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29 Oct 2007

Confessions of a Football Junkie: Midterm Exams

by Russell Levine

This was finally the week to learn something relevant about the handful of surprising teams currently occupying the rare air atop the Bowl Championship Series standings, as each one faced its most significant test of the season.

With the results now in, it can be said that all passed with flying colors. Well, perhaps Boston College scraped by on the curve in its miraculous, 14-10 win at Virginia Tech Thursday night, but chances are the voters were captivated enough by quarterback Matt Ryan's Heisman-worthy finish to forget that he and the Eagles looked awful for the game's first 56 minutes.

Boston College solidified its hold on the critical second spot in the BCS standings out yesterday, widening its edge on idle LSU. At the top of the list, Ohio State remains No. 1 with a resume that is significantly improved after the Buckeyes carved up Penn State in a 37-17 rout of the Nittany Lions.

Ohio State is no stranger to the top of the polls, having gone wire-to-wire at No. 1 last year before getting trounced by Florida in the national-title game. But this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Ohio State offense. Instead, quarterback Todd Boeckman is starting to look like a more-than-adequate replacement for Heisman-winner Troy Smith. He leads a balanced Ohio State attack that has won its five conference games by an average score of 38-11 and didn't punt once against Penn State's top-ten defense. It now looks as if the traditional season-ending game against Michigan will decide the Big Ten championship and determine whether the Buckeyes play for the national championship for the third time in six seasons.

The other BCS interlopers, undefeated Arizona State and Kansas, also solidified their standing. The No. 4 Sun Devils in particular were a mystery due to their back-loaded schedule. They started 7-0 without playing a ranked opponent, but close the year with games against Cal, Oregon, UCLA, USC, and Arizona. When the Sun Devils quickly fell behind Cal Saturday night, it looked as though the skepticism about their lofty ranking might have been justified. Yet they rallied for a 31-20 win to set up a game with enormous implications next week at Oregon.

The Ducks, second behind LSU among the once-beaten teams in the BCS (and No. 5 overall), made a statement of their own Saturday, producing a workmanlike win over USC.

Eighth-ranked Kansas has more work to do before it can begin thinking about national championships, but it's doubtful the Jayhawks and their supporters are complaining after getting to 8-0 for the first time in 98 years. Mark Mangino's defense completely shut down Texas A&M, but Kansas still faces Nebraska, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State before a regular-season ending battle against Missouri that could decide the Big 12 North title. It certainly hasn't hurt that Oklahoma and Texas aren't on the schedule this year, but Kansas could well face the Sooners in the league championship game with a BCS bid on the line.

One conference that has to be suddenly worried about its BCS standing is the SEC. The conference that has been perceived to be the nation's best for much of the last decade has no undefeated teams and is down to just one with a single loss: LSU. The Tigers' toughest remaining test is this week at Alabama; a loss to former coach Nick Saban and the Tide will eliminate the SEC from the national-title picture.

The problem is the conference's East Division, where the teams have been beating each other up all season. SEC defenders typically point to this as evidence of the conference's overall strength and depth, but that is a more difficult argument to make this season when non-conference results are taken into effect.

Consider that Tennessee, which currently controls its own destiny to win the East, has lost three games by a combined 84 points. One of those blowout losses came at Cal, which has now lost three straight games to fall completely out of the rankings. Florida lost at home to Auburn, which lost at home to South Florida, which has lost two straight in the Big East to Rutgers and Connecticut. LSU's lone loss came to Kentucky, which was just beaten badly at home by a Mississippi State team that was routed last week by West Virginia of the Big East.

The SEC has the best overall out-of-conference record at 30-5, but when the results are narrowed to only games against other BCS conferences, the picture is far different. In those contests, SEC teams are 5-5. By comparison, the Pac-10 is 5-3 -- best among the six leagues with automatic BCS bids. The lowly Big Ten, suffering through a down year overall, is the only other conference with a winning record against the other BCS leagues (5-4).

Should LSU edge Oregon for a berth in the national-title game -- despite mounting evidence that the Pac-10 is at least the equal of the SEC -- a lack of exposure could be to blame. While other conferences' biggest games are on ABC, ESPN, and CBS each week, Pac-10 games that don't make ABC are relegated to Fox Sports Net. While nearly every cable household in America has access to FSN, it's not the first place channel-surfers look to find a college football game. Saturday's two biggest Pac-10 games, USC at Oregon and Cal at Arizona State, aired on MSG and FSNY, respectively, in the nation's largest media market. At the same time, Florida-Georgia was on CBS, South Carolina-Tennessee was on ESPN, and ABC had Ohio State-Penn State.

With a human element -- in the form of the polls that make up two-thirds of the BCS formula -- playing a huge role, the SEC's reputation and national exposure could keep Oregon on the outside looking in.

John L. Smith Trophy

A few curious calls stood out for me during this weekend's action. First, on Thursday night, Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer elected to go into the prevent defense despite having completely shut down Boston College for up to that point. The result was two touchdown drives and BC win.

