Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» Scramble Over/Unders: the Norths

The league's northern divisions pose a number of meaty questions, such as: "Is the Bears' offense due for a repeat performance?" "Why do the Lions have such pronounced splits?" and "Has Johnny Manziel made the Cleveland brass even crazier?"

13 Nov 2008

7th Day Adventure: BCS Guru

by Russell Levine


The SDA Podcast

 

 

What do college football fans talk about when presented with a less-than-scintillating slate of games in mid-November?

Why the BCS, of course.

It occurs to me that college football's greatest weakness -- the bizzarro way in which it "selects" a champion -- is also its greatest strength. I have always believed that all the arguments over playoffs neglect to address what might be lost in the pursuit of an undisputed champion: The BCS breathes interest into the sport. What people care enough to criticize, they also care enough to follow.

I have never been a huge playoff proponent and am staunchly against any system that limits the meaning of the best regular season in all of sports. I do think the BCS could be improved by some simple tweaks -- mainly, that you must win your conference to be eligible for the championship game. I also think the human polls are a joke and that if all the people that criticized the computers actually looked at the data, they'd change their tune.

It seems that voters will never, ever, drop a team from No. 1 unless they lose (unless, of course we're talking about the coaches' poll and the 1997 Michigan Wolverines, but I'm not bitter). In my opinion, Texas Tech has a more impressive resume than Alabama. They've played better teams and beaten them by wider margins. That does not matter to the polls because Alabama was ranked higher, first.

Thankfully, that doesn't matter since both schools control their fate for the title game. But what happens if Oklahoma beats Texas Tech next week? Do the Sooners leapfrog Texas, a team that beat them last month?

Only time will tell. For now, we'll tune in and hope this weekend turns out to be more exciting in reality than it appears to be on paper.

This Week's Guest

With the BCS being the main topic of discussion this week, BCS Guru Sam Chi is the guest on our podcast. Sam is a former sportswriter who started his site a few years ago to keep tabs on the BCS. It's a great resource for understanding the true picture behind one of the most confusing things in sports.

Sam was nice enough to return to the podcast this week to discuss the system, its strengths and weaknesses, the outlook for the title contenders, and the looming disaster scenarios this season.

I hope you'll listen in.

This Week's Games

Virginia Tech (+5) at Miami, Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Hey, look, it's an ACC tilt with conference-title game implications! Welcome to the most confusing conference in the BCS, with three teams tied (in the loss column) atop each division. Miami and Virginia Tech or two of those teams in the Coastal (the other being North Carolina). While this might not be the winner-take-all battle it was in the early years of the expanded ACC -- or even the teams' last few years in the Big East -- it is still plenty meaningful, and a chance to measure the progress made, especially by the 'Canes. BCS contention in late November would represent a major step in the right direction for Randy Shannon in his second year in charge of Miami. Like most ACC games, this one should be low-scoring with plenty of grind-it-out drives on offense. The team that can keep the chains moving on third-and-short will win. Virginia Tech enjoyed a huge rushing game last week from Darren Evans (253 yards against Maryland) but will find the going tougher against Miami's solid defense.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Virginia Tech | RUSSELL: Virginia Tech

No. 22 Cincinnati (-3.5) at Louisville, Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2

The Big East isn't much simpler to figure than the ACC. Both conferences are chock full o' mediocrity, but as such are also highly competitive. Like it or not, someone from each league is going to get a BCS bid. Cincinnati is one of three teams tied for first with 3-1 conference marks, and they've already beaten co-leader West Virginia. The next two weeks will determine the Bearcats' fate. If they can win at Louisville and at home against Pittsburgh on November 22, a win over lowly Syracuse the following week would send the Bearcats to the BCS. If that were to happen, the major beneficiary would likely be Cincinnati coach Brian Kelley, who is never far from the discussion whenever higher-profile jobs come open. Cincinnati has flown beneath the radar this season as it has struggled with quarterback injuries, but a BCS bid is the kind of result that could open eyes -- and purse strings -- at some other (richer) program, say the one in Knoxville, Tennessee.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Cincinnati | RUSSELL: Cincinnati

