College football's methodology for selecting its championship game participants (and its marquee four bowls outside of the title game, for that matter), the BCS, is cloaked in numerous flaws that when all is said and done, more often than not give us a title game shrouded in controversy over who actually got to play.
Last year, we got a team that didn't even win its division of its conference playing for the national title. We've seen one loss teams make the title game ahead of other one loss teams that defeated them during the regular season. Hell, this year the BCS gods even got to dust off the old "if a non-AQ inside the top 16 finishes ahead of a BCS conference champion outside of the top 16, they get an automatic BCS bowl bid" rule! (Go Huskies!)
Among many foundational issues with the BCS is the fact that its potential participants have a direct subjective say in who plays. Each week, 59 college football coaches cast their ballots in the USA Today Coaches' Poll, and the results count as one third of the final BCS rankings.
These ballots are cast privately and not made public until after the season, unless you're Lane Kiffin and can't keep your mouth shut.
The lack of transparency during the season is frustrating, but understandable. What coach would even want a 1/59th say in the balloting if their selections were public, and in turn, something they could potentially get asked about and have to explain each and every week. And make no mistake, the media would ask about their picks at every weekly presser, especially if the coach strayed from the norm.
But now that the season is over, and the BCS matchups are set, USA Today is kind enough to give us a peek behind the curtain and reveal the selections of all 59 poll participants.
Before we get into some of the fun facts coming from the individual ballots, here is the final USA Today Coaches' Poll:
1 Notre Dame (56 1st place votes) 12-0 (1,470 points) 2 Alabama (3) 12-1 (1,417) 3 Oregon 11-1 (1,313) 4 Florida 11-1 (1,287) 5 Georgia 11-2 (1,216) 6 Kansas State 11-1 (1,190) 7 LSU 10-2 (1,111) 8 Stanford 11-2 (1,047) 9 Texas A&M 10-2 (1,039) 10 South Carolina 10-2 (947) 11 Oklahoma 10-2 (890) 12 Florida State11-2 (853) 13 Clemson10-2 (769) 14 Oregon State 9-3 (663) 15 Boise State 10-2 (569) 16 Northern Illinois 12-1 (495) 17 Northwestern 9-3 (444) 18 Louisville 10-2 (409) 19 UCLA 9-4 (408) 20 Utah State 10-2 (334) 21 Nebraska 10-3 (328) 22 Michigan 8-4 (278) 23 Wisconsin 8-5 (115) 24 San Jose State 10-2 (110) 25 Texas 8-4 (97)
Others receiving votes: Kent State 84, Vanderbilt 75, Cincinnati 46, Tulsa 32, Fresno State 31, Rutgers 29, San Diego State 23, Arkansas State 20, Oklahoma State 15, Mississippi State 9, Arizona State 8, Louisiana Tech 2, USC 2
Ok, now that you're armed with the final regular season poll results, here are some fun and interesting voter facts that may illustrate some of the inherent biases that make the current BCS system such a sham:
20. For Notre Dame, being the only undefeated bowl eligible team (Ohio State finished 12-0 but is ineligible for the postseason) was good enough for number one with 56 of the 59 coaches voting. Only Rick Stockstill of Middle Tennessee State and Tommy Tuberville of Texas Tech voted the Irish second, which was actually a compliment compared to...
19. ...James Franklin's ballot. Franklin, who must've filled out his ballot wrapped in an SEC banner like Rocky Balboa draped in the American flag, had the Irish fourth behind Alabama, Georgia, and Florida. (He had two-loss LSU fifth, and probably had to think long and hard before putting them behind the Irish.)
18. The only two coaches to have Alabama outside the top two were Tim DeRuyter of Fresno State and Mike Riley of Oregon State. Both had Alabama third behind Notre Dame and Oregon.
17. West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen is unimpressed with Chip Kelly's version of the spread offense. He had Oregon all the way down at eighth, at least two spots lower than any other coach voted the Ducks, and five spots lower than where they actually finished.
