It’s that time of year again! Everyone anticipates their alma mater’s chance at post-season greatness, snack companies rake in tons of profit, and everyone in the sports community starts complaining about the flawed Bowl Championship Series in NCAA Football, myself included. You’ve probably heard about it north of a thousand times. Hell, even the President has weighed in on the matter.
I’ve been very vocal about my displeasure with the BCS system–from it’s flaws to it’s bias–and like many others, I feel there needs to be a playoff format instituted, since, you know, that’s fair and everything. The problem with a playoff format (aside of the hush-hush monetary arguments) is that there are an inconsistent number of games played between the conferences (i.e. the Big 12 plays 13 season games with 9 conference games while the WAC plays 12 season games with 6 conference games), the talent barrier between so-called Power Conferences and others (i.e. the SEC as compared to the Sun Belt Conference), and the overall disinterest with the possibility of having a team like Alabama or Notre Dame end up in a contest against the likes of UL Monroe or Houston.
|You know, in 2007 this happened.|
The Luck of the Irish
Speaking of the Irish, another potential issue with the playoff system is that conferences determine their participants via the conference records, with the overall record acting as a tie-breaker. Notre Dame is a 1-A Independent, along with Brigham Young, Army, and Navy. While these teams do, in fact, get ranked, they represent a glaring inconsistency with the process.
For example, this season Notre Dame is #1 in the country, sporting a record of 12-0. In Div-I FBS, the Irish are ranked 76th in passing yards, 27th in rushing yards, 76th in points for, but 1st in points against. They’re the only unbeaten team in the country, which also happens to be their first unbeaten season since 1988 and fourth of the last 50 years. All that training and working out and studying has really paid off.
|Pictured: Notre Dame two-a-days.|
I fail to understand the Top-5 BCS rankings, especially with Notre Dame being at the top. I mean, they’re having a great year, don’t get me wrong, but honestly I can’t justify their position for a multitude of reasons. I even like this team!
- The Irish are tangled in a Top-5 with four one-loss teams.
- Notre Dame is a 1-A Independent, which means they have no actual conference games.
- Notre Dame played a soft schedule.
- The Irish are inferior to the other four teams in the Top-5 based not only on statistics, but also in certain situations.
Before anything else, I want to take a look at Notre Dame’s BCS Ranking trends through the entire season.
AP Coaches BCS
- The Preseason Polls find the Irish almost non-existent. NR #24 —-
- Boise State and Auburn fall. The Irish rout Navy. #22 #22 —-
- Notre Dame creep a bit more with a close on against Purdue. #20 #19 —-
- The Irish stymie #10 Michigan State’s offense, then surge. #11 #15 —-
- The Irish emerge from The Big House victorious over #18 Michigan. #10 #11 —-
- The Irish sit back and watch the nation wiggle through the polls. #9 #10 —-
- The Catholics crush the Convicts at home. #7 #7 —-
- The Irish win a nail-biter in OT over #17 Stanford. #5 #5 #5
- A defensive contest against BYU steadies the Irish. #5 #5 #5
- A big win in hostile Oklahoma legitimizes the Irish as a threat. #4 #4 #3
- The Irish barely survive Pitt in a triple-OT thriller and slide in BCS. #4 #4 #4
- The Irish emerge victorious in The Holy War. #3 #3 #3
- Oregon, K-State fall, the Irish take #1 with shutout. #1 #1 #1
- The Irish finish their schedule with a win in the Grand Ol’ Lady. #1 #1 #1
How about that? It took five weeks for Notre Dame to go from non-existent to the Top-10 on the Associated Press Poll. That’s a hell of a jump.
|Pictured: Notre Dame vs. the BCS|
Now, let’s take a look at their schedule:
DATE/OPPONENT CONFERENCE OUTCOME DIFFERENTIAL
- Sep. 1 – vs. Navy 1-A Independents 50-10 W +40
- Sep. 8 – vs. Purdue Big Ten 20-17 W +3
- Sep. 15 – @ #10 Michigan State Big Ten 20-3 W +17
- Sep. 22 – vs. #18 Michigan Big Ten 13-6 W +7
- Oct. 6 – vs. Miami (FL) ACC 41-3 W +38
- Oct. 13 – vs. #17 Stanford Pac-12 20-13 W (OT) +7
- Oct. 20 – vs. BYU 1-A Independents 17-14 W +3
- Oct. 27 – @ #8 Oklahoma Big 12 30-13 W +17
- Nov. 3 – vs. Pittsburgh Big East 29-26 W (3OT) +3
- Nov. 10 – @ Boston College ACC 21-6 W +15
- Nov. 17 vs. Wake Forest ACC 38-0 W +38
- Nov. 24 – @ USC Pac-12 22-13 W +9
Totals: 321-124 (12-0) +197
Notre Dame has played against only four teams that were ranked at the time of their contest: #10 Michigan State, #18 Michigan, #17 Stanford, and #8 Oklahom, beating them by a combined score of 83-35, which isn’t bad at all. Granted, by this week, Oklahoma is ranked #11, Stanford is ranked #8, Michigan is ranked #19, and Michigan State is completely out of the BCS Rankings. Let’s look at bit deeper at each of these teams as of right now.
