30 May 2008

Ten Years of BCS: 1998

(From BCS Guru)

The Guru's Note: Beginning in June, the Guru will publish a review of each of the 10 seasons since the Bowl Championship Series came into existence in 1998. In this series the Guru will examine the results from these seasons -- who got lucky and who got robbed, what could've been, what should've been and other controversies of the day. The series will appear weekly leading up to the 2008 season.


On the precipice of a disaster in its infancy, the BCS was magically rescued by the hurricanes -- one named Georges, the other named Edgerrin James.

Three teams headed into the final Saturday of the season with undefeated records: Tennessee, Kansas State and UCLA. The Vols and Wildcats were scheduled to play in their respective conference title games; while the Bruins, riding a nation-best 20-game winning streak, were to play Miami at the Orange Bowl in a makeup game.

Originally, the game was to be played on Sept. 26. But because of the imminent threat of Hurricane Georges, it was temporarily postponed. UCLA had the option of canceling the game outright and standing on its performance in 10 games, but it took the risky move of rescheduling the game for the final day of the season.

The Miami team that beat UCLA, 49-45, that day was a vast improvement over the one the Bruins would've faced on Sept. 26. Behind James' 299 rushing yards (on 39 carries), the 'Canes shredded a shaky UCLA defense and benefited from an erroneous fumble call. Besides ending UCLA's quest to appear in the first BCS title game, Miami's upset victory sent the Bruins on a long descent into national irrelevance.

After UCLA's loss, it was up to Tennessee and Kansas State to hold up their end of the bargain. The Volunteers did but the Wildcats didn't -- losing to double-digit underdog Texas A&M in double overtime, 36-33. As a parting gift, K-State was handed an Alamo Bowl berth after being shut out of the BCS bowls.

While the Tennessee-Florida State title game -- played in the Fiesta Bowl -- was generally acknowledged as a fair outcome, there were a few minor controversies in the year of BCS's birth. Besides the snubbing of K-State, an 11-0 Tulane team was also shut out of the BCS. But thanks to the hurricanes, a catastrophe was averted.

Final BCS Standings
 1. Tennessee, 2. Florida State, 3. Kansas State, 4. Ohio State.

Alternative methods: 

  • Using present day BCS formula: 1. Tennessee, 2. Florida State. 

  • Using human polls only: 1. Tennessee (1-AP, 1-Coaches), 2. Florida State (2-AP, 2-Coaches).

  • Plus-One: Tennessee vs. Ohio State; Florida State vs. Kansas State.


  • Kansas State snub: Despite finishing third in the final BCS standings, the Wildcats found themselves in the non-BCS Alamo Bowl. The Sugar Bowl opted for Big Ten co-champion Ohio State, who was the top-ranked team for most of the season until a 28-24 upset loss to Michigan State. The Orange Bowl took Steve Spurrier's Florida Gators, who finished eighth in the BCS standings. A dispirited and disinterested K-State team lost to Purdue, 37-34.

  • Tulane snub: An 11-0 record and Conference USA title weren't enough to get the Green Wave to a BCS bowl game, let alone a spot in the title game. Tulane, ranked No. 10, today would've received an automatic berth by being in the top 12. Nevertheless, playing without a head coach after Tommy Bowden took the Clemson job, the Green Wave romped to a 41-27 Liberty Bowl victory over BYU under some guy named Rich Rodriguez.

BCS Formula Review: The initial BCS standings, the brainchild of then-SEC commissioner Roy Kramer, was an unwieldy clunker divided in three -- human polls, computer rankings and strength of schedule. And each loss is tacked on as additional penalty. Only three computers were used -- Anderson & Hester, Jeff Sagarin and New York Times. Margin of victory was accounted for by all three computers and a 50% adjusted maximum deviation factor was applied.

Analysis: UCLA's loss, which occurred earlier in the day on Dec. 5, gave the BCS poobahs a huge sigh of relief. Tennessee's 23-16 victory over Florida State in the Fiesta Bowl, though underwhelming, was controversy-free. The BCS seemingly passed its first test ... only if they knew.

