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06 Oct 2005

Seventh Day Adventure: Warning!

WARNING: The opinions expressed in this column are the authors' and the authors' alone (like anybody else would want to claim them, have you seen their record?) and should in no way be considered a negative reflection on the expertise offered by the rest of the Outsiders in matters regarding football (and feng shui, of course).

by Vinny Gauri and Russell Levine

Russell: As my daughter likes to say when we tell her she's in trouble "blah, blah, blah." Yeah, the record sucks. In fact, if you were trying to pick incorrectly as often as I have done this year, you'd have a hard time coming close. I have indeed entered ... the Serby Zone. Cue the Beck music, cause I'm a loser baby.

Vinny: According to sports psychologist Bob Rotella, most introductory psychology courses teach that, whatever the problem, it's your mother's fault, your teachers' fault, or your little league coach's fault. I'm going with all of the above.

Russell: If my picks were a college football program, I'd be Rutgers. If only I could put that one good week together, I know I could turn it around. Perhaps I should try recruiting advice for my picks from the leftovers in Florida. That'll do it! Speaking of RU...

West Virginia (-3) at Rutgers, Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN Regional

Russell: I'm looking for a little home-state karma to kick things off this week, as the 3-1 Scarlet Knights are home dogs against West Virginia. Could this be the year Rutgers finally breaks out? The Knights are one horrendous half from being undefeated on the year, but then again, they haven't exactly played the cream of Division I-A crop.

Vinny: The Mountaineers are sitting atop the Big East at 1-0 and 4-1 overall. But they were barely scraping by -- edging mediocre teams like Syracuse and East Carolina -- until Virginia Tech rang their bell last week.

Russell: I spoke to a couple of Rutgers grads to get a feel for this game. My next-door neighbor, who admitted to staying up late last Friday to see how the Knights would blow a big lead against Pitt (they nearly complied), assumes the 3-1 record will soon be 3-4. My blogger-friend Gal admitted having very few actual football memories, but did recall getting punched in the face at a game after telling a BC fan he got the lipstick for the red "R" on his chest from the fan's mother. Who said there are no intense rivalries in the Big East? (You can visit Gal's blog for the full story.) Don't know if that helps me make a pick though.

Vinny: I don't think West Virginia is very good this year. And Rich Rodriguez has been rotating his young quarterbacks (Adam Bednarik and Pat White), which always gives me the shakes. The Knights' Ryan Hart is a senior signal-caller who looks to be cutting down on his picks (8 TDs/2 INTs) this year. The Mountaineers escaped with a 35-30 win in this series last year, but I don't think they'll be as fortunate this year. As (the now svelte) Peter King would say, I'll take the Men of Schiano (Rutgers).

Russell: It comes down to this: any time an actual living, breathing, Division I-A team is laying only a field goal to Rutgers, you have to go with the favorite. I'll take West Virginia, and make them my Fred Edelstein Lock for good measure.

Oklahoma (+14) vs. #2 Texas (at Dallas), Saturday, 1 p.m. ET, ABC

Russell: Vin, I ask you, has any coach in any sport been under as much pressure to win a single game as Texas's Mack Brown is in this one? The man literally could get fired, despite averaging 10 wins a year, if he loses to OU for sixth straight season.

Vinny: It happened to John Cooper, and undeservedly so if you ask me -- I'm being both serious and sarcastic, if that makes any sense. But even Cooper had his fleeting moments of triumph over his archrival.

Russell: You know Texas doesn't just want to win this game, they want to destroy the Sooners as payback for some of those humiliating final scores the last few years. But if the Longhorns take that approach, it could backfire. They need to treat this game like Oklahoma is the toughest team they'll play all year.

Vinny: Rhett Bomar is improving, but he's still a much bigger threat running than he is passing (sound familiar?). Obviously, the Sooners need a banged-up Adrian Peterson (sprained right ankle) to break through what you would expect to be a stacked Texas defensive front. That's not going to happen much with a young Oklahoma line going against a veteran Texas defense.

Russell: Oklahoma is going to have to try and win a low-scoring affair. Their run defense has been excellent the last few weeks, but a lot of teams have tried -- and lost -- with the "force Vince Young to pass and you win the game" approach. Texas is clearly the better team, but I have a hard time picturing them not playing tight, and because of that, the line is too high. Give me OU and the points.

Vinny: Sometimes it's hard not to believe that Bobby Stoops has a permanent hex over Brown, but I just don't see Texas folding like Superman on laundry day this time. Texas rolls (and covers). This is my Fred Edelstein Lock (how's that for a hex?). Of course, Brown still needs to finish strong to earn the first conference title of his coaching career.

#5 Georgia (+3) at #8 Tennessee, Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

Russell: The fun never ends for Tennessee, which is in the midst of a six-week stretch that also includes dates with Florida, LSU and Alabama. This is a must-win affair for the Vols against Georgia if they want to remain in contention in the SEC.

Vinny: Phil Fulmer has settled on Rick Clausen at quarterback. At least we think he has. Clausen played the entire game against Ole Miss last week. He was decent (18 for 35), but he'll have to improve on that performance this week.

Russell: Georgia, meanwhile, has cruised past a lightweight schedule while the SEC's other alpha dogs beat each other up on a weekly basis. The Bulldogs are less battle-weary, but they're also less battle-tested, and I'm not sure D.J. Shockley is prepared for the type of defense he'll see on Saturday.

Vinny: I have to admit that Shockley has been much better than I expected this year. But his life will be a lot easier if Danny Ware and Thomas Brown can move the ball against the Vols' stout run defense (67 yards per game). This should be a great match-up of strength against strength: Russ Tanner, Max Jean-Gilles and the veteran Bulldog offensive line against the Tennessee defensive front led by Parys Haralson and Jesse Mahelona.

Russell: For Tennessee's sake, I really hope Erik Ainge never even puts the helmet on Saturday. This team just seems to play better in front of Clausen. I'm not expecting an onslaught of points out of the offense, but 17 might be enough to win. I think they get it done by at least a field goal. I'll take Tennessee.

Vinny: Agreed. I think the Vols have an advantage in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Tennessee wins by a couple scores.

Texas A&M (+3.5) at Colorado, Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, FSN

Russell: Texas A&M hasn't been heard from since its season-opening loss at Clemson, and results like last week's overtime win over Baylor really aren't helping matters. If Dennis Franchione wants to get his program out of the witness protection program, he needs to put some impressive wins together, starting this week in Boulder.

Vinny: Playing SMU, Texas State and Baylor in consecutive weeks will definitely get your team off the national radar. What, the local prison was unavailable for a game?

Russell: Somewhere, Mike Leach is taking notes. This was supposed to be the year that Franchione's Aggies broke out and became a contender in the Big XII South, but it hasn't happened. Still, at 3-1, A&M could challenge Texas in the South if the Aggies start putting things together.

Vinny: Reggie McNeal has not been sharp for the Aggies, barely completing half his passes. But he's still a threat to run (averaging 9.7 yards per carry). This is a big-play offense for A&M, but the defense has been susceptible to the big play as well. The Aggies yielded 31 points to the Fightin' Armadillos of Texas State.

Russell: Colorado is as vanilla as those all-white road uniforms they wear on the road -- the Buffs don't do anything particularly well, nor particularly poorly. Their best asset is probably QB Joel Klatt, who has to like his chances against A&M's pass defense. He'll make some big plays down the field. I like CU to cover at home.

Vinny: I think McNeal gets back on track with his passing and the Aggies cover in a track meet.

SMU (+21) at UAB, Saturday, 7 p.m. ET

Russell: This week's Regional Special -- yes, that's the new name for the off-the-beaten-path game of the week -- takes us to Legion Field, where Alabama-Birmingham hosts SMU. What's in a name? I'm probably not the best guy to ask. I once nearly packed up and moved to Columbus, Ohio of all places to work for a company called "Wow!" No -- not the GI-coma inducing fake potato chip people, either. The only possible explanation I can think of for even considering that job was that it would have put me within driving distance of Michigan Stadium.

