Boise State MIGHT Not Obviously Would Have Made An NCAA Playoff

EDIT AGAIN: Dan Wetzel, the patron saint of the playoff, doesn’t have Boise State in HIS bracket, either. So please complain to him.

Those clamoring for a Division I playoff in college football (and I’m pro-playoff, let’s get this out of the way up top, but I’m not calling for Congressional intervention) might not have seen one of their darlings in the field this year, depending on how the participants might have been determined would have been delighted to have Boise State take the WAC’s automatic bid on the basis of being the highest-ranked of the three teams that all finished 7-1 in conference play. Thanks to alert reader TA who pointed out that there was actually a three-way tie, not a two-way tie atop the WAC. But, I’ll say this: Nevada is 12-1, and some people make such a big deal about one win sometimes (like when Utah was 13-0 in 2008 and Florida was 13-1 but Utah tried to tell us their 13-0 was more impressive than Florida’s 13-1), you’d wonder why they wouldn’t do the same with Nevada.

Some playoff scenarios insist you have to give all 11 conference champions an automatic bid (and you might have to, just to get the votes to get a playoff implemented). If that’s true, Boise State may be on the outside looking in, as they wouldn’t have been their conference’s automatic qualifier and may not have received one of the five available at-large bids.

Let’s look at the automatic bids under a system where the 11 conference champions (however each conference determines them) are in the field. And we’ll use the current tiebreaker of BCS ranking, which appears to be what determined the Big Ten and Big East entrants this year.

ACC Champion: Virginia Tech (11-2)
Big 12 Champion: Oklahoma (11-2)
Big East Champion: Connecticut (8-4)
Big Ten Champion: Wisconsin (11-1)
Conference USA Champion: Central Florida (10-3)
Mid-American Champion: Miami (OH) (9-4)
Mountain West Champion: TCU (12-0)
Pac-10 Champion: Oregon (12-0)
SEC Champion: Auburn (13-0)
Sun Belt Champion: Florida International (6-6)
WAC Champion: Nevada (12-1) Boise State (11-1)

EDIT: Obviously, the rest of this is based on a faulty premise, so no need to read any farther. Suffice it to say, I suck and I am chastened. Feel free to send a strongly-worded email to your own address.

The first problem is obvious: A 6-6 FIU team will get in for winning the Sun Belt, while a much more deserving team will be shut out. Unfortunately, those are the breaks. My proposal would be that the two highest-ranked teams from the handful of lesser conferences would get automatic bids and the others would be eligible for at-large bids, but I don’t know if you’d ever get that passed.

So you’d have five at-large spots left, and more than five teams ranked in the top 12 of the final BCS standings. Stanford (11-1) is an obvious at-large pick, and you’d likely go with Ohio State (11-1 at BCS #6), Arkansas (10-2 at BCS #8) and Michigan State (11-1 at BCS #9) for three other slots.

Then – as it will always, sure as the sun comes up in the East – it’ll come down to that last at-large spot. Do you take 10-2 LSU, ranked #10 in the BCS standings or Boise State at 11-1 and ranked #11? The AP poll has Boise State ahead of LSU by 69 points and the coaches have Boise State at #10, as does the Harris Poll.

It’s Those Damn ComputersTM of the BCS that push Boise State ever so slightly behind LSU, because the six mathematical rankings (which count for 1/3 of the final BCS number) take strength of schedule into account. And you can’t sit there with a straight face and tell me that LSU, playing in the SEC, doesn’t face tougher competition on a weekly basis (regardless of their non-conference schedule, which sucks, as does pretty much every bigtime school’s anymore) than Boise State does.

What Those Damn ComputersTM do is exactly what YOU do when you look at a handful of teams with identical or nearly-identical records. Tell me you don’t look at Auburn, Oregon and TCU (this year’s three undefeated teams) and make a value judgment in your head about who has played tougher schedules. Those computer rankings do that, too, only they do it with actual math. And for that, they get savaged from here to Oxnard because they’re somehow….I don’t know, not manly or something. It’s insane.