Saturday, both Pete Carroll and Urban Meyer chose to get cute on critical fourth-down calls. First, USC. The Trojans recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff, but three plays left them facing fourth-and-1 at the Oregon 12. Carroll probably should have kicked the field goal, but opted to be aggressive. Yet the play call was a strange one. With an empty backfield, he had quarterback Mark Sanchez hand off to the motion man, running back Joe McKnight. The play fooled nobody and McKnight was easily stopped, giving the Ducks and their crowd a huge lift.

Florida also faced a critical fourth-down call in its loss to Georgia. Trailing 28-24 early in the fourth quarter, the Gators had a fourth-and-2 at the Georgia 25. From the shotgun, quarterback Tim Tebow gave the ball the receiver Andre Caldwell on an end-around. It looked as if Caldwell intended to hand the ball off for a true reverse, but there was too much penetration by Georgia and Caldwell was tackled for a loss of three. On Florida's final possession, Meyer was late getting a play call in, and Tebow rushed a snap, resulting in a fumble and a direct hit on his injured right shoulder -- which Meyer had designed an entire game plan to protect.

Meyer is a great coach. His results speak to that. But there are times when he gets too cute, as if he has to prove his brilliance by going against common football strategy. Sometimes on fourth-and-short, the best play call is to just run it up the gut.

Another candidate for the award is Tennessee's Phil Fulmer, who wasted a precious timeout attempting to "ice" South Carolina kicker Ryan Succop before he attempted a go-ahead, 49-yard field goal with 1:30 remaining. That the Vols managed to come back to tie the game in regulation despite wasting their second timeout does not excuse Fulmer from this blatant error.

Still, Carroll, Meyer, and Fulmer are all safe this week. The JLS Trophy goes instead to Georgia coach Mark Richt. Yes, Richt had his team ready to play and it earned one of the biggest wins of his Georgia career against Florida.

Yet I was appalled by Richt's order to his team to take a celebration penalty after its first touchdown. When Georgia scored, the entire team rushed onto the field, resulting in a double-personal foul call and a kickoff from the 8-yard line. The move set the tone for a chippy game in which nine personal fouls were called.

Georgia's action -- sending the entire team on the field after a touchdown to celebrate amid the Florida defenders -- could easily have sparked a brawl far worse than last year's Miami-Florida International fiasco. The Florida players actually deserve credit avoiding such a scenario.

It saddens me that there hasn't been more outrage over this. Instead, Richt was receiving accolades from the CBS announcers and ESPN analysts for the move. This is the same coach that was lauded two weeks ago for angrily shoving his players away from celebrating on the Vanderbilt logo after a close road win.

I'm sorry, but I don't care how "fired up" he got his team by ordering the mass taunting. I don't care that it set the tone for a big win. It was a disgusting, classless, bush-league move that could easily have left the entire sport with a huge black eye. There has been talk of fines, but the SEC should go further, and suspend Richt for Georgia's next game. There is absolutely no place for that on a football field and it's only through luck that we haven't spent the past three days talking about one of the ugliest brawls in memory.

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, and I may adjust may rankings based on your suggestions.

Rank Team Delta
1 Ohio State --
2 Oregon --
3 LSU --
4 Oklahoma --
5 West Virginia 1
6 Arizona State 4
7 Boston College 2
8 Kansas 6
9 Missouri 6
10 Georgia 7
11 Virginia Tech --
12 Southern Cal 3
13 Michigan 3
14 Wake Forest 6
15 Alabama 6
16 Clemson 10
17 Wisconsin 9
18 Florida 10
19 Connecticut 7
20 South Florida 13
21 Tennessee 5
22 Texas 1
23 Hawaii 1
24 Auburn 2
25 South Carolina 13

Dropped Out: Kentucky (No. 13), UCLA (No. 18), California (No. 19), Rutgers (No. 22), Virginia (No. 25).

Rankings that may require further explanation: I feel pretty good about the top nine places; after that it's pretty much guess work. USC is probably a little high, but given the plethora of decent two- and three-loss teams, I didn't feel that hammering the Trojans for a loss at my No. 2 team was justified.

Arizona State moves way up after beating a real opponent and in somewhat impressive fashion. Kansas's move is a combination of a decent road win and attrition in middle of the poll. Boston College slips two because they looked awful for 56 minutes and won with a major assist from luck and a prevent defense. Remember, save your "how can you drop two spots after a win" arguments for the AP. The BlogPoll was created to counter the practice of anchoring teams. All BC's ranking means is I have more evidence this week and I'm admitting I was wrong last week.

Michigan's position is in recognition of a seven-game winning streak, and does not mean that I've blotted the first two weeks from Memory. They still have road games against Michigan State and Wisconsin, as well as Ohio State at home, to prove me right or wrong.

All year, I've felt the SEC was the best conference, albeit by a narrow margin. No longer. The Pac-10 is the best overall league. Those who would accuse me of poll bias against the SEC, however, please take a look and tell me how many three-loss teams are in my top-25.

Got a gripe? Post it in the comments, please.

