Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

06 Nov 2006

Confessions of a Football Junkie: Chaos Theory

by Russell Levine

There is but one important question left about this college football season: order or chaos?

Order is a bit closer at hand after this weekend. Louisville caused some concern Thursday night, beating West Virginia in a matchup of unbeatens. Since Louisville entered that game ranked behind one-loss Florida in the Bowl Championship Series standings, the Cardinals' win led to speculation that an undefeated Big East team might be jumped by a once-beaten SEC squad for the BCS title game.

That possibility grew more remote Saturday after Florida authored a ho-hum, six-point victory over Vanderbilt, paving the way for Louisville to move to No. 3 in the BCS standings. The other scenario that threatened to deny a Big East team a chance at the title was a potential Ohio State-Michigan rematch, a possibility that also took a hit Saturday. Neither the Wolverines, who found themselves in a 60-minute duel with lightly regarded Ball State, nor the Buckeyes, who had a similar contest against Illinois, looked nearly as dominant as the BCS standings would suggest.

Not only did Louisville move to third in the BCS standings, but the Cardinals significantly narrowed the gap that had existed between Ohio State and Michigan and everyone else. The narrow escapes do nothing to derail the de facto national semifinal in Columbus on November 18, with the winner assured of a berth in the January 8 title game in Glendale, Arizona. But the voters will remember this weekend when deciding how far to drop the loser of that game. The Ohio State-Michigan rematch scenario requires the loser to fall no lower than second in the polls, which now seems unlikely.

Of course, chaos can strike at any moment in a sport with zero margin for error, as is college football in the BCS era. Ball State and Illinois proved that Saturday, and the next major threat to order comes Thursday night, when Louisville visits yet another undefeated team, Rutgers.

Louisville's Bobby Petrino is one of the best coaches in the nation, but he faces perhaps the toughest task of his career in getting his Cardinals ready to play their second consecutive contest with enormous implications. West Virginia walked into an ambush last Thursday, playing before a rowdy crowd primed to witness the biggest game in Louisville history. This week, the tables will be turned.

Rutgers and its fans have never had a moment like the one they will enjoy Thursday: A nationally televised home game in a sold-out stadium with national-title implications aplenty. Not only is it the biggest game in Rutgers's history, it is also the biggest college football game in the New York metropolitan area since Army's heyday in the 1940s and '50s, when it packed Yankee Stadium to play national powers such as Notre Dame.

A Rutgers win would indeed throw the championship picture into complete disarray, as the entire list of one-loss teams would suddenly become contenders for the title game. At the head of the line will be the SEC champion. Florida has clinched a spot in the conference championship game, likely against Arkansas or Auburn. If the SEC winner has a single loss, it will have as impressive a résumé as any other contender.

Just behind sits 8–1 Texas, whose only loss came to no. 1 Ohio State in September. The Longhorns may have a tough time overcoming anyone from the SEC due to schedule strength; remaining games against Texas A&M, which lost to Oklahoma Saturday, and a potential rematch against Nebraska in the Big 12 championship aren't likely to provide much of a boost.

Next in line is the Pac-10 pair of USC and California. The Golden Bears are one of the hottest teams in the nation and will get a chance to prove their worth at USC in two weeks, though they would prefer the Trojans to be undefeated when they meet. Southern Cal saw a three-year regular-season winning streak snapped at Oregon State last week, but the loss did not completely eliminate it from contention. No team has as many chances to impress voters and the computers down the stretch, as the Trojans face Oregon, Cal, and Notre Dame in back-to-back-to-back home games. Should USC win all those games while the SEC teams are beating each other up, it could be right back in the title-game picture.

Notre Dame is 8-1 and has that contest at USC remaining, but it will be difficult for the Irish to overcome a soft schedule, particularly if they finish with the same record as Michigan. Voters will have a hard time putting 11–1 Notre Dame ahead of 11–1 Michigan, given that the Wolverines handed Notre Dame a 26-point loss in South Bend in September.

Undefeated Boise State, from the "mid-major" Western Athletic Conference, will not play in the championship game even if it finishes with a perfect record. But results elsewhere moved the Broncos closer to clinching an automatic at-large berth in a BCS game, a huge boost for the program.

