Thursday, October 01, 2009

No No No

Our auld enemy Mandel had been doing so well and then this thought on Boise State being #5 and the prospect of major conference teams passing them:

Over the rest of the season, Boise faces an indisputably weak schedule including one FCS foe (UC-Davis) and eight other teams ranked between 60th and 105th in's simulated BCS standings. Should they keep winning late into the season and start knocking on the title-game doorstep, we'll witness something else: significant outcry from those who feel the Broncos are undeserving.

However, there's very little precedent for voters suddenly downgrading a team without cause. And contrary to what you might believe, the BCS computers aren't likely to cause the Broncos' undoing. For one thing, they only account for one-third of the overall standings, not to mention an unblemished record goes a long way in the computers' eyes. Last season, both Utah and Boise State actually finished the regular season ranked higher by the computers than the voters. The Broncos may get docked a couple of "style points" should they endure an undue scare against a San Jose State or Idaho, but realistically, the only way they could fail to make up three spots in 10 weeks is if the voters start vaulting other, more "deserving" teams above them following a big win or two.

I'm not sure if Mandel is saying that the prospect of major conference teams vaulting Boise State because of big wins is "without cause." If he is saying that, then Mandel is both insane and violating his statement in December 2006 that the pollsters were not unreasonable in vaulting Florida past idle Michigan:

Carr was 100 percent correct when he pointed out Sunday night: "[Florida] would not have moved ahead of us had USC won its game" It's true. No one would have bothered re-ordering No. 3 and No. 4.

But the pollsters don't operate in a vacuum. They knew exactly what the stakes were when they turned in their ballots, and quite frankly, I don't think they felt comfortable playing God. They didn't feel comfortable relegating a 12-1 SEC champion to the Sugar Bowl based solely on their subjective belief -- check that, their assumption -- that the Gators wouldn't give Ohio State a better game than Michigan did.

If Mandel is OK with the notion of, for example, USC vaulting Boise State if the Trojans win at Oregon, Cal, and Notre Dame, then we have nothing to argue about. However, this paragraph makes me think that Mandel really thinks the former and not the latter:

That said, realistically the Broncos would not take down a Florida or Texas in a championship setting, and there will probably be any number of other teams with better résumés. But the pollsters have set a precedent by ranking Boise this high this soon. If they suddenly turn around at the end of the season and blatantly manipulate the rankings to exclude the Broncos, the BCS is going to have yet another credibility issue on its hands.

How exactly is it "blatant manipulat[ion]" for the voters to reward teams for big wins by placing them over Boise State? Mandel's characterization concerns me because it creates a narrative for the Orrin Hatches of the world to complain when Boise gets put behind teams that defeat quality opponents. The Broncos are like a fantasy football team that has a big total because all of the team's players put up numbers in the Sunday 1 p.m. time slot. Boise has no remaining opportunities to pick up points, whereas other teams (including TCU) have a number of opportunities to impress.

And yes, there is some silliness in me playing the role of Kremlinologist about a writer whom I have previously criticized as a lazy thinker on a number of occasions.


Jesse said...

If TCU and Boise St goes undefeated, don't be surprised if they both end up in at least the top five. If either of the top three start losing, then this thing gets much more interesting. I think what we might be seeing is a backlash from the voters as they express their disdain for the current system. Does that require some bit of assumption on my part, sure it does, but as I don't believe that it's not at least a possible reason.

Personally, I agree with you. The voters have every right to vote teams over Boise St because of the quality of their schedules, but I have a fuzzy line in that those teams should at least be within reasonable reach of the position. I would not agree with a two or three loss team getting voted over an undefeated Boise St for the simple reason that this isn't a flash-in-the-pan, one-hit-wonder Hawai'i team from a couple years ago. This is a Boise St team that goes close to undefeated almost every year and has a solid five or so years worth of history to back it up. Regardless of the teams played, it is very difficult to keep up that level of success on any level. That gets them a little more credit in my book.

Jeff said...

I think Mandel was referring to the public outcry from the non-BCS supporters in that last block quote, and I agree with him. If people generally feel that Boise State isn't good enough to play with the big boys, they should leave them far enough back that they won't need to be passed later by the true contenders. Put another way, voting Boise State as high as No. 4 this early is just asking for trouble if the voters don't really think they're good enough to contend for the title and intend to implement a glass ceiling of #3 or #4 for them.

Btw, i don't think they should ever play in a BCS title game with their sched but I wouldn't have voted them this high either.

Michael said...

Jesse, I agree with you on Boise not being a flash in the pan, but that's just a greater reason why they should be playing more than one challenging game in a season.

Jeff, I don't think it's irrational to have Boise in the top five right now because so many of the national title contenders have not yet been tested as a result of crappy OOC schedules. By the end of November, those contenders will all have played multiple quality opponents, whereas Boise will still be stuck on one big game. At that point, their ranking will be hard to justify.

Jeff said...

I'm not saying it's irrational to have Boise in the Top 5, just a bad decision if the voters are hoping to avoid a huge credibility attack from the Orrin Hatches of the world. Moving Boise State up, then bouncing them because of strength of schedules plays into the hands of the BCS busters/critics. (To be clear, I think the BCS busters are crazy but that's beside the point.)

Jesse said...

Oh, no doubt Michael. I firmly believe that every team should go out and schedule the best competition possible every year, but I also can't blame them for playing the system to the best of their ability. In the current system, looks matter more than substance 90% of the time. That's just the way it work, and has historically worked, so maybe Boise St knows that if they were to go out and schedule tougher competition, or more than one tough opponent, then they risk hurting themselves more than helping. They end up with another UGA game, get crushed, and get overlooked the rest of the year even if they win out because the impression was made early in the minds of the voters.

So, I don't blame them for playing the system to their favor. Some years it works wonders for them, some it doesn't. All things being equal, they don't get into a MNC game regardless of where they are ranked currently. If the top teams start dropping games, then I'm not sure you can justify them being left out.