Trailing Missouri 36-27 with 2:24 remaining on Saturday, Oklahoma had the ball and at least some hope of springing a miracle comeback. This is college football after all, and while the Sooners chances were slim, stranger things have happened.
Bob Stoops saw it differently. Facing 4th and 10 from deep in his own territory he punted, effectively conceding the game to Missouri. The Sooners flat gave up. He did it for one reason: he feared that if OU was stopped, Mizzou would punch in another score and extend the margin of defeat.
A 16-point loss would look worse to poll voters that make up two-thirds of the BCS formula. So rather than try to win, he went with a new concept: running down the score.
“It’s a long year. Who knows how poll people look at scores?” Stoops explained to the Daily Oklahoman.
This isn’t a criticism of Stoops. He made the smart decision that comes from having such a dumb system of determining a champion.
Stoops weighed the long-odds of a comeback against the long-term damage of a double digit defeat and decided he could live with a nine-point road loss.
Oklahoma dropped to 9th in the BCS standings but trail just Alabama (No. 6) among one-loss teams. The Tide’s defeat, though, was by 14 to South Carolina. If it comes to politicking between the two in early December, you can bet margin of defeat will be mentioned by folks in Oklahoma.
Our book is about debunking the BCS’s well-worn talking points by showing how real-world application is generally the exact opposite; just about everything the BCS says is unsupported spin.
This is the latest.
The BCS claims “Every Game Matters” and it protects the “sanctity of the regular season.” Then Oklahoma gives up on winning a game because it’s trying to game the system.
A small, educated selection committee would be equipped to see the circumstances that go into margin of victory or defeat. The coaches who admit they don’t watch anything but game film on their next opponent and the Harris Poll voters – a sizeable portion of whom think Florida is having a good season – have proven they don’t pay attention to much of anything.
Stoops decision also shows the folly of the BCS stripping its computer formulas of margin of victory in the name of sportsmanship. The human voters already consider margin of victory, so it doesn’t add any bit of sportsmanship. As unfortunate as a team running up the score is, isn’t it worse that the BCS is causing coaches to alter late game strategy and give up on their players?
The BCS doesn’t promote sportsmanship at all. All it does is pervert math to the point the computer guys admit they are provided a “less accurate” ranking than they could. It’s poorly thought-out public relations.
“It’s not the best way to do it,” said Kenneth Massey, one of the computer guys.
How different would the BCS ranking be with margin of victory included? Jeff Sagarin offers two sets of rankings, the one without margin of victory he calls “politically correct.”
Missouri would go from No. 1 to No. 5. Oregon would jump from No. 6 to No. 1. Michigan State would go from No. 2 to No. 25. TCU and Boise State would rank 3 and 4 respectively rather than 7 and 11.
On and on it goes. I don’t know whether the math on these formulas is any good. I do know actual mathematicians we interviewed for the book said it wasn’t.
And I know that every game doesn’t count when Bob Stoops is quitting on a comeback because he’s worried about bizarro world style points.