Dealing with mid-major backlash, UF's BCS title shot and more (cont.)
Stewart, help alleviate my fears. I am very concerned that the Gators are going to be left out of the BCS championship if they beat Alabama. (A big if, I might add.) With both Oklahoma and Texas ahead of them in the BCS standings, will an SEC championship victory be enough to jump ahead of Texas? Please talk me off the ledge.
You're not alone in your paranoia, Greg. I've been getting flooded with e-mails just like yours, not to mention I work with a diehard Florida fan who's glued to the Gators' message boards and keeps me posted on the latest chatter. Listen to me, and listen to me closely: YOU HAVE NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT.
I understand the concern. In the current standings, there's a decent-sized gap between No. 3 Texas (.9223) and No. 4 Florida (.8851). In particular, the 'Horns are a full three points ahead of the Gators in the computers (2.5 to 5.5), and it's quite possible that even a win over No. 1 Alabama while Texas sits idle won't be enough to close that particular gap.
But you have to remember, the human voters constitute two-thirds of the BCS formula -- and the voters, as we've seen, have short-attention spans. As much time and energy as we've exerted over the past two weeks discussing the Texas-Oklahoma Big 12 spat, it's going to be old news come Saturday night. The last thing the voters are going to see before they cast their ballots is Florida-Alabama, and if the Gators prevail, I can't imagine a scenario where the voters wouldn't immediately react by vaulting Florida as high as possible -- just as they did the night Oklahoma stomped Texas Tech.
Also, don't forget, the voters showed in 2006 with Ohio State and Michigan that they're extremely reticent to set up a BCS Championship rematch, and will probably be even more so after what happened to the Buckeyes that year. As fun as it's been to watch the Big 12 this year, it would be presumptuous to assume that the top two teams in the country play in that conference without actually watching one of them take on the top team from another league.
If Cincinnati loses at Hawaii on Saturday, does that affect computer rankings enough to put Oklahoma (which beat the Bearcats) out of the national championship game?
Funny you should mention that ...
Remember that Florida co-worker I mentioned? Tuesday morning, he showed me an interesting discovery made by some of his paranoid cohorts. On the Web site for the Colley Matrix (one of the six BCS computer ratings), he has a tool where you can "play god" -- i.e., plug in future results and see what happens. So he plugged in Florida beating Alabama, Oklahoma beating Missouri and USC beating UCLA, and here's what came out:
1. OKLAHOMA (12-1) 0.94144
2. TEXAS (11-1) 0.94002
3. FLORIDA (12-1) 0.93732
Then, he threw in Hawaii beating Cincinnati. Mind you, not only did Oklahoma beat Cincinnati, but Florida beat Hawaii. The envelope, please:
1. FLORIDA (12-1) 0.94088
2. TEXAS (11-1) 0.93956
3. OKLAHOMA (12-1) 0.93810
Yep -- that one game caused Oklahoma and Florida to swap spots. You've gotta love the Warriors -- they might not play in the BCS this year, but they can still make their presence felt.
(That said, note the disclaimer at the top of the page: "Other games played in a given week will contribute very significantly to the rankings of all teams. As such, results here are absolutely unofficial.")
Stewart, While many Longhorns are obviously disappointed about the way the Big 12 South race ended, assuming that Oklahoma goes on to win the BCS title game, is there any realistic possibility that we could have a split title with Texas winning the AP poll, a la USC in 2003?
The only way I could see that happening is if Texas was No. 1 in the AP poll going into the bowls, as USC was in both polls that season. Seeing as Alabama and Florida are currently 1-2, obviously, that's not possible. That said, Texas may be No. 2 going into bowl season (though my suspicion is that now that the Big 12 tiebreaker scenario is done with, Oklahoma will move back ahead of Texas if it wins this weekend) and Oklahoma No. 3, but, much like what happened to Auburn in 2004, the 'Horns won't have the benefit of beating an elite opponent in a bowl game like the Sooners will.
So basically, no, I don't see it happening. If you're a Texas fan, you shouldn't be rooting for Oklahoma to win the BCS title. You should be rooting for the Sooners to lose to Missouri this weekend.
Stewart, many pollsters, including you, are picking Florida to beat Alabama this weekend. Yet you all still rank Alabama as No. 1 just because they are undefeated, even though Florida is supposedly playing the best football in the country. Many pollsters also say Oklahoma should be ranked ahead of Texas because they are playing better football right now. How can you have it both ways? This double-standard definitely cost Texas some points in the BCS.
In the official guidelines sent to every AP voter before the season, we are told to "base your vote on performance, not reputation or preseason speculation." In other words, my job as a pollster is to rank the teams based on their performances to date -- not conjecture or speculation about possible future results.
Based on that criteria, Alabama has earned its status as the No. 1 team in the country. The Tide went undefeated in one of the nation's top conferences; Florida lost to Ole Miss. Are the Gators playing "better" right now than the Tide? Possibly -- but who am I to say? Alabama hasn't done anything wrong. Yes, I'm picking Florida to beat the Tide, but I'm not exactly a master prognosticator (I'm batting about 60 percent in the weekly Pick 'em Challenge), and the SEC title game is a virtual toss-up in my mind.
As for the Texas/Oklahoma "double standard" -- that's precisely why I kept the Longhorns above the Sooners. They have the same record, one team beat the other, and at the end of the day, I failed to see any discernible evidence to suggest that Oklahoma is "playing better football right now" than Texas. Apparently, others saw it differently.