It’s there in black and white. Directly next to “Miami (Fla.)” in this week’s BCS computer standings, a little, ugly, pudgy, number three.
How could this happen? Sure, Miami struggled against a deplorable Rutgers team on Saturday, but as we learned two years ago, computers aren’t human and all that they see is a 42-17 victory.
And yet there it is. Number three. Ohio State jumps ahead of Miami after defeating ranked Minnesota 34-3 at home this week.
So how did this happen? As most of us know by now, the BCS takes into account the AP and ESPN/USA Today coach’s poll, along with seven different computer rankings. There are also “bonus points” awarded to schools that have tougher schedules, along with a “quality win” clause which can award more points and is defined as a victory against another school in the BCS Top 10. At the end of the year, the top two teams in the BCS standings are placed in the National Championship game, which this year, will be the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, in Tempe, Arizona.
All season, Miami has been ranked number one by both the AP and ESPN/USA Today polls and has had a stranglehold on being in contention for a berth in the Fiesta Bowl. However, this week, after struggling against Rutgers, Miami dropped to number two in the AP poll for the first time since early last season. Oklahoma is now number one (after defeating ranked Colorado 27-11 at home this week), and has that position in the BCS standings as well. So Miami remains number one in the ESPN/USA Today poll, drops to number two in the AP poll, and is number three in the BCS how? Computers.
Of the seven computer rankings in the BCS, Oklahoma is ranked number one in all of them; but somehow, only three have Miami ranked number two. Of the other four polls, undefeated Ohio State has secured that ranking.
Since Miami has the top spot in the ESPN/USA Today poll, and the number two ranking in the AP Poll (both of which are more heavily weighted than any of the computer rankings), then how in the world can the ‘Canes be number three?
This is scary. So brace yourself. Two of the seven computers have Miami out of the top three. The New York Times poll has Southern Cal ranked three and Miami at four. USC? The Trojans didn’t even play this past week, and are ranked ninth overall in the BCS. Incredible. And yet there is an even more alarming example of Miami being given the short end of the stick in the BCS. The Colley Matrix has the ‘Canes ranked fourth and Notre Dame at third. Notre Dame! This is a team that got beat this past week 14-7 by a team that Miami has already beaten (Boston College). Someone has to explain to me how a team that was beaten by a team Miami beat can be ranked ahead of Miami-especially in the polls released in the week immediately following that loss.
To try and get a little more insight on how the Colley Matrix is figured out, I visited the website and read through some stuff. I found that the Matrix has the University of South Florida in its Top 25 (number 24 to be exact). USF? No offense to Bulls fans in the Miami area, but that team has no business being in any Top 25 poll-especially with a 4-2 record.
So who is Wes Colley and what has he done to keep Miami out of the BCS top two? Well he is an astronomy lecturer at the University of Virginia. I mean the guy does have a Ph.D. in astrophysical sciences from Princeton but the closest connection he has to college football aside from being a lifelong Virginia fan is that his brother played for Georgia.
It’s very good to know that if the Hurricanes are kept out of Tempe, it could be because some stargazing Cavaliers fan decided Notre Dame has prettier helmets than Miami does.
So how big of a deal is it that these two computers have Miami ranked behind USC and Notre Dame? Well I took out my handy-dandy BCS ranking calculator and figured that if Miami had been ranked number three-not even number two or number one, but number three in either the Times computer, or the Colley Matrix, Miami would hop over Ohio State into the number two position in the BCS.
Now for the even better news. The main thing bogging the ‘Canes down in the standings right now is their strength of schedule. But fear not, the ‘Canes remaining opponents have a combined record of 23-12 while Ohio State’s final three games are against Purdue (4-5), Illinois (3-6), and Michigan (7-2). I’ll do the math for you: 14-13. Additionally, it is still very likely that Virginia Tech (Miami’s final opponent of the year), could end up in the BCS Top 10, therefore giving Miami one of the aforementioned “bonus points” for a “quality win” after the teams square off on December 7th.
Additionally, who can say that Michigan has no chance of upsetting Ohio State on November 23rd in Columbus? Much stranger things have happened (see this past Saturday for examples).
So after clicking through dozens of websites, and making a zoo of notes on my legal pad, all I have to say to Miami fans is: relax. And all I have to say to Miami players is: win. Because that will be the bottom line-if the ‘Canes win out, they’ll be in Tempe for the National Championship game and none of this computer stuff really matters. Of course if Miami loses to Tennessee tomorrow afternoon, well then you can just take this article and shove it up your Buckeye because it won’t matter anymore.
You can reach Jesse Agler at firstname.lastname@example.org.