BCS REVIEW SERIES:
Updated Conference Realignment Chart
HARDEST SCHEDULES FOR 2014 CONTENDERS
Earlier we examined the nonconference schedules of all 124 teams in FBS's 10 conferences. After dissecting the schedules both for how teams fared in 2013 as well as the intent going into constructing the slates, we found that the SEC as a whole doesn't want too many challenges when playing out of conference.
But that doesn't mean all SEC teams play soft schedules - in fact, far from it. After going through these team-by-team, and accounting for their conference schedules, we found a number of SEC teams have to run through quite a gauntlet just to make the title game in Atlanta.
On the other hand, while the Big Ten was found to have, on average, the most difficult out-of-conference (OOC) schedules as a whole, its best teams do not necessarily make things harder for themselves. The additions of Maryland and Rutgers, not exactly football powerhouses, only help to weaken the conference teams' strength of schedule.
Our review reveals that, after making it all the way to the BCS title game last season, Auburn will need another War Damn Miracle (or three) to get through its slate unscathed. Of course, with a four-team playoff format making its debut in 2014, the Tigers might be able to afford a hiccup.
See complete 2014 OOC schedules by team
Here are the top five toughest schedules in 2014, keep in mind that we're only ranking teams with legitimate aspirations to make the College Football Playoff field:
WHO HAS EASIEST
The SEC dominated the BCS era in part thanks to its shrewd scheduling. Member schools have systematically reduced the challenges in nonconference games, making sure to minimize losses outside of SEC play.
While the other four Big Five conferences have (Pac-12 and Big 12) or are planning to (Big Ten and ACC) move to nine-game conference schedules, the SEC so far has resisted, as its coaches voted 13-1 to stay at eight games at least through the 2015 season. As we enter the College Football Playoff era, that scheduling philosophy looks to remain intact until/unless it begins to harm the postseason prospects of SEC teams.
With the 2014 season schedule basically complete (only American Athletic has yet to announce dates of conference games, though all opponents are set), we conducted a thorough examination of the upcoming season's nonconference schedules. We ranked all 124 FBS teams
- leaving out the four independents for obvious reasons - on their expected nonconference strength of schedule with the following methodology:
Sagarin Rankings: An average of the opponents' final Sagarin ratings from 2013, which encompass all Division I teams, including both FBS and FCS.
Intended Rankings: We parsed the schedule according to the origins of teams' opponents' conference membership, giving bonuses for playing Big Five conference teams (plus Notre Dame), with partial bonuses for playing AAC and MWC teams, as well as Army, Navy and BYU.
Deductions were given for playing FCS teams, except the six that made the FCS semifinals in the past three years
- North Dakota State, Sam Houston State, Eastern Washington, Montana, Towson and New Hampshire. We also assigned bonuses for playing nonconference games away from home.
The rankings revealed that on average the SEC schools play the easiest nonconference schedules by a country mile:
BIG 12, ACC DOGGED BY ALSO-RAN STATUS
They are supposed to be the "Big Five" conferences as the College Football Playoff era begins in 2014. But upon closer examination, there are really the "Big Three" and then the "Next Two."
We've covered the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12 in previous pieces analyzing the respective conferences' competitive and financial status as the BCS gives way to CFP. That leaves us with the ACC and Big 12, which face more uncertainty and issues of membership stability, as well as falling behind in the revenue arms race.
Why these two conferences are considered the lesser of the five can be viewed through the lens of conference expansions, which the Big Ten kicked off by poaching Nebraska from the Big 12:
The Big 12 was nearly gutted out of existence after losing four teams to other power conferences. Only a last-minute deal that gave Texas preferential treatment preserved the current 10-team conference, but it also sowed the seeds for potential future discontent. The current membership seems unlikely to be poached in the near future because of the grant-of-rights agreements, though even that is said to be not fool-proof.
- Big Ten: Nebraska (Big 12), Maryland (ACC), Rutgers (Big East)
- SEC: Texas A&M, Missouri (both Big 12)
- Pac-12: Colorado (Big 12), Utah (Mountain West)
PAC-12: BCS' BIGGEST LOSER
The big loser in the BCS era, without question, is the Pac-10/12 Conference, on and off the field.
And it began with so much promise, too, with UCLA one win away from playing in the inaugural BCS championship game in 1998. The middle part of the 16-year BCS run was dominated by USC, which nearly pulled off a three-peat. Oregon and Stanford were perennial BCS bowl participants in the waning years, after NCAA sanctions ended the Trojans' reign.
