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BCS math doesn't always add up

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Kalani Simpson

Kalani Simpson is an award-winning journalist who has earned national recognition as a sports columnist at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and editor at Nebraska Sports America magazine.MORE>>
 
   
 

This BCS system has some far-reaching ripples. And they can get us to say, do and think some crazy things.

Like, for example, we all know that Virginia Tech (which has won six straight now, and just crept back into the rankings) still has as much as any team to do with the national championship picture. Because, you know, we’re all still waiting to see how much Boise State’s “signature win” will really mean. To the computers. For the numbers. With the voters. Within the system. When all is said and done.

But how about Idaho at Hawaii this week? What, you didn’t think that was an earth shatterer? Well, how many otherwise disinterested third parties out there are hoping for Hawaii to win, so the Warriors will get ranked. So we can all say Boise State will have played another top-25 team.

And on that note, I’m not saying Nevada didn’t deserve to get ranked. The Wolf Pack certainly did. Heck yes. They averaged 50.6 points through their first three games and rolled a Pac-10 team. What I’m saying is Western Athletic Conference upstarts like Nevada and Hawaii tend not to get ranked in these situations. Even when they deserve it. It just doesn’t happen. Not unless they start out at least 8-0.

So when the Wolf Pack get ranked in the AP poll for the first time since 1948 in the same season everyone is agog over Boise State’s strength of schedule? Well, it’s something Arsenio Hall and I file under the list of things that make us go “Hmmm.”

(Yes. I know. Nevada was a small-college power for many of those years, and not officially Division I-A until 1992. Still.)

BCS, man. That ripple effect. It can make you crazy. It can make you say, do and think some crazy things.

Or, as Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said last year after a last-second loss to Texas in the Big 12 championship game, “BCS! That’s why they make that call!!!”

(Yes. He really did use four exclamation points.)

Well, I don’t know about that. But we do know the BCS is why Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops made THAT call.

“That’s a part of it,” Stoops said.

Stoops had just punted away both the ball and his team's last hope of winning the game last week. And he did it because a nine-point loss to Missouri might not look so bad down the line as would being potentially beaten by 16.

You know. To the computers. For the numbers. With the voters. Within the system. When all is said and done.

The way he explained it, you almost couldn’t come up with any logic against it. Sometimes you punt. He was trying to stay as high as he could in the polls. This is the system. It is what it is.

Look at LSU a few years ago. All you have to do is stay high and finish strong and you never know.

“It’s a long year,” Stoops told reporters on Monday. “Who knows how poll people look at scores?”

Well, yes. Except for this: If I’m on his team, I’m thinking, the guy who is supposed to believe most of all in us just threw in the towel on us.

BCS. Crazy things.

But craziest of all might be this: For the WAC teams playing Boise State, it’s actually against their own economic interest to win the game. Now, don’t misunderstand. They don’t care, out on that field. They’ll go full Herm Edwards meltdown on you. Players, coaches, fans. They will play to win those games (especially with Boise leaving some of them in the dust).

But this isn’t the Big Ten, where there’s a BCS berth every year (and sometimes two). We’re talking about schools on the bubble, where athletics is not a money-printing machine. They could really use those extra dollars from one of their own going to a BCS bowl. That’s big money. That’s found money. That’s the kind of money they would never otherwise see. That’s no small thing, if you’re in their situation.

And if you beat them, you blow not only their fairy tale, but part of your own budget for the next year.

The players and coaches aren’t thinking about it as they pop pads on that blue turf. But the guy who’s supposed to balance the books? Yeah, it might be somewhere in the back of his mind.

You could lose for winning. Stoops played it safe by losing. BCS math. That's some crazy stuff.

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