The BCS Sham
Invitations went out for college football bowl games last Sunday and, as a Michigan State alum, I’d been dreading for more than a week the invitation that I knew was coming our way.
With an 11-1 overall record (7-1 in the Big Ten), MSU was invited to the Capital One Bowl (formerly the Citrus Bowl) for the second time in three seasons. They will play Alabama, whose overall record this season is 9-3 (5-3 in the SEC).
Alabama, of course, is favored to win the game.
I have three major problems with all of this:
- Two Big Ten teams — Wisconsin and Ohio State — are headed to more lucrative and more impressive BCS bowl games. This is problematic because both Wisconsin and Ohio State had identical records to Michigan State … and because Michigan State beat Wisconsin earlier in the season (Wisconsin beat Ohio State; MSU did not play Ohio State this year). With the three teams tied for the Big Ten championship, the tie-breaker ultimately proved to be BCS ranking and MSU was ranked third amongst the three teams … despite beating Wisconsin (a team that somehow managed to earn a higher BCS ranking than a team to whom they’d lost a game). Also of note: Michigan State’s strength of schedule was ranked 73; Wisconsin’s was 85. There’s another SoS measure here, with different numbers that again put MSU ahead of Wisconsin. If you don’t like these, you can find another one; let me know if you find one that ranks Wisconsin above MSU.
- Despite losing three games this season to MSU’s one game, Alabama is everyone’s favorite to win. And not by a little either; from what I’ve seen online, Alabama is +11 points. The presumption is that they are a far more talented team than MSU and that they’ve faced much more difficult competition over the course of their season (with the SEC being picked as the strongest conference and the Big Ten amongst the weakest). There’s no reason to assume that MSU is a weak team that wouldn’t be able to compete against other teams in the Top 10 and yet MSU is routinely identified as the weakest 1-loss team (this year, to be sure, and perhaps historically, depending on whose blog you’re reading).
- There really isn’t any sort of positive outcome that can come of our match-up with Alabama. If MSU wins the game, no one will be particularly impressed: it’s not a great bowl game and Alabama probably doesn’t care very much about it; Alabama’s had a “down” year, certainly by comparison to last year’s National Championship season; MSU will still be considered the weakest 12-1 team in the country because it’s very tough to shake people’s preconceptions. Of course, if MSU loses, then it confirms to everyone that the Big Ten is no match for the SEC; that MSU was overrated even with its 11 wins; that the BCS was right to exclude us in favor of Wisconsin and Ohio State; and that Alabama’s detestable coach, Nick Saban, who fled MSU in the night rather than leading his team to its Citrus Bowl game against Florida in 1999/2000, is a great coach and outstanding American.
All of this, as you can likely tell, isn’t the way I think it ought to be.
Give us a post-season playoff system already.