Notre Dame (-3.5) at Navy, 12 p.m. ET, CBS

Charlie Weis is going to call the plays this week in an effort to kick-start a moribund Notre Dame offense. Jason Whitlock is unimpressed. Notre Dame is somewhat improved over its dismal 3-9 team of a year ago, but how much of that is due to a schedule that is significantly softer? I felt that losing to Navy last year might be a tipping point for support of Weis by the Notre Dame faithful, and I feel that is the case even more so this year. Weis is 1-15 in his last 16 games against teams that finished with winning records. A loss here could begin to grease the slides for his exit. Last week's 17-0 loss to Boston College saw the mainstream media begin to turn on Weis. I think Weis knows the stakes are huge, and he's taking a calculated risk that by publicly announcing he's assuming play-calling duties so he can claim the lion's share of the credit if Notre Dame wins. I don't have to explain the downside of that move.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Navy (Brian adds, "Oh, dear God.") | RUSSELL: Navy

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No. 3 Texas (-13) at Kansas, 12:30 p.m. ET, FSN

Kansas is the anti-Notre Dame (except that the Jayhawks are probably still better than the Irish). Kansas rode an advantageous schedule to an Orange Bowl win last season, but has faltered this season against a much tougher Big 12 slate. It doesn't get any easier when one of the South division's Big Three, Texas, comes calling. The Longhorns remain very much in the thick of the national championship hunt, although they need help from Oklahoma against Texas Tech next week, and should not let the opportunity pass to impress a few voters. Texas will need every vote it can get in order to stay ahead of Oklahoma should the Sooners knock off the Red Raiders, despite having beaten Oklahoma on a neutral field in October. Such is the beauty of college football. Colt McCoy should enjoy a big day against the Big 12's worst pass defense, and if anyone stumbles in front of him he could find himself right back in the Heisman mix.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Texas | RUSSELL: Texas

California (+3) at Oregon State, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Raise your hand if you knew that Oregon State controls its own destiny to win the Pac-10 and go to the Rose Bowl. Anyone? Beuller? The Beavers have had a confusing season, starting 0-2 with losses to Stanford and Penn State before beating USC, and then losing to Utah the following week. But they have not lost in conference play since the opener against Stanford and thus hold the tiebreaker over the Trojans. It won't be an easy road, with a road trip to Arizona and a home date with Oregon still to come. Cal was surprisingly tough on defense in a 17-3 loss to USC a week ago and if it brings the same effort should be able to control the Beavers. Do that, and the Bears might be able to win even with their limited offense.

THE PICKS -- FEI: California | RUSSELL: Oregon State

No. 17 BYU (-5.5) at Air Force, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS CSTV

BYU and Air Force are part of a three-way tie for second place in the Mountain West behind Utah. BYU will face undefeated Utah at the end of the season, so a win here is critical to keep the Cougars' conference title hopes alive. Air Force is as usual a dominant ground team that treats the forward pass like enemy anti-aircraft fire -- something to be avoided altogether. It makes for an interesting contrast in styles against the prolific BYU passing game led by Max Hall, who was receiving some early Heisman love before BYU was thumped by TCU to lose its shot at the BCS. Still, Hall looks like an NFL-quality passer and should find some success against the Air Force defense, provided the Cougars can force the Falcons to give up the ball.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Air Force | RUSSELL: BYU

No. 25 South Carolina (+21) at No. 4 Florida, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

South Carolina has very quietly gotten to 7-3 this season. "Quietly" because the Gamecocks haven't beaten anyone of note. That would change if Steve Spurrier can win in his second trip to the Swamp as South Caorlina head coach. He nearly pulled off the trick in 2006, as the Gators needed a last-second blocked kick to secure what would turn out to be a national-title run. Nobody expects this game to be that close, not with the Gators destroying everyone in their path since their only loss of the season, the ever-more perplexing home upset at the hands of Ole Miss. Florida knows exactly where it stands -- four wins away from playing for the national title. Having already suffered one enormous upset, the Gators also won't take anyone lightly. South Carolina might have the best defense Florida has faced all year, but the mistake-prone Gamecocks offense will have to protect the ball to keep this one close.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Florida | RUSSELL: South Carolina