Rutgers fans are probably wondering where their team fits. Unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, they are attempting to come from very far back in the BCS standings to reach the title game even if they go undefeated. Though they have yet to play West Virginia in addition to Louisville, the boost from those two games is not likely to move them to the top two in the standings. That's due in part to being unranked in the preseason and in part to a non-conference schedule that included 1–8 North Carolina, 2–8 Illinois, and Division I-AA Howard. Still, even being able to debate the topic with a straight face has to satisfy fans of a program that was the joke of college football as recently as a few years ago.

Wake Forest fans probably feel the same way. After knocking off Boston College Saturday night, the Demon Deacons hold first place in the ACC's Atlantic Division, though they still must play Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Maryland.

In a season of surprises -- undefeated Rutgers, unranked Miami and Florida State, resurgent Michigan -- Wake's success has managed to fly under the radar. The school has but one conference title in 53 years and certainly wasn't expected to compete for a second this season in the beefed-up ACC. Can the Deacons pull it off? Perhaps, if chaos rules.

John L. Smith Trophy

John L., we hardly knew ya. With the announcement this week that Smith will be fired following the season, this week's JLS Trophy takes on special significance.

Since the birth of this column, the weekly award for the wackiest coaching decision has been named for three men. First was Hal Mumme, the former Kentucky and current New Mexico State coach who never met a fourth down that looked like a punting situiation to him. Many a potential Kentucky win in the Tim Couch era went down in flames as Mumme elected to go for it on fourth-and-10 from his own 25 in the first quarter.

But with Mumme out of the picture, I wanted a more topical face for the award. I found it in former St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz. The deciding factor in Martz's favor came when he challenged the ruling on a fumble by his quarterback, believing his quarterback's arm had been in motion, but ignoring the fact that the pass/fumble had been caught in mid-air by a defender for a touchdown.

Alas, Martz was sidelined last year with a heart ailment, and I felt bad about kicking him when he was down. The column had become much more college-centric by that point, and so the JLS Trophy was born. Smith had just provided his epic "the coaches are screwing it up!!!" halftime interview sound bite, and the choice was an obvious one. Since then, JLS has not disappointed, providing plenty of material, capped off by his personal piece de reisstance, slapping himself during a press conference following a loss to Illinois earlier this year.

We wish JLS well and hope to find him back on the sidelines soon. The college football world is a duller place without him in it, and the award will continue to carry his name. All of which brings us to this week's recipient.

If I were still writing about the NFL in this space, Bill Parcells would be an obvious choice for electing to go for two in the first half against Washington Sunday.

In the college ranks, I considered handing it to Wisconsin's Bret Bielema for his end-of-half tactics against Penn State, in which he instructed his team to twice take intentional offsides on the kickoff in order to drain the clock without giving Penn State a chance to score. There was a healthy debate about this strategy on the Seventh Day Adventure thread, which I won't rehash here. My stance was that it was a clever discovery of a loophole in the rules, but it was also classless and a bush-league maneuver. It also won't win Bielema any friends in Big Ten coaching circles, particularly given that he pulled the stunt against coaching legend Joe Paterno. I would hope the NCAA moves to close the loophole immediately, and saves us from seeing some other coach get the bright idea to try this. But because it can be argued that Bielema's strategy helped his team win, he avoids the JLS.

Instead, the award goes to Boston College's Tom O'Brien, who became the latest coach whose failure to grasp the new timing rules hurt his team's chances. Hoping to get the ball back for one final possession against Wake Forest, O'Brien used his first timeout before the Demon Deacons' first play of the drive. Though the new rules dictate that the clock run in that situation, O'Brien cost his team 15-20 seconds by using a timeout there, when the maximum amount of time that can run off the clock is 25 seconds (the length of the play clock) rather then 40-45 seconds after a play is run (the length of the play clock plus the time it takes the typical geriatric college official to spot the ball).

Coaches work 80-100 hours a week looking for any conceivable edge in a football game, yet they routinely miss something as simple as basic math that could be the difference between getting the ball back for one final snap and not seeing it at all. O'Brien, who is an excellent coach, nonetheless takes home the JLS for committing that sin against Wake Forest.

