Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features


» Defense and Rest Time

Do defenses really wear out over the course of a game? Do defenses benefit from long drives that give them more time to rest on the sideline? Guest columnist Ben Baldwin investigates.

07 Sep 2005

Confessions of a Football Junkie: Irish Rising

by Russell Levine

Notre Dame is one of those athletic institutions about which there is no middle ground. Like other teams of this ilk -- the Yankees, Duke in college basketball, and European soccer's Manchester United -- the Fighting Irish arouse passions of one extreme or another in just about every college football fan. But regardless of whether it's love or hate, one thing is certain: Their respective sports are more interesting any time these juggernauts are prominently involved.

And it appears, after Saturday night's thrashing of No. 23 Pitt, that Notre Dame could be prominently involved in this college football season. Obligatory cautions about its only being one game in a long season aside, the Irish surprised many with their offensive efficiency under new coach Charlie Weis in the 41–21 win. With 227 yards through the air and 275 more on the ground, Weis's offense put on a three-hour display of nearly flawless offensive execution -- one that was eerily reminiscent of the last offense Weis directed: the dynastic New England Patriots.

Notre Dame's nearly suicidal 2005 schedule -- which includes dates with Purdue, USC, Washington, and Tennessee -- prompted many observers to proclaim the Irish could begin the season 1–5 or even 0–6. Instead, many are now predicting that the Irish can beat anyone they play, starting this Saturday at No. 4 Michigan (12 p.m. ET, ABC).

Michigan certainly appears vulnerable enough to Notre Dame, especially after surrendering 211 rushing yards to Northern Illinois in a 33–17 win in its opener on Saturday. Michigan-Notre Dame is a rivalry that has produced many grind-it-out, close-to-the-vest games, but this year's renewal has the makings of an offensive shootout more appropriate for BYU-San Diego State, circa 1991.

The Wolverines may, in fact, be even more explosive this season than last. The offense appears to have recovered from the departure of receiver Braylon Edwards, who's been replaced efficiently -- if not quite as spectacularly -- in the lineup by senior Jason Avant. A steady rushing attack with sophomore Mike Hart has been augmented by freshman Kevin Grady, who's a home-run threat in his own right. Sophomore quarterback Chad Henne is a year older and showed veteran poise in the pocket, although it should be noted that the Northern Illinois defenders rarely got close enough to Henne to disrupt his timing.

The vulnerabilities of both teams were on the defense. Not only did Michigan get gashed for the aforementioned rushing yardage, but the Wolverines allowed NIU to sustain several long drives that were halted only by turnovers. Michigan also displayed poor tackling and incorrect pursuit angles, particularly in its secondary. The performance was bad enough for legendary Michigan coach Bo Schembechler to call the tackling “atrocious� and warn against anyone calling Michigan favorites for the Big Ten conference crown, much less national-title contenders.

Notre Dame, whose pass defense was one of the worst in the nation last season, had more success against Pitt, but still showed vulnerability to the pass. Panthers quarterback Tyler Palko led his team to an opening-drive touchdown, hitting receiver Greg Lee for a 39-yard score when Lee ran untouched up the seam of the Notre Dame defense.

It's always dangerous to read too much into the results of any one game, particularly a season-opener when the relative strength of the opponent is unknown, but it's clear that Notre Dame will be a more competitive, competent team than it was a year ago. How many wins that will translate into remains to be seen. But the Irish showed enough in their opening win to earn the national spotlight for another week.

This weekend's results may make Michigan-Notre Dame a more attractive matchup than otherwise thought, but it will be no better than the second most watched game of the coming weekend. The top matchup, of course, will be Texas at Ohio State (8 p.m. ET, ABC) in perhaps the most anticipated inter-conference game since Florida State-Notre Dame in 1993.

Neither team did anything to dim expectations in their openers against overmatched opponents this weekend. Ohio State was never threatened in a 34–14 win over Miami (Ohio), in which it flashed the playmaking ability of Ted Ginn Jr., who had five catches for 75 yards, including a 42-yard score. Texas, meanwhile, laid a 60–3 pasting on Louisiana-Lafayette as quarterback Vince Young threw for three scores and ran for another.

