Exploiting the BCS

The Pac-10 deserves credit for playing a legitimate non-conference schedule. In an era where the easiest way to make it to a BCS bowl game is to load up on patsies easier than high school girls with insecurity issues, the Pac-10 year after year schedules tough games that teams from other conferences wouldn’t even blink twice at.

Yes, these guys were on the same field as Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes. It wasn't pretty.

Yes, these guys were on the same field as Tim Tebow and Brandon Spikes. It wasn't pretty.

Can you imagine if Florida started their season on the road against Boise State, a team that was playing for its season in week one? That would never happen in a million years. Instead, they schedule tune-up games against Charleston Southern and Troy – one FCS team, and one team that should be an FCS team – and in what shouldn’t be a shock to any of us, they combined to beat the living hell out them 118-9. To give you a better idea of how bad these teams are, the best athlete to come out of either one of these schools is Bobby Parnell, a pitcher for the Mets, who in his short and uninteresting career carries an ERA of 5.49. Impressive.

But maybe that’s the smart play. Ever since 2004 when the BCS took strength of schedule out of the equation, there has been no reason to play a team within sniffing distance of the top 25. At the end of the season, the only thing that matters to the voters is who has the smallest number in the loss column, given you play in one of the 6 BCS conferences, that is.

Since the Year of the Monkey (AKA 2004), the Big 10 has 9 BCS appearances, followed by the Big 12 and SEC with 8 apiece, and the Pac-10, Big East and ACC follow behind with 5 each.  Of those last three conferences, not one has earned more than a one bid in a single year.  The ACC and Big East aren’t deserving of more than one, but to think, the Pac-10 has not had an at-large BCS big since the 2002 season, when Washington State won the Pac-10, forcing USC into the Orange Bowl.

So why does the Pac-10 keep scheduling these difficult non-conference games? It’s like shooting yourself in the foot right before you run a marathon: you might be able to recover by the end of the race, but chances are the damage is too great and you’ll just lag into mediocrity (I don’t know why, but I’ve been making a myriad of marathon analogies lately).

There are a few arguments as to why scheduling more challenging opponents is beneficial. If you win, the voters might take it into consideration. It prepares you for rugged conference play. National TV exposure.  But I don’t think any of these arguments are worthwhile, and the stats back it up.

The Pac-10 has players just as talented as the SEC, Big 10 or Big 12, but they put themselves in a situation where they are destined to fail. They are the only conference with a complete round-robin schedule, thus, there is no chance that more than one team escaping conference play unscathed.   And they play difficult non-division games that are basically a lose-lose situation (if they win, they get barely any extra credit for it, and if they lose, they’re out of the BCS race).

The Pac-10 deserves, and for the most part, gets respect for these two things, but last time I checked, respect doesn’t equal BCS trophies. The SEC, Big 12 and Big 10 have found ways to exploit the system, putting the odds in their favor to get multiple teams into the BCS. Why hasn’t the Pac-10 figured it out?

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How Will Oregon Respond to Adversity?

Please Masoli, don't just be a flash in the pan!

Please Masoli, don't just be a flash in the pan!

College football is the only sport where you can have a must-win game in just the second week of the season.  Well, that’s if you want any chance for a BCS bowl game, but that’s how it goes when there are 120 teams competing for eight spots. And unfortunately, the Ducks are stuck in that situation this weekend.

Oregon came into the season with substantial expectations, carrying the momentum from brilliant wins over Oregon State and Oklahoma State to finish the season. So dominant, were these wins, that national pundits were touting Jeremiah Masoli as a sleeper candidate for the Heisman, despite only throwing for 135 yards per game last season.

What I’m getting at, is that Oregon was banking on a player who basically only had two good games to be their leader this year. To be honest, I was not impressed with Masoli at all in 2008 until he blew up against the two OSU’s. I thought he tried to run the ball too much (east and west), made poor decisions (i.e. the Cal interception) and wasn’t the most accurate passer. There were definite flashes of excellence that foreshadowed his potential, like the touchdown pass to Chris Harper against Washington, and any one of the several times to bludgeoned a would-be tackler, but he lacked consistency.

Oregon fans were so eager and excited to buy into the Masoli kool-aid, that they subconsciously bit off more than they could chew for this season’s expectations.

So now where does that leave us for this season?

As horribly as the Ducks played against Boise State last Thursday, voters will look back at that game in November and see it as an 11 point loss to the #14 ranked team on the road. That really doesn’t sound so bad.

But before Oregon can think about having BCS aspirations again, Oregon has to take care of business at home against Purdue, and in a big way. Purdue is an ok team, nothing more, nothing less, but they carry the Big-10 brand with them to Autzen, and anytime you can beat a team from a BCS conference in non-conference play, it’s huge. So what the Ducks need to do is come out ready to play, and blast Purdue like this is biggest game of the season – because, well, it is.

After being so unprepared for Boise State, I think Chip Kelly can rally the troupes and move past the debacle that was last Thursday night.

Prediction: Oregon 38, Purdue 17

LaMichael James will go off in his first start at TB, rushing for over 100 yards and a pair of scores.

Masoli will improve, throwing for two scores and running in another, though I do expect him to give the ball away once or twice. He needs to be less careless with the ball.