16. Apparently, getting fired from your job doesn't get you fired from deciding who plays for the national championship. Kentucky's ousted head coach Joker Phillips got to keep his voting privileges. He, by the way, is not impressed with Kansas State's one loss season. He has the Wildcats 11th in the nation.
15. LSU head coach Les Miles' ballot is shockingly...well...normal. His top ten is surprisingly formulaic, and there aren't any real reaches. I had the over/under set at 2.5 for the number of FCS teams on Miles' ballot, and took a flyer on "YES +350" that Les would include a couple basketball teams or girls powder puff squads.
14. Arizona State head coach (for now) Todd Graham is understandably very high on his PAC-12 conference, voting Oregon and Stanford the third and fourth best teams in the country. Oh yeah, he also thinks his 7-5 Sun Devil squad is the 20th best team in the country. The only other coach to even vote for Graham's team was Arkansas State's Gus Malzahn, which stands to reason....
13. ....that Malzahn would appreciate a coach disproportionately propping his own team. After all, Malzahn thinks his Arkansas State whatever-they-are's are the 17th best team in the country. Arkansas State. SEVENTEENTH. They wouldn't even be the 17th best team in a 14 team SEC!
12. Both of these guys trump James Franklin who would have had to vote his Vanderbilt Commodores into the top ten to outdo Graham and Malzahn in the "overestimate your own team's skills" category. As it was, Franklin's ranking of 16 for Vandy was only 11 spots higher than the consensus.
11. Hey Aggies, your lowest ranking (11th) came from Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, who clearly also voted for Obama. See, Ags, I'm not the only Domer who likes to troll you guys!
10. Art Briles (Baylor), Paul Rhoads (Iowa State), and Bob Stoops all voted for Stoops' Oklahoma squad as the sixth best in the country (They wound up 11th.), at least three spots better than all but one coach voted them. BIG 12! BIG 12! BIG 12!
9. Dabo Swinney of Clemson is REALLY impressed with fellow ACC stalwart Florida State, so much so that he voted the 12th ranked Seminoles sixth overall, one spot better than FSU's own head coach, Jimbo Fisher.
8. Georgia's Mark Richt must still have the red ass about the beatdown Boise State laid on his Bulldogs at the beginning of last season. He's the only coach to leave the 15th ranked Broncos off his ballot entirely.
7. In the Longhorn Network backlash category, here are the coaches with ties to the state of Texas that left the 25th ranked Longhorns off their ballot altogether -- David Bailiff (Rice), Art Briles (Baylor), Tim DeRuyter (former defensive coordinator at A&M), Tony Levine (Houston), Dan McCarney (North Texas), Tommy Tuberville (Texas Tech). Oh yeah, also Bob Stoops didn't vote for the Horns either.
6. The only coach to vote for all 25 teams that wound up in the final rankings? Kevin Wilson. Not in the exact order, but Wilson had the right 25 teams. Other than losing by three to Ohio State, this accomplishment is easily the high point of the Indiana season.
5. All but one of the coaches with ballots who had teams in the "Others Receiving Votes" category actually voted for their team. The only one who did not was Louisiana Tech's Sonny Dykes, whose only vote was a 24th place vote from Dan McCarney of North Texas, which is such a weird outlier that it's almost like McCarney might have the hots for SOnny Dykes or something.
4. Michigan's three highest voters -- Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke (no surprise), Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, and former Michigan head coach RIch Rodriguez all had UM 15th. No hard feelings from RichRod, I guess!
3. Five of the top nine teams in the country employ head coaches that do not participate in the voting process.
2. Aside from Notre Dame (56 of 59 have 1st) and Alabama (54 of 59 have 2nd), the biggest (and easily most random) consensus is 50 of 59 voters having Clemson 13th. That's just weird.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
1. The highest ranked BCS conference team to be left off of a ballot entirely was Northwestern, who were left off of three coaches' ballots -- Jimbo Fisher (Florida State), Darrell Hazell (Kent State), and Rocky Long (San Diego State). Clearly, these three gentlemen hate Mike Greenberg.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.