Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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Two NFC teams were hit hardest by injuries last year. One already set the AGL record in 2016, while the other has a coach with the worst AGL since 2002. Also: the Rams' incredible bill of health in L.A., and Tampa Bay's questionable injury reporting.

03 Jan 2011

SDA: 2010-2011 Bowl Spectacular Part IV

By Bill Connelly, Brian Fremeau, and Robert Weintraub

Whether you see it as disappointing or merciful, the bowl season all but comes to a close this week. There are seven games left, with six taking place between now and next Sunday night.

That's not to say the storylines still aren't strong. Jim Harbaugh's Stanford Cardinal take the field tonight in South Florida with, once again, rumors swirling of all the job offers he might receive when the game is over. Ohio State takes on Arkansas with a team full of stars thanks to the NCAA's decision not to suspend anybody until next year. Jerry World hosts an intriguing post-season game -- hot Texas A&M versus crazy LSU -- that doesn't involve the Dallas Cowboys. Kentucky faces a Pittsburgh team that has lost two head coaches in a month. Boston College tries to continue late-season momentum against Nevada and Colin Kaepernick.

As you wait for the NFL playoffs to start on Saturday, you can continue what has been an almost daily binge of college football for the last couple weeks. Allow us to walk you through all you need to know.


Discover Orange Bowl: No. 13 Virginia Tech +3.5 vs. No. 4 Stanford (Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Va. Tech
Has the Ball...
When Stanford
Has the Ball...
Category Va. Tech
Va. Tech
Va. Tech
2010 F/+ Rk 8 5 12 24 16 3
2010 FEI Rk 2 3 9 24 9 10
2010 S&P+ Rk 10 8 15 27 18 4
2010 FPA Rk 3 16
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 12 23 49 20
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 13 29 8 3
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 24 39 16 16
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
68.2% Run
65.9% Run
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 14 69 22 2
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
40.6% Run
34.6% Run

One quarterback is a star-in-waiting and almost certainly will be the top choice in April's NFL draft. But Andrew Luck, for all his talent, hasn't had anything like the career of his opposite number in this game, Tyrod Taylor. Taylor is among the least heralded stars in the nation, despite his winning the ACC Player of the Year, being the all-time leader in wins and offense at Virginia Tech, and leading the Hokies to their third conference title in four years at the helm. Yet because he plays in Blacksburg, isn't especially dynamic or electrifying (all Hokies quarterbacks suffer in comparison to Michael Vick), and Tech's success is generally due to defense and BeamerBall, Taylor barely ripples nationally. Stanford has been superb this season, with only a second-half meltdown due to exhaustion at Oregon marring an unbeaten season. Coach Jim Harbaugh will have more seducers than the Bachelorette this offseason, and Luck may go pro early, so this could be the high water mark in Palo Alto for the foreseeable future. But underestimate VaTech, winner of 11 straight games, and Tyrod Taylor at your own risk.

Allstate Sugar Bowl: No. 8 Arkansas +3.5 vs. No. 6 Ohio State (Tuesday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Arkansas
Has the Ball...
When Ohio State
Has the Ball...
Category Arkansas
Ohio St.
Ohio St.
Ohio St.
2010 F/+ Rk 9 3 4 2 26 16
2010 FEI Rk 6 7 3 7 13 18
2010 S&P+ Rk 9 2 6 3 26 10
2010 FPA Rk 58 5
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 15 6 40 5
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 5 3 19 18
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 3 1 34 15
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
52.3% Run
65.4% Run
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 8 2 15 35
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
30.8% Run
40.8% Run

