Week 3 was rather bland, with little significant action in the BCS picture. It is time to step aside and look at some questions at the heart of the BCS. First up is a look at what the BCS is.
How do you explain the BCS to a foreign exchange student?
Suppose you are hanging out in the dorms and have gotten past the soccer vs. football debate to the point where a neutral agreement that if you both learn more about the other their is more sports to digest for both. They present the generic playoff formats, or even the annual Premier League division adjustments as evidence for the superiority of their sport. How do we encapsulate what makes college football great?
The polls, computers and possibility for undefeated teams to get sidelined can leave the impression that college football is little more than a horse and pony show, if not presented carefully.
Let us start with the Premier League's membership determination. College football teams move between leagues, but on the timescale of decades rather than years. The cost of running a football team exceeds that of a soccer team, and differences between competing in the top college football leagues are very significant. The move to a bigger league is a cost that an institution would need to count very carefully. Losing your fanbase due to a lack of competitiveness is not worth even the largest conference payouts.
Next year Boise State will be moving up to the MWC, Utah will be moving up to the PAC 10 and Nebraska will be moving up to the Big 10. Further, the MWC may be gaining momentum towards an automatic qualification in 2012 and 2013.
Unlike any other sport, the college football season is more than a glorified pre-tournament warm up. The bowls are filled with pageantry and have the pomp and circumstance of a world class party. To be certain the BCS Championship game is the king of the bowls, with the Rose Bowl a close second. Each has its own unique charm.
College football is fundamentally not about national championships. It is a largely regional sport and the primary aim for each team should be to win their regional rivalries, and master their conference. The bowls are inter-regional icing to top the cake of a good season in your region.
The debate over which conferences are the strongest or which teams are the top in any given year is fed by the fact that inter-regional games are rare and the top teams seldom play each other. This sears memories deep into our psyche when our teams are in the focal point of these debates that lasts for years.
Name one other sport where fans passionately debate games and title runs from over a year ago?
Then shrug and say, let's just go to the game.
Inside the BCS Numbers
For a full look inside the BCS numbers see my simulated BCS standings. This week I made a significant revision to the NCG race. This was motivated by surprise teams falling off the face of the planet (VT, California) and others exceeding expectations (Arizona). In order of most likely to finish on top if undefeated the NCG contenders are:
Alabama, Texas, Alabama (1 loss), Oklahoma, Ohio State, Florida, LSU, Nebraska, Texas (1 Loss), Oregon, TCU, Boise State
TCU is slightly edging Boise State, but this race is far from over. I give TCU a slight edge, with Boise State's Oregon State game looming large. Utah is ready to take TCU's spot should Boise State stumble along the way somewhere.
Georgia and Mississippi State are trying to get out of the conference race early, with a 0-2 start out of the gate.
Using the Hawaii 2007 standards, four more teams were eliminated in Week 3. This leaves 76 teams in contention for a BCS bowl, only 9 teams from non-AQ leagues.