Sunday, December 07, 2003

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Sugar Bowl

The other title was going to be Wasted Trojans, but I decided that might not be appropriate.

Eisenberg's College Football Championship (the ECF) was rolling along just fine going into this weekend. Only two teams still qualified for the ECF Championship, Oklahoma and USC, and they were the two teams that most people wanted to see playing for the National Championship, LSU or no LSU. Then the Sooners had to throw out a lemon in the Big 12 Championship game. The BCS did exactly what a poorly conceived system should do - generate poor results - and tonight the college football world is up in arms because the Trojans got screwed, left out of the Sugar Bowl for an exposed and deflated Oklahoma team.

Meanwhile, USC is doing just fine in the ECF Championship race, having only (ONLY!) to defeat a very tough Michigan squad. If they win, they will be rewarded here for their efforts. But what if they don't win? Who becomes the ECF Champion if no team qualifies for the Championship?

This bring us to the last of the ECF Rules, Rule #8:

8. The Everyone is Eliminated Rule - If by some chance, at any point in the season or after the bowl games, all 117 teams have been eliminated, there will still be at least one ECF Champion. The way the ECF Champion is chosen is by the following rules:

a. Only bowl game winners are considered.
b. The first game of every team is eliminated.
c. If any team or teams would now qualify for the Championship, they would be declared the ECF Champions.
d. If no team qualifies, then the second game of every team would be eliminated. If there is anyone who would now qualify, they would now be considered the Champions.
e. If no team qualifies, weeks from the beginning of the season will continue to be eliminated until we have a winner.

I really never expected this rule to be invoked. After all, last year there were five teams still eligible for the ECF Championship going into the bowl games. But I knew I had to plan for every possible outcome, and this was another great way to put more emphasis on games later in the season than on those in the beginning. I think everyone agrees it can take a college team several weeks to gel, and the idea has always been to produce ECF Champions that have not left any proof that they would be incapable of winning a tournament, if one existed. This rule would tend to reward teams that played extremely well for most of the season, but tripped up at the beginning, which makes sense. You want to reward the teams that are best right now, just like every playoff system does.

So, I went armed with my ECF Rule Book in search of potential Champions should USC falter, and was surprised by the results. They are listed below, written in a way very similar to the writing in The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Feel free to read it to yourself in the same voice that you read the book to your young child, if you have one.

I eliminated the first game for every team, and no one qualified.

I eliminated the second game for every team, and still no one qualified.

I eliminated the third game for every team, and still no one qualified!

Finally, the fourth game for every team was eliminated, and two teams qualified. They would be the two with the best chance to be ECF Champions if USC loses the Rose Bowl to Michigan.

Wasn't that fun? OK, now get that book out of your head. This is football, damnit.

The first team I found to qualify after four weeks were eliminated was . . .


This is perfect! Eisenberg Sports will have one game where the winner gets at least a share of the ECF Championship, the Rose Bowl Game between USC and Michigan.

The second team to qualify if four weeks are eliminated is . . .

West Virginia!

What? West Virginia?! How can an 8-4 team be considered a Champion? Well, the same way every number five seed has won the NCAA Basketball Tournament, by playing well at the right time.

West Virginia started out the year horribly. They lost their opener at home to a then-highly regarded Wisconsin, then went to East Carolina and blew them out, 48-7. From there, they lost at home to Cincinnati, 15-13, and got smoked at Maryland, 34-7. At this point, four weeks into the season, the Mountaineers were clearly a team completely off of the national radar.

But then the next week, they went into Miami and gave the Hurricanes all they could handle, losing 22-20, an Acceptable Loss. They beat Rutgers at home the following week, then clobbered Virginia Tech 28-7, giving them their all important Win-Against-A-Top-Ten-Team. From there, they won their final five games of the season, scoring no fewer than 34 points in any game.

Still not convinced? The Mountaineers finished with a seven-game win streak, tied for the Big East Conference Championship, and outscored their Big East opponents by 90 points, the largest differential for any Big East team. On top of that, there's this quote from the best of all College Football websites, College Football Weekly:

"It's a shame that the Mountaineers aren't going to a BCS game, because this team is the best in the Big East right now."

Well, what do you expect from the BCS? Meanwhile, Eisenberg Sports has them, right here.

So this is the scenario. If USC beats Michigan in the Rose Bowl, they are the ECF Champions. If Michigan wins, then Michigan becomes an ECF Champion. If Michigan wins and West Virginia beats Maryland in the Gator Bowl, then Michigan and West Virginia share the ECF Championship.

ECF Rules

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