Vinny: Um, I really don't have anything to add to that.

Russell: See, these picks are driving me insane. But I digress. If you have the chance to catch UAB on TV this year, do so, because there's nothing quite so entertaining as a chubby QB. In the Pillsbury Throw Boy tradition of Kentucky's Jared Lorenzen comes UAB quarterback Darrel Hackney, a pretty effective passer in his own right.

Vinny: I already miss the Battleship Lorenzen -- great to see him make the G-men roster. As for UAB, Tennessee dodged a bullet (17-10) against the Blazers in the opener for both teams. UAB had the ball on the Tennessee 11-yard line with a couple minutes left and a chance to tie the game. Afterwards, Vols defenders were calling Hackney "Baby Daunte," as in Culpepper. He's not much of a threat to run, but he threw for over 3,000 yards and 26 TDs last year, with only 8 INTs.

Russell: Do you think Craig James and Eric Dickerson root for SMU these days? The Mustangs are the NCAA's ever-lasting poster child for the power of the death penalty, which apparently has been retired like OJ's number at USC. I'm not sure why SMU bothers to field a program these days. The Ponies are a C-USA doormat (despite a win over TCU), while UAB is a contender for the conference crown. I'll lay the big number on the big guy with the big arm. UAB rolls.

Vinny: No argument here. The Blazers cover.

#11 LSU (-14.5) at Vanderbilt, Saturday, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Russell: That thud you heard last Saturday night about 10:30 p.m. was the sound of the Vandy bandwagon crashing after the Commodores fell at home to Middle Tennessee State, their first loss of the season. QB Jay Cutler led the 'Dores into position for the winning field goal, but poor clock management led to a rushed kick, which was blocked, in the 17-15 defeat.

Vinny: It certainly was curious why Bobby Johnson (is there another profession, aside from maybe RV sales, where guys named Bobby are the norm?) didn't spend Vandy's remaining timeout to get everyone on the same page for that kick.

Russell: LSU, meanwhile has its own problem with bandwagon jumpers after the Tigers' epic second-half meltdown against Tennessee two weeks ago Monday. LSU recovered somewhat to beat Mississippi State on Saturday, but the sting of the loss to the Vols will dog them all year -- as will questions about the performance of coach Les Miles down the stretch. Yes, you did see him frantically trying to call a timeout after a change of possession.

Vinny: Ah yes, another Michigan grad does us proud. I think we can scratch Les off the list of possible successors to Lloyd Carr. Regardless, I'm not sure anyone would want to leave a program as loaded as LSU for anything but the NFL.

Russell: The Vandy players were hearing all during their fast start how they could make a bowl without beating the heavyweights -- like LSU -- on their schedule. That kind of thinking sets in after a while, and it makes a team complacent. Maybe Cutler & Co. keep things close for a while, but the Tigers have too much talent. LSU covers.

Vinny: Yep, I just don't see the 'Dores having an answer for the likes of Joseph Addai and Skyler Green. Even if LSU is looking ahead to next week's match-up with Florida, I like the Tigers to win rather comfortably.

#10 Cal (+2) at #20 UCLA, Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, TBS

Russell: Cal's schedule so far this season might make Mike Leach blush, as the Bears have gone 5-0 against a group of opponents that has a combined four wins. Everyone assumes that Cal is once again going to give USC all it can handle later this season, but the Bears first must get past pesky UCLA, which is a surprising 4-0 after rallying to beat Washington last week.

Vinny: Cal lost left OT Andrew Cameron for the year (torn right ACL) last week in its 28-0 rout over Arizona. Scott Smith, who stepped in for two starts earlier this year when Cameron was out with a concussion, takes over. Even without Cameron, the Bears are strong along the offensive line with seniors Marvin Phillip and Ryan O'Callaghan.

Russell: At this rate, I don't think Jeff Tedford has to worry about producing another bust of an NFL QB, because I don't think Joseph Ayoob exactly leaves the scouts drooling. Despite a 28-0 blanking of Arizona last week, Ayoob failed to get the ball downfield at all, a necessary component of Tedford's passing offense. Maybe he should work on throwing the ball 70 yards through the uprights from his knees.

Vinny: Maurice Drew was held in check by Washington's defense last week (33 yards on 14 carries). But QB Drew Olson (29 of 44 for 287 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs) led the Bruins' rally in the 4th quarter. Olson looks more accurate (69.7%) thus far in his senior season.

Russell: Is UCLA a legitimate threat to USC? It would be hard to say so after an ugly performance against the Huskies, both at least the men in baby blue came out with the win. The oddsmakers seem to think the Bruins have enough to beat Cal, but I'm not sure they can slow the two-headed rushing monster of Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett, even if Ayoob struggles. Cal wins outright.

Vinny: Cal has an aggressive defense that has been able to apply pressure to the quarterback this year. But, given their creampuff schedule, we really don't know how good they are. I'm going with the known quantity (UCLA).

#6 Ohio State (-3) at #16 Penn State, Saturday, 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

Russell: We all knew back in August that this was going to be one of the Big Ten games of the year, right? I mean, we all believed JoePa when he said he finally had a good team, right? Yeah, me neither.

Vinny: Penn State has put a lot of stock in its freshman receiving corps (Deon Butler, Derrick Williams and Jordan Norwood, plus two-way threat Justin King), but this is their first real test. They'll give up some yards, but Nate Salley & Co. can really lay the lumber on receivers over the middle.

Russell: Like everybody else, I didn't really pay much attention to Penn State until they absolutely hammered Minnesota at home last weekend. In and of itself, that's not so impressive, but you had to like the way the defense completely stuffed Laurence Maroney and the Gophers' running game. If they can do the same to the Buckeyes, they have an excellent chance to win.

Vinny: On the other side, the Buckeyes are the best in the nation against the run, so you would expect the game to be on Michael Robinson's shoulders. We'll see if he can put his Sara Lee (read: turnover) days behind him. Robinson will need to connect on a few of those patented PSU long balls down the left sideline to the young burners.

Russell: Ohio State's had an extra week to prepare for this game, and my guess is the players spent it finishing up their court-ordered community service, attending Andy Katzenmoyer's HIV awareness class (I'm sorry, was that out loud?), and, oh yeah, figuring out some ways to get Ted Ginn, Jr. the ball. He'll see it plenty, the Buckeyes' defense will dominate Robinson, and Ohio State wins by 10.

Vinny: This might be the first high-stakes game Penn State has played in three years, so this will be new territory for many of JoePa's crew. I also think the Buckeyes take care of business in this one.

The Picks
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" in bold)
Game Vinny says Russell says
West Virginia (-3) at Rutgers, Saturday Rutgers West Virginia
Oklahoma (+14) vs. #2 Texas Texas Oklahoma
#5 Georgia (+3) at #8 Tennessee Tennessee Tennessee
Texas A&M (+3.5) at Colorado Texas A&M Colorado
SMU (+21) at UAB UAB UAB
#11 LSU (-14.5) at Vanderbilt LSU LSU
#10 Cal (+2) at #20 UCLA UCLA Cal
#6 Ohio State (-3) at #16 Penn State Ohio State Ohio State
Season-long Results
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
  Last Week Season Total
Vinny 4-4 (1-0) 16-23-1 (1-4)
Russell 2-6 (1-0) 12-27-1 (3-2)

Posted by: on 06 Oct 2005

106 comments, Last at 14 Oct 2005, 11:31am by Sid

Comments

1
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 1:12am

You both picked OSU?

THANK YOU RUSSELL AND VINNY!

Wooo!!!

Vinny:

This might be the first high-stakes game Penn State has played in three years

I don't think you quite understand how high-stakes last week was, actually. I guarantee that the team realized that if they win last week, they hit the top 25. That game was huge. The stadium positively exploded after the game.

Seriously, though, the problem that I see trying to figure this game out is summed up here in this PDF from the Collegian.

