First BCS standings of 2012 show inherent flaws in current system
Florida/Oregon debate boils down to style vs. substance this early in the season
Tommy Tuberville again beat top-five foe; Mack Brown had more Red River woes
Plus: Kent State's Dri Archer, spreading the field, tribute to Beano Cook, more
Sunday's release of the first BCS standings was bittersweet indeed. Just two years from now, this 14-year-old ritual will be no more. What ever will we do when we no longer have to spend Sundays waiting for a television network to tell us the results of a mathematically bankrupt formula that doesn't truly matter for another seven weeks? Must ... have ... a pecking order.
And this year, we even have a full-blown pseudo-controversy. The first BCS standings mirror the polls in declaring Alabama (6-0), the national leader in every major defensive category, as the No. 1 team. But -- gasp! -- AP and USA Today No. 2 Oregon (6-0), which is outscoring opponents by an average of 52-20, currently ranks at No. 3. Furthermore, the Ducks are only three-thousandths of a point ahead of BCS No. 4 Kansas State.
Looking at each team's schedule, the explanation for the standings is obvious: The BCS computers have discounted the Ducks' competition. And in comparison to the schools ranked behind them, Alabama, which the computers list third, and Oregon, which the computers list sixth, have played barely anyone yet.
Cue: Writers and TV types making tired nerd jokes about the computer programmers who clearly have no business inserting their nerdness into a football discussion. In reality, the computers are simply doing what the proposed playoff selection committee will purportedly do in 2014: weigh the strength of each contender's schedule.
The highpoint of Alabama's slate remains its season-opening rout of Michigan (4-2), which did not crack the first BCS standings. Or perhaps it was the win over its Week 2 opponent, Western Kentucky, which now holds a record of 5-1. 'Bama's first three SEC foes (Arkansas, Ole Miss and Missouri) are a combined 10-11. And that's a certifiable gauntlet compared to Oregon's first six opponents, which combined for seven votes in this week's AP poll (Washington 6, Arizona 1).
If it were possible to somehow clear voters' brains of all preseason perceptions and recent history, and if those voters were to then sit down and rank teams based solely on their résumés to date, two other unbeatens, Florida and Notre Dame, would in fact rank ahead of Alabama and Oregon. Two more, Kansas State and Oregon State, would come in ahead of the Ducks.
On Saturday, the 6-0 Gators, which in an unusual scheduling quirk will wrap up conference play before Election Day, improved to 5-0 in the SEC with a 31-17 win at Vanderbilt. Will Muschamp's team previously notched road victories over 5-1 Texas A&M (No. 18 in the BCS) and 3-3 Tennessee in addition to a 14-6 home win over No. 6 LSU (5-1). And if that's not enough, Florida hosts BCS No. 7 South Carolina (6-1) this Saturday.
The schedule has been similarly demanding for 6-0 Notre Dame, which, with a dramatic 20-13 overtime win against Stanford, now boasts four wins over opponents with winning records. Amazingly, the Irish's second-ranked scoring defense has not allowed an offensive touchdown since Sept. 8, though Cardinal running back Stepfan Taylor may disagree. And Notre Dame's slate only gets more daunting: Road meetings with BCS No. 9 Oklahoma (4-1) and No. 10 USC (5-1) loom before the end of year.
As for Kansas State, the Wildcats currently sit alone in first place atop this year's toughest conference (seven of the 10 Big 12 teams currently appear in the BCS standings), and their Sept. 22 win at Oklahoma looks even more impressive following the Sooners' Red River beatdown of Texas. Next week's trip to Morgantown lost some luster after West Virginia's blowout loss at Texas Tech, but a victory would give the Wildcats two wins over current top-15 foes -- two more than either Alabama or Oregon can count.
The BCS standings pose an age-old question: Style or substance? A playoff selection committee operating like the NCAA basketball committee would look at schools' current résumés and downgrade the Tide and Ducks, just like the BCS computers did. But we're still living in the poll era, where blowouts seem to matter much more than the level of competition, and it's hard to argue with 'Bama and Oregon's dominance. The Tide went to Columbia Saturday and, in a haze of rain and slosh, rushed for 362 yards while limiting the Tigers (now 0-4 in the SEC) to 126 total yards. It's what we've come to expect from a juggernaut that has now held 19 of its past 20 opponents to 14 points or fewer. Oregon's defense is not quite as stingy, but it's pretty darn good. Coordinator Nick Aliotti's group ranks 15th nationally in yards per play (4.55), which is more than formidable enough to complement Oregon's machine-like attack.
The Tide and Ducks do face tougher competition soon. Thursday, Oregon visits 5-1 Arizona State, which barely missed the Top 25 this week. The real heavy lifting comes in November, however, when Chip Kelly and Co. have games against BCS No. 9 USC, No. 20 Stanford (4-2) and No. 8 Oregon State (5-0). If they get through all that, they'll likely partake in a Pac-12 Championship Game rematch with either Arizona State or USC.
Meanwhile, Alabama visits Tennessee this week, followed by an intriguing three-week swing: Oct. 27 against Mississippi State, which should be 7-0 by kickoff, Nov. 3 at LSU and Nov. 10 against Texas A&M. And if the Tide win the SEC West, they'll undoubtedly play another top-10 team in Atlanta. That opponent could very well be Florida, a matchup that -- if the Tide, Gators and Ducks all remain undefeated -- should render any BCS controversy moot anyway.
Still, in an ideal world, we would all just wait until everybody has completed their full schedules before determining which teams have the best cases to play for the title. And the good news is, in two years, none of this will be an issue -- except on ESPN's new Sunday night program: "Selection Committee Countdown."