Off the field, the conference also made a series of moves to bolster its profile after Larry Scott took over as commissioner in 2009. It made a bid to become a super conference, spanning from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific. It created the first wholly owned TV network by a conference. And its schools doubled their revenue from the first half of the BCS era, with each program collecting over $20 million annually.
But there's one problem - Scott and his conference came up short in just about everything they set out to do:
*The Pac-10 was on the forefront of the expansion craze. But instead of landing the likes of Texas and Oklahoma to become Pac-16, it had to settle for Colorado and Utah for just Pac-12.
*The Pac-12 Network was supposed to improve the conference's visibility from coast to coast, in addition to being a new revenue stream. But because of Scott's inability to cut a deal with DirecTV, it's missing out on over 20 million subscribers. Many of them reside in the Pac-12 footprint, including DirecTV's home and largest customer base in southern California.
*While the Pac-12 has greatly padded its bottom line, it still falls short of what the Big Ten and SEC make. In fact, with the launching of the SEC Network and the Big Ten due for a new TV deal, that gap is only going to widen in the coming years.
CAN BIG TEN CONVERT DOLLARS TO WINS?
The Big Ten made itself a boatload of cash during the BCS era while maintaining its status (at least for a time) as the most powerful conference in college sports. But sadly, despite its shrewd business deals that greatly enriched its member schools, the Big Ten fell well short in one important area.
Now the questions is, can the Big Ten convert all those dollars into wins in the College Football Playoff era?
Money-wise, the Big Ten was the biggest winner in the 16-year BCS era. The conference sent more teams to BCS bowl games than any other and signed the biggest TV contracts in the interim. Under the ruthless leadership of commissioner Jim Delany, who's been at the helm since 1989, the conference also greatly expanded its footprint from its original midwest base.
The launching of the Big Ten Network in 2007 was both revolutionary and a stroke of genius. While it's not the first network dedicated to a single conference (the late The Mtn. of the Mountain West was), the BTN is by far the most successful, now reaching over 90 million U.S. homes.
But despite the bulging bank accounts and membership ranks, the Big Ten took a step back on the field. As the BCS era went on, the football reputation of the Big Ten became greatly diminished. The conference appeared in just three BCS title games
- all by Ohio State - and won but a single championship in 2002 when the Buckeyes beat Miami in a thriller marred by a late-game controversy.
The loss of football prestige could be seen clearly in the Big Ten's regression in the BCS standings.
Voters simply didn't trust the quality of Big Ten football after the Buckeyes lost badly in back-to-back BCS title games in 2006 and '07, and repeated losses by conference teams in the Rose Bowl. Of the eight teams that represented the Big Ten in BCS bowls, only Ohio State (6-4) and Michigan State (1-0) had winning records.
As the CFP era commences in the upcoming 2014 season, does the Big Ten have a chance to reverse that trend?
SEC FIRST AMONG EQUALS ENTERING CFP
Without question, the Southeastern Conference was the greatest beneficiary of the BCS era. During that 16-year run between 1998-2013, the SEC became the most successful and powerful conference, not to mention also the richest.
To be sure, the BCS was the brain child of former SEC commissioner Roy Kramer. After conceiving the concept to allow college football's top two teams to face off, Kramer and his successor Mike Slive then took full advantage of the system. SEC teams won the first BCS championship and nine overall, including seven in a row until that streak was snapped when Florida State edged Auburn in the final BCS championship game.
In contrast, in the previous 32 years before the BCS - roughly the starting with the time when the SEC began to desegregate
- the conference won a total of just six titles, including a split championship in 1973.
But beyond the on-field success, the SEC also became the dominant conference after Kramer and Slive made a series of shrewd business decisions. Once a regional conference in an area with relatively few major metropolises, the SEC is now a high-profile brand with national appeal.
The additions of Texas A&M and Missouri in 2012 helped the SEC to expand its footprint into Texas and the Midwest, giving the conference more leverage in (re-)negotiating its television deals.
The start of the CFP era will coincide with the launch of the SEC Network this August. The conference also extended its deal with CBS so now it runs through the 2023 season. With all the new TV deals in place, the take for each member school is estimated to be close to $34 million annually, easily dwarfing all other conferences, including the Big Ten.
STANDINGS CFP COMMITTEES CAN USE
A most contentious element of the 16-year BCS era was its standings. Love it or hate it, the standings had the attention of the college football world from its midseason unveiling to the end of the regular season, when the all-important final standings were published.
And it was a most useful tool. It was transparent and predictable, even if it was flawed.
The College Football Playoff, set to kick off for the 2014 season, did away with the standings
- at least not in a way that may be projected. The entire decision-making apparatus of the CFP rests with its 13 committee members, who will have complete discretion in deciding not just which four teams get to make the playoff, but also the other eight teams that will play in the major bowls in the playoff rotation.