BlogPoll Ballot

This season, I'll again be voting in the BlogPoll, hosted by MGoBlog. I'll post my ballot in Junkie each week. Feel free to comment -- my rankings may change based upon your suggestions.

Further explanation required for the following:

  • I was going to drop Michigan a spot, but upon further review (after I calmed down) I decided against it. Michigan basically treated it like a preseason game -- no hitting in practice last week, put the second team defense in before the game was decided and leave them in after they give up some big plays. I'm not saying I agree with the approach, but I am saying it doesn't mean a whole lot.
  • I had Louisville at three, then moved them to four. Texas seems to be hitting its stride, so I nudged them to three. The SEC grind might be taking a toll on all those teams, who've been beating each other with regularity.
  • I'm probably being overly harsh to West Virginia, because the difference between the two isn't great. Still, I think Louisville's offense would create more problems for either Ohio State/Michigan or any of the SEC teams than would West Virginia's (and yes, I do remember last year's Sugar Bowl).
  • Spots 3-10 are a tightly packed bunch in my mind, which is why I shuffled the SEC teams some this week. Florida's offense scares me, and not in a good way. Southern Cal seems refocused after the loss, and I still think they'll beat Cal at home.
  • Tough plunge for Boston College, but I had to get Wake in ahead of them, and I just don't think the Demon Deacons would beat any of the teams ahead of them.
Rank Team Delta
1 Ohio State --
2 Michigan --
3 Texas 2
4 Louisville 4
5 Auburn 2
6 Florida 2
7 Arkansas 3
8 Southern Cal 1
9 California 3
10 West Virginia 7
11 Notre Dame 2
12 LSU 2
13 Tennessee 7
14 Rutgers 2
15 Wake Forest 8
16 Boise State 1
17 Wisconsin 1
18 Boston College 7
19 Oregon 1
20 Oklahoma 1
21 Georgia Tech 1
22 Virginia Tech 2
23 Maryland 2
24 Texas A&M 5
25 Hawaii 1

Dropped Out: Clemson (#15).

Portions of this article appeared in Monday's New York Sun.

Posted by: Russell Levine on 06 Nov 2006

29 comments, Last at 08 Nov 2006, 1:14pm by Pat

Comments

1
by Chris Heinonen (not verified) :: Mon, 11/06/2006 - 8:22pm

As I was going to sleep, I noticed that BC had punted and taken a timeout immediately on Gamecast and figured that was the game. I'll gladly take a job figuring out these things for coaches, and given what UNC might have to pay for Butch Davis, I'm sure they have some room on the payroll for me.

If Oregon State wins this week, they should probably wind up breaking the Top 25, and with Stanford after that, should be 8-3 after using that USC win to really kickstart them mid-season.

2
by Dave Rivera (not verified) :: Mon, 11/06/2006 - 8:55pm

How about a JLS Runner-up for "Coach Fran" -- Brent Musburger seems physically incapable of saying his entire last name -- having his Aggies go for the field goal, twice, in Oklahoma territory, at home, with time running out in the fourth quarter, in a game he needed to win. (A&M being winless against Big IX heavyweights Texas and Oklahoma during Coach Fran's tenure.)

And let's not mention -- or, actually, let's -- his decision to pass from the OU 2 yard line on third down, with college football's most effective goal-line runner in his backfield.

Coach Fran, thy days are numbered.

3
by Jesse (not verified) :: Mon, 11/06/2006 - 8:58pm

Wake Forrest and Oregon above Oklahoma is a joke. I'm a little surprised you put Hawaii in....Texas seems a bit high

4
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 11/06/2006 - 9:05pm

Not only did Louisville move to third in the BCS standings, but the Cardinals significantly narrowed the gap that had existed between Ohio State and Michigan and everyone else.

For those who remember me saying that an OSU-Michigan rematch was likely, that was essentially predicated on West Virginia winning at Louisville, because Louisville's schedule's been noticeably harder than WVU's so far. Louisville wins out, and they're in the NC.