Games I watched at least part of: Boston College-Virginia Tech, West Virginia-Rutgers, Mississippi State-Kentucky, USC-Oregon, Nebraska-Texas, Minnesota-Michigan, Florida-Georgia, South Florida-Connecticut, Kansas-Texas A&M, South Carolina-Tennessee, Ohio State-Penn State, Cal-Arizona State. (I have a dual-tuner DVR and a second screen in my living room and it rained all day in the Northeast).

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

Posted by: Russell Levine on 29 Oct 2007

60 comments, Last at 31 Oct 2007, 4:15pm by Pete

Comments

1
by Fourth (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 6:22pm

Thank you for pointing out what a sorry excuse for a human being Richt was in nearly starting the brawl of the century. I was at the game, and in complete shock at the whole thing. I too remembered Miami - FIU and was so thankful it didn't become that or worse. If Richt isn't punished severely, it will get out of hand next year. Think any of the Florida players will forget that happened?

Excuse me, I now have to return to my football coma. Grats to the Georgia fans, and thank your coach for being a bigger jackass than Fulmer, Saban, and Bowden rolled into one.

2
by Nick-O (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 6:25pm

I don't think it is fair to say that Richt "ordered a mass taunting" in the Florida-Georgia game. Ordered a mass celebration, maybe, but it seemed clear to me that it wasn't intended to taunt the Gators. It was probably still dumb to give up penalty yards, but taunting it was not.

3
by Fourth (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 6:29pm

Oh really? The whole team running out on to the field and celebrating in the middle of the defense isn't taunting? How bout the guy who ran off the bench to dance right in front of the Florida players? If you're trolling, you win. If you're serious, you're delusional.

4
by Nick-O (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 6:35pm

a)It wasn't in the middle of the Gator defense,
b)I agree that the one player was taunting, and he drew a separate penalty for it. However, I don't think you can attribute that to Richt. It seemed pretty clear that he told them to go out and celebrate, not to go out and taunt the Gators.

This is not comparable to the stomping on the logo stuff that has lead to fights in the past.

5
by Fourth (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 6:38pm

Also Russ, dead on about Meyer not getting the play in on time. It's been haunting us since he's been here, and it's frustrating because it should be so simple (and he's such a great coach in almost every other aspect). Last year I just chalked it up to the frequent QB switching, but this year it's become a problem again.

I also agree the 4th and 2 was a little too cute, but that was some insane penetration by the Georgia line on that one. The starting RB (Moore) can't hold on to the football as he proved yet again on the opening series of the game (I don't think he got another carry after that), and Tebow as we know had the hurt shoulder...so I think the traditional options were pretty limited. Still, the option or a counter with Harvin or even a quick pass might have been better calls. Or he could have put Newton in to run the QB draw instead, hah.

6
by young curmudgeon (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 6:40pm

the number 13 team in your rankings lost to a team that has lost to Wofford and Georgia Southern, and that is currently the third place team in the Southern Conference. College football is weird this season.

7
by Fourth (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 6:44pm

(Edited to remove overly long link. Click name to see video.)

People, if you haven't seen it, decide for yourself. Arguing this, to me, is literally like hearing 2+2=5. What do you even say to that? So I'll let the video speak and if you don't think it's a "mass taunting," then whatever. Agree to disagree.

8
by Vincent Verhei :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 6:44pm

"Should LSU edge Oregon for a berth in the national-title game — despite mounting evidence that the Pac-10 is at least the equal of the SEC — a lack of exposure could be to blame."

This is where the dreaded "East Coast bias" was originally born: Pac-10 football fans believing their teams were getting shafted by the polls because East Coast voters and coaches didn't see them.

Of course, East Coast voters DIDN'T see them, but now I realize this is the Pac-10's fault. Their TV contract is horrible, yet them seem to be in no hurry to do anything about it.

9
by Richard (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 6:46pm

I compared your rankings to mine and we agree on #1 & #25. I disagree with the exclusion of Kansas State, Cincinnati, Arkansas, California, Oklahoma State, UCLA and Oregon State. I disagree with the inclusion of Michigan, Wake Forest, Alabama, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Texas and Hawaii. I also think you've rather underrated Auburn and South Florida. Still, an entertaining read, though.

10
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 6:51pm

I think he wanted them to celebrate, but did not realize the whole team was going out there as well. and hey if it started a brawl that hurts Florida's already porous defense anyway.. Eh I did not think it was that big of a deal, but I could care less about football teams being nice to each other.

that being said: I know the SEC has some confuzzling losses, but sometimes its how you finish then how you start. Cal has 3 straight losses, but their starting QB has been hurt/reverted to old habits. Cox has gotten rid of whatever Turnover monster was in his body and I think Auburn would win in a rematch. Tennessee might still lose to Cal right now, but again Cal at the beginning of the season is not Cal now.

Oh and SEC BCS teams they have faced so far: Florida State, Cal, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, USF, Missouri, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Kansas State, North Carolina.
With Clemson, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, and Florida state still on the schedule.

Big Ten BCS teams: Washington, Iowa State, Syracuse (Iowa version),Syracuse (Illinois version) Washington State, Oregon, Missouri, Pittsburgh, Duke and they are 4-0 against Notre Dame.
I am not sure of any non-conference games off the top of my head.

