Blue White Roundtable: Alabama Week Edition
September 7, 2011 – | 1 Comment

Once again, it’s Adam Collyer over at BlackShoeDiaries providing the questions, and we, your humble bloggers, providing the answers. Mine are below, and you can venture off to the remote areas of the blogosphere that …

Read the full story »

Explaining the BCS or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Orange Bowl

Submitted by on November 23, 200954 Comments
Penn State could return to the Rose Bowl in 2010
Penn State could return to the Rose Bowl in 2010
In browsing the internets, I’ve seen a lot of people who make declarations that Penn State will be in the Fiesta Bowl, or the Orange Bowl, or the Capital One without really understanding how the Bowl selection works.  Will it be Penn State or Iowa getting into a BCS bowl?  I’ll make it my goal to clarify the selection process, and explain why Penn State is likely to play in the Orange Bowl.

Let’s start by going through the motions, assuming that Texas and Florida are in the MNC game.  Florida is really interchangeable with Alabama, here, as the winner of the SEC Championship Game clinches a spot in the championship game, and the loser, as we discuss later, will head to the Sugar. The MNC is tied to the #1 and #2 teams in the BCS standings, which will be the SEC Champion and, in all likelihood, Texas, unless they get stunned by Nebraska in the Big XII Title Game or by Texas A&M next week.  Because them winning out is the likeliest situation, we’ll use that as the assumption.

The Bowl Tie-ins are as follows: Big Ten and Pac-10 champions both go to the Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl hosts the ACC Champion, the Big XII has a tie-in with the Fiesta Bowl, and the same goes for the SEC and the Sugar Bowl.  Without tie-ins, but guaranteed a spot in a BCS game are the Big East Champion and TCU or Boise State, whichever finishes the season with a higher ranking.  In all likelihood, that’s TCU.

Now, when selecting the at-large teams, the first pick goes to the Sugar Bowl, to replace their auto-tie in from the SEC, who will be playing in the MNC game.  Being in the southeast, and a traditional SEC bowl destination, the Sugar picks Alabama or Florida, whoever loses the SEC Championship game.  That’s an absolute given.  Next to select will be the Fiesta Bowl, replacing their auto tie-in. Texas.

Picking next, the Fiesta Bowl has just a few selections.  Considering that only 2 teams can be selected from each conference, and that TCU and Cincinnati still need a home, the only other teams selectable would be Penn State, Iowa, Oklahoma State, Boise State, and, potentially, Cincinnati, if they lose to Pittsburgh.  With a Big XII tie in in all other years, the Fiesta is going to be pressured to go with Oklahoma State, just like the Rose Bowl did with Illinois a few years back.  The Big XII will be pulling hard for the Fiesta to take Okie State, so while a few other teams might be better options, Oklahoma State and the Big XII conference will put the full-court press on the Fiesta Bowl to select the hometown team.

Now you have the rest of the bowls, who already have one team locked in.  The Orange Bowl gets the ACC champion, and has the first pick of non-auto qualifiers, not counting the replacement picks.  With Cincinnati or Pitt not an attractive option (especially considering that last year’s Orange Bowl, Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech, was the worst rated and attended Bowl games in the history of the BCS), the Orange Bowl needs a proven ratings and attendance draw.  Penn State sold that place out in 2005, and with Georgia Tech or Clemson not a terribly attractive team, the Orange bowl takes Penn State to ensure that they get some sort of national following into the game.  You can also bank on the fact that the Orange Bowl is pulling hard for Clemson to win in the ACC Championship Game.  The Tigers haven’t played in a BCS bowl since 1982, and would bring an energetic fanbase. next pick would go to the Fiesta Bowl, who already have Oklahoma State in the well.  With an undefeated, and damn good, TCU team on the board, and the pick limited to the Horned Frogs or the Big East Champion, the Fiesta takes a semi-local team.  They’d travel well and they can play up the “undefeated” factor, just as the Fiesta did a few years back with Boise State.  TCU is guaranteed a BCS bid as the highest ranked non-BCS team in the top 12, and the other option is really not very appealing.  Neither Cincinnati nor Pittsburgh would bring in a particularly large audience to Glendale, and the same goes for television ratings.

The Sugar, who picks last among the 2010 BCS bowls, is forced to pick up the Big East champion, but that game will already be an attendance success with Alabama or Florida in it.  It seems inevitable that, at least for the foreseeable future, the Big East champion will be the last team selected, like the fat kid in a high school game of volleyball.  Fortunately, there’s at least one good team in this Sugar Bowl, unlike last year, which featured a very mediocre Virginia Tech team in addition to Cincinnati.

