Thursday, December 10, 2009

Why Texas?

Thanks to the convenient and uneven allocation of “clock stoppage” rules by Big XII referees, Texas narrowly escaped Nebraska in the Big XII Championship Game. It was Texas’s worst showing of the season in its most important game. Unfortunately, “how Texas played” was always going to be irrelevant. It was preordained 100+ years ago that even a sloppy win would put Texas in the BCS Championship Game over Cincinnati, TCU, and Boise State. The latter three programs are up-starts. Before it ever got to a resume-comparison, the scrutinizing stopped at the name, “Texas.”

College football needs a playoff. It has always needed a playoff. It is the only major sport dumb enough to avoid the most exciting part of any athletic calendar. The result has been paper champions and insufferable controversy. This season has been no different. Since only two teams can play for the National Championship, non-BCS schools—or schools from the Big East that are often treated as non-BCS schools—are usually overlooked because they simply can’t match the average strength of schedule of a BCS school. Weighing schedule strength seems to be the fairest methodology to an unfair system. What isn’t fair, though, is coming to a decision based on “traditionism,” or simply assuming that the bigger name has the better resume. Sure, in most cases, an undefeated team from a major BCS conference will have a more impressive resume than an undefeated team from a weaker conference. The problem is that “most cases” doesn’t equal “all cases.” Voters still need to do their due diligence by actually comparing resumes. Simply assuming that Texas deserves to be in the BCS Title Game over TCU, Boise State and Cincinnati because it’s “Texas” is lazy and ignorant. It only takes a few seconds to compare resumes and come to the conclusion that, yes, despite a marquee win or two and an impressive average margin of victory, TCU and Boise State do not have schedules that compare to Texas’s. In these instances, conventional wisdom holds true.

What about Cincinnati? I’m not sure “people” (voters, fans, coaches, Ginny Sack, whoever) understand just how weak Texas’s resume is. The Big XII was arguably the best conference in college football last season. This season? Not so much. Oklahoma without Sam Bradford has been mediocre. Kansas spiraled to a fiery death. Texas Tech and Missouri took giant steps back. Oklahoma State was slightly disappointing. It wasn’t until the Big XII Championship Game that Texas met any resistance and that was against an offensively-challenged Nebraska-team. It’s difficult to point to any victory on Texas’s resume as “overly impressive” with the possible exception of its 27-point win over an Oklahoma State team that also lost to Oklahoma by 27-points and Houston. I don’t think there is a “signature win” on the entire schedule. It doesn’t help that the non-conference slate featured UCF, Wyoming, Louisiana Monroe, and UTEP. Without a marquee non-conference opponent, Texas didn’t really even have an opportunity for a “signature win.”

Cincinnati wasn’t any more impressive than Texas but I’m not sure it was less impressive, either. The Bearcats had two impressive road wins over Oregon State and Pittsburgh. They had three victories over the RPI 20 and seven over the RPI 55. Texas had two and six, respectively. Cincy had three wins in the BCS top 25 (#16, #17, and #18). Texas had just two (#19 and #22). Despite playing in a conference that is often criticized and/or dismissed entirely, Cincinnati managed to put together a pretty damn good collection of wins. In fact, Cincinnati actually had a higher “computer score” in the BCS rankings than Texas. I realize that “margin of victory” does play a part in a resume-comparison but whatever small advantage Texas has in that metric is offset by Cincy’s slight advantage in quality wins.

*Margin of victory in parenthesis

**RPI from here.

I’m not suggesting that Cincinnati is better than Texas or that Texas doesn’t deserve to be in the BCS Championship Game. After being famously stonewalled from the Championship Game last season, it’s tough to argue that Texas doesn’t deserve to be there this season. I’m just saying that Cincinnati has every right to be there, too, and not in a “every undefeated team deserves a shot at the championship” kind of way. The Bearcats were unfairly clumped with TCU and Boise State as “feel good” stories. They were never given serious consideration by the “powers that be” because everyone just assumed that Texas had a stronger resume. Few are complaining because who really wants to see Cincinnati in the BCS Championship Game over Texas? Obviously, the idiocy of the BCS necessitates the selection of one undefeated team over another. This is usually done by assumptions. In the case of TCU and Boise State, those assumptions turned out to be correct. For Cincinnati, though, they might be playing for a National Championship if anyone bothered to look at their resume. Hopefully, this will be the last time this happens.


Anonymous said...

What are your thoughts on the Granderson trade?

Anonymous said...

What do you think they should do for the Playoffs if they ever come to that?

I think that they should stop the conference championship games and have a bracket of 16 teams. Those 16 teams would be the ones that are highest in the rankings.

Jake said...

#1 I'll probably have a post on the Granderson trade on Monday or Tuesday but I will say that I don't hate it.

#2 My proposal of choice for a playoff would be the same as Dan Wetzel's. All 11 conference champions (even the Sun Belt) get an automatic bed. Then, a committee would choose five at-large teams based on resumes. I think we should keep the conference championship games. All games with the exception of the final game should be home games for the higher seed. That would be amazing. Can you imagine USC coming to Michigan in December? Take care!