No. 16 North Carolina (-3) at Maryland, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

With things packed so tightly in both halves of the ACC, any loss is going to be devastating to a team's BCS chances. Maryland has been maybe the most vexing of the ACC's teams, nearly losing to Delaware, but then beating Cal and Wake Forest -- all at home. The Terps lost at Virginia Tech last week, yet still control their own destiny in the Atlantic Division. North Carolina will need help to win the Coastal, but the Tar Heels have been playing as well as anyone in the conference lately and are coming of a surprising thumping of Georgia Tech last week. Maryland has defensive deficiencies -- it is 11th in the conference against the pass and gave up 253 yards on the ground to Virginia Tech's Evans a week ago. North Carolina should score some points, especially if it continues its trend of dominating the turnover margin.

THE PICKS -- FEI: North Carolina | RUSSELL: North Carolina

Picks Table

The Picks
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
Visitor Spread Home FEI Says Russell Says
Virginia Tech +5 Miami Virginia Tech Virginia Tech
Cincinnati -3.5 Louisville Cincinnati Cincinnati
Notre Dame -3.5 Navy Navy Navy
Texas -13 Kansas Texas Texas*
California +3 Oregon State California Oregon State
BYU -5.5 Air Force Air Force BYU
South Carolina +21 Florida Florida South Carolina
North Carolina -3 Maryland North Carolina* North Carolina
Season-long Results
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
  Last Week Season Total
FEI: 5-3-0 (0-1-0) 38-47-2 (3-7-1)
Russell: 2-6-0 (0-1-0) 36-49-2 (2-9-0)

Posted by: Russell Levine on 13 Nov 2008

24 comments, Last at 17 Nov 2008, 8:12am by Pete

Comments

1
by Tom Gower :: Thu, 11/13/2008 - 6:26pm

Man, I suck. After a strong start, I'm now well below .500. 2-6 (0-1) for the second week in a row leaves me at 28-34-2 (3-5). I wonder if there's some rule of Reversion to Russell that affects all SDA pickers. Mr. Levine, if you'd like to start talking trash back to me, feel free.

This week: Miami, Cincinnati, Notre Dammit, Texas (Edelstein), Oregon State, Air Farce, Florida, and North Carolina. I hate almost all these picks, but I'm sure I'd hate them at least as much if I picked every game the other way.

2
by peachy (not verified) :: Thu, 11/13/2008 - 6:29pm

It seems that voters will never, ever, drop a team from No. 1 unless they lose

Usually true, but this season UGA started at #1 and was #3 at the time of the Bama game. So perhaps the voters are becoming more flexible.

5
by Eddo :: Thu, 11/13/2008 - 8:39pm

And Tech jumped Penn State to move to #2.

3
by Pete (not verified) :: Thu, 11/13/2008 - 6:44pm

I know I am in the huge minority, but I love how the BCS causes so much discussion. I am not a huge fan of season-ending tournaments and the belief that this produces the "best team". Instead, it just produces a "tournament winner". I also love how people care so much about how every other team does, just because that other team (like California) played against a team in their conference (like Tennessee). This helps to make the regular season the best in the country for me.

If you want to encourage tough competition then include Strength of Schedule. Better yet, allow a couple of the computer rankings (Sagarin Rankings or even his Predictor, being my personal favorite) to include Home Field advantage and Margin of Victory (using a diminishing returns). Yes, beating a team by 20 or 50 points on their field is more meaningful than a 1-point victory at home. In these setups beating a weak team is negligable. However, losing a close game against one of the best teams can actually show that a team is stronger than was believed. Another system that I like to include in my personal evaluation is the FEI by Football Outsiders.

I do not think that anything can happen in the immediate future to make a playoff. However, something that could happen very quickly would be a "Classic Bowl + 1". The error with recent "Plus One" suggestion was the requirement that 4 teams setup a playoff in the Bowls, followed by a Championship.

