Every Game Counts…Kinda, Sorta, Not Really

College football has long billed itself as the sport of the regular season. Opponents of a playoff will always cite, as the main reason for the status quo, that every game counts, and that this is what makes college football unique.

But how many games actually do count? One of the points I made in last season’s attack on the BCS was that the system is inherently flawed because certain games do not–indeed, cannot–count. Many teams cannot control their own destiny. These are games that, regardless of what happens before or after them, will have no bearing on the national championship picture.

And so this season, I decided to try a little experiment. Each week, I will track how many games count; that is, how many games can possibly impact the national championship landscape. The criteria for games that do not count include the following:

  • Conference Games in the Mid-American and Sun Belt conferences
    • No team from either the MAC or the Sun Belt has ever appeared in a BCS game, and none have come particularly close. Even when Ball State was undefeated into the MAC Championship in 2008, the Cardinals only rose to No. 12 in the BCS and had zero chance of making the title game. As for the Sun Belt, well, name a team from the Sun Belt. QED.
  • Games between the MAC and Sun Belt
  • Games between a MAC/Sun Belt team and an FCS team
  • Games between teams with at least one loss in the Mountain West, WAC, and Conference-USA
    • The Mountain West and WAC have never placed a team in the BCS title game. Their “BCS Busters” have all had undefeated regular seasons. No team that does not finish undefeated in either of these conferences can make the title game. The same is obviously true of Conference-USA, which has never had a team play in a BCS game.
  • Games between major conference teams with at least three losses
    • I don’t think it’s mathematically possible for a team with three losses to play for the BCS Championship, and it has never come close to happening.
  • Games between major conference teams that were not ranked in the preseason top 10 with at least two losses (so everyone except Alabama, Ohio State, Florida, Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Nebraska and Virginia Tech).
    • We all remember that LSU infamously won the national championship with two losses in 2007. As unlikely as it is for a team to make it to the national championship with two losses, it is impossible for a team that starts the season outside the top 10 to do it. It’s probably impossible for a team outside the top two to do it, but I’m being cautious here.

Even with these criteria, I think I’m being fairly lenient here. I considered cutting all games in the WAC that don’t involve Boise State or all Mountain West games that don’t include TCU, BYU, or Utah. I was very close to cutting all of Conference-USA, and independent Navy.* I was too lazy to figure out the maximum number of games that could fit my criteria later on in the season based on the facts that teams play each other, one team loses every game, and so a certain number of teams MUST have the requisite number of losses by a certain point.**

*That’s right. I’m so lenient that, as of right now, I’m considering Army-Navy a game that could possibly have national championship implications.

**I probably have not expressed this as clearly as possible. What I mean to say is that, as of right now, all eight games involving SEC teams on Thanksgiving weekend count, because any of those 12 SEC teams could be in the national title hunt. But there’s NO WAY that ALL 12 are. Because they play most of their games against each other, there is bound to be at least one SEC game that weekend that doesn’t count based on my listed criteria. They can’t all have two losses or fewer. Clearer?

I, for one, don’t even think Juror No. 8 can argue that any of the teams I count out can possibly make the BCS championship.*

*Streak of posts referencing 12 Angry Men: 2.

That’s the explanation. Now let’s put this thing in motion. For Week 1,* the only criteria that can kick in are Nos. 2 and 3: Games involving only MAC, Sun Belt, or FCS teams.

*I should point out that I did all these calculations before Thursday’s openers, and so the results of any of the games so far this season have had no impact on these numbers.

78 Week 1 Games Involving FBS Teams

6 Games Between a MAC Team and an FCS Team

1 Game Between a MAC Team and a Sun Belt Team

71 Week 1 Games Count

91% of Week 1 Games Count

If we extend the top three criteria to all 15 weeks of the season:

773 Games Involving FBS Teams in 2010 Season (including conference championships)

10 Games Between a MAC Team and an FCS Team

1 Game Between a Sun Belt Team and an FCS Team

2 Games Between a MAC Team and a Sun Belt Team

52 Games Between MAC Teams

37 Games Between Sun Belt Teams

671 Games in 2010 Season Count

86.8% of Games in 2010 Season Count

This means that, before a single game is played, 102 of the 773 games this season simply don’t count (because they can’t count; it’s not possible for them to count). This is more than you can say about any professional season or of the college basketball season. But sure, every game counts.

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12 responses to this post.

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  7. […] nine weeks, 102 of the 120 FBS teams cannot make the BCS championship (a refresher on my criteria), including old standby Florida State. We can start breaking it down a little more now that […]

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  8. […] 10 weeks, 105 of the 120 FBS teams cannot make the BCS championship (a refresher on my criteria), including up-until-recently unbeaten Utah. We can start breaking it down a little more now that […]

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  12. […] “Every Game Counts…Kinda, Sorta, Not Really” by Tim […]

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