Wednesday, December 6

Waitin' for the time when I can get to Arizona . . .

Just to throw another log on the fire of the current BCS controversy, here's a column I wrote two years ago about this time regarding the BCS system. I hate to rehash my own shit on here, but it was applicable back then when I wrote it about Auburn and, despite slightly different circumstances, it's applicable now about Michigan. The culprit in the controversy is a little different this year -- alleged national-title-matchup gamesmanship on the part of the human voters rather than feckless computers -- but the main point still stands: The BCS sucks, and the reason it sucks is because it takes a lot of computer formulas nobody knows and a lot of human voters nobody has never heard of, jumbles all their data together, and expects college football fans -- maybe the single most emotional, rabidly partisan interest group in the country -- to just accept on its face whatever comes out.

Here are parts from that earlier column that, I think, are most directly applicable to 2006:

. . . [B]uilt on faith as it is, the BCS is like money: Its decisions are valuable only if the people value them. After seven years of this nonsense, it should be clear that they don't. The real question is, why is anyone surprised?

The BCS is trying to reduce college football, a pastime that has aroused more wildly illogical passions than anything since the Salem witch trials, down to mere numbers. . . .

. . . We as a nation are not predisposed to mathematics anymore -- these days you order a fast-food combo that comes to $5.78, you give the cashier a ten-dollar bill and three pennies and she looks at you like you're trying to hand her the monthly newsletter of the Church of Satan. But the BCS invites all these unbearably complicated computer rankings to the party, throws them in with the polls in yet another complicated formula, and asks the nation's entire college-football fan base to just blindly accept whatever pops out. . . .

. . . If we're supposed to trust the computers' judgment that Oklahoma and Southern Cal are better than Auburn, without needing to see it proven on the field, why don't we just trust the BCS's current judgment that the Trojans are better than the Sooners -- they say USC wins .9770 to .9681, so who needs the Orange Bowl? We didn't need to play that silly SEC championship game last week, either, because the BCS already said Auburn was better than Tennessee. Hell, let's just play the whole season that way! If we just let the computers simulate all the games for us and spit out a winner, not only would we have an iron-clad champion determined by the end of all the calculating (by the BCS's logic, at least), but we wouldn't actually have to risk any players on the field.

The BCS said it would give us an undisputed national champion, and it has -- if you have absolute faith in the system and trust that the computers are always right. The problem is nobody does anymore, and that's why the system needs to be junked. It has no authority, no credibility. These days, when it declares which two teams are most deserving of the national title, its edict garners about as much acceptance as Scott Peterson's advice on maintaining a healthy marriage.

When football fans disagree, there's only one way to settle it, and it's not with numbers -- it's on the field. We need to see which team is better with our own eyes. With that in mind, then, we need to decide this current BCS debacle not with calculations but with actual play on the field. We're not going to solve it with a calculate-off; we can only solve it with, if you will, a play-off. Hmmmm. Deciding winners on the field as opposed to inside a computer? Interesting. I wonder why nobody thought of that before.


So what's the solution? At the minimum, a plus-one game, and I'm not talking about the current faux plus-one that was simply an excuse to conjure an extra BCS bowl out of thin air, I'm talking about an actual plus-one whereby, say, this year the Ohio State-Florida winner would take on the Michigan-USC winner for all the marbles. In 2004, it would've put maybe the Oklahoma-Utah winner up against the USC-Auburn winner, thereby avoiding the furor that erupted from undefeated Auburn and Utah squads getting left out of the conversation entirely. Even last year, which was perfect given that we had 12-0 Texas taking on 12-0 USC, we could've pit Texas against Penn State and USC against West Virginia and then seated the winners from those two games in the Rose Bowl. Sure, that sounds like we'd be mucking with a perfect situation, but if Texas and USC are really the best two teams in the country, they should win their games and they'd have nothing to worry about.

I'd throw in a caveat that at least three of the four teams involved would have to be conference champions of some stripe, but beyond that, let's just let the chips fall where they may.

That system, at least, would be a better avenue for letting the final matchup be decided by play on the field rather than inside a hard drive or the head of a coach or sportswriter with an ulterior motive. Will it ever happen? Who knows, given that the dollar signs in the eyes of the bowl presidents and TV networks seem to be blocking out everything else at the moment. But good Lord, let's do something.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

It IS being decided on the field, numb-nuts. You're just unhappy about the choice of who plays. The current system has an agreed-upon combination of popular opinion (the polls) and objectivity (the computer). But then, this arguement is just another version of the debates that took place before the computer came into being- it is if the computer were just another poll about which to argue.

Anonymous said...

"Anonymous" sure sounds like a Florida fan. And I'd definitely remain anonymous too if my entire wardrobe consisted of jean shorts, tank tops, trucker caps and fake Dale Jr. tattoos.

Anonymous said...

By the way, there's a sure way to get a playoff - get college football fans to stop buying bowl tickets and attending bowl games. Of course, that would take the most perfect, biggest, most successful grass roots lobbying effort EVER. Go for it, Gillett.

Anonymous said...

Here is the solution. Play it off like this:

http://www.ncaasports.com/football/mens/brackets/straight16_dyn/2006/FCS

Then have the bowls. Done.

Duff said...

I think the Onion has the best take on this whole subject...

But seriously, if it were just up to the computers, there would HAVE to be a playoff because Florida and Michigan TIED! The choice to have Florida play in the final game was a result of the opinions of the coaches and the Associated Press.

I understand the interest in keeping the bowl games intact, but allowing the selection of our next champion to be up to opinion is not a suitable answer. Either the selection mechanism needs to be logical and transparent (publish the computer ranking algorithms), or there needs to be a playoff. Simple as that.

Anonymous said...

Josh, no tattoos on this bod (my wife has them all in places you'll never see). You UGA fans can't get over how Florida beats you all year after year in football and basketball and could end up with recent national championships in both. Duff, the algorithms have been released.

It is a good, not perfect, system. It's like sausage and legislation- you never want to see how they're really made.

Doug said...

Don't get your jean shorts in a bunch, Anonymous -- go read the previous posts (move your lips if you have to) and you'll find that I actually approve of the OSU-Florida matchup because a) I think Florida's résumé is no less impressive than Michigan's and b) I don't want to see an OSU-Michigan rematch. But irrespective of that, the BCS had one simple mission -- create national-title matchups that would be definitive and end the debates that occurred during the split-title years -- and it has failed at that. It's pointless, and we should get rid of it.

At any rate, I'm actually rooting for Florida to beat the Buckeyes -- y'all are going up against the one fanbase in the country that may actually be more obnoxious than you are. (I may talk shit about you guys all the time, but I've never known any of you to take a dump in a styrofoam cooler on game day.) And I'm tired of hearing the Big 10 faithful talk condescendingly about how the SEC isn't that good and doesn't deserve to be there.