Except for games against schools in Alabama, Ryan Mallett might have contended for the Heisman. Three picks against the Crimson Tide and getting knocked out of the Auburn game altered the trajectory of what otherwise was an astounding season for the Michigan transfer. Mallett tossed 30 touchdowns and almost 3,600 yards despite losing his most polished wideout, Greg Childs, to a knee injury. That loss was offset by the emergence of running back Knile Davis, who ran for 13 touchdowns and over 1,000 yards despite not being much of a focal point until midseason. The multiple formations and Mallett's pro-ready arm will present a formidable challenge for the Buckeyes defense, a unit that gave up the third fewest points per game (13.3) in the country. Meanwhile, Ohio State matches up well with Arkansas when it runs the ball. The Razorbacks are far better against the pass, and the Buckeyes piled up 220 yards per game on the ground. Like many bowl games, this one could come down to desire -- OSU had higher ambitions this season than "just" a BCS game, while the Hogs are craving some national respect.

GoDaddy.com Bowl: Middle Tennessee Pk vs. Miami (Ohio) (Thursday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Has the Ball...
When Miami (Ohio)
Has the Ball...
Category MTSU
2010 F/+ Rk 103 94 110 68 70 101
2010 FEI Rk 92 105 100 88 44 109
2010 S&P+ Rk 110 87 112 65 109 89
2010 FPA Rk 76 79
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 104 71 107 89
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 112 63 96 96
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 109 72 83 89
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
66.0% Run
51.1% Run
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 110 91 114 91
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
32.5% Run
27.3% Run

Foodies can prove their worth by discussing the unearthly greatness of foie gras or a sandwich at a hole-in-the-wall dive. This summer, college football nerds, on the other hand, solidified their bona fides by sharing with you the wonders of Middle Tennessee quarterback Dwight Dasher. And then he got himself suspended for not paying back gambling loans he received from a VA patient. It was one of the odder, more off-putting suspensions of a season full of them. And then Dasher returned to very mediocre results. The Blue Raiders got ripped up by Arkansas State on ESPN, then fell to 3-6 by losing to lowly North Texas. Written off, however, they rebounded. MTSU beat both Western Kentucky (with help from a 99-yard fumble return) and Sun Belt champion Florida International by one point each and somehow got to six wins and bowl eligibility. They'll take on a team that was 1-11 a year ago but went on a hot streak itself. Miami won six of seven to end the season and upset a very good Northern Illinois team in the MAC title game. It appears that defenses hold the advantage in this one, though Dasher and the Blue Raiders certainly improved late in the year. The winner of this game likely secures "worst bowl champion of 2010" status. But hey, they'll still be bowl champions.

AT&T Cotton Bowl: No. 17 Texas A&M +1 vs. No. 11 LSU (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, Fox)

OVERALL When Texas A&M
Has the Ball...
When LSU
Has the Ball...
Category A&M
2010 F/+ Rk 20 13 46 9 10 34
2010 FEI Rk 24 10 41 21 5 36
2010 S&P+ Rk 16 22 34 14 11 40
2010 FPA Rk 103 2
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 34 28 11 19
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 42 6 17 77
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 32 15 13 13
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
57.2% Run
68.3% Run
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 46 9 10 93
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
25.8% Run
42.2% Run

In mid-October, it would have been hard to imagine a bowl matchup featuring these two teams. LSU was coming off of two of the least-plausible wins in recent memory, defeating Tennessee despite (or, strangely, because of) the worst clock management in the history of clock management, then knocking off Florida with an insanely confident, low-percentage fake field goal. They were undefeated and absolutely screaming "Team of destiny." Meanwhile, Texas A&M was 3-3, having lost three in a row. Quarterback and preseason award candidate Jerrod Johnson was struggling terribly, and it looked like Mike Sherman's tenure as A&M coach would never get off the ground. Then, fate got confusing. LSU fell to Cam Newton and Auburn, while A&M changed quarterbacks and got hot. After scoring a combined 26 points against Arkansas and Missouri, the Aggies averaged 33 points per game down the stretch, taking down both Oklahoma and Nebraska go get to nine wins. A&M's newfound offensive efficiency will be tested against an LSU defense that ranks highly in just about every Football Outsiders statistic, but can Jordan Jefferson and LSU move the ball against Tim DeRuyter's 3-4 defense?

