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25 Oct 2008

7th Day Adventure: The State of Penn State

by Russell Levine

The SDA Podcast



We've hit the every-week-is-a-playoff portion of the college football schedule. Though last year's title game participants recovered from late losses to reach the BCS championship, a repeat should not be expected, not with so many major-conference teams remaining in contention.

While all the one-loss teams remain in play -- yes, even Ohio State -- all need to keep winning. Doing so by impressive margins would be even better. The once-beaten teams from the SEC and Big 12 are in better shape as the depth of those conferences (and the fact that they play championship games) provides the likes of Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, and LSU ample opportunities to prove their worth. Ohio State and USC will need to do more with style points, and must hope a few more teams lose along the way.

This is a big week for the SEC, with Georgia and LSU facing off in a de facto elimination game, while Florida and Alabama face tricky opponents. Auburn also has an intriguing non-conference game at West Virginia. The Tigers aren't in contention for anything, except maybe a new head coach, but a loss in Morgantown would hurt the SEC's Teflon reputation as the nation's best conference.

The week's biggest game, based on BCS rankings, is the battle of Big 12 South unbeatens Oklahoma State and Texas in Austin, but a bigger spotlight will fall on the contest in Columbus, Ohio, between Penn State and Ohio State, as the nation tunes in to a nationally televised, prime time affair to find out if Joe Paterno's team is a true national title contender, or if Ohio State is once again to be part of the BCS championship mix.

This Week's Guest

Mike Hubbell authors the Penn State blog Black Shoe Diaries. He was kind enough to join me this week to break down the big game against the Buckeyes, last week's rout of Michigan, and how surprised he is (or isn't) by this season's success.

We also spent some time chatting about the emergence of Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark and how he compares to Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor.

I hope you'll listen in.

This Week's Games

Auburn (+3.5) at West Virginia, Thursday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

OK, who had these teams down for five combined losses? Anyone? Certainly not me; I picked Auburn to win the national championship. Instead, the wheels have come off on the plains, as Tommy Tuberville gassed offensive coordinator Tony Franklin midway through his rookie season and is now desperately trying to hang on to his own job. Auburn's offense has been downright putrid. The surprising thing is that West Virginia's hasn't been all that much better. Things should improve a little this week as Pat White is expected to return from a concussion to start at quarterback, but Auburn's defense will be by far the best the Mountaineers have faced. Still, White should be good for a big play or two. The question is, can Auburn generate any big plays of its own? Sophomore Kodi Burns gets the nod at quarterback, his third start of the season. The bye last week should be beneficial for Burns against the Mountaineers' stout defense.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Auburn | RUSSELL: West Virginia

Kentucky (+23) at No. 10 Florida, 12:30 p.m. ET, Raycom

Each week seems to bring a new leader of the SEC pack. The season began with Florida and Georgia as conference co-favorites. Then Florida lost to Ole Miss and Georgia was embarrassed at home by Alabama. The Tide currently sit atop the conference pack, but they've looked vulnerable since halftime of that Georgia game. One of the teams to put a scare into Alabama was Kentucky, which lost by just three points in Tuscaloosa. Florida has rotated back to the top of the heap in the SEC East after destroying LSU at home two weeks ago and is a healthy favorite to do the same to the Wildcats. Kentucky is a surprising 5-2. More surprising, the Wildcats are winning with defense (11.9 points per game) and have forced 20 turnovers. But if the Florida offense that played LSU shows up, it will be a Gator romp.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Kentucky | RUSSELL: Kentucky

No. 7 Georgia (+3) at No. 13 LSU, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

Here's that aforementioned elimination game in the SEC, with the loser all but done in the conference and national title races. Georgia hasn't exactly roared back from its loss to Alabama, winning games against Tennessee and Vanderbilt that were still in doubt well into the second half. The same could be said for LSU, which was severely tested in a seven-point win over South Carolina in its only outing since being crushed by Florida. This game kicks off a five-game homestand that will make or break the Tigers' season, while for Georgia its just the beginning of a daunting season-ending stretch that includes games against Florida and Georgia Tech sandwiched around trips to Kentucky and Auburn. Look for LSU to try and pound Georgia with the ground game -- its recipe for success in the comeback against South Carolina. Quarterback Jarrett Lee has shown flashes, but has been way too inconsistent to carry the load, especially against a solid defense.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Georgia | RUSSELL: LSU (Edelstein Lock)

