BCS gives Hurricanes a fighting chance

Now that it has been announced that after Miami’s 31-7 loss at Virginia Tech last Saturday the ‘Canes are ranked fourth in this week’s BCS rankings, it’s time for all of the experts to weigh in on who is going where and why.

I’m not necessarily one of those experts, but I follow the BCS closer than most people with girlfriends and not to toot my own horn, but I know the ‘Canes and college football in general pretty darn well.

And so now that my credentials have been stated I’ll do my best to make some sense of the always-enjoyable BCS standings.

With the Hurricanes ranked behind undefeated Oklahoma (9-0) and one-loss teams Southern Cal (8-1) and Florida State (8-1), the team faces an uphill battle to reach the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on January 4th.

Now before you curse the BCS computers and wonder how Miami could be behind FSU after defeating the Seminoles (considering what happened in the 2000 season), take a look at how the humans have us ranked. In the Associated Press poll, the ‘Canes are No. 6, while they fell to No. 7 in the Coaches’ Poll. All of a sudden the computers are looking like the ‘Canes’ best friends.

In fact, Miami’s computer poll average is 2.83, better than both USC and FSU. But because of the rankings in the human polls, which average out to 6.5, the ‘Canes drop behind both of those schools. Unlike 2000, when Miami was behind Florida State in the final computer rankings despite defeating them in the regular season but were ahead in the human polls, it is the computers that are keeping our hopes alive this season. Miami is ranked second by three different computer rankings, while USC is second only in two computers. Additionally, the Hurricanes’ worst computer ranking is fifth (both the Colley Matrix and the New York Times computer have them ranked there), while USC is ranked as poorly as sixth by the computers.

So why the difference between the humans and the computers? Well the computers take into account that USC’s loss was to a pathetic Cal team (5-5) while Miami fell to a one-loss Virginia Tech team who was in the top 15 at the time. In addition, the fact that the ‘Canes beat BCS-contender FSU (which gives us a “quality win,” something neither Oklahoma, USC nor FSU have) boosts UM in the eyes of the ranking computers.

And the humans? Well the conspiracy-theory answer would be the “Miami bias.” Many ‘Canes supporters will talk about the fact that the national media and other college football coaches have a strong disdain for UM and therefore will take every opportunity to push the ‘Canes down as far as possible whenever given the rare chance to do so. Whether you subscribe to this theory or not, the AP and Coaches’ Polls are certainly not objective and provide ample room for people to mold the rankings in the directions they see fit.

So what does all this mean? If the season ended today, you would most likely be buying cross-country plane tickets to check the ‘Canes out in the Rose Bowl against 8-2 Michigan (currently eighth in the BCS). This scenario holds true if both Miami and Virginia Tech win out because the Big East Champion Hokies would be pushed towards the Orange Bowl against ACC champs Florida State. Of course, if Va. Tech loses to Pitt tomorrow, or anyone else down the road, it severely jumbles the picture. It’s silly in the first week of November to try and figure all of this out, because there are a hundred different things that could happen. However, if the Hurricanes win the remainder of their games, they will definitely be playing in a BCS bowl.

I hate all of the hypothetical scenarios, but I’m sure the question on every UM fan’s mind is what needs to happen for the Hurricanes to be playing in New Orleans for the title? Well first and foremost, Miami must take care of business. They cannot afford to lose another game. In addition, the ‘Canes most likely need a loss by either Oklahoma or Southern Cal. This may come back to haunt me after the season, but in my heart of hearts I truly believe that if both Miami and Florida State win the rest of their games, Miami will finish in front of the ‘Noles in the final rankings, despite the fact that FSU is currently ahead of UM.

The lesson is this: don’t make any travel plans until after December 6th when the SEC championship game in Atlanta and the Big XII championship game at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City have ended. At that point everyone should have a pretty clear idea of where they are heading. For the ‘Canes though, they will sit in the unusual and uncomfortable position of needing some help from the teams ahead of them for a shot to play for a national title. So Hurricane fans, put on your UCLA hats (USC and UCLA lock horns on November 22nd) and your Texas A&M shirts (Oklahoma hosts the Aggies tomorrow at noon) and don’t forget to root on your Hurricanes as they try to sweep through the final four games of this wild and wacky season.

Jesse Agler can be reached at j.agler@umiami.edu and you can hear him broadcasting tomorrow afternoon’s Tennessee-Miami game on WVUM 90.5fm.