Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ten Years of BCS: 2000

The Guru's Note: Beginning in June, the Guru will publish a review of each of the 10 seasons since the Bowl Championship Series came into existence in 1998. In this series -- Ten Years of BCS -- the Guru will examine the results from these seasons -- who got lucky and who got robbed, what could've been, what should've been and other controversies of the day. The series will appear weekly leading up to the 2008 season.


After two years of relative calm, controversy exploded on the BCS in Year 3. For the first time, a team's presence in the BCS title game was called into question. And the criticism went unabated even after an undefeated champion was crowned.

But if anything, this was a self-inflicted wound.

Bowing more to an ignorant media than any real pressure from public opinion, the BCS drastically changed its formula to retroactively make amends for an outcome it was powerless to change. Instead of defending its method and holding its ground, the BCS capitulated. This knee-jerk reaction would bring far more serious consequences in the years to come and compromise its claim to legitimacy in the system's formative years.

Oklahoma finished the 2000 regular season as the only undefeated team and its No.1 ranking was undisputed. But Florida State, despite ranking No. 3 in both the AP and coaches polls, leapfrogged No. 2 Miami in the final BCS standings to earn a date with the Sooners in the Orange Bowl.

The media went berserk, more so than even Miami coach Butch Davis. The credibility of BCS computers was called into question because it was the computers' preference for the Seminoles that carried the day. The main argument was this: Since both Miami and Florida State each had one loss, and the Hurricanes beat the Seminoles on the field, how could Florida State be ranked ahead of Miami?

The BCS panicked big time. Changes were promised and then carried out in the offseason. The computer lineup was reshuffled to de-emphasize margin of victory. And a dubious "quality win" criteria was added to the formula -- as if the existing arrangement wasn't convoluted enough.

But the BCS should've responded ith: "What's the problem?" and vigorously defended the system.

Florida State was a worthy No. 2 team. If you lined up FSU and Miami side-by-side, plenty could've been made in the Seminoles' favor:

1. Strength of Schedule: Florida State and Miami ranked Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, in the strength of schedule compartment of the BCS standings. But upon further examination, that was laughable. (the SoS, parroted from the RPI that the NCAA uses for its basketball selections, would prove to be the most destructive part of the formula -- but more on that later in the series.) Florida State played in a tougher conference (ACC)- than Miami (Big East). Its non-conference games consisted of Louisville, Brigham Young, Florida and Miami. The 'Canes played I-AA McNeese State, Louisiana Tech, Washington and FSU, plus Big East cupcakes such as Rutgers and Temple.

2. Losses: Florida State's lone loss was to Miami, 27-24, at the Orange Bowl on Oct. 7. The Seminoles rallied from a 17-0 halftime deficit to take a 24-20 lead late in the game, only to lose on a Ken Dorsey-to-Jeremy Shockey pass with 46 seconds left. The 'Canes' only defeat was a 34-29 loss at Washington on Sept. 9.

3. The Washington Factor: If head-to-head results were so paramount, then maybe Washington should've been ranked ahead of Miami. After all, the Huskies beat Miami and also only lost once -- a 23-16 defeat at two-loss Oregon.

4. Margin of Victory: If Washington was discounted because it won lots of close games -- eight of its 11 games were decided by seven or fewer points -- then the fact that Florida State won its games, against a considerably tougher schedule, by a wider margin than Miami (38.9 vs. 30.4) should not have been overlooked. And the computers didn't.

5. Historic Precedent: Even before the birth of BCS, there had been several instances that a team was ranked ahead of another despite losing head-to-head and possessing the same record. In 1993, Florida State finished ahead of Notre Dame in both polls even though the Irish won, 31-24, at South Bend. In 1978, USC finished second to Alabama (11-1) in the AP poll even though the Trojans (12-1) beat the Tide, 24-14, in Birmingham, Ala.

See, the body of evidence is pretty strong in the Seminoles' favor. Their presence in the BCS championship game was easily defensible. That they laid an near-egg in an ugly 13-2 loss to Oklahoma is immaterial. And that Miami defeated a Florida team in the Sugar Bowl -- a team that the 'Noles walloped -- is irrelevant.

And one more thing: Even if today's BCS formula, which gives two-thirds of its weight to the human polls, were applied to the 2000 season, you'd still end up with the same result. Florida State would've finished second, ahead of Miami (1.1093 vs. 1.1025).

Final BCS Standings: 1. Oklahoma, 2. Florida State, 3. Miami (Fla.), 4. Washington.

Alternative Methods:

* Using present day BCS formula: 1. Oklahoma, 2. Florida State.
* Using human polls only: 1. Oklahoma, 2. Miami (Fla.)
* Plus-One: Oklahoma vs. Washington; Florida State vs. Miami (Fla.).


* Notre Dame windfall: The Fiesta Bowl passed on four teams ahead of Notre Dame in the BCS standings to take the two-loss No. 10 Irish. Virginia Tech, ranked No. 5 with its only loss to Miami, fell just outside of the Kansas State-mandate and was ignored. Three other two-loss teams were also swept aside -- Oregon (out because two other Pac-10 teams were already taken), Kansas State (they're pretty used to this by now) and Nebraska. The Huskers also had a beef because they had defeated Notre Dame in South Bend, 27-24, earlier in the season. This occurred at a time when the Irish received a windfall of $13 million for a BCS bowl appearance -- as opposed to today's more balanced payouts. Notre Dame was promptly exposed as a fraud as it was annihilated by Dennis Erickson's Oregon State Beavers, 41-9.

BCS formula review: No change to the formula was made between the 1999 and 2000 seasons. And that's about to change, as the formula would be tweaked or overhauled in four of the next five years.

Analysis: The changes to the BCS formula prior to the 2001 season would prove to be simply reactionary and solved nothing. And while an argument may be stated on Miami's behalf, the results of the bowl games really made a case for Washington. The Huskies went 7-1 in easily the toughest conference in 2000. They beat Purdue in the Rose Bowl; and bowl wins by Oregon State and Oregon gave the Pac-10 three teams in the top seven in the final AP poll. The BCS was rocked by its first real crisis and another one would erupt the following season.


Anonymous said...

The 2000 Washington-Miami game was played in Seattle, not at the Orange Bowl.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you're correct. The error has been fixed. Thanks.