Thursday, December 17, 2009

Would a Conference Championship Game Have Cost the Big Ten Two BCS Participants?

Part of the great debate of Big Ten expansion hinges on whether a conference title game would cost the Big Ten a second BCS team. No other conference has had more BCS bowl game participants than the Big Ten has, which makes all eleven schools a ton of extra cash for Christmas shopping- or paying their head coaches' salaries, whichever comes first.

As someone who is not the biggest fan of expansion unless the 12th team is that rich Catholic school from South Bend, I have generally assumed a conference title game would knock a second team out of a BCS game, and certainly out of the national championship game.

But is this actually true? Well, instead of just throwing out my usually rational (or perhaps irrational) theories without any merit like usual, I decided to do some actual research using those "facts" thingys to form an opinion. Sure it's not as fun and it's more time consuming but hey, people seem to like arguments based in facts and reason instead of opinion- well unless you're an old crotchety sports columnist (or pretty much any former player in any sport) who argues the merit of Jack Morris or Jim Rice's Hall-of-Fame candidacy based on things like grit, determination, clutchness, and how "feared" they were.

To conduct this study, let's use Jermo's North/South conference alignment (Chadnudj went into much further detail on said alignment plan over at TRE) placing a 12th team X in the south. We will assume 12th team X was crappy and did not figure into the division winners in our study.

For each season of the BCS from 1998-2009 we'll look at whether the Big Ten got a team into the national title game and how many teams the Big Ten had in the BCS, and whether a pseudo-conference title game would have helped or hurt these results. Let's start with 2009 and work backwards, shall we? Oh and remember, that only since 2006 has their been five BCS games, and a team only need to be ranked in the top 14 to be eligible for an at-large selection. Before that there were four games which required a top eight finish to be an at-large selection, with the national championship rotating between the four sites.

2009
ACTUAL
National Championship: no
BCS Bowls: Rose: #8 Ohio St (10-2) Orange: #10 Iowa (10-2)
EXPANDED
North Division champ: Iowa
South Division champ: Ohio State
If the North won: Ohio State is out with 3 losses, but Penn State likely replaces them
If the South won: Iowa is definitely out with 3 losses, but Penn State likely replaces them.
2 teams?: yes

2008
ACTUAL
National Championship: no
BCS Bowls: Rose- #8 Penn State (11-1) Fiesta- #10 Ohio State (10-2)
EXPANDED
North Division champ: #18 Michigan St (9-3)
South Division champ: Penn St
If the North won: Michigan St to the Rose, Ohio St to the Fiesta
If the South won: Penn St to the Rose, Ohio St to the Fiesta
2 teams: in either scenario, yes

2007
ACTUAL
National Championship: #1 Ohio State (11-1)
BCS Bowls: Rose- #13 Illinois (9-3)
EXPANDED
North Division champ: Michigan (9-4 and not ranked!!)
South Division champ: Ohio St
If the North won: OSU is out of the natty title, but still in a BCS bowl
If the South won: OSU goes onto get slaugthered by LSU and Illinois still goes to the Rose Bowl to get slaughtered by USC.
2 teams: Yeppers!

2006
ACTUAL
National Championship: #1 Ohio State (12-0)
BCS Bowls: Rose- #3 Michigan (11-1)
EXPANDED
North Division champ: Michigan
South Division champ: Ohio St
If the North won: In all likelihood, Michigan to the NC against Florida and OSU to the Rose
If the South won: OSU to the NC against Florida, but would the Rose Bowl have taken two loss Michigan (especially considering they would have lost two straight games?) ahead of #6 Wisconsin who were 11-1? Either way the Big Ten gets two teams.
2 Teams: Yes again

2005
ACTUAL
National Championship: no
BCS Bowls: Rose- #3 Penn State (11-1) Fiesta- #4 Ohio State (10-2)
EXPANDED
North Division champ: #20 Michigan (7-4)- I think they win a 4-way tie with Wisconsin, Iowa, and Northwestern who all finished 5-3. The Wolverines and Wildcats were both 2-1 against the group, and Michigan beat NW. Makes sense, right? Sort of?
South Division champ: Penn St
If the North won: Michigan to the Rose, OSU to the Fiesta
If the South won: PSU to the Rose, OSU to the Fiesta
2 teams?: yes we can!

