Yesterday, the first Bowl Championship Standings were released, with ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit asking Pac-12 fans to not “freak out” with the knowledge that the University of Oregon was number three, behind Alabama and Florida.
Oregon is only ranked sixth by the computers, the man behind the curtain in the BCS’s emerald city. No one is told how the computer calculates the rankings, except that it involves a myriad of details such as strength of schedule and margin of victory. The only aspect to understand is that it ranked Oregon sixth, while ranking Florida first.
Oregon fans are not the only ones who have a right to be angry with the standings, which have four SEC teams in the top seven. Fans view these standings as a self-fulfilling prophecy, with SEC teams ranked high before they play a single down. When two high ranked teams play each other, the winner gets a large boost from beating “top” competition, while the loser barely drops because they faced “top” competition. Then when the loser beats another SEC team, they move back to where they were when because they beat “top” competition.
LSU is the biggest example this season. They came into last week ranked at number three, lost to Florida and dropped to number nine. Then they beat South Carolina and moved back up to sixth. Meanwhile South Carolina beat Georgia the week before to move into the top three and lost to LSU, allowing them to stay in the BCS top seven. The SEC is the only conference where all but one team can lose, and yet all stay in the top seven teams in the nation.
For the sake of that argument, say USC beats Oregon, Oregon beats Oregon State, and Oregon State beats USC. All three teams are in the top eleven teams. Do you think any of those three would remain in the top ten? One would, the one who lost last, despite the situation being identical.
Why is the thinking in college football this way? What makes the voters decide that the SEC is that much greater than everyone else? Honestly, traditionalists make up the greatest argument. Traditionalists see the strong defenses as an indicator of a strong team, such as the strong defenses in the SEC. They see high scoring offenses as simply inefficient defenses, despite the opposite argument being equally true. The voters have made their choice clear many times: defense in college football is more important than offense. So a team that has a top-notch offense like Oregon will not get as much respect as a team with top-notch defense, like Alabama or LSU.
Kirk Herbstreit told Oregon fans to not panic, that only one team can possibly emerge undefeated from the SEC, and if Oregon wins out they still “control their own destiny”. Voters crawling out of the woodwork beg to differ. Several voters have expressed that they would vote in a one-loss LSU team in over an undefeated Oregon or Kansas State.
With knowledge such as that, the knowledge that playoffs in the future will be the only comfort fans in Eugene will have if they are not voted in, despite winning all of their games. A final ridiculous death scream for the most flawed postseason selection process ever created.