23 May 2008

Game Over? Do the Math

Why isn't the Democratic nomination race over? While the pundits around the country are coming up with various explanations and speculations, no one seems capable of breaking out a calculator. Because if they did, they'd know that this contest is so over.

How is it over? With only three primaries remaining -- in Puerto Rico, Montana and South Dakota -- only 86 pledged delegates are left at stake. Assuming the worst-case scenario for Barack Obama (a blowout loss in PR and narrow wins in MT and SD), he'd earn 36 delegates with the remaining 50 going to Hillary Clinton.

If you do the math (with numbers provided by RealClearPolitics), you'd know that this race is over in many different ways -- and in every way:

1. Playing by the rules -- This would be the one that makes the most sense, but the one Clinton is fighting the hardest not to abide by. Under this scenario, Florida and Michigan don't count and the magic number is 2,026.

Barack Obama would have 2,001 delegates after the final primaries, leaving him 25 short of the majority required. He closes out the race if he gets just 25 of the uncommitted 209 super delegates to support him.

Result: Obama expected to clinch as of June 3.

2. Counting only pledged delegates -- Obama has favored using this as an argument to compel the super delegates to throw in their lot. To-date, he has 1,656 pledged delegates, already more than half of the 3,253 pledged delegates in play. If the super delegates are supposed to follow the lead of the pledged delegates, then this game is already over.

Result: Obama already clinched.

3. Counting only pledged delegates, including Florida and Michigan -- By adding the two renegade delegations, the pledged delegate pool expands to 3,570, meaning 1,785 would be needed to reach a majority.

The trickier part of this scenario is whether to allocate the "uncommitted" votes in Michigan to Obama, since he took his name off the ballot. If the "uncommitted" goes to Obama, then he'll have 1,826 pledged delegates, still a majority. If those "uncommitted" votes go to no one -- i.e. Obama gets zero delegates from Michigan -- then he'd fail to reach the majority. But he'd still have more pledged delegates then Clinton: 1,766-1,733, with neither reaching the majority because of the uncommitted votes.

Result: Obama wins as of June 3, whether he gets Michigan's pledged delegates or not.

4. Counting all delegates, including Florida and Michigan -- Hillary is fighting hard to reach this outcome, but the reality is she still has no chance to win. It merely puts more super delegates on the spot. By admitting all delegates from Florida and Michigan, the magic number goes up to 2,182.

If Obama is allowed to capture the "uncommitted" votes in Michigan, he'd have 2,135 delegates after the final primaries, leaving him 47 super delegates short of the majority. In contrast, Clinton's only goes up to 2,012, still needing 170 of the remaining 209 (81 percent) super delegates to support her. If Obama doesn't get Michigan's "uncommitted," he'd need more super delegates to put him over the top, but he'd still be ahead of Clinton, 2,075-2,012.

Result: Obama ahead in either scenario, needing either 47 or 102 super delegates for majority.

5. The popular vote -- This is Hilary's ace in the hole -- or so she thinks. When all else fails -- and they're destined to, as I have outlined -- this is the only thing she'll have going for her.

But even this specious piece of twisted logic doesn't necessarily work in her favor. Note her line: "More Americans have voted for me." What she conveniently left out is that since Obama's name wasn't on the Michigan ballot, he technically received no votes from Michigan. Even if Hillary wins a landslide in Puerto Rico, a territory that does not have a say in the general election, she'd still be trailing Obama in popular vote -- as long as Obama can claim the "uncommitted" votes in Michigan.

Result: Obama ahead if Michigan's "uncommitted" votes go to him. Clinton ahead if not.

As I had previously and presciently stated, it was stupid for Obama's people to bring the "popular vote" issue into the argument, and it's now biting them back something fierce. It was never part of the contest and now this becomes one last lifeline for Hillary's floundering campaign.

