Friday, December 5, 2008

A Split Title for Florida, AP-Style

The BCS race will come down to the last game of the regular season. And we don't mean the Big 12 championship game between Oklahoma and Missouri.

The last few digits on the BCS standings, the ones between a place in the BCS title game and a Fiesta or Sugar Bowl berth, will be decided on the field of Aloha Stadium. In a game between Cincinnati and Hawaii.

This is not an alarmist declaration. It's a fact.

Go to Wes Colley's computer, and play God - and see for yourself. A Hawaii win may be enough to provide safe passage for the Gators as long as they win the SEC championship game. A Cincinnati victory, then Texas just might get its coveted rematch with Oklahoma.

This isn't the first time that a BCS title race is settled in Honolulu, in the very last game of the season. In 2003, a Hawaii loss to Boise State cost USC just enough computer and (the now-defunct) strength-of-schedule points to keep the No. 1-ranked Trojans out of the BCS title game, setting the stage for the first split title in the BCS Era.

We may have an encore in 2008.

If Florida beats Alabama and somehow finishes No. 3 in the BCS standings, then the Gators may very well play for the AP title in the Sugar Bowl. Now ranked No. 2 in the AP poll, Florida is a lock for the top ranking should it topple the Tide in the SEC title game. And no top-ranked team in the AP has ever lost its position after winning its bowl game.

Who will Florida face, in that scenario? The best the Gators could hope for is undefeated Utah in the Urban Meyer Bowl. That matchup also gives the Utes an outside shot of stealing the AP title if they can upset the Gators. If the Fiesta Bowl decides to spoil the party by taking the Utes, then the Sugar would end up with Alabama (in a rematch), Boise State or Cincinnati.

(The Guru has checked with BCS Administrator Bill Hancock and he has confirmed that in the event the BCS title game is an all-Big 12 affair, the Fiesta will have the first two picks.)

But let's deal with how and why Florida might not get to the BCS title game, even with a victory.

Here are the scenarios:

1. Alabama and Oklahoma win: Alabama vs. Oklahoma. There is zero chance for Texas to jump OU, even if the Sooners win a squeaker.

2. Alabama and Missouri win: Alabama vs. Texas. Also a no-doubter.

3. Florida and Missouri win: Florida vs. Texas. Take this to the bank as well.

4. Florida and Oklahoma win: Mathematically the most likely scenario and also the most uncertain. This is where the Cincinnati-Hawaii game comes in. If Hawaii wins, it's 95% Florida-Oklahoma, 5% Texas-Oklahoma. If Cincinnati wins, it's 60% Florida-Oklahoma, 40% Texas-Oklahoma.


Well, let's break down the standings. Florida is now a distant fourth, but should make up significant ground with a win over top-ranked and undefeated Alabama. Where Florida needs to catch up the most is in the computer rankings. This is where they stand now:

  • Oklahoma .980

  • Texas .940

  • Florida . 820

Following scenario No. 4, AND a victory by underdog and host Hawaii, this is the projection:

  • Oklahoma .990

  • Texas .930

  • Florida .930

If the Gators can achieve a dead-heat with Texas, or close to it, then their superior poll rankings will put them over the top.

Following scenario No. 4, AND a victory by favored Cincinnati, this is the projection:

  • Oklahoma 1.000

  • Texas .940

  • Florida .910

That's where it gets complicated, and the voters will wield the hammer. The question is, do they know how to use it?

If the voters defect to Florida for the top-ranking, en masse on both polls, then the Gators will be in. But if they divide the votes three ways between Florida, Texas and Oklahoma, then the Gators would be in trouble. Furthermore, if some of the voters are trying to mete out their own justice in the Big 12 tiebreaker post ex facto, putting Texas ahead of Oklahoma on their ballots, then they'll only hurt ... Florida.

The Gators need the voters to put the Sooners in as a solid No. 2, creating some distance between themselves and Texas. They also want voters to put USC in the top 3 to further wedge down the Longhorns. So when it comes to the Big 12 title game, Florida wants an OU blowout so the Sooners can siphon off more votes from Texas.

