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The BCS Case For and Against Penn State

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↵For a college football fan, the only sure thing is a conference title. Everything else past that is gravy ladled out by a grumpy, arbitrary cafeteria lady who might, like a Seinfeldian Soup Nazi, decide you get nothing for no reason -- or as we like to call her, the BCS. ↵

↵Enter the subject of Penn State. Now, JoePa may lose at Iowa and make this simpler for voters like myself everywhere. This would be fine with me, because all a fan can really root for with the BCS is chaos, chaos, and more delightful chaos. A Penn State loss clearly does this, as it leaves Texas Tech and Alabama as the only remaining major conference teams without a loss. Since no one seems to believe the Red Raiders will go undefeated and Alabama has to likely play Florida in the SEC title game and rival Auburn (one obviously tough, another a rivalry game) this means the eventual national title contenders will probably each have at least one loss in this scenario. ↵

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↵If Penn State doesn’t lose to Iowa, or to Indiana, or Michigan State, then let loose the dogs of careless argument in the college football punditocracy. There are two cases to be made: the pro-Penn State argument, and the anti Penn State argument. ↵

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↵First, the pro, sponsored by the Law Firm of Sebben and Sebben. ↵

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↵1. Penn State will be the undefeated Big Ten Champion. This = National Title Slot. In a world without another undefeated major conference team, the team without a loss goes to the game. Simple enough case there; no major logical errors. Their strength of schedule is relatively weak, but they beat the teams on their schedule including Oregon State, who defeated USC and is a contender for the Pac-10 title. ↵

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↵2. Penn State impresses by the numbers. Their offense has averaged 41 points and change for the season, their defense only allows 11 points a game, and their worst stat is punt return yardage, and that is only the case because they’ve had such good field position thanks to superb play by the offense and defense. ↵

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↵3. JoePa deserves it. Penn State was shorted a shot at the national title in 1994 with an undefeated team, and this would provide a mulligan of sorts for the legendary coach, completing a dream season and allowing the greatest coach of his generation to retire at the top. ↵

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↵Now, the con, sponsored by the Law Firm of Crane, Poole & Schmidt. ↵

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↵1. Penn State has not played anyone of note. The 56th ranked schedule in terms of difficulty will only get weaker when contests like Indiana and Iowa are factored in, placing an undefeated Penn State team below Texas, Texas Tech, Florida, Oklahoma, and even Ohio State for the year in terms of strength of schedule. ↵

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↵(For fun, please note that current No. 1 Alabama has the 59th ranked SOS prior to week 11. That brick you just threw over here Tide fans? I’m ducking it as fast as I can.) ↵

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↵2. Down does not begin to describe the Big Ten. Penn State is paying two mortgages for any condemnation of their shot at a national title. They are bearing the burden of Ohio State’s two decisive losses in the last two title games, and also feel the looming weight of the Big Ten’s perceived weakness as a whole. In other words, it’s not you, Penn State, it’s the people you choose to hang out with that may be turning off voters. ↵

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↵3. Who plays in the game has nothing to do with the past. The worst of the arguments here is the sentimental one. Joe Paterno is great. He is old. He is the coach of a very good football team right now. Only one of these should impact the current situation. Attempting to boil up emotion and the ghosts of the 1990s will only make choosing Penn State look even less tenable to critics of the BCS, and ABC isn’t helping: ↵

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↵It is moving, heartstring-tugging, and has nothing to do with the situation at hand ... and yet will undoubtedly impact the voters, who will happily vote Penn State in with their heart and not their heads. The BCS gives you little to work with in terms of evaluating rankings, something Pete Carroll summed up nicely this week: ↵

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↵⇥"What is the criteria of the process? Is it to pick the team that has the best season, that has the season that you like the most and feel best about voting for? Or is it the best team at the end of the year, the team that would win a playoff system if you did have it?" ↵
↵Um ... we don’t know, Pete. None of us know. I do know this, though: the idea of this Penn State team playing a game like they did against Ohio State in the national title game repels me. The last thing I want to watch in the last college football game of the year is a sludgy, ultra-conservative puntfest devoid of creativity or interesting play. (Which the game against the Buckeyes was, though Penn State is not entirely to blame here: Tressel’s playcalling was girdle-tight in the game.) ↵

↵The alternative, though, could be worse: not having Penn State in the game defies the only shreds of logic left in the fabric of the BCS. As distasteful as the idea of Penn State in the title game may be to me, taking the last bit of reason away from the increasingly nonsensical BCS would be disastrous. If that happens, just let Fox have the Patriots play a New York Yankees squad in pads for ratings and throw Lingerie Bowl 4 on at halftime. It would make just as much sense as keeping an undefeated major BCS conference champ out of the game, and the ratings would be insane. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.