That's why I think

Ohio State’s had an extra week to prepare for this game

isn't really an issue. These teams have prepared for each other. Every week. They're the same team. Athletic quarterback. Speedy wide receivers. Terrific run defense. Fast, athletic linebackers. They face the same team every week in scrimmage.

Ohio State's advantage is that Smith is a better QB, but Penn State has better cornerbacks. These teams just match up exactly well against each other.

Seriously, OSU is ranked #1 against the run, sure, but Penn State's somewhere in the top 10 (or close) if memory serves, and in college football, where strength of schedule changes so much, #1 and #10 might as well be the same thing. (Surely an "opponent adjustment" for shutting down the #1 rushing offense should put the two in the same category.)

So the question I have for you is: I fully agree with you that OSU's defense can contain Penn State's offense. But how is OSU going to score? As good as OSU's defense is, Penn State's is nearly as good. And at home?

Heck, I might give the edge to OSU just because it seems like they have a better kicker, but it's their first starting year for both of them.

Jeez, what a headache. I've said elsewhere 17-7 OSU, but I have no idea how those points are going to be scored.

2
by Gal (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 10:28am

Russ - just cause Rutgers has a better record than Michigan is no reason to hate.

3
by princeton73 (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 11:21am

you should at least give me credit for the Steve Serby reference

4
by Russell (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 11:38am

princeton73 -- my bad! I absolutely meant to credit you for that, but it got lost in one of my edits.

5
by Vinny (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 12:41pm

Pat - NCAA Bylaw 17.3 clearly states that any football game involving the University of Minnesta cannot, by rule, be considered a high-stakes game.

6
by princeton73 (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 12:45pm

princeton73 – my bad! I absolutely meant to credit you for that, but it got lost in one of my edits.

yes thanks--the reference would be meaningless to anyone who didn't read the NY Post

you're at Rutgers level now; possibly heading for Prarie View A&M

7
by Sid (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 4:26pm

I'm undecided about a few games this week.
Cal-UCLA, Nebraska-Texas Tech, and one or two others. Unfortunately, the only one you picked was Cal-UCLA, and you differ. Pretty hard for me to simply go the other way on that one. ;)

8
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 4:39pm

Well, that's obvious. Go against Russell, his record's worse than Vinny's. :)

9
by spincycle (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 5:20pm

Egads, Rutgers has a better record than Michigan? I thought that was a cheap shot by Russ, but now I see he is having trouble adjusting to bizarro football land.

10
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 5:31pm

Near the start of the season in one of the NFL threads someone asked "What can I do to make guaranteed money betting football?"

I jokingly replied "Read 7th Day Adventure each week, and take all the games for which both Russell and Vinny agree on a pick, then put all your money on the other team."

Now that we're at Week 6, I did a quick rundown of all the games from Weeks 1-5 that Russ and Vinny agreed on the pick for, to see how good things would have ended for our mystery bettor.

Well, assuming you place a $100 wager on each game, using the spreads quoted in the 7th Day threads, and a 10% vig per bet, you'd have turned a profit of almost $1,000 ($960 actually) by using the opposite of every pick for which Russ and Vinny agreed.

If anyone cares, the record for those games was 6-18-1.

T.

11
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 5:44pm

Pat - NCAA Bylaw 17.3 clearly states that any football game involving the University of Minnesta cannot, by rule, be considered a high-stakes game.

Dang you, Vinny, this should've been in the article. That's hilarious.

12
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 5:48pm

Boy, I sure am glad this article actually ends with the Cal/UCLA pick. I was sure you guys were going to pick the OSU/PSU game, and would both Edelstein the Buckeyes in hopes of bringing them down, but it's good to see that you guys decided to ignore that game.

La la la la I can't hear you la la la la la...

By the way, you guys suck.

13
by Vinny (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 6:01pm

Sorry Trogdor, it's just hard to go against the Buckeyes in that one. Maybe they'll prevail 17-16, so Russ and I will still be wrong with our pick (with a 3-point spread).

14
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 6:11pm

Actually, I'm not too worried. I mean, even on your worst weeks you still get a few right (well, at least one). Maybe OSU is good enough to overcome the dreaded double whammy yet again. I won't worry unless I see Russell hit the first five games right - if that happens, you know he's bound to honk the rest of them big-time.

15
by hank (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 6:48pm

That loud crash you heard last Sat. night at 10:30 PM was me throwing various objects after Vandy didn't call a timeout and got the field goal blocked. Just another case of Vandy being Vandy.

16
by Pat (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 6:55pm

I just want OSU and PSU to both play good games. I'm in the difficult situation of being fans of both teams. So I guess I actually kinda want OSU to win, but PSU to cover (so a really narrow OSU win) because OSU has more to lose, and I think OSU has a better shot at a BCS bowl.

The good thing about this game, though, is that both of the defenses are absolutely legitimate, and so it's almost guaranteed to be a low scoring game. Which means there's really no chance for a complete blowout.

17
by Russell (not verified) :: Fri, 10/07/2005 - 7:08pm

Re: 10

If I knew we were that reliable, I'd set up a 900 number. Damn!

18
by Vinny (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 3:44am

Tarrant- holy crap. Now that's a statistic.

19
by Harris (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 12:48pm

Would FOers consider it a breach of protocol to take a 1-year-old to a sports bar to watch Texas-OU? Mind you the best game available in Philadelphia is Michigan-Minnesota, or, considering the records of the teams involved, Rutgers-West Virginia.

20
by Russell (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 12:59pm

Harris:

A breach of protocol? Hardly. It's never too soon to begin the father-child bonding over football.

21
by MDS (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 3:33pm

Can someone please explain to me why the officials reviewed the Mike Hart fumble if he was ruled down on the field? It was obviously a fumble recovered by Minnesota, but if it was ruled down on the field why bother delaying the game? I hate replay.

22
by Gal (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 4:44pm

See, Rutgers is moving forward. No blown leads this game! Jump on the bandwagon as it heads up the turnpike! Exit 9 Rules!!!

23
by MDS (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 5:06pm

I despise the way the TV networks decide which games to show us. No one needs to see the end of Illinois-Indiana. It's two crappy teams playing a crappy game. And if no one needs to see the end, then I can assure you that no one needs to see postgame highlights and interviews. But that's what they're showing us in Chicago, which means the game I've been waiting for all day, Georgia-Tennessee, is going on without me being able to watch.

24
by MDS (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 6:10pm

Minnesota wins the Little Brown Jug. I love the Little Brown Jug. Great trophy, and extremely meaningful for Minnesota the few times they get to have it.

I'm watching USC-Arizona, and Pete Carroll might as well just get on the PA and announce, "We have decided we won't start trying in any game until halftime." I mean, this is ridiculous. Arizona is terrible, and they're pushing USC all over the field. And yet the little poll they're running during the game is, "Who will Meet No. 1 USC in the Rose Bowl?" No one even considers that this team could lose.

25
by Vinny (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 6:19pm

Brutal loss for Michigan. No excuse to allow the backup running back get 50 yards on 3Rd and long with the backup QB in there. Time to start drinking (ok, time to start drinking more heavily).

26
by Russell (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 6:25pm

Re: 21
I'm with you. Why bother delaying the game 4 minutes for that? I know they're still working out the kinks, but they need to at least understand what is and what is not reviewable.

Ugh, brutal loss for Michigan. Inexcusable to give up that run that cost them the game. This might be the worst week yet for criticim of Carr.

27
by Harris (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 6:38pm

I was ambivalent about replay but now I'm sick of it in college. Because there is no coaches' challenge, there is no risk in reviewing routine plays that no coach would bother with.The whole system is just nonsensical.

28
by buddha (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 6:50pm

Michigan has now lost 5 of its last 6 Non-MAC games.

Chew on that, Lloyd fans.

29
by MDS (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 7:42pm

USC is like the smart kid who never bothers to study because he knows he'll ace the test anyway. They're only up a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

I don't really think Michigan fans have much reason to be down on Lloyd. Bo Schembechler went 6-6 once. It happens.

OK, make that up two touchdowns. But they should have reviewed that catch. He clearly bobbled it. Yet another reason to hate replay.

