Monday, November 20, 2006

Why not Michigan?

Now, before I get started, I am no fan of the BCS system. In fact, I don’t think that any sort of system at all is necessary to create some sort of fictitious “national champion” in division I-A football, other than a conference based playoff. Four team playoff, eight team playoff, or whatever, it is all still part of the fundamentally flawed thinking that allows a so called national champion to be chosen by subjective preferences. But that is a topic for another day.

The system we have is supposed to pit together the two “best” teams in a single game at season’s end to determine a champion. Not surprisingly, an effort to determine who is “best” ends up with a system that relies on two human polls and six computer polls.

Currently, the top six teams in the BCS are –

1. Ohio State
2. Michigan
3. USC
4. Florida
5. Notre Dame
6. Arkansas.

Since Ohio State has ended the season 12-0, placing them number 1 is perfectly logical.

But who should be number 2?

Well, all we have to go on is the body of work of the five teams involved. Each team has a single loss. Let’s look at those losses –

Michigan – lost to number 1 and 12-0 Ohio State at Ohio State 42-39
USC – lost to unranked 7-4 Oregon State at Oregon State 33-31
Florida – lost to 12th ranked 10-2 Auburn at Auburn 27-17
Notre Dame – lost to number 2 Michigan 47-21 at home
Arkansas – lost to number 3 USC 50-14 at home

Remember – we are trying to determine who should be number 2 right now. Notre Dame and USC, as well as Florida and Arkansas, still have yet to play each other.

Barring losses by the team ahead of them, Arkansas and Notre Dame should be out of the discussion for the lopsided home losses they suffered. There is simply no way Arkansas should ever jump a 1 loss USC, or Notre Dame a 1 loss Michigan, based on the whippings they took.

Now to the three who lost on the road. Between USC and Florida, I think you have to give the edge to Florida for losing at the home field of a ranked and reasonably competitive team. The argument that Florida lost by 10 verses USC’s 2 doesn’t really hold up because 7 of Auburn’s 10 points came on that last desperation play by Florida.

But, regardless of how you feel about USC or Florida’s loss, Michigan’s was the “best” loss. Losing by 3 at the very hostile home field of your greatest rival, who just happens to be ranked number 1 in the country, is as “good” a loss as one could suffer.

The whole argument about a “late season” loss being worse than an “early season” loss makes no sense without examining who exactly lost to whom. While one can understand the lack of desire in most areas of the country to see a rematch, you are essentially penalizing the teams involved based on the timing of their schedule. Late season match-ups, especially between the two top ranked teams (think Florida-FSU in 1996), could and should lead to rematches if none of the other contender’s bodies of work compares favorably.

And in this case, they don’t. Whether Florida, USC, Notre Dame or Arkansas win out, their one loss will still be worse than Michigan’s.

Michigan is number 2, and they deserve to be

1 comment:

FishFan-GatorMan said...


Your argument is logical but I differ in one respect.

Well, all we have to go on is the body of work of the five teams involved.

This is the issue. In football we don't have enough games to determine who is best and we don't have enough games between the top teams. For example let's say the pro baseball playoffs were determined by a poll. After 162 games we would know exactly who should go to the playoffs because each team would have played every other team in their league and several from the other league. In fact poll might ensure that the 4 best teams went to the playoffs in each league regardless of their division (a current flaw in the baseball system).

Since we can't play 15 or 20 games in a football season there is a lot of room for argument. You posted recently that by happenstance the BCS was shaping into a pseudo playoff with OSU/Mich, ND/USC, and ARK/FL games. Of course this isn't a round robin but everyone assumes that a loss at this point would disqualify a team from the big game based on past precedent.

And here's the thing. When the all the chips were on the table Michigan lost. The purpose of playing the games is to determine who is better. By that reasoning we know that OSU is better than Michigan. We don't know (though we may have opinions) whether OSU is better than the other teams in contention.

In a sport that already has a scarcity of important interconference match-ups, a rematch between OSU and Michigan will deprive us of the opportunity for another one. What if OSU beats Michigan again. What does that prove? That OSU is better than Michigan. Well we already knew that. But we don't know whether they are better than USC or Florida or ND or Arkansas.