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There Might Be a Hue and Cry for Another Recount in Florida

November 09, 2000|CHRIS DUFRESNE

This year's national title race is officially in the hands of the computer nerds, a coup d'etat for every Poindexter who ever sought revenge on a jock.

Have you checked out the bowl championship series standings, college football's mind-numbing equivalent of the electoral college?

Oklahoma is No. 1 this week, followed by Florida State at No. 2 and Miami No. 3.

If form holds, there's a good chance Oklahoma and Florida State will meet in the Jan. 3 Orange Bowl for the BCS national title and Miami will be left out.

Problem: Miami beat Florida State, 27-24, which is sort of akin to winning the popular vote but losing an election.

What were our BCS founding fathers thinking?

It appears the battle for the critical No. 2 BCS spot will be won or lost in the rankings' computer component, the national title participant decided by eight wildly fluctuating ranking systems run by people who don't even watch the games.

You heard it right.

A Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel columnist tracked down a few of the BCS computer guys in the wake of No. 3 Miami's impressive 41-21 victory over No. 2 Virginia Tech on Saturday.

David Rothman of the Rothman Poll?

He did not see Miami's win because he was attending a seminar at UCLA on "The Impact of Revolution on Science."

Jeff Sagarin said he caught a play or two. Herman Matthews of the Matthews Poll said he saw "parts of" the Miami win.

Is this a problem?

"I don't want the human element from them," Big East Commissioner Mike Tranghese said this week from his office in Providence, R.I. "They're there to provide computer numbers. We have a human element, the polls. When I hear those people haven't watched the games, I'm offended. But the polls are not out of whack."

Granted. The writers' and coaches' polls have Miami at No. 2 ahead of No. 3 Florida State.

Tranghese knows there will be an uproar should Miami, a team from his conference, get decimal-pointed out of the title game by Florida State.

But Tranghese also believes the BCS process needs to play out.

The four-pronged ratings system was implemented two years ago to determine the national title game participants. The four components in the formula are the polls, computers, win-loss and strength of schedule.

So far, the BCS has worked, correctly pitting Tennessee vs. Florida State in 1998 and Florida State against Virginia Tech last year.

But this could be the year it blows up.

Tranghese can only hope the all-important computer element doesn't choke in the clutch.

Last week, Miami was No. 5 in the BCS and trailed Florida State by 3.28 points in the computer average. This week, fueled by its win over Virginia Tech, Miami closed to within 1.43 points of Florida State in the computer and trails the Seminoles by only .39 of a point in the overall standings.

Assuming Oklahoma, Florida State and Miami win out, Tranghese says there is enough wiggle room for Miami to make up lost ground in the computer.

This week, Florida State is ranked second or higher in six of the eight BCS computers, while Miami ranks fourth in five computers and third in the other three.

Florida State should take a considerable computer hit this week because it faces 1-7 Wake Forest, while Miami should improve if it defeats 5-3 Pittsburgh.

The big question is how much of a computer boost Florida State will recoup if it beats Florida on Nov. 18.

"We have to wait and see," Tranghese said.

Also troubling is the Washington factor. Washington is No. 6 in this week's computer, owns a win over Miami, yet its computer numbers are highly suspicious. Washington ranks 17th in Richard Billingsley's poll and 24th in the Dunkel Index, yet is No. 2 in hometown Seattle Times poll.

"If I'm Washington, I understand why they're yelling and screaming," Tranghese said.

Washington is likely being penalized for winning too many close games in the Pacific 10, arguably the nation's best conference this season. Seven of the eight computers factor margin of victory into their calculations.

Playoff anyone?

"We have a contract through 2006," Tranghese said of the BCS deal. "I don't believe anything gives us the right to break the contract. It's up to us to review the system and tweak it to make it better.

"I understand the public wants a playoff, I understand why. Anything I say or any commissioner says is not going to change that. But you can't have a playoff as a reaction to something."


Oregon and Purdue are the only teams that control their Rose Bowl fates.

If Oregon beats California this week at home and Oregon State at Corvallis on Nov. 18, the Ducks win the Pac-10 title and return to Pasadena for the first time since the 1994 season.

If Purdue wins at Michigan State this weekend and takes care of Indiana at home on Nov. 18, the Boilermakers clinch their first Big Ten title since the 1967 season and will make their first Rose Bowl appearance since the 1966 season.

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