And now we come to the great riddle of college football: How to determine by looking — and not always by looking — whether one good team is better than another good team. Only in this silly sport is appearance an issue: All the others sort things out with a tournament. Only big-time college football is a beauty pageant.
According to the just-released BCS standings, Georgia Tech is the best one-loss team in the land. It’s ranked No. 7, behind only six unbeatens, in the BCS as well as the AP and USA Today polls. At least one of the remaining undefeateds — Florida or Alabama — will lose before Dec. 6, the day spots in the BCS bowls are (mis)allocated. Cincinnati probably will lose to West Virginia or Pittsburgh. TCU and Boise State probably won’t lose. Texas probably won’t, either.
But let’s say Texas does. Then voters in the pertinent polls — the AP version doesn’t factor into the BCS — will have to decide if an unbeaten TCU or Boise (or Cincy) merits a spot in the national championship game more than a one-loss Tech. And this is where Tech’s league does it no favors.
Were the one-loss team Southern Cal or even Ohio State, that team would be in the top five today. (The once-beaten Trojans were No. 5 in the BCS standings only nine days ago. Then they lost to Oregon.) Southern Cal is a brand name. Ohio State is, too, though its brand has been slightly diminished by the erosion of the Big Ten.
The ACC is held in lower regard — I’m speaking nationally — than the Big Ten. Only four conference teams got a vote in this week’s AP poll. (Miami is No. 12, Virginia Tech, No. 20, Clemson No. 24) Even a 12-1 Tech with an ACC title in its pocket mightn’t be ranked above an unbeaten TCU or Boise (or Cincy) come Dec. 6.
The question now: Should a one-loss Tech team be? And that’s a tough one. The Jackets did lose emphatically to Miami, and TCU did beat Clemson at Clemson and Virginia in Charlottesville. But Tech has ventured out of conference to play two games against SEC (albeit only Mississippi State and Vandy) and still will face Georgia, which could be 7-4 on Nov. 28. (It could also be 6-5.)
Me, I’d say a 12-1 Tech would deserve to be above an unbeaten Boise (really weak schedule) but not an unbeaten TCU (or Cincy). But I tend to err on the side of the undefeateds. Because undefeateds have, as the saying goes, done everything asked of them. A once-beaten team has done almost everything. But that’s what I hate about college football: It leaves the most important decision of the season — who should play for the national title? — to people sitting and watching (and sometimes not watching).
I’d also say this: An eight-team tournament would benefit the Jackets more than any other team on the figurative grid. Imagine trying to prepare for PJ’s spread option is one week. I could see Tech winning two games in such an event. Heck, I could see it winning three.