2004
ACTUAL
National Championship: no
BCS Bowls: Rose- #13 Michigan (9-2)
EXPANDED
North Division champ: Michigan
South Division champ: Purdue (7-5)
If the North won: Michigan to the Rose
If the South won: Purdue to the Rose, Michigan or Iowa (ranked 11th) would not go to a BCS game
2 teams: no either way

2003
ACTUAL
National Championship: no
BCS Bowls: Rose- #4 Michigan (10-2) Fiesta- #8 Ohio State (10-2)
EXPANDED
North Division champ: Michigan
South Division champ: Ohio St
If the North won: Michigan to the Rose, Ohio State OUT!
If the South won: Ohio St to the Rose, Michigan OUT! (the lowest ranked 2-loss BCS conference team that year was Miami at #10, and 3-loss Michigan certainly would have fell below them and out of the top 8)
2 teams: NO! Our first case where a conference title game would have kept two teams out of the BCS that would otherwise have made it. Of course, using the current standards with five bowls and top 14 eligibility, Michigan, Purdue, AND Iowa would have all qualified.

2002
ACTUAL
National Championship: #2 Ohio State (12-0)
BCS Bowls: Orange- #3 Iowa (11-1)
EXPANDED
North Division champ: Iowa
South Division champ: OSU
If the North won: Iowa to the NC vs. Miami, OSU to the Orange or Fiesta
If the South won: OSU to the NC vs. Miami, Iowa...still probably to the Orange, but the conversation gets REALLY interesting when you're testing them again fellow 2-loss teams K-State, USC, and Texas.
2 teams: Probably.

2001
ACTUAL
National Championship: no
BCS Bowls: Sugar- #8 Illinois (10-1)
EXPANDED
North Division champ: Michigan (8-3)
South Division champ: Illinois
If the North won: Michigan to a BCS game, Illinois not so much
If the South won: Illinois to the Sugar, Michigan not to a BCS game.
2 teams: nope

2000
ACTUAL
National Championship: no
BCS Bowls: Rose- #17 Purdue (8-3)
EXPANDED
North Division champ: Purdue
South Division champ: Ohio State (8-3)
If the North won: Purdue to the Rose
If the South won: OSU to the Rose, Purdue drops out
2 teams: no

1999
ACTUAL
National Championship: no
BCS Bowls: Rose- #7 Wisconsin (9-2)Orange- #8 Michigan (9-2)
EXPANDED
North Division champ: Wisconsin
South Division champ: Penn State (8-3)
If the North won: Sconnie to the Rose, Michigan the Orange
If the South won: Penn St to the Rose, Michigan the Orange
2 teams: yes

1998
ACTUAL
National Championship: no
BCS Bowls: Rose- #9 Wisconsin (10-1) Sugar #4 Ohio State (10-1)
EXPANDED
North Division champ: Wisconsin
South Division champ: Ohio State
If the North won: Badgers to the Rose, OSU might remain in the top eight, but they might not
If the South won: OSU to the Rose, Wisconsin out
2 teams: probably no either way

So in the eleven years of the BCS Era, only twice would a Big Ten Title game possibly have kept a second team from qualifying, and both times they were pre-2006, meaning that with today's standards, the Big Ten still would have had a second team eligible for selection.

This is why it's a good thing to actually do some research once in awhile. Even though the Big Ten has gone through some "down years" lately, especially in the eyes of the college football public, the conference has still had no shortage of success getting a second team into the BCS. The research tells me that adding a championship game would not hurt the Big Ten in this quest, so that barring a disasterous season, the conference can count on big revenue from a conference title game AND two BCS Bowl participants.

I have to say, this definitely shoots a big hole in my argument about the Big Ten losing revenue by adding a 12th team. While I still feel like they should hold out for Notre Dame, I suppose I can't blame Jim Delany and the presidents for going full steam ahead with a 12th team.

I hate it when facts get in the way of my arguments!

2 comments:

Jeremy said...

You forgot to comment about the part where I was right and you were wrong... just kidding.

GREAT research! Shall we begin the debate on who, since it won't be Notre Dame, should be the 12th team?

Anonymous said...

Your big argument is that the downside of not having two BCS teams is lost revenue outweighs benefit of having a championship game. The Championship game will rake in $8M-$15M (which is what Big 12 and SEC got this year). Second, BCS team gets $4.5M (which is partially offset by the lower tier bowl that a big ten team goes to instead)