Pac-10: Michigan, Ohio state, Tennessee, Nebraska, Syracuse, Colorado, Cincy, and Wisconsin.
Again don't know of any other non-conference games not on the slate.

No offense, but the SEC's slate was much harder then the Big Ten's, the Pac-10's schedule shows that they are as good as advertised perhaps I guess.

But then you take the non-BCS losses-none to Appalachian State, TCU, BYU, Utah, Notre Dame, Florida Atlantic, Bowling Green, and North Dakota State.

11
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 7:09pm

#9

I am not sure how Oklahoma "loss to Troy" State, UCLA (loss to Utah, Notre Dame, and Washington State) should be included or even Arkansas (have they beat a team with a winning record yet this season?).

12
by Jason (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 7:21pm

Anyone have a video of Georgia celebrating in the end zone? I have tried looking but been unabl to find it

13
by PHn (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 7:22pm

The Pac-10 road from here on is murky.

This Saturday's Oregon-Arizona State game has obvious importance, but little is clear after that:

* They both still have to play UCLA, which one SDA poster accurately described as "bipolar." If either team meets up with the manic Bruins (the ones who hung 40 on a solid Oregon State defense and another 30 on Cal) as opposed to the depressive Bruins (who scored a combined 12 points against Utah and Notre Dame), things could get interesting.

* Oregon still has to play Oregon State, which has been nearly as inconsistent as UCLA. (The Ducks have to get the nod in the Civil War game, however, since it's in Eugene and the home team has won in each of the last 10 or 11 years.)

* AZ State must still play USC.

There might be an undefeated Pac-10 team at the end of the season. There could just as easily be a pack of 1- or even 2-loss teams.

What a wild season.

14
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 7:23pm

Click on the 7th post name.

15
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 7:29pm

Re #6
The #16, 17, 19, and 21st ranked teams in Russell's current poll were all unranked last week. And I'm not sure any of those rankings are totally wrong.

The quibble I have is with where UConn and South Florida are. USF has two pretty good wins in West Virginia and at Auburn-I think these are both clearly better than any of USC's wins, and neither Rutgers nor UConn is nearly as bad a loss as Stanford at home. While Oregon is a legit loss and USC's defense held up better than I expected, I think they should be behind USF. UConn is another puzzle, but their loss to Virginia was a close one, on the road, and they did just beat USF, so I think your spotting of them 1 slot ahead of USC is justified.

16
by bradluen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 7:40pm

Crazy talk time: Tennessee should be around the middle of the top 25, and should be favored to win the SEC East. Sure, they're only 5-3, but that's against a schedule that's, in my opinion, even more brutal than Florida's or Auburn's.

Their losses are all on the road: Cal, Florida, Alabama - nothing that a team outside the top 5 should be ashamed of (remember, Cal was good two months ago) even if the games weren't close. They beat Miss St, showing that they can pull off a good road win; this goes along with home wins over Georgia and South Carolina. If all this means I have to put five SEC teams in the top 15, so be it.

With the tiebreaker over Georgia, the Vols are three games away from a certain division title: Arkansas, Vandy, at Kentucky. Since the pass defense has been the issue, Kentucky is problematic. But even a 1/3 chance of winning the East is better than I'd give anyone else.

17
by Sam (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 7:51pm

Disclaimer: I'm a Florida fan.

I'm also a basketball official for middle school, jv, and high school basketball.

If I ever had reason to believe a coach was encouraging his team to break rules regarding unsportsmanlike conduct, I'd toss the coach from the game. The officials didn't toss Richt, but the SEC ought to levy a hefty fine on UGA and Richt. Possibly suspend him. If Richt can't get his players fired up without committing fouls, then he's not a good coach.

18
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 7:54pm

1. Ohio State
2. Boston College
3. Arizona State
4. LSU
5. Oregon
6. Oklahoma
7. West Virginia
8. Kansas
9. Missouri
10. Michigan
11. Virginia Tech
12. Southern Cal
13. Georgia
14. Texas
15. UConn
16. South Florida
17. Auburn
18. Penn State
19. Florida
20. Wake Forest
21. Purdue
22. Clemson
23. Wisconsin
24. Florida State
25. Alabama

- IF IF IF Arizona State can beat Oregon next week they will likely jump to #1.
- Okay, Cal beats Oregon, ASU beats Cal, ASU is undefeated…how is Oregon ranked ahead of Cal?
- UConn has to be ranked ahead of USF.
- There’s a huge gap between the Top 9 and everyone else.
- It’s becoming more and more likely that the winner of Hawaii vs Boise State may be for a spot in the BCS. It’ll likely be in the Sugar Bowl, but there’s talk that the Rose Bowl may be interested in Boise State.
- National Title prediction: LSU vs West Virginia.
- The ASU v Cal game was cut out at Midnight so we could see three guys sitting around TALKING ABOUT the Red Sox. If you love college football, New England is not the place to be.