BBVA Compass Bowl: Kentucky +3.5 vs. Pittsburgh (Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Kentucky
Has the Ball...
When Pittsburgh
Has the Ball...
Category Kentucky
2010 F/+ Rk 43 23 19 38 72 17
2010 FEI Rk 39 23 21 31 82 22
2010 S&P+ Rk 49 24 29 44 67 11
2010 FPA Rk 38 49
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 33 61 86 3
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 34 26 48 21
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 25 29 99 10
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
57.3% Run
59.0% Run
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 29 77 38 27
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
24.9% Run
34.8% Run

The coaching situation in Pittsburgh is a mess, but let's imagine for a moment that none of that will make a lick of difference in the bowl game. What will make a difference is Dion Lewis. The Panthers own the No. 3 rushing offense according to S&P+ and a finally healthy Lewis exploded in the finale over Cincinnati for 261 yards and four touchdowns on 42 carries. Kentucky's run defense is weaker than Cincinnati's, according to S&P+, and they gave up 4.5 yards per carry this season, so expect Lewis to just keep pounding away when Pitt has the ball. Kentucky's offense is led by senior quarterback Mike Hartline, who had his most efficient passing game in a 34-37 defeat against Auburn this year. Eight of his nine interceptions on the season came in losses. The Wildcats rank No. 25 in accumulating available yards, but the Panthers rank No. 16 in defending available yards. Forty percent of Pittsburgh's opponent drives that enter the red zone fail to reach the end zone.

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Boston College +7.5 vs. No. 15 Nevada (Sunday, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Boston College
Has the Ball...
When Nevada
Has the Ball...
Category B.C.
2010 F/+ Rk 49 29 98 75 19 7
2010 FEI Rk 50 31 95 75 23 11
2010 S&P+ Rk 60 31 92 62 28 9
2010 FPA Rk 53 28
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 93 84 8 11
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 90 57 49 11
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 87 108 21 9
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
70.1% Run
71.2% Run
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 102 48 33 5
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
25.5% Run
34.0% Run

The marquee matchup in this one is Nevada's pistol offense against Boston College's stout defense. The Eagles allowed only 80 yards per game on the ground this year, while quarterback Colin Kaepernick and running back Vai Taua combined for 217 yards per game on the ground. They had 42 carries combined in the upset victory over Boise State, the best rushing defense the Wolfpack faced this year. Nevada should have enough of an edge, according to our stats, to do some damage, and the scoring threshold for victory against the Eagles isn't particularly high. Against FBS competition, Boston College was one of only two teams in the nation that never scored at least 28 points in any game. The other was 1-11 Memphis. And yet, BC keeps on keeping on, reaching a bowl game for the 12th straight season. The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl may not deserve the privileged status of a BCS championship eve telecast, but the unusual AT&T Park set-up is always a treat.

Storylines of the Week

Rob Weintraub: Suddenly, the Sugar Bowl is about much more than an entertaining bit of pigskin combat. The Leaders and Legends of the Big Ten had a New Year's Day horrorshow -- 0-for-5, each one seemingly worse than the preceding loss. The state of Michigan, supposedly on the mend with the success of the Ford Fusion and Chevy Volt, was embarrassed by the SEC West. Northwestern lost in classic bowl fashion -- an entertaining comeback fell just short. Someone let JoePa know that Penn State had lost to Florida a few hours after the game ended. And Wisconsin went away from its signal strength and personality by spreading the field and throwing on the two-point conversion that decided the Rose Bowl. So Ohio State goes up against Arkansas with much more than a bowl of sugar on the line. Should the Buckeyes and their eligible, tattooed stars fall short against the Hogs, it will go down in history as about as horrific a stretch of bowl action in Big Ten history. Gordon "TCU? Do They Play Football" Gee and the other conference powers-that-be might just vote to return to the days when only one Big Ten team went to a bowl game.

