BCS Pairings and Seeding Issues

AndyVance's picture
June 25, 2013 at 7:03p
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While the BCS system as we know it is about to fade into that long goodnight, the discussion over its faults and foibles continues. Today, many of us have been chatting about the Big Ten's abysmal performance against the vaunted So Evil South Eastern Conference. When the discussion turned to the issue of "over seeding" B1G teams to play higher-ranked opponents, I thought a trip down Data Drive was in order. Here's what we can glean (courtesy of the gnomes at Wikipedia and the BCS wayback machine):

1999 Bowl Team, Ranking, Score Team, Ranking, Score Difference
Rose #9 Wisconsin (B1G) 38 #5 UCLA (PAC-10) 31 4
Sugar #4 Ohio State (B1G) 24 #6 Texas A&M (Big 12) 14 2
Orange #8 Florida (SEC) 31 #15 Syracuse (Big East) 10 7
Fiesta #1 Tennessee (SEC) 23 #2 Florida State (ACC) 16 1
2000 Bowl Team, Ranking, Score Team, Ranking, Score Difference
Rose #7 Wisconsin (B1G) 17 #22 Stanford (PAC-10) 9 15
Orange #8 Michigan (B1G) 35 #4 Alabama (SEC) 34 4
Fiesta #3 Nebraska (Big 12) 31 #5 Tennessee (SEC) 21 2
Sugar #1 Florida State (ACC) 46 #2 Virginia Tech (Big East) 29 1
2001 Bowl Team, Ranking, Score Team, Ranking, Score Difference
Rose #4 Washington (PAC-10) 34 #17 Purdue (B1G) 24 13
Fiesta #6 Oregon State (PAC-10) 41 #11 Notre Dame (Ind.) 9 5
Sugar #3 Miami (Big East) 37 #7 Florida (SEC) 20 4
Orange #1 Oklahoma (Big 12) 13 #2 Florida State (ACC) 2 1
2002 Bowl Team, Ranking, Score Team, Ranking, Score Difference
fiesta #4 Oregon (PAC-10) 38 #3 Colorado (Big 12) 16 1
Sugar #13 LSU (SEC) 47 #8 Illinois (B1G) 34 5
Orange #5 Florida (SEC) 56 #10 Maryland (ACC) 23 5
Rose #1 Miami (Big East) 37 #2 Nebraska (Big 12) 14 1
2003 Bowl Team, Ranking, Score Team, Ranking, Score Difference
Rose #7 Oklahoma (Big 12) 34 #6 Washington State (PAC-10) 14 1
Sugar #3 Georgia (SEC) 26 #14 Florida State (ACC) 13 11
Orange #4 USC (PAC-10) 38 #5 Iowa (B1G) 17 1
Fiesta #2 Ohio State (B1G) 31 #1 Miami (Big East) 24 1
2004 Bowl Team, Ranking, Score Team, Ranking, Score Difference
Rose #3 USC (PAC-10) 28 #4 Michigan (B1G) 14 1
Orange #9 Miami (Big East) 16 #7 Florida State (ACC) 14 2
Fiesta #5 Ohio State (B1G) 35 #10 Kansas State (Big 12) 28 5
Sugar #2 LSU (SEC) 21 #1 Oklahoma (Big 12) 14 1
2005 Bowl Team, Ranking, Score Team, Ranking, Score Difference
Rose #4 Texas (Big 12) 38 #13 Michigan (B1G) 37 9
Fiesta #6 Utah (MWC) 35 #21 Pitt (Big East) 7 15
Sugar #3 Auburn (SEC) 16 #8 Virginia Tech (ACC) 13 5
Orange #1 USC (PAC-10) 55 #2 Oklahoma (Big 12) 19 1
2006 Bowl Team, Ranking, Score Team, Ranking, Score Difference
Fiesta #4 Ohio State (B1G) 34 #6 Notre Dame (Ind.) 20 2
Sugar #11 West Virginia (Big East) 38 #7 Georgia (SEC) 35 4
Orange #3 Penn State (B1G) 26 #22 Florida State (ACC) 23 19
Rose #2 Texas (Big 12) 41 #1 USC (PAC-10) 38 1
2007 Bowl Team, Ranking, Score Team, Ranking, Score Difference
Rose #5 USC (PAC-10) 32 #3 Michigan (B1G) 18 2
Fiesta #8 Boise State (WAC) 43 #10 Oklahoma (Big 12) 42 2
Orange #6 Louisville (Big East) 24 #14 Wake Forest (ACC) 13 8
Sugar #4 LSU (SEC) 41 #11 Notre Dame (Ind.) 14 7
BCS NCG #2 Florida (SEC) 41 #1 Ohio State (B1G) 14 1
2008 Bowl Team, Ranking, Score Team, Ranking, Score Difference
Rose #7 USC (PAC-10) 49 #13 Illinois (B1G) 17 6
Sugar #5 Georgia (SEC) 41 #10 Hawaii (WAC) 10 5
Fiesta #9 West Virginia (Big East) 48 #4 Oklahoma (Big 12) 28 5
Orange #8 Kansas (Big 12) 24 #3 Virginia Tech (ACC) 21 5
BCS NCG #2 LSU (SEC) 38 #1 Ohio State (B1G) 24 1
2009 Bowl Team, Ranking, Score Team, Ranking, Score Difference
Rose #5 USC (PAC-10) 38 #8 Penn State (B1G) 24 3
Orange #19 Virginia Tech (ACC) 20 #12 Cincinnati (Big East) 7 7
Sugar #6 Utah (MWC) 31 #4 Alabama (SEC) 17 2
Fiesta #3 Texas (Big 12) 24 #10 Ohio State (B1G) 21 7
BCS NCG #2 Florida (SEC) 24 #1 Oklahoma (Big 12) 14 1
2010 Bowl Team, Ranking, Score Team, Ranking, Score Difference
Rose #8 Ohio State (B1G) 26 #7 Oregon (PAC-10) 17 1
Sugar #5 Florida (SEC) 51 #3 Cincinnati (Big East) 24 2
Fiesta #6 Boise State (WAC) 17 #4 TCU (MWC) 10 2
Orange #10 Iowa (B1G) 24 #9 Georgia Tech (ACC) 14 1
BCS NCG #1 Alabama (SEC) 37 #2 Texas (Big 12) 21 1
2011 Bowl Team, Ranking, Score Team, Ranking, Score Difference
Rose #3 TCU (MWC) 21 #5 Wisconsin (B1G) 19 2
Fiesta #7 Oklahoma (Big 12) 48 N/R UCONN (Big East) 20 18+
Orange #4 Stanford (PAC-10) 40 #13 Virginia Tech (ACC) 12 9
Sugar #6 Ohio State (B1G) 31 #8 Arkansas (SEC) 26 2
BCS NCG #1 Auburn (SEC) 22 #2 Oregon (PAC-10) 19 1
2012 Bowl Team, Ranking, Score Team, Ranking, Score Difference
Rose #5 Oregon (PAC-12) 45 #10 Wisconsin (B1G) 38 5
Fiesta #3 Oklahoma St. (Big 12) 41 #4 Stanford (PAC-12) 38 1
Sugar #13 Michigan (B1G) 23 #11 Virginia Tech (ACC) 20 2
Orange #23 West Virginia (Big East) 70 #15 Clemson (ACC) 33 8
BCS NCG #2 Alabama (SEC) 21 #1 LSU (SEC) 0 1
2013 Bowl Team, Ranking, Score Team, Ranking, Score Difference
Rose #6 Stanford (PAC-12) 20 N/R Wisconsin (B1G) 14 19+
Orange #12 Florida State (ACC) 31 #15 N. Illinois (MAC) 10 3
Sugar #21 Louisville (Big East) 33 #3 Florida (SEC) 23 18
Fiesta #4 Oregon (PAC-12) 35 #5 Kansas State (Big 12) 17 1
BCS NCG #2 Alabama (SEC) 42 #1 Notre Dame (Ind.) 14 1

