Monday, September 06, 2004

Rice Football Underway

I think there may be a few people reading this blog who both (1) at least slightly care about Rice athletics and (2) don't follow them terribly closely. For anyone who meets that description, the Owl football team surprised a lot of people by winning its season opener against the University of Houston 10-7, in what Ken Hatfield described as the best defensive statement his team has ever made. A Rice football fan's lot is, as a rule, not a happy one, but this was a very nice start to what I hope is a very nice season. Rice is 1-0 and undefeated. If the trend continues, the team will finish 11-0, and the sports pundits will be arguing about whether Rice deserves a BCS bid.


  1. If Rice goes 11-0, that implies a victory over Texas. Unless Texas performs extraordinarily poorly this year in its other games, that would be the most impressive upset of a BCS team by a non-BCS team since Fresno State, led by David Carr, beat Colorado in 2001.

    That Fresno State team would have gotten a BCS bid if it had not collapsed down the stretch, losing to Boise State and Hawaii. If Rice wins out this year - or any of the five remaining years that we play Texas - we'd be nearly assured a bid, and might have a reasonable argument to play in the championship game.

  2. I'm not so sure it's as straightforward as that, Dave. Texas is the only team on Rice's schedule that's likely to be ranked at the end of the season, isn't it? I can see a number of teams screaming -- probably justifiedly -- bloody murder if an undefeated Rice played in the national championship over, say, a one-loss Michigan or USC.

    I agree with you that it'd be a travesty to keep an undefeated Rice out of the BCS altogether, but I do not think that would be uncontroversial. And compared to whatever team Rice would be beating out -- probably a two-loss BCS conference team -- Rice will have played a MUCH weaker schedule.

  3. I forgot to add -- don't forget that Fresno State played a very ambitious non-conference schedule that year. Although the Colorodo State victory may have been the biggest one, that year they also beat Wisconsin and... somebody else. Colorodo?

  4. True - Fresno State played, and beat, three BCS teams (Colorado, Oregon State, and Wisconsin), plus one very good non-BCS team (Colorado State.) They would have been a complete lock for a BCS game had they won out, and some analyses I saw around that time put an undefeated Fresno in the championship game - that was the year that, after about five teams that could have played in the championship by winning their last game lost, Nebraska was declared the sacrificial goat to Miami and promptly got creamed in the Rose Bowl.

    Perhaps a better comparison - for the purposes of a lower bound - is the hypothetical case where TCU won out the 2003 season. It beat two BCS teams: Arizona and Vanderbilt, each of which went 2-10 that season. TCU was on the verge of BCS bowlhood despite a schedule weaker than Rice's and the lack of a statement win.

    Rice, if it were to win out in a schedule that included Texas, would have a much better argument than an undefeated '03 TCU, but perhaps a slightly weaker one than undefeated '01 Fresno. Slightly weaker than Fresno still gets you a BCS bowl.

    The tougher question is the championship game, and I'm not saying we'd get there - I'm saying we might have a decent argument to get there, particularly if, say, all other teams but one have two losses. I'll concede that to cement your position in the championship game, you have to play an ambitious schedule - implying either being a BCS team or playing multiple good BCS teams. It might be possible to make it in on a weaker schedule, though, if the cards fall the right way and two sufficiently dominant BCS teams can't be found.