Exercise in Futility

Let’s say you’re a Harris Poll voter and you’re submitting your final ballot after the last regular season game has been played. We’re working under the current system, so your utlimate objective is to determine the two teams that will meet in the BCS championship game. What factors would you take into account? What would be most important?

Remember that you’re casting this vote before any of the bowl games are played. Whether or not it was “right” in hindsight doesn’t matter.

I’d love to hear from readers on this. Here’s Homerism’s attempt:

My objective would be to determine the two teams “most deserving” of playing in the title game. In that sense, I’m not really interested in trying to figure out who would win a playoff. I’m looking for the two teams whose resumes reflect the greatest achievement during the regular season.

1. Record
Winning is the name of the game. If you’re a BCS conference team with an undefeated record, that’s the most important thing to me. This means you brought it week in and week out. No one beat you. You’ve earned the right to play for the title. Schedules may vary in terms of strength, but for the most part, there isn’t enough difference between them to justify excluding an unbeaten team from the game. The case would need to be very egregious for that to happen–a Bill Snyder-type schedule comes to mind.

(Obviously, the rest of these factors come into play when evaluating multiple unbeaten teams or when there are no unbeaten teams.)

2. Opponents
Who did you beat? Who did you lose to? Also, no points for trying to schedule hard and it not working out (e.g., OU beating Washington this year). The issue is how good the opponent was when you played it. My thinking is that if you’re doing your OOC scheduling the right way, playing an opponent during a downturn shouldn’t really affect you. You may catch another opponent during an upswing. It balances out over time.

3. Home/Road
If a team goes on the road and beats a quality team, that says a lot, in my book. If a team loses at home, that says a lot, too.

4. “Nature” of Wins/Losses
Whether it’s a W or an L is most important. However, even though I don’t like getting down into the weeds like this, sometimes you have to look at the manner in which a team won or lost.

Bottom line for me: Win all your games and you should be fine.


3 Responses to “Exercise in Futility”

  1. El Guapo Says:

    You say that because your vote happens before the bowl games, getting it “right” doesn’t matter. I am not sure how i feel about that. When I first read the article i agreed with you. Logically it’s hard to hold people accountable for what hasn’t happened.
    What if you take that premise away from your argument? What if it IS the job of the Harris poll voter to get the games right?
    Saying that the most deserving team gets the bowl sounds sweet, but what if you KNEW that there was a better team? Or what if two teams match up better? What if there was a possibility of a historic matchup between great one loss teams and someone like PITT goes undefeated in a week BCS Conferance? Do you bend the rules?
    I’m not looking for an atricle that covers every scenario that College football will thorw at the BCS. That would be silly. I just wonder if it needs to be more situational and not so pragmatic. Thoughts?
    Mostly I’m just happy your writing about fooball so i can get 5 minutes away from politics.
    Yes, I realize “work” is also an option.

  2. AK Says:

    El Guapo, my mang!

    All very good questions. My view is colored by some of the very philosophical traditions that our society has been founded upon, but I’ll leave those for another time.

    When I say getting it “right” doesn’t matter, my point is more about the hindsight coloring our evaluations of an outcome. When it comes to many decisions, like picking the two college football teams, I gave up long ago on the idea of Monday morning quarterback-ing. It’s easy to criticize after the fact, but if the process leading up to a decision is sound, that’s the best we can hope for. The objective is to create a process that tends to lead to the best results.

    (Funnily enough, although the BCS may not feel like a satisfactory way of settling the national championship, I’d contend that it has awarded the national championship to the most deserving team way more often than not. That too is a discussion for another time.)

    I also gave up long ago putting my absolute faith in what I “know” versus what has been proven. I figured out that I don’t really “know” much. If you look back at the history of humankind, using what people “know” as a basis for making decisions hasn’t worked out so well. In that sense, I try to rely on drawing conclusions from the evidence at hand.

    I realize I’m digressing. One point I probably should have made in the article is that I don’t see the point of even having a regular season if it counts for squadoosh. So, to be honest, I could care less if the BCS game is thought to be a good matchup. I see the BCS game as the last step in the evolution of the season–the ultimate decider in the survival of the fittest. If a suspected pretender hasn’t been exposed yet, it will be there. In that sense, I think of determining the national champion as an ongoing process of weeding teams out. (When you think about it, that’s what makes college football’s regular season the absolute best.)

    Teams playing in the title game should be rewarded for the quality of the season they have had, not how good we think they are. If we use the latter as our criteria, we’re drifting too close to making the regular season irrelevant and giving teams privileges they haven’t really earned. Feels too “old boy network” to me.

    Do you bend the rules? I’d say if a BCS conference team makes it through the regular season undefeated, there is a heavy burden of proof on the side trying to exclude that team. Some conferences may be relatively stronger than others, but I don’t think the disparities are as great as some homers would lead us to believe. We’ve determined that the BCS conferences are the big boys, so we should treat them as such. If you lose, though, all bets are off.

    Sorry, I know that is a rambling response. Would love to hear your–and other readers’–thoughts. Bat it around like a plethora of pinatas.

  3. El Guapo Says:

    Excelente! Equating “knowing” that a college football team is no good with “knowing” the earth is flat. I feel like Will Smith on a park bench. Very Tommie Lee Jones of you.
    More to follow… I have to chase three gringos off my land.

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