No. 6 Oklahoma State (+12.5) at No. 1 Texas, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC

Texas is riding high after back-to-back wins over previously undefeated Oklahoma and Missouri -- games in which Colt McCoy and the offense put up 96 combined points. Everything is going Texas's way right now. The Longhorns are a decisive No. 1 in every poll that matters, and McCoy appears to be well out front of the Heisman Trophy race. Missouri was in a similar position when it faced Oklahoma State two weeks ago -- also at home. The Tigers came into that game unbeaten, and poised to move up in the polls after Oklahoma's loss earlier in the day. Quarterback Chase Daniel was the trendy Heisman front-runner, expected to put up big numbers against an Oklahoma State team that was viewed largely as the product of a soft scheduled. Three interceptions and one upset later, the Big 12, BCS, and Heisman pictures had all been altered. Can the Cowboys do it again?

THE PICKS -- FEI: Texas | RUSSELL: Texas

Virginia (+12) at No. 18 Georgia Tech, 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU

If you haven't seen Georgia Tech play this year (and you happen to be one of those few households that receives ESPNU), do yourself a favor and at least DVR this game. It's worth watching just to see the triple-option offense deployed at a BCS conference school. It's fair to say that Georgia Tech has exceeded expectations so far this year. At 6-1, the Yellow Jackets are the highest-ranked ACC team in the AP poll. Georgia Tech still has a nasty defense (11.6 points per game allowed) but it's the offense that is generating headlines under former Navy coach Paul Johnson. Virginia, meanwhile, has won three straight to involve itself in the ACC race after a difficult start that saw Cavaliers fans calling for the head of Al Groh, who has become the closest thing the college game has to offer to former Lions coach Wayne "Rasputin" Fontes.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Georgia Tech (Edelstein Lock) | RUSSELL: Virginia

No. 2 Alabama (-6.5) at Tennessee, 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN


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The podcast may have been with a Big Ten blogger this week, but you can't accuse me of short-changing the SEC. The third of our SEC contests this week pits the season's surprise team, Alabama, against one of its biggest disappointments in Tennessee. Alabama vaulted to the top of the polls on the strength of impressive wins against Clemson and Georgia, but one of those teams has been proven a fraud, and the jury is still out on whether the other one is truly a contender. In between, Alabama has endured a few uncomfortably close wins over lesser teams. As much as they have improved in Nick Saban's second year, and as good as they have been (Alabama has not trailed once in eight games), you get the feeling that the Tide aren't quite good enough to go undefeated, and may just end up losing to a team that they should beat. That definition would appear to fit Tennessee (3-4), where the alums are just about read to start tracking flights in the search for their next coach. But the Vols haven't quit, and their four losses have come by a combined 41 points. They can keep this game close well into the second half, but in the end, too much Alabama.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Alabama | RUSSELL: Alabama

No. 3 Penn State (-2) at No. 9 Ohio State, 8 p.m. ET, ABC

Two weeks ago, I might have felt differently about this game. But that was before Ohio State dropped 45 points on a pretty good Michigan State team -- on the road, no less -- and Penn State showed some vulnerability against Michigan (for a half, anyway). Penn State is a very good team, but is taking a major step up in competition against the Buckeyes, with an emerging Pryor at quarterback and a nearly healthy Beanie Wells at tailback. Michigan proved that Penn State can be run upon. I think the Buckeyes can have enough success on the ground to open things up for Pryor and force Penn State to score a bunch of points on the road, in a very tough atmosphere, to beat them. This should be a close game throughout. Penn State might be the better overall team, but not on this night in the Horseshoe. Look out America, Ohio State intends to have a say in the national title race. Again.

THE PICKS -- FEI: Penn State | RUSSELL: Ohio State

No. 5 USC (-15) at Arizona, 10:15 p.m. ET, FSN

I'm not sure how much it matters what USC does this week, as long as the Trojans win. With this game set to end long past midnight in the east, it likely won't have much effect on USC's poll position, unlike the 69-0 eye-opener over Washington State last Saturday afternoon. With that outsized victory -- even coming against perhaps the worst BCS conference team in America -- USC is right back in the thick of national title contention, sitting at No. 5 in the initial BCS standings. With a soft schedule the rest of the way, all the Trojans have to do is post a few lopsided wins, avoid an upset, pound Notre Dame on national TV, and wait for the Big 12 and SEC contenders to start beating each other. Arizona won't be a pushover, however. The Wildcats have shown signs of life, and likely kept Mike Stoops employed for at least another year, by getting off to a 5-2 start that includes an impressive home win over Cal last week. Arizona has an explosive offense with quarterback Willie Tuitama, but the Wildcats will probably spend some time with the film of USC's loss to Oregon State and feed to ball to Keola Antolin, who came off the bench to run for 149 yards last week. Still, if USC doesn't come out flat and puts together a 60-minute effort, the Trojans will win -- handily.