CFP executive director Bill Hancock said four standings will be released to the public starting at the midpoint of the season, before the final pairings are revealed the day after the regular season ends. Other than that, the details are incredibly vague.
From the drip-drip information the committee has given to the public during the 2013 season, we only know these factors will be strongly considered: 1) strength of schedule, 2) winning the conference championship, 3) head-to-head results, if applicable. But just how much each criteria matters, we have no clue (and probably neither does the committee at this point).
With so much uncertainty, it only makes sense to construct a model that would be useful for the committee to consider. But more importantly, it has to be transparent and predictable, so we don't end up with an outrageous surprise come the first Sunday of December.
My standings model fulfills all these requirements. They're comprised of these elements:
1) AP Poll (20%): It's the only poll that's completely transparent, with each voter's ballot available for the public to scrutinize each week. It's also the most prestigious poll that's widely used by the media.
2) Computer rankings (40%): Kenneth Massey compiles the median and mean rankings of each team from over 100 computers each week. It's less biased than the human polls and the large sample size removes undue influence by outliers.
3) Strength of schedule (30%): While there are many models to choose from, Jeff Sagarin has the most time-tested SoS
formula - including results from all Division I games, FBS and FCS
- that's meticulously and promptly updated each week.
4) Conference championship (10%): It matters, but only winning it matters. Teams that win their divisions but lose in the title games don't get consideration for making an appearance.
With that in mind, this is what the final standings would've looked like at the
end of the 2013 regular season.
ARTICLE | MOCK STANDINGS)
BCS ENDS AS UNCERTAINTY GREETS NEW ERA
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. - When Bill Hancock joined the BCS in 2005, his job was to catch flak and deflect it. The system, then eight-plus years old, was coming off two contentious seasons with a split national title in 2003 and unbeaten SEC champion Auburn hung out to dry in 2004.
And back then, he never expected that we'd be at the precipice of a new age eight years later. Monday's BCS National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl will mark the final game of the 16-year BCS era.
"We didn't envision how big the BCS would grow and all the great things it'd do for the regular season," Hancock, the BCS's executive director, told the Guru during the BCS National Championship Game media day on Saturday. "And for the conferences that didn't have a contract with big bowl games. We really thought the BCS would just be a refined bowl-selection process. We didn't dream what it's become."
The BCS had become a fact of life for college football, but not without some growing pains. As we chronicled during the past few weeks, criticism of the BCS
reached a crescendo in the mid-2000s as the standings were constantly tweaked. A
bestseller, written by three Yahoo! Sports reporters - Death to the BCS
- was published in 2010.
But under the stewardship of Hancock, who took on the title of executive director in 2009, the BCS has survived and thrived.
IS ALABAMA DYNASTY OVERHYPED?
Alabama's quest for a BCS championship three-peat in all likelihood ended on the dramatic final play of the Iron Bowl, when Chris Davis ran 109 yards to take home a missed field goal for the winning touchdown. While the Tide are a lock to play in a BCS bowl this year, they'll miss out on that most elusive of prizes.
Since the AP poll began crowning national champions in 1936, no team has ever won three consecutive titles. The team that came closest was USC in 2005, but it blew a 12-point fourth-quarter lead and gave up the winning touchdown with 19 seconds to play to lose to Texas, 41-38, in the epic 2006 Rose Bowl game.
And the BCS era will end with just one team playing in three consecutive title games - and that would be Florida State, whose 1999 title was bracketed by losses in the 1998 and 2000 games. Until their loss in the Iron Bowl, the Crimson Tide were on a quest to equal that achievement (and surpass it) by winning a third consecutive BCS Championship Game.
Is Alabama's budding dynasty truly over, or is this just a blip on the road? History suggests that when a dominating run is halted suddenly, getting back to the top might be harder than it first looks. The last time Alabama won consecutive AP championships was 1978-79 and it took 13 years and three coaching changes before it claimed the next title.
Recent examples also don't bode well for the Tide to reboot the dynasty, either. After USC's dramatic loss at the Rose Bowl ended its 34-game winning streak, the Trojans had a chance to return to the title game the following season. But they were denied after a stunning upset loss to UCLA in the regular-season finale and haven't been back since.
