Everyone has been focused on NCAA football lately, with the bowl season in full force. With the results being rather curious, with the Pac-10 dominating, the Big 12 south looking less impressive and the Big 10 mostly not even showing up, we're learning a few things. First and foremost, we're learning that even after the rankings are in, we're not really sure who is good and who isn't until teams start playing outside their conference for real.Last year
, Steve and I determined that the only fair way to decide a tournament field is to reward conference champions with berths in the post season tournament. No wild cards, because they have proved nothing. No 8 team tournament, because that unfairly leaves 3 teams out. Really, Florida has proven only that they are the best team in the SEC, not the country. That was determined by voters. What's to say they would succeed playing Pac-10 teams? Only popular opinion, not head to head matchups determined that they would.
Next, we acknowledged that all conferences are not created equally. The Big Ten can beat up annually on the MAC, the SEC on the Sun Belt and the Big 12 on Conference USA, for example. Therefore, we rearranged
all 120 teams into 12 10 team conferences based solely on geography. For those who don't remember, here is a look at the map with the 12 conferences.
Lastly, we took the new conferences and simulated an entire season
. We seeded the winners of the conferences in a 12 team tournament, with seeds based on records and BCS ranking. #1 seed Ohio State defeated #7 seed USC to win the championship. Actual BCS champion LSU was left home, having lost to Texas in the regular season.
This year, we determined that our sim needed to exclude BCS rankings entirely. To do this, we added a non conference schedule based on "pods" that were created from groups of 4 conferences. For example, Iowa finished 4th in the Midwest conference that year, and their conference pod included the Plains, Florida and Dixie conferences. Finishing 4th in those conferences last sim were Missouri, Central Florida and Georgia, respectively. These 4 teams, then, would play each other in their non conference schedule. Additionally, conference schedules were created in order for a balanced schedule, and were generic across the board, depending on the finish the previous season. For example, Iowa would play at home versus the # 1, 3, 6, 8, and 10 teams from the previous season, and go on the road to #2, 5, 7, 9, which is what every 4 seed would do.
Now, tiebreakers for conference seeding were determined thusly: Overall record, conference strength (i.e. the overall record of conference, which is dependent on their play against non conference opponents. This makes essentially every early season game meaningful.), non conference weight (i.e. whether a team played a 1st, 2nd place etc. schedule) and finally, point differential. In conference, winners were determined by conference record, with overall record the first tie breaker, followed by head to head and point differential.
That being said, here's how the sim, using whatifsports.com
, shook out. There were quite a few surprises.New England:
Last year's winner: Boston College.
This year: Penn State. Penn State dominated for the entire year, going 12-0 and never really being challenged. As a conference, New England was 2 games above .500, with Navy's 3rd place finish among the surprises. Penn State earned a third seed in the tournament.
Order of finish: Penn State, Maryland, Navy, UCONN, Rutgers, Boston College, Buffalo, Temple, Army, Syracuse.Appalachian
: Last year's winner: Virginia Tech
This year: West Virginia. The sims demonstrated a preference for Big East teams over the ACC in this conference, with West Virginia, Cincinnati and Pitt all finishing ahead of Virginia and Virginia Tech. West Virginia's only conference loss was a home game to Pitt, but both Cincy and Pitt dropped two games, which allowed the Mountaineers to enter the post season. A finish 2 games over .500 allowed them to earn the 9 seed.
Order of finish: West Virginia, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Ohio, Kentucky, Louisville, Marshall, Miami (OH)Great Lakes
: Last year's winner: Ohio State
This year: Ohio State. The Buckeyes went unchallenged again in this, the weakest of the 12 conferences this season. They lost the season opener at Wake Forest, but went on to win the remaining 11 games to pick up the 8th seed. Michigan embarrassed themselves, finishing 8th. The conference finished 6 games below .500.
Order of finish: Ohio State, Western Michigan, Michigan State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, Akron, Toledo, Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Kent State.Tobacco Road
: Last year's winner: Wake Forest
This year: Tennessee. By far the most competitive, Tobacco Road saw it's top 4 teams finish 7-2. Wake Forest lost 2 non conference games and was eliminated, while Tennessee emerged as the team with the best point differential, compared with East Carolina and North Carolina. Quite a different turn of events as what actually happened for the Volunteers, thanks to some fortuitous scheduling. The Vols earned the 11 seed as the conference was 2 games above .500.
Order of finish: Tennessee: East Carolina, North Carolina, Wake Forest, NC State, Duke, Middle Tennessee State, Memphis, Vanderbilt, Western Kentucky.Midwest
: Last year's winner: Purdue
This year: Iowa. The conference had several matchup problems with non conference opponents and ended up flipped almost completely upside down, with Purdue at the bottom at the end of this season. It was another competitive set, with a three way tie for second at 6-3, but Iowa pulled away and went undefeated in conference. They earned the 7th seed for the tournament. Notre Dame, for those interested, finished in 6th and will play Florida International next season. The conference was three games under .500.
Order of finish: Iowa, Illinois, Ball State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Indiana, Northern Illinois, Purdue.Florida
: Last year's winner: Florida
This year: Florida. For the second year, the Gators dominated their namesake conference. Not only that, but they had a big non-conference win, on the road against Oklahoma. They couldn't dominate teams as thoroughly as the #1 seed, however with a record 2 games above .500, the Gators nabbed the second seed overall. Troy was this years surprise conference team, finishing 2nd.
Order of finish: Florida, Troy, South Florida, Florida State, Miami (FL), Florida International, Florida Atlantic, Central Florida, Southern Miss, Tulane.Great Plains
: Last year's winner: Oklahoma
This year: Missouri. One of the three biggest surprises of the sim had Oklahoma's road loss to the Tiger's tilt the conference in Missouri's favor. The conference as a whole finished 2 games below .500, thanks to a few fairly terrible teams, and Missouri ended up with 10 seed.
