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09 Dec 2005

Too Deep Zone: Short Runs

by Mike Tanier

A few weeks ago, the Panthers and Cardinals were on pace to average less than three yards per carry for the season.

Both teams have improved slightly in the last few weeks, but their per-carry averages remain very low. The Cardinals average 3.132 yards per attempt, the Panthers 3.138. The Packers are also near the bottom of the league at 3.210. Any of these three teams could finish below the three-yard barrier if they have some bad games down the stretch.

The record for the lowest yards per carry average is 0.94, held by the 1940 Eagles. That team rushed 317 times for 298 yards. Not surprisingly, they finished 1-10. Their leading rusher was Dick Riffle, a former #1 draft pick from Albright College. He rushed 84 times for 238 yards, a somewhat respectable 2.9 yards per rush. Imagine how bad his teammates were.

The average team gained 3.2 yards per attempt in 1940; the average is up to 4.0032 this year (not counting Monday Night). It wasn't unusual for teams to average less than three yards per carry in the leather helmet days.

Since the merger, three teams have failed to crack the three-yard barrier: the 1994 Patriots (2.7866), the 1986 Patriots (2.9275) and the 1992 Colts (2.9624). Since the liberalization of the passing rules in 1978, only those teams plus the 1991 Eagles (3.1300), the 2000 Cardinals (3.0479), and the 1999-2000 Chargers (3.0390, 3.0256) have averaged 3.1 yards per carry (rounded) or less.

Somewhat surprisingly, the three teams below the three-yard mark had winning records; two reached the postseason. Drew Bledsoe threw 691 passes in 1994, probably because Marion Butts, Leroy Thompson, Kevin Turner, Sam Gash, and Blair Thomas couldn't provide much punch in the running game. For some reason, Gash carried the ball 30 times that year; he would never rush 11 times in a season again.

The 1986 Patriots were a year removed from the Super Bowl, but Tony Collins (2.6 yards per attempt) was hardly Turbo, Craig James (2.8) was getting ready for the broadcast booth, and Mosi Tatupu (2.4) was clearly distracted by trying to groom his toddler son Lofa into a future Rookie of the Year candidate at linebacker. Still, they went 11-5.

Anthony Johnson, a pretty good all-purpose back, averaged 3.3 yards per rush for the 9-7 Colts in 1992, but rookie Rodney Culver gained just 2.7 yards per attempt, and the scrambling of quarterbacks Jeff George and Jack Trudeau contributed 27 carries and 32 yards.

It actually makes sense that some of the teams at the bottom of the yards-per-carry list are pretty good: good teams run the ball to kill the clock, and they often settle for short gains late in the game. Bad teams abandon the run quickly, which has several consequences: one or two long gains can make the stats look better when there are fewer attempts, as can a scrambling quarterback who is always running for his life.

The 1986 Patriots weren't helped much by Irving Fryar's four carries and 80 yards or by Tony Eason's 4.9 yards per attempt because they ran the ball 469 times: almost 30 carries per game. This year's Cardinals average just over 22 carries per game, so Josh McCown's 17 carries for 89 yards have significant impact on the team's totals, as do the 18 rushes by receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. A 32-yard J.J Arrington run is currently worth over one-tenth of a point in the Cardinals per-carry averages.

The Panthers may have a better chance to slip below the rushing Mendoza Line than the Cardinals. They run the ball a lot, and they aren't shy about feeding Stephen Davis to the pile when it's time to run out the clock. Jake Delhomme has 21 carries for 24 yards; many of his carries are actually kneels. The receivers have lost 10 yards on three carries. At over 30 rushes per game, there's a lot more ballast in their totals: a few long runs won't have quite the same impact, though DeShaun Foster's good game against the Falcons moved the Panthers out of last place.

Most of the historic teams with anemic per-carry averages featured pretty good running backs: Butts, Collins and James, Natrone Means, Adrian Murrell. Stephen Davis fits nicely among this company: power backs (mostly) who hung around a year or two too long. Coaches trust runners like these to gain tough yards near the end zone and hold onto the ball, and they'll give these big, experienced backs extra carries to "try to get going." As you might expect, many of these teams acquired better running backs the following year -- LaDainian Tomlinson, Herschel Walker, Curtis Martin -- and their rushing performance improved.

