Monday, November 26, 2007

There has to be a better way

Since the Gators regular season is over it's now time to turn our attention to the sham that is the "national championship" in college football. Almost since our very first post we have maintained our position that there is no legitimate national champion in football. Even when our beloved Gators won the game that was supposed to be for the aforementioned championship we decried it as a fraud. That's why you'll always see "national championship" in quotes or we'll refer to it as a BCS championship.

Now I'd like to direct your attention to this lovely scenario. If Missouri and West Virginia were both to lose their games this weekend Ohio State would more than likely slide into the #1 spot while sitting on their duffs. And if that weren't bad enough the computers would more than likely place 2-loss Georgia at number 2 or very close to it. Georgia is currently 5th on the Anderson and Hester ratings, 9th on the Billingsley ratings, 4th on the Colley Ratings, 6th on the Sagarin ratings, 6th on Wolfe and 3rd on Massey. Assuming that Georgia would jump two spots in each rating, leapfrogging Missouri and West Virginia (which is by no means a certainty) the Bulldogs would be 3rd, 7th, 2nd, 4th, 4th, 1st. The BCS dumps the high and low value so Georgia would have a 3rd, 2nd, 4th and 4th averaged together for the 1/3 that is the computer ranking.

Now let's turn to the humans. Traditionally, human voters bump up the highest available team into the highest newly available slot. Georgia is 4th with the Coaches and 4th with the Harris pollsters. If the voters hold true to form they would slot Georgia in at number 2.

Now consider that Georgia, who did not win its division, and can not win its conference might be playing for the so-called national title. This has happened before. And it was a result of the computer rankings. There might be an all-out propaganda campaign launched against Georgia to avoid this from happening again. And the voters who don't want to see this might be obliged to vote Georgia significantly lower than third to counteract the computer rankings. So what you'd have is essentially a manipulation of the voting to create some desired outcome, namely keeping Georgia out.

Now if LSU wins the SEC title game in convincing fashion voters might legitimately leapfrog the Tigers over Georgia but if the unthinkable happens and Tennessee wins, the scenario I described above could happen.

Is this any way to crown a champion. We don't think so.

By the way, many opponents of a playoff say that the current system magnifies the importance of the regular season. I say hogwash. If the regular season means anything at all then Georgia should not be playing for a national championship under any circumstances. They weren't even the best team in their division (that honor belongs to Tennessee), how can they be the best team in the country?

16 comments:

Tommy said...

I'm loathe to spend much time arguing this point, at least until it looks like a distinct possibility, which would require Pitt beating WVU. And monkeys flying from my ass. But I digress ...

To your final point, Georgia is the SEC East co-champ and nowhere is it written that you have to win your conference to play for it all -- not in basketball, baseball or football.

Is Georgia really not the best team in their division? Pollsters apparently and unanimously disagree, if the rankings are any indication. Yes, I understand the SEC tie-breaker rules just fine and Tennessee can have their little division champ banner -- we'll happily take a BCS bowl.

Regardless, I believe introducing some arbitrary rule at the end of the season about having to win your conference would cheapen the regular season every bit as badly as you fear a Georgia title game appearance would. And, clutch the pearls, what if Georgia won? Would you still feel the same?

Henry Gomez said...

Tommy,

Georgia is not the division co-champ. They are the division runner up. Tennessee beat Georgia straight up.

Opinions of the pollsters don't mean anything to me. They shift opinions from week to week. That's the point of this post.

You can't compare basketball where they play 30 games a season to football. Besides I would argue that despite the popularity of the NCAA tournament a single elimination tourney is not appropriate for a sport like Basketball. And I could also argue that the field in the Basketball tournament is too big. But I'm not that big a college basketball fan so I don't care so much if that system can be improved. Even so, If the NCAA basketball tourney were only 16 teams deep I think you would agree that conference winners would take precedence over conference runners-up. What we have in football is a two-team tourney. With only two spots I think you have to give priority to the conference champions.

Year2 said...

Pollsters also have VT over LSU and BC, the two teams that the Hokies lost to. All three have identical records, so VT should be the third in that order. All that was actually decided on the field.

So much for pollsters being reliable.

Anonymous said...