I think Russell's wrong about what would happen if Louisville loses to Rutgers, though. At that point, the loser of OSU/Michigan is even more in the mix. It's even worse if Rutgers beats WVU as well. Will the polls really put Rutgers at #2 above the loser of the Michigan/OSU game? They will be #3, or even #2 in the statistical rankings. Guaranteed. And if they're #4 or lower, that only helps the loser of the OSU/Michigan game. Tremendously.

Some sick, sick part of me is really hoping Rutgers beats Louisville. I also hope there's a serious outcry if Rutgers does go undefeated, because in my mind, there's no way they don't deserve to be playing for the NC if they do. Every statistical ranking will have them at #2 or #3, and the sole reason they would end up not playing for it is because of the preseason polls, not their schedule.

5
by David Lewin (not verified) :: Mon, 11/06/2006 - 9:18pm

I didn't see the BC game, but assuming that you have all 3 timeouts remaining I like the strategy of taking the first timeout immediately following the punt on the assumption that if you stop them and call a timeout each time you might have them in a third down situation in which they choose to pass to pick up the third down. If the pass is incomplete then a timeout is unnecessary and you are glad to have those 25 seconds.

6
by Adam Gretz (not verified) :: Mon, 11/06/2006 - 9:20pm

I'm sorry, but I absolutely loved what Wisconsin did for no other reason than it pointed out a massive flaw with the NCAA's insanely idiotic new rules.

Brilliant move. Fantastic move even.

Bush league? Perhaps. Cheap? You bet. But College football had it coming. Thats what you get for trying to "shorten the game."

Why is every sport, pro and college, making this massive push to "shorten the game?"

1. You'd think teams/schools would want to have people in the stadium longer, after all, if i'm in there for 3 hours instead of 2 and a half hours thats 30 more minutes that i'm buying hotdogs, pops, and other crap.

2. Is spending an extra 20-30 minutes at a stadium going to ruin ones life that significantly that we have to potentially screw with the outcome of a game (and yes, cutting 14 plays off of the game does screw with the outcome of a game) to get Mr. and Mrs. Jones out of there and on their mary way? Please.

I don't know. I'm paying good money for tickets...I want to get my moneys worth.

Bravo Wisconsin. Bravo.

7
by Travis (not verified) :: Mon, 11/06/2006 - 9:24pm

Re: 5

That might have been a good strategy, had there been more time left on the clock (say, 1:30). But there was just enough time left that though Wake Forest couldn't kneel, they still had no incentive to pass; three ordinary runs (or prolonged kneels) would have run out the clock (and did).

8
by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 11/06/2006 - 9:24pm

Adam: Actually, at first, I agreed with you. I had originally just wished he had just done it in a game that meant less - much like Boomer Esaison (I think...) getting the refs to tell the crowd to shut up as an example to the league as to how stupid that rule was. He did it in preseason.

But it's a dangerous thing to do, which you can see from the video. Someone easily could've gotten very hurt.

9
by Erasmus (not verified) :: Mon, 11/06/2006 - 9:30pm

Can there be a Mike Shula award for crappiest offense inside the red zone?

4 times in the red zone (3 times inside the 10...) and they got 9 points against Mississippi State. This was after being stopped by Florida freaking International on the 1 yard line....4 times in a row..

10
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 11/06/2006 - 9:45pm

4: That would bring back up the question of why we have pre-season polls.

11
by Subrata Sircar (not verified) :: Mon, 11/06/2006 - 10:01pm

I'm really hoping that Ohio State loses to Michigan, which loses a pointless game before the big one, leaving Rutgers and Boise State as the only undefeated teams in the country. I really want to see Lee Corso's head explode once and for all.

[Actually, I don't really want Michigan to lose, but it would almost be worth it for the explosion.]

12
by Mike W (not verified) :: Mon, 11/06/2006 - 10:07pm

You know, this whole thing about the preseason polls would be much ado about nothing if the voters would, you know, think about their votes each week, or at least the later weeks. Crazy, I know. I can't wait for ND to get in over its head in a BCS game.

If L'ville beats Rutgers, it is going to the title game. Period. It may seem so now, but you know the media will be trying to make it less than a fait accompli. There would be no justification for creating the possibility of a scenario where L'ville beats, say, Texas and USC beats OSU - other than that talking heads would love it. The point of a tournament is that it is an algorithm that spits out a champion. Not "identifies the best team" but "generates a champion." The point of the BCS is that in the absence of a tournament, it tries to do that as well. By not taking Louisville (or Rutgers), it would be actively not doing that.

