Well, it's that time that every college football fan looks forward to: the release of the first BCS standings. Once again, everyone can look toward the standings and say that they are all screwed up and the computers are wrong and the pollsters are wrong and everyone is going to go undefeated and, all of a sudden, the sky is going to fall, Satan will rule the earth, and it will start raining men... or brimstone... something... you know what I mean.
Every damn year I have to hear about how the BCS is going to college football because anywhere from 3 to 58 teams are going to go undefeated this season and some deserving team is going to get shut out of the title game despite the fact that they play in the toughest conference in the country, which is usually either the SEC, Big XII, or Big Ten, depending on who is not in the top 2 right now. However, some people will, of course, claim the ACC is the toughest conference in the country this year, since Virginia Tech is #3 as of right now. Those people are idiots.
I will grant that Auburn got screwed last year, since they did everything right and still didn't make it to the title game. It is not really their fault that the SEC turned out to be kind of a dud, which is a very rare occurence. However, at least this will make top-flight programs think twice about scheduling I-AA schools. Unfortunately, it is too late for the kids who suited up for the Tigers last season.
However, the fact is that complaining about midseason results is about as dumb as making bowl predictions from pre-season polls. After all, it is only halfway through the season, there are a lot of games left to go, and things haven't even gotten interesting yet. One schmoe is talking about how Alabama and Georgia are in the toughest conference in the country and somebody will be screwed when both of them win out, meet in the title game, and the winner still gets shut out of the BCS title game.
First off, if two teams can go through a conference unbeaten, it ain't the toughest one in the country.
Secondly, that is a pretty ridiculous statement to make about these teams at this point in the season. They both have several games to go before they are even sniffing a conference championship, much less a shot at the national title.
Thirdly, so does every other undefeated team in the country. And there are not that many of them right now. And several of them play each other. This happens a lot, actually. Good teams in good conferences often match up and are forced to compete against each other.
I think it's a bigger worry that an undefeated Florida State... oh, wait a second. Don't tell me that a ranked team actually lost to a team that was not only ranked lower than them, but not ranked at all! Has this ever happened before?
The next issue that everybody is complaining about is the fact that the computers are not putting Notre Dame nearly as high as the human voters. Well, yeah. They have two losses already. One of them was to a team that is now also 4-2 and is not, for some reason, ranked nearly that high. In fact, what is considered Notre Dame's best performance all year was in losing to USC. Their best win so far this year is to a team that is 4-3. And one of the wins that 4-3 team had was against a team that beat Notre Dame. Is it any wonder that Notre Dame is not impressing the computers?
The computers know what has been, not what will be. However, their end-of-season rankings are invariably very close to the human polls. In fact, the midseason human polls don't always bear much resemblance to the final polls, so who gives a crap about the computers? Win and you're in. Unless you schedule The Citadel. Then the humans don't believe you should be in the title game either.
In fact, the sportswriters themselves are the reason that the closeness of the loss to USC is not considered by the computers. Remember when everyone was complaining that teams were deliberately blowing other teams out in order to impress the hated computers? I do. And now it is only win-loss record that counts. It is amazing how hard it is for people to understand the concept of "be careful what you wish for, you might get it."
Here's the thing: if Notre Dame manages to win out, they will be in the BCS. They don't win, they are out. 9-2 will impress the computers enough to get them into the top 12, since they are already at #16. Another loss and even the human voters won't be impressed. But the Domers can show they belong with winning. And with them staying high in the polls, even with a 4-2 season, they will have no problem getting there by winning out. Just remember, there is very little difference between a team that nearly beat the #1 team in the nation and a team that blew a lead in the final seconds of the game. It's all about perception, ladies and gentlemen, it's all about perception.
I mean, how many 4-2 teams get to stay in the top 10? Oh, no wait, the press didn't think that they should be affecting the news, so their placement in the AP no longer counts for anything. Still, an 11 and 12 ranking in the Coaches' and Harris polls are pretty good for a 4-2 team. For the AP voters, remember that "irrelevance" has two r's.
And speaking of journalistic ethics, how's that Heisman vote working out for everyone?
I happened to catch part of a local sports radio show here in Cleveland (God help me), and one of the morons on the air was talking about college football -- despite the fact that he clearly knows nothing about it. I'm sure he watches a lot of Browns games and he may know something about pro football, but his commentary on college football was about as good as I would expect from his commentary on, let's say, cricket.
Amid his insane ranting, he went so far as to say that the BCS calculation is worthless because wins and losses don't show up anywhere amidst the lists of human and computer polls. This is really the ultimate proof that this guy has no idea what he is talking about.
Every single one of the computer polls actually calculates their rankings from the wins and losses that each team has suffered through the year, then compares the wins and losses of each team in order to rank the relative worth of each team. Thus, the wins and the losses in the numbers that are used in the formula.
I don't necessarily agree with computer polls, but I do know that they crunch numbers in order to figure out the relative worth of each team. The rankings are often fairly goofy at the beginning of the season, but so are the human polls. The only thing that matters is the end of the season, after they have taken the wins and losses into account in their respective formulas and spit out the relative ranking of each team. Notice that I said THE COMPUTERS TAKE WINS AND LOSSES INTO ACCOUNT.
As a matter of fact, the wins and losses are also in the human polls! The people who vote for the teams -- and I'm not sure if the guy understands this -- look at the information about teams, including their wins and their losses, and built a ranking from that. Thus, wins and losses are used to create the rankings that create the BCS.
However, this guy, who obviously can't understand the idea that college football is actually different than professional football in many respects, thinks that really any team with any record could somehow end up at any place in the BCS rankings. This is not a random number generator. Yes, it may seem like it in the early going, but it does have its own sense to it. It's called, "prove it in the regular season," which is a very novel concept in modern sports. That and the idea that every game should matter. Obviously, this is completely foreign to a man in an NBA town -- since that league needs 82 games to figure out which half of the league is good enough for the playoffs, where they can play another, 20+ game season.
There is a lot of talk about how there are some very strange results in the Harris Poll. This team or that team is getting four points in the Harris Poll, despite the fact that they have not impressed anyone... least of all the teams they are playing.
I will grant that there are some unimpressive additions to the Harris Poll, since Terry Bradshaw (by way of example), whatever your opinion of him as a pro football analyst, does not follow college football all that much. However, he sees all the same results as everybody else and he does the best he can under the circumstances. Just like the people in the AP.
However, the fact is that the actual top 25 is perfectly valid. Idaho State is not in danger of moving into it. The results actually bear a striking resemblance to the Coaches' poll and the AP poll. A few weird results here and there are to be expected in any poll and the additions at the very bottom do not affect anyone. Least of all the BCS.
The overall solution here is just to relax and wait. Yes, things might be as bad as expected, but that is a pretty rare event. More than likely, it will just be more panic-mongering before the inevitable fizzling out. I don't know how things will turn out, but neither does anyone else, no matter what the pollsters and prognosticators may think. I've seen a lot of unstoppable teams get stopped by their "weaker" brethren through the years and it will happen again this year. As a matter of fact, it happens all the time. That's why people watch college football.