Even if no team slips below three yards per rush, this season could be unusual if two or more teams finish at or below 3.1 yards per carry. That happened in 2000, when the Cardinals and Chargers did it. Before that, you have to go back to 1977, when the Packers and Buccaneers each averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Ricky Bell, the USC star and #1 pick in the draft, was a rookie running back for the Bucs that year. He averaged just 2.9 yards per rush on 148 carries.

Three yards per carry appears to be the "floor" of rushing statistics: while teams might drift down to 2.9, we'll never see a team average 2.4 yards per carry unless the game itself changes radically. Pro defenses are designed to concede those first nine feet of real estate under most conditions: after that, the offense has to start earning it.

The Others

Last week's Too Deep Zone featured short passes, but it ran a little long. Some amusing loose ends had to be snipped.

When sifting through all of a team's one-yard and zero-yard completions, you come across some perplexing stat lines. For example: Week 5, Titans vs. Texans, 1st-and-10 at the Titans' 47-yard line, Steve McNair passes to Michael Roos for a loss of seven yards.

Roos is a rookie offensive tackle. He wasn't the intended receiver. He isn't even an eligible receiver. He can only catch a ball that has been tipped by an eligible receiver or a defender. Roos hauled in a pass that was batted straight in the air by a defensive lineman. He may never catch another pass, but he's on the stat sheet for eternity.

The Football Outsiders spreadsheets list intended receivers as wide receivers, running backs, tight ends, or "other." The Others can be a lot of fun when they aren't chasing down the survivors on Lost. Roos is an Other. So is Browns center Jeff Faine. In the first quarter of Cleveland's loss to the Bengals, Faine caught a pass that bounced off the head of umpire Jim Quirk. Faine was penalized for the quirky play, but the Bengals declined the penalty: Faine lost one yard on third-and-3.

Vince Manuwai is the only other offensive lineman to catch a pass this season; he also lost a yard. We list the player by his position on the field, not his position on the roster, so when players like Dwayne Carswell, Scott Peters, and Matt Vrabel play tight end, they are counted as tight ends, not Others.

But quarterbacks are Others. A quarterback is an eligible receiver when he's in the shotgun but not when he's under center. Several teams have designed option plays where the shotgun quarterback pitches to a halfback, then slips into the flat to catch a pass. The Ravens tried such a play during their brief fling with Kordell Stewart. The play, like most Ravens offensive plays, was a failure.

The only receptions by quarterbacks this season have been "self completions;" plays in which the quarterback catches his own pass after it has been batted into the air. Kurt Warner, Marc Bulger, and Chris Simms have all caught self-passes this year, with Bulger actually gaining one yard.

One of these days, Michael Vick is going to catch a self-pass and run 90 yards for a touchdown. That will happen when he is playing against your fantasy football team.

Bragging Rights

Anyone who tries to create power rankings or Top-25 polls leaves himself open to criticism. Readers often ask "How can you rank Team A above Team B when B beat A?" Or, they use the Transitive Property of Football Inequality: "Team C beat Team B, who beat Team A, so you had better not rank Team A over Team C."

Such arguments can be difficult to follow if more than one or two teams are involved. Luckily, a website called the College Football Victory Chain helps to keep things sorted out. All you have to do is select the two teams you want to compare. Assuming the "better" team has at least one win and the "worse" team has at least one loss, the computer will search its database to create a daisy chain of wins to connect the teams.

For example: want to prove that Navy is better than Notre Dame? Just point 'n' click: Navy beat Air Force, who beat Washington, who beat Arizona, who beat UCLA, who beat Arizona State, who beat Northwestern, who beat Michigan State, who beat Notre Dame.

What about Bowling Green? Are they better than Miami (Fla)? Yep: Bowling Green beat Ball State, who beat Akron, who beat Middle Tennessee State, who beat Vanderbilt, who beat Wake Forest, who beat Clemson, who beat Florida State, who beat Miami FL. Go Falcons!