Okay, I'll state the obvious: this list only includes the BCS bowls, so the disparity in pairings present (or not) in the other bowls outside of the BCS games is not included - it took me long enough to do this recap as it is, and I have a day job.

Secondly, only 7 times in the 15-year history of the BCS has a difference in rankings exceeded 10 spots, and two of those occurred last year, when Ohio State would have presumably played in either the National Championship Game or the Rose Bowl, and thus reshuffled the decks completely with the Bowl pairings. Instead, unranked Wisconsin limped its way through Bert's final bowl loss as a Big Ten coach (though we assume he'll have several more now that he's a member of the SEC vanguard second tier).

Looking at the SEC matchups (in bold), we see that the conference lost 8 times in 15 years, though one of those losses includes the NCG in which Alabama defeated LSU, so that really doesn't count. In each of the remaining seven losses, the SEC team was favored to win four times (according to the rankings, at least), with the largest upset being last year's beatdown of #3 Florida by #21 Louisville. Two of those four losses, by the way, were by Alabama squads ranked four spots higher than the usurping squad.

Of the SEC's non-Championship victories, the conference's representative was actually the underdog twice, but appeared to be the beneficiary of over-seeding in the six remaining matchups: it won those contests against opponents ranked an average of 6.7 spots lower in the rankings.

So what about the Big Ten? Digging into their matchups (also in bold), we see that the conference lost 13 times. In those losses, the B1G squad was favored to win only three times. Think about that: the conference, while getting beaten pretty badly in the court of public opinion, generally lost the games it was supposed to lose during the BCS era. It's largest deficit to overcome was probably last year with the aforementioned Rose Bowl Badger debacle, but of the other nine, the B1G was outgunned by an average of 5.2 spots, those that average is skewed slightly by the four contests in which the B1G was outranked by only 1 or 2 spots.

In the SEC's losses in which it was outgunned, it's team was never more than four spots behind its opponent in the rankings. For the B1G squad, the opponent was five or more spots better in five different years, including differences of 7, 9 and 13!

What about in contests in which the Big Ten was victorious? B1G squads won a dozen times, but were only favored to win six of those matches. In those six victories, its margin of rank advantage averaged 7.5 spots, but two of those contests were outliers of 15 and 19 spots, leaving an average of 2.75 for the remaining four games.

Of the Big Ten's upset victories, meanwhile, the matches were quite close - those teams beat opponents only 2.2 spots better, none of whom were more than four ranking positions better than the B1G squad that beat them.

Some final numbers:

  • SEC teams have appeared in 25 BCS matches, winning 17 (.680).
  • SEC teams won 9 of 12 BCS contests in which they were favored (.750) and won 8 in which they were the underdog (though these wins include several in which the SEC team was ranked #2 and won the National Championship game).
  • Big Ten teams have appeared in 26 BCS matches, winning 12 (.462).
  • B1G teams won won 6 of 10 BCS contests in which they were favored (.600) and won 6 of 16 in which they were the underdog.

That's what the numbers say. Drawing my own conclusions, I'd say it's obvious that the Big Ten generally lost when it was supposed to lose, but didn't win quite as many contests when it was favored as did the SEC, though the SEC has a decided advantage in that it was favored to win almost 50% of the time, while the Big Ten was only favored to win 38.5% of its matches.

Thoughts?

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