Now that it’s official — undefeateds Cincinnati, TCU, and Boise State won’t be playing for the National Championship — fans will start arguing how their school was a victim of a postseason snub.
But they’ll be wrong.
Their favorite teams were slighted before the season even began.
The BCS is far from perfect, but with a contract through 2014, college football would be better off if critics spent their time developing ways to improve the system as opposed to petitioning for a playoff. One fairly simple change is to remove preseason polls.
Let’s take a look at this year’s preseason coaches’ poll (that’s the one that factors into the BCS), which ranked Florida No. 1, to see where the eventual undefeated teams were placed. There’s Texas (2), Alabama (5), Boise (16), TCU (17), and Cincinnati (NR).
Not surprisingly, of these teams, the two ranked highest in the preseason are the two meeting for the title. The voters are, simply put, stubborn. “Not so fast, my friend!” you might say, pointing out the impressive rise of the other three schools, which have all climbed into the top six. Sorry, I don’t see that as those teams moving up — I see it as the losing teams moving down. In other words, you can move up if you win, sure, but only if those above you lose.
The voters of the Harris Poll, another component of the BCS, agree with at least some of my thinking and don’t release their rankings until after week four. I might recommend pushing it back an additional week or two, but at least the voters get to see the teams in action for a few weeks before making their judgments. In their opening poll, they placed Texas and Alabama Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, but had Boise (5), Cincinnati (10), and TCU (11) much higher than the coaches did in their first poll.
Here’s the thing: I’m not arguing that Alabama and Texas shouldn’t be playing for the title. At the same time, if the title game paired any two of the undefeated teams I wouldn’t be complaining. It’s a remarkable feat to go through an entire season unblemished. (And, if you want to look at out of conference games, Boise’s win over Oregon, TCU’s win at Clemson, and Cincy’s win at Oregon State look a lot better than anything Texas did outside of the Big 12; just sayin’…)
What I am arguing for is the tweaking of a system that is giving unfair advantage to certain teams. With no actual results to analyze, a team is placed in the preseason poll based on name brand, where it finished in last year’s final poll, and how many skill position players are returning. The TCU’s and Boise’s aren’t exactly in the forefront of the voters’ minds in August, leaving them in a position where they have to jump more teams than they probably should have to en route to a top ranking.
To be fair, even if there were no preseason rankings, even if the voters, the computers, and everything else that goes into the BCS were not collected until the conference championships were over, it’s possible we’d still have the same title match-up we have now. And that’s fine. But given the apparent unwillingness of voters to be flexible with their ballots, preseason polls must go (and maybe there should be some sort of counseling or something to remind voters that they can change their opinions on teams throughout the season).
The little guys (non BCS-conference schools) have enough hurdles to climb. They can’t do anything, schedule-wise, about the majority of their games — victories against almost all of their conference opponents don’t carry much weight.
If a minor change can help remove one of those obstacles, it should be done. Getting rid of the postseason injustices should start in the preseason.