Two-thirds human. One-third computer model. Three-thirds controversy. 100% needed in a season with out two lone undefeated teams from major conferences.
The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) exists to ensure the two best teams meet in the National Title Game. That title game cycles through four sites and bowl committees, as such has some relevance as to selection for those games each year – Rose, Fiesta, Sugar and Orange.
The BCS was designed to balance out the human voter biases by introducing computer rankings, which of course just led to different arguments after settling the original ones. In other words, there is no perfect system so the BCS is about as well constructed as it can be. The only hole in the deus ex machina is the USA Today’s Coaches Poll, widely derided since no coach has the time to watch enough games to make an informed decision – they have their own team and next opponent to worry about!
So how does this system affect this year’s top six teams and their fans so deeply committed to them? Brought to you in partnership with research director Matt Ryan, pros and cons below:
The BCS top three of LSU, Alabama and Oklahoma State separate very clearly on all the computer systems if not in the exact order. Stanford’s results mesh well with the computer models, Virginia Tech’s do not and currently should thank the human polls for their current #5. Houston is undefeated and respected due to their elite quarterback, but it is easy to poke holes in their resume given soft competition.
#1 LSU Tigers
PRO: Only undefeated team from a automatic qualifying (AQ) BCS conference. Undefeated from SEC so that possesses its own gravitas with voters and fans. Consensus no 1 among voters for most of season, consensus No 1 on every single computer model. In addition, Tigers pass the eye test as the most physical team in the country, plus electric skill position players like WR Reuben Randle and CB/PR Tyrone Mathieu. Tops in nation in turnover margin, second in Scoring and Total Defense. Add it all up, they could lose to a surging Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship game and still be considered the best one-loss team in the land and deserving of a title shot.
CON: Les Miles clock management – for every crazy bad thing the Mad Hatter does, he easily creates one or more crazy good decisions to help LSU. That cannot be quantified, predicted nor ignored. The D can bend but rarely breaks. Oregon actually outgained the Tigers – LSU won by 13, but 14 of the Tiger’s points were due to the Ducks missing superstar CB Cliff Harris. West Virginia put up 533 yards on LSU, outgaining them by almost 170 yards. The good side is of course Alabama is not as explosive on O as the Mountaineers or the Ducks…but if Oklahoma State slips into that #2 spot…
#2 Alabama Crimson Tide
PRO: Undefeated in regulation. Considered good enough to play in the BCS Title despite not playing for the SEC Title, and this human bias is also supported by strong computer numbers. Coach Nick Saban led elite defenses at many of his programs, was a successful DB in his own playing career and his image is what comes to mind when most think of “successful football coach”. Like LSU, elite defense with a strong running game makes you think more Lombardi’s Packers rather then modern spread offenses. The Tide pass D, paced by the back 7, leads the nation by about every metric in both total and per-attempt and they have one of the best 3rd down defenses in the nation. Offensively they are led by the top OL in the nation and have the SEC’s best rushing attack. The passing game can hold its own, #33 in the nation. Put 8 in the box, they will make the stadium rock.
CON: only loss to LSU on national television in the much hyped game of the century, more missed kicks than a Rockettes tryout. Tide can argue with confidence they are a few kicks away from perfection. There is also a well-stated position that no one wants nor needs a rematch with LSU for the title game, and the fact that the Tide are sitting home watching the games this weekend allows them no performance to sway the judges.
ASIDE: 4 SEC teams in my top 10 of total D rankings, five on NCAA Total Defense rans. Begs the question ‘maybe the SEC just stinks on offense this year?” Mississippi State, Ole Miss, and Kentucky were flat out bad. Tennessee lost Tyler Bray and Justin Hunter, Florida lost John Brantley (yes, that made them worse), South Carolina lost all-world RB Marcus Lattimore, Georgia was banged up and had a rash of suspensions. So yeah, I can see the point of asking that. But the answer is one word: Hogs. Arkansas has by far the most prolific offense in the SEC this season and they were flat out embarrased by both LSU and Alabama. We are fully prepared to sign off on the LSU and Alabama defenses as being the real deal.
#3 Oklahoma State Cowboys
PRO: Undefeated in regulation. Top scoring team in nation, defense tops in turnovers forced per game. Computer models love the Pokes due to strength of schedule. Some voters are dead set against a LSU-Alabama rematch so a win over Oklahoma will be enough to get significant traction for final #2 spot over idle Alabama. Weeden2Blackmon gets all the love, but Joseph Randle and Jeremy Smith are awesome backs. They all play behind a fantastic starting OL, 6th in the nation in sacks per attempt.
CON: Bad loss to Iowa State, worst loss among top five. Bias against jumping them to two even with a Bedlam win because of recent failures of another spread team with suspect defense (Oregon). QB Brandon Weeden has been a loosey-goosey with the football at times this season (12 picks, 8 thrown on first down!), the LSU and Alabama secondaries would be absolutely merciless on any errant throws.
#4 Stanford Cardinal
PRO: Andrew Luck at QB supports strong sentiment for the voters. Luck makes an average WR squad look like the 1990 Houston Oilers. Definitely deserving of the #5 spot despite loss to Oregon. A sound running game with enough big bodies at OL and TE to wear down defenses.
CON: East coast bias. Dating back to last season, their schedule notoriously lacks quality. Getting their doors blown off by their main Pac-12 competition in consecutive years doesn’t paint a pretty picture. The team that ran all over the Cardinal (Oregon) was in turn embarrassed by double digits by LSU.
#6 Houston Cougars
PRO: Only other undefeated team, play Southern Mississippi for the title at noon on Saturday. Career NCAA passing leader Case Keenum triggers the #1 passing offense by about every metric albeit facing sub-par defenses along the way. But to their credit, Houston has taken care of business, crushing everyone in their path since October. Keenum isnt Andrew Luck, but is far from Timmy Chang. 4 INT in 546 dropbacks in so good it defies logic. CUSA defenses have a lot to do with that, but keep in mind that Houston sees Nickle and Dime all game and Keenum still has shredded them.
CON: No legitimate case to be made for the title game, but deserving of the BCS bid, most likely the Sugar. Best win is Tulsa, result of CUSA schedule. They are by far the least battle tested of any team in the top 10 (Colley Matrix 112th weakest schedule). How would they fare with Boise’s schedule? On the flip, Oklahoma State, Oregon, and Arkansas would also be putting up playstation numbers every week against Rice and Tulane. To be fair, Houston did crush SMU by 30, who beat TCU, who beat Boise…for what ever that’s worth.
#5 Virginia Tech hokies
Pro: Record. Respected program and coach shows in human polls.
Con: Here by default, and everyone knows it. #15 on Halloween, and #9 two weeks ago then everyone in front of them started losing. Only managed to put up 17 points on ECU, one of the worst defenses in the country, only mustered 14 on Duke, and Clemson held them to a lonley field goal. None of those Ds will be confused with LSU/Alabama anytime soon. Horrifically weak schedule (70 SOS on Colley Matrix, best win Arkansas STATE) and lacked the big decisive win. Not dominant on scoreboard of any games, and that original Clemson loss keeps looking worse. Computers penalize them accordingly into the teens, average at 10.
Suppose Oklahoma State wins decisively over Oklahoma and they win the Big 12 – how can you deny them versus a team that didn’t even play in their conference title game in Alabama? Especially a title game against LSU who has already proven on the field they can beat Alabama?
LSU and Okie State in the BCS Title Game makes the most sense.
OSU loses to Oklahoma? Go ahead with the rematch as we cannot recommend any other team with confidence as the #2 in the nation.