First, there is an interesting issue of statistically significant differences. Here is a table that includes the simple percentage difference from 1 to 2, 2 to 3, 3 to 4, and so on:
|RK||TEAM||BCS Final Pts.||%Diff|
|24||San Jose State||0.1346||0.7435|
Since we don't know the distribution of the final points assigned under the BCS formula, a "room full of reasonable people" criterion like 10% as a significant difference might fly. I count 9 of 25 at this 10% level (we can't know about Kent State because rankings past the 25th spot aren't ever listed). By and large, comparing team-by-team down the ranking, the BCS formula had a tough time actually telling very many teams apart. Even at 5%, I count 14 of the 25 at this level (just over half).
At best, the BCS formula picked up differences at obvious, discrete intervals. FSU fell far below Oklahoma at the 12th spot, Northern Illinois fell far below Clemson at the 15th spot, Louisville fell far below Northwestern at the 21st spot, and SJSU falls off the earth at the 24th spot. The BCS formula appears to be a very coarse instrument at best.
Second, the BCS formula produces relative strength of teams in individual bowls quit at odds with betting lines. If both teams in a bowl game were ranked in the BCS 25, the ratio of the BCS Final Points is a relative strength index. For example, the Florida/Louisville ratio for the Sugar Bowl was 4.9690. The opening betting lines could also be found; for the Sugar Bowl it was Florida by 14.5 points. Here's a table:
|Bowl||Higher BCS Rank/Opponent||BCS Ratio||Opening Line|
|Orange Bowl||Florida State/Northern Illinois||1.5406||13.5|
|Fiesta Bowl||Oregon/Kanssas State||1.0480||8|
|Outback Bowl||South Carolina/Michigan||2.6031||4.5|
|Cotton Bowl||Texas A&M/Oklahoma||1.0391||3|
|Alamo Bowl||Oregon State/Texas||3.1047||1|
|BCS Championship||Notre Dame/Alabama||1.0569||-8|
Almost by inspection, the BCS Ratio (Higher BCS Rank/Opponent) and the opening line don't match up very well. The simple correlation between the two is a meager 0.456 and if you throw out the only real discrepancy with Notre Dame, the correlation falls to 0.350! One could argue that opening lines evolve, but they were at least simultaneous to the final BCS points announcement. I wanted to check into this for other years, but I can't find opening lines by season.
In our upcoming book (Sports Myths, Stanford University Press), Jason Winfree and I also poke other fun at the "tournament" that is to replace the BCS next year. Almost makes one yearn for the good old days when the pairings were just left up to bowl committees and polls determined the final rankings after the bowl games were played.