The case against the case against Michigan

>> Tuesday

This post is really a direct response to the one Mike had up for a day before replacing it with this copout lameness. I'm responding to arguments he and others have made for selecting Anyone But Michigan to play Ohio St. in the BCS Championship game.

If anyone saw my response to Mike's original post before he totally copped out like a lame-o, I'll basically be making the exact same rebuttals. (A pox on Mike's house for making me redo my work!)

Sez them: USC beat Notre Dame, and Notre Dame rules! They won't possibly lose to UCLA (...will they?), so why are you even bringing this up?! Stop making everything so complicated!

Sez Vinnie: Well, yeah, USC probably will beat UCLA and hold the #2 spot, rendering this Michigan issue a non-issue.

But should it be this way? Sez Vinnie (you know--in case you missed it the first time): Heeeyy-ll no!

Now hold on--I'm not making a thorough case for Michigan over USC. I'll leave that to people who pay more attention to college football. I'm simply arguing that a loss should not automatically warrant a drop in the polls, nor should a marquee win automatically warrant a jump in the polls. Yet in practice, the voting always seems to work out this way, and it always has.

The same happens in college hoops, too, but seriously--who cares? That's college hoops rankings. Football rankings actually count for something. Unfortunately, voters still seem to overreact to the short-term--even late in the season when it's all the more crucial to re-evaluate each team's entire body of work on a weekly basis.

Yet I think this thought process is lacking. And I think that's the exact reason why USC is where they are right now.

Sez them: Other teams besides Michigan have only one loss. Take them! Take them!!

Sez Vinnie: Good for those other teams.

The simple fact remains: Subjectivity is an indisposable part of this process. The idea of eliminating--or even minimizing--subjectivity when comparing the results of a mere twelve games against vastly different schedules is pretty laughable, in my opinion. So the best we can do is conduct our due dilligence *five points for corporate buzz term!* and subjectively determine who among these teams is second-best.

Really, all the BCS does anyway is compile a bunch of subjective measures with a few inconsequential objective ones, spits out a number, and carries it to the fourth decimal place. And we take this as somehow more "scientific."

Well, I guess it does have numbers. Too bad they're most impacted by this obligatory impulse to drop and hike teams on a whim.

Sez them: Michigan had their chance to beat Ohio St. And they lost! That's right--They. Lost. Period!

Sez Vinnie: You know, you're right! Michigan did play Ohio St. already. How about that?

Too bad we're debating who belongs in the BCS Championship game and NOT whether Michigan deserves some staged rematch against Ohio St. So yeah, that Ohio St. game a couple weeks ago? Irrelevant! That's right, irrelevant. What is relevant? Michigan's win-loss record, Michigan's strength of schedule, USC's W-L, USC's SOS, etc.

Think about how absurd this is for a second. What people are basically saying is the following: USC is somehow more deserving, in part, because of the fact that their only loss came to Oregon St. and not to Ohio St. That is bonkers.

The fact that Michigan would be playing the same team that accounted for their only loss is purely coincidental. I repeat,

purely coincidental.

Under relevant criteria for selecting the most deserving team to play in the BCS Championship, I don't think "have already played the other guys" appears, nor should it.

Also, as if the whole argument weren't B.S. enough, I'm growing quite sick of people trying to downplay the fact that Ohio St. beat Michigan on their homefield. I realize that I've already branded this discussion irrelevant, but this deserves mentioning. Do people seriously not get how important homefield advantage is in college sports? How can anyone believe that a three-point homefield win demonstrates even a semi-significant degree of superiority over an opponent?

So if the totally agreed-upon #1 team is--by best indication--only marginally better or evenly matched with another team, shouldn't that other team be regarded in nearly the same standing as the #1 team? It only makes sense to me.

Sez them: But...but...what if--What if they do play each other again and Michigan beats them this time, and then we have the two best teams each with only one loss--to each other! Ahhhh!!! And they're from the same conference! And both really really good!... Oh, the humanity!!!

Sez Vinnie: That would kick ass.

Sure, it would be a confusing mess of a dead-end debate, but then again, the system is the system. And there's no perfect system. And if that's how it's gonna be, then that's how it's gonna be.

What's more important? A champion that 967 out of 1,000 randomly polled college football fans can agree upon or making sure the right teams get their shot? I don't know; I guess that's a debatable issue in itself, but I would stick with the latter option...Sez me.

Furthermore, let's say Michigan does play Ohio St. again and does win this time. And say they're crowned as the sole national champ on the strength of this win, even though it comes against the same Ohio St. team that beat them earlier in the season. Think now--Would this really be such an outrage?