30
by MDS (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 8:03pm

OK, USC now has the game in hand, but I must give props to Arizona DB Michael Johnson, who caught Reggie Bush from behind. Nice.

I love that ABC made Greg Eslinger the player of the game for Minnesota. Always good to give a lineman credit.

Did you see that cheap shot some Virginia lineman threw on Matthias Kiwanuka? What a bush league move. Went right for the knees.

31
by Vinny (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 8:18pm

MDS- agreed. It's happened to everyone in the last 10 years except Michigan. Maybe its our turn.

Shockley might get UGA the win here, despite that bad pick for a score.

32
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 8:24pm

I don't understand why they didn't review that USC touchdown. It really seemed like he was bobbling, and while he did finally catch it, it looked to me like his foot was touching the line.

But they didn't even do a "Let's stop play for 5 minutes while we look at it". They did nothing!

I also think USC made the first down on the final play, but it's irrelevent.

There are a lot of kinks they need to work out in this replay system.

T.

33
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 8:28pm

MDS:

Last week, we had no USC/ASU, because they wanted to show us hot, exciting, Big East football action (paraphrasing that absolutely hilarious Big East commercial where the coaches look like they were forced to make their soundbites at gunpoint), between two teams no one cared about. I don't understand why they chose that when USC/ASU was a game of national significance.

I also love that in the evening, the channels stopped showing football and instead showed some Movie of the Week. Now I realize that the Pac-10 isn't big over here, but I find it hard to believe that almost any football game wouldn't get better ratings than the crappy Saturday Night Movie.

T.

34
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 8:39pm

Nebraska up 4, a minute or so left, Texas Tech needs a touchdown and is driving. On the 10 yard line, pass tipped, Nebraska intercepts at the 3. Take a knee and the game is over.

The player runs it back, fumbles, Texas Tech recovers at the 20, and now has a fresh set of downs 20 yards from pay dirt.

It's 4th and 2, 19 seconds left, on the 10, and Tech gets the touchdown. Reminder of the whole "Scoop and score" thing. Take a knee and you've won the game!

T.

35
by MDS (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 8:48pm

I wonder if Ed Reed was watching the Nebraska game.

36
by MDS (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 9:23pm

Yet another reason to hate replay: The Cal player dives for the end zone and changes hands (not knowing that the goal line extends beyond the sidelines) and clearly drops the ball before he goes down. The ball rolls into the end zone and out of bounds. The official on the field rules it down at the 1-yard line. The replay official delays the game for five minutes, then claims there's no indisputable visual evidence. Give me a break.

37
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 9:23pm

Belichick's call for Goal Line Sideways Cameras could be reiterated by UCLA here.

It was plainly obvious that that ball was out of his hand before crossing the goal line, and furthermore, that it went out of bounds for a touchback.

However, with the angles available around the goal line, there's no way to actually conclusively show that the ball was out of his hands when it crossed the goal line - you'd need a side angle for that, and one is rarely available.

UCLA got jobbed.

T.

38
by Nate (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 9:25pm

MDS, the Joey-lover, said: I despise the way the TV networks decide which games to show us. No one needs to see the end of Illinois-Indiana. It’s two crappy teams playing a crappy game.

On my favorite Illini discussion board, the title of the game discussion thread was "Big Ten Pillow Fight." I thought the description was apt.

39
by MDS (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 9:33pm

What does "Joey-lover" mean?

40
by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 9:57pm

I'd just like to point out that Rutgers still has a better record than Michigan. :) Of course, they've got a worse record than Baylor and Vanderbilt.

I had to work today so I have very little idea what went on in the game, but I never really expected Rutgers to beat W.V. Unfortunately, a QB controversy is not exactly what they need right now.

If Rutgers wants to have a successful (6-win, Schiano not fired) season, they have to win next week in Syracuse. I certainly think they can - they should have won there last year, and it's hard to argue that Syracuse has improved - but you never take anything for granted with them.

41
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 10:50pm

Regarding replay fiascos that I didn't see on TV. Can't they time sync the cameras? I always hate the "we can't tell where the ball was from that angle" argument because I feel like they should be able to switch to a different camera at the same time and conclusively tell what's going on.

I do have a replay fiasco to add. Georgia vs. Tennessee at the end of the half, Clausen gets hit and fumbles, it appears a Volunteer lineman dives on the ball, but 2 Georgia players dive onto him, and then a bunch more people pile on. Eventually Georgia is awarded possession. The replay clearly showed the Tennesee lineman had the ball and it was being wrestled away by the Georgia guy. None of the announcers mentioned this either... but you could see 4 hands on the ball, and tie goes to the offense.

Also, I hate it when they replay major injuries a bunch in slow motion. I think one of Tennesees DBs broke his leg and they were doing the "Let's see what happened, oh his leg was under his body and got bent..." then they showed an even worse angle where you could clearly see the leg was awkward.

One more gripe about the officials. There was a play where a Vol WR caught the ball and got mauled by bunch of defenders, one of whom grabbed his facemack and snapped his head back. He ended up fumbling when this what should've been a personal foul facemask happened, but the ref's didn't call it. When they showed the review none of the announcers commented on this... I bet the referee felt bad.

and that was the only game I watched

42
by Matthew Furtek (not verified) :: Sat, 10/08/2005 - 11:41pm

MDS,
I didn't see it until someone posted it on the web. That guy should be suspended at least for one game... I hope Al Groh took him off the field. Full disclosure, I graduated from UVA.

For those who didn't see it, click on the link.

43
by MDS (not verified) :: Sun, 10/09/2005 - 12:47am

The guy who got the game-clinching INT sure did fail to watch the Nebraska game. Go down!

44
by Pat (not verified) :: Sun, 10/09/2005 - 1:42am

I don't believe it.

I really, really don't believe it. I'm still in shock. Thank you Vinny, thank you Russell. Where can I send the present to?

Penn State won. They won. Not only did they win, but they played well. Offense struggled, but hey, we expected that versus Ohio State. But the defense held up its end of the bargain.

So will people finally believe me when I said that Penn State is a good team this year? :)

Serious question now: who's left to beat Penn State this year? Michigan and Michigan State are the two games they're most likely to lose, but I don't think they'll lose to Michigan (sorry, Russell) and when Michigan State comes around, Penn State could be 10-0, and I can't see them losing to Michigan State, even away, with a turnaround from 4-7 to 11-0 looming in front of them.

They're a team with a decent offense and an outstanding defense. They don't play a decent defense for the rest of the year. I'd say they have a decent shot - not guaranteed, of course, but a decent shot - at running the table this year.

And that game turned out exactly as I thought it would. The offenses scored exactly the same, and the game was decided by turnovers. What I still can't believe was that it was Troy Smith that turned the ball over, not Michael Robinson.

45
by Pat (not verified) :: Sun, 10/09/2005 - 1:53am

Oh, and Trogdor:

A) It's all Russell and Vinny's fault.

B) In my opinion, Ohio State really shouldn't drop much for this. Yah, they've lost two. But Texas is a legitimate #2 team. And Penn State is a legitimate top 10 team. And OSU played them both very tight.

And if it's any consolation, I don't see them losing any of their remaining games either.

46
by Nate (not verified) :: Sun, 10/09/2005 - 2:07am

Sorry MDS. I thought you were a Detroit resident and/or fan. They all seem good at giving Joey a permanent pass, so I am probably really overgeneralizing. Actually, I have no idea why I threw that in there.

Also, the Illinois victory over Rutgers is looking more and more flukey (besides the 17 point or whatever comeback in the 4th quarter). I mean, we got blown out by Indiana. What does that say about your program?

The homecoming game (PSU@ILL) is looking more and more like a "leave after the 1st quarter to sleep off a horrible hangover from drinking 22 jagerbombs at Kam's with a bunch of 18 year olds" sort of game.

47
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Sun, 10/09/2005 - 10:14am

Another $160 into the season's kitty...