19
by Duck in MA (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 7:58pm

I was really impressed with Oregon this weekend. Other than a brainfart that lasted about 4 minutes of game clock in the fourth quarter (2 three-and-outs at midfield, followed by giving up an 85 yard drive in less than a minute), they played very well. I suppose resting on a 2-TD lead in the fourth quarter at home isn't so surprising, but as a team you should want to slay the beast that USC has been these last few years in the Pac-10. I was actually very surprised to see in the game stats that USC had out gained the Ducks. As people keep pointing out, watching the game, there was little doubt that the Ducks were going to win it. Dixon was in control, the D played well, and Stewart broke off enough good runs to keep it all going. Really, the first half should have been much worse, given the terrible special teams play (2 fumbles, and 3 of 4 drives starting inside the 20, the other started at the 27). Change that to something close to average and the way they were moving the ball in the first half... Anyway, this weekend is set up to be a great game. Go Ducks!

20
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 8:01pm

The worst part is, now that the media has endorsed random mass endzone celebrations, we'll have to endure the nauseating spectacle of other teams copying it.

But at least some people here actually see it for what it is. This is the first place I've found on the net where that's been the case. That top me is scarier than any Halloween-themed slasher flick.

21
by mrparker (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 8:01pm

I didnt think it was that bad.(the celebration).

I thought it was a good way for Richt to show his players that he was over their celebrating on the V.

He got a ridiculous penalty for it and a much needed victory.

Im with the guy who said opposing players shouldn't be nice to each other.

If they aren't fighting then let em have fun. The got their penalty and moved on.

22
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 8:03pm

The worst part is, now that the media has endorsed random mass end zone taunting, we'll have to endure the nauseating spectacle of other teams copying it.

But at least some people here actually see it for what it is. This is the first place I've found on the net where that's been the case. That to me is scarier than any Halloween-themed slasher flick.

23
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 8:05pm

The worst part is, now that the media has endorsed random mass end zone celebrations, we'll have to endure the nauseating spectacle of other teams copying it.

But at least some people here actually see it for what it is. This is the first place I've found on the net where that's been the case. That to me is scarier than any Halloween-themed slasher flick.

24
by Duck in MA (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 8:07pm

Re: 18
I think you mean how is Oregon ranked ahead of ASU. Cal has now suffered 3 straight losses, and has deservedly plummeted in the rankings. Too bad, they were looking pretty hot to begin the season. The answer to the question (which I have now rephrased to suit my own needs) is really that people are expecting Oregon to beat ASU this weekend. This goes to the debate as to whether the polls are telling us about the past play of the team, or predicting the future play of the teams. I think most people feel that if ASU beats Oregon this weekend, not only will they jump the Ducks (obviously!), I think they should jump into the top-2. Of course, I feel that looking at the body of evidence, the Ducks are pretty deserving of their ranking, but that ASU should be up there with tOSU and BC in the top 3. If BC is really the #2, how can ASU be #6? But hey, in 5 days and some change, we'll know the answer.

25
by Kal (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 8:07pm

- Okay, Cal beats Oregon, ASU beats Cal, ASU is undefeated…how is Oregon ranked ahead of Cal?

A couple reasons:
1. Cal's QB issues happened after they played Oregon. The Cal that beat Oregon (barely) is not the same team that's playing now.
2. For that reason, ASU beating Cal is not as impressive as Oregon beating Michigan and USC. ASU's best win is against a Cal team without a healthy QB, and it took an impressive comeback to do it. One could vaguely argue the same thing about Oregon vs. USC, I suppose.
3. Bias. ASU still hasn't hit the radar at all. No one knows how good they are. Beating Michigan and USC in a season though? That sounds good, even if Michigan isn't that great this year and USC was down.

Mostly, I think that it's just if you've seen the Oregon scores and games vs. seeing the ASU games. Oregon impresses the hell out of me this year. ASU does not.

26
by Kal (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 8:10pm

was really impressed with Oregon this weekend. Other than a brainfart that lasted about 4 minutes of game clock in the fourth quarter (2 three-and-outs at midfield, followed by giving up an 85 yard drive in less than a minute), they played very well.

Yeah, that pissed me off too. I kept saying "Don't play conservative! Don't make mistakes, but don't do simple runs! Get a couple first downs!" but it seemed like they were okay with their defense. In this case, it was good reason.

Though there was no reason at all why they should have snapped it with the clock running and 15 seconds left on the playclock. They did this twice...it was dumb, dumb, dumb.

27
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 8:26pm

23- I think it's better to look at results, scores, schedules- the objective stuff- than the subjective "watching the game".

22- Yeah, I butchered my sentence :)

I still don't think Oregon ranked ahead of ASU makes sense, especially when it's a one loss team vs an undefeated team. But you hit the nail on the head- the controversy will be settled in five days.

28
by Kal (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 8:38pm

23- I think it’s better to look at results, scores, schedules- the objective stuff- than the subjective “watching the game�.

Okay, let's go through it. Oregon lost on a last-second fumble through the opponent's endzone. It's still a loss. The team it lost to is 5-3. Those three losses have all come after Cal's QB was injured. In that, it could be considered an 'impressive' loss. Oregon has impressive wins out of conference and impressive wins in-conference. The closest game they've had in-conference that wasn't to a ranked team (USC or Cal) was by 21 points. The Ducks have absolutely destroyed all bad teams that they've played and done well against every good team they've played.

