There is nothing college football fans enjoy more than touting the talents of their favorite team along with debating the shortcomings of the Bowl Championship Series versus a playoff for determining a national champion.
And until we have a playoff in place, we have a mess every year as the current system is used in an attempt to match the two best teams in college football. The problem with the BCS though is not the mess it causes or the potential for leaving a deserving team out. Those are just the symptoms.
The problem with the BCS lies with the two-thirds portion that is determined by the human polls. It’s not clear cut. It’s opinions and biases and pride and politics. In a word, it’s subjective.
Last year is the perfect example of voters subjectivity and the “politicking” of a school to maneuver into the BCS championship. LSU jumped an amazing five spots in the coaches poll in the final weekend to vault themselves into the title game over an idle Georgia team and Virginia Tech, who won the ACC.
What was LSU’s political stance? "We haven’t lost in regulation”; a line coined by the wife of Les Miles in reference to LSU’s two losses both occurring in overtime. It was effective.
Later today, the newest BCS rankings will be announced, which will determine the champion of the Big 12 South division who will then play Missouri for the Big 12 title. Issues with the Big 12 tie-breaking system aside, the team that advances will be based on human polls off the field.
Bob Stoops began his politicking last week discounting his team’s head-to-head loss to Texas, no doubt because it didn’t work in his favor this time and replaced it with circular logic that would all but make losses irrelevant. He’s even offered that his team is playing better now, even though the Sooners were number one in the nation when the Longhorns beat them. Oh those tricky politicians.
Sports pundits from Los Angeles to Austin to Boston and every point in between have offered and been barraged by opinions on who should be ranked higher. And in all likelihood, the Longhorns high computer ranking will be outweighed by two-thirds of subjectivity that no longer has any regard for the Longhorns “gauntlet run”, the fact that their sole loss came to the number six team on the last play of the game or that the Longhorns opponents have the highest collective winning percentage of any schedule in the nation.
It shouldn’t come to this. Regardless of your conference and team affiliation, who you like and who you don’t, the subjectivity of voters should not decide who plays for a conference or national championship. Yes, a playoff would eliminate this problem but we are years from seeing a playoff even close to being reality, if ever.
The solution for now? Reduce the subjectivity.
Raise the impact of the computer rankings to 50% and reduce the human polls to 25% of the total each. This would give the BCS rankings the mettle it needs in determining who plays for the national championship; the precision of cold, hard facts balanced with the opinions and passion of the total of two subjective polls. A nice fifty-fifty split.
This would also reduce another aspect of voter subjectivity; the oft-recognized issue that when a team loses can be more important than who they lose to. USC lost to unranked Oregon State early in the season but now finds themselves an upset or two from possibly playing in the title game. Unfortunately, Texas Tech, who played a much harder schedule lost, badly, later to the highly ranked Sooners. The Red Raiders will have no shot at redemption outside of a bowl appearance.
However, the computers don’t care when teams lose, just whether or not they do and who they play. If a team loses their first game or their tenth, it merely counts as a loss to the computer. To the voters, it’s somehow a sign that the loser must be demoted regardless of how good they still are or who they have beaten.
Polls will always be a part of college football and fans love the polls. But the polls should not bear the weight they do in determining our champions. When teams square off on the field, the result should be the determination, not who has the more clever line. The emotions of humans with all of their biases will only contribute instability to a system that is fragile to begin with.
Until the powers that be see the light of a playoff in Division I football, this is the best we can hope for. But then, that’s just my opinion.