Why do we so readily accept the fabricated be-all-end-all significance of final games or series in other sports yet so vehemently denounce it in college football? Were this the NFL and the winning Super Bowl team had lost to their Super Bowl opponent earlier in the season, would anyone give a flying fugazi? Absolutely not. In fact, I'm guessing this situation has occurred at least once in the past, but you know what--I really couldn't tell you. Because if it has happened or were to happen, nobody would care. (And double-guess what--I'm not gonna bother to look up whether it has! So there.)

What's different about college football's "big game"? It's not the product of some bogus playoff system? Uh, I'd hate to burst everyone's bubble, but as far as valuating teams by their "true" merits, most playoff systems suck bigtime. Remember a little something about a month back called the 2006 World Series? Right. How about Bucknell over Kansas? We pretend that the winners of these contests are better, but come on--deep down we all know that these playoffs are a farce.

If a "true" championship game is what people want, the subjective selection process--I'd argue--actually prevents more inadequacies of playoff systems (e.g. fluke wins, bad breaks, etc.) than it creates of its own limitations. Rather than exposing the best teams to the single-game random deviations from norm abilities over and over again before a big final game, college football says, "Ok, here's twelve games to analyze. How good is this team? How about compared to that one? And that one?"

At the end of the process, we may have a #2 team that hypothetically only has a 52% chance of beating the #3 team and only a 60% chance of beating the #7 team, but we still pin down a "true" #2. Obviously, this precision is impossible, but put in the right hands, the subjective selection process still produces a "true" #1 vs. #2 championship game more effectively than a playoff would.

But now I've gone way off topic.

Back to the original point. I think people are grasping for reasons that should preclude Michigan making the BCS Championship, simply because they don't want to see it happen. As far as I can tell, these reasons have little to do with the rules in place and even less to do with fairness. They'll probably get their wish because USC has that #2 BCS spot.

But part of me would love to see UCLA win because I really don't believe Michgan has gotten a fair shake. Sez me.

18 comments:

Matt 10:07 AM  

One thing to add:

Another reason I think Michigan's getting the royal screw-ola: if you flip when Michigan played OSU with when they played ND (i.e., if they lost early in the season), there is absolutely no doubt they'd be in the national championship game. No doubt. The fact that losing out on a title shot happens because your toughest game happens to be in late November is a bunch of baloney, if ya ask me.

Vote yes on a rematch.

And no on the death penalty.

College Football 11:01 AM  

The Trojans are Number 2! Should they be here and should they be in the BCS Championship Game? Espn states by beating their long time rival UCLA they will play for the Title and Michigan will be smelling Roses to play Notre Dame or LSU? Good prediction? Let us hear!

Mike 12:03 PM  
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mike 12:10 PM  

I had this thought the other day. I think one of the reasons why the BCS is so villified is kind of what Vinnie said, that it is still very largely a subjective measuring stick that passes itself off as an objective determination of teams relative merits.

By doing this, the BCS seems to fail on its promise to produce a consensus national championship game, which is in essence, no different than before (Bowl Alliance/Coalition, etc.)

At the same time, the BCS for the most part tears apart the traditions of the biggest bowls. i.e.) There has only been one Big Ten Champ-vs-Pac Ten Champ Rose Bowl game in the last 6 (including 2007). This is as many misses as there were in the previous 60 years of the game (and none of those were after 1946).

I may be soundling like a sentimental olde-tyme bowl apologist here, but remember what a big deal it was for Northwestern to go to Pasadena in 1996 having not gone in nearly 60 years? In 2001, Illinois won the Big Ten outright for the first time since 1983 but was relegated to the 2002 Sugar Bowl because the Rose Bowl stage was set for Miami to paste Big 12 North Division Runner-up Nebraska.

The next year, Ohio State was in the national title game, and the Rose Bowl didn't even take Big Ten co-champ Iowa. Iowa celebrated their last game with roses on the field, thinking they were headed to Pasadena for the first time since 1991, then got stuck playing USC in the Orange Bowl.

It all boils down to: The BCS still has very large elements of subjectivity to it, perhaps inherently as Vinnie described. But this has produced a controversial inclusion or exclusion in pretty much every year of the BCS's existance. While controversy is no stranger to college football, the BCS was supposed to resolve that.

I dunno. I'd be in favor of a 16-team playoff anyway.

Anonymous,  1:36 PM  

You michigan fans are hilarious.