But no matter. Obama has a clear path to bring about the endgame well before the August convention. He should argue for seating Florida and Michigan's delegations, with the single caveat that Michigan's "uncommitted" delegates be allocated to him. Hillary will have virtually no rebuttal to this arrangement since she'd reap the benefits of the two contests she "won." And Obama merely has to persuade an additional two dozen or so super delegates (out of 209) to support him and make him the Democratic Party's nominee.

It all adds up. Really. Just do the math.

22 May 2008

A Test of Heavenly Proportions

(From Sinotaenous)

In the most vulnerable hour, China has looked its most sympathetic.

If the Chinese communist government failed miserably in its first test of the year, during the Tibet uprising and subsequent worldwide torch relay, then it's getting at least a passing grade in its handling of the Sichuan earthquake tragedy. In some quarters, it's getting rave reviews.

The adroit and deft management of such a humanitarian disaster has earned the Chinese government some breathing room. But it should not be surprising. If anything, Hu Jintao has shown during his tenure that he's a quick study and much more in tune with the fast-changing nature of global public relations.

For starters, the quake came on the heels of Burma's devastating cyclone, during which its military junta deservedly earned universal scorn. So whatever Beijing did was probably going to be viewed more favorably. But Hu was even smarter than that.

Understanding that the flow of information would be difficult to stop in such a chaotic environment, he instead allowed it to transmit relatively freely. The world got a rare unfiltered glimpse of sorrow and grief of a nation and its people and understandably lavished them with ample amounts of sympathy. And China's surprising decision to swiftly allow foreign aid groups to reach the disaster area gave credence to the notion that its government took responsibility for the welfare of its citizens.

Rescue teams from Japan, South Korea and even Taiwan gained nearly immediate access to the disaster zone. Untold number of lives were perhaps saved because of this action. Contrast that with how Russia handled the sinking of the submarine Kursk in 2000, when Vladimir Putin let his sailors die on the sea floor instead of swallowing national pride to allow foreign help. In this case, China lost face hardly at all. Instead, it's widely viewed as a shining example of a growing global village that thrives on mutual assistance.

The cynical among us might question the true motives of the Chinese government, but no one can question that the event was unplanned and the swift response was un-rehearsed. The Chinese view momentous events, like a massive earthquake, as heavenly intervention. In this context, the communist government shook to its core, but came out with the right answers.

Hu and his inner circle know that the groundswell of sympathy and support will not last forever, so they best take advantage of this goodwill and use it as a foundation to build more trust. There are indications that they will. Hu's conciliatory gesture toward Taiwan, including the unearthing of the rarely invoked "1992 Consensus" was well received. His willingness to at least engage Dalai Lama's representatives -- whether it's somewhat coerced or not -- has helped to cool the Free Tibet fever.

So just where is China headed from here? That's becoming more interesting and complex by the day. If anything, the earthquake may have ended the days when China sealed all outside contact at the first sign of internal distress. And with that as the new reality, China might be on the verge of yet another transformation.

For the better, we hope. Perhaps it's a mandate from Heaven?

21 May 2008

Losing Graciously is un-Democratic

If you lose, change the rules. If you can't change the rules, cry that the rules are unfair. If nobody wants to hear you whine, you throw a tantrum and refuse to go away. If all else fails, you can still go hire a lawyer.

Is this where we're headed with Hillary Clinton?

Taking a page -- heck, maybe the whole enchilada -- out of Al Gore's playbook, Hillary is fighting to the death because "people" exhorted her to. Yeah, people, like Bill, Chelsea, Howard Wolfson and a handful of others from the HRC campaign that's running low on cash and even lower on class and dignity.

If you thought Hillary already said some unbelievably crass stuff, well, the hits just keep on coming. Her latest gem: She's leading in popular votes. She should've had one of those announcers who can read fine print at warp speed (like the ones on TV or radio commercials) say the following: "That's if you count Florida and Michigan, never mind we all agreed beforehand that those two delegations broke the rules and should be excluded and that Barack Obama will have zero votes from Michigan because he took his name off the ballot, and if you don't count the results from Iowa, Maine, Nevada and Washington -- three of them won by Obama -- then Hillary Clinton would be ahead by 1/3 of one percent. Not all figures are reliable and restrictions apply. See HillaryClinton.com for details. Offer expires June 3rd."