Brian Fremeau: There was much gnashing of teeth on Saturday as many fans came to the abrupt realization that the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, and every other BCS bowl game were going to appear not on network television, but on ESPN. The early viewership data from those games were as expected: a significant drop-off in TV ratings compared to network data from seasons past, while setting records for cable viewership. I'm not a media expert and won't pretend to forecast the long-term financial implications of the move to cable. As a lifelong consumer of network and cable television, I don't care what channel the game is on. It didn't impact my New Year's Day at all, and generally speaking, ESPN has enhanced my enjoyment of my favorite sport more than it has detracted from it. I do think there are too many bowls, however, and I would advocate for the following changes. Eliminate FCS games entirely from counting toward bowl qualification, up the minimum bowl eligibility standard to seven wins, and schedule the entire bowl season between December 26 and January 4. Forty eligible teams, 15 fewer bowls, 10 days. Lost revenue? Get ESPN, ABC, CBS, etc, and those 15 extra sponsors to pitch in and feature a few more primetime regular season inter-conference battles sprinkled throughout the year to make up the difference. The bowl season as it exists right now is OK, but it isn't the sport's golden goose -- the regular season is. Heck, when it's all said and done, the Iron Bowl might be remembered, deservedly, as the year's best bowl game.

Bill Connelly: I've said many times that I will completely throw myself into a college football playoff if one ever comes our way. But let's just say that watching TCU and their fans celebrate a Rose Bowl title, then watching the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks wrap up a playoff bid with a win over 7-9 St. Louis ... It was not the most pro-playoff weekend I have ever seen. Plenty of people seemed to almost mourn TCU's win because the Horned Frogs didn't get a shot at the national title, and to be sure, I wish they had. But the they are now and will forever be "Rose Bowl Champions," and that likely sounds as good or better to them than "National Semifinalist," or something similar. As always, I embrace the gray area in the playoff debate. There are plenty of benefits to a playoff, but a move toward a new system could deny us other joys. I mean, did you see Ron Zook's face after receiving his Gatorade bath last week? Did you see Tennessee's Tyler Bray unsuccessfully fighting off tears (before the game even ended) after his overtime interception against North Carolina? No matter how much playoff proponents may try to disagree, people care about these supposedly pointless games, and if we are to move away from this system (not that this will ever happen -- we've only been debating bowl-versus-playoffs for 40 years now), we have to acknowledge what we would be losing.


The Picks
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
Visitor Spread Home Rob F/+
Va. Tech +3.5 Stanford Va. Tech Va. Tech
Arkansas +3.5 Ohio State Arkansas Ohio State
Middle Tenn. Pk Miami (Ohio) MTSU Miami (Ohio)
Texas A&M +1 LSU LSU LSU*
Kentucky +3.5 Pittsburgh Kentucky* Pittsburgh
Boston Coll. +7.5 Nevada Nevada B.C.
Season-long Results
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
Bowls Vol. 3 Season Total
F/+: 5-5 (1-0) 84-79-5 (5-12)
Rob: 5-5 (1-0) 82-81-5 (11-6)

Posted by: Bill Connelly on 03 Jan 2011

28 comments, Last at 09 Jan 2011, 10:39pm by Sid


by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 4:17pm

BBVA Compass? Can't say I've heard of that one. Do they make compasses? And shouldn't the BBVA Compass Bowl feature Northern Iowa vs Northern Illinois?

by Treima6 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 4:28pm

Actually, BBVA Compass is a bank. I know, not nearly as interesting.

by Alexander :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 4:22pm

I was not excited about the hire at Pitt, but I never expected criminal prosecution to be the problem.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 4:28pm

I don't know why Wisconsin's loss gets lumped in with the rest of the Big Ten's issues given they lost by 2 points to the 3rd ranked team in the country.

TCU played a great all around game with no mistakes.