Picks Table

The Picks
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
Visitor Spread Home FEI Says Russell Says
Auburn +3.5 West Virginia Auburn West Virginia
Kentucky +23 Florida Kentucky Kentucky
Georgia +3 LSU Georgia LSU*
Oklahoma State +12.5 Texas Texas Texas
Virginia +12 Georgia Tech Georgia Tech* Virginia
Alabama -6.5 Tennessee Alabama Alabama
Penn State -2 Ohio State Penn State Ohio State
USC -15 Arizona Arizona USC
Season-long Results
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
  Last Week Season Total
FEI: 3-5-0 (0-1-0) 25-36-2 (3-4-1)
Russell: 3-5-0 (0-1-0) 28-33-2 (2-6-0)

Posted by: Russell Levine on 25 Oct 2008

30 comments, Last at 28 Oct 2008, 1:50pm by Pat (filler)


by War Eagle (not verified) :: Thu, 10/23/2008 - 5:23pm

Alabama trailed 3-0 to Ole Miss.

by Tom Gower :: Thu, 10/23/2008 - 6:41pm

Well, I stopped trading off good and bad weeks, joining Russell and FEI at 3-5 (0-1), so I'm now 20-18-2 (3-2) on the year. This week: West Virginia, Florida, LSU, Texas (Edelstein), Georgia Tech, Alabama, Penn State, and USC. Sheesh, those are really boring picks, but I'm sticking with them.

by lionsbob :: Thu, 10/23/2008 - 7:55pm

Rece, May, and Holtz missed the fact that Lester was down when he fumbled the ball and gave Auburn about 5 extra yards...

Apparently the replay dude is watching a completely different game.


by Kevin Eleven :: Thu, 10/23/2008 - 7:56pm

This week's picks. I'm at 8 - 10 so far this year.

Tennessee +6 1/2 over Alabama
Kansas State +19.5 over Oklahoma
Central Florida +23 over Tulsa
Rutgers +9 1/2 over Pittsburgh

Tonight's West Virginia vs Auburn game sure looked a lot better before the season actually started.

by lionsbob :: Thu, 10/23/2008 - 7:58pm

I cannot imagine in anyway Tennessee getting close to Alabama.

by lionsbob :: Thu, 10/23/2008 - 8:12pm

Bill Stewart is a terrible coach.

by Kevin Eleven :: Thu, 10/23/2008 - 8:17pm

Ohio State NEEDS USC to lose again to have a prayer of playing for the National Title. The humans control 2/3 of the BCS standings. If other teams lose and USC vaults to #1 they'll manipulate the polls to avoid a rematch. And there really shouldn't be one- tOSU already had a crack at USC.

Georgia could still lose to LSU, beat Florida in Jacksonville, and win the SEC East. Plus, with thgeir schedule, Georgia could concievably do what LSU did last year.

Tennessee fans HAVE started tracking flights. There was a story today about the AD's plane being in Raleigh...close to former UT OC David Cutcliffe.

Finally, any Auburn fan that wants Tommy Tuberville fired...that's just crazy. Tuberville has had an excellentnine years, and a screwy 2008. Switching to the spread looked like a mistake from the beginning- it's just not Auburn. Still, Auburn would be firing not only a good coach, but THEIR coach, the face of the program.

Maybe he should have listened to Texas A&M a year ago.

by lionsbob :: Thu, 10/23/2008 - 10:39pm

Tuberville might want to get that resume up-to-date.

by joe football (not verified) :: Sat, 10/25/2008 - 1:28pm

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

Brief tutorial for the IRC-shy:

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

Down with FEI

by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 10/25/2008 - 5:02pm

But Joe...there aren't any FO posters.

Rutgers is up big against Pitt, Cincy lost to UConn, USF is losing to Louisville...the shouts for the Big East to lose it's automatic BCS bid could be returning soon.