ASU is close to this, except they've played close to WSU and OSU. They also haven't played anyone big out of conference; their best win was against Colorado, who was respectable but hardly a big name. FEI ranks them a full .05 below Oregon (at .23 vs .18). The Ducks are ranked above ASU by the pure points Sagarin rank as well.

Objectively, we know that the Ducks are good. We still don't know how good ASU is, and ratings objectively agree there too. Yes, ASU beat Cal, who beat Oregon, but that loss was a month ago. The teams are different, and I do think that Oregon would beat ASU on a neutral field more often than not.

Fortunately for me, the Ducks aren't going to be playing them on a neutral field, so it'll hopefully be a less close game. Go Ducks!

29
by oljb (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 8:44pm

Need to vent about polls...

For the third time this year, West Virginia has fallen in the AP and Coaches rankings after beating an opponent by 25 or more points. Most recently, it was after beating, by a score of 31-3, the team that beat the #2 team in the country last week. I have nothing against ASU's achievements... but why can't they come at the expense of Oklahoma for once?

At least WVU's strength of schedule is getting backloaded into UConn, of all unexpected places. A schedule that looked like it was going to peter out at the end of the year should actually have some drama going into late November.

30
by Will (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 9:11pm

Anyone else find it odd that Ohio State's lowest scoring game of the year was at home against Akron? Crazy season for sure.

31
by hooper (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 9:35pm

Re: Tennessee's chances in the East

While UT is obviously enjoying their chance at the driver's seat, I'm very dubious about their shot. It seems in particular that the defense has a lot of problems in the second half of games, and I wish the FEI could show that kind of data (though I appreciate FEI either way..). I really think UT needs to find a way to completely hog the clock, particularly in the second half, in order to win against Arkansas or Kentucky (or even Vandy).

Also, trying to use the beathpaths (i.e. comparing wins/losses directly rather than the play during the wins and losses) as guidance for teams is a sketchy proposition when so many teams have changed character during the course of the season. When Cal beat UT, Cal was playing tremendous football. While they'd probably still beat UT the way UT is playing, they've clearly lost some of their edge. The same thing entirely applies to Florida and UT - UT would still probably lose, but Florida is not as dominant now as then. During the SoCal-Nebraska game, the USC O-line was creating running lanes big enough to drive the Rose Bowl parade through. Now, their offense seems to have lost its luster. With the dynamic nature of teams, I would recommend some skepticism with using the early games as evidence of a team's (or conference's) current strength. I certainly recommend using the early games as part of their ranking, but not their current strength.

I hope that made sense.

32
by Yinka Double Dare (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 10:12pm

29: To be fair, USC did that to Nebraska, the same Nebraska that just allowed a single man to run for over 200 yards on them Saturday. In one quarter.

Teams definitely look different now than early in the year. I don't know whether Ron English remembered how to coach, the players remembered how to play, or what, but Michigan's defense went from being utterly putrid to somewhat respectable -- the defense that played App St and Oregon would have been shredded by Illinois and probably even Minnesota.

Then guys stunt themselves out of a run up the middle and I remember there's still some of the crap there. They'd still lose to Oregon, but it'd be a lot closer than it was a couple months ago.

33
by kibbles (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 11:03pm

I have heard in the past that there's a rule on the books that gives the refs leeway to invent a penalty if they feel an action is worthy of more than what is outlined in the guidelines. Obviously it's meant as an absolute last-resort, huge deal sort of thing, and I'm not sure if they have it in college or only in the pros, but I think Mark Richt's move would have been the perfect time to pull it out. It's one thing when a team or player violates a rule, but when that violation is actually PREMEDITATED, and even more, MANDATED BY THE COACHES, then the penalty should be incredibly severe, in my mind. If a player chop blocks, that's bad. If a coach tells a player to dive at defensinve lineman's knees and attempt to end his career, that's so much worse.

34
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 11:14pm

I can't remember where I read it, but at the time someone suggested calling a penalty on each individual player, enough to make the extra point and kickoff both come from Georgia's one. I think that would've been appropriate.

35
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 11:20pm

It did nothing...I guess it ruined the "integrity" of watching amateur athletes play a game or something. I laughed my butt off when I saw it, it was so crazy. If I was Florida I would be more embarrassed by the fact that Georgia just lined up and drove the ball down their throats.

36
by navin (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 11:35pm

FYI

CONFERENCE CENTRAL MEAN SIMPLE AVERAGE TEAMS

1 SOUTHEASTERN (A) = 80.77 80.40 ( 1) 12
2 BIG 12 (A) = 78.25 77.60 ( 5) 12
3 BIG EAST (A) = 78.23 77.64 ( 4) 8
4 ATLANTIC COAST (A) = 77.83 77.65 ( 3) 12
5 PAC-10 (A) = 77.68 78.05 ( 2) 10
6 BIG TEN (A) = 74.66 74.81 ( 6) 11

37
by navin (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 11:36pm

Those are the latest Sagarin ratings by conference. The SEC has a significant edge on every other conference. The difference between 1 and 2 is greater than the difference between 2 and 5.