There is already a Championship Game about a week later. So, why not have the "Classic Bowls" setup on the 1st of January and then run the numbers through the BCS. The Top 2 teams would have faced some good interconference play.

I'm not convinced that we will not see a Texas (only losing a close loss, against the #1 team) facing an undefeated Texas Tech in the championship. We could also see Penn State vs. Oregon State rematch in the Rose Bowl. Yawn. On the other hand we could then see the teams that may be the best in the country right now: USC Trojans vs. Florida Gators!

7
by Tom Gower :: Thu, 11/13/2008 - 9:27pm

How to get to Florida-USC:
Tough to pull off, I'd say. One way would be for them to meet in the BCS CG. Best way for this to happen? I'd say both to win out, Texas Tech to win out and lose in the B12 championship game, and Texas to drop a game. Not likely, particularly that last.

Second: some other bowl. This'll be a tough one. Two possibilities: the Sugar Bowl and the Rose Bowl.

For the Rose Bowl, you need an Oregon State loss and USC to win out. That gets USC there. Getting Florida is a tougher challenge, as the B10 champ is locked in. Fine, PSU to the BCS CG. Who fills the other slot then? As we saw last year, though, the Rose Bowl LOVES its P10-B10 history, and will pick a B10 team is one is available. Two teams that could be: Ohio State and Michigan State. PSU in the BCS CG requires them to win out, so MSU is probably not in the top 14 and therefore ineligible. Ohio State also needs a loss from either Illinois or Michigan, preferably the latter. I'd say this is really unlikely. One other problem-USC is currently ahead of PSU. For USC to play in the Rose Bowl and PSU to make the BCS CG, we need another USC loss (can USC win a 3-way Oregon-OrSU-USC tiebreak?). Note also to get UF in the Rose Bowl, they cannot have won the SEC, in which case they'd be auto-locked into the Sugar Bowl. Therefore, they must have lost to Alabama. Note also that the Sugar Bowl with its selection would surely choose SEC team UF as its replacement for Alabama. So, to get UF in the Rose, either Alabama is not in the BCS CG or Alabama is in the BCS CG and the Rose Bowl has first dibs. Note for Alabama to not make the BCS CG requires them to lose to at least one of Mississippi State and Auburn, possibly both. Short version: getting both USC and Florida to the Rose Bowl requires (i) at least one more loss by both teams and (ii) more general oddness.

The Sugar Bowl is, I believe, a much better bet. First, UF there. Two ways for this to happen. 1. UF wins out, but loses to Alabama, which makes the BCS CG. The Sugar Bowl then almost certainly picks a BCS-eligible team from the same conference, UF. 2. UF wins the SEC, but doesn't make the BCS CG. A couple ways for this to happen. First, they could be edged out by an unbeaten TTU and a 1-loss Texas. I believe this is extraordinarily unlikely. While UF is currently behind Texas, UF still has to play Alabama. Beating Alabama will give it a clear bump in the computer ratings, which bump in and of itself should be enough for UF to pass Texas and play in the BCS CG. Note also that the voters, as they did 2 years ago, would likely manipulate their rankings such that a 1-loss UF would play TTU instead of a TTU-UT rematch. Simpler way: UF wins the SEC, but loses to a remaining opponent-pick any of South Carolina, Citadel, or FSU.