It's disappointing that even the FO folks are now repeating the same mantra of the popular media that the Badgers are no different than the Wolverines or the Spartans. I thought folks here had a modicum of common sense.

by Jeff Fogle :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 4:49pm

Don't think that's a mantra, and don't think FO repeated it. To the limited degree it was referenced, there's not really a need to say "But Wisconsin's loss wasn't as bad as the others" since the whole world watched the games and knows the difference. It was the fifth loss in an 0-5 day for the conference (and they were market underdogs in all five games anyway). Can you link us to an example of someone in the media saying "the Badgers are no different than the Wolverines or Spartans."

Wisconsin has more explaining to do about losing by 10 (on yardage of 444-292) to the Michigan State team that lost to Alabama 49-7 (on yardage of 546-171). Connectivity to the SEC takes a hit there. Connectivity to the Pac 10 was already shaky with the 20-19 win over non-bowl Arizona State...

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 7:08pm

I don't know what games from several months ago have to do with anything.

And to my shame I listened to ESPN radio the past few days. That comment has been recurring of how the Big 10 on New Year's Day was a collective failure with no qualifier on WI's performance.

And I thought the writers here were perfectly qualified to explain themselves. Do we now have FO proxies who act as interpreters?

by Jeff Fogle :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 10:08pm

The game three months before the Rose Bowl(almost to the day) was Wisconsin's first of what would only be three regular season games vs. teams with top 50 defenses. They would gain 5.2 ypp vs. Michigan State, 5.4 vs. Iowa, and 5.7 vs. Ohio State, suggesting a range of possibilites when facing a quality defense they couldn't bully. They would ultimately get 5.7 vs. TCU. So, the game from three months ago was similar to the game from two days ago...and that first opponent got obliterated by Alabama.

Not sure if "no qualifier" can count as a mantra. Can silence be a mantra? Comments were about the conference as a whole. And, going 0-5 on the showcase bowl day of the year is a black eye for the conference as a whole. When the American League was crushing the National League for a few years in a row in MLB, nobody was saying "except Colorado" every time it came up. References to the Celtics dynasty of the 60's doesn't lead to "except 1967" every time they show clips of Bill Russell blocking shots and Don Nelson shot putting a jumper. It's understood that it's a big picture topic.

And, yes, I'm a proxy. Posters are forbidden from disagreeing with each other...

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 8:34am

To avoid being branded a liar here is one quote from various articles posted here and there across the internet:

"Michigan State was exposed as a fraud, losing 49-7. Michigan was in the final throes of a dysfunctional season under maybe-fired, maybe-not Rich Rodriguez, losing 52-14. Joe Paterno's disappointing Penn State squad couldn't beat a bad Florida team playing poorly. Wisconsin was outschemed, out-toughed and out-executed by non-AQ TCU."


by Will :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 5:22pm

The whole state of Michigan was an embarrassment. Going in to the weekend though, I think a lot of people kind of expected Michigan State to get hammered. Michigan's huge loss to Mississippi State was less expected - I expected a shootout there.


by Mike W :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 4:47pm

"And Wisconsin went away from its signal strength and personality by spreading the field and throwing on the two-point conversion that decided the Rose Bowl."

On the two-point conversion? How about pretty much the entire second half?

And why hasn't Bielema had a new one ripped for him over the complete non-use of timeouts at the end of the first half, and settling for a FG. What a douche bag. Next time he's on TV bloviating about how their "identity" is a line-'em-up, smash-mouth, running-first team, someone needs to ask him why he coached like such a pussy in the Rose Bowl.

by Will :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 5:25pm

The fake punt was definitely not pussy :)

That being said, the Badgers had a lot of success running between the tackles, but less so running to the outside. Why did they keep running to the outside? Backside pursuit was killing them.