Nice win by Texas Tech today, who now has consecutive games against Texas, Oklahoma State, and Oklahoma. A one-loss Tech team could easily make the BCS. The bad news is, MikeLeach supposedly wants out of Lubbock, and would make a lateral move to do so. He was said to covet the UCLA job last winter.

by Tom Gower :: Sat, 10/25/2008 - 5:23pm

Sure they're are, we're just on IRC. Sorry, Russell, you should join us, too.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Sun, 10/26/2008 - 6:19am

The Live Blog earlier was cool too. Another one of those would be awesome.

by Fergasun :: Sat, 10/25/2008 - 8:39pm

IRC FTW... I prefer HydraIRC...

by Flounder :: Sat, 10/25/2008 - 9:18pm

I nominate the replay officials in the UofM / MSU game. A completely, utterly ridiculous call. One shouldn't be a replay official if you don't know the rules.

by Kevin Eleven :: Sat, 10/25/2008 - 9:41pm

The emotion was sky-high at Tennessee in the first half, and the Vols benefitted from that. How that we're two hours into it and everything is settled in, UT is down 13 - 3. In theory that's not insurmountable, but UT has a "we're hanging by a string" feel to them.

And the sad reality is setting- this is very likely the last time Phil Fulmer will be coaching in this rivalry.

by lionsbob :: Sat, 10/25/2008 - 10:25pm

Alabama is getting the calls in this game...and they don't really need them. Which is unfortunate...

by Solomon (not verified) :: Sun, 10/26/2008 - 1:20am

After watching the Ohio State-Penn State clash, I will offer my thoughts. I am still in a foul mood, so hopefully this does not come off as sour grapes.

Good game by Penn State; I did not think it could win this year at the Shoe. PSU's D played well, but the O was unimpressive, other than avoiding mistakes. A lot of that was because of solid play by the OSU D, though.

Before the Pryor fumble, I thought Wells had the first down. It looked like a bad spot by the official. If Pryor picks up the first down and keeps the football, OSU probably wins. PSU scored off the short field, although OSU had a chance to hold it to three.

The OSU offensive playcalling was atrocious. On first and second downs, PSU stacked 8 or 9 players in the box, and OSU ran almost every time. It had some success the few times it threw on early downs. The O was so predictable -- run Pryor or Wells on 1st & 2nd, throw on 3rd & long. Pryor was athletic enough to convert a few 3rd downs. OSU used play-action only once or twice all game (unless I missed some). Robiskie and Hartline are good (but not great) receivers, and PSU was keying on Wells. Play-action should have been a big part of the gameplan. Some more short passes or screens may have provided modest success. OSU needed to go downfield much more.

There was the QB debate earlier this year -- Pryor or Boeckman? The QBs have vastly different skill sets, and I don't see why both cannot play. Boeckman has been a little shaky this year, but he played well last year and still knows how to play. He played an excellent game against PSU last year. He could provide a nice change of pace for the offense and more of a passing threat. Play them both, like Florida has done in the past.

With the conference title and the Rose Bowl (excluding the illegimate runner-up, back-door entry) probably out of reach, Ohio State's season is not very meaningful now. The Buckeyes will not be champions of anything, unless they get lucky and Iowa upsets PSU (giving OSU a co-championship). They can salvage something by beating TSUN again in the regular-seaon finale. They might play in something like the Outhouse Bowl against some team like Florida, which will not end well for OSU.

Sigh. So much returning talent from 2007, and little to show for it.

PSU had a nice defense and all, but OSU need to score more than six points. I love Tressel, but the playcalling is too conservative, with risk averseness taken too far. He is so worried about avoiding turnovers that the O takes very few chances. This works against mediocre opponents but is problematic against better competition.

I am not a fan of PSU, so I hope it falls short of the national title. Since OSU cannot win, I may pull for Alabama.

Sorry everyone for the long, rambling post. This was a tough loss in a game OSU easily could have won.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Sun, 10/26/2008 - 6:17am

Good game by Penn State; I did not think it could win this year at the Shoe. PSU's D played well, but the O was unimpressive, other than avoiding mistakes. A lot of that was because of solid play by the OSU D, though.

Penn State did not have a single three-and-out the entire game. Not one. Only one of their drives went for less than 20 yards.

