Posted by Doug on November 17, 2006
Sunday Morning Quarterback had a good post last week about Rutgers, the Big East, and the BCS. In the comments, someone named Solon makes this very good point:
... if no one had a problem sticking Miami and VT in the title game when they were in the Big East, it's foolish for them to take issue with Louisville making it now--because the conference is much better now than it was then.
That was before the Louisville loss to Rutgers. Ultimately, if Louisville had finished 12-0, I don't think there would have been that much controversy. Yes, some people from a certain part of the country would have gotten upset about it, and some columnists would have tried to stir the pot a little, but I really don't think it would have been any more controversial than Virginia Tech's 1999 title game appearance. It would be even less of an issue if West Virginia were the undefeated Big East team.
But now the question is: does the same thinking apply to Rutgers?
I think there will be very strong objection to an unbeaten Rutgers team playing in the championship game instead of a one-loss SEC or Pac 10 team in the apparently-very-unlikely event that that happens. I still haven't decided if I think that's justified or not, so I will instead focus on another question:
If Rutgers is undefeated and does not play in the title game, will that be because of Big East bias, or will it be because of preseason poll bias?
Every reputable ranking system I've seen (here are a few: I, II, III) say that the Big East is stronger than the Big XII and the ACC. So the question is, if Missouri or Texas A&M or Wake Forest had gone undefeated this year, would they be getting the same treatment Rutgers is now getting? If yes, then it's preseason bias (and/or reputation bias). If no, then it's Big East bias.
I don't have any evidence to back this up, but I happen to think that it's yes. The problem isn't that people are undervaluing the Big East. It's that people, even at the end of the season, haven't phased their preseason expectations out of their internal ranking algorithms.
Honestly, I haven't either, and that's why I believe Rutgers will lose to West Virginia (if not before) and make all this moot.