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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Broncos Repeatedly Try to Give Away Game, Ducks Want None of It; Inevitably Ends In Loss.

That was an absolutely pathetically awful, terrible, horrible, no good very bad game. There I said it. Wait, there’s more: ghastly, atrocious, hideous. Sorry I had to get it out of my system. Basically, there are not enough anti-superlatives in the dictionary to describe how poorly the Ducks played last night.

To sum up, it basically felt as if Legarrette Blount personally punched me in gut, continually, from about 7:15 to 10:30. I would have rather have been after game-punch recipient Byron Hout than a Duck fan at about 11:45 PM Mountain Daylight Time. Blount’s sucker punch made Carmello Anthony look like Muhammad Ali.

1_21_h450_20090904071622_320_240This game ranks on Bill Simmons’s “Levels of Losing” as a combination of Dead Man Walking and the Full-Fledged Butt Kicking, with a twist of ruined season tossed in. In a vacuum, this game is already extremely painful, but to figure in our high expectations, along with the necessity to stay undefeated in the BCS hunt, this game clocks in right behind a cracked femur or childbirth on the pain scale.

The Bronco’s kept trying to give the Ducks a chance to get back in the game, but Oregon never capitalized. And that’s not an exaggeration. They didn’t even have a single first down until the 7:07 mark third quarter!

Simmons says it perfectly, “Especially disheartening because you wave the white flag mentally, but there’s a tiny part of you still holding out hope for a miraculous momentum change. … So you’ve given up, but you’re still getting hurt, if that makes sense.”Boise State kept rolling out long drives, completely wearing out the Ducks already shaky D, but not getting anything to show for it, keeping the faintest glimmer of hope alive in the back of my mind.

Similarly to the Purdue game last year, the Broncos sucked the life out of the Ducks but kept the door open by keeping it a 3- score game. And for the Ducks, when they’re offense is clicking, that margin can be made up in a matter of minutes. Difference was,  in the second half last year, Oregon capitalized on turnovers and kept inching their way closer, until finally tying the game and taking over momentum in the final minutes. The Ducks gained no such momentum this year.

Once Oregon got the ball after forcing a turnover, you could just tell that they were thinking, “I wonder how long before we screw up and give it back.” Or maybe that’s just what I was thinking. Whatever the case, it sure didn’t take very long.

Before I cry myself to sleep, again, I’ll you find the parallels between the Full-Fledged Butt Kicking and the pathetic attempt the Ducks made to play football last night. Go for it Simmons: “Sometimes you can tell right away when it isn’t your team’s day. … And that’s the worst part, not just the epiphany but everything that follows — every botched play; every turnover; every instance where someone on your team quits; every “deer in the headlights” look; every time an announcer says, “They can’t get anything going”; every shot of the opponents celebrating; every time you look at the score and think to yourself, “Well, if we score here and force a turnover, maybe we’ll get some momentum,” but you know it’s not going to happen, because you’re already 30 points down. … You just want it to end, and it won’t end. … But you can’t look away. … It’s the sports fan’s equivalent to a three-hour torture session.”

And there goes the season.