13
by Russell Levine :: Mon, 11/06/2006 - 11:01pm

Re: 3

Even if Oklahoma deserved to beat Oregon, they would have done so by a couple points in a game Oregon went up and down the field on them. I don't think it's a joke to have Oregon ranked one spot ahead.

You might be right about Wake, but they are coming off their most impressive win of the season and Oklahoma didn't exactly wow me in a one-point win against a Texas A&M team that I frankly don't think is very good.

14
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 11/06/2006 - 11:28pm

DVOA for NCAA would be pretty sweet. Could FO swing that if they became a pay site?

15
by Dennis (not verified) :: Mon, 11/06/2006 - 11:52pm

An OSU-Michigan rematch for the NC would torpedo the biggest argument people make against having a playoff system:

"The great thing about college football is every game counts."

If Michigan and OSU have a rematch, that would mean the first game didn't count.

16
by Chris Heinonen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 12:01am

#5: If you go back into the archives 2-3 weeks you'll find a much longer discussion of the clock using the Miami-FSU and ND-UCLA games as the prime examples. The main result was that, last year, before the new rules kicked in, most coaches would run, run, run on 3 straight downs and force the other team to use all their timeouts. Maybe you'll get a first down running, but you won't do something stupid like let the team use the middle of the field on their resulting drive when they get it back. It doesn't make sense to assume coaches will change what they've been doing for decades, but they should be smart enough to learn how to call a timeout and save time. Another good example is the USC-ASU game, where ASU punted and never got it back.

17
by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 1:08am

Just for kicks:

1. Ohio State
2. Michigan
3. Texas
4. Louisville
5. Southern Cal
6. Arkansas
7. Auburn
8. Florida
9. Notre Dame
10. LSU
11. West Virginia
12. Tennessee
13. Cal
14. Rutgers
15. Wisconsin
16. Wake Forest
17. Oregon
18. Oklahoma
19. Boise State
20. Virginia Tech
21. Nebraska
22. Georgia Tech
23. Texas A & M
24. Maryland
25. Boston College

I mentioned this last week, but if Florida, Arkansas, or Auburn win the SEC championship at 12 - 1, I'd rank them ahead of an undefeated Louisville team, as I'd feel they accomplished more with one loss than UL did with none.

Also, if Texas wins out and the SEC champ goes 11 - 2, I could see the standings looking like:

1. Ohio State
2. Texas
3. Michigan
4. Louisville

But I'd still want to have #1 OSU v #4 Louisville for the national title. Please, please, please, no rematches. In that scenario both Texas and Michigan already had their shot at OSU. It would be UL's turn.

18
by CaoZhi (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 4:28am

I don't think it's quite accurate to call this the biggest game in Rutgers' history. It's hard to eclipse the importance of, y'know, the first one.

19
by Rick (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 8:35am

Pedantic point: the Rutgers-Louisville game won't be "the biggest game in Rutgers history". That honor still belongs to Rutgers-Princeton, 1869. (And that will likely be the case for quite some time.)

20
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 10:17am

2: Musberger also has the annoying habit of referring to QBs by their first name only. That grates on my nerves.

I would kind of like to see Wake and Rutgers in BCS games, if only to show what a sham the BCS is. I've always hated the BCS and would gladly pull a Tyler Brayton on the person who came up with it.

21
by J.D. (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 11:41am

#12: It would be ideal if voters actually thought about their votes, but since that probably will never happen, I think the easiest solution would be to regulate the polls used for BCS calculation. The BCS should set a rule that no polls used in the calculation may come out with rankings before, say, mid-October. That would eliminate the preseason skew and hopefully lead to more accurate rankings.

Sure, many BCS voters would simply copy one of the non-BCS polls with slight variations, but I think it would dampen the preseason effect.

22
by jimmo (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 1:07pm

re:Adam#6, the quicker game isn't meant for the stadium crowd, its meant for the TV viewer, and college football is definitely in need of shorter games.

