Friday, December 16, 2011

Are You Ready?

Well, I am.

I'm ready to get going with the 2011 edition of a would-be, could-be, should-be NCAA Division 1-A college football playoff...especially after watching Wisconsin-Whitewater take down longtime nemesis Mount Union, 13-10, to keep its (Real Life) NCAA Division 3 football title. (And as I'm typing this, I'm checking out a Division 1-AA semifinal. Right now, with 7:54 to play in the third quarter, Sam Houston State leads Montana, 28-14. They're both after the championship Eastern Washington picked up in 2010.)

Tomorrow, the fairy tales- oops, I mean the D-1-A bowl games- get started. And for this season, it all ends on 1-9-2012 with the Extra Bowl. (Oops...I mean the BCS championship game. And that game's Louisiana State-Alabama matchup ought to be a big reason to switch 1-A football to a playoff system instead of this bowls-and-polls crap.)

So, manana, I'm going to my computer and start the first round of this version of this year's 1-A playoffs.

If you're new to "Boston's Blog," I like to run a 24-team playoff that includes the champion from each of NCAA Division 1-A football's eleven conferences (not just the six wealthiest ones- the ones labeled "BCS" leagues) along with thirteen at-large teams. To get all the teams seeded, I use a point system that's kind of like the one your state's high school athletic association probably uses to determine football playoff pairings in each class.

This point system goes like this:

A playoff team gets 50 quality points if it beat a Division 1-A team that had a winning record, 45 points for every victory against a 1-A club that had a .500 record or worse, 40 points for stopping a Division 1-AA squad that won most of its games, and 35 points for defeating a nonwinning 1-AA team.

And that playoff team has to give up quality points for every loss it racks up: 50 for every loss to a winning Division 1-A club, 55 every time the qualifying team loses to a nonwinning 1-A squad, 60 for any loss to a D-1-AA team that won most of its contests, and- that's right- 65 points in case a 1-A playoff team gets beat by a 1-AA club that stank.

All undefeated 1-A playoff teams receive 55 bonus points apiece.

And yep, the system uses tiebreakers, too. The first tiebreaker involves the number of victories the tied clubs' Division 1-A opponents racked up. If those numbers end up exactly the same, head-to-head competition is used. If the two teams didn't play each other, their conference records are examined. In case the records are dead even, point differential in conference games is used. If the teams had the same number there, I take a look at the point diff in all games.

If the point differential in all games is the same for both teams, well...a coin flip breaks the tie.

In this system, the bowl games aren't taken into consideration; just regular-season play. And the Associated Press poll and its ESPN-USA Today and Harris Interactive counterparts have no bearing on this system, so there's no media bias.

This system stresses how a team did this season, not its popularity or longtime reputation.

And with that in mind, it's time to announce (drum roll)...the 24 entries in this season's NCAA Division 1-A football playoff (well, at least THIS version):

1. Louisiana State (13-0; SEC champ)/ 2. Houston (12-1; Conference USA at-large)/ 3. Boise State (11-1; Mountain West at-large)/ 4. Oklahoma State (11-1; Big 12 champ)/ 5. Stanford (11-1; Pac-12 at large)/ 6. Alabama (11-1; SEC at-large)/ 7. Virginia Tech (11-2; ACC at-large)/ 8. Oregon (11-2; Pac-12 champ)

9. Wisconsin (11-2; Big Ten champ)/ 10. Southern Mississippi (11-2; Conference USA champ)/ 11. Michigan (10-2; Big Ten at-large)/ 12. TCU (10-2; Mountain West champ)/ 13. Kansas State (10-2; Big 12 at-large)/ 14. Arkansas State (10-2; Sun Belt champ)/ 15. South Carolina (10-2; SEC at-large)/ 16. Arkansas (10-2; SEC at-large)

17. Clemson (10-3; ACC champ)/ 18. Michigan State (10-3; Big Ten at-large)/ 19. Georgia (10-3; SEC at-large)/ 20. Northern Illinois (10-3; MAC champ)/ 21. Oklahoma (9-3; Big 12 at-large)/ 22. Nebraska (9-3; Big Ten at-large)/ 23. Cincinnati (9-3; Big East champ)/ 24. Louisiana Tech (8-4; WAC champ)

Oh, by the way...the top eight seeds get to duck (or Duck) the first round.

You're probably wondering: "Hey! How come West Virginia didn't get in? They were ranked!"

Well, here's how it happened: West Virginia, Louisville, and Cincinnati shared the 2011 Big East title by posting identical 5-2 conference records (both the Mountaineers and Bearcats went 9-3 overall, while the Cardinals turned in a 7-5 showing).

In head-to-head-to head competition, the three teams had 1-1 records, so it came down to point differential: The Bearcats got the automatic bid because they outscored Louisville and WVU, 46-40. (When the Mountaineers took on Cincy and Louisville, it came out a combined 59-59 tie; and the Cards were outscored by their two fellow trichamps, 60-53.)

Even so, Bill Stewart's club would've made the playoffs on its own if Clemson hadn't toppled Virginia Tech, 38-10, to snatch the ACC title away from the Hokies. (Result: The Tigers get in for the first time in four years; in 2007, Central Florida stunned Clemson, 28-14, in the first round.)

Another thing: For the first time since 1989, the team with the Heisman Trophy winner didn't make the playoffs...and this year's Baylor squad would've left 1985 Auburn, 1987 Notre Dame, 1988 Oklahoma State, and Houston's 1989 edition as the only teams that had the Heisman winner and no place for them in the playoffs if the help Art Briles' club needed had come. (It was a 16-team playoff from the would-be event's 1982 inception through 2000.)

The Bears and their old Big 12 foes from Lincoln totaled the same number of quality points here in 2011: 265. But Bo Pelini's squad saw its Division 1-A opponents get 81 wins of their own this year, while the men from Waco saw their 1-A foes pick up 77 W's this time around.

But the Cornhuskers beat Iowa, 20-7, to keep Robert Griffin III (the latest to lug The Trophy out of New York City) off the computer.

And Penn State (that's right, scandal-ridden Penn State) could've gotten in at 9-3...but South Carolina stopped Clemson, 34-13, to deny the Nittany Lions a place.

Speaking of scandal...USC got left off the field despite its 10-2 record. That's what the Reggie Bush/player agent antics of the mid-2000s did to the Trojans.

Well, that's it. I'm fired up about running Lance Haffner's 3-in-1 Football, computer vs. computer style, to find out which team's going to replace Ohio State (which beat TCU last season, 28-22) at the top of this playoff heap.

Stay tuned!

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