SEC champ plays Hawai'i in the Sugar Bowl, Georgia plays ACC champ in the Orange Bowl, after watching those games last weekend no doubt Missouri and West Virginia are the best two teams out there. If Oklahoma does upset Missouri then Ohio State plays them and they put Illinois in the Rose Bowl. That really screws up the Gators chance to play Zooker. The SEC is going to have to start playing some of these schools before the conference games like USC does playing Ohio State next couple years. Gators need to schedule some Illinois games like Missouri did instead of weaker teams like Miami and Troy.

Henry Gomez said...

Actually Vegas has Oklahoma as a 3 point favorite against Mizzou. Oklahoma winning wouldn't technically be an upset.

Henry Gomez said...

The present system does NOT reward you for playing a tougher non-conference schedule. On the contrary.

Florida won it all last year without playing any tough out of conference team except FSU which is a constant. And UF would have cruised into the BCS again with wins over Georgia and UK.

A more timely example though, is OSU that could slide into the game without playing any significant team out of conference.

The surest way to winning a BCS crown is to win your BCS conference and not lose more than one game along the way. Schedule pantywaists for non-conference games. That's what the present system encourages.

Illinois went out of conference against Mizzou and that loss is what has them on the outside looking in at the BCS.

Amos said...

Florida has nothing to gain, and everything to lose by playing the Zooker.

Also Miami was scheduled back when they were a very good program I believe. And FSU is always expected to be good, so our out of conference schedule is fine.

Tommy said...

Henry,
The SEC recognizes Georgia as its eastern division co-champ: http://www.secsports.com/index.php?s=&url_channel_id=2&change_well_id=1.

Before we get dragged into a larger rathole about touranment vs. BCS, please let me clarify that my only point was that there is no sport that requires a conference championship in order to play for a national title, irrespective of the format (tournament, computer rankings, beauty contest, etc.).

Generally, I'm in favor of conference winners taking precedence over runners-up, primarily because a conference winner presumably had momentum at the end of the season. But I can certainly entertain exceptions, particularly in such a parity-driven, cannibalistic conference like the SEC, where you have a presumptive champion stumbling to the finish and an also-ran suddenly hitting its stride. I think that adds to the value of the regular season, rather than detract from it. If we adopted your rule, LSU's game against Arkansas would have been utterly meaningless, as would be every game Georgia played after the first week of October.

Again, all of this is dependent on Pitt beating WVU, so this is purely a hypothetical argument.

Henry Gomez said...

Tommy,

OK, I'll concede the co-champs point but that's worth about the same as what John Nance Garner said about the vice-presidency: a warm bucket of spit.

In an organized sport, a two team tie is broken by head to head competition. In short Georgia had it's chance and failed.

In all the other sports there are tournaments and somehow conference champions get preferences usually through automatic bids.

In the case of the BCS' current two team tourney set-up I find it unjustifiable that a team that can't claim to best the of six can somehow claim to be the best of 119.

Tommy said...

Henry,

Odds are, Georgia's got far more attractive post-season prospects than Tennessee, so, as I said earlier, Tennessee can have its little banner. A warm bucket of spit, indeed.

Conference champions get automatic bids in college football as well. But there are at-large bids, which are pretty common in most other sports as well. Thus in every other system there exists the possibility that a conference runner-up could win it all. Wild card teams win Super Bowls from time to time, in spite of not being the best team in their division. A few years ago, a UNC team that barely made the NCAAs wound up winning it all.

I guess what spooks me about your suggestion is the timing of it. It'd be one thing to say in August that only conference champions can compete for it all. Some of us may hate it, but if them's the rules, then they apply for the whole season. But to say at the end of the regular season, "Aw, gee, we don't like how this is shaping up, we need to insert some last minute, emergency rule..." well, sorry. Take it up in the off-season.

Henry Gomez said...

Tommy,

Your confusing the issue. Yes there are automatic bids to BCS but not to the championship game. If there are only two slots does it make sense that either of them be occupied by a non-conference winner.

And as for the timing, I'm laughing because this blog is over a year old and we've been railing on this idiotic system since the beginning.

As a matter of fact, I posted a tournament proposal one month ago where I argue that only division champs should be allowed to play in an 8-team tourney.

I'm not a big fan of kirk herbstreit but he said something yesterday on Mike Tirico's radio show that is absolute gospel truth. Everyone's view depends on where their team is. I assume your a Bulldog fan. And I bet if your team weren't in the spot they are in that you wouldn't care or you might even agree with me.

