BCS Formula for Bowl Games
by Jason Shimberg - 10/08/2008
BCS stands for Bowl Championship Series. College football does not have an end-of-season playoff series. Any team with a 6-5 record can play in a bowl game. The four BCS bowl games are the called Fiesta, Sugar, Orange, and Rose. These are the highest-profile games that feature only the top-ranked teams. The remaining games are now considered minor bowls. To figure out who gets to play, a mathematical BCS formula is used to rank the top 25 teams throughout the season. Each Monday, the BCS rankings are updated based on the teams' performances during the previous week. At the end of the regular season, the top two teams in the ratings play each other for the BCS National Championship.
Teams are assigned a certain number of points for their performance. These values are then totaled to produce a team's final score. The team with the lowest point total gets the No. 1 spot for the week. There are two subjective polls, The Associated Press and the Coaches Poll. Members of both groups cast their votes based on what they think about a team's performance.
A national board of sports writers and broadcasters participate in the AP poll. A select group of coaches vote towards their poll. The BCS incorporates their input by averaging team rankings from these polls. There are eight computer programs that make up this variable.
Most of these programs were designed by people with backgrounds in math or statistics. Their formulas factor in a diverse mix of variables, from who won to where a game was played. To get a team's point total, the lowest ranking is excluded, and the remaining seven are averaged to produce the team's score. This prevents any one computer's results from ruining a team's chances at No. 1 or No. 2. A team's strength of schedule compares to other teams nationally. The cumulative win/loss record of the team's opponents and their opponents' foes are included in this calculation. This makes squads think twice about lining up a horde of teams they know that they can trounce on the field. The computer produces a numerical value representing the strength of the opponents schedule and also those opponents' foes. The opponent's scheduled strength is merited twice as much as their opponents' schedule. Once they have been placed in order, this list is then divided by quarters. Each loss equals one point, and is added precisely to a team's total score. A lower point sum means a higher rank.
In 2007, Boise State really crashed the BCS party. They beat Oklahoma in the highlight of the year, on a "Statue of Liberty play." This proved the small schools from small conferences can compete. BYU (5-0, 1-0) attracts attention from Provo, Utah. They have an enrollment of 34,067 students. They have the best shot among potential BCS busters this season; their most lopsided victory of the season was versus perennial powerhouse UCLA, 59-0. The prior week they bumped off another Pac-10 opponent in Washington, 28-27. These wins will hold weight in the BCS formula. All things considered they should steamroll over the lesser talent in the Mountain West Conference. They have enough firepower on offense to compete with any BCS contender, led by QB Max Hall (1,587 yards and 17 touchdowns at midseason). Oklahoma is ranked No. 1 in the current polls. Oklahoma played in Washington and won, 55-14. Undefeated Oklahoma and BYU both beat Washington on the road. The point margin of these victories would factor into the rankings.