I can't say the new clock rules are the answer, but the effort is admirable.
3-1/2 to 4 hour games are ridiculous to watch (again, on TV. Point taken about a longer game maybe being better in person.).

23
by Dennis (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 2:00pm

ITA about the need for shortening the games, and for the fans in the stadium as well, not just the TV viewers. Since cutting down on commercial breaks will never happen, the logical thing is to do similar to the NFL: only stop the clock on first downs and out of bounds plays in the last 5 minutes of the half. And got to a 40 second play clock that starts as soon as the previous play ends, so it's consistent.

24
by MRH (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 2:06pm

The clock running on change of possesion has to be the stupidest rule in history. If they wanted to shorten the games, how about not stopping the clock after first downs? I know that changes the character of the games, but no more than the other change, and it would be consistent with the pro rule.

I'm sure few people watched it, but the Army 1st half performance against Air Force was the most atrocious display of football I've ever seen (and I've followed Army football for 30 years, so I've seen some bad football). West Point spent a lot of money to hire Bobby Ross and right now it looks about as well-spent as Iraq reconstruction money.

25
by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 6:20pm

#24: You must've missed the article where the discussion revolved around whether the stupid new clock manuevers were made simply to be different from the NFL rules.

26
by Erasmus (not verified) :: Tue, 11/07/2006 - 8:40pm

#20....wouldn't Wake and Rutgers have been in the same bowl games if they won their league even in non-BCS years. They try to keep the big four bowl games with their history-SEC in Sugar, PAC-10 and Big Ten in Rose.

If Wake wins the ACC they are in the Sugar.

27
by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 12:17am

I would kind of like to see Wake and Rutgers in BCS games, if only to show what a sham the BCS is.

A sham as opposed to what- a playoff? Don't you think the ACC and Big East champs would play in one?

A sham as opposed to the old bowl system, when in 1991 #1 Miami played #11 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl?

I’ve always hated the BCS and would gladly pull a Tyler Brayton on the person who came up with it.

Again, hated it as opposed to what?

28
by Pete (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 10:05am

As a Florida fan I can honestly say that Florida does not deserve to play for the national championship. They have too many missing parts.
They are the most penalized team in the country (usually an indication of coaching weakness, but Florida is consistent in this regardless of coaching). Florida corners are weak in coverage: they give 5-10 yard "prevent" buffer to at least 1-2 receivers on every play, which guarantees 5-8 yard gain on every play that they want. Eventually, the CB go for the interception which leaves the pump-fake as a great choice. Chris Leak is a solid QB for the first 10-30 minutes of the game, but as soon as he feels pressure or takes a bit hit his accuracy deteriorates. Florida becomes far too predictable and conservative in the second half. They have yet to score a single point in the 4th quarter since September! Basically, every single game has been close, which suggests to me that the Coach and/or Team lacks the killer instinct to put an opposing team away.

I would love to see a Tournament so we could see how Florida matches up against Louisville or West Virginia or Rutgers or Boise State. Is the SEC really that strong or is this just a perception?

Actually, I wish the BCS did not demand that margin of victory be ignored. Take a look at the Sagarin predictor rating. Of course, if you have those taken into effect then the wins might be a little more lobsided, but when did Football need to be politically correct? Margin of victory (non-linear with decreasing returns) can be an indicator of how strong a team might be.

29
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 11/08/2006 - 1:14pm

Margin of victory (non-linear with decreasing returns) can be an indicator of how strong a team might be.

As has been noted previously, look closer at the Sagarin predictor ratings. Look in previous years at conferences like the SEC and the PAC10, and note how huge the differences are between the Elo ratings and the Predictor ratings.

Margin of victory isn't a good indicator for unbalanced teams (of which there tend to be a lot in the SEC and PAC10) since you don't get a good distribution of scores (i.e. you get lots of low-scoring games, or lots of high-scoring games). For those, you need a two-dimensional game output function - see Massey's ratings (www.masseyratings.com). Of course, once you start getting more complicated, you have to start asking "well, what teams am I biasing myself against this time?" and it soon becomes obvious that using only win/loss is really the only way to go.

College football statistical rankings websites are way, way too pretentious. Very few of them ever comment on their own shortcomings, which is a real detriment. It leads people to think that they're infallible.