The Boise State Debate

Currently Boise State ranks 3rd in the BCS standing. Although number one Oklahoma just lost, number four Auburn just defeated number six LSU, so most likely they will jump ahead of BSU in the BCS standing so that, once again, Boise State will not be a top 2 team in the standings.

While I do not follow college football all that closely or discuss it all that often, I have noticed that the debate of whether Boise State should be given a chance in this current BCS format seems to be very polarizing. While it could just be a small and limited sample size of the people who I have been exposed to about this debate make this a polarizing debate, I have a sneaking suspicion this is not the case.

I believe this to be true in regular football as well, but even more so in college football, your strength of schedule helps determine your BCS ranking. Schools in say the Big Ten and SEC are more prone to play better competition just because of the of their conference. As of this writing, four Big Ten teams (Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Iowa are ranked and for most of the season Michigan was also ranked), six SEC teams (Auburn, LSU, Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi State, and Arkansas), three Pac-10 teams (Oregon, Stanford, and Arizona, and five Pac-10 teams (Oklahoma, Texas, Oklahoma State, Missouri, and future Big Ten team Nebraska) are ranked. 72% of the top 25 BCS teams come from the top four conferences. The main reason for this (besides the coaches from these schools being able to recruit top, good talent) is because of a circular effect.

Let me explain what I mean by circular effect. There is already this perception that the best teams are the top teams in the major conferences. That is not to say this perception isn't true, but this perception I feel holds more weight than it actually should. Why is Wisconsin good? Because they defeated Ohio State and Iowa. Well why is Ohio State good? Because they defeated Miami, and um, Illinois?

It is my belief that the talent of the 22 players that start for offensive and defense week in and week out should determine how good you actually are and where you should be ranked. I don't care about the play of your opponents and the perception of how good they are, all I care about is how YOUR team plays. If you're a shut down cornerback, you should be able to stop everybody's wide receiver. If you're a top tier quarterback, you should be able to pick apart any defense.

Now granted this can get a bit muddled because how do you actually determine how good your players are? And not only that, no team is the best at every position. Some teams have just decent lineman individually but work very well together as a whole. Some teams can handle zone coverage but not man to man coverage and vice versa. Many say that you determine the talent and worth of players by seeing how they face against tougher and easy challenges. Some say you can just watch a team to see how good they are.

Opponents of Boise State

The main argument I hear is, "Join a real conference." This has become even easier than ever. The Pac-10 and Big Ten I'm sure would welcome Boise State with open arms. This will allow BSU to play against tougher competition and help determine BSU's true worth. If they really are as good as the proponents say they are, let them prove it by facing tougher competition. Currently, there is only one top 25 BCS that Boise State defeated- and that's #25 Virginia Tech. At the time Va Tech was ranked top 15. Nevada was ranked and will play Boise State soon, but lost last week so they are out. Boise State also defeated Oregan State- who was ranked at the time. But currently they are also out of the top 25. So opponents point to the fact that really, Boise State has not faced anyone good- so of course they're going to be undefeated.

Boise State does have a pretty comfy schedule allowing them to beat up on a lot of really awful teams. If Boise State were to make it to a national championship game, they would not have had the thumps and lumps like a team from a top 4 conference (you have noticed I repeatedly say top 4 and not top 5 because the ACC sucks) making them "more healthy" for the game. This makes Boise State more fresh and better equipped to win. Even if Boise State does win the National Championship Game, it won't really be fair because of their easy schedule.

Proponents of Boise State

As you may have guessed, I am on this side. I will try to be as objective as possible but clearly that's not going to happen.

First, in recent memory, was their ever a challenge Boise State has not met and succeeded at? One of the best games ever, not just college football games, was when Boise State recently faced the Adrian Peterson led Oklahoma Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl. Oklahoma had proven their worth and was the cleat cut favorite. And although it took BSU a few overtimes, they still got the job done defeating Oklahoma.

Secondly, I think it's universally agreed upon that the BCS, or any rankings system is bad. Imagine if the ESPN Power Rankings for baseball and football determined the actually standings of the sport. That's essentially what the BCS does. I believe there really is too much parity to determine a team's true worth- especially by ranking them.

I'm going back to another Big Ten example because that's all I really know. Wisconsin defeated Ohio State in Camp Randall. But if those two teams met 10 times, do you think Wisconsin would win even 5 of those games? If that very same game was held in The Horseshoe, do you think UW would have still won? Bama lost to South Carolina after defeating a top 15 team home and away. If Nick Saban's crew had one or two easy, cooshy games in between Florida and South Carolina, do you think the Crimson Tide would have won then? Everyone universally thinks Alabama is the better team seeing as they rank higher than South Carolina in all polls.

I believe that if you follow college football week in and week out, you can just determine by watching the talent how good they are. I think if Alabama faced Boise State 10 times out of ten, then Bama wins at least 8 of those games, maybe nine. Yet BSU is currently ranked higher just because The Crimson Tide have one loss.

Admittedly, neither the BCS ranking approach nor my eye approach is very good. In fact, my approach is WAY too subjective to be realistic or even remotely fair or good. But I do believe that you need to judge a team on its pure talents, and the "tough opponents" approach doesn't do that either.

Next, I don't buy the logic that because Boise State has had an easier schedule they are more fresh for the Title Game. The reason I don't buy that is because there's about a month between the regular season and the National Title Game to help heal and wounds. BSU and it's opponent would have equal time to prepare and get healthy. And crappy teams can still injure a BSU player. It only takes one funny hit to take a player out 6-8 weeks. Bad teams still tackle Boise State players. The odds of that happening, sure, are diminished, but it could still happen.

I have also heard this logic, "With the weak schedule Boise State has, all their coach has to do to the best players is say 'Come play for us and you'll be guaranteed a national title'" 1) If you were recruited by BSU I don't know why you would believe that considering BSU has never been to a title game before and the overwhelming majority believes that as good as Boise State is, they aren't good enough to ever go 2) How is that any different than what Jim Tressel or Nick Saban says? (I would say that's how Pete Carrol used to do it but we know that's a lie, he had "other" methods) Sure, the "easy schedule" part is left out for them, but that's part of how they recruit. They can get the best of the best because year in and year out because they compete for the National Championship year in and year out. If if Boise State can get even better by actually becoming eligible to play in the Title game, then good for the team. The the strong get stronger.

Lastly, how do you not love that blue field!? It's just too cool.

The Solution

The clear solution is to have a playoff. Let Boise State prove year in and year out that they deserve to play. If they lose, then I say "mea culpa" and go on my merry way. I also think if Boise State ends the year without a loss they deserve to go to the National Title Game. If they win, they absolutely deserved to be there. If they defeat an Oregon or Auburn or even a one loss Ohio State or Alabama team, they absolutely deserved to be there. I've heard the argument that if they defeated (at the time) and no loss Ohio State team, that that still doesn't prove they deserved to be there. If they lose by only by a little and make it a good game I think that also shows they can at least hang with the big boys. But if they pull an Illinois like in the 2008 Rose Bowl, then I again will admit I was wrong and move on.

But you just don't know unless you give them a chance. You can't truly be a hater for something that's unproven


Dmitry said...

Nicely written

I think there's no college football playoff, because it would literally blow our minds. I would blow off finals to watch a college playoff