Monday, November 12, 2007

BCS Number Crunching

We’re #1 in the BCS. There’s a cottage industry of breaking down the BCS, and I don’t want to disparage their work, particularly TigerDropping’s LSUMatt, who really should draw a paycheck for his LSU-centric BCS analysis. So don’t think I’m trying to disparage his terrific work when I say this:

It’s all a load of crap.

There’s going to be no shortage of people telling us who to root for and what we need to have happen, but here’s the long and the short of it: the human polls are two-thirds of the formula. So the BCS analysis is really just breaking down the one-third of the BCS which is predictable: the computers. The other two-thirds is just guesswork. In short, it is the illusion of a mathematical objective criteria to selecting the BCS teams when it really is this: the top two teams in the polls with a brake in case they do something remarkably stupid.

This is what you need to know: LSU is #1 in the Coaches and the Harris Poll. And teams which are #1 don’t drop if they don’t lose. Ever. So, if LSU wins out, they are in the BCS title game. If they lose, they are not. Don’t kill yourself working out the Strength of Schedule consequences of Kentucky losing their last two games. It doesn’t really matter.

If we win out, who do we play? Well, probably the #2 team in the polls unless the computers fall in love with a team. I’m not smart enough to run those numbers, but I’d consider it pretty unlikely for Oregon to drop from #2 in the human polls without a loss, so their computer ranking would have to crater for them to miss out on the BCS if they win out. Which I’m sure could happen. The Big 12 is essentially a four-team conference (OU, Kansas, Mizzou, and Texas) and their lack of depth allows the big boys to just pad their record against the Iowa States and Baylors of the world. But if whoever comes out of the Big 12 Elimination Tournament will be hard to keep out of the title game, and Oregon has already proven to be rather easy to screw over (see 2001).

Let’s just pretend I’ve now gone on the standard futile rant about how the BCS is a total farce. The fact that the NCAA changes the formula every single year pretty much sums up why the system is broken. It has absolutely no legitimacy. Let’s put it like this, the RPI is a flawed measure in basketball, but it has a certain level of respect due to its consistent application, and the check of the human committee. The BCS has no such consistency and no such human oversight, despite 2/3 of the formula being human polls. It’s the illusion of objectivity.

In the end, it doesn’t matter. We win, we’re in. We lose, we’re not. You don’t need tea leaves to figure that out. What is right or what a team deserves is completely irrelevant in the BCS and always has been. But beware anyone who makes an argument based on the weakest part of a team’s resume (their loss) then the strongest part of their resume (their quality wins). At the end of the day, the question of quality is answered by answering this question: what has this team accomplished? No one in the nation has accomplished more than LSU. Apologize for nothing. No team has LSU’s resume of quality wins. If they win out, maybe Oklahoma will be on the same level (Texas, Mizzou, and Kansas or Mizzou a second time). Oregon has some great wins, but they have done nothing on the road, which hurts them. And their wins don’t look as impressive, though why has everyone forgotten about Arizona State already?

But based purely on watching teams, as an LSU fan I ask myself this question: what team scares me? Oklahoma has talent but seems even flakier than LSU and doesn’t look as impressive as their gaudy record. Oregon’s offense is terrific but their D is beyond porous. Kansas is crushing teams but the best team they have beaten is Texas A&M so I’m not sold. West Virginia turns the ball over at a disturbing rate though White and Slaton are incredibly explosive. Honestly, the team that matches up best against LSU and I don’t want to face surprises even me: Mizzou. Daniels is quietly having a great year and is the type of QB who eats our defense alive. And they have a pretty stout defense to go with their offense. The one team I find myself a little afraid of is the other Tigers. I never thought I’d find myself thinking that. Then again, they lost to OU.

And we lost to Kentucky. Beware of morons who compare losses.

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