OVERALL W-L BCS RANK FBS STAT RANK (WK. 14)
vs. ND Week 14 — vs. ND Week 14 — Passing Rushing For Against
- Michigan State 2-0 6-6 #10 #— 77th 74th 109th 10th
- Michigan 2-1 8-4 #18 #19 98th 39th 58th 15th
- Stanford 4-1 11-2 #17 #8 94th 51st 71st 14th
- Oklahoma 5-1 10-2 #8 #11 5th 61st 12th 43rd
As of week 14: Michigan State is ranked 8th in the Big Ten, 4th in the Legends Division; Michigan is ranked 3rd in the Big Ten, 2nd in the Legends Division; Stanford is ranked 1st in the Pac-12, and 1st in the North Division via head-to-head tiebreaker with Oregon; Oklahoma is in a tie for 1st in the Big 12 with Kansas State.
So, these four ranked opponents did pose a challenge for Notre Dame, especially taking on Oklahoma and Michigan on the road. Even though this makes a good case for Notre Dame to be first in the nation, I’m still not convinced. I would like to look at the other eight non-ranked teams the Irish played this year.
OVERALL W-L FBS STAT RANK (WK. 14)
vs. ND Week 14 — Passing Rushing For Against
- Navy 0-0 7-4 121st 6th 84th 36th
- Purdue 1-0 6-6 54th 60th 59th 72nd
- Miami (FL) 4-1 7-5 27th 84th 43rd 84th
- BYU 4-3 7-5 51st 63rd 66th 5th
- Pittsburgh 4-4 6-6 42nd 91st 74th 21st
- Boston College 2-7 2-10 45th 119th 111th 76th
- Wake Forest 5-5 5-7 95th 116th 116th 93rd
- USC 7-4 7-5 25th 69th 37th 45th
As of week 14: Navy is ranked 2nd among 1-A Independents; Purdue is ranked 7th in the Big Ten, 4th in the Leaders Division; Miami (FL) is tied for 3rd place in the ACC, and 1st place in the Coastal Division; Brigham Young is ranked 3rd among 1-A Independents; Pittsburgh is ranked 5th in the Big East; Boston College is ranked last in the ACC; Wake Forest is ranked 7th in the ACC with Duke, who has an edge in overall record, and 4th in the Atlantic Division; USC is in a 5th place tie with Washington and Arizona State in Pac-12 rankings, while sitting in a tie for 2nd in the South Division with Arizona State.
Notre Dame has been relatively inconsistent with these opponents, yet the wins have always translated in the Irish climbing the polls. The win over Boston College, for example, was only a 21-6 victory, and it took three overtime periods to beat a Pitt team coasting at .500 for the season. Notre Dame hasn’t had many quality opponents this year, unlike certain other teams that make up the top 5 in the BCS rankings (Alabama, Florida, Oregon, and Kansas State). However, more on them momentarily.
|By the third overtime, Notre Dame (left) had enough of Pitt’s bullcrap.|
Notre Dame opponents have a combined record of 82-62 (35-14 via ranked opponents), while the Irish average (roughly) a 27-10 win. They are +48 in points against ranked teams (+12.0 average) and +149 in points against non-ranked opponents (+18.6 average). Of their 12 games, only two were played against 10+ win teams (Oklahoma and Stanford), five were played against teams at .500 or lower (Michigan State, Purdue, Pittsburgh, Boston College, and Wake Forest), while their other five opponents have a combined record of 36-23, averaging (roughly) a record of 7-5. At home against Stanford (won in overtime) and on the road against Oklahoma, the Irish won by a combined score of 50-26 (+24), averaging a 25-13 outcome. Against the five teams at or below .500 (including the triple-overtime home game against Pittsburgh), Notre Dame won by a combined score of 128-52 (+76), averaging roughly a 26-10 outcome. Against the other five opponents, the Irish won by a combined score of 143-46 (+97), roughly averaging a 29-9 victory.