J.R. Ewing said...

Longhorndave/Whitlock here...

I gotta come to bat for my boys a little bit. When I saw the title of the blog I got my guns a ready for a battle, but as always you put facts out there and I can't argue much. I will say that I think a lot is being made of this one close victory, which was our 2nd one of the year that was under a TD, which matches Alabama, TCU, and is less than Cincinnati's 3. Cincy stumbled through a victory Saturday too, but for the sake of promoting controversy, nobody is really discussing. Alabama was downright awful against Tennessee (at home). TCU barely escaped Air Force (where are they in the BCS standings?).

FYI, I ran some numbers, TCU is 6-2 and Boise is 4-4 against their last 8 BCS AQ opponents (both programs have had sustained success and all games were last 3-4 years). I think a lot of people remember their big wins, but forget their losses (TCU's were by more than 2 TDs). I know you didn't come out to bat for those guys as much as Cincy, but still.

A lot to do with Texas this year (and Colt potentially winning the Heisman tomorrow) is about last year. I threw a holy fit when we were left out, and I still maintain that Florida beat the 2nd best Big XII team last year. Was hoping at a crack at them this year to claim two titles.

For the record, I do not think Colt should win the Heisman. Shipley was more worth on our team, but I would have Gerhart #1. My ballot would be Gerhart, Shipley, and Suh. Colt should have won it last year (given his play vs. talent around him) but they gave it to the guy who had the defense who allowed 28 points a game so he had to keep scoring.

Concur on imperfect system, I usually try to go with an eight teamer, my latest version of that is just have a committee go behind closed doors and pick 8 teams, no matter conference affiliation or champion status. I used to believe you should be champ to be included, but last year's Big XII South fiasco cured me of that.

J.R. Ewing said...

Shoot, I meant to add that the clock stoppage complaining is ridiculous. That was a cut and dry call. I maintain that even without replay, the officials would have huddled and put a second back. But with replay, they just went straight there instead of guessing. Reminiscent of that Notre Dame/USC game in 2005 for sure (for which they just as reasonably put a second back).

J.R. Ewing said...

Oh, and we did have Arkansas on the schedule this year but they begged off b/c they wanted to ink the deal to play A&M in JerryWorld instead. Hence the bizarre "home and not play again" against them (we hosted them last year). That being said Texas needs to overhaul its OOC scheduling. Re: a much earlier blog we absolutely refuse to schedule a FCS, though. We did one in 2006 b/c nobody would fill that new open spot from the expansion to 12 games and the AD said never again. Admittedly, ULM and UTEP aren't much of a step up (although Houston didn't exactly handle UTEP).

I promise that I'll "hang up and listen" now.

Jake said...


I might be on TCU and Boise State's side when it comes to them getting a fair shake via a playoff but I'm with you on your numbers crunch. TCU and Boise St. need to play more and beat more quality opponents. I don't think they should be in the discussion at all for Pasadena. In fact, I'm shocked that the pollsters had TCU ahead of Cincy. Their resumes aren't even close.

That's, of course, why we need a playoff. Having to guess which undefeated teams are the best is pretty dumb when it could all be settled with a playoff. I am partial to a 16-teamer because I think that would include any team with a reasonable gripe at playing for a championship. Part of the reason why so many people want a playoff is to give the TCU's and Boises of the world a chance to prove it against the best. If you have only an 8-teamer decided solely by a committee, then the Boise's and TCUs could still end up on the outside looking in. Also, your beef--albiet a reasonable one--about Texas being left out in favor of OU last year would be solved, too. Both teams would easily get in with a 16-teamer.

Also, the great thing about the NCAA Bball Tourney is that every team--regardless of how small or weak the conference they play in--has a 1 in 10 (or so) chance or better (just win the conference) of getting to the tournament. Just getting in is huge. With 16 teams, that same concept would exist in CFB. With 8, not really.

Anyhow, I would be happy with 8 or 16. My guess is that if congress forces one, the NCAA/BCS/whoever will make it the worst playoff ever. They'll make it a 4-teamer with no home games and it'll be after the bowls. Ugh.

The clock stoppage thing is weird. At no other point in a game do the refs change the clock in that situation. They wouldn't even have done it if it happened the play before. Only the very last play. I can understand why people are pissed. They should be consistent or make it a rule that on the last play of the game they can do it. I mean, this was literally the difference between Texas playing in the BCS Championship Game, or not. It was a pretty important decision. Agreed that it happens in other games, I just don't agree that there should be an uneven allocation of clock stoppage rules.

Sorry for the length!

Peace out!

J.R. Ewing said...

Interesting point on the Congress vs. BCS, the ESPN third team crew (Ed Cunningham and Robert Smith) made the point that if any law is passed (which would simply declare illegal the current system), the NCAA brass would simply and quickly just go back to the old bowl system instead of instituting a playoff. They can't make them have a playoff, they can only stop the current system from calling it a Championship Game.


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