THE SUPER BOWL OF POKER
Football's Namesake in the Card
When talking about America's sports industry, "Super Bowl" would
most likely mean the NFL's finals. Every time we mention Super Bowl in
front of football fans, stories of how Pittsburgh Steelers battled for
six Super Bowl victories would surface. Or perhaps, we would hear
about how the reigning champs Baltimore Ravens made a triumphant run
this season. For non-football fans, Superbowl XLVII may be most
Beyonce's iconic performance during the halftime show. But for
poker enthusiasts especially those who witnessed
Ungar's greatness in the 80s, "Super Bowl" meant the Superbowl of
the World Series of Poker enjoyed its iconic status today, one of its
competitors was the SBOP. You see, the SBOP was a brainchild of former
1972 WSOP Main Event Champion,
Amarillo Slim. Before the competition made its debut in a
competitive industry, poker fans only tuned to the WSOP events. For
the former champ, he saw this setting as an opportunity. "The World
Series of Poker was so successful that everybody wanted more than one
tournament," Slim said in a report by Poker News. See, he wanted to
take poker all over the world, be it in Germany, Hong Kong, or with
neighboring states. And so, a different Super Bowl was born. SBOP may
not be as large as today's
PartyPoker-sponsored World Poker Tour, but it was one poker
tournament that card gaming experts and amateurs alike turned to,
especially in a booming entertainment industry.
Much like football's Super Bowl, the event housed competent players
and some are even included in today's Poker Hall of Fame. The 1986
Deuce-to-Seven Lowball event in particular, was among the most talked
events in SBOP history. See, the final three competitors of the event
are now Hall of Famers. There was Doyle Brunson, Billy Baxter, and
Johnny Chan. In a way, they paralleled the likes of football greats
Jerry Rice, Jim Brown, or Joe Montana. Unfortunately, while the Super
Bowl in football flourished, the event's namesake in poker was the
The lack of stability and a fixed venue prompted SBOP's operators
to discontinue the once glorious event. Luckily, after the fall of
SBOP, multiple poker tournaments arose. There's the West's staple
European Poker Tour which made rounds in poker hubs like Germany and
France. One can say that even with SBOP's fall, it was a blessing in
itself since it paved way to a new generation of poker players.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL ... NFL-STYLE
What if college football made sense. If it's, say, organized like the National Football League?
With the sport's powers-that-be rapidly moving toward another segregation of the haves and have-nots - just like when Division I football was split into I-A and I-AA in 1978 - the days of the super conferences hoarding just about every last dollar to themselves will be upon us soon enough.
They have the power and the clout to ditch the NCAA if they want to. So what if they did and formed a super division of top echelon college football teams? We can have a balanced schedule, a sensible playoff, and above all, a legitimate champion every season. There will be less griping and more football. Who'd be against that?
It's probably not going to happen, but since we do traffic highly in hypotheticals, let's say it did ...
The divisions, with an eye on preserving and restoring college football's cherished rivalries, would look like this:
- Northeast Division: Boston College, Connecticut, Syracuse, Rutgers, Maryland, Pittsburgh, Penn State, Ohio State, Cincinnati.
- Great Lakes Division: Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Indiana, Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota.
- Northwest Division: Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, Boise State, Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, Iowa State.
- Pacific Division: California, Stanford, USC, UCLA, San Diego State, Arizona, Arizona State, Utah, BYU.
- Southwest Division: Texas, Texas A&M, Houston, TCU, SMU, Baylor, Texas Tech, Arkansas, LSU.
- Central Division: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Kentucky, Louisville, Tennessee, Vanderbilt.
- Deep South Division: Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida, Florida State, Miami (Fla.).
- Atlantic Division: West Virginia, Virginia, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke, Wake Forest, South Carolina, Clemson.
BCS RESOURCE CENTER
The Guru is delighted to unveil
the new BCS Resource Center,
which features all sorts of useful information on the BCS, from
statistical database to keeping track of BCS's rules and
BCS standings, from their inception in
1998 through their end in 2013, are hosted on the Guru's site. The
information was previously hosted on FoxSports.com, but since it
severed relations with the BCS after last season, all the data were
taken down and not easily accessible. The Guru was able to locate
weekly standings from 2000-2005 from the National Football
Foundation, which manages the BCS standings starting in the 2000
season, but the weekly standings from the BCS's first two seasons
Requests to the BCS and the Southeastern Conference, which ran the
standings for those first two seasons, went unanswered. No one
seemed particularly bothered that such information should be
permanently unavailable. The Guru finally obtained the weekly
standings through the Los Angeles Times (with some old
fashioned research by going through microfilms of those two years at
the library) and they have now been reconstructed and posted.
The Resource Center hopefully will serve as the one-stop shop for
all your BCS needs, for both number crunching and historical
perspectives. I will finish the annual BCS recaps this offseason -
the series now goes through 2006. And I
welcome your comments and suggestions on improving the Resource
Center, and/or my site in general.