Fans of Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin were no doubt glued to their televisions yesterday awaiting the results of each others' games. Following some complex algorithms, we learned that if all teams were to win yesterday (they did), the team with the highest BCS ranking would be the one to represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl.
And today you can expect that team to be Wisconsin, not Ohio State or Michigan State.
But should that be the case? Absolutely not.
The answer comes from their head-to-head matchups. Throughout the course of the regular season Wisconsin beat Ohio State and Michigan State beat Wisconsin.
Unfortunately, Ohio State was not slated to meet Michigan State this year. If taken at face value we would expect the rankings to read Michigan State, Wisconsin, Ohio State from highest to lowest. But they don't.
All three teams look at the end of their seasons with 11-1 records and 7-1 conference records. They have identical records and Michigan State is the only one of the three to not lose in head to head match-ups.
The thesis to this story? If you are going to lose a game, lose early in the year. The difference in rank that will decide the Rose Bowl representative echoes when each team lost. Voters are reluctant to move a team down in the rankings if it keeps winning.
Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State currently sit at seven, eight, and 10 in the BCS rankings. These teams lost on Oct. 2, Oct. 16 and Oct. 30 respectively.
The Big Ten does not have a conference championship game to help Michigan State make up ground (one would wonder if they would even be in the game sitting at third).
But the fact of the matter is with identical records, Michigan State should be the one representing the Big Ten in Pasadena on New Years Day. But they won't.
Just another reason to hate the current ranking system (well unless you're a Wisconsin fan).
Instead we can expect a likely Wisconsin—TCU matchup.