Addressing your postseason concerns and much more
Posted: Wednesday December 5, 2007 3:11PM; Updated: Wednesday December 5, 2007 6:13PM
I have a special folder down the left-hand side of Outlook reserved for "Mailbag" e-mails. This is where your e-mails are automatically forwarded. The little number in parentheses next to the icon tells me how many unopened messages await my attention.
In a typical week, there are usually about 200-300 unopened e-mails sitting there at any given time. If I wrote something that struck a particular nerve that week, maybe the number swells to 500. Whatever the case, come Monday night or Tuesday morning, I do my best to read through all of them and pick the best of the bunch for this column.
When I went to bed at about 4 a.m. Sunday, after the Washington-Hawaii game, the number was at about 250. By the time I next logged on around 2 p.m. Sunday, it had swelled to 888. As of this writing on Tuesday morning, it had reached 1,315 -- and that doesn't include the several hundred I read along the way.
Needless to say, I was not able to read all of your e-mails this week. I apologize, and I feel bad because I'm sure there is no shortage of insightful, impassioned tomes in there deserving of attention.
What I'd really like to do is print out all 1,315 messages, make six copies of each and send them to the BCS commissioners, so they can see first-hand how their constituents -- the people who watch and buy tickets to their games -- feel about the current state of the BCS. (Don't worry, I'd be nice about it. I'd even include a little "Seasons Greetings" card on top).
Alas, the following, random sample will have to suffice.
Stewart: All of this "plus-one" talk is great, but how quickly we forget the 2005 season. What happens when two teams clearly are head-and-shoulders above the rest. In 2005, would it have made sense to have USC play a 9-2 Ohio State team and have Texas play a 10-1 Penn State team? The "plus-one" would have been unnecessary in '05.
That's a valid criticism of the plus-one. And obviously, a plus-one probably would not be enough to appease everybody this year. But we've now gone through 10 seasons under the BCS, in which there have been only three occasions -- 1999 (Florida State-Virginia Tech), 2002 (Miami-Ohio State) and the aforementioned 2005 -- in which there were two, consensus top teams (all of which were also undefeated entering the game). That's a 30 percent effectiveness rate. That's not good.
Meanwhile, this is really the first season of the BCS era where more than four teams can legitimately make a case for the title game. That leaves six other seasons -- or 60 percent of the time -- in which a plus-one (or four-team playoff) would have sufficed. Yes, in some of those years, there were only three claimants (like Ohio State, Michigan and Florida last year), so there would have been disputes over which should be the fourth team. It goes without saying, however, that you'd rather have uncertainty over No. 4 than over No. 1 or 2.
So the question you have to ask yourself is, would making two teams play an unnecessary extra game 30 percent of the time be a worthy sacrifice to help resolve the other 60 percent of disputed cases? To me, it's a no-brainer. Unfortunately, Tom Hansen and Jim Delany do not share that opinion. They'd rather stick with the 30-percent-effective system so as to ensure 9-3 Illinois can go to the Rose Bowl.
Hey, Stewart, why doesn't the BCS make a rule that states you have to win your conference championship to be in the BCS championship? This seems to be the consensus of the voters seeing as though it is LSU and not Georgia in the national championship.
To me, the issue was not as simple as "Georgia did not win its conference, therefore it should not play for the national title." In fact, if Tennessee had beaten LSU, it might not have become an issue at all. I can't speak for other voters, but where the conference-title issue came into play for me was in comparing two closely ranked contenders, LSU and Georgia, head to head. There was simply no rational justification for choosing the Bulldogs over a team that not only won Georgia's conference, but in doing so beat the very same team, Tennessee, that the Dawgs lost to by three touchdowns. And if that wasn't enough, LSU had that 48-7 win over Virginia Tech -- a team that wound up finishing No. 3 in the BCS standings -- on its resume, whereas Georgia's best non-conference win came against 7-5 Georgia Tech.
I also moved Oklahoma ahead of Georgia on my final ballot, not specifically because it won its conference but because the Sooners had just beaten the No. 1 team in the country by three touchdowns. Obviously, playing in a conference-title game gave them the opportunity to do that, whereas Georgia missed out on its chance to make a similar statement, but Oklahoma would have jumped up the rankings in any week with a victory like that.
Furthermore, I don't think you can put in a blanket rule like the one you suggested, because there are definitely scenarios in which a non-champion would merit selection for the title game. I'll give you a perfect hypothetical involving this year's teams. Let's say Missouri had beaten Oklahoma the first time they played and was 11-0 headed into that Kansas game. Let's say the Jayhawks lost somewhere along the way and were 10-1. And let's say Kansas beat Missouri to win the division title but then got housed by the Sooners in the Big 12 title game. Are you sure you're going to want to exclude 11-1 Missouri from the conversation while including an 11-2 Oklahoma team the Tigers would have beaten?
As long as conferences are going to continue creating clunky divisions and crazy tiebreakers, not to mention the fact each one decides it champion differently than the others, I don't think it's a good idea to automatically eliminate anyone that doesn't win its conference. It goes without saying, however, that such teams are usually going to be at a disadvantage.
You've often said that putting together a ballot is tough, and I can understand that, but you've done something the last two weeks that requires explanation. Why put Georgia fourth last week if, in your mind, they didn't deserve to be in the top two if Missouri and West Virginia lost (which they of course did)? If the Dawgs were already eliminated in your book, shouldn't you have just had them lower last week instead of having teams leapfrog them this week? It seems like a lot of people did the same thing, I just wanted to find out the rationale.
As I've said in the past, filling out a Top 25 ballot in any given week is basically like providing a snapshot of the season at that given point in time. When I'm ranking the teams in Week 3, Week 6, Week 11, whenever, I'm not really giving much thought to what it might look like at the end. It's impossible. There are too many different scenarios left to play out, and quite frankly, you don't have the time to sit down late Saturday night and re-evaluate every team's entire body of work to date.
What we've seen the past two seasons, however, and what I myself did as well (even though my ballot played no role in the BCS standings), is that voters are treating that all-important final ballot differently than the previous 13. They're actually sitting down, thinking about the ramifications of their vote and saying, OK -- who do I really think are the two most deserving teams, regardless of where I had them a week ago. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: This is a positive development!
For decades, voters just arbitrarily moved teams up when the teams ahead of them lost without putting all that much thought into what they were doing -- and God forbid they actually jumped a team ahead of someone above them without that team losing. If we had followed that practice last year, Michigan, not Florida, would have gone to the title game. And if we had followed it this year, we would have sent a Georgia team to the title game ahead of an LSU team with a far better resume.
I don't know whether the voters got it right or wrong, but at least they put some actual thought into it. And judging by the reader poll we ran on SI.com on Sunday, in which a runaway 40 percent of you chose the Tigers as the "team that should play Ohio State," it also seems, most importantly, that they chose the team the public wanted to see in the game.