Includes Comments on Projecting the BCS; Storylines to Follow; Misperceptions of BCS; Boise State, TCU & Utah; and More
ESPN BCS analyst Brad Edwards – who is also an analyst on College GameDay on ESPN Radio Saturdays from noon to 7 p.m. ET – sat down to answer questions about the BCS. Topics of the interview included how he projects the BCS standings, misperceptions about the BCS, storylines to follow this year, whether a one-loss team can jump over an undefeated program, and more. In addition to the downloadable video, a transcript of the Q&A is below.
Edwards released his mock BCS standings, which included Boise State in the top spot, during the debut of ESPN’s BCS Countdown Sunday, Oct. 10. The new 75-minute program on Sundays features the exclusive announcement of the weekly BCS standings beginning at 8:15 p.m. on ESPN and continuing on ESPNU at 9 p.m. (except Nov. 21, when an hourlong edition will air on ESPN at 6 p.m.).
In addition to Edwards, Rece Davis – announcer for the ESPN College Football Primetime Thursday night game and anchor of ESPN’s daylong Saturday studio coverage — hosts the program. ESPN’s deep roster of knowledgeable and experienced analysts will provide expert insight, discussion and debate, including weekly appearances by ESPN analysts Kirk Herbstreit, Craig James and Robert Smith. Additional ESPN analysts contributing throughout the season include Todd Blackledge, Mark May, Lou Holtz, Jesse Palmer, Ed Cunningham and more.
How do you project the standings?
Edwards: Projecting the standings is more difficult now than it used to be because previously you just had to understand a little bit of math, you had to understand how to calculate the schedule strength as each team played a game – if they won or lost. Now, to some degree, it’s kind of a social psychology. You have to get into the mind of the voters and you have to try to guess what it is they are going to do. If you look at the history of the polls, there is a pretty good pattern to follow as to how they react to various situations. That is really the start of it, you have to be able to predict what the polls are going to do because that’s two-thirds of the formula. Other than that, you have to look at each individual computer and understand the nuances of each one because they all basically consider the same things but they all weight them differently. So you have to know this computer is going to put a little more weight on a home win or a road win or this one is going to look a lot more at your last five games than the previous five games. It all comes together and you have to estimate the best you can what these different elements of the formula are going to do.
Have there been any changes in recent years that have made it harder to predict the standings?
Edwards: Yea, with the move to a more poll-based formula. Before, a lot of it you could plug into Excel and use a calculator every now and then and figure it out. Right now, two-thirds of the formula is dictated by the voters. It does make it difficult sometimes when a No. 1 team loses, especially earlier in the season, you figure they are going to fall to the back of the pack as far as all the undefeated teams are going to be in front of them. It’s not always easy to know exactly where. To the credit of the voters, I’ve seen this year more than ever their ability to reevaluate all the teams after any given Saturday. In the past, most of the time when teams win, they just all move up; somebody loses, they fall back. But we are seeing a lot more of teams that won, one jumps over the other one even when in theory they both looked good. I think the voters are paying closer attention and that does make it more difficult to project.
What do you think is the biggest misperception about the BCS, something fans might not realize?
Edwards: One thing the fans have difficulty understanding is about computers and the effect of schedule strength. The fans don’t understand that the computer ratings in general are only based on the games that have been played so far. They’ll hear somebody say “this team’s schedule is not very tough, what do you mean? They play this team and this team.” Well they haven’t played them yet. The computers are having to plug in a result – whether you won or lost, what the location was, etc. They can’t account for games that haven’t yet been played because they can’t assign a win or loss to them. We’re not looking at what’s left on the schedule. We’re not looking at the upside. We’re looking at the reality of where things are right now based on what’s been played. I think another thing fans have a tendency to forget is computers don’t look at margin of victory. You’ll see a team going out there wiping up the field with everybody they’re playing week after week and you say, How can the computers not recognize how good this team is? Well, because they are not allowed to look at the score. They are just looking at the teams you beat, and if the teams are you beating are not considered to be great you are not going to be as high in the computers as you will be in the polls.
Can a one-loss team surpass an undefeated team and how?
