While no one doubts the political reality that Notre Dame is going to the BCS, some commentators are starting to raise questions about whether the bid is justified. I raised questions a couple weeks ago, although that was at a time when it looked like Virginia Tech was in the at-large pool and Miami would win the ACC.
The author "ndoldtown", writing on the website NDNation lays out an impressive array of historical information and schedule-strength breakdown that sheds much light on the selection process--
ALL RELEVANT FACTS SHOW THAT NOTRE DAME IS ENTITLED TO A BCS BID
Some argue that it is unjust for Notre Dame to be invited to the BCS if Oregon is not because Oregon has one fewer loss than Notre Dame. This makes no sense because Notre Dame deserves to be in the BCS on its own merits and, in any event, Notre Dame is not the obstacle to Oregon being in the BCS. Four factors compel the conclusion that there is no credible or consistent argument for claiming that Notre Dame should not be invited to a BCS Bowl. First, if one subscribes to the school of thought that the eight best teams should get the bids, then Notre Dame is deserving based on its inclusion in the top eight of all of the objective third-party rankings relied upon by the BCS and its participating schools; Second, the reason Oregon is not going to the BCS is not because of Notre Dame, but because of agreements made by the Pac Ten and other conferences guaranteeing "conference champion" potential slots for schools other than Notre Dame which -- unlike Notre Dame -- are not top-eight teams, this year it is West Virginia; Third, the argument against Notre Dame lacks integrity and credibility because Oregon, the Pac Ten and the rest of the conferences and every one of their individual members have directly benefitted financially on multiple occasions from their own members getting bowl bids ahead of teams with better records and higher rankings; Fourth, if the conferences would simply agree that the BCS should take the top eight teams Oregon would be in, as would Notre Dame, but in any event, on an absolute basis, Notre Dame is a better team than Oregon, has accomplished more and is more deserving of a bowl bid based based on its accomplishments this year.
1. If the Standard is That The Eight Best Teams Should Go To The BCS, Notre Dame Deserves An Invitation.
If Oregon's argument is that the best teams should go to the BCS, then they have no argument with Notre Dame going, but only with Oregon being excluded. Every accounting of the top eight teams by unbiased third-party sources used by the BCS schools includes Notre Dame. The coaches poll, made up of coaches from every conference, places Notre Dame in the top eight teams in the country. Tellingly, the coaches from every conference have an incentive to vote against Notre Dame in order to help their own conferences and increase the payout to their schools. Notre Dame has no conference brethren who are incented to vote for her. Yet, in this poll in which the voters interests are almost uniformly opposed to Notre Dame, Notre Dame is listed in the top eight teams. The AP poll, filled with writers from across the country places Notre Dame in the top eight. The BCS poll, which combines the human and computer polls places Notre Dame in the top eight teams. If the just thing is for the BCS to include the top eight teams, then Notre Dame should be in and Oregon has no argument with Notre Dame. So why is it that Oregon is not in the BCS?
2. The Reason Oregon is Not Going to The BCS is Not Notre Dame, But The Guaranteed Invite of Conference Champions When They Are Not One of The Eight Best Teams In The Nation.
Oregon is one of the top eight teams in the human polls and the BCS melding of human and computer polls. The reason it is not getting one of the eight slots is not because a Notre Dame team outside the top eight is taking its spot, but because of a deal made by all the conferences -- including the Pac Ten -- to guarantee that their conference champion gets a guaranteed bid whether it are one of the top eight teams in the country or not. If the BCS took the top eight teams, Notre Dame, Oregon and Ohio State would all be in, while West Virginia - rated number eleven - would be out. But West Virginia gets an automatic bid. Thus, the real complaint for Oregon -- if it advocates invitations based only on "merit," meaning inclusion of the top eight teams in the BCS -- is with the BCS system of rewarding conference champions outside of the top eight.
3. The 2005 Notre Dame Team is More Deserving Of A BCS Bid Than At Least One Guaranteed Invitee From Every BCS Conf. Over The Last Six Years.
Given the foregoing, attempting to criticize Notre Dame -- a top eight team -- because Oregon or OSU don't get into the BCS this year is selective, inconsistent and, frankly, unprincipled. The fact is that it is the conferences' demand that their champions -- and not the eight top teams -- be guaranteed BCS bids that has led to this situation of top-eight teams being excluded. This has occurred almost every year without any of the criticism we hear now. This year, Notre Dame is 9-2 and rated in the top eight by every significant rating source. Yet every BCS conference has had a team with lesser credentials (more losses and a lower rank) get a BCS bid based on a contractual deal made by those conferences with the BCS or an individual BCS bowl. To wit: Big Ten (2000 - a three-loss non-top ten Purdue team goes to the Rose Bowl, while both one-loss and top ten Virginia Tech and two-loss and top-ten Nebraska are excluded due to Big-Ten conference champ guaranteed bid); Big East (2004 - three-loss non-top ten Pitt goes to Fiesta Bowl, while one-loss Louisville and two-loss Cal are excluded due to Big East conference champ guaranteed bid); Pac Ten (1999 - three-loss non-top ten Stanford goes to Rose Bowl, while one-loss and top ten Kansas State is excluded from the BCS by the Pac Ten's guaranteed bid); ACC (2002 - four-loss, non-top ten Florida State goes to Sugar Bowl, while two-loss and top ten Texas is excluded due to the ACC's guaranteed bid); SEC (2001 - three-loss LSU goes to Sugar Bowl, while both two-loss and top-ten Oklahoma and Texas are excluded from BCS due to SEC's guaranteed bid); Big 12 (2003 - three-loss Kansas State goes to Fiesta Bowl, while one-loss Miami (Oh) excluded from BCS due to Big Twelve guaranteed bid).
