Poll Dancing: 2010’s Last Dance

(This is a guest series by MotSaG reader Jason Nafziger. He’ll be taking a weekly look at the college football polls and pointing out the absurd, the laughable and the head scratchers. Please note that Jason is not talking about the BlogPoll. Or my ballot to the BlogPoll.)

Once again, the world of college football fails to implode, and the BCS pats itself on the back for arriving at an obvious conclusion: the only two undefeated AQ teams will play for the title. The feeling that the system “got it right” is not entirely unfounded, but it does require one very large assumption: that all AQ conferences are equal. And, of course, that’s just not true.

It’s not that Oregon and Auburn are undeserving; it’s that there are other teams who are also deserving. Can anyone honestly say that the Big Ten’s three co-champions (each with just a single loss, and two of them with a loss only to one of the others) did not accomplish as much as the champions of the Pac-10 (where only 3 other teams managed more than 6 wins) or the lop-sided SEC (Auburn essentially played in a 6-team conference)?

If schedule strength is the argument against allowing undefeated TCU to play for the title, why does it suddenly become irrelevant when comparing an undefeated team to a one-loss team? Of course, that leads to the unanswerable question of how to measure schedule strength (is the Miami team we played in week 2 the same one that lost to South Florida?) and we’re back to where we started, wondering why TCU isn’t allowed to prove themselves.

It will come as no surprise what I think the answer is. To anyone who thinks that I am a knee-jerk playoff proponent, let me assure you that I have considered this topic from all sides. I used to argue on the side of the BCS (albeit that was before they inexplicably dropped the Quality Wins calculation). But I have come to realize that any system that arbitrarily denies an undefeated team a chance to play for a title is inherently anti-competitive.

The ultimate question for me becomes this: If TCU (or Boise or whoever) truly does not deserve the national title, then there is no way they would win a 16-team playoff, so why not let them try? I can’t answer it.

The Poll Dancing Hypothetical and Totally Awesome Playoff (Final):

First off, let me say that since my playoff is based on the Death To The BCS format, Dan Wetzel’s final bracket deserves a plug here. There is a little difference, since he used the BCS rankings in the place of a theoretical selection committee, while I’ve been using the AP poll. The WAC ended in a three-way tie, and I (like Wetzel) awarded the auto bid to Nevada (it’s arguable, but Hawai’i got destroyed by Boise, and Nevada beat Boise head-to-head while losing close to Hawai’i). Boise still makes it in thanks to the AP poll though, so it’s all good.

(1) Auburn vs. (16) Florida International
(2) Oregon vs. (15) Miami (OH)
(3) TCU vs. (14) UCF
(4) Wisconsin vs. (13) Connecticut
(5) Stanford vs. (12) Nevada
(6) Ohio State vs. (11) Virginia Tech
(7) Michigan St. vs. (10) Boise St.
(8) Arkansas vs. (9) Oklahoma

Whether you prefer mine or Wetzel’s (or whatever an actual selection committee would produce), it’s hard to argue that this isn’t approximately one zillion times more interesting than what we’re getting in January. Even the potential (but hardly guaranteed) second-round rematch of conference-mates Auburn and Arkansas is exciting, considering how their first meeting went.

The Breakdown (full Top 25): 24% SEC, 20% Big 12, 12% WAC, 12% Big Ten, 8% Mt. West, 8% Pac-10, 8% ACC, 4% C-USA, 4% Big East

I broke down the mid-majors by conference this time to make a point. The WAC is tied for third with the Big Ten for ranked teams. Combined, three mid-major conferences have more ranked teams than the combined Pac-10, ACC, and Big East. Yet, the undefeated Pac-10 champ is playing for the title while the undefeated Mt. West champ is not. The WAC did not even get a BCS bowl bid.

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