There are some proposed playoff formats that have the at-large bids determined by a committee (a la March Madness) and some that use BCS points or some other formula. Until someone decides on an actual format that could get passed, this is all speculation. But it’s possible that Boise State – the poster children for letting everything play out on the field – might not have had that chance this year due to a close conference loss.

Anyway, if LSU gets the last automatic bid, this might be your 16-team field (yes, not only are FIU and Miami not in the BCS rankings, but neither is Connecticut, despite being a team that will play in a BCS bowl):
1 Auburn
2 Oregon
3 TCU
4 Stanford
5 Wisconsin
6 Ohio State
7 Oklahoma
8 Arkansas
9 Michigan State
10 LSU
11 Virginia Tech
12 Nevada
13 Central Florida
14 Connecticut
15 Miami (Oh.)
16 Florida International

That would give us these matchups this weekend
#1 Auburn vs. #16 Florida International
#8 Arkansas vs. #9 Michigan State

#5 Wisconsin vs. #12 Nevada
#4 Stanford vs. #13 Central Florida

#3 TCU vs. #14 Connecticut
#6 Ohio State vs. #11 Virginia Tech

#7 Oklahoma vs. #10 LSU
#2 Oregon vs. #15 Miami

The 8-9 matchup is intriguing (as most 8-9s are), Wisconsin-Nevada might be interesting. Oklahoma-LSU is probably your primetime game. But, overall, other than the novelty of the whole thing, this wouldn’t be a particularly compelling set of eight games (at least not to me).

If things went chalk, you’d end up with Auburn playing Stanford in one semifinal and TCU and Oregon in the other, and that would be must-see TV. But don’t count on this happening anytime soon. There are too many moving parts that would have to fall into place to give the vocal opponents of the BCS what they want.

13 thoughts on “Boise State MIGHT Not Obviously Would Have Made An NCAA Playoff”

  1. The first tiebreaker for the Big Ten is head to head, but since Ohio St. and Michigan St. didn’t play, it doesn’t apply. BCS ratings are the next step.

    Over at BigNCAAFootball, someone is screaming about how they should scrap the conferences and go single table.

  2. Your logic is way off. Boise State should be the first at-large team in a pool of 16 because their SoS surpasses anything those over-rated teams from the Big 11 and the SEC pass off.

    Every NCAA tournament committee relies on a SoS figure except for the knuckleheads who run the BCS. The SEC and the Big 11 schools cannot be bothered to play OOC games out of state, let alone out of time zone. Further, they cannot find 12 games against I-A opponents.

    Hell, Arkansas should be banned from any postseason discussion because they continue to play a road game in Little Rock. Of course the home team is the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

    Tell the SEC and Big 11 to put away the cupcakes as well as the eight home games and play real schedules like Boise State.

  3. Uh, come again?

    Boise State’s schedule is what now?

    Their strength of schedule is what?

    Holy shit. Man, you’re out there.

  4. Boise State’s opponents were 75-74. Yay.

    Nevada* (12-1) to whom they lost
    Virginia Tech (11-2)
    Hawaii* (10-3)
    Toledo (8-4)
    Fresno State* (8-4)
    Idaho* (6-7)
    Louisiana Tech* (5-7)
    Oregon State (5-7)
    Utah State* (4-8)
    Wyoming (3-9)
    New Mexico State* (2-10)
    San Jose State* (1-12)

    *Conference game

    So spare me.

  5. LSU’s opponents were 86-68, by the way. And Louisiana-Monroe finished 5-7, a record as good or better than half of Boise State’s opponents.

    We’re done here now.

  6. Okay, not.

    Apparently there was a small glitch and LSU and Boise State should be reversed in the BCS standings (embarrassing!). Good thing someone caught this today and not after, you know, they announced the field of 16 for the playoffs or anything.

    If Boise State would be in over LSU because of BCS rankings, fine. But there’s going to be people bitching because they didn’t get the last at-large bid to a playoff scenario and we’re going to have the same freaking controversies we have today, just shifted slightly to the left.

