Ask Homerism: Is USC Getting a Free "Crap" Ride?

Homerism receives few comments from the general public. Most critics probably fear having me expose their poorly constructed arguments and specious reasoning to the light of day.

Anyway, when readers do write in with feedback and questions, Homerism is always more than happy to weigh in. In response to this week’s power poll, “V for Vajayjay (not Victory)” asks:

What is your feeling about the Big 12 south having 3 teams in this weeks AP top 10? Obviously this cannot continue after they play each other, but it would be hard to argue against putting a team in the national title game if they can make it though without a loss, right?

You agree…so…

Don’t you have to say the same about the SEC? I think it is crap that USC is going to get a free ride out of the pathetic Pac 10 to a chance at the title?

Even with a loss the Big 12 winner and the SEC winner will have a better resume than an undefeated USC.
The Big XII South’s strong representation in the AP top 10 clearly reflects observers’ respect for both the division and conference. Given Homerism’s disdain for the major polls, however, this week’s Oddsmakers Poll makes an even stronger statement. The Big XII has:
  • Seven teams in the top 30;
  • Four teams in the top 10, including three from the South; and
  • Two teams in the top four.
The conference supremacy debate tends to wear pretty thin. But it does seem pretty clear this year that the Big XII and SEC are head and shoulders above the other power conferences. Yet, I hesitate to say that the champ from the top conference “automatically” should be guaranteed a spot in the title game, mainly because I prefer to avoid those kinds of hard-and-fast absolutes when it comes to something this subjective. Instead, I normally try to evaluate a team based on its overall resume. That being said, if you win the toughest conference in the country, you’re probably going to have the kind of body of work that deserves a shot at the whole enchilada. 
Make sense?
So, yes, an undefeated Big XII team almost certainly would merit a spot in the title game this year. The same goes for the SEC.
What about USC? Well, I’d agree that should USC and the champs of both the Big XII and SEC all go undefeated this year, I’d say leave the Trojans out. (Interestingly, I’d contend that if voters had applied this reasoning in 2004, Auburn and Oklahoma would have played for the national championship, rather than USC and Oklahoma.)
Now, Homerism hates to disappoint his readers, but I can’t get on board with Vajayjay’s argument that a one-loss Big XII or SEC team should get in ahead of Southern Cal. I’ll let Herm Edwards explain why.
If we were talking about the difference between a one-loss Georgia and an undefeated Utah, this argument would be different. The typical mid-major slate simply isn’t strong enough to justify a title shot–it’s not a conversation between equals. (Obviously, there can be exceptions to the rule.)
The gap between between BCS conferences, on the other hand, just doesn’t seem wide enough for a “quality loss” in the best conference to best an undefeated record for a team in a weaker major conference. Losing is losing. Once you start trying to make exceptions for teams with losses over undefeated teams, you’re completely ignoring the point of playing the games in the first place.
The lesson here: Don’t lose.

2 Responses to “Ask Homerism: Is USC Getting a Free "Crap" Ride?”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I like your reasoning, but I think that it backs up my point. If you say “The typical mid-major slate simply isn’t strong enough to justify a title shot–it’s not a conversation between equals”
    I agree. The point is that the Slac-10 ba-lows. They have been destroyed by my mid-major conference (insert tiny flag with a picture of Sonny Lubick)
    I guess the other way to ask it is: if your major conference sucks so much ass that you loose all your games against a mid major, can’t your status as a major be suspended? Even if USC is the best team in the country, if they don’t play anyone the rest of the season, can you see giving them a shot if their only big win turns out to be against a suspect OSU?

  2. AK Says:

    All very good points. I agree completely that the Pac-10 is pretty weak this year. You’re right–the Mountain West’s record against the conference is proof of its strength (or lack thereof).

    Yes, it’s certainly possible that the “major” part of a major conference’s status can be suspended or temporarily downgraded to “mid-major,” and vice versa in terms of upgrading a mid-major.

    For me, it all goes back to a team’s “body of work.” I view it like this: If USC goes undefeated this year, that would include wins over Ohio State, Oregon, and Cal. Compare that with the resume of an undefeated BYU. What would be the Cougars’ three best wins? I’d say TCU, Utah and UCLA.

    Based on what we know now, even if you just apply BYU and USC’s best in-conference wins, I’d still take USC, no questions asked. I have no idea if that means the Pac-10’s big boy card should be revoked. But it’s enough for me to say the Trojans don’t fall into the Hawaii/Boise State category.

    (Obviously, there are no absolutes here, but I’d bet the same would typically hold for most major-versus-mid comparisons.)

    So, as it stands right now, if USC is one of just one or two undefeated major conference teams at the end of the year, the Trojans deserve a shot at the title over a one-loss SEC or Big XII team.

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