College Football Rankings: Simulated BCS Standings Show Why Not To Play Alabama

Sep 1, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Michigan Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson (16) in action against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Cowboys Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

College football's Week 1 was good for Michigan State, Clemson and Nebraska, but very bad for Michigan, which may have learned the value of soft scheduling in the BCS era. Below, a look at what the BCS standings would look like if they officially came out this week.

For Michigan, there's nothing victorious or valiant about playing defending national champion Alabama in JerryWorld to open the season. None.

All that did was permanently kill Michigan's chances of getting to the BCS title game this season. And that's why most of the national championship contenders settled for the more tasty morsels as the first dish: North Texas, Arkansas State, Murray State, Jacksonville State, Savannah State and Northern Iowa.

Memo to Michigan: When in doubt, always open against a state school or directional school at home (just remember to leave off Appalachian State).

If anything, this week's simulated BCS standings reveal that there is no penalty for playing weak non-conference competition, even if you have to sweat it out in your not-quite-full home stadium. Of all the teams currently in the simulated BCS top 25, only three teams slid more than two spots from the preseason rankings: Michigan, Boise State and Stanford.

Michigan and Boise State (lost at Michigan State) were the only top 25 teams to lose last week -- in the only two games matching up top 25 teams. Stanford, which barely got by San Jose State, must be the victim of East Coast bias, since Wisconsin, Georgia and Florida also struggled at home against lesser competition but were little worse for the wear.

This has to be the worst legacy of the BCS era, the vanishing of competitive non-conference matchups. In 1990, two years before the advent of the BCS precursor Bowl Coalition, Florida actually opened the season against Oklahoma State, while Wisconsin faced Cal and Georgia opened against SEC rival LSU, followed by Southern Mississippi. But as the BCS made clear, that one loss -- even an early-season one -- would prove fatal, so most teams with national-title aspirations quickly figured out cupcakes must be the way to go.

That's never more evident than in the SEC, with each member required to schedule four non-conference games. Some schools might schedule one tough matchup, sometimes even on the road, but the rest are filled with the dregs of the Sun Belt or Conference USA or FCS paupers looking for fast bucks.

These were the non-conference opponents for the last six national champions, not coincidentally all from the SEC:

2011 Alabama - Kent State, Penn State, North Texas, Georgia Southern (FCS)

2010 Auburn - Arkansas State, Clemson, Louisiana-Monroe, Tennessee-Chattanooga (FCS)

2009 Alabama - Virginia Tech, Florida International, North Texas, Tennessee-Chattanooga (FCS)

2008 Florida - Hawaii, Miami (Fla.), Citadel (FCS), Florida State

2007 LSU - Virginia Tech, Middle Tennessee State, Tulane, Louisiana Tech

2006 Florida - Southern Mississippi, Central Florida, Western Carolina (FCS), Florida State

Of this sextet, only the 2007 LSU team did not face an FCS team and only the 2008 Florida team played more than one BCS conference team (boldface).

Now, this isn't an attempt to take a cheap shot at those SEC powerhouses, as they were only doing what maximizes their chances of winning the national championship. They surmised correctly that playing a soft non-conference schedule does not compromise a team's chances of getting into the BCS title game. What kills them is a loss in a non-conference game.

No team has ever won the BCS title after losing a non-conference game. And only the 2000 Florida State team, which lost to Miami, managed to even get to the BCS title game with a non-conference loss. The treasure trove of past BCS standings has made it clear that for BCS conference teams, it doesn't matter where you start and whom you play -- it's all about how you finish.

Auburn, the only unbeaten BCS conference team denied a shot at the title when it was edged by USC and Oklahoma in 2004, was No. 26 in the simulated BCS standings in 2010 before rapidly ascending the rankings, eventually reaching No. 1. The Tigers' opponent in that BCS title game, Oregon, began the season at No. 9.

The case is clear: BCS titles are not just won on the field, but are dependent on the schedule-making acumen of the athletic directors. So if you're Dave Brandon and your goal is winning the national championship and not creating an attractive matchup for the ratings-starved TV networks, then you should schedule South Alabama, Alabama-Birmingham, Alabama State or Alabama A&M, just not Alabama itself.

