Mailbag

A couple pre-Saturday mailbag questions and answers:

Love the site, I have been a regular visitor for a long time; however, I am surprised, because I have yet to see a post regarding a rule that the other BCS "superconferences" have with regard to tiebreakers and advancement to a conference title game that the Big 12 does not have.  Specifically, the ACC and SEC both have the additional tiebreaker rule (this excerpt was taken specifically from theacc.com, the official website of the ACC, as I'm sure you already know),

"The tied team with the highest ranking in the Bowl Championship Series Standings following the conclusion of regular season games shall be the divisional representative in the ACC Championship Game, unless the second of the tied teams is ranked within five-or-fewer places of the highest ranked tied team. In this case, the head-to-head results of the top two ranked tied teams shall determine the representative in the ACC Championship Game."

This tiebreaker rule is not among those that pertain to the Big 12, although rumor is they will add it as soon as this offseason, but if it were applied directly to the situation that faces our beloved Horns at this moment, it would not matter if the Sooners and Tech won Saturday as long as Texas take care of business later today, because Texas would be going the the Big 12 Championship Game under the circumstances of this rule.  The question is why has it taken the Big 12 this long to even consider adopting a rule that the other conferences that have a championship game have already had in place for some time?

--Daniel

Mack Brown was on Colin Cowherd's radio program today and raised the same point. In both the SEC and ACC, Texas would win the three-way tiebreak, as it would be bunched with OU atop the BCS Standings and have the head-to-head advantage.

Why hasn't the Big 12 adopted this rule? I haven't any idea, but the logic behind the ACC and SEC's rule makes sense. Of course, it's unclear what we should make of the logic if, say, OU finished #2 in the BCS Standings, Texas #3, and Texas Tech #7. The Red Raiders would have a head-to-head + BCS bunching argument themselves.

I'm going to wait until after Saturday's games to make any final case for Texas, as (1) the results Saturday should inform that argument and (2) the points may be moot if we don't finish with a three-way tie: A Tech loss sends Texas to Kansas City; an Oklahoma loss sends the Red Raiders.

If you can at learn something from your misfortune, that mitigates the pain at least a little.  There have been multiple, long, and heated debates on BON re whether we should have a stronger OOC schedule.  I have maintained we should because (1) fans paying $75 or so for a ticket deserve to see better teams than Florida Atlantic, La-Lafayette, Fla International, or UTEP and (2) SOS helps our rankings.  I am not saying we have to schedule USC, Ohio State, and Florida in one year, but if we had played a couple teams like Northwestern, Tennessee, Minnesota, Ole Miss, or Pitt this year rather than UTEP and Florida Atlantic, we would be in a much better position vis a vis OU.

My questions for you are, assuming we don't make the NC game this year, being by-passed by a team we defeated, (1) do you think  the BCS system will again be tweaked? and (2) will UT start trying to play a more difficult OOC schedule?

--Ron M.

I'll take your questions in order:

(1) I hadn't thought about it, but I don't know that Oklahoma surpassing Texas would lead to a tweak in the BCS formula, since the flaw here would really be with the Big 12 three-way tiebreaker rules. As mentioned in the previous question and answer, I think we'll see those change after the season.

(2) Long-time readers of BON know where I stand on this issue: I'm all for scheduling a challenging OOC schedule. With that said, if this year has proven anything, it's that there's not an insignificant amount of luck involved here. Consider:

  1. Texas:  FAU was supposed to be our toughest home opener in years, but the Owls have regressed this year, despite returning more than enough players from last year's bowl-winning squad. Arkansas shouldn't have been a poor game for Texas, but we caught the Razorbacks in transition this year. 
  2. Oklahoma: The Sooners get unexpected credit for beating Cincinnati and TCU (better than expected when scheduled) and blindsided by the atrocious 0-11 Washington Huskies.
  3. USC:  The Trojans are pretty well out of this race not because they scheduled pitifully but because the Pac 10 sucks. What were they supposed to do? Schedule Ohio State and Michigan? Even that wouldn't have worked out this year.
  4. Penn State: Ohio State craps the bed against USC, Michigan's rebuilding, the rest of the conference is mediocre, and the Nittany Lions are pretty well shut out.

What do we make of all that? Honestly, I think that if we're JUST focused on getting to the BCS Title game, this season may lend ammo to the "schedule soft" crowd: Yeah, if you get in a one-loss scrum you're liable to lose out, but honestly, you can't predict how strong the rest of your conference is going to be, so... it's probably better to be a guaranteed 4-0 and hope you win all your conference games. Alabama might well play for it all with one high quality win (Florida) on the docket.

Put another way: Given the paucity of unbeaten teams each year, the path of least resistance to a perfect record is probably the "smartest" move for a school like Texas. 

With that said, I still favor Texas scheduling a meaningfully challenging non-conference schedule--for both the reasons you articulate. First, part of Texas' strength right now is its incredible bank account; the fans of the program who fill the coffers deserve some better bang for their buck. And second, given that, the benefits to BCS tiebreaking speak for themselves. 

A final note: Texas' 2009 non-conference slate is an absolute joke. I predict we'll have this conversation many more times over the coming weeks and months.

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