Florida is already No. 2 in the Harris poll, so room for improvement there is less dramatic. The Gators need to - and should - finish No. 1 there with a victory over Alabama, and then they'd hope for a 70- to 100-point gap between themselves and Texas.

The coaches poll is where it gets tricky. The Gators are No. 4 there right now. They need to make a quantum leap there. If they finish behind Texas in that poll, they'd be in big trouble. A virtual three-way tie doesn't help, either. They need at least half of the 61 coaches put them No. 1 - and the rest to either split their votes between OU and UT, if not outright favor OU - to git 'er done.

All that illustrates just how important the Cincinnati-Hawaii game will be. Florida fans might want to stay up a little later to sleep a little easier. They can hope for the Bearcats, a freshly-minted BCS bowl team, to spend a little more time lost in the sights and sounds of Waikiki than worry about the resurgent Warriors. After starting the season 1-3, Hawaii has won six of eight - including the last three - to become bowl-eligible.

Longhorns fans, on the other hand, would want Hawaii to feel self-satisfied with the turnaround and be exposed once again by a BCS conference power, as it did in the disastrous Sugar Bowl last year. Otherwise, the AP title may be all Texas has to hope for.

With so much on the line, then, it's imperative for you to know whom to root for, and how much. So here's the breakdown:

Alabama - Roll Tide.

Oklahoma - Boomer Sooner.

Texas - If Alabama wins, root for Missouri. If Florida is winning, root for a close game. If Florida wins, root for Missouri, or at least a close game. And Cincinnati.

Florida - Go Gators, of course. In the Big 12 game, if Mizzou isn't going to pull it out, then you want OU to pour it on. And of course, Hawaii.

And be sure to say Mahalo if the Warriors do pull it out.


The Guru's projected BCS bowl games -

  • BCS championship: Oklahoma vs. Florida

  • Rose Bowl: USC vs. Penn State

  • Fiesta Bowl: Texas vs. Utah

  • Sugar Bowl: Alabama vs. Ohio State

  • Orange Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech

P.S. And here's the Texas AP scenario: If OU wins a close one over Florida, the 'Horns may potentially claim the AP crown if they can stay ahead of the Sooners in the AP poll this week. They are only 8 points ahead in the latest poll. Of course, this gives Utah a chance as well.


Anonymous said...

Why on earth would the fiesta bowl take Utah over Ohio State? Utah will travel fine, but no one really cares about them. I think Utah is a better team than Ohio State and I'm tired of seeing them get throttled in a BCS game, but their national appeal is too much to ignore. By the way, nice job breaking this down.

Anonymous said...

This is the fault of the Big 12. If they had a legit way to sort out their tie, then the voters would not be conflicted. The BCS was designed to find the top 2 teams in the country, not to find a conference champion. If Florida misses out after a win against Alabama the Big 12 will be at fault and it will be too big of a travesty for the BCS to save face.

Anonymous said...

Usually your breakdown is inciteful. Unfortunately, this is just sensationalistic fodder. There is no chance for Texas with Oklahoma and Florida wins. All the behind the scenes jockying for position that went on last week will go away this week. Everyone knew last week was their one chance to get Texas in the conference championship game. This week when their votes will be public (unlike last week) the people who put Texas unreasonably high (first place? Really?) will undoubtedly change their ballots. It will be Florida Oklahoma by a landslide likely. The only suprise will be if it is even close. The Hawaii game is irrelevant in the absolute outcome. It will only make a difference in the margin.

Richard said...


Same post as last week with computer numbers this time.

I'm a Gator alum, but frankly I think your computer averages are too high for the Gators and they need more help than you suggest.

I've got UF at somewhere between .870 - .890 if they win tomorrow.

In the 4 CPU's that count, they'll pass bama in 3. The other one is apparently placing a premium on the quality of the loss and UF has the lowest ranked loss of the top 4team.

UF will pass Utah and Texas Tech in 1-2 CPUs each. Some CPU's place a premium on being undefeated so Utah can't be touched in those.

UF will not pass OU or Texas in any CPU. For the most part OU/Tex are ahead of bama already. I don't see them dropping down.

