Clardy's Corner: Defending the BCS

I've always been a firm believer that nothing bad happens when you win. Case in point: Stanford clocked Sacramento State, 52-17 last weekend. As a reward, the Cardinal have now entered the Top 25 in the AP poll. That's a good thing.

For another example, look at Utah. They hosted Pitt last week in their season opener, and they pulled off an entertaining overtime win. As a reward, the Utes were ranked 20th in both polls this week.

The trouble begins when you lose. Let's look at the team Utah beat. Pitt began the week ranked 15th in both polls. They ended up losing in overtime to a team that would give almost anyone major problems. For its punishment, Pitt fell from 15th to out of the rankings.

So now, people here in Pittsburgh are crying about the polls. What Cardinalmaniacs may find interesting about this is that many of those folks are specifically using Stanford as an example.

On sports talk radio here on Tuesday, I literally heard people openly wondering why Stanford got into the polls by stomping Sac State, while Pitt fell out of the polls by losing in overtime to a team that's tough to beat in a place that's hard to win.

After all, the Utes still have cachet from their Sugar Bowl beatdown of Alabama a couple of years ago. And if you have to play them at their place? With that arid altitude and that rabid red-clad crowd? It's difficult to win at Rice-Eccles Stadium, no matter what your ranking is going in. Pitt shouldn't be penalized for losing to a team like that, right?

At face value, it's a fair argument. Although Utah is now ranked about where they probably should have been all along, I was slightly surprised to see the AP voters reward the Cardinal that much for spraying the Hornets. Meanwhile, Pitt got severely punished by the pollsters and sent to that purgatory called the "also receiving votes" category.

But while I think the Pitt fans' beef is justified, it reinforces the lesson that nothing bad happens when you win. It's when you lose that causes problems.

That's one of the things that makes college football so much fun, frustrating, exhilarating, nerve-wracking, and dramatic: the urgency. Even in the NFL, one loss does not derail an entire season. In college? Coaches, players, and fans would probably rather lose a limb than lose a game.

I don't know why people spend so much time crying about the polls, especially this time of year. The coaches poll is often filled out by everyone in the football office except the head coach. And if the head coach is filling it out, how much time do you think he's actually spending on it? Exactly.

The AP poll isn't much more reliable. The week after barely beating U$C at home last year, the Washington Huskies went from not receiving a single vote to number 24 in the AP poll. In just one week. Then Stanford sprinted away from the Huskies at Stanford Stadium, and the Dawgs were never heard from again. That's just one of several head-scratching moves by the AP voters I can think of over the years.

While it's always nice to have a number before your college's name, let's face it: right now, the polls are almost meaningless. The one set of rankings that does matter doesn't come out for another month or so. Which brings me to the real reason why there is such angst about the polls: the BCS. And I know I'm in the minority on this, but I have no major problem with the current BCS system deciding the national championship.

Before you start typing up angry responses, keep something in mind. The BCS was created to do just one thing: to find the two teams that are clearly the best in college football, and have them square off for the national championship. A clear number one, and a clear number two. That's it. Everything else is secondary.

As much crying and whining and moaning as people do about the BCS, here's what they're all conveniently forgetting: the BCS has been doing its exact job as designed—and more importantly, getting it right—for the past eight seasons.

In 2001, Nebraska got pole-axed by Colorado in the season finale, 62-36, costing them an undefeated season. Then, during championship week, Colorado beat third-ranked Texas in the Big 12 title game, while LSU knocked off second-ranked Tennessee in the SEC title game.

After all of that, Oregon was number two in the polls. But when the BCS computer added everything up, it spat out a logical number two team: Nebraska. And so, the Cornhuskers went on to face Miami for the national championship.

Nebraska didn't deserve to be in that game, and everybody knew it. So nobody was surprised when the Cornhuskers got rickrolled by Miami, 37-14. Meanwhile, all the Ducks could do was sit around and think about that one loss that cost them a chance at a national championship. Who did the Ducks lose to that year, anyway?

That was an absolute debacle, and Oregon should have gone instead. But since then, I think the BCS has gotten it right every year, and every year we have seen the two very best teams square off for the title.

Is the BCS perfect? No. God, no. A playoff is competitively simple and pure. Winner goes on, loser goes home. The winner doesn't sweat things out while waiting to see what the computer spits out and make plans from there. And, ideally, this is how college football should work.

But, now that the major kinks have been worked out, I have no major problem with the BCS in the meantime. No, I don't think playoffs (or, as Jim Mora would say, "PLAYOFFS??!?!" Sorry, couldn't resist) would be the best for college football. Too many games for young bodies to potentially go through. And no matter how many teams you let in, someone is always going to be left out.

