Wieber: The BCS is a lesson in arbitrariness
Earlier this week, when the second BCS rankings came out, the Ducks dropped from third to fourth. This sent Duck fans into a frenzy. How could they make the title game now? They’re fourth! And Notre Dame is closing in on them. Voters surely are playing favorites with the SEC, right?
In reality, the BCS rankings mean nothing, at least not this early. Last year, the teams that were ranked one and two in the initial BCS standings, LSU and Alabama, went to the title game. Aside from that, 2006 was the only time when the first and second teams in the preseason AP poll went to the championship, when Texas and USC matched up in the BCS National Championship.
If Oregon started off No. 1 and held its position until the USC game and then lost, the previous ranking suddenly means nothing. The record is what holds weight. At the end of the season, fans do not require a computer to tell them which two of the six undefeated teams are superior because at the end of the season there is never a large group of undefeated teams. There are usually one or two, sometimes more, but it’s pretty easy to look at the schedule and decipher which schedule was more difficult. An algorithm is not necessary.
Similarly, many point out that only twice have the national champions been ranked out of the top 20 in the preseason poll. Does that mean if Alabama started off the season unranked, they wouldn’t be undefeated to this point? Rankings show evidence to the past, not the future. They are helpful to the less avid fans that don’t keep up with the ebb and flow of college football on a weekly basis, but nothing else.
For the lesser bowls, the same theory applies. Sure, many teams will finish with the same record, but the bowl placement has much more to do with in conference standings than rankings. Oregon could lose all three of their lowly out of conference games to start the year, then run house in the Pac-12, and they are in the Rose Bowl — even if their BCS ranking is far inferior other teams in the conference.
This year, with margin of victory not being counted in BCS rankings, they become even more useless. A human is fully capable of seeing the difference in scraping past a team and blowing them out, which should act as a good indicator of a team’s quality. The BCS computers see it as a win — nothing more.
For the Ducks, rankings at this point are especially ridiculous. They still need to play their three top competitors in Stanford, USC and Oregon State, and then possibly play in the Pac-12 Title Game. Listen to an interview of any decent head coach in the nation and when they inevitably get asked about the importance of rankings, they talk about the importance of winning games each week, not checking a computer.
With the four-team playoff system being instituted in 2014, the rankings will become even more irrelevant. Ultimately all the rankings tell the country is which teams win their games and which teams don’t. The rankings are great for a quick check on which teams are playing well so far, but overall they are arbitrary, and to get worked up about your alma mater not getting the respect they deserve in the polls is just silly.
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