YEAHHHHH! BIG TEN CHAMPS!
"It will be a moment we never forget," says Mark Dantonio as his program takes another big step -- to Rose Bowl No. 5 http://t.co/S0zpFrAQc2— Joe Rexrode (@joerexrode) December 8, 2013
Hey- wait a minute.
As for the Rose Bowl. Good lord, Stanford-Michigan State is going to be glorious pain.— Adam Kramer (@KegsnEggs) December 8, 2013
W-wait a minute.
W- hey guys, wait a minute here.
When #Spartans kick off in Pasadena on Jan. 1, it will be 9,497 days since it last played in the Rose Bowl.— Brent Yarina (@BTNBrentYarina) December 8, 2013
WAIT A MINUTE, I SAID.
We gotta talk about this first.
Mark Dantonio: "We beat the #2 team and we're 12-1 - Why not us? I'll vote us #2. We'll start with that."— Tom Leyden (@TomLeyden) December 8, 2013
Yeah, that's more like it!
Why aren't we all like that, at least for today?
How come every time an SEC team goes X-1 they're a-hootin' and a-hollerin' about how they better not get left out of the title game by God, but in the Big Ten, literally from the top-down, we seem happy to accept Rose Bowl berths, and indeed, if you listen to Delany, almost seem to prefer Rose Bowl berths over national title berths?
I know it's been 25 years since we've been to the Rose Bowl, but it's been like, 47 years since we've had any sort of real title shot, and you can't let these sorts of chances pass by silently.
Listen, that win was enormous, huge, one of the biggest in program history, which is why we shouldn't undersell it, or our team. Why the rush to accept what's behind door #1 before the announcer has even offered the possibility of looking behind door #2? A 10 point win, by an 11-1 team, over the #2 team in the country, in the final week of the regular season, demands a conversation about the national title game participants as long as there aren't two undefeated candidates. Frankly, I want the same benefit Auburn got one week ago, where, you don't have to put MSU into your title game, but damn it, there needs to some talk here.
The helpful part about this monolithic coalescence around Auburn is that, for the purposes of this post, I really only have to argue against Auburn. In truth, the arguments to prefer MSU over Alabama, or Baylor, or even Stanford are pretty tough to make in my opinion, but no one's acting like Alabama or Baylor or Stanford should be in the title game either right now (and hell, those are some cases that should also be made! But you know, by other people.). The MSU argument against this particular Auburn team however, the unanimously anointed contender, seems credible. Let's break this down.
This is everyone's first go-to metric. As long as they're both BCS conference teams, basically one loss teams don't pass undefeated teams, and two loss teams don't pass one loss teams, etc. Well, we've got a tie here with two 12-1 teams.
Strength of Schedule/ranked wins/wins over Bowl teams
This is everyone's go-to second metric. And I'm going to tell you off the bat, this stuff favors Auburn.
-Sagarin has Auburn at 20th in SOS, and MSU at 56th.
-Auburn has played 5 games against teams in the AP top 25, MSU has played 2.
-Auburn has played 10 bowl eligible teams, MSU only 6.
-Auburn has played 7 FBS teams with winning records, MSU has played 6.
-Auburn's opponent win-loss record is 89-68 (conference opponent's were 68-41), while MSU's is 77-80 (58-51).
How'd you actually perform?
This the third metric, people seem to care much less about in the BCS, and I think part of that is the BCS computer disregard of 'style points' and elevation of ranked wins has leaked over into human voter's minds enough that human voters seem to value say, a 3 point home win over a ranked team more than a 20 point road win over an unranked team which mayyybbbeee isn't always right.
In this metric, I think MSU is a pretty clear winner.
-MSU is 0-1 in one possession games, Auburn is 6-0. Related, MSU is 12-0 in two possession or more games, Auburn is 6-1.
-MSU has trailed by one score in 7 games, and has never trailed by 2 or more scores. Auburn has trailed by one score in 8 games, 2 or more scores in 2 games, and by three scores in 1 game.
-MSU has outscored its opponents by 222 points, Auburn has outscored its opponents by 210 points.
-MSU have out-gained their opponents by 1774 yards. Auburn have out-gained their opponents by 1064 yards.
-Games where they trailed with a minute and 20 seconds left in the 4th quarter, or less: Auburn 4, MSU 0.
So, how do you settle this argument between performance and strength of schedule? Well, ideally, you'd have a discussion about it, the sort of discussion maybe we'll see more with the playoff committee next year, the sort of discussion some people seemed to want to have between Auburn and Ohio State just one week ago. How do Iowa and Nebraska stand up to Georgia and Texas A&M? How should we compare Mizzou and Ohio State? How do Notre Dame and South Florida stack up against Washington State and Fla. Atlantic? What about Auburn's Bama win and MSU's evisceration of Michigan?
It seems weird that many voters seem more concerned with how your team's opponents did in their other 11 games (something the potential BCS team in question has zip, zero, no control over) than how they did against your team straight up. It seems like the strength of schedule argument has become an easy tie-breaker in a messy, small sample size system, but it also clearly isn't a very thorough one, allows people to hand-wave close games too easily, and isn't very consistently applied (you don't hear people arguing Stanford over Auburn, for example).
Obviously, the way you can't have that discussion is when one-third of your decision component completely disregards 'how'd you play' (BCS computers famously don't look at margin of victory), and you have a giant media machine (Hey ESPN!) that starts chewing on its fingers any time someone mentions the possibility that the conference with which they signed a mega deal, might get left out of a title discussion. It doesn't help when the Big Ten, which has its own massive media arm, is so cozied up to its traditional link to the B1G-Pac 12 Rose Bowl that it doesn't bother going to bat for its teams with the ferocity that the SEC does (compare how the SEC, from top to bottom, has sold Auburn with how the Big Ten has similarly sold MSU).
Until the Big Ten as a whole, from Delany at the top, to we the fans at the bottom, are willing to push that undefeated and one loss Big Ten teams should get the same title considerations as everyone else's, we're always going to be fighting with one hand behind our backs in discussions of national relevance. Until we can decouple from this ludicrous infatuation with the Rose Bowl at the expense of being considered the best team in the country, we're going to have a tougher road towards gaining respect, and recruits, and dollars. The Big Ten will not win a national championship again this year, but this time, it's not for a lack of viable contenders.
Twelve double digit wins and a four point road loss. Where's my team's title shot? Or I guess, why isn't anyone really even talking about the possibility?