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Stop crying over Kansas State, the non-snubbed

December 5, 2011  |  By Benjamin Miraski

More than a decade into the BCS era and I am still amazed at the outrage over who is selected to play in the BCS bowls outside of the Championship Game.

There is a lot of money on the line for sure, but the fact remains that the other bowls are most often a side show to the big one. Unless there is a year without a clear No. 1, the other games don't matter, no matter what bowl supporters will tell you.

Fans get to watch their team one more time (and for some teams -- Illinois, UCLA, Purdue -- this isn't a good thing), and that is it.

So when Kansas State was left out of a BCS bowl, and instead is shipped to the Cotton Bowl, it didn't really bother me.

After all, the Wildcats were 36th in the MRI.

Yes, No. 36. That is out of even "on the bubble" range.

The outrage began on Saturday night when there were rumors that Virginia Tech might sneak over Kansas State. It continued through Sunday night and the official announcement.

People on Twitter were considering how much they would need to drink in order to make sense of this travesty.

Sorry, I don't see the problem.

The MRI might be in the minority... or singularity here, but Virginia Tech was much higher in the rankings than Kansas state.

Whereas most of the computers had the Wildcats within the top five, the MRI was not so nice. The MRI did agree with the other buckets of bytes on the ranking of Virginia Tech.

So why was Kansas State so far off?

First let's remember, the MRI utilizes a weighted margin of victory in the rankings. It is an important distinction, and one that makes the BCS computers "inaccurate" in a way.

And second, the MRI is the only computer that actually incorporates the performance on the field. Another way to put it is that the MRI looks at the building blocks of the end results: how well an offense did, how well a defense did, how much a team dominated.

In a sense, the MRI incorporates the "eye test" without needing to see anything because all of the inputs into a win are part of the formula.

And in the eye test, Kansas State loses, big time.

Based on the MRI strength of schedule, the two teams are about even. That may seem hard to believe given the difference between the ACC and Big 12 this season.

But lost in all the upper level strength of the Big 12 was that Kansas State also played Eastern Kentucky and Kent State, along with Miami. They also got the fun games against Kansas, troublemaker Iowa State and a fading Texas A&M.

Virginia Tech's similar weakness was against Appalachian State, East Carolina and Marshall. And then Boston College, Duke and Miami.

The one big difference might be that Virginia Tech got to play against Arkansas State, a team that ended up No. 22 in the MRI. The Hokies were one of the two teams that beat the Red Wolves this year (along with Illinois).

Nothing here separates the teams clearly. Nothing hears warrants the "Don't ever schedule anyone" cries that come from the doubters. Nothing here is enough to say that Virginia Tech did anything different than Kansas State did, because the Wildcats... they didn't exactly schedule LSU, did they?

Next, go back to the margin of victory.

Kansas State won two games by more than a touchdown: Kent State and Kansas. That includes just a three-point win by the Wildcats over Eastern Kentucky. The best win by the Wildcats was a 1-point victory over a No. 15 Baylor, followed by a 4-point win over No. 23 Texas.

Virginia Tech had seven games that they won by more than a touchdown. The best win was an 11-point win over a No. 21 Georgia Tech, followed by its 26-7 beating of Arkansas State (that is still not ranked, although probably deserves to be and will show that in the bowl game against Northern Illinois. Yes, they are good).

If you go further down the list of "inputs" into the MRI, Virginia Tech wins out.

Passing offense: Kansas State, 109th; Virginia Tech, 66th
Rushing offense: Kansas State, 29th; Virginia Tech, 31st
Defense: Kansas State, 74th; Virginia Tech, 13th
Turnover differential: Kansas State +13; Virginia Tech, +6

The numbers aren't totally in favor of the Hokies, but Virginia Tech win the head-to-head battles by a wide margin.

And if you consider how teams that have a high number of close victories and a turnover differential clearly in their favor are more likely to regress the next season, Kansas State almost lucked into this season.

The MRI isn't the end all of computer rankings. It isn't the absolute arbiter of what is correct in college football.

But Virginia Tech outperformed the Wildcats this season. That and they bring a lot of fans to bowl games.

The Sugar Bowl will not be disappointed in their selection, even if Kansas State fans are.


Posted December 5, 2011 2:22 PM

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