Young's passing ability will be key against the Buckeyes. As a scrambler, he's nearly the caliber of Michael Vick, but Ohio State's linebackers are as fast as any in the country and should be able to contain him enough to force the pass. Ohio State's quarterback(s) will also be a focal point -- Justin Zwick, starting in place of the suspended Troy Smith, was an efficient 17-of-23 against Miami and may have done enough to earn the start this week, even as Smith returns.

The season's opening weekend provided only one upset of note, but it was a significant one as No. 7 Oklahoma, a participant in the last two BCS national title games, fell to Texas Christian in its first home loss since 2001. The game made clear that while Oklahoma had 11 players selected in the 2005 draft, it was the loss of an undrafted player, quarterback Jason White, that will have the biggest impact on the Sooners' season. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops attempted to replace him with two passers against TCU, but neither Paul Thompson nor Rhett Bomar could move the Sooners effectively in the 17–10 loss, especially after standout tailback Adrian Peterson was slowed by an ankle injury.

If the performance is at all indicative of the kind of team Oklahoma will have this season, Texas will likely waltz all the way to the national-title game if it can get past Ohio State. The Longhorns have beaten virtually everyone but Oklahoma in recent seasons, and this seems more and more like the year they finally prevail in the Red River Shootout.

It also appears after just one week that it's unlikely any team from a non-BCS league will reach a BCS bowl game, as Utah did last year out of the Mountain West Conference. Utah barely won its opener over Arizona and looked nothing like the dominating team of a year ago. Louisville, which nearly duplicated the feat last year in Conference-USA, has moved on to the Big East this season. And another perceived interloper, Boise State, was embarrassed at Georgia, 48–13, in a result that will no doubt harm the reputation of any of the so-called "mid majors" that attempt to crash the BCS party this season.

Mike Martz Award

The readers have spoken and the award's name shall remain unchanged for another year. There was much gnashing of teeth over the decision of Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione to kick an extra point when his team took a one-point lead over Clemson with about 10 minutes to play, but I think it was the correct call. Even though A&M ended up losing by one on a field goal, with that much time to play there was still time for more scoring by either team. Especially with the lead, I don't like teams going for two in that spot.

Instead, this week's Martz Award goes to Arizona coach Mike Stoops. His Wildcats had a chance to upset Utah on the road, but trailing by three and faced with a fourth-and-five on the Utah 43 with less than four minutes to play and only one timeout, Stoops elected to punt. By the time his team got the ball back, it was buried deep in its own territory with under 30 seconds to play, and lost. Did Stoops honestly think he was going to get a better chance than the fourth-down play to put his team in position to win? That's over-coaching and it cost his kids their best shot at the win.

BlogPoll Ballot

This year, I am taking part in something called the BlogPoll, hosted by mgoblog. Each week, I will post my ballot in this column.

(last week's ranking in parentheses)

1. Southern Cal (1) -- Defense has some soft spots, but that was a preseason game for them.
2. Texas (3) -– Not that UL-Lafayette proves anything.
3. Louisiana State (2) -- Hate to drop them because of Katrina uncertainties, but this is going to be a more trying year than first appeared.
4. Georgia (12) -- Very nicely done, gentlemen.
5. Virginia Tech (6) -- Jury's still out on Vick.
6. Ohio State (10) -- Something tells me they'll be swapping plaeces with Texas next week.
7. Tennessee (5) -- Go with Claussen, Phil.
8. Michigan (8) -- Judgement is reserved until I see Darius Walker's yardage total Saturday.
9. Iowa (11) -- Can't really learn much when Ball State plays its JV.
10. Florida (9) -- Ragged, but the athletes are there.
11. Miami (Florida) (7) -- Based on Monday, I think they're a better team than FSU.
12. Florida State (18) -- That passing attack could mean three losses.
13. Louisville (15) -- That's your mulligan, fellas.
14. Notre Dame (NR) -- Very impressive, Mr. Weis.
15. Cal (16) -- Tough break (literally).
16. Oklahoma (4) -- Seems like a decent landing spot, could be temporary.
17. Georgia Tech (NR) -- Auburn win will look better as the year goes on.
18. Clemson (NR) -- Might be saying the same thing about their win over A&M.
19. Purdue (19) -- No data to go on.
20. Texas A&M (14) -- Just because kicking the XP didn't work out doesn't make it the wrong call.
21. Arizona State (22) -- Getting LSU at home is a huge break.
22. Auburn (13) -- OK, so maybe the losses on O will make a huge difference.
23. Virginia (21) -- Not impressed with effort vs. Broncos
24. Texas Tech (20) -- Victims of a Week One DNP
25. Fresno State (23) -- See above.

