photo credit: avinashkunnath
It’s time to set the record straight on the difference between the best BCS football programs and the best non-BCS football programs in response to the ill-advised and self-serving comments of Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee. TCU did their part responding on the field by beating 11-1 Big Ten co-champion Wisconsin (from Mr. Gee’s own BCS conference) and people have noticed.
Mr. Gee’s claim was that the schedule in a non-BCS conference could not compare to the schedule in a BCS conference. The fact is that conference schedules account for only 2/3 of the season and that strong BCS programs rarely play a decent opponent outside of their conference. They’re too busy playing the “Little Sisters of the Poor”—either weak teams from weak conferences or teams that do not even play at the FBS level. (Of course there are some rivalry exceptions but they are a minority of non-conference contests among BCS programs.) Non-BCS programs spend most of their non-conference games playing the toughest teams that are willing to agree to play from BCS conferences.
I would agree with Mr. Gee that the schedules of schools in BCS conferences are generally harder than the schedules of schools in non-BCS conferences but the difference is not nearly as vast as Mr. Gee implied.
I am not one to advocate for an NCAA football playoff. I don’t take the sport seriously enough to worry about whether there is some dissent about who really is the national champion each year. But so long as you are having a game that is billed as the championship game you ought to do what you can to ensure that the most deserving teams play in that game.
There is a simple fix that would help to do that. I know that as long as there is only one game and more than two undefeated teams there will be someone left out—just ask Auburn from 2004—but if the BCS simply acknowledged that what happens on the field is more important in determining the best teams than any theoretical strength of schedule by adopting a rule that so long as there are only one or two undefeated teams at the end of the season any undefeated team is guaranteed to play in the championship game and then use the BCS rankings as a tiebreaker among undefeated teams and separately among teams that have at least one loss.
The fact is that there is only one year in BCS history that would have been changed. Such a rule would have guaranteed that Utah, as the only undefeated team at the end of the regular season, would have played in the championship game with a chance to prove that they really were the best that year. There is no way to know if they would have beat Florida (or Oklahoma who they would have played in the title game that year) but at least they would have had the opportunity.
It might even be acceptable to put a caveat on that rule that it only applies to undefeated teams that have played in a BCS game before – thus helping to address the extremely remote possibility of a team from the Sun Belt Conference (as an example) going undefeated through a weak conference while winning all four of their non-conference games against BCS opponents who by some twist of fate all ended up having losing seasons that year. They would still deserve a berth in a BCS game, I would think, but perhaps not the title game against a 12-1 BCS conference champion.