Last year, before any bowl games were played, coaches and sportswriters ranked the Oregon Ducks No. 2 in the land, ahead of the No. 4 Nebraska Cornhuskers. Both had 10-1 records. Yet the BCS ranked Nebraska 2nd and Oregon 4th. That sent the Huskers to the championship game against No. 1 Miami (where they lost to the Hurricanes 37-14), and relegated Oregon to the Fiesta bowl (they beat Colorado 38-16). Here’s how the BCS came to the opposite conclusion from the coaches and sportswriters.
First, the BCS averaged the rankings in the Associated Press media poll and the USA Today/ESPN coaches poll. Nebraska was ranked 4th in both, so their average was 4. Oregon’s was 2.
Then, the BCS took all the computer rankings, threw out the lowest ranking, and averaged the rest. That produced a 2.17 ranking for the Huskers and 4.83 for the Ducks. (Here, lower is better.)
The reason why Oregon’s computer ranking was lower than Nebraska’s was due to the strength-of-schedule factor. That is derived by adding up the win/loss records of the Ducks’ opponents and also their opponents’ opponents (with the win/loss record of opponents counting for two-thirds of the score and the records of the opponents’ opponents’ counting for one-third). This number is then compared with all other teams to determine a strength-of-schedule ranking. That ranking is then divided by 25 for the final strength-of-schedule value.
Oregon’s schedule ranked 31st most difficult, and Nebraska’s 14th. When divided by 25, Nebraska’s number was .56 and Oregon’s 1.24.
Then, the BCS added one point for each loss. Both teams got one point.
Lastly, teams are awarded extra credit for beating rivals ranked in the top 10. One point is awarded for beating the No.1 team, .9 for the No. 2 team and so on. So Nebraska received .5 quality win points and Oregon got .4.
Finally, the results are calculated by adding the average poll ranking, the computer ranking, the strength-of-schedule value and the loss points, and then subtracting from that sum the quality win points. This produces the BCS rating. As with golf, the low score wins.
Nebraska ended up with 7.23 (4+2.17+0.56+1 – 0.5 = 7.23).
Oregon was 8.67 (2+4.83+1.24+1-0.4=8.67).
Eventual national champ Miami was 2.62.
Source: The Football Foundation