Also we've seen a non-conference-champ play for the BCS championship before and besides getting beat like a redheaded step child there was a pretty significant backlash to the idea of it. That's reality. If Oklahoma beats Mizzou and WVU loses the backyard brawl there will be a big outcry in the media against your Dawgs. Whether you like it or not that's what's going to happen and they are all going to be pointing to that Oklahoma game as a reason why it shouldn't happen.

Henry Gomez said...

Tommy,

The warm bucket of spit was referring to UGA's Asterisked co-championship of the East. Tennessee has a shot at winning the conference and surely you must agree that banner is worth touting, no?

Anonymous said...

I am a Georgia fan and I agree we dropped the ball in Knoxville. I would agree with you that it would be hard to for many to approve of UGA playing for a tilte when they finished 2nd in the east. However, what makes it OK for OSU to get a pass with the sorry schedule they played but UGA with a much tougher strength of schedule is so undeserving? The current system is a fraud if your team can be opinionated out of a game. Just think if the gators had missed a chance at the title last year and we where stuck with an OSU/Mich rematch. We would have never know how bad OSU was. However, if you looked at their strength of schedule last year, I believe it was somewhere in the 70's. Currently it is 43 to UGA's 9.
In the end all I care about is that deserving teams get to play and I would much rather have WVU and Missouri than OSU in the title game.

Tommy said...

I don't think I'm that confused. Yes, I'm a Bulldog fan and I'm sure my view on the issue is no more tempered by that than yours is by the fact that you're a fan of a bitter rival. I just think the proposed conference championship requirement seems arbitrary, given that there's no precedent for it anywhere else.

Regardless, LSU and Oklahoma already have two losses apiece. Let's say Oklahoma wins the Big XII and/or LSU wins the SEC. If you just look at the respective bodies of work and set aside the hardware, is there any reason a two-loss Oklahoma or LSU team has more business in the championship than a higher ranked two-loss Georgia team?

And, yes, I remember the backlash Nebraska and Oklahoma took for going to the championship. Of course, it helped that they got crushed. If, miracle of miracles, Georgia makes it to the big stage and beat Ohio State (which wouldn't be such a miracle), I'd expect to hear crickets chirping.

Henry Gomez said...

First of all my objections to non-conference champs playing for the so-called national championship is on the record from way before our bitter rival may have been in a position to do so.

Secondly, regardless of precedent in College there is a precedent in sports that you win your way in. I understand what you are saying regarding at-large bids but that's apples and oranges. We only have two bids to give out and logic dictates that the two teams that play for the national championship at a minimum be the best team in their conference as identified by the rules of that conference.

And here's why Georgia won't get in, in the scenario you described. Georgia is idle. LSU will have beaten Tennessee for the SEC title Game with the entire country watching. LSU has been near the top of the polls allseason and the voters will leapfrog a 2-loss SEC champ LSU over an idle 2-loss Georgia. That's exactly what happened last year with the Gators and Michigan except both teams had 1 loss.

Anyway WVU should roll over Wannstache in the Backyard Brawl which makes this all academic anyway.

Tommy said...

"Anyway WVU should roll over Wannstache in the Backyard Brawl which makes this all academic anyway."

Exactly. Which is why I said I was loathe to spend to much time on this before promptly spending too much time on this.

On the surface, I agree it seems logical that conference winners ought to get preference, especially if we view conferences as proxies for regional finals in the absence of a playoff.

Two flaw in that logic is that conferences aren't fair proxies. For evidence, we can look at the strength of schedule disparities between Big X teams and SEC teams, or, to be fair, between SEC teams and pretty much anyone else. Further evidence of that was Florida's dismantling of Ohio State last year. There were about a half-dozen SEC teams that gave Florida a better game last season than Ohio State did.

The other flaw has to do you with your "win your way in" argument. I contend that LSU had a chance to win its way in on Friday and bobbled it, whereas Georgia has been winning its way in ever since early October. Both Georgia and LSU have two SEC losses; LSU just had the good fortune to be in the West.

In the end, this is about getting the two best teams to play each other. In the conference format you guys posted yesterday, there are three SEC teams in the brackets, making it entirely possible that two SEC also-rans (Georgia and Florida) could make it to the big stage. And if you're a proponent of the tournament format, as the two of you seem to be, then you can't complain about that outcome.