Let Supercomputers save NFL
© St. Petersburg Times, published December 8, 2000
Once, I was in darkness. Now I see the light.
Once, I failed to see its wisdom. Now, I see there is none greater.
I have climbed the mountain. I have learned the lesson. I have joined the chorus.
The BCS is wonderful.
All hail the BCS.
Yes, I know. You hate the BCS. Once I, too, hated the BCS. But now I want to take it to brunch. I want to build it a house in the country. I want to rename my children after it. Little B will be so proud.
Now I shall spend my days in airports, banging a tambourine and raising money for the BCS. Not only that, I will labor to have the BCS settle all disputes, such as Bush vs. Gore (Gore loses on strength of schedule), the Rae Carruth trial and the future of Robert Downey Jr. I want the BCS to replace the Neilsens, the Oscars, the Billboard Top 100.
Most important, I will plead for the NFL, immediately, to stop this playoff nonsense and adopt a system exactly like that of the BCS.
Eight more Sundays and Tampa Bay will host the Super Bowl. Amazingly, almost no one is arguing over who will be invited! You still can hear people debate how Miami got jobbed as far as the Orange Bowl, but when is the last time you heard someone wonder why the Bucs are second in the Dunkel Index and only 12th in the Sporting News power rankings?
After all, who needs all these tiebreakers? What if there are upsets? What if there are comebacks? What if there are Immaculate Receptions and Longest Games? What if there is a repeat of The Drive and The Catch? And so, in a move to circumvent all that silliness, I give you this: BCS -- The NFL Version.
And this: Super Bowl XXXV: Minnesota vs. Miami.
There. Wasn't that simpler? And playoffs won't get in the way of the players as they study for finals. (About now, you are willing to point out that NFL players don't go to class, but really, couldn't you say the same about college players?)
To be honest, it is hard to mirror the BCS for the NFL. For one thing, there are no voter polls. Instead of the ESPN/USA Today poll, then, let's use Chris Mortensen's poll on ESPN.com. And instead of an AP poll, I called Dave Goldberg, the Associated Press pro football writer, at home and got him to do a power poll.
Ah, but where do you match the eight computers used by the BCS? Turns out, half of those (Jeff Sagarin, Kenneth Massey, Dunkel and Scripps-Howard) also do NFL power rankings. To those, I added the Sporting News', CNN/SI's, CBS Sportsline's and theRedZone.org's. Why would I pick these arbitrarily? Why did the BCS pick its computers arbitrarily? If the BCS isn't telling, I'm not telling.
After that, add strength of schedule (for this season, not the preseason rankings. I used Sagarin's rankings, which are adjusted for home games). Then you mix it together, and you ignore head-to-head meetings and injuries, and it tells you this: Minnesota sure is No. 1.
Eight weeks out and this is who Tampa Bay is inviting to the Super Bowl. The Vikings. Even including that weird seventh-place rating in that Dunkel Index, the Vikings far and away won the poll.
After that, the BCS-NFL (insert your own joke about TWA here) shows us a lot of the AFC, where Miami is ahead of Baltimore, which just leads Tennessee, which has a lead on Oakland, which is being followed by the Jets. So, it isn't going to be easy for the Dolphins to get here. For one thing, that early-season game against McNeese State might come back to haunt them. (Oops. That was the Hurricanes).
It is an interesting little jumble of a lot of pretty good teams, all of which seem to have deficiencies. The Dolphins still need an offense. The Ravens have beaten up on bad teams. None of the rest have shown themselves to be head and shoulders above.
Still, the AFC seems stronger than the NFC, where the polls show us the No. 2 team in the conference (but eighth overall) is -- ta-daa -- your very own Tampa Bay Bucs. Say it with me. You can't spell Bucs without B-C-S. Consider this: Two of the contenders (the Redskins and Lions) are down to their backup coaches.
So, the way I see it is this: You get the Vikings-Dolphins in the Super Bowl, which would give you Larry Csonka flashbacks until March. You get Baltimore-Tampa Bay in the Fiesta Bowl (Dilfermania!). You get Tennessee vs. the Giants in the Sugar Bowl. And you get the Eagles-Denver in the Rose (which would leave Oakland, which has a higher BCS ranking, furious. But what the hey, Denver is going to bring more fans.) The Raiders would play the Lions in the Gator, and the Rams would play the Jets in the Cotton.
See how easy it is. A few numbers, a little addition, and you've taken all the action off the field and put it in the hands of guys in funky blazers, and guys with calculators, and guys in the boardroom. Yep. That says football to me.
Or, you could do it the old-fashioned way. Teams could actually eliminate each other on the field. Runners could break tackles. Quarterbacks could become stars. Winners could dance. Losers could weep. Fans could cheer.
If you like that sort of thing.
BCS-NFL Top 10
Think Bowl Championship Series formula: The Times used 10 rankings and strength of schedule to determine the best NFL teams:
6. N.Y. Jets
8. Tampa Bay
9. N.Y. Giants
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