Each of those chains consisted of eight links. That's a standard chain when comparing a mid-major to a powerhouse. In theory, the shorter the chain, the less preposterous the claim that A is better than B, though geography and other factors play a role. Wisconsin to UCLA requires three links: through Purdue and Arizona. Wooster to UCLA took 17 links, through Case Western Reserve, Gettysburg, La Salle, and other exotic locales.

Speaking of La Salle, a lean 13-link chain proves once and for all that they are better than Michigan: La Salle beat St Francis of PA, who beat Central Connecticut State, who beat Colgate, who beat Massachusetts, who beat Rhode Island, who beat William & Mary, who beat New Hampshire, who beat UC-Davis, who beat Stanford, who beat Arizona State, who beat Northwestern, who beat Wisconsin, who beat Michigan. La Salle needs just six links to topple Brown: St. Francis, Central Connecticut State, Colgate, Cornell, Harvard, Brown. Guess that shows which of the Football Outsiders really went to the best football school.

Kudos to Patrick Gaule for designing a great site. Check it out and pit your alma mater against Auburn.

Posted by: Mike Tanier on 09 Dec 2005

72 comments, Last at 11 Dec 2005, 11:29am by Tarrant

Comments

1
by admin :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 10:56am

Brown beat
Rhode Island who beat
William & Mary who beat
New Hampshire who beat
UC-Davis who beat
Stanford who beat
Arizona St who beat
Northwestern who beat
Wisconsin who beat
Michigan

Ha! I knew we were better than you guys! And, wait a minute...

Brown beat
Georgetown DC who beat
Duquesne who beat
La Salle

Ha! Now we've got Tanier too!

2
by Mike Tanier :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 11:05am

Aaron, the problem is Texas Tim. We just ... can't ... stop him when ir comes to college football.

3
by admin :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 11:06am

Yeah, but Tim went to Brown undergrad. The guys we can't beat are Bill and Ned, who went to Babson and Haverford, both undefeated in football over the past few years.

Oh, and while I'm making comments, I'll mention that the 1992 Indianapolis Colts play a very prominent role in this week's mailbag too.

4
by Hector, Paris (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 11:08am

What is the problem with the Panthers' rushing game ? Their OL seems ok and their backs are said great.
Can this be explained by their one-dimensional (89) passing game, allowing opposite defense to stack the line, or are their backs just not that good ? Can't they read lanes ?
It could be interesting to have an analysis of the rushing game of a SB contenderin an EPC or an AGS.

5
by MNRX (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 11:10am

Readers often ask “How can you rank Team A above Team B when A beat B?�

This situation is kind of self-explanitory; the text probably wants to be "when B beat A". :)

Awesome article, as always.

6
by Kibbles (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 11:29am

I sincerely hope that Michael Vick never self-completes. That would ruin my favorite quirky trivia question of all time- who holds the all-time yards per reception record? The answer, as you can probably guess, is Michael Vick, who has 0 receptions for 16 yards.

How does one go about getting 16 yards receiving without actually making a reception? Simple, actually. It all started with your typical "other" play. Michael Vick throws the ball, the ball gets batted at the line, an offensive lineman comes down with it. The offensive lineman then showed remarkable intelligence and did the smartest thing a football player can possibly do during a broken play- he tossed the ball to Michael Vick and let him make something happen.

7
by White Rose Duelist (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 11:37am

You can't link my alma mater (Boston U) to anyone, but that's because they haven't had a football program since 1997. But they're the #18 men's hockey team in the country (don't trust that 5-6 record, folks)!

8
by White Rose Duelist (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 11:41am

Sorry, Kibbles, but Michael Vick's yards per completion is not a number, so it can't be anywhere on the list. Division by zero still produces garbage, just like Matt Millen.

9
by Ray (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 11:43am

Lehigh beat
Harvard who beat
Brown

Hm, aren't shorter chains supposed to be more conclusive? Muahaha!

10
by Ray (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 11:49am

RE#8 White Rose Dualist

Actually, doesn't x/0 = infinity? In that case, you could definitely say that 16 yards on 0 receptions is the most yard/catch that can ever possibly be achieved. It'll be a sad day when Vick gets that 90 yard self-pass reception: It'll totally ruin his average.

11
by Murr (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 11:58am

Penn State beat
Minnesota who beat
Michigan

I feel better already.