The tricky part then is getting UF to play USC. First, USC cannot have won the Pac-10. Let's assume for this a TTU-UT BCS CG. The problem is there are 10 BCS spots: B12 champ (TTU), B10 champ (assume Penn State), P10 champ (must be Oregon State), SEC champ (UF), ACC champ (assume UNC), BE champ (assume Cincinnati), B12 runnerup Texas, and BCS team (at least 1 of Utah, Ball State, Boise State, or even TCU is virtually certain to qualify for a non-BCS autobid). The matchups then would be as follows:
Rose: Oregon State-Penn State
Fiesta: ?-?
Sugar: UF-?
Orange: UNC-?
BCS CG: TTU-UT
First pick would go to the Fiesta, since they lost the B12 champ to the CG. Here's your big problem: a USC team that's not too far away seems pretty attractive, especially if they've won out. So, you're almost certainly sunk here. The alternatives? 1-loss Alabama possibly, Georgia, or, a team that's been to Tempe thrice already this decade for three wins and is known to travel well, Ohio State. Yes, in a down economy, those pesky Buckeyes may be pretty attractive to John Junker et al. In fact, since it's necessary, let's assume the Buckeyes are indeed chosen by Ohio State. Ah, the problem is the Fiesta Bowl naturally gets the first choice naturally as well. So, they'd have to pick 2 of Utah, Ohio State, Alabama, Cincinnati over USC to get USC to a Sugar Bowl.

Hope for the BCS CG, otherwise I don't really see any way Florida plays USC this year.

EDIT: For the Rose Bowl scenario, if Alabama is in the BCS CG, the Sugar Bowl (with the #2 pick) has to consent if the Rose Bowl (with the #1 pick) wants to choose UF. Just another hurdle.

10
by ChrisH :: Fri, 11/14/2008 - 8:03am

If there was a 3 way tie for the Pac 10 (USC loses one game, and OrSt beats everyone but Oregon they have left), then it goes to records against each other, and everyone is 1-1. Then it goes to a couple other tiebreaks that would be tied, until you get to record against the team that finished highest in the standings. I believe that would be USC in this case, and since OSU beat them and Oregon lost, that eliminates Oregon, and since we are now down to 2 team again, it goes back to Head-to-Head play, and OSU beat USC, so they go. That makes it nearly impossible for Oregon to make it I guess, but that's how the tiebreaks seem to work.

12
by Tom Gower :: Fri, 11/14/2008 - 11:09am

Thanks for the info.

That strikes me as a relatively dumb tiebreak, or at least less sensible if you want the "best" team to win the conference than the Big XII's reliance on BCS standings.

14
by ChrisH :: Fri, 11/14/2008 - 3:38pm

I'm not 100% sure that I'm correct, as the way it was written at the Pac-10 site isn't that easy to understand, but I think the logic breaks down as "If you both have the same number of losses, whoever beat the best team in conference gets the nod". But yes, it is strange.

22
by RickD :: Sat, 11/15/2008 - 10:10pm

"I love how the BCS causes so much discussion."

"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" caused a lot of discussion. So did the Florida Recount. I don't think we should model our decision-making after Nurse Ratchett or Katherine Harris anytime soon.

"I am not a huge fan of season-ending tournaments and the belief that this produces the "best team". Instead, it just produces a "tournament winner""

Well, that's something an actual tournament would have going for it. The BCS doesn't even have that. It produces a "game winner".

The only years when the BCS has produced a non-controversial result are those when the determination of who the best two teams in the nation are is something that is pretty much agreed upon by consensus in the nation. And that really only seems to happen if there are exactly two undefeated teams in BCS conferences. If there are more, then one gets left out, and that team is left scratching its head. If there is one or zero, then there is a massive debate about which is the best 1-loss team.

Is Oklahoma or Texas a better 1-loss team than USC or Florida or Penn State? How can we tell?

Worse, there is always going to be a real possibility that a Big East or ACC team runs the table against a light schedule and makes the BCS championship game based on that. The BCS cannot really hope to continue to dodge bullets, as they did when Louisville, Rutgers, and West Virginia obliged the BCS by playing scissors-paper-rock.

Including strength of schedule as a consideration only ensures that teams are rewarded for playing tough teams. While this is desirable, it hardly means much if the better team just happens to play a slighly weaker schedule. There are no forces in the universe that force the best team to play the hardest schedule.

Personally, I'm not going to give a damn about college football until they have a playoff. There are so many things wrong about college athletics to start with that having a farcical championship is the straw that breaks the camel's back for me.