Plus, I do think a playoff system would take some emphasis away from the regular season. Do you think that Boise State-Virginia Tech matchup would have had anywhere near the implications (especially for the Broncos) if not for the current BCS system? I don't.

As it is, Boise State is poised to be a major player in the national title conversation for the rest of the season. For them, that's obviously a good thing. And while Stanford and Utah are also making the current system work for them, right now, Boise State is the best example that nothing bad happens when you win.

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RANDOM PAC-9 THOUGHTS

Hold up…I think Oregon just scored again…

Is it me, or do some in the media seem insistent that Jim Harbaugh decide on one guy and one guy alone to carry Stanford's running game? To me, that's foolish. I think that while you can have too many quarterbacks, you can't have too many running backs. Yes, it's nice to have one workhorse (especially when that workhorse's name is Toby Gerhart), but if four guys can help get the job done just as effectively, who cares if there isn't a featured back?

Let me put it another way: in 1995, the Cardinal had Mike Mitchell, Anthony Bookman, Greg Comella, and Adam Salina. I don't remember anyone clamoring for Tyrone Willingham to pick one guy as the featured back. And, as I recall, things worked out pretty well that year, too…

November 2, 1996. That was the last time Stanford won a game at the Rose Bowl. And it took Chad Hutchinson-to-Brian Manning in the final minute to do it. That place is my favorite stadium in the Pac-10, but I'm sick of the Cardinal coming up short in that building…

Watched a lot of the Bruins' game at Kansas State last week. I really didn't like what I saw from UCLA's linebackers (way too many missed tackles) or their receivers (way too many dropped passes). Remember when they had more receivers and linebackers in Westwood than they knew what to do with?

A shoulder sprain. A lower back injury. A broken jaw. A concussion. UCLA QB Kevin Prince has durability issues. So why do Rick Neuheisel and Norm Chow insist on having him run the option?

Look, I'm not taking away much from Arizona after their 41-2 win at Toledo. Although their offense stalled a bit after a masterful opening drive, they did what they were supposed to do. Not quite ready to crown the Wildcats as members of the Rose Bowl race just yet…

Oregon State QB Ryan Katz showed a great arm against TCU. He didn't show the consistency when it counted most, though. Still, the kid has the tools. I liked what I saw from him overall…

That said, it still seems to me that, just like last year, Oregon State won't truly make The Leap until they find another playmaker whose last name isn't Rodgers…

The Beavers head to Boise State on September 25. I can only imagine what was going through Mike Riley's mind as he watched the Broncos in the first quarter on Monday night…

If that's how U$C's defense is going to play, then I guarantee we're dropping 70 points on them next month…

Oh, wait…I think Oregon just scored again…

Not a Pac-9 thought, but… who switched Michigan QB Denard Robinson with Marques Tuiasosopo? Wow. What a performance that was…

Not a Pac-9 thought, but… at one point he was going to be the Trojans' next Mike Williams. Last year he transferred to Cincinnati. Last week he tore an ACL and is done for the year. Tough break for former U$C receiver Vidal Hazelton

Not a Pac-9 thought, but… "I'll take ‘People I Wouldn't Want To Be This Week' for $800, Alex." "He blew 13 snaps against Miami of Ohio……Troy?" "Who is Gator center Mike Pouncey?" "Correct"…

Not a Pac-9 thought, but… as of right now, I have Green Bay beating San Diego in Super Bowl XLV…

Not a Pac-9 thought, but… why does The Weather Channel insist on giving me everything except the weather?

Thumbs up: Boise State. For obvious reasons…

Thumbs down: UConn. Brand new hype…same old Huskies…

The finger: Kansas. Why everyone isn't talking about their 6-3 loss to North Dakota State as opposed to what happened between Jacksonville State and Ole Miss is beyond me...

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CLARDY'S CORNER INBOX

Sorry, but I don't use Twitter. I do Facebook, but these Corners don't. So that means you're going to have to contact me the old-fashioned way...by e-mail! Always feel free to drop me a line at my Scout.com inbox (username: troyc) or e-mail me at troyc@thebootleg.com. The best e-mails will be answered in next week's Clardy's Corner Inbox!


Troy Clardy hosts the Stanford Daily Update, airing every weekday at 7:00pm on Cardinal Sports Network flagship radio station XTRA Sports 860 in San Francisco, and available in podcast form at gostanford.com. If you're in Pittsburgh, you can also hear him weekends on 93.7 The Fan.

Clardy's Corner appears Wednesdays during the college football regular season on TheBootleg.com. You can also check him out online at TroyClardy.com, or e-mail him at troyc@thebootleg.com.


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