Sunday, December 6, 2009

Another Year of BCS Failures

Last night I sat on my sofa and watched with fascination--but not surprise--as two of the so-called top teams in the nation were embarrassed in big games. Of course, I refer to Florida's 32-13 debacle and Texas's 13-12 escape (which was also a debacle). Yesterday's events underscore the real problem that we have with the BCS/polling system used in college Football at the FBS level. Take this scenario into consideration:

A team has a stellar season, wins their conference and goes on to have a very solid win against a formidable opponent in the bowl game. The following season, most poll voters are very "high" on this team and give them a high ranking in the preseason polls. After a few weeks of play and good performance, this translates into an equal or similar slot in the BCS rankings.

This team goes on to run the table in a conference that turns out not to be as good as expected--top-heavy, indeed, with this team being at or near the top. They didn't prove as much on the field as they should have due to competition that was decidedly sub-par, but because they didn't lose to these other teams, the BCS kept them from falling below their inflated preseason position due to the importance placed on what teams have in the "L" column.

Then, after a season of trouncing any and all opposition, the team reaches the championship game: after so many months of media hype and a zero in the "L" column, the team shows up convinced of their superiority and possibly even slightly complacent. Maybe mix in a key injury during the game. The result is an ugly, ugly night. The team is exposed as a group of "frauds". Not capable of living up to lofty expectations. Charlatans. All of this because the team was propelled to a high position largely because of opinion (beginning with those preseason polls) rather than a résumé built on the field against quality opposition. This team, due to a lack of real challenges on the field during the season, did not progress as much as was needed to meet the challenge that came in the form of the opponent in the championship game. And boy, were they ever punished for it. Not only on the field, but afterward in the form of a critical media and gloating fans of the opposing team.

Who is this team, you ask? It's 2006 Ohio State in the BCS National Championship game. It's also 2009 Florida in the SEC Championship game; 2009 Texas in the Big 12 Championship game. Take your pick.

This kind of nonsense is exactly why the BCS should go. By nature of its very flawed design, this system produces teams like what have been described above. Voters decide which two teams are "best" at the beginning of the season and--barring upsets, which don't often happen when conferences lack parity--the BCS supports what is essentially an educated guess. Last night's games showed that those guesses were wrong. Florida, Texas, and other teams were essentially crowned among the nation's best based largely on last season's performance. Take from them the quality of competition that was expected (which is true this year in both the Big 12 and the SEC) and what do you get? A team that is ill-prepared and ill-progressed late in the season. A recipe for disappointment.

The BCS must go, but it probably never will because the powers that be are making far too much money on the way things currently work, which is a discussion for another day.