4
by Mr Shush :: Thu, 11/13/2008 - 8:24pm

Tech have scored 35 or more points in every game, won every game, and blown out every opponent bar two (including a blowout of a top ten team and a win over a top 5 team). Of course they should be #1, but more importantly, they should remain ahead of Oklahoma and Texas (and probably Florida) if they lose narrowly in Oklahoma. This will not happen, but it should, and I can't believe more fuss isn't being made about it. This eventuality would leave the three with essentially identical heads up records, and Tech with by far the best other win, but it will avail them naught because of the ban on MOV for the computers and the fact that they are a smaller school.

A few weeks ago, I was rooting for SEC Champ vs. Big 12 Champ as the title game. Now I'm rooting for SEC Champ vs. Tech. If they get badly beaten by Oklahoma, fine. But if they lose narrowly and get dropped out of the BCS bowls altogether, as could well happen, I will be pretty ticked off.

PS. Not a Tech fan (though Leach does rock)

6
by lionsbob :: Thu, 11/13/2008 - 9:26pm

I guess Texas Tech should have scheduled someone better than Eastern Washington and UMass for their non-conference games. Alabama got a huge jump/head start when they beat the hell out of Clemson (who was overrated).

And Alabama is getting help from the media's idea that the SEC is the best conference bar-none (even though this year it is extremely top heavy).

Eh, Texas Tech is 2nd, it is going to play for a national championship if it wins out.

8
by mm (not verified) :: Thu, 11/13/2008 - 11:59pm

I'm one of those who loves the BCS because it makes the regular season so much better. You forgot to mention that teams now schedule tougher non-conference games to impress the computers.

I do think the BCS could be improved by some simple tweaks -- mainly, that you must win your conference to be eligible for the championship game.

Lousy principal. If Texas Tech and Texas both won out, then Tech lost in OT too Missouri in the Big-12 Championship game, I'd probably rank Texas and Texas Tech ahead of Missouri and any team from the Pac 10, Big 10, Big East, or ACC.

People might argue with me there, but what if the Pac 10 and Big 10 champs each ended up with 2 losses? Would People pick Missouri (or the PAC 10 or Big 10 champ) ahead of a 1 loss Texas or Texas Tech in that situation? Would they go to Utah?

Would your thinking change if Oklahoma, Texas, & Texas Tech ended up in a 3 way tie (with 1 loss each) and the champ (selected by the BCS) then lost to Missouri? The two 1 loss teams would automatically be passed up in favor of a 2 loss major conference champ or a mid major school?

9
by Kibbles :: Fri, 11/14/2008 - 3:35am

South Carolina might have the best defense Florida has faced all year, but the mistake-prone Gamecocks offense will have to protect the ball to keep this one close.
South Carolina is now the fourth "possibly the best defense the Gators will face all year" defense that the Gators have faced this year. First it was LSU, defending national champs. Florida hung half a hundred on them. Then it was Kentucky, which had allowed 83 points through its first 7 games. Florida almost doubled that, ringing up 63 points in its 8th. Then it was Vanderbilt, which hadn't allowed more than 24 points all year. Florida had 35... in the first half, despite the refs taking away what was clearly a TD. Florida then got another score on the opening drive of the second half, and sat its first stringers 6 minutes into the 3rd quarter having already almost doubled Vandy's previous high water mark.

Basically, the reason why South Carolina is leading the SEC in scoring defense is because South Carolina is the only SEC team that hasn't faced Florida yet. We'll see how their defense stacks up next week, after they face the buzzsaw that has already knocked two different defenses off of that #1 scoring defense perch.

11
by ChrisH :: Fri, 11/14/2008 - 8:09am

Here's my potential problems with how the BCS might play out now, is that every voter is going to once again go to "They lost later in the year", and not look at the quality of the loss the team suffered. In the case of Florida-Alabama, if they both don't lose before the SEC title game, and Florida wins, but barely wins, then Alabama will have a loss to a Top 5 team in the country, barely, on a neutral field. Florida will have a loss, at home, to Ole Miss, which isn't nearly the same quality of loss to me.