    But Boise State’s schedule is nowhere near what LSU played. Or most other SEC schools. That’s just the nature of the beast. In close calls, BSU doesn’t have that to stand on.

  7. Why do you have Nevada as your WAC champ instead of Boise State? It was a 3-way tie, and the WAC doesn’t actually apply a tiebreaker, it just declares them all co-champions, but if there were a playoff auto-bid at stake they would likely give it to the highest-ranked team, as head-to-head does not solve anything in this case.

  8. You’re right.

    Head-to-head among the three, you’re right, doesn’t solve anything, as they Boise State beat Hawaii and lost to Nevada, Hawaii lost to Boise State and beat Nevada and Nevada beat Boise State and lost to Hawaii.

    I wasn’t even looking at Hawaii in terms of the WAC championship, my bad. Boise State, as the highest-ranked team in the polls and the BCS, would have taken their auto bid.

    I need more caffeine.

  9. This is the kind of thing that turned me off to college football years ago. Style points are for ice skating and diving. Computer rankings and ‘strength of schedule’ arguments are for homers. The NCAA “national championship” has always been meaningless.

    The fact is, Kenn’s proposal is infinitely better than the current system. But then, every playoff proposal I’ve ever seen is, too.

  10. The NCAA has nothing to do with the bowl system, the BCS in particular. They would probably love to have a national championship tournament for big time college football, but the major conferences have no interest in it. Unlike March Madness the conferences get to keep the money from the bowl system for themselves.

    But it’s cute the way people think the college football season is about figuring who the best team happens to be…

  11. Yes, but, Chuck, the truth is that as long as there’s going to be an unequal playing field in college football, one HAS to consider a team’s entire body of work and make some subjective judgments.

    If you’re comparing three NFL teams, their records are a fairly good indicator of how good they are, comparatively. It’s not that a lesser team can’t beat a better team – they can, and do, OAGS.

    But when you’re comparing Auburn, Oregon, TCU and Boise State, you HAVE to do some mental math to try and put teams into a hierarchy. That’s human nature, that’s what our brains do.

    Else we’re just going by sheer numbers, which is what Boise State would have you do, and they’d have you believe their 11-1 is superior to Oklahoma’s 11-2.

  12. “But it’s not fair and blah de blah”

    The problem with the hierarchy is it turns subjectivity into objectivity. The NCAA basketball rankings, for instance, don’t mean a whole hell of a lot, but if you’re in the rankings in March you’re probably going to be at least an 8 seed. And when you look at how individual people vote? My god.

    The obvious difference is it doesn’t matter if TCU is #3, because as long as they have a chance to play, erm, future Big East rival Connecticut (bad example?) in the first round, then either Ohio State or Virginia Tech, then Oregon, Oklahoma or Boise State/LSU, then anyone who comes out of the other side of the bracket… if you can win four games over teams who have proven themselves in the regular season, even if proving yourself is just winning the crappy Sun Belt conference, that’s a hell of a lot better way of figuring out who wins what.

    Like the D-II/FCS/whatever the hell it’s called, the #2 seed William and Mary were upset at home by Georgia Southern in the first round game. Now the gap isn’t as big between those two teams as it is between say Oregon and Miami OH, but crazy things happen.

    Especially when there are upsets. If Nevada/Boise St. beat Wisconsin on the road, that’s 40592% better than playing Boston College in the Fight Hunger Bowl.

    The problem with the first round, when you compare it to the current BCS, is you are basically expanding the BCS by two at large teams and then adding four teams with absolutely no business being there into the mix, and those four teams don’t play each other. The second round would be equivalent to the current BCS bowls with the obvious exception of the championship game. Assuming no upsets, Oregon-Oklahoma/LSU, TCU-Ohio State, Wisconsin-Stanford, and Auburn-Arkansas/Michigan St. are pretty damn good matchups that the current system tries to provide but doesn’t really.

    Plus watch how long it takes for Notre Dame to join the Big East (theoretically) if you get an automatic playoff spot for winning your conference.

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