The Bowl Championship Series rankings provided a nice shock to the college football world yesterday. I didn’t notice it until late in the day because I already assumed correctly that Virginia Tech would be third in the rankings, as we were last week. Since there are five weeks left in the season, it’s late but still too early to worry too much about the final rankings. The system may be flawed as many are reasonably arguing. I believe college football should figure out a playoff system and let the championship be decided on the field. I’m not in the minority on that, but I don’t control the millions of dollars involved in the current Bowl system. It’ll be around for awhile.
Because the rankings are what they are, they provide sports journalists the opportunity to write about the minutiae as if it mattered in October. Michael Wilbon, who I really like as a writer, discusses the latest rankings in his column today. I disagree with his analysis, but only because it’s a fundamental flaw everyone is making. In analyzing the USC/Texas conundrum brought about by the BCS, Mr. Wilbon highlights a point, that if put into another context (as I’m going to do), we’d laugh at the absurdity. Somehow we accept it in sports. Consider:
Texas shouldn’t be first in the BCS ratings. No one should be ahead of Southern Cal. The Trojans are two-time national champs. They’ve won 29 straight and counting. While Texas beat one ranked opponent on the road in the Buckeyes, USC defeated then-ranked Arizona State in Tempe and Notre Dame in South Bend. Excuse me, but nothing on Texas’s rsum matches winning at Notre Dame. And while Young can carry a team, he’s not as impressive as reigning Heisman winner Matt Leinart, all-American Reggie Bush and all-American candidate LenDale White.
The point is, any system that makes it possible, no matter how remotely, that an undefeated Southern Cal team could be left out of the Rose Bowl is too stupid to live with. People (mostly college presidents) who defend this system and argue against a playoff shouldn’t be able to wake up with a clear conscience.
I agree that USC’s consecutive wins streak (29, I think) is impressive. I’m even willing to ignore the last-second, come-from-behind win they had against Notre Dame two weekends ago, winning because the officials blew two calls in USC’s favor in the last three seconds of the game. (I will not, however, ignore the crap officiating that cost the Hokies a chance to beat the Trojans in last season’s kickoff game at
FedEx Field Jack Kent Cooke Stadium. No, I will never ignore that.) USC is a great team on a tremendous run.
But there is a flaw in Mr. Wilbon’s logic, as I said. If this weren’t college football, but auto manufacturing instead, we’d never accept the idea that past years are as important in determining the best cars in the current model year. Just because USC has won the last two championships doesn’t mean this year’s team should face an easier judgment. The humans voting in the AP and USA Today polls are certainly capable of arriving at different conclusions but it should be based on this year’s teams. If the voters believe Vince Young and Texas would out duel Matt Leinart and USC, they should vote Texas #1. Even the computers will compare them based on what happened on the field this season. The problem is, the BCS uses the artificial measures of human voting and computer data models to judge what can’t easily be judged without an on-the-field matchup. Subjective analysis is inevitable, but it shouldn’t be applied haphazardly in a way that compounds the artificial mess that is the BCS. Seniority, which is what voting based on the winning streak constitutes, is no match for merit, which is what Saturdays are for in the college football world. Maybe those measures will come up with the right answer, maybe not. Without a playoff system, it’s mostly speculation. But those measures should only consider what’s happening this season.
I’ll defend that into January if the Hokies face either USC or Texas in the Rose Bowl for the National Championship.