And in the Big 12, if Texas Tech were to lose a close game at Oklahoma, then you have TT and Texas losing in close games on the road at Top 5 teams, and Oklahoma losing at a neutral site by more than 1 score. However you want to break the tie between TT and Texas is fine with me, but I'd hate for Oklahoma to jump them just because they managed to lose earlier in the year (which isn't helping USC because unless OrSt wins out to go 9-3 and make their loss look better, they can't play anyone good enough to redeem it).

13
by Tom Gower :: Fri, 11/14/2008 - 11:24am

I see your point, but I'm not too concerned about it, primarily because of overall schedule strength. Leach schedules in ways that make Glen Mason-era Minnesota proud/jealous, and Texas's only legit non-conference opponent is Arkansas, which has been putrid this year. OU, on the other hand, played and decisively beat both TCU, whose only other loss is to BCS-possibility Utah and which has a very outside shot of making its own BCS bowl, and Cincinnati, which right now appears to have the inside track to win the Big East and make its own BCS bowl.

Compare, also, Florida to Alabama. Bama right now is basically living off their one great half against Georgia. Really, with Clemson falling off the cliff, what's their second best win? In OT at LSU? The same LSU team the Gators beat by 30? The Gators also beat Georgia at least as impressively as Alabama did, they beat decisively a decent Miami team (close for a while, yes, but Miami was never in serious danger of winning that game), and if they win the SEC, they'll have a win over a very good Bama team.

I generally agree with your problem with "early loss better" poll rankings (2003 was IMO a particularly egregious answer of this, and don't get me started on the love for USC in 02), but I don't think it's a problem this year.

17
by lionsbob :: Fri, 11/14/2008 - 11:50pm

and Alabama beat Ole Miss, who beat the "best team in football" at their place.

Alabama is living off of being a BCS conference team that is undefeated and since there is only 2 of them, it makes it a little bit easier to be #1 (Texas Tech was ranked behind one loss teams when they were undefeated until the Texas win). Has Alabama benefited from the blowout wins against Clemson and Georgia...sure they have, but they have mainly benefited from winning all of their games as well. There has not been an Ole Miss or Oregon State hiccup yet.

15
by Kevin Eleven :: Fri, 11/14/2008 - 8:25pm

Oh sure, it’s all cut and dry at the moment; it’ll be the team that emerges from the Big 12 South vs. the SEC champion for the national title. Very simple, very easy … yeah, right.

Fact: Things change, no matter how obvious you think things are going to turn out to be. The top ten teams according to the BCS at this exact point last year: 1. LSU (before the loss to Arkansas), 2. Oregon (before the Dennis Dixon injury), 3. Kansas, 4. Oklahoma (before the loss to Texas Tech), 5. Missouri (remember, Mizzou would eventually be No. 1), 6. West Virginia (the Mountaineers couldn’t lose at home to Pitt, right?), 7. Ohio State (yup … seventh), 8. Arizona State (what a difference a year makes), 9. Georgia (Tennessee just wouldn’t lose), 10. Virginia Tech (the Hokies finished the regular season No. 1 according to the BCS computers).

Fact: Last year before the last week of the regular season, it was going to be West Virginia vs. Missouri playing for the national title if the Tigers could get by Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship. LSU was left for dead after losing to Arkansas, and Ohio State needed a ton of help.

Fact: Prior to January 8th 2007, 99% of the population outside of the greater Gainesville metropolitan area assumed there was no need to play the 2006 national title and mentally handed it to Ohio State.

Fact: ESPN, among others, were comparing the 2005 USC team to every great dynasty in the history of mankind before Vince Young had something to say about it.

Fact: Most believed Ohio State didn’t need to bother showing up to Tempe on January 3rd, 2003 to face a Miami team considered to be among the greatest of all-time.

1983 Miami vs. Nebraska. 2000 Oklahoma vs. Florida State. 1992 Alabama vs. Miami. The list goes on and on of upsets that few believed could possibly happen. So with that in mind, forget about what you think you know, and what you think is right. Here are ten national title contenders who are still in the hunt, or would like to be, what they need to do to get a top two spot, and most importantly, how much they deserve to be in the discussion.