As illustrated above, the argument against Notre Dame this year by Oregon and the Pac Ten is selective, inconsistent and lacks integrity given prior positions and actions. The fact is that when non-top-eight teams with a worse record who happen to be from one of the large conferences squeeze out teams with better records and rankings based on the guaranteed conference bids, other conference members of the school getting the bid do not call it an injustice -- they fall mute. For example, I don't recall Pac Ten schools and officials calling for one-loss Kansas State to be included in the BCS out of a sense of justice in 1999. Oregon and every other Pac Ten school gets money because of deals guaranteeing the invitation of a Pac Ten school to the Rose Bowl over any better qualified teams. Now Oregon may be hurt by the exact agreement from which it has benefitted from in prior years at other teams' expenses when West Virginia gets one of the eight guaranteed BCS slots. Nor did ACC officials claim it was unfair for four-loss FSU to go to the Sugar Bowl in 2002 instead of higher-ranked with a better record Texas). Given this history, it is not consistent for conference members to now object to inclusion in the BCS of a top-eight Notre Dame team with better credentials than their own members have had when they have gotten bids in the last six years. In any event, Oregon has little basis on which to claim as unjust the same type of result from which it has lined its pockets in the past as a Pac Ten member, and it especially has no argument with Notre Dame, which is in the top eight and not benefitting from any "guarantee".
4. Notre Dame is a Better Team and More Deserving Than Oregon.
While I would encourage the Pac Ten to switch its position and advocate that the best eight teams go to the BCS, thus permitting both Oregon and Notre Dame in, it is clear that Notre Dame has accomplished more than Oregon this year. Notre Dame plays a tougher schedule than Oregon according to Sagarin, which rates Notre Dame's schedule 20th and Oregon's 31st. Of course, Sagarin does a true and complete strength of schedule ranking, which includes the records of opponents' opponents. Using the Oregon preferred method of simply adding up wins and losses of opponents, it gets more credit for beating 6-5 Houston than Notre Dame gets for beating 5-6 Tennessee and more credit for beating 8-4 Montana than Notre Dame gets for beating 7-4 Michigan. Using a neutral example, surely nobody would believe that an undefeated Montana is better than a one-loss Michigan. It is just such untoward results that the Sagarin strength of schedule analysis precludes and it is why that -- as opposed to the simple totalling of opponenet wins and losses -- is the preferred way to measure strength of schedule. And that analysis favors Notre Dame as having a tougher shcedule than Oregon by eleven ranks. Alternatively, if, as Oregon suggests, we should ignore strength of schedule and all other factors and only consider whether a team has one more loss than another, then in that case, TCU and Lousiville (both one-loss teams) have equal claim to the BCS with Oregon, and TCU and Lousiville should get BCS bids over Georgia if it wins the SEC championship game. But of course nobody is making that argument, nor would Oregon advocate it.
Other factors of significance: Even with its tougher schedule, Notre Dame has a larger average margin of victory than Oregon, has given up fewer points per game and scored more points per game, ranks ahead of Oregon nationally in ever major NCAA offensive statistical category, has both the number one QB in the nation in terms of touchdown passes and the number one wide receiver in terms of touchdown catches and finalists for the Heisman, O'Brien, Biletnikoff and Mackey awards. Clearly something is amiss if Oregon is trying to argue that Notre Dame is not an excellent team.
Probing further, against common opponent USC, Notre Dame led until the last play of the game, while Oregon lost by 32 at home. I have also looked to find an at-large team in the history of the BCS that lost by 32 in the regular season, and could not find one. Such a humiliating defeat would, one would expect, at least temper unqualified demands of "deservedness". Additionally, Oregon scheduled a Division 1AA opponent, Montana to get its tenth win as opposed to Notre Dame's nine. Finally, while Oregon complains about Notre Dame's seven-point road victory over 5-6 Stanford, it conveniently ignores its own home wins of seven points over 3-8 Arizona and three points over 4-7 Washington State. At the end of the day, I am comfortable with the position that Notre Dame is superior to Oregon, but even if one disagrees, it is hard to imagine that one could say Oregon is plainly superior to Notre Dame or that some great injustice is being done by choosing Notre Dame over Oregon.