Whew. But like the Bosnian sniper, Hillary is again hoping against hope that nobody would pay attention to details. And that the super delegates -- the real audience she's appealing to -- would be as stupid as the Florida voters who claimed that the butterfly ballots were too confusing in the 2000 election.

Hillary doesn't want to make sure every vote counts. She wants to make sure every vote that works in her favor counts. In her twisted logic, even though she will never surpass Obama's lead in pledged delegates -- even if Florida and Michigan's results are tabulated as the way they went, i.e. Obama gets zero in Michigan -- by coming close that ought to be enough. Never mind the pre-existing rules and the pledge by all candidates before the election to exclude those two renegade states.

Rules are for Republicans and everybody else. We're Democrats. We don't need no stinking rules!

The aversion to rules is right up there among allergies that afflict Democrats. And this sickness owes much of it to Gore's refusal to concede what was clearly a lost election. By contesting the 2000 election to its bitter conclusion, Gore ensured the kind of rancor and discontent that ensnared American politics for the next eight years. Whereas Samuel Tilden and even Richard Nixon(!) graciously conceded in elections they might have been robbed, Gore chose his own grievance over what was good for the country.

Much of his spurious arguments are given a rebirth by Gore's former housemate. Yeah, Hillary and Al might've despised each other, but they think eerily alike. Both are elites masquerading as champions of the people. Both possess a kind of supreme entitlement mentality as if democratic politics are merely a charade for imperial succession. Both have a penchant to exaggerate their credentials. And both envied Bill for his political gifts -- and neither has them.

If 2000 is prelude, this Democratic nomination process will go to the convention floor in August in Denver. Hillary won't let it die, even if she can't win. She has already done plenty to undermine Obama's electability -- and she'll do more to that effect, despite the rhetoric that she'll "work" for the Democratic nominee. Come to think of it, Hillary really is a lot like Tonya Harding. If she attacks Obama savagely enough, he'll become unelectable and therefore the nomination must go to her.

Will it work? That depends on the density of the super delegates' collective backbone. But if Democrats are known for their balls, why are they called the Mommy Party?

13 May 2008

Coming Soon ... Ten Years of BCS

(From BCS Guru)

Yes, it's hard to believe that it's been 10 years since the Bowl Championship Series was foisted upon the unsuspecting college football fan base. And what fun have we had!

Just about every other year, there was a dispute and controversy. In 2001, it was Nebraska over Oregon and Colorado. In 2003, it was USC getting left out and a split championship. In 2004, it was Auburn's turn. In 2006 and 2007, nobody was quite sure who the real champion was -- except we knew it wasn't Ohio State.

In the years that the BCS got it "right," ... well, hell, did we really need a "system" to grant us such pleasure? Was there any doubt that USC should've played Texas in 2005 and Ohio State vs. Miami in 2002?

Every few years, the standings were tweaked to fix the previous season's mistakes. Then inevitably, a new problem cropped up. The current setup has remained stable for four seasons -- presumably because so far it's been the least offensive of all the cockamamie schemes.

Since we're stuck with this until at least 2013, and most likely, well after a man lands on Mars, peace reigns in the Middle East and the Los Angeles Clippers win the NBA title, we need to settle in for the long haul. And since we can't do anything about it right now, we should look back at the history of the BCS era, to see what we might learn from it.

Beginning in June, and all the way until the 2008 season kicks off on Aug. 28, the Guru will present an annual review of the BCS Decade that began in 1998. We'll look at what happened, what could've happened and what should've happened. We won't solve anything, but we'll leave you entertained and enthralled and for some of you, rue for what might have been.