Those are pretty good numbers, though, until you take into consideration that only Oklahoma and Stanford are conference leaders (Big 12 and Pac-12 respectively). Notre Dame also only played three games against “power conference” teams (Oklahoma, Stanford, and USC), but even then, the Big 12 is falling apart and the Pac-12 isn’t the SEC. Disregarding Oklahoma and Stanford, and Navy and BYU since they’re Independents, Notre Dame’s other eight opponents average roughly a 6th place ranking in their respective conferences.
|Notre Dame’s eight sub-par opponents all went into battle like this.|
Notre Dame has played three games against Big Ten opponents, three against ACC opponents, two against the Pac-12, one against the Big 12, and one against the Big East. Against Big Ten opponents (Purdue, Michigan, and Michigan State), Notre Dame is +27 in points, averaging (roughly) an 18-9 victory. Keep in mind that at the time of their contests, Michigan State and Michigan were ranked #10 and #18 respectively. Against the ACC, Notre Dame is +91 in points, roughly averaging a 33-3 victory. Against the Pac-12, the Irish are +16 in points and average a 21-13 outcome. Keep in mind, one of those games was the overtime home game against current #8 Stanford. The Big 12 game and Big East game are the road win against Oklahoma and the triple-overtime home game against Pittsburgh.
Let me give you another chart:
ND OPPONENTS CONFERENCE TEAMS BCS
Combined Average Win%—Overall Average Win %—Total .500+ 10+ win 25 10
Big Ten 20-16 7-5 55.5% 83-63 7-5 56.8% 12 8 2 3 —
ACC 14-22 5-7 38.8% 76-70 6-6 52.1% 12 7 2 2 —
Pac-12 18-7 9-4 72.0% 80-66 7-6 54.8% 12 8 2 4 2
Big 12 10-2 10-2 83.3% 71-49 7-5 59.2% 10 9 2 3 1
Big East 6-6 6-6 50.0% 53-42 7-5 55.8% 8 5 1 1 —
So, Notre Dame has 12 wins, 3 of which come against ACC teams, who have the worst winning percentage themselves–as well as the worst conference winning percentage–among all the conferences Notre Dame has played. If we remove the routs Notre Dame did at home against Miami (FL), Boston College, and Wake Forest (7-5, 2-10 and 5-7 respectively), then their point spread over those nine games is +136, roughly averaging to +15 each contest. Since the 1-A Independents are only concerned with overall record and don’t have a conference schedule, the further removal of the Navy and BYU games leaves Notre Dame with a +93 spread against non-ACC conference opponents, averaging +13 in each contest.
If we were to put the ACC back in the fold, then Notre Dame’s spread becomes +154 against all conference affiliated teams on their schedule, resulting in an average spread of roughly +15 in each contest.
|The ACC – The Tanner Family of NCAA Division-I FBS.|
Here’s a list of the conferences Notre Dame did not play this year.
CONFERENCE TEAMS BCS
Overall Average Win % — Total .500+ 10+ win Top-25 Top-10
Conference USA 61-85 5-7 41.8% 12 5 1 0 —
Mid-American 79-70 6-6 53.0% 13 7 2 2 —
Mountain West 58-64 6-6 47.5% 10 5 1 1 —
SEC 105-65 8-4 61.8% 14 9 6 6 6
Sun Belt 57-64 6-6 47.1% 10 5 0 0 —
WAC 43-41 6-6 51.2% 7 4 2 2 —
While there are conferences on this list that hang around below ACC territory, the SEC is on this list. With it’s bully of a conference winning percentage and an astounding SIX teams ranked in the BCS Top-10, it’s hard for me to justify Notre Dame being the #1 ranked team in the country, especially since they have no conference schedule and they never played a team from the SEC.
|What Conference USA lacks on the gridiron is apparently made up in fan support.|
Behold the conference’s compared and contrasted:
STRENGTH TEAM STRENGTH
Winning % .500+ — 10+ win BCS Top-25 BCS Top-10 Overall Rank
*Big Ten 3rd T-3rd T-2nd 3rd T-4th 4th
*ACC 7th T-5th T-2nd T-5th T-4th 6th
*Pac-12 5th T-3rd T-2nd 2nd 2nd 3rd
*Big 12 2nd T-1st T-2nd 3rd 3rd 2nd
*Big East 4th T-7th T-8th T-8th T-4th 8th
C-USA 11th T-7th T-8th T-10th T-4th 10th
MAC 6th T-5th T-2nd T-5th T-4th 5th
MWC 9th T-7th T-8th T-8th T-4th 9th
SEC 1st T-1st 1st 1st 1st 1st
Sun Belt 10th T-7th 11th T-10th T-4th 11th
WAC 8th 11th T-2nd T-5th T-4th 7th
*denotes conference’s Notre Dame played.