They had a clear advantage on the line, but somehow got away from it. Many congrats to TCU, they played like the better team that they are, but Wisconsin's second half game planning was shaky, and the end of the first half was atrocious mismanagement of the clock.


by robwein (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 6:41pm

Will's point about the backside pursuit of Tank Carder et al is well taken. Insane that Wisconsin would have five weeks to prepare and not account for that, since it was basically TCU's lone shot at stopping the Badgers, at least enough to outscore them, which is what happened.
As for Mike W, true enough, but the final drive was one long hammering to paydirt. Especially on the heels of such a drive, it made little to no sense that Bielema would go throw on the 2-pt (although, in fairness, the intended receiver was wide open).

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 7:06pm

The TCU punter certainly had a good game.

by Tom Gower :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 9:19pm

Quick takes, since I'm watching the Hoyas right now: Stanford, Ohio State, Miami (OH), Texas A&M, Kentucky, Nevada. The Aggies and Cardinal are the counter-consensus picks, and I'll go with the Cardinal because, well, the other option is the Aggies.

by Jetspete :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 12:39pm

Bill, i think your analogy to the the playoffs works the same with the current BCS. UConn did not belong on the same field with Oklahoma, but because they won the BCS' equivalent of the NFC West they "earned" a BCS trip.

and if someone can explain why they threw on the 2 point conversion, i'd love to hear it.

by Bill Connelly :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 4:00pm

There's no doubting that there was a slight difference in quality, ahem, between UConn and Oklahoma. What I was getting at, though, is that I've heard a lot of "UConn's in one of the BCS bowls! Ridiculous! Further proof they need a playoff!" talk recently ... when a version of UConn (only, with a losing record) is in the NFL playoffs right now. I'm not saying the presence of UConn/Seattle is right or wrong ... just that some people have been twisting themselves into knots to support a playoff and have contradicted themselves to an impressive degree at this point.

by Muldrake (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 4:26pm

There is a difference though. The BCS wouldn't exist at all without the 6 major conferences getting guaranteed bids. UConn's inclusion was a precondition for having the BCS and national championship games at all. It's essentially the price that had to paid to get Oregon out of the Rose Bowl and Auburn out of the Sugar Bowl so we could see them play.

The NFL, on the other hand, doesn't necessarily need to put divisional champs in the playoffs. They can design the playoffs however they want, really, and it's not like the NFC West is not going to participate in the playoffs and split from the NFL.

And I, for one, am with Bill in preferring the bowls to the BCS. It seems like people think that TCU was a virtual lock to beat Auburn or Oregon, and I'm not seeing that. Ending the season with a Rose Bowl win in a great game is more satisfying than ending on a sour note.

by Master Taco (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 6:26pm

Ending the season with a Rose Bowl win in a great game is more satisfying than ending on a sour note.

That's kind of like saying "don't even try because you may fail, just take what they give you". That may be OK for you, but the vast majority of fans disagree.

by Floyd (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 6:57pm

I think most fans would rather their team win a BCS bowl than lose in a playoff system. Take Ohio State - I think the majority of their fans would rather end the season with a Sugar Bowl win (and put an end to all the SEC smack) than with a playoff semifinal loss.

by TV_Pete (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 2:35pm

I would like to see all Bowl Games finish up by January 2nd and then the Championship Teams determined.

I believe this would fit within the current contractual setup (through 2014) and should not be objectionable to "Classic Bowls" like the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl that have classic matchups. The "Plus One" suggested by the SEC was designed for failure since it was trying to setup a 4-team playoff.

The "Classic Plus One" should work and the nice thing is that even trivial games could affect which two teams go to the championship. It would also allow teams to see how good the best teams are against quality competition.

Who knows? Maybe TCU would be one of the best two teams this year and able to prove it. I doubt it, but who knows?

by Will :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 6:58pm

Who knows? Maybe TCU would be one of the best two teams this year and able to prove it. I doubt it, but who knows?