Boise State gets screwed again, but they aren’t a big ratings draw, and frankly aren’t a terribly good team.  They don’t have a big enough fanbase to travel anywhere other than the Fiesta, and for that bowl Oklahoma State is a more attractive option.

But the big question here, especially when it pertains to Penn State, is where Iowa fits in. According to most sources, the Orange Bowl would really like to have Penn State in the game, and may well be able to make that selection.  Though Iowa travels very well, and draws decent television ratings, they’re simply not as good as Penn State’s.  Furthermore, the Orange Bowl knows how well PSU fans come to South Florida.  However, the Fiesta Bowl would be more likely to take Iowa, and seem to be leaning in that direction.  For all intents and purposes, it should come down to Iowa or Oklahoma State with the replacement pick.

Because the Orange Bowl would take Penn State if that is possible, and since the BCS only allows 2 teams from each conference, the Fiesta would need to pick Iowa–over TCU, Penn State, or Oklahoma State–with their replacement pick, or else Penn State will be playing in south, rather than central, Florida. me explain something here: I don’t think Penn State deserves to play in a BCS bowl any more than Iowa does.  Though Iowa hasn’t played well–at all–down the stretch, losing 2 of 3 and winning the other one, in excruciating fashion, 12-0 against Minnesota, odds are that Ricky Stanzi should be back for the bowl game.  Most importantly, though, they beat Penn State head-to-head, and even though Penn State is probably a better team than Iowa (I sincerely think they would win that game if it was played again at a neutral site), Iowa deserves the BCS bid over Penn State.

However, it’s not about whether a team deserves a bid, its about the economics of the situation.  Penn State and Iowa both travel very well, but Penn State has more of a national following than does Iowa.  In terms of television ratings, Penn State is almost a guarantee to bring in a large audience.  In fact, a study of TV ratings of bowl games, compared the last 15 years of TV bowl coverage, and found that Penn State drew the 6th largest television audiences of all schools, averaging a 3.3% larger crowd than the average for the bowl games they played in. So, despite getting to choose both teams in their matchup, the Fiesta finds themselves in a bind.  Does Iowa present enough of an upgrade from Oklahoma State to make it worth pissing off their bowl partner, Oklahoma State, especially in a game against TCU that already promises to be a snoozer?  Plus, if Iowa is taken first, then the Orange Bowl would select TCU to face the ACC Champion, leaving Boise State as the probable opponent for the Hawkeyes.

So if, after all that you don’t think it comes down to the Fiesta Bowl’s selection that determines what happens to Penn State, read this quote, from the Centre Daily Times, who spoke with the Orange Bowl representative who was present at Penn State’s blowout victory over Michigan State last Saturday:

As unfair as it may be, that’s where Penn State wins, with the legendary Paterno as the front man and with thousands of roadies trailing closely. Those factors just might be enough to vault the Nittany Lions into a BCS berth that seemed impossible after that loss to Ohio State two weeks ago.

“All those are factors,” Kosnitzky said. “They’re not weighted. The committee has the ability in this very democratic process to look at all these factors and weigh them in any particular year. Sometimes they factor more heavily in some years than others.”

Asked about Paterno, Kosnitzky said, “Extremely compelling.”

How about Penn State’s fans, who are accustomed to traveling in droves?

“They said they’d love to come to Miami,” Kosnitzky mentioned of his rally encounter, “And they said this is only the fraction of the number they’ll bring.”

And what are the odds Penn State ends up in the Orange Bowl?

“Terrific chance,” Kosnitzky said. “We like Penn State a lot. We like everything about the university.”

So if you’re scoring at home, this is what I expect the bowl matchups to be:

Rose: Oregon (Pac-10)/Ohio State
Fiesta: TCU/Oklahoma State
Sugar: Alabama/Cincinnati
Orange: Georgia Tech/Penn State
MNC Game: Florida/Texas

The second, and maybe slightly less likely scenario, only offers a change in two bowl games:

Orange: GaTech/TCU
Fiesta: Iowa/Boise State

In this case, Penn State would be relegated to the Capital One bowl, against, in all likelihood, Ole Miss, from the SEC.

Note: this was originally published as a fanpost, at

top related stories
  1. Fiesta Bowl severely reprimanded ends up receiving wrist slap
  2. Rose Bowl applauds Big Ten Championship Trophy’s Public Debut
you may also like