By REED NELSON
The annoying ramifications of a broken record are widely understood by the cliche-savvy public, but what about a broken system?
A broken record is taboo, it’s maddening, it’s like a younger sibling with no parental governance. But if that broken record is begat by a broken system, who’s at fault?
I’ll save the Chicken and the Egg debate for a later date, but I apologize for what must, at this point, sound like a Korn CD cursed by a heavy scratch (in addition to simply being cursed by existing as a Korn CD).
It’s the third iteration of the 2012 BCS rankings, and for the third straight week, the computers and the humans have come to a disagreement. In the (literal) eye’s of the coaches and the beat writers assigned to cover college football (a.k.a. The Experts), Oregon is the second best team in the country, and has been for the last five weeks. But in the (not-so-literal) eye’s of the BCS computers, Oregon is still fifth.
Arguably the most egregious crime? Oregon actually climbed a spot in the averages this week, and still sit behind a one-loss LSU team.
We learned all this in ESPN’s Sunday night programming that now rivals The Simpsons and Family Guy in the category of irreverent humor.
This system is supposed to be objective. It’s supposed to be fair. But most of all, it’s supposed to be authoritarian. Yet somehow, I’d trust Sarah Palin’s political advice before I’d trust the objectivity and the accuracy of the BCS rankings.
Call it homer thinking, if you’d like. I prefer to call it rational thinking. I call it rational because people play football, not computers. Since the rankings went live on Oct. 14, there have been three different iterations of the Top 3 teams in the country. Only one team in the bunch (Florida) has lost.
What changed? Kansas State beat Texas Tech, and did so handily. This was considered impressive because Texas Tech, just two weeks earlier, had knocked off a then-No. 5 ranked West Virginia team. They then beat a No. 23 ranked TCU team that had just lost its second-year starting QB Casey Pachall to a DWI, 56-53 in overtime. It was a nice two-win stretch for any team in the country, and it earned Texas Tech a No. 14 ranking in the BCS.
But the problem was, they weren’t the 14th-best team in the country. And they weren’t the 14th-best team in the country,because West Virginia wasn’t the fifth-best team in the country when Texas Tech beat them. WVU is a half-a-team with a stud quarterback.
Flash forward one week: Kansas State, a Top 5 team in the country, plays such flawless football that one-time Heisman Hopeful Geno Smith is made to look like Anthony Michael Hall’s body-double from Johnny B. Goode, which the BCS computers love. And why shouldn’t they? The BCS-Gorilla Math had WVU ranked No. 13, after all. But… Screw it. You know the rest.
The point I’m trying to make is this: Kansas State, a team whose body of work is considered to be the kryptonite to Oregon’s National Championship hopes, has capitalized for two consecutive weeks on ranking errors.
Were they errors in the way that Omar Infante was called safe at second in the ALCS? Absolutely not. They are systemic errors.
To a second-grader with no knowledge of college football, a ranking system would probably indicate a hierarchy of superiority (my words, not theirs). The No. 1 team would be better than the No. 2 team, the No. 8 team would be better than the No. 14 team, etc. But that’s not how it works. Need evidence? Rutgers was ranked 15th coming into last weekend, before succumbing to the vaunted Kent State attack. They were ranked 15th because they were undefeated, beating absolutely nobody along the way.
Go ahead, say the same thing about Oregon… because it’s simply not true. Oregon has beaten all comers by an average of 33.875 points a game. Even the finest of their competition has failed to keep the gap to less than three touchdowns. It’s not their fault that USC couldn’t keep their pants on in Arizona, or that Oregon State let an apparently Bipolar Washington team drive a stake through their vampiric heart.
Oregon would have loved to face those two teams when they actually mattered; the Beaver/Trojan personnel wouldn’t have changed, but the nation’s perception of them would have remained strong. But, again, the dookie laid by OSU and USC shouldn’t affect Oregon negatively. After all, the experts thought the Beavs were a Top Ten team, too.
But ranked or not, the Ducks don’t care, they just play better than you. I’ve called them equal opportunity Merchant’s of Despair before, and it’s for a reason. The voters and opposing coaches recognize this. They think that Oregon is the second best team in the country, and have for quite some time ow.
But the BCS — and to an extent the AP and USA Today Polls — have created an insatiable ranking system. It was one that initially rewarded perfection, but was later modified when the notion arose that all schedules weren’t, in fact, created equal.
This sentiment was later echoed in 2002, when the BCS voted to remove the oft-relied upon Margin of Victory from their championship formula.
And on Sunday evening, that statement was echoed once again, when Oregon was dropped again in the polls to make room for a Notre Dame team that has, by all accounts, earned an incredibly high-ranking. They’re undefeated, too, and they’ve defeated a gaggle of Top 20 teams.
Were those felled teams great? Not in all cases, but they beat them in the right weeks, which is key. If Notre Dame had come across Michigan and Michigan State this week, they’d get as much credit for a win as Oregon got for dismantling Arizona State.
I suppose that’s why you schedule ranked games early, to take out the element of awful play and even worse foresight.
It wouldn’t matter on a national level, either, if the entire country — save small pockets of Indiana, a religious base, Manhattan, Kansas and Baton Rouge — didn’t seem to want to see Oregon and Alabama duke it out, once and for all, as bad as we do.
Think about it: For the first time ever, Nick Saban and Chip Kelly seem to have the personnel to get there at the same time.
In 2009, the Ducks weren’t quite there yet. In 2010, ‘Bama was rebuilding. In 2011, respective misses wide left altered the paths of these two powerhouses. But now in 2012, the year of the Apocalypse, a system might deny us the greatest clash of Old School vs. New School since the Fab Five crashed the Final Four.
Oregon is no longer in control of their own destiny. They still need to hope for a solid few weeks from Stanford and Oregon State, but more than anything the Ducks need a K-State loss.
So what’s the difference between a broken record and a broken system? I can turn the damn record off.
Rising: Stanford (No. 17 to No. 14), Arizona (NR to No. 22)
Falling: Oregon State (No. 7 to No. 11), USC (No. 9 to No. 17… Biggest drop of the week!)
Wooderson-ing: Oregon (No. 4 to No. 4)