What an unusual night of games. It's nice to see Paterno smiling and such. This is the perfect swan-song for him, if he can take the Nittany Lions to a BCS game, and then retire, his reputation would be back to what it was before the past few seasons. Penn State fans deserve this.

USC's injuries on defense are finally going to cost them against Notre Dame, I think.

UCLA/Cal, wow. All I can say is, "That was a quintessential Pac-10 game." Zillions of yards of offense, and neither side really could stop the other from scoring. It's hard to say, but I'm glad UCLA didn't lose because of that stupid replay call at the start of the game, where an obviously incorrect call led to a Cal touchdown instead of a touchback.

I saw last week that the Pac-10 commissioner publicly apologized to like 2-3 schools last week for cases where the replay official incorrectly overruled a call on the field - just in last week's games! If the replay officials are going completely botch (via overrule) 2-3 calls a game, we may as well go back to the old way - especially given that the the number of correct overrules I've seen in Pac-10 games has also been in the single digits (far more often is a "Why didn't they review that?" situation).

T.

48
by MDS (not verified) :: Sun, 10/09/2005 - 11:06am

You've got to be kidding me. On Outside the Lines they just said that replay has been "too successful" and that it's working so well that they sometimes stop the game even if they know it was right on the field just to reassure fans that they're doing their best.

49
by Sid (not verified) :: Sun, 10/09/2005 - 11:28am

You guys screwed the Buckeyes so badly. I didn't see that pick. I picked Ohio State in my pick'em. Oh well. I still lead a big field, with 70/90 games picked correctly (we pick straight up). :)

50
by Sid (not verified) :: Sun, 10/09/2005 - 11:35am

It's like clockwork. Russell and Vinny agree on OSU (-3). Ohio State loses by a touchdown. They agree on Tennessee (-3). The Vols lose by 13. They agree on UAB (-21). UAB LOSES to friggin' SMU. But even the R & V hex couldn't take down LSU against Vandy. That game was too easy to be blown.
I'm going to have to check this column every week. If I actually wanted to bet, this would be easy money.

51
by Joey (not verified) :: Sun, 10/09/2005 - 1:12pm

Re. 47 & 48

That's just classic, MDS: Unecessary stoppages...yes, surely that is what the fans want!

Short of a game actually being lost because of a bad call that they arbitrarily decided not to review (something that is assured with their no-challenges, we'll-review-whenever-it-suits-us system) I can't imagine replay having went any worse. It's been so random what gets reviewed and they've been so inconsistent in how much evidence they need to overturn a call.

Worst though, has been how about 90% of the announcers have been blindly shilling for the system, calling it a success even as strange calls are made right before their eyes. In some cases it seems they've intentionally limited replays to take attention away from the replay rulings. (One example being the Ohio State TD that was reviewed yesterday. Did the ball cross the plain before his knee hit the ground? It was close but my initial reaction from the first replay was he was a bit short. Then, strangely, even though they had obvious dead time to fill, they quit showing it even as it was announced the call was standing and it was a TD.)

52
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Sun, 10/09/2005 - 1:34pm

Sid: Check post #10 for an idea of how well you could do betting on the games picked in 7th Day. Add $160 to the number that's already there to take into account this weekend.

It does seem like the announcers keep talking continually about how great it is that college now has replay, without pointing out that it's not lengthening games by a minute or two - but by much more than that. Most replays for which they actually stop play seem like they go for at least 5 minutes. Furthermore, they don't comment that >50% of the plays they replay seem uncontroversial, and that some of the replay rulings just seem flat-out wrong.

That said, if you can't determine whether or not something is the case after about 2 minutes from when play is stopped, then there's absolutely no way you can say there was indisputable video evidence of something. Indisputable should be, once you find which camera angle actually shows what you want, it's clear after one or two quick views. Then maybe, depending on the situation, you need to find out where the ball should be spotted, and that's it.

T.

53
by Pat (not verified) :: Sun, 10/09/2005 - 1:35pm

Tarrant:

Remember this, though. PSU's got a better backup QB behind Robinson for next year (one who can throw). The receivers are all freshmen. Linebackers are juniors and sophomores.

They lose their offensive and defensive lines, but they have high recruits waiting in the wings for those slots.

Paterno doesn't have to retire after this year. This isn't just a one season success for them - they're primed for at least one more year, and probably more.

54
by Joey (not verified) :: Sun, 10/09/2005 - 1:59pm

In one of the games I watched yesterday (sorry, it escapes me which one...possibly the Wisconsin game, but not sure) one of the announcers ridiculed the NFL for using the hood, saying college was so much better because they didn't waste time with that. Even ignoring the fact college replays still take longer despite not having the hood, that's still one of the more ignorant statements I've heard. It's absolutely NOT preferable to have some unseen individual of unknown abilities decide a play rather than having the official on the field—whose performance can be judged—making the decision. The reason the college game doesn't use the hood, as I've heard it explained on several occasions, was largely cost and the added complexity.

55
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Sun, 10/09/2005 - 2:14pm

Of course, one of the mid-major conferences is using a coaches challenge system with hood.

If a mid-major can manage the "exorbitant" (as I heard one announcer claim) cost of using an NFL-style system, certainly the BCS conferences could do so if they wanted.

T.

56
by Sid (not verified) :: Sun, 10/09/2005 - 6:28pm

RE: 52

Saw that. I was kind of piling on after reading your post. ;)

This week was just uncanny, though. Not only did they not cover, but they caused 3 favorites to blow their games entirely.

57
by Joey (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 12:35pm

Re: 55
I totally agree, Tarrant. Essentially, the hood is nothing more than a monitor.

Again, I just can't believe they aren't giving teams any challenges in most of the conferences. If they're doing as good a job as they say, the coaches won't ever have to use them, so there's no loss. But, if they slip up, there's that safety net for the teams.

58
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 1:07pm

Commenting again on the OSU-PSU matchup (sorry, guys, but what else would you expect when the Eagles lost?):

There's been a bunch of criticism from a few analysts and blogs about Penn State switching to a very conservative offense in the second half.

Are they nuts? In my mind, that's the sole reason Penn State won. They got a lead - a one touchdown lead, so they couldn't directly lose - you'd imagine that it'd have to go to overtime - and then simply made sure to never put the football in any danger. Never give the Buckeyes excellent field position.

Given that many of the Ohio State defensive guys were later quoted saying they were constantly trying to strip the ball out, I think Penn State did exactly the right thing.

And on another note, Penn State is the underdog versus Michigan?

Michigan? What am I missing? I'll grant that Michigan's losses all came against good teams, but how is a #8 ranked Penn State not a good team?

I just don't get it. Sorry to all of the Michigan fans here, but to me, this just seems odd.

59
by buddha (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 1:15pm

Given Michigan's history, I'd be surprised if they lost to Penn State. With their backs against the wall, they're pretty good.

Question is, have they completely quit on the season?

60
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 1:43pm

Wait, their backs weren't against the wall last week?

61
by Russell (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 1:57pm

Re: 58

Pat, an important tidbit to remember about pointspreads. (And obviously, me and my headed for 25% record picking winners ATS know a lot about pointspreads:

The pointspread is not a prediction of what will happen in the game. It is a prediction of what the betting public predicts will happen in the game. Subtle, but very important difference.

The public sees Michigan at home. The public sees Michigan beating Penn State six straight times. Maybe the public knows that Michigan often plays well when everyone says it can't win. Maybe the public saw Michigan-Minnesota and Penn State-Ohio State and doesn't know any better.

62
by buddha (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 2:04pm

"Wait, their backs weren’t against the wall last week?"

Not really. Everyone thought they would win that game.

63
by Sid (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 2:48pm

RE: 61

Not really that subtle. The public isn't terribly bright, so the fact that their prediction skills are lousy is not surprising at all. What's interesting is that when the line moves a lot throughout the week, it means Vegas did a poor job estimating what the public thinks.