Their offense was fine. You don't score points when you're constantly facing long fields and the opposing defense simply isn't making mistakes - instead, you play field position, and make sure any short fields you gain you take advantage of. Their biggest weakness on offense was the passing game, obviously - but that's because until the second half, the OSU DL was really just harassing the PSU OL.

Points aren't always about offense, and offense isn't always about points. Ditto for defense and preventing points. You can't say "Michigan scored more than we did against Penn State!" because Michigan had better field position, and it was a longer game - this game was only 8 drives long.

I don't really agree regarding your criticism of OSU's playcalling. Bowman was blitzing almost every first down early on - OK, that's an exaggeration, but not that much of one. Running at the defense is the right thing to do in that case. The passing plays were mostly tendency-breakers: they'd line up in a formation that looked somewhat like a zone read or draw, and then toss a hitch, because the linebackers were a bit frozen. That only works because you're breaking a tendency - keep doing it, and the linebackers stop it, and tip the balls away.

There was no "magic bullet" to beat the Lions defense, just like there was no "magic bullet" to beat the OSU defense. You had to keep changing things up, including doing things that didn't work before, in hopes that the things that did work will help the things that didn't work.

That game was a fantastic game. It's the way football is supposed to be played. Both defenses were disciplined, and tackled very well - runs gained 3-4 yards, sometimes 6-7 - never 80, and receivers were tackled right when they caught the ball (with a few broken coverages thrown in because they're not perfect).

Low scoring? A bit, yeah. But again - short game. It was only 8 drives long for Penn State. Most games are 12 or more.

He is so worried about avoiding turnovers that the O takes very few chances. This works against mediocre opponents but is problematic against better competition.

I have lots of criticisms about Tressel, but playing a careful game when things are close is not one of them. It also might be a more damning statement if Ohio State hadn't lost on, y'know, two turnovers.

by Kevin Eleven :: Sun, 10/26/2008 - 10:09am

1. Texas
2. Alabama
3. Penn State- their schedule has been far easier than those above them, even with Ohio State win. I respect PSU as #3, but they are a step behind Texas and Alabama, who do not have Coastal Carolonas on their schedule.
4. Oklahoma State- I see no reason to drop OSU after they lost by four on the road to the no-questions-asked number one team in the nation.
5. Georgia
6. Texas Tech- They'll be #1 next week if they can beat Texas.
7. Florida
8. Oklahoma
9. Southern Cal
10. Missouri
11. Utah
12. Ohio State
13. TCU
14. Florida State
15. LSU
16. Maryland
17. Minnesota- Minny being 7-1 is one of the biggest shocks of the season.
18. California
19. BYU
20. Michigan State
21. Boise State
22. North Carolina
23. Tulsa
24. Notre Dame
25. Oregon

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Sun, 10/26/2008 - 5:45pm

a step behind Texas and Alabama, who do not have Coastal Carolonas on their schedule.

Oh, for *!#*^s sake. Alabama played Western Kentucky and Tulane, both of whom might as well be Division IAA teams this year.

Texas is correct. Texas's schedule this year is brutal. But Alabama's schedule wasn't cream-puff free either.

by Kevin Eleven :: Sun, 10/26/2008 - 8:25pm

I admit I overstated things, but there's a line out there somewhere. WKY is D-1A, and Tulane is generally a far more dangerous opponent than Coastal Carolina.


Pat, FWIW I'd be a whole lot happier with PSU winning the whole ball of wax than either Texas or Alabama. As a fan I hate the Longhorns and Tide, but as an unbiased observer, the Big 10 is down, and PSU doesn't have an impressive non-conference schedule.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Sun, 10/26/2008 - 9:59pm

Western Kentucky has not beaten a Division IA team this year, and "dangerous" Tulane has only beaten LA-Monroe, who similarly has not beaten a Division IA team this year.

I'm sorry, but to claim that Alabama's schedule is harder than Penn State's because Western Kentucky is a harder foe than Coastal Carolina, and Tulane is a more dangerous foe than Syracuse is just insane. WKU, Tulane, Coastal Carolina, and Syracuse were all "byes" for the team. They don't matter. Just ignore them.

Alabama does have the harder schedule, but it's not by much, and it could easily change by the end of the year depending on what happens.

