BCS Analysis: The Nailbiter That Wasn't

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 26: Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates their 42-14 win over the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 26, 2011 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Remember all the meltdowns over the imminent BCS nailbiter? In reality, a deeper analysis of the final numbers reveals that there was never any real cause for concern in Tuscaloosa.

The Coaches Poll saw a solid swing towards Oklahoma State, but in the end it was just not all the Cowboys needed. The Pokes ended up with 1,367 total points in the Coaches, leapfrogging Stanford in the process but not doing what they needed to do to overtake Alabama. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide largely remained strong near the top. The unanimous number two in the Coaches Poll would have gotten 1,416 points, so in effect with 1,399 points 'Bama took the overwhelming majority of the second-place votes out of the 59 ballots placed. Nice surge and all for OSU, but nevertheless insufficient.

Meanwhile, the Harris Poll defied all expectations and turned out to be the most pro-'Bama poll of them all. Oklahoma State finished third in the Harris Poll with 2,654 total points. Keeping in mind that the unanimous number three in the Harris Poll would have gotten 2,645 points, in real terms the Pokes effectively poached away from Alabama only about nine second-place votes out of the total 115 ballots place.

In other words, for all of the sound and fury generated by that Saturday night Sooner slaughterhouse in Stillwater, the human voters effectively responded with one big collective yawn.

And while the human voters were busy dreaming of the Rematch of the Century, Alabama generally held serve well enough in the computer polls. Most observers expected 'Bama would hold onto the lead in the Sagarin Ratings, while most thought the Massey Ratings would go back to Oklahoma State. The real concern was with the Wolfe Ratings, which could have allowed the Pokes to dramatically cut the Tide's margin of error, but at the end of the day Oklahoma State simply couldn't muster much of a challenge there. 'Bama ending up getting the nod by a relatively comfortable .269 margin, and with that Okie State couldn't make a clean sweep in the computers.

In the end, the final margins weren't particularly close. Oklahoma State could not get the unanimous nod in the computers, and while they made a respectable surge in the human polls at the end of the day they only took away the equivalent of ten votes in the Coaches and nine in the Harris (out of a total of 174 combined voters). Realistically, the Pokes needed another somewhere in the neighborhood of about 18 more second-place votes in each of the Coaches and the Harris.

Even had Oklahoma State found a way to become the unanimous #2 in the coaches poll they would have still fallen short, albeit by a smaller margin. Even with a unanimous computer selection, the Cowboys still needed approximately five Coaches Poll votes or nine Harris Poll votes (or some combination of the two such that they overcame the deficit).

At the end of the day, it's easy to pile on Oklahoma State for the juvenile reaction of many fans and T. Boone Pickens' nonsense, but admittedly a great deal of credit should go to Mike Gundy and company. They put together a strong season and left the in-state rival Sooners looking like a trainwreck (and, good grief, does the era of big-time Oklahoma football under Bob Stoops ever look dead). Even so, though, despite all of that, the voters clearly never swayed from their underlying conviction that, for all of the complaints over a rematch, Alabama and LSU were simply the two best teams in the nation and it was they who should fight it out for the crystal ball in the Superdome in the second week of January. At the end of the day it was not the "system" that doomed Oklahoma State, but the collective indifference of the 174 human voters to their thumping of Oklahoma in Bedlam.

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