I said earlier that the USC loss was bad for the Pac-10. I still believe that. It’ll hurt, albeit slightly, the Pac-10’s reputation as we lose a marque program at the top of the rankings. The more marque teams we have towards the top of the rankings the better for our national reputation as a conference.
But national reputation is only a small aspect of what Cal fans should care about. Really we care about how the Bears do, not how the Pac-10 does. So, the question remains, is the USC loss good for Cal? Danzig points to an article at Addicted To Quack where the author suggests the loss is good for Oregon, is the same true for Cal?
While I wouldn’t have phrased it the same way they did, I think it’s mostly accurate, with a few glaring errors. Basically, there are two ways to get to a BCS bowl game: win the conference or get an at-large bid. Computing the at-large possibilities is nearly impossible because it’s a delicate balance between the BCS rankings and the specific bowls and what teams appeal to them, so I’ll ignore that aspect at first and come back to it.
The simple way to end up in a BCS bowl game is to win the Pac-10. Anyone with half a brain can tell you, every time your main competition for the title loses, it increases your chances of winning the crown. In that sense, there is no doubt: USC losing is good for Cal. It sets up two situations. 1. If Cal loses to USC, it only takes one other USC loss for Cal to still win the conference. 2. It ensures that with a USC victory, Cal could lose up to two other games and still beat USC for the title. There’s too many permeatations at this point to deliniate them all, but the short matter of it is that if Cal beats UCLA, ASU and USC, it seems pretty unlikely that Cal won’t win the conference. Those teams, along with Oregon, are likely to lose one more and I just don’t see Cal losing to OSU, UW AND Stanford, which is what it would take for our 4 competitors to beat us out in that scenario. So, every way around the block, a USC loss, is good for Cal.
Going back to the at-large bid, there are two scenarios that likely get Cal to a BCS game (note that undefeated means we win the conference, so isn’t included here):
- The Pac-10 champ goes to the BCS championship game and Cal has two or less losses: People often bring up the 2004 season as why a two-loss team wouldn’t get an at-large bid. What those people forget is that we have an additional BCS bowl these days now that the BCS championship game is separate from the 4 BCS bowl games (originally it rotated between the 4). That additional bowl added two at-large spots. Additionally, 2004 was a year where there was a non-BCS team that qualified for a BCS spot. That doesn’t look to be the case this year clearing up a 3rd spot that was not available in 2004. Add in that Notre Dame is already not BCS eligible and I’m confident that a two-loss Cal will go to the Rose Bowl if the Pac-10 champ goes to the BCS championship game. Now that I’ve laid all the ground work, this is the lone scenario that the USC loss hurt. There’s probably only 3 teams with even a remote shot at the title game, Cal, USC and Oregon. Oregon is a long-shot although winning out, including beating USC, would do it with key losses from teams like Ohio State (and Cal). Since this scenario assumes it isn’t Cal in the BCS title game, a USC loss means the most likely candidate for a Pac-10 BCS title game just lost a good portion of their shot at it. Saying it again: this is the one area where USC’s lost was bad.
- No Pac-10 team in title game, Cal only has one loss: The reason to differentiate this one from above is because in this scenario, the Pac-10 champion will go to the Rose Bowl (since they didn’t go to the title game). This hurts Cal because the other three BCS bowls have a lot less interest in Cal than the Rose Bowl does. My thought is that it’ll likely take a one-loss Cal to get a bid to a non-Rose Bowl BCS game. This scenario didn’t take a hit, because it has nothing to do with USC. It has everything to do with Cal only losing one more game and somehow not winning the conference crown despite that.
So there we have it. 2 ways to get there that break down into 3 scenarios. One scenario just got better, one scenario just got a bit worse (although it should be noted that a one-loss USC was BCS title game bound before they lost to UCLA) and a last scenario that is unaffected. Personally I think the good scenario out-weighs the bad because more than anything, I want Cal to win the Pac-10 with out that stinking “co” to be at the front of the Champions part.
Final answer: yes, it was good for Cal.