64
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 3:55pm

Russell:

Yah, I know. I'm just surprised. Usually the public is swayed by recent results, and I would've firmly expected, especially with Michigan losing the Little Brown Jug and Penn State beating Ohio State in a spotlight game, that there'd be no way that Michigan'd be favored over Penn State, even at home.

I mean, in the NFL, with the Patriots, it's "yes, but what have you done for me this week?" In college football it seems to be "Yes, but what were you ranked in the preseason?"

As an interesting note, Penn State is currently on top of all three of the BCS computer rankings. Yes, on top.

65
by buddha (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 4:01pm

Wait... On top?

66
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 4:08pm

Yes. Three of the computer rankings used in the BCS (the ones that have updated currently) have Penn State listed as the #1 team in the country. See link.

Note that in the complete BCS standings, which use the computer rankings plus the Harris Interactive + Coach's Polls, have PSU at #8 (the Harris and Coach's polls have PSU at 9/10, as opposed to the AP, which has them at #8).

They also point out that if Penn State wins out, it could likely keep that position in the computer rankings, because its schedule isn't really that easy.

If Penn State does win out, I really do wonder what'll happen. At some point, human voters have to start abandoning preseason opinions.

67
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 4:17pm

The Harris poll started midseason, and it pretty much followed the AP poll spot-for-spot. Of course it did. The Harris voters aren't operating in vacuum - they looked for existing rankings and maybe tweaked them slightly.

The only way that such a thing could work is if every single potential ranking system didn't release ANY ranking at all until a month or two into the season - including the polls, computers, etc.

But people wouldn't stand for that. They're going to want SOMETHING - even if someone could get the Coaches and AP polls to agree to not do preseason rankings, some other organization would immediately jump at the chance to replace them as the "Premiere Preseason Ranking", and the networks and reporters and such would simply use those rankings when talking about teams - and thus when the "real" polls did come out, they'd simply follow (or be heavily based upon) those existing rankings.

There is no way to end the influence of preseason rankings. Stop the AP from doing it, and some other prominent organization is going to do it instead (furthermore, since the AP, and those other organizations, aren't affiliated with the BCS, they have no incentive to accede to a BCS request to delay their polls).

T.

68
by buddha (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 4:18pm

I want Penn State to lose to Michigan, but if they beat Michigan, I hope they win out. It would be nice for Paterno.

Of course, then we'd have to listen to the chorus of "Penn State owns the Big Ten" people crowing again. That would be annoying...

69
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 4:19pm

Check that - you can end the influence of preseason rankings by going to a playoff that takes the conference winners and a few at-larges (I think we can accept the at-larges being affected by preseason rankings, as if you lose your conference you can't really complain).

Otherwise, it can't (and won't) happen.

T.

70
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 4:30pm

Tarrant:

I couldn't agree with you more. I hate the fact that there's no postseason playoffs in college football. We all know it won't happen barring extreme circumstances, but it's the only real way to know.

One of the real tragedies in college football is that you don't really have a huge "upset victor" possibility. Sure, the #2 team could beat the #1 team - but there are always people who think the #2 team should be the #1 team. Half the fun of sports is watching a team who no one thought could win just keep winning, and take the whole thing.

That possibility is just completely missing from college football, and it really hurts the sport.

71
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 6:06pm

Yep, Pat, and the lack of a playoff also leads to the other major college ball weakness; cupcake scheduling. What are the odds that Ohio State is going to schedule a team like Texas again? If there was a playoff that heavily favored conference champs, teams wouldn't be so predisposed to schedule non-conference tomato cans.

If we have to allow tems that aren't conference champs into the playoffs, I'd go with a 12 team bracket, with the top eight seeds, and 1st game home field advantage, going to conference champs. The top 4 seeds would get a first round bye, and one play-off game at home. The teams competing to get in without winning a conference would be heavily penalized for a weak non-conference schedule, perhaps by giving half as much credit for a win against a non-conference team with a losing record. Semi-final and championship games can rotate between Miami, Tempe, and Pasadena.

Such a set-up would really encourage teams to schedule challenging non-conference games.

72
by ElJefe (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 6:13pm

The PSU-OSU game was amazing to watch. Two top-10 teams ... neither of which trusts their QB at all. I was really hoping Penn State would show the guts to play-pass on first down, but it worked out for them.

I think that's why the line favors Michigan at home. There's still the perception that Michigan has a high-powered offense, and Penn State looks rather one-dimensional. It'll be on Chad Henne to win the game because as good as Mike Hart is, I doubt anybody is going to run the ball consistently on PSU. Michael Robinson is a real hit-or-miss QB (And the fact he wears #12 in tribute to Randall! Yeah, I've seen those kinds of passes before. :) ). I'm sure Penn State's WRs can get open vs. Michigan, but I'm not at all sure the ball will get there. I think the betting line reflects a lack of confidence in Robinson.

I also agree that if PSU wins out they'll be in the national title game. The writers/voters probably figure they owe JoePa one for the way they jobbed him out in 1994 in order to give long-suffering Tom Osborne his elusive national title. (And then he won two more. Oops.)

Sucks to be Mack Brown.

73
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 6:30pm

What are the odds that Ohio State is going to schedule a team like Texas again?

100%, given that OSU plays them next year.

But yeah, I agree with you. Just wanted to be a smartass. :)

74
by Vinny (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 6:32pm

Michigan's secondary has been better than expected this year, as has its linebacker play (pass rush is still lacking), but Galen Hall has to be salivating at all the injuries Michigan has taken at safety. Michigan will mostly likely be missing its top 3 safeties this Saturday. I expect a much more aggressive PSU gameplan this week (probably would have been the case anyway, but especially now).

Should be interesting to see who bounces back: Michigan State or Ohio State. Both coming off heart-breaking losses at home, with MSU having a bye week to sulk about it.

75
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 6:42pm

BTW, Russell, Vinny, I dare you all to reverse all of your picks next week just to see if the universe hates you in particular.

76
by Vinny (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 6:47pm

Pat, I already know the answer to that question, and the answer is a resounding "yes."

Having said that, I would hesitate to alter my picks just for the sake of cursing/uncursing any particular team out of my respect and/or fear of the Football Gods (to paraphrase TMQ).

77
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 7:05pm

If you create a set of mock BCS standings with the current number, the current #2 team in the standings would be Virginia Tech - unfortunately for Texas, their best win got a lot worse after last week, and OU isn't even close to counting as a "good win", and with Penn State at #1 in the computers, Texas would be the one currently left out.

It will be interesting to see what happens as time goes on though - if USC beats Notre Dame, that moves Penn State up, but pretty much keeps everyone else constant (assuming they win). If USC loses, well, then everyone's a "winner".

T.

78
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 7:12pm

Aye, pat, but that game is already scheduled. Anyhow, for those of us for whom the lack of a playoff is the biggest obstacle to becoming as big a college football fan as we are a pro football fan, rooting that USC, Texas, and Penn State are all undefeated on December 31st may be mandatory. If this sort of situation happens frequently enough, the light bulbs may go on over enough Presidents' craniums that it begins to be grasped just how much money is being left on the table, and only greed is powerful enough to effect a change from the status quo.

79
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 7:21pm

I forgot to root for Virginia Tech, Florida State, and an SEC team to go undefeated as well.

80
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 7:30pm

I don't believe both Virginia TEch and Florida State can go undefeated since they're both in the ACC.

SEC-wise, isn't Georgia the only remaining undefeated SEC team? So there's their representative.

T.

81
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 7:41pm

I always transpose the conferences of Virgina Tech and West Virginia for some reason, but Alabama is still undefeated, if I remember correctly.

82
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 9:33pm

On the subject of rankings:

I have to wonder. What are the polls supposed to be? Are they supposed to be a measure of who is the best team? Or are they supposed to be a measure of who has performed the best during the year?

I can't really figure it out. If it's the former (who is the best team) then you get questions like "should a team slip in the poll because their quarterback gets injured", and it also means that a computer ranking not just based on wins/losses alone should be used.

