The season’s first BCS rankings came out on Sunday, and credit should be given to the much-maligned computers for getting it right this time: top-ranked Oklahoma is the best team in college football thus far.It might be the wrong week to publish a book that makes “the definitive case against the Bowl Championship Series,” as Yahoo! Sports columnists Dan Wetzel, Jeff Passan, and Josh Peters have in “Death to the BCS.”
In a series of publicity columns, Wetzel and Passan clearly show the stupidity of the computer polls. The mathematics community has actually staged a boycott against the six systems that comprise the BCS for fear they’ll be confused with real analytics.
They argue that early in the season, precision is especially trying for the human and computer polls used to generate the BCS rankings. Most top teams play cupcake non-conference schedules to preserve the shiny record necessary for championship consideration. As a result, BCS voters have little clue how the best teams would fare against worthy competition.
The authors point to the pre-BCS era, when, in 1988, 15 non-conference games featured two preseason Top-20 teams. Last year, there were four such contests.
With their eye on the BCS prize, schools don’t chase immediate financial incentives or fan interest. They no longer schedule marquee matchups that add fuel to regional fires by pitting power-conference stalwarts against one another.
This week, for example, Oregon was rewarded with a second place ranking for trouncing mid-majors New Mexico (1-11 in 2009) and Portland State (2-10) in their nonconference schedule. The lone opponent from a power conference was Tennessee, a sub-.500 squad since 2008.
It’s one of many components of the BCS that neither serves the fan nor chases the dollar. Imagine the interest and income a game between Oregon and a legitimate SEC team – Northwest meets Southeast! – could garner. Instead, they hand out hundreds of thousands of dollars to small schools for the privilege of getting walloped in Eugene. The system is clearly flawed.
But for all the arguments against the BCS, this week, the computers outsmarted the pollsters. No. 1 Oklahoma has topped traditional power Florida State (then-ranked No. 17), a Cincinnati team that went undefeated last season, and a tough Air Force team before beating then-No. 21 Texas in its Big 12 opener.
In other words, they were deservedly rewarded for facing fierce competition. That’s good for the game, for their fans, and probably for Oklahoma’s pockets. The Sooners, earned their top ranking on the field, and despite its oft-shaky maths, the BCS got it right. This time.
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