12
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 11:58am

You can’t link my alma mater (Boston U) to anyone, but that’s because they haven’t had a football program since 1997.

A fellow Terrier alumn! That 12-0 season in 1994 was sweet.

13
by DNL (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 12:21pm

The one very nice thing about being a NESCAC alum is that we are immune from such silliness.

14
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 12:30pm

Purdue beat
Michigan St. who beat
Notre Dame.

Clearly, Notre Dame's win was a fluke. :)

The Boilers are also better than I-AA teams, thanks to their odd win over MAC champs Akron (several MAC schools have a win over a I-AA team). This one also opens up some doors:

Purdue beat
Arizona who beat
UCLA

Very fun site!

15
by DGL (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 12:38pm

Way cool -- I can show that my Div III alma mater is better than my brother's #3 team in the nation:

Carnegie Mellon beat
Grove City who beat
Muhlenberg who beat
New Jersey who beat
La Salle who beat
St Francis PA who beat
Central Conn St who beat
Colgate who beat
Massachusetts who beat
Richmond who beat
William & Mary who beat
New Hampshire who beat
UC-Davis who beat
Stanford who beat
Arizona St who beat
Northwestern who beat
Wisconsin who beat
Michigan who beat
Penn State

Cool.

16
by Nate (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 12:44pm

Is it sad that it takes my Illini 7 links to beat Brown?:
Illinois beat
Rutgers who beat
Villanova who beat
Pennsylvania who beat
Yale who beat
Cornell NY who beat
Harvard who beat
Brown
Also, the Panthers o-line is far from "decent." Horrible would be closer. They have an average interior line, and flat-out bad tackles (well, one really bad tackle, and one average tackle, who is a better pass blocker than run blocker). Of course, this is based on one game, where they got completely abused.

17
by Andrew (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 12:58pm

"The record for the lowest yards per carry average is 0.94, held by the 1940 Eagles."

Why does it never surprise me to find my Eagles down at the bottom of some statistical record?

18
by Andrew (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 1:03pm

The only receptions by quarterbacks this season have been “self completions;�

Didn't Drew Brees catch a pass just a couple of weeks ago?

19
by M (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 1:12pm

I think before 1950, sacks were included as rushing attempts (Many QB's had negative rushing yards). THat's why the Eagles of 1940 are so low. Can anyone else verify?

20
by Tally (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 1:26pm

Re #18:

No, Brees dropped that pass from LT while being defensed by LB Marcus Washington.

21
by Duck in MA (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 1:30pm

Oregon beat
Arizona who beat
UCLA who beat
Oklahoma

Holiday Bowl here we come! And of course:

Oregon beat
Arizona St who beat
Northwestern who beat
Michigan St who beat
Notre Dame

Then again, there's my current situation:

A victory chain could not be found to link MIT to Oklahoma.
A victory chain could not be found to link MIT to Brown.
A victory chain could not be found to link MIT to New Mexico St. (the #1 team on ESPN's Bottom 10)

Well, it's not always about winning.

22
by mactbone (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 1:32pm

It's fun to look through different years and see which D-1 team lost to a D-2 team. This year it was UC-Davis which means that they're the portal for everyone to get a win over a D-1 opponent.

23
by wrmjr (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 1:39pm

Actually, when Vick self-completes a 90 yard touchdown pass, his stat line will still be pretty amazing: 1 catch, 106 yards and 1 touchdown. That should still land him in first place in ypc.

24
by Taylor (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 1:52pm

Re: 15 - All hail the mighty Tartans. :)

'98 ECE

25
by White Rose Duelist (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 2:02pm

#10 - The limit of x/y as y approaches zero is infinity. However, x/0 is itself undefined.

26
by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 2:09pm

For the history buffs:

Slippery Rock beat
California PA who beat
Edinboro who beat
Tiffin who beat
Morehead St who beat
St Francis PA who beat
Central Conn St who beat
Colgate who beat
Massachusetts who beat
Richmond who beat
William & Mary who beat
New Hampshire who beat
UC-Davis who beat
Stanford who beat
Arizona St who beat
Northwestern who beat
Wisconsin who beat
Michigan who beat
Penn State

27
by JonL (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 2:11pm

Tulane beat
SMU who beat
TCU who beat
Oklahoma who beat
Kansas who beat
Iowa St who beat
Iowa who beat
Wisconsin who beat
Michigan who beat
Penn State

I assume that they do, but to the per-carry averages exclude kneel-downs?

