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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Is Clemson BCS Bowl Worthy?



Since the loss to South Carolina, some Clemson faithful have wallowed in self-pity, believing that their 10-2 season is not worthy of BCS At Large consideration.
To be fair to those fans, we tend to focus on our small picture and forget that other teams across the nation (outside of FSU) have stumbled and bumbled their way to the finish line of the season as well.  We, as Clemson fans, magnify our shortcomings while not acknowledging that those team we are competing with for At Large BCS bids also have plenty of shortcomings as well.
So the purpose of this Sunday morning blog is to take a look at the worthiness of those teams that Clemson is competing for a BCS bid with.  Should Clemson apologize for being in consideration for a BCS At Large Bid or can this season stand on the merits of what happened and rank evenly or better with the others looking for At Large spots?
First, let’s remove the teams from the mix that earned a BCS Bid on the field and do not need an At Large invitation. 
Florida State and Auburn will play for the National Championship, and both earned that recognition.  FSU earned it by dominating everyone they played and being the only undefeated team in a major conference.  Auburn won it by two miracle plays and a SEC Championship.
That leaves 8 teams that vie for the 4 BCS Non-Title Bowl Games.  Automatic Berths will go to the following teams:  Central Florida by winning American Conference, Michigan State by winning Big 10, Baylor for winning Big 12, and Stanford for winning Pac 12.
That whittles the number of At Large spots to 4.  The BCS Bowls now have to decide who are the 4 “best” teams under their BCS rules for those final positions.  Those BCS rules eliminate the possibility of more than 2 teams from any one conference earning a bid, which eliminates South Carolina and Missouri from consideration because Alabama and Auburn will be SEC reps in the BCS.  So Clemson does not need to match resumes with Mizzou or the Gamecocks due to this BCS rule.
Taking last week’s BCS Standings, here are the “resumes” with the good/bad/ugly for those 4 remaining at large spots, in order as I see it via quality wins and losses.
#1 At Large-Alabama:  Surprisingly, the Crimson Tide have only one win over current BCS Top 25 team (Texas A&M).  That, by itself, dispels the SEC difficulty a bit.  However, the Tide’s single loss on the season was on the on the road at #2 Auburn on a miracle play.  This gives Alabama the “ranking” of #1 At Large Team on this selection Sunday.
#2 At Large-Ohio State:  Everyone outside of Ohio was pulling for the Buckeyes to finally lose, and that is exactly what they did last night.  But Ohio State has a compelling resume that stacks up nicely in the At Large pool, even if it was questionable for title game worthiness.  The Buckeyes have one win over a current BCS Top 25 team (Wisconsin).  And, like Alabama, the Buckeyes only loss was to a very good football team in Michigan State, the Buckeyes losing on a neutral field.  MSU should be in the top 5 when the new rankings come out, so the loss is certainly to a quality team.
The remaining teams that are in the At Large pool have two or more losses.  These teams vie for the final 2 At Large spots in the BCS.
#3 At Large-Clemson:  Clemson gained one win over a team that will finish in the BCS Top 25 (Georgia).  The Tigers two losses were vs. #1 Florida State and at South Carolina.  Florida State has been the most dominant team in college football this year.  And the Gamecocks, much to our dismay, could be a team that finishes in the Top 5 if they win their bowl game.  Clemson’s losses were to very good football teams.  The Tigers had a win over a quality opponent (UGA) and demolished everyone else in between.   
#4 At Large-Oklahoma:  The Sooners, like Clemson, have one win over a team that will finish in the BCS Top 25 (Oklahoma State).  Oklahoma, like Clemson, has two losses.  The reason Clemson jumps Oklahoma in worthiness is that the Sooners lost to Texas, a team that will not finish in the BCS Top 25.  Oklahoma’s other loss was to a quality team (at Baylor).
Those Left Out:
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys finished the season with one win over a team that will finish in BCS Top 25 (Baylor).  The Cowboys lost to a quality team in Oklahoma for one of their losses.  But the other loss was to an unranked West Virginia team on the road that finished 4-8 on the season. 

Oregon:  The Ducks finished the season without a win over a team that will finish in the BCS Top 25.  The Ducks two losses were at Stanford (a quality team) and at Arizona (a team that finished 7-5).
Arizona State:  The Sun Devils did have one win over team that will finish in the BCS Top 25 (Wisconsin).  But Arizona State finished the season with three losses which places them further down on the priority list. 
Conclusion:
Clemson deserves an At Large BCS Bowl Berth for what the Tigers accoplished on the field this year compared to teams that are also vying for the At Large spots.
As frustrating as the losses to FSU and South Carolina were, it does not diminish the accomplishments the team had during the season.  Clemson’s accomplishments and wins on the field rank the Tigers within the worthy realm of BCS when looking at other team's resumes. 
To further Clemson's case of worthiness, the Tiger's losses were to teams that had incredible years, one of which may be poised to win the National Championship.
The teams that Clemson will join in the BCS conversation (even those with only one loss) are teams that had similar and comparable years to Clemson. Those other teams, just like Clemson, saw big wins over overmatched teams, a few wins over quality teams, and a loss or two along the way. 
This season for Clemson was not perfect.  But neither was the season for everyone else outside of FSU. 
Clemson fans should not feel guilty if the Tigers get a BCS Berth tonight.  If Clemson gets in, the Tigers would have earned it comparable to the teams Clemson is competiting with for those positions.  That's all you can do...analyze how you compare to other teams this year in terms of worthiness. 
When Clemson fans "think of what could have been", we need to remember that we are not the only ones doing that kind of thinking as this season draws to an end.
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Scott Rhymer can be reached at scottrhymer.tps@gmail.com