Ohio State matches up well with Georgia.
Oregon State is weaker than Kentucky, but it's not by a lot, and that could easily change by the end of the year.
Illinois is a better team than Arkansas.
Ole Miss and Wisconsin are a wash.
Purdue is probably better than Clemson, although at this point we're getting close to "bye" territory.
Michigan and Tennessee are a wash, although, again - bye territory.

No one cares about Temple, Syracuse, Western Kentucky, Tulane, and Coastal Carolina.

Alabama's biggest advantage for Penn State over strength-of-schedule is the SEC championship game, but we don't know who'll be there yet.

the Big 10 is down

First, it's not that down, and second: Penn State did what a much better team does against weaker competition. It beat them, by a lot. Alabama has had multiple close calls already against much weaker teams. Alabama and Penn State's schedules are pretty close, in terms of strength (with an edge to Alabama), but Penn State's performed better.

I'm not trying to say that Penn State should be placed over Alabama "definitely." The idea that you can't rank Alabama over Penn State, though, is crazy. They're waay close, and depending on their remaining games (and the games of their previous/future opponents!) they could easily be the better team. With teams as close as Alabama and Penn State, voters have to look very carefully at a team's resume after each week.

Penn State's massive jump in the statistical rankings this week should make it obvious that the "Penn State's schedule is weak!" is wrong. Virtually all of the statistical rankings are going to have Penn State as a close third to Alabama - and again, that actually means (given Penn State's superior performance in those games) they should be basically tied with Alabama, if not ahead. Unsurprisingly, in the Coaches' Poll, they are basically tied. Mainly because coaches can see a 13-6 victory against an away crowd of 106,000 as an impressive victory, even though the public can't.

by Pete (not verified) :: Sun, 10/26/2008 - 9:30pm

I thought Penn State looked like it would win that game most of the way. However, they were never strong enough to put the game away against a team that lost 35-3 to USC. Well, Ohio State is improved (and USC seems weaker, USC would probably win today 28-9). However, I do not think Penn State is good enough to beat USC (or Florida or Georgia who have too much offense for them).

My wife and I watched the Florida-Kentucky and Georgia-LSU game earlier that day as well as a little bit of the big 12 games and the Big 10 just does seem slower/more conservative. They seem like they are running plays from 10-20 years ago and running in 3/4 speed by comparison.

I wish the BCS would not levy requirements upon the computer rankings. I have always liked Sagarin's ratings (or even the Predictor) more than the ELO-CHESS garbage they have required him to use. Yes, margin of victory (anything more than 20 points is pretty much pointless) and home vs. away do make a difference. Why 17-20 points? 16 points is the maximum possible swing of a single play (6+2 lost vs. 6+2 gained). In reality 17-20 points are 3 score differences, which is not easily surmounted by a single bad play or blown call.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 5:35pm

"more than the ELO-CHESS garbage they have required him to use."

Dang that ELO-CHESS garbage! I mean, it's just dumb to use a system that huge numbers of other sports and competitive exhibitions use, right? Instead, we should use a system that's clearly biased towards fast-paced and high-scoring games because we don't have enough data available to determine whether a game was an 8 drive game where the margin of victory would be expected to be almost half of what it would be in a normal game.

Yeah, that's smart!

Also, Elo ratings can use home field advantage, and Sagarin's do. The only statistical ranking system that doesn't use HFA in the BCS, as far as I know, is Colley's.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Sun, 10/26/2008 - 10:01pm

However, they were never strong enough to put the game away against a team that lost 35-3 to USC.

1: USC-Ohio State was at USC. Penn State-Ohio State was at Ohio State.
2: Penn State was strong enough to demolish a team that beat USC. If you're going to compare USC to Penn State via common opponents, you can't pay attention to Ohio State and not Oregon State.

by Solomon (not verified) :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 12:23am

I am as big an Ohio State homer as there is, but I would not say OSU matches up well with Georgia. OSU would likely lose to Florida, Georgia, or Alabama, although I think it would beat the other 9 SEC teams on a neutral field (maybe we will see on New Year's Day, depending how the bowl matchups end up).

There is more to offense than points, but not having one three-and-out does not necessarily mean the offense was good. You could say PSU did enough offensively to win, but that might not have been the case without the Pryor fumble (the game-changing play). The other turnover came at the end, when Pryor tried to force a throw. PSU is good, but it did not wow me the way USC did. Sure home-field was flipped, USC has since lost, and Ohio State has improved since then. But USC was awesome that night against a decent OSU squad. I doubt PSU could beat good USC, but it could probably beat brain-fart USC (the one that shows up once or twice a year).