28
by Michael David Smith :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 2:31pm

I wonder what percentage of these chains involve UC-Davis beating Stanford. So far all of the really preposterous ones I've tried have included that game.

29
by Chris (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 2:32pm

4.

Their backs aren't that great. Their O-line isn't bad and they do throw the ball well, but Stephen Davis just isn't gaining much yardage and Deshaun Foster racks up a lot of 0 yard runs.

Brusier type running backs, 99% of the time hit the wall at 30. Though the Panthers might not THINK so, they should draft a power running back.

Both this year and last years Brad Hoover are better rushing the ball then Stephen Davis is.

30
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 2:35pm

Tulane beat
SMU who beat
TCU who beat
Oklahoma who beat
Nebraska who beat
Wake Forest who beat
North Carolina St who beat
Georgia Tech who beat
Auburn

Tulane beat
SMU who beat
TCU who beat
Army who beat
Massachusetts who beat
Delaware who beat
Lehigh who beat
Harvard who beat
Brown

But the best three are these (the first just because it's 18 steps):

Trinity TX beat
Centre who beat
Washington and Lee who beat
Catholic who beat
La Salle who beat
St Francis PA who beat
Central Conn St who beat
Colgate who beat
Massachusetts who beat
Richmond who beat
William & Mary who beat
New Hampshire who beat
UC-Davis who beat
Stanford who beat
Arizona St who beat
Northwestern who beat
Wisconsin who beat
Michigan who beat
Penn State

Tulane beat
SMU who beat
TCU who beat
Wyoming who beat
Louisiana-Monroe who beat
Middle Tennessee St who beat
Vanderbilt who beat
Tennessee who beat
LSU

Of course, we could show that the Ramblin Wreck beat the Dawgs, but let's not go there.

BTW, What's the Good Word?

31
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 2:36pm

One year long ago, SI ran a similar chain during one of those years with no unbeatens. Their conclusion was that 1-10 Army was the true national champ. I think the whole exercise just shows how cool Tunesmith's "unambiguous beatpaths" are, because they eliminate all the little loops and the silliness of the thing. In the meantime, let me say that I find it highly amusing that a Purdue fan has to point out that the Boilermakers are better than several 1-AA teams. I actually wasn't too sure about that, thanks for clearing it up.

32
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 2:36pm

Or best two, since I changed my mind on the Tech/uga stuff.

33
by ABW (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 2:50pm

This is going to be fun with Oberlin, my alma mater and one of the worst football programs in the country.

Oberlin beat
Earlham who beat
Manchester who beat
Grove City who beat
Muhlenberg who beat
New Jersey who beat
La Salle who beat
St Francis PA who beat
Central Conn St who beat
Colgate who beat
Cornell NY who beat
Harvard who beat
Brown

It gets comically long when you put in a really good football team - the longest I got was 22 steps from Oberlin to Auburn or Florida.

Amusingly, all the chains involving Oberlin go through Colgate - they all start with the same 9 teams, probably because Earlham was the only team they beat that beat anyone else.

34
by Nuk (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 2:52pm

Go Harvey Mudd!

Claremont-Mudd-Scripps beat
Merchant Marine who beat
Dickinson who beat
Ursinus who beat
La Salle who beat
St Francis PA who beat
Central Conn St who beat
Colgate who beat
Massachusetts who beat
Richmond who beat
William & Mary who beat
New Hampshire who beat
UC-Davis who beat
Stanford who beat
Arizona St who beat
Northwestern who beat
Wisconsin who beat
Michigan who beat
Penn State

And although the CMS team is more Claremont McKenna than Harvey Mudd, as far as I know there are no Scrippsies on the football team.

35
by Dave (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 2:55pm

Hmm, the best I can manage for my alma mater is ...