38
by navin (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 11:42pm

Here are the conference ratings from last year just for comparison.

CONFERENCE CENTRAL MEAN SIMPLE AVERAGE TEAMS

1 SOUTHEASTERN (A) = 81.60 81.23 ( 1) 12
2 BIG EAST (A) = 79.57 79.90 ( 2) 8
3 PAC-10 (A) = 78.78 79.15 ( 3) 10
4 ATLANTIC COAST (A) = 75.49 73.79 ( 6) 12
5 BIG TEN (A) = 74.89 75.62 ( 4) 11
6 BIG 12 (A) = 74.34 74.01 ( 5) 12

39
by GatorGriff (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 11:43pm

Russ -- Would love to read one column this season where you don't bash the SEC. I know you aren't a fan of the overhyping by the national media, and for the most part, I can't blame you, but one column...I'll patiently wait...

40
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 12:16am

37- Russ doesn't bash the SEC.

41
by navin (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 12:36am

I don't know, his use of the transitive property was really blatant in the first half. You could do the same thing for Oregon. They lost to Cal, who lost to UCLA, who lost to Notre Dame...

"Consider that Tennessee, which currently controls its own destiny to win the East, has lost three games by a combined 84 points. One of those blowout losses came at Cal, which has now lost three straight games to fall completely out of the rankings. Florida lost at home to Auburn, which lost at home to South Florida, which has lost two straight in the Big East to Rutgers and Connecticut. LSU’s lone loss came to Kentucky, which was just beaten badly at home by a Mississippi State team that was routed last week by West Virginia of the Big East."

42
by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 1:08am

I don’t know, his use of the transitive property was really blatant in the first half. You could do the same thing for Oregon. They lost to Cal, who lost to UCLA, who lost to Notre Dame…

But Arizona State hasn't lost to anyone.

I agree that in five days there will be a clear answer to the Ducks vs Devils debate. But right now, ASU should be the higher ranked team.

43
by beargoggles (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 2:01am

Re: Pac-10

As a Cal fan, despite the results, I think Oregon is definitely better than ASU. ASU basically won by attrition, and by all of Cal's October flaws coming to a head in one half of football. The starting QB had no business playing the end of the game. The best you can say is that ASU's defense was pretty solid and their effort/intensity was superb. Playmakers, or lack thereof, will be a problem for them.

As for UCLA's manic depressive nature, well they're really pretty mediocre. They were way up for Cal, but the OSU score is as misleading as you'll ever find: a horrible game (by both teams) capped by an improbable series of fumbled kickoffs by OSU in the fourth quarter. I thought UCLA at least had a respectable defense, but Cal's having offensive problems and Wazzou definitely exposed something.

Pac-10 probably below SEC still despite my homerism. Oregon elite, ASU maybe elite, but I'm skeptical. Other "top" teams with fairly serious issues, although to be fair, the conference has been devastated with injuries to very important players. More than I can recall.

44
by Fergasun (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 4:22am

Sanctuary! Sanctuary!

This thread is the cozy home in an otherwise insane world.

If I was a Georgia player of fan that celebration would get me pumped up and excited and I would think it was awesome and made a statement. Everyone else, not so much. It's a good thing the Florida players kept their composure and didn't try to assault some of the other players with their helmets.

Maybe the NCAA can take a page out of the NBA rule-book and toss out anyone for leaving the bench area when they shouldn't be on the field...

45
by James, London (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 8:01am

I know nothing about college ball, (well, except that it's gone nuts this year), and yet "Confessions" is fast becoming my favourite thread. Here I have a refuge from the nonsense that currently infects the rest of this website.

46
by Justin (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 8:43am

"[Bud Foster] ON ALL THE CHATTER FROM FANS ABOUT PREVENT DEFENSE: 'They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.'"

If Bud Foster says VT wasn't in a prevent, I'm inclined to believe him (if only to escape his wrath. No, seriously, that man scares me).

(Name = link to more of the interview notes)

47
by andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 10:21am

I just want to take what may be the only opportunity I'll ever get to brag about the play of my alma mater, Trinity Univesity in texas, the miracle in mississippi (video)

transcript

48
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 11:05am

Indeed, the Trinity Univ. play is now the gold standard for those kinds of plays - better than "The Play", the famous Cal/Stanford multi-lateral ending.

In terms of significance, of course, "The Play" is still far ahead, but in terms of impressiveness? This one has it all, including an equally hyper set of announcers, just like for Cal/Stanford.

The first time I saw the video, I was impressed, actually, that the announcers were able to actually keep track of who had the ball - each lateral, they say "Back to soandso" etc. I'm shocked they kept track of the whole field that well.

49
by hooper (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 11:11am

Ethics aside for the moment, allow me to add a thought on the UGA celebration.

I think the big thing that the celebration showed was that Richt felt that he was facing a real uphill battle with Florida. It was out of character for Richt's normal control of the team, and was clearly meant to hype the team up and add to the team's intensity. In the end, it seemed to have worked out.

Urban's response (IMHO) should have been to laugh it off and point out to his team how desperate UGA must be to pull a stunt like that. Then put the team in mercenary mode and focus on demoralizing UGA. The problem with that kind of emotion is that when it goes away, it can be very difficult to maintain the intensity.