16
by Kevin Eleven :: Fri, 11/14/2008 - 8:27pm

My picks for this week:

UNC -3 over Maryland
Louisville +3.5 over Cincinnati

I'm a horrid 9 - 14 this year.

18
by Travis :: Sat, 11/15/2008 - 2:06pm

Be sure to join a star-studded cast of your favorite FO posters for IRC football chat! cognet.catch22.org, channel #fo

Brief tutorial for the IRC-shy:

- Download mIRC from mIRC.com
- type /server cognet.catch22.org into the status window
- type /join #fo

19
by Kibbles :: Sat, 11/15/2008 - 8:08pm

Florida just faced the fourth team of the season that came into the game without having given up more than 24 points at any point during the season. So far, Florida has at least DOUBLED that in every game except the one against Vandy, where Florida had 42 points after the first drive in the third quarter before the starters were pulled. After the first drive of the third quarter.

At the end of the game, Danielson mentions that Florida still has to face Florida State and Alabama, who are probably the two best defenses Florida will face all season. So far, it hasn't been good to be the best defense that Florida has faced all season.

20
by lionsbob :: Sat, 11/15/2008 - 8:27pm

I am hoping for a 2003 Oklahoma repeat for Florida.

21
by RickD :: Sat, 11/15/2008 - 9:55pm

"What people care enough to criticize, they also care enough to follow."

Yeah, but they may not care enough to actually watch the games.

23
by Kevin Eleven :: Sun, 11/16/2008 - 6:22pm

Ouch- only three posts yesterday, and one just to promote a chat.

1. Texas Tech (10-0)
2. Alabama (11-0)
3. Texas (10-1)- IF OU beats Texas Tech next week, Texas should be the top team in the Big 12 South. They beat Oklahoma and had the toughest schedule of the Horns - Sooners - Raiders trio
4. Florida (9-1)- subjectively they're the best team in the country, but they lost to Ole Miss. If the Gators win out they'll win the National Title, so it doesn't matter where they're ranked right now.
5. Oklahoma (9-1)
6. Southern Cal (9-1)- Pete, you lost to Oregon State. You have nothing to complain about.
7. Oklahoma State (9-2)
8. Penn State (10-1)
9. Utah (11-0)
10. Missouri (9-2)- capable of pulling an upset in the Big 12 title game.
11. Ohio State (9-2)
12. Georgia (9-2)
13. TCU (9-2)
14. Michigan State (9-2)
15. Boise State (10-0)
16. Boston College (7-3)
17. Cincinnati (8-2)
18. BYU (11-1)
19. Oregon State (7-3)
20. Miami (7-3)
21. LSU (7-3)
22. Pitt (7-2)
23. Maryland (7-3)
24. South Carolina (7-4)
25. Ball State (10-0)

24
by Pete (not verified) :: Mon, 11/17/2008 - 8:12am

Personally, if Texas Tech loses I would probably place Texas at the top in a tie-breaker. They faced TT as the 4th Top 12 team in a row. They lost a close (last minute) game at the opponent's home field. They could not really stop Texas Tech consistently, but who has?

Is Florida's offense really doing that great or are they doing well and getting unbelievable (and maybe unsustainable) field position? If they have the best Punt Blocking and Punt Return team in the country, would this matter against Texas Tech?

I know that the Pollsters may conspire to keep a rematch (Texas-Texas Tech) out of the BCS Championship game. However, if things continue then it is possible and I have yet to see anyone even mention it in the media.

1) Texas wins out - This seems pretty likely
2) Florida beats (barely) Alabama. If Alabama and/or Florida lose another game then this is even more clear, but I'm not convinced it is necessary.

In that case you have Texas Tech as the #1 team (assuming they win out). They are the undisputed top team for the BCS. Could Texas be the #2 Team in the BCS? If the margin in the Computer Polls remains as large as it is now (0.1 points) and the Polls are close (less than 0.05 points right now) then you might see Texas play against Texas Tech at a neutral field.