But I get the feeling that the polls are supposed to be more of "who has performed the best during the year?" in which case, the "old holdovers" - USC, in particular - are getting far too much credit. And if that's true, then the computer rankings that are out there currently (which are extremely simple, incidentally) are just about perfect.

Right now it seems like the polls are something halfway between "which is the strongest team?" and "which team has performed the best?" which, to me, is really weird.

83
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 9:44pm

Pat:

I believe the pollsters are instructed to rank teams based on which team they believe is the best, regardless of record, performance, or schedule.

This came up earlier in the year when an AP voter put Louisville at #1, because he believed that, looking at their schedule, they had the best chance to go undefeated and thus reach the Rose Bowl. He admitted publicly he did not believe they were the best team, rather they had the best chance of going undefeated. He was reprimanded, threatened with revocation of his vote, and reminded of the rules.

He switched his vote to USC the following week.

T.

84
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 9:52pm

So shouldn't they be taking into account injuries and some such? Could you imagine a team's outcry if they dropped in the polls on an off week because a starter got injured? Especially if it happened at the end of their last game?

"Yah, great season, but that guy, he got injured, and he was everything to you. No BCS bowl for you."

85
by Betting Man (not verified) :: Mon, 10/10/2005 - 10:08pm

The same issue came up here as in another part of Football Outsiders, so I'll repost something I thought was interesting from over the weekend.

I recall that “Carl� put up a list of projections about wins/losses this weekend, with spreads.

He had Atlanta by 1, unless Vick didn’t play, in which case he had New England by 1.

Seemed pretty smart to me, so I checked the rest of the predictions this morning.

He had Indy by 12 on the road, which I thought was pretty steep. They covered.

He was right about Detroit, Green Bay, Buffalo, Cleveland, Jets, Seattle, Carolina and Denver, but just missed the spread on that.

He was wrong about Houston and the Bengals.

He qualified his game between Philadelphia and Dallas by saying it would be wrong if McNabb was injured, and he was, so I’ll call that a mulligan.

10-2 and a mulligan. He has San Diego by 3 tonight, so he could go 11-2-1 or 10-3-1.

That’s pretty good in my book.

86
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2005 - 4:03pm

The injury situation happened several years ago in college basketball. Cincinnati was the number one team, but their star player (Kenyon Martin) broke his leg in the conference tournament, and the committee knocked them down to a 2 seed.

Of course, that's basketball, where one player makes all the difference. For it to happen in football, it would have to be a QB who was unquestionably carrying an otherwise mediocre team (Ron Mexico at VT), or a massive string of injuries (like my high school getting hit with a massive flu outbreak right before a playoff game, which we somehow won anyway, or the SNPP softball team other than Strawberry).

87
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2005 - 4:15pm

On the subject of computer rankings:

Does anyone else think it would be a good idea for someone to come up with an *open* (that is, "here is exactly what the program does, you can run it for yourself if you want") computer ranking system? The basic way that most computer ranking systems work (including the BCS ones) is incredibly simple - it's basically exactly the same as you sitting at home, trying to put all the teams that won on top of all the teams that lost ("Penn State beat Minnesota beat Michigan" etc.) but most of the computer rankings out there don't tell you what the spread of each result is.

One of the problems with computer rankings is that until a team loses, you don't have a good idea of how strong it is. You know what the lowest you could rank such a team is, but you don't have an upper limit. Your best guess ends up usually being midway between the "low" point and #1.

88
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2005 - 4:18pm

Trogdor:

Right, but in basketball, you've still got a playoff. In football, if that would happen, you remove any chance for them to prove you wrong (well, not really - they'd prove you wrong in the bowl they go to, and then you'd have a split title and a hugely pissed off fanbase). I can't imagine they would knock a team out of the seeding altogether due to something like that.

89
by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2005 - 4:33pm

Thank you, Betting Man. I'm as brilliant as I am humble.

Pat, you know the methodology I champion. It's used, sort of, by Sagarin. I can run it on Excel.

I don't do it for college because I don't want to do all that damned data entry.

Football is easy. If I could ethically vote on my system with my money, I'd be way ahead of Vegas right now.

90
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2005 - 4:48pm

Carl:

The only problem right now is that college football has unbeatens. Until a team is beaten, you don't have a good idea where to rank it. You've got a lower constraint, but not an upper constraint, but all of the computer rankings treat the value that it spits out as a truly constrained value, when, in fact, it's only constrained by the boundary value of the problem (the fact that no team can be better than perfect).

Why the computer rankings don't have corrections for unbeaten teams, I'll never know. Personally, I'd just rank all unbeaten teams "first/shared" at the end of the season and let the human polls sort it out.

It's supremely unfair to use computer rankings to sort out the unbeatens. You're essentially judging them by the strength of the schedule they faced, which they had no control over. For anyone with a loss, that's different, as they did have control over how high they were ranked - they could've won the games they lost. But unbeatens are hamstrung.

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by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2005 - 5:02pm

The winnowing of the ranks of unbeatens will surely take care of that concern for you, Pat.

Right now, my metrics do not have the Colts as the top team in the NFL, even though they're unbeaten, but it depends on the algorithm you use.

My heart says the Colts probably are the best team right now. But the bytes don't.

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by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2005 - 5:28pm

Carl:

Well, no, because 3 unbeatens happens every once in a while, and even in the computer rankings an unbeaten can slip under a beaten team.

Right now, my metrics do not have the Colts as the top team in the NFL

Keep in mind that the BCS computer systems (basically) can't use anything other than W/L records. I agree with that in general, because the point of the game is supposed to be to win. Because the point of the season is to get to the national championship, and the way to do that is to be ranked first, if the rankings are based on anything other than wins and losses, you're not playing the game anymore.

Now, in the NFL, that's different - any ranking system (FO, yours, Dr. Z's, whoevers) is completely unrelated to who gets into the playoffs, and so you can use data other than just W/L. With that, you can gauge strength of win, which adds an upper constraint.

To put it differently, you'd have the same problem if the Colts played Houston 5 weeks in a row and beat the utter tar out of them every week. You know they're not awful, but there's no real upper constraint in the data.

But as much as I believe that what Sagarin, Massey, et al are doing is mathematically correct, I believe it's ridiculously unethical for them to rank unbeaten teams at the end of the season. For an unbeaten team, using W/L only, there is absolutely zero data telling you where to place the team. It's just a guess - a statistical, well founded guess, but it's a guess nonetheless. And it's a guess that's far, far less well founded than any of the "beaten" teams guesses.

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by Carl (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2005 - 6:13pm

A key metric, Pat, is score. I know that's not politically correct, but how badly you beat the poop out of someone is relevant.

How you perform on the road and in neutral venues is important. So is the elusive SoS, which becomes more apparent the more games a team plays.

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by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2005 - 6:29pm

Carl:

No, I know, but the thing is that you can't do that for college football rankings. It means that in order for teams to play for the national championship, they shouldn't play to win, but outscore the other team as much as possible. This isn't what football is. Football is about having the highest score at the end of regulation, period. The decision of the BCS to get rid of the margin of victory component is probably one of the only intelligent things they've done.

You simply can't include it in the ranking system, otherwise it changes the goal of the game. Otherwise you have to have some foolproof way of determining when a team is inflating the score to improve its computer standings.

In fact, the reason why it works in the NFL is that teams don't run up the score (unless you're the Green Bay Packers).

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by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2005 - 7:07pm

The computers are allowed to take into account strength of schedule, but as Pat said, not score (I think it would make sense if they could take into account margin of loss, but not margin of victory).

The problem with the SoS component is twofold, first, teams have no control over the strength of their conference (they are forced to play those games) and two, for upper-echelon teams, any team below the top 60 or so is a gimme game, regardless of the rank.

A few seasons ago, the choice between Nebraska or Colorado going to the BCS title game came down to a game involving North Texas and some other useless school on the final day. Had one team won, Nebraska would go to the title game. Had the other, it would be Colorado, because of strength of schedule.

But the fact is that both those teams were nobodies that year, and Nebraska and Colorado would have blown both those teams out of the water.

