Houlgate Perspective - End of Regular Season: Call Me Deacon Blue; Alabama Ain't No. 2
Sorry folks, can't let this one go so easily. Alabama will play LSU for the Bowl Championship Subdivision (BCS) title on January 9, 2012. The problem here is that Alabama plays in the same Southeastern Conference division as LSU. The SEC had a conference championship and Alabama didn't get to play in it. Still, the BCS and pollsters deemed the Crimson Tide worthy of a shot at the title, most likely because of their field goal kicking contest with LSU.
Last Saturday, I listened to a sports talk radio host rant about Alabama. His sentiments echoed mine and he made some good points, mainly that Alabama didn't win a significant victory all year - never defeated a team that had won its conference championship. He concluded that that alone should keep them out of the game. I'd like to add that Alabama did not even match the strength of schedule of two other teams, one of which was treated rather unjustly, Boise State.
So rather than continue on a rant of my own, I'm going to prove that Alabama did not play a schedule that makes them deserving of the title game. I can just hear the SEC homers countering my argument, "Oh but you don't understand. We're the SEC and our teams are always beating up on each other. It's so hard to win in this conference." Yes, SEC teams beat each other up and it is difficult to win in that conference. But the same can be said for the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and the Big East conferences. Let's not forget the Mid-American, Conference USA, Sun Belt, Mountain West and the WAC while we're at it. Some teams play very well outside their conference, but have trouble getting past the middle and bottom feeders in their own conference. Just ask Oklahoma State about that.
Using the Houlgate ranking formula, which ranks teams based on the records of the teams it plays against, we can measure the strength of schedule. Let's take a look at Alabama:
Judging from the letter grades of Alabama's opponents we have five H (7 or more-loss) teams. One of them, Georgia Southern was an automatic H because it is out of the FBS division. The Crimson Tide also played three G teams (6-loss). LSU, an A-team, the only A-team remaining, was the best team, but Bama's schedule looks a bit bottom heavy. Two-thirds of Alabama's schedule ranged in the lowest end of the grading spectrum. When we compare the spread of letter grades over Alabama's schedule to Boise State's and Oklahoma State's, we see something interesting.
Boise State played four H teams and no G teams. The remainder of its opponents ranged from C to F. Oklahoma State played three H teams and two G teams, with the rest ranging from C-F. Both Boise State and Oklahoma State scored the same number of points. One of the newly adopted metrics in the Houlgate system is the Strength of Schedule Grade Point Average (SOS_GPA). In the SOS_GPA, we assign a value to the letter grade of a team's opponents scaling from 8 for an A team to 1 for an H team, then we take the average of all grade points for every team on the schedule. In looking at the SOS_GPA of Boise State's and Oklahoma State's opponents, they also come out even and clearly ahead of Alabama. Boise State and Oklahoma averaged 3.083 and Alabama averaged 2.75. The other thing the Bronco's and Cowboys have in common: neither team played anyone outside the FBS.
When we look at No. 1 LSU's strength of schedule, we see a team that played six teams in the G and H range, but also four teams in the B through D range with the rest in the middle. LSU posted an SOS_GPA of 3.307. They played one team outside the FBS, Northwestern State, but also defeated a couple of higher value opponents out of conference, Oregon (C) and West Virginia (D). To contrast that with Alabama, the Tide played Kent State (H), Penn State (D), North Texas (H) and Georgia Southern (H) in its out-of-conference schedule. With the exception of Penn State, Alabama played a relatively weak out-of-conference schedule.
Boise State also played and defeated George (D), which won the SEC East division title. The Bronco's other out-of-conference opponents were Toledo, and Tulsa, both E teams. Oklahoma State's out-of-conference schedule included LA Lafayette and Tulsa (Both E) and Arizona (H).
To say the Alabama deserves to be in the title game because of its strength of schedule just doesn't hold up. Had they defeated a champion from another conference, as the radio host suggested, or at least played Georgia, they could have made a stronger case for it.
Instead the BCS will reward the Tide with a game they don't deserve to be in. To add insult to injury, Boise State will play Arizona State, a G team, in the MAACO Bowl in Las Vegas before Christmas, a game that's not even counted as a BCS bowl game.
Oklahoma State fared much better, getting matched up with Stanford, a B team, in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2. Stanford is ranked 4th in the BCS standings and 5th in the Houlgate Rankings.