, Some college football fans try and divine what is in the sport's future.
Specifically, many people are curious as to what changes are in store regarding the automatic qualifications (AQs) into the BCS. Two weeks ago, I gave a preliminary analysis of how the conferences stack up against each other in the BCS AQ process.
Here is an updated reference to the conference's AQ ratings. Remember, this takes last year's final BCS and last week's BCS and attempts to extrapolate a rating for the years 2008-2011. A rating of 0.500 is tentatively regarded as the BCS cutoff.
Big 12 (0.668)
Big Ten (0.582)
Big East (0.486)
On the second page, I have attached an exhaustive list of the 120 FBS schools and their average computer ranking from last year and this year. Use the details from the Part One article to construct your own spreadsheet.
A common question concerning the BCS conferences is whether or not the current six AQ conferences will change at the next evaluation. Contrary to innuendo supplied by many, including myself, no conference can lose their AQ status until 2013, after analyzing the 2010-2013 seasons.
Because the BCS limits AQ status to only seven conferences, the only question to be answered after the 2011 season is whether a seventh conference will be added.
Currently, no mid-major conference is meeting AQ standards. The Mountain West is closest. The motivation to become a BCS conference is that the conference gets $17 million for sending their champion to a BCS game. This is in contrast to the less than $10 million that is being distributed amongst all mid-major teams, approximately half of the FBS membership.
Can the Mountain West become a BCS conference?
The simple answer is yes. Results like those from 2008 were phenomenal for the conference. Unfortunately, as outstanding as last year's result were, the conference only posted an AQ rating of 0.496. The conference would have to be better each of these next three years to become a BCS conference. Already this year, the Mountain West is failing to meet their 2008 numbers.
The more complex answer is yes, with help. Two thirds of the AQ formula deal with the BCS Top 25. Adding a team that enhances the Mountain West's numbers in the Top 25 would be a boon to the conference.
Which mid-majors (outside the MWC) have placed in the Top 25? Boise State placed ninth last year and is currently fourth in the BCS. Ball State finished in 21st last year, but is probably too far from the Mountain West to be considered. Houston is currently ranked 17th in the BCS.
Would these teams help the conference? Adding only these teams, the MWC rating would improve as such:
Boise State (0.585)
Houston / Ball St (0.505)
No other team would put the Mountain West over the top.
A New Conference?
Of course, as many of the top mid-majors are from the western US, there is also the idea of creating a new Western BCS conference.
Teams that have/are placed in the BCS would be included first off: TCU, BYU, Utah, Boise State, and Houston. With these five teams and then the seven worst FBS teams out west, this new conference would still have a rating of 0.580. In fact, one of Houston, TCU, or BYU, could leave the conference and it would still have a rating of 0.513.
Altogether, this is a very flexible option. The main reason for this is that even with seven horrible teams the conference still averages a Top 5 team and two more at large teams (the Top 14). The BCS correctly gives increased weight to the Top 25, where the actual teams that play in the BCS will place.
The Big Ten could add a horrible twelfth team like Western Kentucky and still maintain a healthy 0.550 rating.
The Pac-10, which already has a low 0.505 rating would need to be somewhat selective. Any two teams, provided one placed in the BCS Top 25 would be sufficient. Beyond that, any team(s) with a 0.25 computer ranking this year would keep the Pac-10 above water.
The specific example of Colorado and Utah being added to the conference would boost the Pac-10 rating to 0.576.
The Big East?
The Big East is in tough spot because due to half of its membership being composed of basketball schools it cannot expand without difficulty. Although the Big East currently has a 0.486 rating, if the conference averages three teams in the BCS Top 25 then it should do well based on its above average computer rankings (behind only the SEC and ACC).
Another solution that I quite enjoy is an alliance between the Big East and Mountain West. Really, there are no eastern teams placing in the Top 25 that the Big East could pick off. The only way to add clout at the top might be to align with a conference that does. What better conference than the one that has three Top 25 teams but abysmal computer rankings, the Mountain West.
The East-West alliance would have a 0.685 rating (second only to the SEC). Of course, the $17 million would have to be shared amongst 17 schools. The winner of an East-West championship game would go to the BCS. Of course, if one of the conferences could go it alone on the next evaluation cycle then it is sayonara to the other.
What about Bob (the ACC)?
The ACC is plagued by parity both this year and last. Last year no team managed less then three conference losses and this year only four teams (Miami, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and Boston College) have two losses or less, least among BCS conferences.
The ACC does have strong teams. They are tied with the SEC with the highest average computer ranking among conferences. However, the BCS needs high ranking champions to play in the bowl games.
Only three teams (Duke, Maryland, and NC State) have negative computer rankings. Perhaps dropping some of these teams to the Big East would be helpful, although each of these teams is a core member. Expansion to 14 teams (USF and UCF?) and adding a ninth conference game could work and beef up the conference just a little more.
In a reality, however, the conference is doing fine and may just have to continue chancing that one or two teams will be in the BCS Top 8. This year Miami and Georgia Tech could both do it. And, after all, this year and last year will not matter when the ACC is re-evaluated following the 2013 season.
Of course, I'll also put in a plug for quads, which would create better championship matchups.
Average Computer Rankings (one third of AQ Ratings):
Here are the computer averages for these past two years. The other two thirds of a conference's AQ Rating are the rank of the highest ranked team in the BCS as well as the number of ranked BCS teams.
0.910 Boise St
0.818 Ga Tech
0.787 Penn State
0.772 Va Tech
0.714 Oklahoma St
0.710 Texas Tech
0.693 Ohio State
0.558 Oregon St
0.543 West Virginia
0.495 S Carolina
0.463 Michigan St
0.374 S Florida
0.342 C Michigan
0.319 Florida St
0.302 N Dame
0.291 Ole Miss
0.225 W Forest
0.147 Air Force
0.120 E Carolina
0.054 Fresno St
0.021 Colo St
0.015 Arizona State
-0.036 NC State
-0.038 W Michigan
-0.163 Kansas St
-0.242 LA Lafayette
-0.248 Miss St
-0.278 La Tech
-0.281 N Illinois
-0.326 Ball State
-0.333 So Miss
-0.374 Texas A&M
-0.406 LA Monroe
-0.426 San Jose St
-0.447 Iowa St
-0.540 M Tenn St
-0.592 C Florida
-0.638 Arkansas St
-0.679 New Mexico
-0.742 Utah St
-0.742 Fla Int'l
-0.751 New Mexico St
-0.757 Kent St
-0.762 Wash St
-0.887 E Michigan
-0.931 N Texas
-0.977 W Kentucky