WPI beat
Merchant Marine who beat
Dickinson who beat
Ursinus who beat
La Salle who beat
St Francis PA who beat
Central Conn St who beat
Colgate who beat
Massachusetts who beat
Richmond who beat
William & Mary who beat
New Hampshire who beat
UC-Davis who beat
Stanford who beat
Arizona St who beat
Northwestern who beat
Wisconsin who beat
Michigan who beat
Penn State

36
by Clod (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 2:57pm

A victory chain could not be found to link Brown to Oregon

Take that!!

37
by ktb (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 2:57pm

Just a quick note from a UC Davis alum--we're now division I-AA, not II. And I expect that despite a rocky season wins over Stanford and Cal-Poly are signs of things to come, as a I-AA power, just as we dominated D-2.

38
by Todd S. (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 3:00pm

Trogdor, that's only according to this methodology. I'm not sure we can conclusively decide that Purdue is better than these 1-AA teams. And, Purdue may have to import some 1-AA players next year as their entire roster is trying to either leave early for the NFL or get in trouble with the law. (Punt returner and fullback were arrested on drug charges yesterday.)

39
by NoJo (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 3:08pm

I prefer how my alma mater beat Brown:

Harvard beat
Brown

Very direct and definitive.

40
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 3:09pm

That's true. One thing to remember is that, while Purdue may not be better than a 1-AA team, they're a whole lot better than Illinois. (just to see if MDS is reading)

Oh, and this chain will always bring a smile to my face.

Ohio State beat Michigan

41
by NoJo (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 3:10pm

And I grew up near Carleton:

Carleton beat
Hamline who beat
Gustavus Adolphus who beat
Bethel MN who beat
Buena Vista who beat
Waldorf who beat
Iowa Wesleyan who beat
St Francis IL who beat
St Joseph's who beat
Tiffin who beat
Morehead St who beat
St Francis PA who beat
Central Conn St who beat
Colgate who beat
Massachusetts who beat
Richmond who beat
William & Mary who beat
New Hampshire who beat
UC-Davis who beat
Stanford who beat
Arizona St who beat
Northwestern who beat
Wisconsin who beat
Michigan who beat
Penn State
Traversed 24 teams on this chain

42
by Michael David Smith :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 3:14pm

I actually just sent the Illinois over Purdue chain to a friend of mine who went there. Pretty sad that it requires the San Jose State win and, of course, the ubiquitous UC-Davis over Stanford.

NoJo, thanks for dropping the H-bomb on us.

Q. How do you know if someone went to Harvard?
A. He tells you.

43
by Clod (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 3:14pm

Oh, duh. That wasn't hard to fugure out. Oregons only loss was to USC. conseses #1.

Oregon beat
Arizona St who beat
Northwestern who beat
Michigan St who beat
Notre Dame

Oregon beat
Arizona St who beat
Northwestern who beat
Wisconsin who beat
Michigan who beat
Penn State who beat
Ohio State

And how about 1-10 Rice?
Rice beat
Tulane who beat
SMU who beat
TCU who beat
Oklahoma who beat
Kansas who beat
Iowa St who beat
Iowa who beat
Wisconsin who beat
Michigan who beat
Penn State who beat
Ohio State

Rice beat
Tulane who beat
SE Louisiana St who beat
Stephen F. Austin who beat
UC-Davis who beat
Stanford who beat
Arizona St who beat
Northwestern who beat
Michigan St who beat
Notre Dame

Clearly I am not a bitter Oregon fan. Ohio State and Notre Dame deserve to be in the Fiesta Bowl. /sarcasm

44
by Duck in MA (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 3:15pm

I think Oregon is the only team with a loss that can't be "beaten" in this method - they're only loss was to an undefeated, thus they can't be topped. I think eveyone else who lost to USC/Texas (at least at the D1A level) also had other losses. For example, Notre Dame.

45
by Duck in MA (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 3:17pm

There may be some other lower-division teams that can have this unique trait of losses, but can't be "beaten". Anyone want to find them?

46
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 3:33pm

Oregon fans need to remember that bowls pick based on money, including how well teams "travel" and TV ratings. I don't know how well Oregon travels, but I can pretty well guarantee it's far short of ND and OSU. And for TV ratings, it may help if they didn't wear uniforms that make eyes bleed. They have nobody to blame on that but themselves.

