to one common ingredient: Polls.
The problems with polls start before anyone has even taken a snap. Is there
any greater proof of poll-voter bias than their willingness to name a “Top-25” before most teams have even opened fall camp? Yet every August, sportswriters “round up the usual suspects” to populate the Top-25. Long before anyone plays a down, Florida State, USC, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Michigan are consecrated as the teams to beat.
|Long before anyone plays a down, Florida State, USC, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Ohio State and Michigan are consecrated as the teams to beat.|
Then, for three weeks, many of those teams play doormats, but as long as they don't lose, they stay in the Top-25.
Over the course of a twelve-week season, teams hit peaks and valleys, but
poll movement occurs at a glacial pace. The pre-season pretenders fall slowly while the Cinderellas wait their turn. The result is a reality lag. Polls don't even begin to resemble what is happening on the field until late October. Even then the “traditional powers” thinking prevails.
It's not just a matter of who is good when, it's a matter of…
A) if and when the voters notice, and...
B) how far they are willing to move a team -- up OR down -- in any given week.
In any play-off scenario, someone has to decide who is in and who is out, who is #8 -- and therefore in the play-off -- and who is number 9 -- and therefore out. The difference between #3 and #5, between #13 and #17 or 18, is purely subjective, especially in a game that usual comes down to a handful of plays, breaks and “The strange bounces of an oblong ball.” On any given day, #5 can beat #1, and #17 can beat #13.
Every play-off scenario calls for a decision about which teams are in and which teams are out. And the only way to do that is by selection or by vote.
When that happens, nothing is being settled on the field.
Sure, the pollsters throw stats at it because numbers always make things look official and scientific. But our world is full of absolutely meaningless data. Take Sagarin. That bit of pseudo-science hasn't exactly cleared anything up.
Nor is anything being settled on the field when the national championship itself is only open to members of a handful of conferences and Notre Dame. As of this writing, the Mountain West is 7-5 against BCS conference teams, yet members of that conference are deemed unworthy of consideration for the national championship.
Two of the great aspects of college football are...
A) The maxim "On any given day, anyone can beat anyone" is proven on a weekly basis.
B) With only eleven or twelve games in the season, every game matters.
Or so one would think. But losses are “weighted” differently depending on when they occur. More often than not when the weekly polls come out, one team is ranked above a team that defeated them. So much for “settling it on the field.”
|"On any given day, anyone can beat anyone" -- Marshall proved this statement to be true defeating Kansas State on the road 27-20.|
When you add it all up, the idea that one can arrive at a definitive top 8 or top 16 just doesn't hold water.
So the "National Championship" continues to be mythical -- and pretty much unconcerned with what happens on the field. Particularly if it involves Pac-10 teams.
November of 2000 was perhaps the most blatant example. Never mind the dimpled chads in the presidential election, the real Florida voting fiasco took place in the last weeks of November, when for no apparent reason, Miami vaulted ahead of Washington. Never mind that Washington had beaten Miami earlier that year, the Oklahoma and the Florida teams -- as a block -- were ranked #1, #2 and #3 ahead of the Pac-10 teams.
Then there is the Notre Dame exemption: If Notre Dame wins nine games, they receive an automatic BCS bowl berth. Domers will say that is because Notre Dame plays a national schedule, however in recent years, that schedule has included such perennial powers as Army, Navy, Rutgers, Northwestern and Stanford.
If a Pac-10 team wins 9 games -- against a much tougher schedule -- they get an all expenses paid trip to El Paso. Christmas in North Juarez!
Last week, Virginia Tech moved from 106th to second in the nation in one week -- a week in which they did not play -- in a computer model created and run by a graduate of Virginia Tech.
This week, Michigan was beaten handily in Eugene. At one point, the home team was up 21-6 and held Michigan to minus 3 yards rushing. Monday morning, the ESPN poll listed Michigan at #10 and the team that defeated them at #15.
Bottom line: the BCS is predicated on a lie. The only place it "settles"
anything is on the laptops of several hundred sportswriters and talking heads
and in the back rooms of the biggest business interests in college football.
This is where the national championship talk is coming from: Budweiser, ESPN,
ABC,… the people who stand to turn the greatest
profit. They're the same people who are pushing college football toward a "superconference" that will bear a very strong resemblance to those pre-season Top-25 polls.
