Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Just Say No (to the BCS)

I was going to write a post about all the fallacies behind the BCS system, foremost among them the prominence of the sham that is the coaches' poll (Does Urban Meyer have a solid opinion on whether TCU is a better or worse team than Virginia Tech? Goodness knows that if he does, that's hardly what Florida is paying him for) and the simply ridiculous restriction on the computer rankings disallowing any margin-of-victory component.

Fortunately, however, Bill James has done my work for me. Money quote: "The only role that the computer rankings play in this is that they're there to take the fall when the system doesn't work—and it doesn't work most of the time."

And here's why the system doesn't work most of the time: It can't. There is no way that in a normal season any system, algorithm, or panel can identify the two teams most worthy of playing for the national championship, because in most seasons at least three and sometimes five teams have equally-valid claims to a title-game berth. The only times a solid one-versus-two is possible is when a "working" system is not needed: Think Southern California and Texas in 2005, or Miami and Ohio State in 2002. When there is controversy (Auburn/USC/Oklahoma in 2004 as just one example), the system is bound to fail. Consistently identifying the Annointed Two is something the BCS, regardless of its setup, just cannot do. And no wrangling over the relative values of opinion polls and computer rankings can change that.

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