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.