So, there you have it. Notre Dame played the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 8th ranked conferences as per the data above. However, the SEC is first by a long shot. There’s a “1” in each category, and four out of the five they own by themselves.
|Pictured: The SEC|
Let’s take a look at the other teams in the BCS Top-5:
Point Top-25 vs. vs. vs. Shutouts
Record Conference Spread Games SEC Big-12 Pac-12 Win-Loss
1. Notre Dame 12-0 (—) N/A +197 4 (4-0) — 1 (1-0) 2 (2-0) 1 (1-0)
2. Alabama 12-1 (7-1) SEC +361 5 (4-1) 8 (7-1) — — 4 (4-0)
3. Florida 11-1 (7-1) SEC +166 5 (4-1) 8 (7-1) — — 2 (2-0)
4. Oregon 11-1 (8-1) Pac-12 +346 5 (4-1) — — 9 (8-1) 1 (1-0)
5. Kansas State 11-1 (8-1) Big 12 +235 5 (5-0) — 9 (8-1) — —
Wins-Losses Points Team Offense
Home Away Scored Against Passing Yds. TD’s Rushing Yds. TD’s Total
1. Notre Dame 8-0 4-0 321 124 2626 13 2430 22 5056
2. Alabama 8-1 (3-1) 4-0 (4-0) 500 139 2788 27 2920 35 5708
3. Florida 7-1 (5-1) 4-0 (3-0) 321 155 1722 12 2334 21 4061
4. Oregon 6-1 (3-1) 5-0 (5-0) 610 264 2722 33 3879 47 6601
5. Kansas State 7-0 (4-0) 4-1 (4-1) 488 253 2545 15 2390 41 4935
Team Defense Efficiency
Total Passing Rushing TD’s 3rd Down 4th Down Take-Give 3rd Down 4th Down
1. Notre Dame 3442 2333 1109 10 35% 31% 23-14 (+9) 47% 60%
2. Alabama 3198 2161 1037 18 32% 41% 28-15 (+13) 47% 60%
3. Florida 3401 2237 1164 17 28% 54% 29-12 (+17) 37% 60%
4. Oregon 4581 2829 1752 33 31% 43% 38-19 (+19) 47% 70%
5. Kansas State 4494 3064 1430 30 41% 53% 31-10 (+21) 50% 71%
And, how the Top-5 rank against each other is as follows:
Point Top-25 vs. Shutouts Home Away Points Points Pass Pass
Spread Games Power Win-Loss Record Record Scored Against Yards TD’s
1. Notre Dame 4th 5th 5th T-3rd 2nd 4th T-4th 1st 3rd 4th
2. Alabama 1st T-1st T-3rd 1st 3rd 2nd 2nd 2nd 1st 2nd
3. Florida 5th T-1st T-3rd 2nd 4th 3rd T-4th 3rd 5th 5th
4. Oregon 2nd T-1st T-1st T-3rd 5th 1st 1st 5th 2nd 1st
5. Kansas State 3rd T-1st T-1st 5th 1st 5th 3rd 4th 4th 3rd
Rush Rush Total Pass Rush Total 3rd 4th Turn 3rd 4th
Yards TD’s Offense Defense Defense Defense Stops Stops Diff. Conv. Conv.
1. Notre Dame 3rd 4th 3rd 3rd 2nd 3rd 4th 1st 5th T-2nd T-3rd
2. Alabama 2nd 3rd 2nd 1st 1st 1st 3rd 2nd 4th T-2nd T-3rd
3. Florida 5th 5th 5th 2nd 3rd 2nd 1st 5th 3rd 5th T-3rd
4. Oregon 1st 1st 1st 4th 5th 5th 2nd 3rd 2nd T-2nd 2nd
5. Kansas State 4th 2nd 4th 5th 4th 4th 5th 4th 1st 1st 1st
Run the formulas to get the definitive rankings, and:
Offensive Rank* Defensive Rank** Situation Rank*** BCS Rank
1. Notre Dame 4th 3rd 5th 4th
2. Alabama 2nd 1st 3rd 1st
3. Florida 5th 2nd 4th 5th
4. Oregon 1st 4th T-1st 2nd
5. Kansas State 3rd 5th T-1st 3rd
*Composed of averaged ranks in point spread, points scored, passing yards, passing touchdowns, rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, total offense, 3rd down conversions, and 4th down conversions.
** Composed of averaged ranks in shutouts, points against, passing defense, rushing defense, total defense, 3rd down stops, 4th down stops, and turnover differential.
*** Composed of averaged ranks in win-loss totals against Top-25 opponents, win-loss totals against power conferences, home record, and away record.
There you have it. The 2012 BCS Top-5 should be:
- Alabama Crimson Tide
- Oregon Ducks
- Kansas State Wildcats
- Notre Dame Fighting Irish
- Florida Gators
Keep in mind, I only did the Top-5. If I were to have done the Top-25, things would probably be a lot different.
|Alas, despite my criticism, it would be interesting to see the Irish roll The Tide right out of South Florida.|