Something tells me one or more of the current top three will lose before the bowls. Since a playoff is unlikely for awhile, the plus-one system seems like a decent compromise for now. You could have the traditional bowl matchups on New Year's Day (Big 10-Pac 10 in the Rose, SEC in the Sugar, Big 12 in the Fiesta or Orange, etc.), and then take the top two teams after that for a title game. The title game could be played about 1.5-2 weeks later, maybe on a Friday night so as not to conflict with NFL playoff games. Of course, there will still be controversy sometimes, but you keep the bowl crowd happy and have something closer to a playoff.

I wonder if some of the national animosity towards Ohio State will abate now that the Buckeyes are assured of missing the title game. Eh, probably not.

Russell -- is there any chance we could get an Ohio State blogger/journalist as the podcast guest the week of the Ohio State-Michigan game? I suspect national interest in the game will be a little down (compared to say 2006), but it is still an important historical rivalry and of central importance to the two teams and the Big 10. If you already have a guest for that week, maybe keep this in mind for another time.

by Kevin Eleven :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 11:29pm

Pat, I love you but you're just over the top here. You're the Jonnie Cochran to the Penn State OJ. :)

Look, we both know the deal. An undefeated SEC or Big-12 champ not only gets in, but deserves to get in ahead of undefeated PSU.

If it makes you feel any better, I give Alabama the slimmest of chances of going undefeated, and PSU will control their own destiny.

And in the end they'll lose to Michigan State.


by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 10/28/2008 - 5:01am

No, I'm really not pulling the Chewbacca defense, and this seriously has nothing to do with the fact that it's Penn State. It's just that I tend to follow Penn State (and Ohio State, and Hawaii, and as an aside any other team in the Big Ten) so I know about it.

Texas going undefeated is an unquestioned #1. Texas Tech going undefeated is an unquestioned #1. I'm not arguing that, and no sane person could really defend it. So let's leave it out of the discussion.

Alabama is not a guaranteed #1, because the SEC is not the premier league that it was last year. That has more to do with how good they were last year (and the year before) than anything else. Alabama's out of conference schedule is unquestionably worse than Penn State's, considering Penn State played a team that's gotten votes in the current AP poll, whereas Alabama's best win is a team that's got about as impressive a resume as Temple.

You really think it's a given that Alabama will win out and get in? Imagine this.

Penn State wins out. Ohio State wins out. Michigan State wins out, excepting Penn State, obviously. Oregon State wins out. That leaves Penn State with victories over 3 teams in the Top 25, one of whom's likely in the top 10 (OSU), one in the teens (OrSt), and one probably at #20-ish (MSU).

Florida beats Georgia. Florida State beats Florida, Georgia Tech beats Georgia, and Vanderbilt beats Kentucky. Alabama wins out. (For safety's sake, we'll also have Troy beat LSU: while that's unlikely, Troy's not that bad a team, and LSU really has no business being anything other than #24 or #25 right now). After that, Florida would likely be in the teens (four losses, one to a team not even sniffing the Top 25), Georgia would also likely be in the teens, maybe top ten, and LSU wouldn't be in the Top 25.

Which would leave Alabama with two wins in the Top 25, both rather easily matched up against Penn State's resume, and Penn State with one additional quality win. Even if LSU somehow managed to stick around at the bottom of the Top 25, they'd basically be even.

Add in the fact that Penn State's wins over the top 25 teams were more impressive (assuming a relatively competitive game vs. Florida), and they should be ranked solidly higher. But, in any case, with that slate, Penn State would probably be ranked higher in most statistical rankings: and given the closeness in human polls, that would mean Alabama would get in over Penn State.

Play around with the situations on Colley's website, if you want, and keep in mind that the relative movement of Penn State/Alabama would be much larger in the other rankings.

Penn State and Alabama are much closer in terms of schedule strength than you're giving them credit for, and it would not take a complete miracle for Penn State to overtake them. None of the victories I described are that crazy (Georgia Tech over Georgia is probably the most unlikely).

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 10/28/2008 - 1:50pm

"would mean Penn State would get in over Alabama", not the reverse, dangit.

by Kevin Eleven :: Mon, 10/27/2008 - 11:32pm

Editing duplicate post, but I wish we could have had a "Football Junkie" thread this week, even without our beloved Russell :)