Order of finish: Missouri, Oklahoma, Tulsa, Oklahoma State, Kansas, Nebraska, Arkansas State, Arkansas, Iowa State, Kansas StateDixie
: Last year's winner: Auburn
This year: Alabama. The Dixie was as true to life as any conference. Mississippi was surprisingly strong, Alabama earned the championship with tough defense, Auburn's offense was frustrating and Georgia failed to live up to expectations. Overall, this was the strongest of all conferences at 3 games above .500, and Alabama was the highest seeded team with a loss, netting the 5th seed.
Order of finish: Alabama, Clemson, Ole Miss, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Auburn, Mississippi State, South Carolina, UAB, Louisiana-Monroe.Gulf Coast
: Last year's winner: Texas
This year: TCU. In a conference we expected to essentially alternate between Texas and LSU annually, things didn't quite work out that way. The Horned Frogs upset the Longhorns in Austin, and in turn Texas lost a tough road game at Houston and ended up finishing third behind those teams. LSU was fifth in an off year. The Horned Frogs were undefeated, but the conference was weak, finishing a game below .500, and they ended up with the 4th seed. SMU is the only team in the country that has finished last two years in a row.
Order of finish: TCU, Houston, Texas, Louisiana Tech, LSU, Rice, Louisiana-Lafayette, Texas A&M, North Texas, SMUMountain West
: Last year's winner: Wyoming
This year: BYU. For the second year in a row, the Mountain west brings us the 12 seed. The travel did Texas Tech in, apparently, finishing 6-3 in conference, while the two teams ahead of them, BYU and Air Force had one more win. BYU was unimpressive in their non-conference schedule, losing to TCU and playing mediocre Arizona State and Washington State. The conference was 2 games below .500.
Order of finish: BYU, Air Force, Texas Tech, New Mexico, Baylor, New Mexico State, Colorado State, Wyoming, UTEP, ColoradoGreat Basin
: Last year's winner: Oregon State
This year: Boise State. Going in, this was one of the more interesting conferences. Utah, Boise State and Pac-10 contender Oregon State all called it home, with the Oregon Ducks lurking in the background. Utah didn't match up well against Boise and stumbled in Reno against Nevada, while the Beavers were tripped up three times against Oregon, Utah and Boise. The Broncos only had one loss, losing to Oregon, and they ended up with a 6th seed, and the conference ended a game above .500.
Order of finish: Boise State, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Oregon State, Utah State, UNLV, Idaho, Washington, Washington State.California
: Last year's winner: USC
This year: USC. The Trojans earned the top seed by thoroughly dominating everyone they played. There was very little drama in the conference, with the Trojans not allowing a single touchdown all season. UCLA, hilariously, ended up dead last. The conference was 2 games above .500.
Order of finish: USC, Arizona, California, Stanford, Hawaii, Arizona State, San Jose State, Fresno State, San Diego State, UCLA.
In the first round of the tournament then, we had #8 Ohio State vs #9 West Virginia. Ohio State won, despite Pat White's 3 touchdowns, 34-24
#5 Alabama defeated #12 BYU 30-13 behind a huge ground game from Glen Coffee.
#6 Boise State won against #11 Tennessee thanks to their ground assault as well. Jeremy Avery led the Broncos to a 34-17 victory.
In the only upset of the first round, #10 Missouri defeated #7 Iowa in a rematch. Derrick Washington led the way to a 28-23 victory.
The Elite Eight, as it were, started with a rematch of last years Championship Game, as #1 USC avenged last years loss against Ohio State, 36-13, despite Beanie Wells running for over 200 yards.
One of the surprise teams in the final 8, #4 TCU was able to put together a solid defensive effort and 1 touchdown run from Aaron Brown, as the Horned Frogs defeated Alabama 12-6.
#3 Penn State kicked off their post season with a win against Boise State, 30-13, thanks to a huge day from Evan Royster.
#2 Florida got all they could handle from Missouri, but Tim Tebow and the Gators prevailed, 34-27.
Our final four was set. The first game saw an upset, as TCU continued to be defensive stalwarts, while scoring only the second touch down of the season on the Trojans, a late Jai Cavness run that earned TCU a trip to the national title game with a 10-6 victory.
In the other semifinal, New England champ Penn State followed 4 Evan Royster touchdowns to a 35-23 upset of Florida, setting up a 3-4 matchup for the national title.
The championship game was hard fought as well. Darryl Clark had a good day, throwing for a touchdown and 174 yards, which was impressive considering the defense he was facing, while the Horned Frogs continued to spread the ball around, with no back earning more than 70 yards. In the end, it was TCU's stalwart defense that led to their 20-10 championship victory.
(Photo from gofrogs.cstv.com
Now, what have we learned? I think two things were learned, and sorry, TCU, it's not that you were the best team this season.
First: So much of college football is dependent on good scheduling. Had Oklahoma been scheduled at Missouri this year, would they have been able to pull off the victory? Had TCU avoided Oklahoma or a road game at Utah, would they have been a BCS team? Sure, a lot of it's about getting it done on the field, but many teams have advantageous schedules.
Second: A tournament, even if done properly, may make it LESS likely that the best teams in the country make it to the championship game, thanks to upsets in the tournament and that above mentioned disadvantageous scheduling.
Either way, it was a lot of fun to do and see what would happen. I know Steve is in the process of simming his way through the season as well, and may end up having a similar post down the road. If you would like to know exactly how your team did, leave me a a comment or e-mail and I'll let you know. Thanks for reading!
Labels: NCAA Football, Simulation