08 May 2008

Chickens Coming Home to Roost

The Democratic primary race is all over but the counting. Barack Obama will win the nomination.

And he will lose to John McCain in the November general election.

Thank you, Mrs. and Mr. Clinton!

By staying in the race after 10 consecutive drubbings in February, Hillary Clinton made sure that Obama got fully exposed for what he is -- a rank amateur not quite capable of firing a political kill shot. By dragging the race to its ugly conclusion, when no mathematical probability supports her continued candidacy, Hillary did the Republicans their bidding by going full throttle with the kind of identity politics that the Democrats are famous for.

Famous for losing presidential elections.

Make no mistake, the race card, gender card and even the AARP card are all now on the table. It will be fair game for McCain to play them come summer and fall because it was the Democrats who dealt them.

For Obama, he already got a losing hand.

If the blue-collar whites had reservations about voting for a black man, Hillary went out of her way to assure them that there's nothing wrong with racist feelings. If women resented a younger man taking away something that they perceive to belong to a woman who's put in her dues, Hillary said resent away. If old folks felt the country couldn't be trusted in the hands of an inexperienced neophyte, Hillary cleared it all up with, you know, that red phone thing.

All these constituencies are not gonna break Obama's way, even after he formally seals the nomination. And they're still not coming his way even if he makes an astonishing move by tapping Hillary as his VP candidate.

Now, Obama is not that green. He doesn't want Hillary running around the White House showing him where everything is, much less Bill telling him what to do. In this case, if he wins the election, he will be indebted to the Clintons, and will be forced to pack his cabinet with the Clintons' cronies. That's not change you can believe in.

But the truth is that even if Hillary is on his ticket, she won't be that much help. The only demographic group she truly has an influence on is the downscale women voters. The rest of them, they're all up for grabs.

And let's face it. Many of the Clintons' "supporters" during the primary have their own agendas. There are plenty of Republicans who disingenuously tried to influence the Democratic ticket. Some are whites who couldn't bear to vote for a black man but will have no trouble pulling the lever for McCain in the fall. And there are those who are truly concerned about national security -- yeah, whom do you think they want to answer that red phone?

No matter how you look at it, Obama is a badly damaged candidate. Battered by the incessant identity politics, he's right back into the mud-slinging that he had hoped to transcend.

Obama's best shot to stop the bleeding is to exert so much pressure on Hillary that she'd finally quit the race. With just a handful of primaries left to contest, Obama needs only about, at best 50, at worst 90, of the remaining 260 or so uncommitted super delegates to cast their lot with him to put him over the magic number of 2,025.

But does he have the clout and gravitas to force the issue? Not now. Obama might've been able to push another male candidate off the stage, but not Hillary. She's special because she's the first woman to legitimately vie for the presidency of the United States. With that being the case, no man had dare tell her what to do.

And that goes for the rest of the identity-obsessed Democrats. Yeah, talk about chickens coming home to roost.

05 May 2008

New Day at the Zoo

Dear Reader:

We're excited to bring you some news at The Berlinzoo. Rest assured that you'll still find all the quality postings here uninterrupted. But if you're interested in any particular topic, you now may go to places that devote exclusively to what you're looking for.

The BCS Guru is getting a facelift. The end result is that the site will have a dual existence as a resource center and a blog. All postings and comments will now be archived at the Guru's blog site. And a new RSS feed from the Guru is now available.

As the Beijing Olympics are approaching, I will be providing more insights and analyses to everything about China and the Olympics. Since China obviously is not going away even after the Games, it's fitting that we'll now have a blog devoted exclusively to China. It will also double as a resource center for everything pertaining to China -- history, culture, current events and of course, politics. Go to Sinotaneous.com and have a look. An exclusive RSS feed for Sinotaneous will be available soon as well.

I want to thank you for your continued support. And if you are one of those people who just can't get enough of me, then please come back to The Berlinzoo, as everything I write will appear here. It's like a zoo that has more species than any other in the world.

Now which zoo would that be? Hmmm ...