I also see texas passing bama in the one relevant CPU where it trails bama.

So you see UF/Tex even at .930, I see Tex .950 and UF .880. Huge difference.

This BCS stuff is your deal and you surely know way more about the computers than I do so on reflection, your numbers are probably better.

Any chance you can provide projections for each of the 6 CPU's??


Richard said...

Hi Guru,

I went to the Colley Matrix link you provided. Pretty cool.

I'm still a little skeptical about extrapolating Colley Matrix data to the other CPU's.

Each CPU has it's own formula and I hope you are not using Colley for extrapolation.

Of the 4 CPU's that count for UF, Colley is the highest (4th place), while the other 3 have UF in 6th place.

If you go on the Colley site and play "god" you're probably going to get a much better number than what the CPU's in aggregate will ultimately give you.

Are you coming up with that .930 for UF on Colley only or do you have math for the others as well?

You know, if we beat bama...that should be good enough. If we miss the BCS...screw em.

The Guru said...

Richard: I did not extrapolate all the computer rankings off Colley, that would be foolhardy - as they all have their own idiosyncrasies.

I use a system that allows me to come up with educated estimates on how the computers will behave. My projection is that Florida will finish somewhere between .930 and .900, depending on how some of the other games would go.

I know this doesn't make Florida fans feel at ease, but I think the projections are pretty right on. I stand by the statement of the Hawaii game - a Warriors win would just about lock it up for the Gators.

But they have to beat 'Bama first.

Richard said...

Yeah...beating bama....that's a big if w/ half the D-line and Percy on crutches.

Not sure where y'all are watching, but you'll hear me whooping it up or moaning here in sunny California.

Go Gators!

PS - Your projections make me feel better, not worse, Guru. You show UF doing better than my guesstimation. I'd take a .930 in a heartbeat!!

Adam said...

I've got an idea... How about sending the best two teams to the NC game! Give us Oklahoma vs. Texas rematch.

The SEC is not that impressive when you compare to what the Big 12 South alone offers. It is upsetting that because Alabama is so grossly overrated, Florida has a good chance to jump a better team (Texas).

The computers have it right, it is the heavily weighted human factor that is screwing the best teams!

IMO, Alabama shouldn't be ranked higher than 6!

Anonymous said...

This is NOT college football, this is PhD. level mathematics - What a REAL joke the BCS has been (and still is) . . .

Anonymous said...

Reading on your take on things I agree with a lot of it. Seems though this is based on giving Florida the #1 ranking tomorrow in the polls. In my opinion watching the games over the past 5 weeks or so it would be hard to justify anyone putting Florida over Oklahoma after watching both play. Should Florida finish #2 in both polls as I feel they should and Texas remain #3 how would that impact the formula.

Jon Terry said...

I'm an Ohio State fan, and I believe Boise State deserves a bowl game. They have blown out everyone, while the Buckeyes have struggled in games they seriously shouldn't have (Ohio, USC, Purdue, Wisconsin). In addition, BSU is higher ranked than tOSU. Why are they undeserving of a BCS berth?

Thomas said...

Texas - Ou rematch!!!!!

Anonymous said...

So BCS 1, 2 and 3 will all have one loss. And Texas beat Oklahoma. Seems fair.

Anonymous said...

Ah, the planets have nearly aligned. An all Big 12 championship game may very well be the death knell to the BCS. Especially with the game being on FOX, I'm sure ESPN will blast that result for the next month.

Come on pollsters, give us the matchup that nobody wants!

Richard said...

response to question about how things will work out if UF is voted # 2 and texas # 3.

A: depends on the distribution.

If every voter had OU # 1, Uf # 2 and texas # 3, uf would play ou for the title.

If OU got all of the number 1 votes and UF had 60% of the #2 votes UF would be # 2 in the polls but Texas would go to the big show.

UF needs a sizeable gap over UT with the voters to overcome the computer deficit.

For what it's worth, I think the Gator's performance today in a great game will put them over the top with the voters.

I have a hard time believing that more than a handful of voters would put texas in the top 2.