[This is a bit of a mess. It's near-impossible for it not to be a mess.]
As Penn State continued to pile up ugly
losses WINS since mid-September, many have labeled them the worst one-loss team in the nation. It's an argument perfectly suited for college football in the internet age -- senseless and without a definite answer. Here are the one-loss teams from BCS conferences:
|One Loss Team||Loss (BCS) Score||Top 50 Wins (Sagarin)||SOS (Sagarin)||vs. Sagarin Top 30|
|Penn State (B10)||Alabama (2) 27-11||Illinois (43)||64||0-1|
|Michigan (B10)||@Michigan State (17) 28-14||Notre Dame (26)||60||1-1|
|Nebraska (B10)||@Wisconsin (20) 48-17||Michigan State (20), Washington (32), Ohio State (29)||38||2-1|
|Clemson (ACC)||@Georgia Tech (23) 31-17||Auburn (30), Florida State (36), Virginia Tech (23), North Carolina (40)||43||2-0|
|Virginia Tech (ACC)||Clemson (11) 23-3||Miami (41)||54||0-1|
|Arkansas (SEC)||@Alabama (2) 38-14||Texas A&M (8), Auburn (30), Vanderbilt (49)||61||2-1|
|South Carolina (SEC)||Auburn (22) 16-13||Georgia (14), Vanderbilt (49), Tennessee (47), Mississippi State (44)||33||1-1|
|Oklahoma (B12)||Texas Tech (NR) 41-38||Florida State (35), Missouri (11), Texas (9), Kansas State (18)||9||4-0|
|Kansas State (B12)||Oklahoma (6) 58-17||Miami (41), Baylor (25), Missouri (11), Texas Tech (39)||20||2-1|
|Oregon (P12)||LSU (1) 40-27||Nevada (48), Arizona State (15)||45||1-1|
Penn State hasn't been done any favors by its schedule, to be sure. Iowa crapped out against Minnesota, and now isn't even PSU's second best win according to Sagarin -- that's Temple at #53. Similarly, they have the worst strength of schedule among the one-loss teams. Oklahoma, Kansas State, Clemson, and (barely) South Carolina have four top-50 wins each.
Flawed metrics? Well, sure. Unless you think Missouri is the 11th best team in the nation (not to mention Texas A&M #8 and Texas at #9). Focus on the "quality" of the losses and the top 50 wins.
Looking at the losses, certainly, Penn State rises toward the top of the list. On a points/location basis, PSU's 16-point home loss against Alabama is comparable to Arkansas' 24-point road loss to the Tide. Oregon's neutral field loss against LSU is the best of the lot. Kansas State, Virginia Tech, Arkansas, and Nebraska's lone losses came by 20 points or more. Oklahoma lost to an unranked team at home.
Really, the only thing saving Penn State in this scenario is that they lost to an excellent team by 16 points. Everything else works against them (not to mention when compared to some multi-loss teams). Sadly uninteresting in this mess is Michigan, with a two-touchdown road rivalry loss, and only one top-50 win.
There's the data, incomplete and conflicting as it may be. Let's leave it up to you: who is the worst one-loss BCS team? Make your argument (with whatever data you choose) in the comments.