J.R. and Henry's Sports Column: The BCS stinks | Rock Candy

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

J.R. and Henry's Sports Column: The BCS stinks

Posted on Tue, Nov 21, 2006 at 8:37 AM

J.R. and Henry: The BCS stinks.

You know it’s bad when it takes a trick play to beat Mississippi State. Ok, not so much to beat them, but you get the point. The Bulldogs, a band of college football nobodies, took the Hogs deep into the second half before losing yet again. The Razorbacks, with a sub-par performance, clinched the first outright SEC West title of the Houston Nutt era. The game was ugly and we won’t recap it except to note that only Mississippi State could give up 21 points in a half where the Razorbacks made only three first downs. That’s just plain pitiful.

We didn’t make the trip to Starkville this year for fear that the game, as well as the overall experience, would be unpleasant. It appears that it was, but listening to it on the radio wasn’t any more pleasant. Entire plays were missed, calls were made and then reversed and then reversed again, and players were incorrectly identified. There was as much enthusiasm for Mississippi State as there was for Arkansas – and this was the Arkansas Razorback Sports Network!

But we’ll stop there. A win’s a win, especially when it clinches the SEC West.

The Hogs have a short week to prepare for LSU and while many fans are focused on turkey and football (we noticed the Road Hogs were already set up across from War Memorial), much more attention has been swirling about the possibility of an Ohio State-Michigan rematch in the national title game. If that were to happen, several other one-loss teams would be shut out of the national title picture, perhaps unfairly.

This is a relevant discussion for Arkansas football fans to have on talk radio, message boards and in the media. After all, Arkansas could become the second team in the SEC to go through the conference undefeated and be shut out of the national title picture.

That’s right. While understanding the computers is a headache, predicting their outcome week in and week out is an exercise in frustration. Remember, Rutgers was No.2 in the computers before they lost 30-11 to college football behemoth Cincinnati. But we’re not going to make fun of Rutgers anymore. They’re terrible and out of the picture and we’re grateful.

Going into Saturday, Ohio State and Michigan were 1-2 in the BCS. After Saturday, many predicted that because of the close score, that would remain the same. There was talk about computers, strength of schedule, margin of victory, voter bias, regional loyalty, the Big Ten, and other nonsense.

It turns out the predictors were correct. The BCS rankings this week still had the Wolverines No. 2.

However, the point differential between them and No. 3 USC is .0075 and it’s likely that if USC beats Notre Dame, they will leapfrog the Wolverines. If they beat UCLA the following week, they’ll play Ohio State for the BCS national title, assuming voters don’t change their minds.

But that seems to be, at least from our calculations, the only scenario where a rematch between the Buckeyes and the Wolverines doesn’t take place.

If USC loses, then Michigan is likely to solidify its hold on the No. 2 spot. After all, every opinion maker in the country is begging for a rematch. It’s highly unlikely that the voters would remove Michigan from the No. 2 spot. The computers would have to make a difference and from what we can discern, they won’t. Remember, the polls account for two-thirds of the BCS point total.

This is the problem with the current system. For the third time since its advent, a team that lost its final game of the regular season and failed to win its conference championship may play for a national title. That’s just plain stupid.

When Nebraska was pummeled by Colorado, but still made its way into the title game only to be whipped by Miami in 2001. Oklahoma was run out the Big 12 title game by Kansas State, only to get run out of the BCS title game in 2003 by LSU (Southern Cal finished  No. 1 in another poll an claimed a share of the national title, though LSU won the BCS version). And don’t forget about Auburn in 2004.

Yet we’re here once again dealing with the same scenario. It’s funny that just two weeks ago, Corso and Herbstreit were sitting in the parking lot of Razorback Stadium talking about how the SEC champ, if it was as 12-1 Florida or a 12-1 Arkansas deserved to be factored into the national title picture. The same went for an 11-1 USC. With less than 1 minute left in the Ohio State-Michigan football game, Herbstreit, who was calling the game for ABC, said that USC, if they win out, should play for a national title.

Less than two hours later, Herbstreit, Corso and every other major media personality, with the exception of Mike Lupica on ESPN’s "The Sports Reporters," said that Ohio State and Michigan were the two best teams in college football and a rematch was the only sensible solution. When these other teams were mentioned, Corso and Herbstreit laughed.

Stupidity is frustrating. But you can generally deal with it with sensible, methodical argument. Simply, Michigan doesn’t deserve another shot at Ohio State and here’s why:

First, Michigan had its opportunity to beat Ohio State. They failed. With four minutes left in the game, Michigan trailed Ohio State by 11 points. But for a questionable pass interference call on 4th and 16, Michigan loses by 11 after trailing the entire game. Remember, the Wolverines are the only team in the top 7 of the BCS (no team has made it to the national title game from lower than 7 in November) to have even a shot at the Buckeyes.

Second, what are the facts that substantiate Michigan as the second best team? It can’t be that they played and lost to Ohio State. After all, would we be having this discussion if the Wolverines lost by 11? We don’t think so. But they didn’t, so were left with a difficult situation: three one-loss teams vying for a chance to play Ohio State.

For Arkansas to have any shot, they have to win out and hope for a USC loss. At this point, the loss, if it’s going to come, will be against Notre Dame this weekend. Speculating that that happens, Michigan, Notre Dame and Arkansas would be the only teams left standing with any legitimate claim to the No. 2 spot.

We’ve already talked about Michigan. Notre Dame, who will have only beaten two teams ranked in the Top 25 by year’s end (No. 3 USC and No. 19 Penn State). But the Irish played Michigan already and got beat by 26 on their home field. We think this eliminates them from consideration.

That leaves Arkansas.

After losing the opener to USC, the Razorbacks, if this scenario plays out, will have won 12 games in a row. They will have beaten Auburn when the Tigers were ranked No. 2 nationally; Tennessee when the Vols were ranked No. 13; LSU when the Tigers ranked in the top 10 of the BCS and Florida when the Gators were ranked in the Top 5 of the BCS on a neutral field. They will also be the conference champion of the toughest conference in America – a fact that is undisputed by college football sportswriters.

With all of that data, someone explain to us why the Wolverines deserve to play for a national title?

But you’re probably thinking we’re getting ahead of ourselves and perhaps we are. But this is garbage and if Arkansas’s fans don’t start talking about it now, the pollsters will do what the influence-makers tell them to do: an Ohio State-Michigan rematch.

But Arkansas has two very difficult games ahead. If the Hogs play like they played against State, they lose to LSU. Thankfully the game is in Little Rock, which at least means we won’t have to listen to it on the radio.

J.R. and Henry are a couple of local sports nuts who blog their column here twice a week.



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