Concerning USC not being more deserving: SC played, and beat comfortably, Nebraska, Arkansas, and ND in non-conference play. Thats the best independent, the potential Big 12 winner, and the potential SEC winner. Michigan played Vandy, Central Michigan, ND (whom they crushed), and Ball St. (whom they beat by 8 by stopping at the goal line late in the 4th quarter!) So your strength of schedule argument does not hold.

Concerning OSU and UM clearly being the two best teams in the country: we don't know who is #1 and #2 in the country for sure. We just know that however you rank teams, OSU has to be ahead of UM, Because they beat them head to head. And if we know that, then there is no need for the teams to play again. What exaclty have you seen over the last 3 years (6 years?) that would lead you to believe that if OSU and UM played TODAY that UM would win?

Concerning a rematch: I'm sick of hearing people talk about how close that game was. Ohio St. played terribly (3 turnovers) and still was in no danger of ever losing that game. The only time UM led was 7-0 and the only time after that when they had the ball and a chance to take the lead was when it was 28-24. OSU was comfortably ahead by 2 scores for most of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quarters. That game was nowhere near as close as the score would indicate.

Anonymous,  2:05 PM  

*** What exaclty have you seen over the last 3 years (6 years?) that would lead you to believe that if OSU and UM played TODAY that UM would win? ***

Uh, because both Michigan and Ohio State are very good teams, and when two very good teams meet either one of them could win???

beanspants1,  2:57 PM  

maybe the Big 10 should have a title game. they want 2 for the national title, but don't even force a division title? no way.

and if ohio state could have managed the quarterback exchange in the 4th quarter, they would have beat michigan by 20.

give someone else a shot.

Matt 3:19 PM  

Is the commenter on here "college football" a child or a robot? Let us hear!

Greg,  3:39 PM  

And if Henne does not overshoot Manningham on their second possession, they lead 14-7 and the whole game is changed, but they did not, OSU did fumble and it was a three point game. Or had they caught Troy Smith taking another $500 handshake with a booster he would be with Maurice Clarett right now.

Anonymous,  4:06 PM  

I'm a Michigan fan and I must be hilarious.

Stop downplaying the home field advantage. If you were USC and I ask you if you would give up 4 point to play OSU in the Coliseum as opposed to the 'Shoe, you'd take that in a heartbeat!

Strength of schedule - sure, USC had a more impressive non-conference performance. But if that's what you're going by, they also lost to a non-#1-ranked team on the road by 1 less point than Michigan did to the #1 team. In addition, single digit wins over conference walkovers like Washington, Washington State, and Arizona State can't be impressive.

And while we're at it, Michigan beat the same ND team by more point...ON THE ROAD!

And in response to the following statement:

"Concerning OSU and UM clearly being the two best teams in the country: we don't know who is #1 and #2 in the country for sure. We just know that however you rank teams, OSU has to be ahead of UM, Because they beat them head to head."

- I have this to say - using that same logic, I would argue USC is no better than #23 because they CAN'T be better than Oregon State! Here's a tip, if someone challenges you to a debate, don't do it. You'll only embarass yourself!

Anonymous,  5:01 PM  

Ted Ginn can't read.

Anonymous,  8:34 PM  

how impressive is an 8pt win over ball state? Don't judge a team by their worst game, judge them by the whole year

Anonymous,  8:35 PM  

michigan: YOU HAD YOUR SHOT! YOU LOST! MOVE ON!

Anonymous,  8:36 PM  

how does UM get the nod over Florida? UF played a tougher schedule and both have one road loss

Paul,  12:53 AM  

I love how your original post attempts to put logic and perspective into the whole argument only to have a bunch of illogical statements and skewed perspectives ensue.

Matt 7:15 AM  

Paul Boigl, is that you?

peter tom krenzel,  11:48 AM  

I think Vinnie's argument holds water.

OSU is the consensus #1 and noone in their right mind would suggest they shouldn't be playing for the national championship.

UM came within 3 points of beating OSU on OSU's own field in front 105,000+ spectators, which makes them almost as good as OSU, the consensus #1.

USC's lone loss came to Oregon State, a team nowhere near the top of the rankings, suggesting that it's unlikely they're as good as either OSU or UM.

Florida's lone loss came against Auburn, who was #11 at the time, which makes them more impressive than USC, but still not as impressive as UM.

And if UM should play OSU in the championship game, and if UM wins the championship game, that makes them the, uh, champion. Right?

Anonymous,  11:46 PM  

Florida should be in the national title game if they can beat Arkansas

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