And maybe they should try playing teams that don't suck if they want to be taken seriously. That Houston/Montana/Fresno non-conference slate won't impress anyone, and of the conference slate only USC (incredible), ASU (meh), and Cal (merely OK) don't completely suck. Unleashing Joey Harrington on the world won't win any favors either, although I appreciate the Onterrio Smith comedy show as much as anyone, so that's a wash. Basically what I'm trying to say is, nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah. :P

47
by admin :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 3:37pm

No, no, he's allowed to mention the big H, since everyone here is playing "my non-Division I school can beat your Division I school."

Just remember the most important path:

Brown
beat Harvard
for the conference title

(This is the first time in a long time that we get to say this, so let us enjoy it. You guys get an NFL quarterback, we get a title and a running back to be drafted later.)

Also, Oregon got screwed by the football gods for their Fighting Intellivision Men uniforms, which are an offense to nature.

48
by James (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 3:51pm

What was the NFL link that was posted on FO a while ago that did something similar. It was just a guy who set up pictures of chains or links between the teams that had beat each other this season. I tried looking back through the Extra Points but couldn't find it. Thanks for your help!

49
by Trogdor (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 4:00pm

Click my name for the link.

50
by Sophandros (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 4:14pm

How long until TMQ puts this in his Obscure College section?

51
by NoJo (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 4:20pm

It is humiliating that Brown won the Ivy title this year, but not as bad as if it had been Columbia, I guess. But, as the transitive property of sports shows, Harvard is really the better team since the "Harvard beats Brown" path is shorter than the "Brown beats Harvard" path this year, so I can take solace in that. Right?

52
by Clod (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 4:34pm

RE: Oregon travel

I would submit that Oregon "travels" just as well as OSU and ND if by travel you mean selling out all alloted tix. But they obviously don't do as well with TV ratings, and I know "how" the system works, and that is why I hate it even more.

Re: Oregon Unis

Did you see the new ones for next year unvailed at the Civil War? diamond plated sholder pads, and new numbers, pretty inovative and cool IMO, compared to the last couple years.

53
by James (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 4:44pm

Thanks Trogdor.

Carry-on burninating!

54
by Dan (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 4:48pm

The chains from a bad team to a good team aren't just going through Stanford, they're passing through the UC Davis-Stanford-Arizona St.-Northwestern subchain (which continues on to either Wisconsin or Michigan St.).

55
by Duck in MA (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 5:12pm

Clod has it right, Oregon does "travel" quite well, the problem would be in the ratings and such. It's not just whose fans stay in the fancy hotels, but a 9 share vs. 12 share on TV. We all know how the system works.

56
by posy (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 5:15pm

OSU travels much better than Oregon. GIve me a break.

57
by WalterJonesMVP (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 5:39pm

I know everyone got excited by listing long "X college team beat Y college team" chains, but how could there by 59 comments and not a single mention of Tanier's far-too-casual reference to 1940s Eagels tailback Dick Riffle?

Dick Riffle!?!

58
by Dick Riffle (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 5:40pm

I averaged 2.9 yards per carry in 1940. Now my name will be used for fantasy football teams across the land in 2006.

59
by Lou in Cincy (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 6:25pm

Interesting article, any guesses as to who the most valuable Sub-3.o individual RB might be? Or just the most valuable season by a below 4.0 RB? OJ Anderson comes to mind...

60
by Vince (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 6:37pm

Clod, those Civil War uniforms are EXACTLY what everyone's laughing at. Note the numbers, then consider the "Fighting Intellivision Men" moniker.

I can confirm that in the old days, QB sacks were counted as rushing plays.

61
by LTA (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 7:09pm

#56:
I don't have any numbers to back it up, but living in Oregon, I would think that the Ducks would've sold out the Fiesta Bowl. After all, the Holiday Bowl (Oregon-Oklahoma) sold out in under 48 hours. The problem is the television contract.

62
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 7:11pm

I agree that, at least in the BCS computers, nonconference schedule weights highly. Only Sagarin gives any real weight to beating a Division I-AA team, and many of the computers give particular bonuses for playing other BCS conference teams out-of-conference. Oregon wasn't going to gain any poll points by changing their noncon schedule, but they would have gained big computer points.