Don't doubt it for a second - there is not a whole lot separating the top ten teams or so this year. Take any matchup of Auburn, Oregon, TCU, Stanford, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Boise State and Alabama and the Las Vegas line (most reliable indicator of quality IMO) will be within 3.5.


by Kal :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 5:31pm

Playoffs are more fair in the sense that they're more objectively fair; they're dictated not by computer randomness or by people's polling but by very specific rules and guidelines. The trick is that objectively fair does not always guarantee good matchups or even good entries into a playoff. It also isn't necessarily more fair than being selective of teams; for instance, would it be 'more fair' that Alabama didn't make the playoffs but Michigan State did? How about UConn?

People want playoffs because they feel (rightly) that the subjective decisions are flawed. And they really are. I suspect the end result would also be flawed and also result in just as much debate in the college system, and would also result in hurting historical precedent. I'd be fine with a playoff - but I would also rather the kids get paid if they choose to.

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 8:07pm

Since it's completely plausible that under the design I favor, MSU and UConn would have made the playoffs this year and Alabama would not...

MSU was, at least according to the BCS formula, one of the five best teams that did not win their conference (or, in their case, win the tiebreaker for the automatic bid). UConn won their conference. Alabama met neither of those standards, so gets to stay home for a 16-team football playoff even though they were better than some conference champions that got in that way. Which is no different from a few Syracuse basketball teams that I've seen fall under the bubble in recent years.

by Kal :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 8:29pm

Right, but is that more or less better than what we have now?

I understand that many years any number of good teams should contend for the title. But by the same token, in almost every playoff system I've ever seen mentioned many fairly meh teams are going to contend for the title - and often some are going to get favorable terms to do so, like getting home field for a game or two.

Does that make the system better or worse? Would TCU getting a shot at a title game (after barely beating Wisconsin at a neutral field) be worth UConn, Florida Intl and the like getting a shot at the title as well? Is it that important that VTech gets a shot? Is that worth not giving a shot to the likes of Stanford, MSU, Alabama, LSU, Arkansas, etc?

It's tough to say.

I do know that for the schools, the alumni and the kids in those schools the big bowl games and the big championships are a big deal. They can make a very special year for that school. I don't think the same thing is true in the NCAA playoff system for basketball - or for that matter in most playoff systems.

by Joseph :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 11:47pm

"I don't think the same thing is true in the NCAA playoff system for basketball."

You've obviously never watched March Madness--cause there's a LOT of schools, who, by winning their conference tournament, get an auto bid to the Big Dance. Now, most of those who go crazy celebrating are going to get whipped by the better schools in the country in their one game, but they're quite happy to get beaten. And there are a few who actually WIN their game and play a second. And Indiana St., Butler, and George Mason actually sniff the championship!

Now maybe, there wouldn't be the same emotion in football. But there is in basketball, and I've seen enough college baseball to know that those players feel the same way. I can't speak for other sports, but you're WAAAY wrong on that last paragraph.

by Kal :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 3:38am

No, I have. And for the most part schools aren't really thrilled when they get into the tournament and lose in the second round. They don't start talking about how they got into the round of 32 as this huge deal; it's a nice thing, but not special. Final 4 -sure, that's something. And sometimes teams are happy to get to the final 8 or even, maybe, the sweet 16.

Dunno. I don't think that many Seattle fans are going to be trumpeting that they were the 2010 NFC West champions. I doubt that Nevada was thrilled to be the WAC champion. Etc, etc. And I doubt seriously that some of these teams (say, Nebraska) are all that thrilled to be winners of the Holiday bowl - but others (say, Washington) ARE that thrilled to be winners of the Holiday bowl. That sort of thing would be taken away with a playoff system.

by Floyd (not verified) :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 12:14pm

Well said.

by Sid :: Sun, 01/09/2011 - 10:39pm

"The Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl may not deserve the privileged status of a BCS championship eve telecast, but the unusual AT&T Park set-up is always a treat."

I remember last year they also had a lousy bowl game the day before the "title" game, and I'd imagine this is common.