Edwards: They absolutely can. The main way it happens is because computers count for one-third of the formula. Most of the time, an undefeated team is going to be ranked ahead of a one-loss team in the polls. But if the gap between them in the polls isn’t that big – and a lot of the times we just look at the rankings – but what the BCS does, it actually looks at the points that determine the rankings and so if the No. 2 team is only four points ahead of the No. 3 team then they are basically tied. More than likely who comes out ahead in the BCS is going to be determined by the computers. It’s very possible, within the computers, for a team with one loss to be ranked ahead of a team that has no losses if the team with one loss played a much tougher schedule. We’ve seen it happen before. It happened toward the end of last season when Florida after losing the SEC championship game to Alabama was still ranked ahead of an undefeated Boise State. It’s not often it happens, but it certainly does happen.
Do you see that happening this year?
Edwards: I think it could happen – once again with the SEC and Boise State, if there is a one-loss champion in the SEC. Despite all that Boise State has accomplished and despite all the credit that is being given by the voters. I think there is a chance that a one-loss SEC champ could be ranked so much higher than an undefeated Boise State in the computers at the end of the year. I don’t think there would be that big of a gap between those teams in the polls. I think it could happen again. It’s one of those things you don’t see happen between two major conference teams. At least not to this point in the BCS, we don’t see times when there is an undefeated major team behind a one-loss major team. But it can certainly happen when the undefeated team is from what we call a non-major conference, one that doesn’t have as strong of a schedule
What is your prediction for a National Championship matchup this year?
Edwards: Right now, I’ve got a feeling that Ohio State is going to lose at Iowa. I think Oregon is going to run the table. I have a hard time seeing anyone else in the Pac-10 knocking them off, even though that is traditionally one of the hardest conferences to go undefeated through. So I see Oregon there. I think at that point it really comes down to whether Oklahoma or Nebraska can go undefeated. Obviously, if they can go undefeated into that Big 12 championship game against each other, one of them is going to come out and would get that other spot. If they don’t, if they both slip up somewhere, then I think a one-loss team from somewhere else is going to get in there over a Boise or TCU. Right now, the way those teams are playing, I would probably predict Oregon against Nebraska for the National Championship.
What are some of the BCS stories fans should watch for as we head into the final half of the season?
Edwards: Everybody loves the smaller teams – which have become the big teams but started out small because of their conferences – but Boise and TCU, the longer they can stay undefeated the more fun it’s going to be and the more controversial it is going to be. I would say beyond those two, which is the kind of obvious answer to that question, look out for either Auburn or LSU going undefeated through the SEC. They started further back in the standings. Obviously, the teams in the SEC everybody expected preseason would have a chance to be unbeaten were Alabama and Florida. I don’t think there is any question they would be in the thick of the national championship race if they were still undefeated. But with Auburn and LSU having started a little bit further back, teams like Ohio State, Oregon, Nebraska and Oklahoma have all moved ahead of them. But because the SEC has won the last four national titles, I think if a team from that conference goes unbeaten and is unbeaten late into the season, the voters, at least some of them, are going to feel a little bit of pressure and maybe to some degree an obligation to put an undefeated SEC team into the top two. I think it could be really intriguing to see how an undefeated SEC will be treated if it gets that far late in the season, and whether they jump over some of the other big-name schools. Especially if it’s Auburn because Auburn was undefeated in 2004 and they got left out of the championship game and I think a lot of voters that still feel bad for them to this day.
Boise and TCU get all of the attention, but Nevada and Utah are also undefeated and ranked, do these teams have a chance to get into a BCS game?
Edwards: I don’t think they have a chance for the BCS Championship Game. That might sound counterintuitive to some people. Not necessarily Nevada, but Utah is a team right on the fringe of the top 10 already and they have a chance to beat TCU later in the season. But I think so much of the BCS is a preseason perception. Utah, granted, has been in the BCS in recent years and has won two BCS games, but because they didn’t do it last year and because they didn’t return all these starters from a team that was in the BCS a year earlier I don’t think there is that same feeling among the voters that they are one of the best teams in America. TCU kind of gets the benefit of the doubt in that respect and so I think if TCU loses to Utah a lot of voters are going to say well it was at Utah or maybe TCU wasn’t as good as we thought and Utah probably isn’t going to get the credit they deserve for winning that game. I still think if they go undefeated they can finish as high as No. 5. I just don’t think they’ll get close enough to really have a serious chance at making the National Championship Game.
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