Likewise, in 2003, even though it ended with a split title, whether USC or LSU went to the BCS title game depended on one thing - the result of a Notre Dame vs. Syracuse game on the final day of the season. If Syracuse won, LSU would go. If Notre Dame won, USC would go. Both teams were 5-6 at the time - the game was absolutely meaningless in the grand scheme of college football, but not to the BCS.

That is a key reason why the BCS removed SoS - meaningless games had a huge effect on things.

The #1 hit on Auburn last year was that they played a Division II team. Had they played a Division I team instead, there's a chance the computers would have put them at #2 instead of Oklahoma. But the fact is playing a Division II team and playing a low-level Sun Belt team are identical to a team like Auburn that year.

That said, there are games that a school does have control over - nonconference games. In my SoS, I'd give bonus points to any school that schedules a nonconference BCS conference team that has finished in the top-25 in the past 5 years or so (the reason I say past 5 years is because noncon schedules are set so far in advance, and I don't want to PUNISH a team for scheduling what was originally anticipated to be a good game, but that turns out bad - should UCLA get minus points because Oklahoma was lousy? It's still a gutsy scheduling move). The bonus would increase as the "recent power" of the opponent did.

The only way to encourage schools to schedule decent nonconference opponents is to say "OK. You can schedule your cupcakes, but the BCS will guarantee that if two teams are tied, nonconference schedules are going to be a huge component in breaking the tie." Even then, you'd still have the Bill Snyders of the world, but it'd help.

That was too long-winded, but whatever.

T.

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by Sid (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2005 - 7:32pm

Scoring margin is important. It's ridiculous that it's been mostly eliminated. If they want to stop coaches from running up the score, cap it at 25. Of course, this makes too much sense for the BCS to implement...

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by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2005 - 7:57pm

Sid:

I heartily, heartily disagree. The problem with including scoring margin is that it's not the goal of the game.

Just as a simple example, imagine a team, winning its last game of the season at night, armed with exact copies of the computer programs that rank the teams. They're tied with their opponent, and it's 4th and 10 at the goal line, with enough time for one more play. But the coach's assistants call down and tell him if they don't win by a touchdown, they won't get into the national championship.

The field goal (and win) is a gimme at this point. But the players and the coaches would almost certainly play for the national championship, and go for the touchdown.

To me, that's insulting to what football is. It changes the game. I could give a bunch of other examples, but that's my basic point.

Point differential is predictive, because "most points wins". That much is obvious. But you can't use it to rank teams for postseason play. It's simply unfair to the sport.

The problem with the SoS component is twofold

The problem with strength of schedule adjustments (and all computer rankings do this - they have to, to some degree, otherwise they wouldn't work at all) only applies for unbeaten teams. You're right - teams can't change their schedule. They can only play the schedule they're given.

But this really only matters for unbeaten teams. Why? Because for a team that lost even one game, they have no place to complain. They - the players - had control of their destiny, and they lost. It's just that simple. The question of "who goes to the postseason" in this case is settled on the football field, which is good.

But for unbeaten teams, that's not the case. Suppose Team X has a complete puffball schedule, and wins out completely. Do they stink? No - as we all learned last year in the NFL, just because you have an easy schedule doesn't mean you're not good. Or, to put it more explicitly, as I said before, for an unbeaten team, strength of schedule puts a lower bound on the team's ability. It says "this team is at least better than this". But it says nothing about the team's actual ability. And that's the problem.

The entire problem with college football's postseason is that it breaks down totally when you have more than 2 unbeaten teams. It absolutely, positively, needs to have a playoff system where the number of seeds is at least equal to the maximum number of unbeatens you ever expect to have.

Otherwise, it's simply not fair. You eventually are going to screw someone over.

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by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2005 - 8:03pm

and I don’t want to PUNISH a team for scheduling what was originally anticipated to be a good game, but that turns out bad - should UCLA get minus points because Oklahoma was lousy? It’s still a gutsy scheduling move

The problem here is that now you're encouraging teams to schedule future teams that will suck, but are currently good (probably marginal). Not that hard - find teams that are losing a bunch of seniors.

Come up with a set of rules, and you can always find ways to game the system.

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by Sid (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2005 - 11:30pm

The scenario you mentioned doesn't happen. Coaches do not have copies of the formula and whether they need a TD or a FG.

Scoring margin helps tell you who is good and who is merely lucky. It makes a huge difference if a team wins by 3 TDs each week, or gets lucky and wins on a last second FG.
I want a system that accurately ranks the teams. For that to happen, scoring margin MUST be included. Like I said, it should be capped so as not to encourage running up the score. A 40 point win would be the same thing as a 25 point win.

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by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 10/11/2005 - 11:57pm

Sid:

They will. It's just math. In fact, most of the formulae are relatively easy to reverse engineer - some are even pretty much published. It's a really basic idea.

Capping the score differential isn't enough. For one, it heftily disadvantages defensive teams, for which a 7 point differential can be just as large as a 14 point differential. For two, points are not uniform deviates - certain point differentials are harder to obtain than others. But those are just the technical problems.

I want a system that accurately ranks the teams.

You can't get that unless the games are unbiased, and you can't unbias the games unless postseason success is solely based on winning. The only way you can reconcile those two goals is having a playoff.

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by Carl (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 12:05pm

I guess my problem, Pat, is that the AP and Coaches' Polls take into consideration margin of victory AND strength of schedule, but it's not nearly as objective.

I say this as someone who has been involved in some of these polls over the years.

There is a bias toward the games featuring big teams that are broadcasted nationwide. Too many of the teams from smaller conference that appear to be quite competitve when one runs the algorithm show up at the bottom of the pile when the bowls are announced.

Then they beat the living crap out of the fourth best Big 10 team or the third from the top Pac-10 Rose Bowl representative, and are quickly forgotten.

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by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 12:33pm

Carl:

You're absolutely right - which is why I was curious as to the instructions that they give the pollsters. And my comments that it doesn't make sense.

The problem that I have is that there isn't an objective way to measure how strong a football win is. Points, to some degree, work, but you can easily bias it. This isn't an issue if winning is far more important than biasing the poll results (because you'll still play to win), but that's not true in college football.

I don't know how, and I don't know when, but college football has to move to a playoff system. It's the only fair way to do it.

Even if it's only a two-game playoff (which... given that there will be a fifth BCS bowl next year, seems perfectly reasonable) that's still better than the current system. I don't know if college football has ever had 5 unbeaten teams at the end of the year.

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by Tarrant (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 1:06pm

Pat:

College football had 5 unbeatens at the end of last year (prior to the bowls):

USC, Oklahoma, Auburn, Utah, and Boise State.

T.

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by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 10/12/2005 - 1:10pm

(rewind)

Even if it's only a three game playoff, that's still better than the current system. I don't know if college football has ever had 8 unbeatens at the end of the year.

Crap. I hate college sports. You can have the best team in the country, but unless you're media darlings, you'll never get the chance to prove it.

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by chris (not verified) :: Thu, 10/13/2005 - 7:12pm

-- I wonder why people are so resistant to a 16-team playoff, with every league represented, except the Sun Belt*. I generally hear about a 8-team playoff, which is a bit too restrictive for my taste.

-- Preseason polls from the AP and Coaches seem harmless, but only as a baseline, not something to follow up on every week while they're still meaningless.

-- A possible solution for scoring margin might be to credit teams for what they get done in 38-45** minutes. If you happen to be behind at that point but come back to win, you get credit for winning by one point. Basically, it rewards dominance, but doesn't encourage teams to score 80.

* -- The difference between the Sun Belt and the MAC, MWC, WAC and CUSA is that the other four leagues do pull the occasional upset against top-end programs.

** -- In blowouts, teams generally bench their best players a couple of drives into the third quarter. So the middle or end of the period seems fair.

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by Sid (not verified) :: Fri, 10/14/2005 - 11:31am

chris:
That's not a bad idea.

I obviously want a playoff as well. But ranking the teams to see who gets in (and who gets what seeding) to the playoff is important as well.