Call it Bowl Championship Series math. Itâ€™s simple, really: Zero is greater than one.
When trying to sort out which teams should be playing in the BCS championship game, undefeated teams from the six automatic qualifying conferences shouldnâ€™t have to worry about being edged out by teams with one loss.
In other words, zero is greater than one.
Sorry LSU, Oklahoma and Oregon. At least three of the following teams, Ohio State, Boston College, Kansas and Arizona State, will have to lose before any team with one-loss plays for the national title.
If thereâ€™s anything we should learn from this crazy college football season itâ€™s this: Going undefeated is very difficult and should be rewarded. Coaches tell us this all the time.
There is no such thing as an ugly victory, coaches say. Style points are for poll voters who donâ€™t know any better, they scold. The gap between teams has narrowed, they preach. On any given day …. blah blah blah.
OK, fine. There should be no debate. One-loss teams, even those from the big, bad Southeastern Conference or from the powerful Pac-10, should not rate ahead of teams with perfect records.
Of course, that debate is about to start raging.
Top-ranked Ohio State is 9-0 after pounding Penn State 37-17 at Happy Valley on Saturday night, but the Big Ten just doesnâ€™t have much bite . The Buckeyes have played only two teams that have been ranked at any point this season.
Despite being No. 1, Ohio State hasnâ€™t won over the hearts and minds of many outside Columbus.
â€œWe keep on winning, and thatâ€™ll take care of itself,â€ Ohio State quarterback Todd Boeckman said after the Penn State game.
No. 2 Boston College plays in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which â€” with much less public scrutiny â€” hasnâ€™t been any better than the Big Ten. The Eaglesâ€™ come-from-behind 14-10 victory over Virginia Tech last Thursday was by far their most impressive win of the season, but for 55 minutes Matt Ryan and BC looked anything but impressive.
Despite their questionable resumes, the Buckeyes and Eagles control their own fates in the national title race, at least as much as any team can be in control in this system.
Then thereâ€™s LSU, its roster stacked with NFL prospects and playing in the nasty Southeastern Conference. The Tigers have already beaten Florida, Auburn and South Carolina in conference, and they trounced that same Virginia Tech team BC barely beat, 48-7.
LSU also lost 43-37 to Kentucky in triple overtime a few weeks back. The Wildcats have since dropped two straight games and have three losses on the season after falling to Mississippi State at home Saturday. Suddenly, itâ€™s a little more difficult to reconcile LSUâ€™s loss at Lexington.
Same goes for Oregonâ€™s 31-24 home loss to California. Yes, the Ducks were mere feet away from tying the game in the final minutes before fumbling their perfect record away, but Cal has now lost three straight games.
So how much credit should Oregon get for almost beating the sixth best team in its conference at home?
As for Oklahoma, the Sooners lost on the road to resurgent Colorado, which at 5-4 has not yet qualified for a bowl game. And Oklahoma blew a big lead in Boulder to boot. Why should the Sooners be rewarded for that?
With a month left in the season, the BCS still has plenty of time to work itself out … or become even more muddled.
It wouldnâ€™t be even slightly surprising if Ohio State, BC, Arizona State and Kansas drop a game before the end of the regular season and Hawaii is left as the only unbeaten team in major college football.
The Warriors of the Western Athletic Conference arenâ€™t playing in the national title game even if theyâ€™re the only remaining unbeaten. Not even coach June Jones would complain about that.
With the BCS relying on subjective polls and somewhat suspicious computer rankings, there has to be at least one objective standard used to measure teams.
So why not let it be perfection?
–Ralph D. Russo, Associated Press Writer
Bowl Chamionship Series (BCS) Rankings
(As of 10/28/07)
1. Ohio State 9-0
2. Boston College 8-0
3. LSU 7-1
4. Arizona State 8-0
5. Oregon 7-1*
6. Oklahoma 7-1
7. West Virginia 7-1
8. Kansas 8-0
9. Missouri 7-1
10. Georgia 6-2
11. Virginia Tech 6-2
12. Michigan 7-2
13. Connecticut 7-1
14. Hawaii 8-0*
15. Texas 7-2
16. Auburn 6-3
17. Alabama 6-2
18. South Florida 6-2
19. USC 6-2
20. Florida 5-3
21. Wisconsin 7-2
22. Boise State 7-1*
23. Virginia 7-2
24. Wake Forest 6-2
25. Clemson 6-2
* – Denotes 2007 Fresno State Opponent