With college football's premier minds meeting this week in Chicago trying to iron out changes to the sport, the topic of transparency of the polls is foremost on the agenda. With so much riding on the end of season computer rankings, and with so much of what goes into those mired in secrecy, an attempt to shed a little more light on the subject for the fans' sake is being attempted. Is CFB merely paying lip service to the most aggravating aspect of champion determination or are they bound and determined to make a difference?
During the BCS era, burdened with the simplest of tasks of merely matching numbers one and two in a bowl game, the end of year computer rankings have provided many of the WTF moments we've ever seen in the sport. At least with human voters, there's rationale and bias to trace back to, but with cold, hard computer programs, it's a bit harder to see the logic. I'm reminded of what a wise man/machine once said: "To err is human. To really foul things up requires a computer."
A quick look back reveals my Top 5 biggest end of year computer mistakes in the BCS era, identified by the regular season.
1) 2003, Oklahoma over USC to play LSU in the BCS title game. Probably the granddaddy of computer mistakes, the one that spanked the notion of a conference, schmonference title being a prerequisite to play in the BCS title game. The previously ranked #1 Sooners got whacked by 28 points in the Big 12 CCG by Kansas State, yet still had enough BCS computer points to finish at #1, where they met LSU for the title game. Oklahoma got whacked again, and the Trojans won, giving us the first split BCS crown ever as USC won the AP title. Oklahoma's folly flew in the face of conventional wisdom about winning your conference and not losing late being imperative to securing a title game shot, something not seen again until 2011.
2) 2001, Nebraska over Colorado to play Oklahoma in the BCS title game. The Cornhuskers lost their last game of the season to Colorado, 62-36, and the Buffaloes won the Big 12. With Colorado's two losses to Nebraska's one, the Huskers ended up a few hundreds of a point ahead of the Buffs in the BCS poll even though they were ranked fourth in both human polls. Nebraska lost convincingly to
Oklahoma Miami for the Hurricanes'' only BCS crown.
3) 1998, Ohio State over Kansas State for a BCS bowl birth. The first year of the BCS, and the only game on my list not involving entry into the title game, third ranked K-State got passed over for a BCS games by lower ranked Ohio State (4th) and (8th) ranked Florida. Immediately following, the implementation of the Kansas State rule guaranteed any third ranked team a shot in a BCS bowl.
4) 2004, Oklahoma over Auburn in the BCS title game against USC. Of all the misdirection you've seen from the pundits that wish to decry Auburn's poor OOC schedule that year, including playing Div II Citadel, the one thing you never hear is that Auburn played four teams ranked in the top 15 in the regular season and CCG while USC played two and the Sooners one. And Auburn only had to schedule the Citadel after they were dropped by Bowling Green, who had to make room on their schedule to play Oklahoma of all teams. The Sooners got massacred by the Trojans, leaving Auburn #2. Considering USC eventually vacated the 2004 national title, one must wonder when Auburn will eventually step up and declare the 2004 national title as their own.
5) 2011, Alabama over Oklahoma State in the title game against LSU. You'd think CFB would have learned it's lesson about not elevating teams that didn't only win it's conference, but it's division as well. Regardless, the formula still ignored those facts to provide a rematch of the Nov 5th game from earlier in the season. While technically Alabama did nothing wrong by accumulating the requisite points, the damage done to the credibility of the computer rankings by allowing a team to end run the system will serve as a hot debate topic for the foreseeable future. Expect the Alabama Rule to be ironed out very soon.