Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Why Play Alabama and Get Your Head Kicked In?

For Michigan, there's nothing victorious or valiant about playing defending national champion Alabama in JerryWorld to open the season.


All that did was permanently kill Michigan's chances of getting to the BCS title game this season. And that's why most of the national championship contenders settled for the more tasty morsels as the first dish: North Texas, Arkansas State, Murray State, Jacksonville State, Savannah State and Northern Iowa.

Memo to Michigan AD Dave Brandon. When in doubt, always open against a state school or directional school at home (just remember to leave off Appalachian State).

If anything, this week's simulated BCS standings reveal that there is no penalty for playing weak non-conference competition, even if you have to sweat it out in your not-quite-full home stadium. Of all the teams currently in the BCS top 25, only three teams slid more than two spots from the preseason rankings: Michigan, Boise State and Stanford.

Michigan and Boise State (lost at Michigan State) were the only top 25 teams to lose last week - in the only two games matching up top 25 teams. Stanford, which barely got by San Jose State, must be the victim of East Coast bias, since Wisconsin, Georgia and Florida also struggled at home against lesser competition but were little worse for the wear.

This has to be the worst legacy of the BCS era, the vanishing of competitive non-conference matchups. In 1990, two years before the advent of the BCS precursor Bowl Coalition, Florida actually opened the season against Oklahoma State, while Wisconsin faced Cal and Georgia opened against SEC rival LSU, followed by Southern Mississippi. But as the BCS made clear that one loss - even an early-season one - would prove fatal, most teams with national-title aspirations quickly figured out cupcakes must be the way to go.

That's never more evident than in the SEC, with each member required to schedule four non-conference games. Some schools might schedule one tough matchup, sometimes even on the road, but the rest are filled with the dregs of the Sun Belt, Conference USA or FCS paupers looking for fast bucks.

These were the non-conference opponents for the last six national champions, not coincidentally all from the SEC:



jason said...

So this won't actually change with any new system, will it? You'll still want to be in the final four, so you'll still want to not loose to make sure you're in there. Depressing.

The Guru said...

@Jason - Depressing indeed. This only adds 2 more teams into the "playoff" and changes nothing in terms of what's required of a team to get into the "Final Four."