Same with Auburn last year. It wasn't really Auburn's fault (cancellations), but several of the BCS computer gurus mentioned that had they upped their nonconference schedule, they may have gained enough computer points to slip into the title game (alas, after their two-year stint vs. USC, their schedule has returned to the dreck it was previously). Everyone blames the polls for Auburn's plight, but Auburn was very close to Oklahoma in the polls (one week, they were tied). But Auburn was a distant 3rd in every single computer. The polls have 2/3 the influence, but if you're virtually tied in the polls, the computers can break that tie.

The arguments that were made last year frequently were "The SEC is so tough we can't schedule touch OOC teams" or "We need home games to make money" and those may or may not be true, but they (especially the latter) are immaterial to the computer algorithms.

I give teams like Ohio State, USC, Nebraska, Miami, etc. props for scheduling fun OOC games in the next few years.

T.

63
by Fnor (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 7:25pm

#51: No, because harvard sucks.

64
by abes (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 8:02pm

Re. 28, 37 and others:

All ridiculous chains go through Stanford losing to UC Davis. As discussed in great detail in the bay area, it's possibly one of the worst losses in college football in a long time.

65
by Craig Richardson (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 9:51pm

Re: #64

That's how most of the "Oracle of Bacon" type systems work. Just one thing has to be out-of-type, and tons of chains can run through it.

That said, I'm amazed that my alma mater, U. of Puget Sound, only took 11 steps to get to UC Davis...

66
by Kevo (not verified) :: Fri, 12/09/2005 - 11:25pm

L-A-S-A-L-L-E
WHAT'S THAT SPELL?
LA SALLE!
WHAT?
LA SALLE!
WHAT?
LA SALLE!

okay, i went to La Salle High School, but i feel a bond since we used to be on the same campus.

67
by Jim L (not verified) :: Sat, 12/10/2005 - 8:16am

Re: #43 and #46. Ohio State and Notre Dame going to the Fiesta Bowl this year over Oregon has nothing to do with TV ratings or who travels better. The BCS rules stipulate that if a BCS conference team doesn't win its conference's automatic bid but finishes in the top 4 it will automatically receive one of the at large bids. Since Ohio State finished 4, it qualified automatically. The BCS rules also state that if a team from a non-BCS conference or independent finishes in the top 6 it automatically receives an at large bid. Notre Dame finished 6th, so they got an automatic bid as well. Under this year's BCS rules, Notre Dame and Ohio State were required to be selected.

Having said that, I strongly suspect that had Notre Dame finished 7th through 12th where they were eligible, but not an automatic bid, they would have been selected over Oregon. I don't know about Ohio State, though.

68
by Clod (not verified) :: Sat, 12/10/2005 - 1:43pm

Jim, your mostly right. There is also a special rule just for ND that if they are 9th or higher, they get a BCS game. The Non-BCS conference in the top 6 is for just that, non-bcs conferences, not independants. I believe the only other Independant is one of the military schools. I don't know how it would affect them.

69
by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Sat, 12/10/2005 - 2:03pm

The other independents this season were Army, Navy and Temple. Army belonged to Conference USA only for football, and Temple was booted out of Big East football because their performance and attendance was too embarrassing even for them. Temple joins the MAC for all sports starting next football season.

70
by Chris I. (not verified) :: Sat, 12/10/2005 - 5:35pm

Dick Riffle?

I think I got one of those in Vegas once. Cost me 50 bucks, but it was worth it.

71
by Jim L (not verified) :: Sat, 12/10/2005 - 5:50pm

Re #68:

Actually this year Notre Dame had to finish 6th or higher. I believe the 9th or higher is a special rule that applied in past years, not this year. If I've understood how to do this properly, my name should link to the FAQ at bcsfootball.org which addresses that question explicitly.

72
by Tarrant (not verified) :: Sun, 12/11/2005 - 11:29am

The 9th or better rule for Notre Dame applies only if another non-BCS team qualifies under the "6th or better" rule. If no other non-BCS team automatically qualifies, then Notre Dame has to be 6th or better to automatically qualify.

However, let's face it. If Ohio State had been 5th and Notre Dame 10th, the same bowl pairings would have resulted. Oregon does travel well, but TV-wise, no one cares about them one whit.

T.