This week's simulated BCS standings:

Rk Pvs Team Coaches AP Md JS KM* RB Cp Avg Sim. BCS

1 1 Alabama 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0.9895

2 2 LSU 3 3 2 3 2 4 0.93 0.9278

3 3 USC 2 2 4 8 9 8 0.75 0.8848

4 4 Oregon 4 4 3 4 5 2 0.9 0.8784

5 5 Oklahoma 5 5 5 6 4 10 0.79 0.788

6 7 South Carolina 9 9 10 11 8 7 0.68 0.6576

7 6 Arkansas 10 8 7 14 7 9 0.67 0.6537

8 13 Michigan State 11 11 9 12 6 3 0.74 0.6462

9 10 Florida State 6 6 8
23
0.21 0.5808

10 8 Georgia 7 7 13 25 22 22 0.22 0.5608

11 15 West Virginia 8 9 11 24
20 0.23 0.5277

12 12 Oklahoma State 16 18 6 20 3 5 0.7 0.4918

13 11 Wisconsin 13 13 15 10 13 18 0.48 0.47

14 20 Nebraska 14 16 14 17 15 12 0.46 0.4347

15 21 Clemson 12 12 24 23 25 17 0.15 0.4118

16 17 Texas 15 17 16 16 17
0.29 0.362

17 16 TCU 17 20 17 2 19 19 0.47 0.3438

18 19 Virginia Tech 18 15 19 13
16 0.3 0.3418

19 14 Stanford 21 25 12 7 14 6 0.65 0.319

20 9 Michigan 19 19 18 18 20 15 0.33 0.3056

21 22 Kansas State 20 21 20
21 14 0.23 0.2456

22 18 Boise State 25 26 23 5 12 11 0.53 0.2128

23 24 Notre Dame 22 22 21 22 18 25 0.18 0.1609

24 27 Baylor 28 30 22
11 13 0.32 0.1239

25 23 Florida 23 24
15

0.11 0.115

26 26 Texas A&M 34 37
9 10
0.33 0.114

27 30 Louisville 24 23



0 0.0669

28 25 Missouri 32 36

16 24 0.12 0.0452

29 28 Auburn 31 40
19
23 0.1 0.0381

30 39 Tennessee 29 27

24
0.02 0.0294

31 36 BYU 27 28



0 0.0233

32 32 Southern Miss 25

21 0.06 0.02

33 35 Cincinnati 38 42
21

0.05 0.0194

34 31 Washington 26 32



0 0.0158

35 34 Utah 30 31



0 0.0121

36 33 Georgia Tech 32 33



0 0.0067

37 NR Ohio 36 34



0 0.0047

38 37 South Florida 35 37


0 0.0038

39 43 Central Florida 36 39



0 0.0034

40 38 Mississippi State 38 40



0 0.0029

41 NR Texas State 34



0 0.0022

42 42 Virginia 40


0 0.0016

43 NR Arizona 41


0 0.0014

43 41 Louisiana Tech 41



0 0.0014

45 NR Nevada 43



0 0.0011

46 NR Vanderbilt 44



0 0.0007

47 NR Northwestern 45



0 0.0002

47 44 Rutgers 45



0 0.0002

47 47 Texas Tech 45



0 0.0002

Keys: 2011 = Final 2011 Associated Press Poll; Coach = USA Today Coaches Poll; AP = Associated Press Poll; Md = Median ranking of 36 computer ratings; JS = Jeff Sagarin; KM* = Kenneth Massey MOV; RB = Richard Billingsley; Cp Avg = Computer Average.

Explanation: This rankings method is a simulation of the actual BCS standings with the following variations: 1) The AP Poll is used in place of the Harris Interactive Poll, which is not published until after the first weekend of October; 2) Three of the six BCS computer ratings are available -- Jeff Sagarin, Kenneth Massey and Richard Billingsley; 3) The other three computer ratings -- Anderson & Hester, Colley Matrix and Peter Wolfe -- will not be available until mid-September or October, so they're replaced by the median ranking of 36 computer ratings.

While we’re here, let’s watch some of the many fine college football videos from SB Nation’s YouTube channel:

Check out the SB Nation Channel on YouTube

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Join SBNation.com

You must be a member of SBNation.com to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at SBNation.com. You should read them.

Spinner.vc97ec6e

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.