This does not bode well for 90 percent of college football. Already the BCS has killed off the smaller bowls that used to be a big deal for a town and the local chamber of commerce as well as the teams involved. They were bowl games in the purest sense -- a bonus game of two teams that appeared to be evenly matched and who wouldn't have played otherwise. The game -- in and of itself -- was what mattered, in large part because it didn’t occur in the shadow of a mythical national championship.
|Despite defeating Michigan on Saturday the Ducks are ranked below the Wolverines.|
They're gone, of course, overshadowed by the myth. And it's not just the small bowls. The Copper Bowl is gone. As the illusion of a "True National Championship" grows, can non-BCS bowls like the Cotton, the Insight and the Sun be far behind?
Already the notion of a "national championship" has relegated every other bowl to "undercard" status. In so doing, it has greatly diminished the value of winning one's conference.
It has already happened in basketball. Winning the conference title is a nicety, but with the NCAA tournament on the horizon, it amounts to winning the preliminaries. The conference title means an automatic tourney berth and not much more.
In football, winning the Pac-10 doesn't even guarantee that much.
Sports Illustrated has already admitted that a Pac-10 team, with the possible exception of USC, will never play for the BCS championship if there are any other options available to the BCS.
History has borne this out. In 2000 the bias was so blatant that the Pac-10 threatened to withdraw from the BCS.
Not only is the BCS skewed against the Pac-10, it has been very bad for the most tradition-rich bowl game in college football, the Rose BowlIn the January 2001, The Rose Bowl was the “BCS national championship game.” And, instead of Keith Jackson calling a Big-10/Pac-10 match-up on a “chambah of cahmmerce New Year's Day in Pasadena,” the Rose Bowl featured a Big-12/Big East match up: Nebraska versus Miami. On January 4th. At night.
Last year’s Big-Ten champion, Ohio State played for the national championship. So the Pac-10 champions, Washington State and Big-10 runner-up Iowa played in the…. Well, they ended up in the Rose Bowl and the Orange Bowl. The Pac-10 champions ended up playing against a Big 12 team (Oklahoma) while Iowa, runner up in the Big-10 to the eventual national champion, ended up in the Orange Bowl… Where they played against a PAC-10 team, USC.
This year, there is a very good chance that USC will meet up with either Michigan or Ohio State, but instead of the Rose Bowl, the Big 10 and Pac-10 champions would play in the Sugar Bowl. The Rose Bowl, meanwhile stands to host Oklahoma and Virginia Tech or some other match-up with no historical tie to the game.
|We have traded tradition for a system that still amounts to a vote, skews strongly against the west and has robbed the Rose Bowl -- the Grand-daddy of them all -- of it's tradition and prestige.|
College football is a game built on traditions. The fight songs, the mascots, the rivalries.
Before the BCS, teams played against their conference rivals with the dream of getting to and winning the Rose Bowl. If both were accomplished, that was considered a fantastic season. Today, it is no less an accomplishment, however it is juxtaposed against what didn't happen: “The National Championship.”
Here in the PAC-10, we’re sacrificing a lot more than we’re getting back from the BCS. We have traded that for a system that still amounts to a vote, skews strongly against the west and has robbed the Rose Bowl -- the Grand-daddy of them all -- of it's tradition and prestige. All so that we can delude ourselves into believing in a national championship that isn't any such thing.
Simply promoting a game as a “national championship game” doesn’t
make it so
when the contenders are based on votes and computer models. Every year there are a host of teams who can claim that they were “arguably” the best football team in the nation at the end of the season.
"Arguably” is the operative word. Those debates are half the fun. They’re much more fun than the “false certainty” of a biased, poll-based national championship. In our quest for certainty, we sacrifice the fun of "what if..."
Instead of the "National Championship” being presented by some beer, I’d rather "Settle the National Championship Where it Ought to be Settled” – OVER beers with fans who are every bit as objective and unbiased as I am.
Which is not at all.
But at least we admit it.
It's time to drop the B*S.
Jaydub joined BeaverFootball.com in 2003. The views expressed in his column are not necessarily those of BeaverFootball.com. Jaydub can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.