BCS Formula Needs to Remove Preseason Poll

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.

6 thoughts on “BCS Formula Needs to Remove Preseason Poll”

  1. You make a good point. Of the unbeaten teams, Texas definitely seemed to benefit the most from its preseason ranking because its strength of schedule turned out to be weaker than what voters probably expected it to be; yet Texas was never penalized for that.I don't understand how coaches make their votes. For example, TCU's head coach said he voted his team #2 in the final coaches' poll, why wouldn't he vote his team #1? Cincinnati has one #1 vote so maybe that was Brian Kelly or Dave Wannstedt? Why wouldn't the entire Big East vote Cincinnati #1? If my team was undefeated or a team in my conference was undefeated then I would vote them #1 unless I played a team from another conference that beat me worse than the team from my conference.I don't think coaches from the Big East, ACC, PAC-10, and Big Ten should facilitate the perception that the SEC and Big 12 are the best conferences by ranking SEC and Big 12 teams higher than their own teams. However, a random sampling shows that the SEC dominated the ACC this year.

  2. Actually I think that this discussion will be mute when Alabama beats Texas. To expand on that, I don't think there can be much question that an undefeated SEC champion deserves to be in the MNC game – so Bama is in. The only question is who gets to face them. Out of the other three teams I would argue that Texas winning the Big XII is most impressive. So that is that. I really don't have much sympathy for the argument that teams from minor conferences don't have much flexibility because they should just find a way to join a major conference if they want to compete for a MNC.

  3. I agree that Alabama will beat Texas; if not crush them. Regarding sympathy, the minor conference teams need some since the BCS system rewards undefeated teams from major conferences (i.e., teams with weak non-conference schedules). Teams from major conferences would rather play ITT tech than Boise State, TCU, Utah, or BYU. Look what Utah did to Alabama last year and what BYU did to Oklahoma this year. Alabama and Florida had some ridiculously easy opponents on their schedules and scheduling tougher non-conference opponents is not in their best BCS interest. Also, would a major conference take a team from a minor conference? The SEC, Big 12 and ACC already have 12 teams and a conference championship game. The Big East includes basketball schools without football so maybe they can't add any more schools that have both basketball and football. The Pac-10 and Big-10(11) are stubborn. Boise State and either Utah and BYU to the PAC-10 is the most logical move. Notre Dame to the Big-10 makes a ton of sense for the Big-10 but not financially for Notre Dame.

  4. Actually, Boise State to the MWC and then make the MWC a BCS conference would help limit the # of potential undefeated teams. In addition, college football should do what college basketball does and have formalized conference battles like Big Ten vs. ACC challenge.

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