BCS criteria for a conference AQ bid. Explanation, numbers, and analysis

I am a self-proclaimed nerd. I love crunching numbers. I am also a proponent of BSU going to the Big East. Last week I posted a couple of logical arguments as to why the Big East will not lose it's AQ status. This week I am going to explain the formula they use to determine which conferences qualify for AQ status and where the Big East will be if all the proposed changes go down. Let's jump right in (see what I did there).

The current 6 AQ conferences have contractual rights to BCS games through the 2013 season. The formula by which any conference can earn an AQ bid consists of 3 criteria. Luckily, they published them last year. All results are avaraged over a four year period. Therefore, these criteria will be applied to the 2010-2013 seasons to gauge the worthiness of each conference. Without further ado then, Bill Hancock's whimsical list of 3 magical things to determine if your conference gets millions of dollars and has any chance at winning a mNC:

(1) the ranking of the highest-ranked team in the final BCS Standings each year (if a conference does not place a team in the final BCS Standings, then its highest-ranked team is determined by the conference member that has the highest average ranking in the computer rankings used in the BCS Standings), (2) the final regular-season rankings of all conference teams in the computer rankings used by the BCS each year, and (3) the number of teams in the top 25 of the final BCS Standings each year, with adjustments to account for differences in the number of members of each conference.

So in a departure from what we typically hear makes a good team and conference, they actually use results. You'll notice the dubious lack of the true measures of team quality. Things such as SEC speed, QB height, NFL-caliber talent, and recruiting rank do not factor into the BCS formula. An oversight I am sure they will be quick to remedy in the future.

Do well enough in those three categories and a little girl with frizzy hair appears and waves her wand while speaking the magical charm avada kedavra alohomora and suddenly the door to all your dreams is unlocked. A dramatization of which can be seen here (Spanish accents free of charge)


So how good is good enough? For the first two criteria, you clear the bar if your average over the four year period ranks in the top six conferences in the country. The third criteria is a little more confusing and we will cover it in a second.

So will the Big East be in the top six in these categories come the end of the 2013 season? If everything works out as proposed, which means Pitt and 'Cuse go the ACC, West Virginia moves the Big 12, Texas A&M and Missouri move to the SEC, and SMU, Houston, UCF, Air Force, Navy, Boise State, and BYU or SDSU go to the Big East, then there is not even a remote chance that Big East will be outside the Top 6. I could go through criteria #2 and prove it, but the closest competition to the Big East and ACC for the sixth best conference would be the MWC, WAC, or CUSA, and that isn't happening. To put it in perspective, for criteria #1, taking the 2010 season and 2011 season-to-date, here are the averages:

SEC - 1
Big 12 - 2.5
PAC 12 - 3
Big East - 7.5 (the best team each year would be the Broncos and the Broncos, thank you very much)
Big 10 - 8.5
ACC - 11
WAC, CUSA, MAC, MWC, Sun Belt - All >25

Their best teams average is greater than 25th in the nation. Throw in the bottom dwellers for each of those conferences (all teams from New Mexico included), and they don't stand a chance to get to #6 in the combined rankings.

Now the 3rd criteria is rather strange. Instead of just totaling up the number of Top 25 teams, they assign a point value for higher ranked teams as follows:

Rank 1-6: 4 points
Rank 7-12: 3 points
Rank 13-18: 2 points
Rank 19-25: 1 point

Then, if the conference has less than 12 members, they have a multiplier to make up the difference. I did the number crunching (if you want to see it go here, third sheet). Finally, rather than just rank in the top 6 conferences, for criteria three, your point total must be 50% of the conference with the highest rating. But, if you are top 6 in criteria 1 and 2 then you can petition the Presidential Oversight Committee for an exemption if your score in criteria 3 is at least 33.3% of the highest conference. So what are the numbers for the 2010 season and 2011 season to date? Not pretty for 3 of the 6 BCS Conferences:


Point Total


Big 12



Big 10






PAC 12






Big East



So under the current proposed restructuring format, the PAC 12, who sent a representative to last year's mNC, and the Big East would both be required to submit paperwork for an exemption. The ACC doesn't even make it to that threshold. Oh by the way, 7 of those 13 points for the Big East come from BSU, without us they are at 17% and basically have no hope to qualify. Also, they wouldn't be top 6 for criteria #1 because the MWC and ACC would both be above them in that scenario. Now do you see why they are so desperate to get us? Houston's ranking at 11 makes a huge difference too, as that is worth 3 points. This makes for an interesting conundrum when Houston faces Tulsa later this year. A Tulsa win is good for our SoS this year to possibly get us into the mNC, but that same Tulsa win could eventually prove the downfall of the AQ status of our possible future conference.  Just something to consider for the future.

So I guess the take home message should be that if any conference should be worried about its AQ status at this point, it ought to be the ACC. I will update these numbers again as the conference realignment pieces continue to fall into place.

Final question: Does it matter if the 12th team is BYU or SDSU? Technically yes, but in the grand scheme of things no. Neither team was in the final top 25 last year, and it is doubtful that BYU would be there if they win out this year. SDSU will not be a top 25 team since they already have 3 losses and have scheduled a loss for the 19th of this month when they get run over by our Broncos. So their overall computer average would end up factoring into criteria #2, but since we would be sitting pretty with that criteria anyway, it doesn't really matter.

This content was not created by OBNUG and therefore may not meet our standards. On the contrary, it probably exceeds them.

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