Again, stepping past the ethical muck, I just thought that Richt was desperate and Urban didn't counterpunch as well as he could have. (I don't blame him though; the celebration was a little unexpected.)

50
by James, London (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 11:20am

#44

Awesome. I thought the guys calling the game were going to have hearts attacks.

51
by hooper (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 11:22am

Re: 30

Yeah, I did feel a little oily referencing the USC-Nebraska game, but it was the best I had at the top of my head. I'm in Knoxville with rabbit ears for TV reception, so I'm stuck with mostly SEC, ACC, and Central Notre Dame Polytechnic games. It was one of the few non-SEC games I could use with any confidence.

Still, there's a lot of tension between where teams should be ranked based on their body of work, and where they should be ranked based on their current state. (Duh, I guess.)

Re: 41
love the handle :)

And finally, regarding the SEC/PAC-10 debate thingy, I'm actually kinda hoping that by the end of the season, conference play in both conferences ends up beating up the teams so badly that we all just beat our heads against a brick wall for a few hours to feel better. Think SEC East, only for both full conferences. My dream scenario would be to have 2 losses or more for every team in the nation. I'm not counting on it, but I'm dreaming the dream anyhow.

52
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 11:29am

#44:
That was against Milsaps...where Mike DuBose now coaches, so it is even better for an Alabama fan.

53
by Chris Heinonen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 11:51am

#9: In no way could I rank Oregon St, or especially UCLA, in the Top 25. Oregon State might be good, but we won't know for 2-3 more weeks after they play USC and the Washington schools. Maybe the QB is good now, or maybe we've gotten to play Stanford, Arizona, and a Cal team without their starting QB the past 3 games. UCLA, they are just so bipolar that I wouldn't guarantee that they would lose to Oregon, and I wouldn't guarantee that they could beat Florida International.

Running some numbers through the Colley Matrix this morning, if all the top 4 teams win, and Oregon upsets Arizona State (Colley has it as an upset), then the Top 4 in that computer go: BC, LSU, Oregon, Ohio State. Kansas will move up to #5 as well with a win. Arizona State easily takes over #1 with a win, however.

54
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 4:47pm

Best news this week: Oregon-Arizona State is being televised by ESPN. I guess the WWL wanted a matchup between ranked teams of its own, since CBS has LSU-Alabama, BTN has Wisky-Ohio State, and they're contractually obligated to show Iowa-Northwestern and Purdue-Penn State at noon ET, forcing Virgina-WaFo to Gameplan. Go Jim Delaney!

55
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 5:08pm

ABC's night game is FSU-Boston College.

and Gameday is in Autzen right??? Please say yes.

56
by Chris Heinonen (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 5:24pm

Gameday is at Autzen, and I imagine ESPN had to give FSN some extra cash to show this game as well, but it will probably be worth it in ratings, since it's really the best game this weekend (though I think LSU-Alabama will be good).

57
by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 5:31pm

Then with that being true: Alabama wins this weekend...oh god I may have jinxed my team. But no Perrilloux, no Gameday, and LSU/Miles perhaps worrying more about the guy on the other sideline, and while Kentucky was a tough road game, Kentucky is not Alabama-the crowd is going to be insane, its going to be loud (think Florida-Alabama 2005) and we are going to have a group celebration after our first TD.

58
by Kal (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 6:05pm

Two gamedays at Autzen this year?

Oh, HELL YES.

59
by Jeremiah (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 8:35pm

In response to 16, SMQ said it better than I could, but Tennessee needs to prove something more than they have so far to be considered the favorite to win the SEC East. Saying they have three good losses completely ignores the fact that they lost 59-20 to Florida and 41-17 to Alabama. That's not the resume of a Top 15 team. Considering the highly fluky nature of their victory over South Carolina (a game in which they were outgained by over 200 yards and gave up 340 yards of offense in the second half), they should be more concerned about collapsing down the stretch than running the table.

60
by Pete (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 4:15pm

Please remember the Sagarin Conference Rankings may be unbiased, but it only shows that the SEC average team is predicted to be better than the average of other teams. The teams at the top (ohio state, BC, Oregon, ASU, Kansas, etc.) may actually be better than the top of the SEC.

Of course, that is one reason why I would love to see the Bowl + 1 at some point. We would see plenty of major inter-conference play and THEN decide who the best two teams are for the Championship. (a week or so later)

I agree the Florida players and coaches deserve credit for not rushing the field. However, there was little taunting to warrant it. It could result in future altercations or motivation. However, for now Richt did get his team excited... unlike how they have appeared in some recent years. This was most evident to me in the line play where Georgia kept playing and looking for someone to hit (or chasing after the play).

I think the biggest reasons for Florida's loss were the injured players, the young defense, less than optimal execution (more Florida dropped passes, when normally Georgia drops the passes), and occasionally poor coaching ("Holy Grail" defense on 3rd-and-12 where you line up 10-15 yards away and "Run Away! Run Away!"). Tebow being hurt removes a good third of the playbook, which might be enough to warrant playing the backup.