Saturday, November 15, 2008

The ACC and bowl games

The ACC's top team has 3 losses. However, in part thanks to this parity, it is still possible that all teams achieve bowl eligibility. Even in the worse case scenario, 9 teams will be eligible for the post season. (The SEC is the only other conference that could potentially equal that feat - though it would require some major upsets.) 
The mass eligibility is reflecting in part by non-conference records. No team has a losing non-conference record.  However, the cupcake padding is apparent, with teams like Georgia Tech playing 2 IAA schools.  And non-conference wins against ranked opponents?  Well, Cal was ranked 23 at the time they lost to Maryland. Though it doesn't look like any team from another conference that lost to an ACC team is currently ranked. And with the three ranked ACC teams losing this week, it remains possible that no team beaten by an ACC will be ranked. (However, its likely that a couple new ACC teams will creep in to the bottom of the rankings.)
This bowl season should be fairly lucrative for the ACC. With enough teams to fill all 9 bowl tie-ins plus a BCS bowl, they should be able to maximize their revenue. An interesting statistic may be (post season revenue)/(total BCS rankings). The mountain west could very well end the season with 3 teams ranked higher than any ACC team, and yet be shut out of BCS and New Years bowls.  The MWC tie-ins would likely result in some great snoozers against mediocre Pac-10 teams. (If by some miracle, UCLA beats Arizona State and USC, we could get the 4th BYU-UCLA game in 2 seasons)  If Boise State and Utah both win out, Boise State's reward would be a home game against a lower tier ACC team. (Great fun!) At least they could take some solace in that the team they are playing probably beat the team playing in the big BCS bowl.
Why does the ACC get this special treatment? They have some teams that won some championships a few years back. Florida State and Miami both have fairly recent championships.  Clemson, Georgia Tech and Maryland have also won championships in the past.  The Mountain West also has past champions in BYU and TCU, but the most recent is 1984. However, this would favor the Mountain West over the Big East, where Pittsburgh has the most recent championship in 1981 (1976 if you stick only with major polls).  Syracuse and Rutgers can also claim championships, but you have to go back to 1869 to find Rutgers' most recent one. The conferences seem to benefit more from inertia, than current progress. The mediocrity of the ACC actually helps it look like a good conference - after all, they have no absolute bottom-feeders like those teams in Washington. But, it does make for some less than desirable games.
We are stuck with an annoying hybrid situation that seems only intent on maximizing television revenue. It would be more satisfying to go back to an old bowl system. A few major bowls. Mostly on New Years. Take some of the conference champions along with some of the better teams. There is no pretext about championship.  If a team really wanted to prove it was the best, it would have to go thump some major powers in non-conference play, then win its conference. This would eliminate the cupcake beatings to pander to the polls. If we are going to use some magic formula to determine the champions, why do we even bother playing bowl games?  Just plug some numbers in to the formula and voila, a champion emerges. 

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