Dropped out: Boise State (17), Pittsburgh (24), Bowling Green (25).

Games I watched: Bowling Green-Wisconsin, NIU-Michigan, Miami-FSU, parts of Oregon-Houston, UCF-South Carolina, Minnesota-Tulsa, Arizona-Utah, TCU-Oklahoma, Rutgers-Illinois, Boise St.-Georgia, Maryland-Navy, USC-Hawaii, Texas A&M-Clemson, Georgia Tech-Auburn, VaTech-N.C. State.

Portions of this column ran in Monday's New York Sun

Posted by: Russell Levine on 07 Sep 2005

51 comments, Last at 09 Sep 2005, 9:02pm by zlionsfan


by Jay (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 10:07am

No Boston College?

by Adam H (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 11:01am

Hey Rus where would you rank TCU after this week?

by Heath (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 11:09am

Hey, Russ - I have some yellow caution tape we can place around your living room for about 4 hours on Saturday afternoon.

Thank goodness the Buckeyes are on late Saturday - at least I can put the kids to bed early -

Sweater Vest Nation will be in full force on Saturday. Its gonna be fun.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 11:10am

collegefootballnews.com is reporting that Trev Alberts was fired over the weekend.

ESPN.com's "Trev Alberts archive" is completely empty, so if true, looks like they may be giving the Easterbrook treatment.


by Russell (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 11:16am

Man, after only two weeks of voting in this thing, I've already got a new found appreciation for the pollsters. I for one would have preferred to not fill out a ballot for another two or three weeks, which would give me some time to assess the true quality of teams. But one thing I told myself is that I would not automatically rank team A above team B just because team A happened to beat team B. That's why no TCU in the poll this week and FSU is behind Miami. I'm not convinced FSU is the better team, just as I'm not convinced TCU will be the better team than Okalhoma over the course of the year.

As for BC? They're probably my #26.

Heath -- no need for the caution tape. I'll be at Michigan Stadium, where I can share my suffering with 111,000 others.

by Mike (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 11:29am

Wow, just found another article on Trev Alberts being fired. Seems weird at the very start of the season?

by Domer (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 12:23pm

Russell - TCU beat Oklahoma at Oklahoma!

OK is getting a huge (and undeserved) benefit from a high preseason ranking. I wouldn't have any compunction about making huge shuffles early in the year - the preseason rankings aren't indicative of much.

Of course, when the Phil Fulmers of the world are voting, I guess later season rankings aren't all that inidcative, either.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 12:36pm

What has happened to Michigan, in terms of recruting and coaching players who are fundamentally sound on defense? It seems to me that Notre Dame's o-line might just control the game to a degree that Michigan's offense won't have the ball enough to prevail.

by Fiver (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 12:47pm

Can't say I'll miss Trev's mindless biases and antagonism, but I am interested to hear why he got the boot. It's not the kind of decision a media company usually makes when they are gearing up for a big sales cycle (read: the college football season). Musta pissed off the wrong person.

11. Miami (Florida) (7) – Based on Monday, I think they’re a better team than FSU.
12. Florida State (18) – That passing attack could mean three losses.

Completely with you on this, Russell. If those two teams played 10 games, I think Miami wins 8 times.

14. Notre Dame (NR) – Very impressive, Mr. Weis.

If that were Syracuse creaming Pitt last week, would they be ranked this high? Seems like over-optimism to me, based on imaginary stuff like "mystique".

by Nate (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 12:48pm

Michigan's d-line isn't the problem. Watson and Woodley can both go in the first round next year. The tackling and pursuit angles at the second level were bad to say the least. Then again, in all honesty, NIU is a pretty solid team.

by Domer (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 12:56pm

I agree that NIU looked good on offense, other than the turnovers. The have built a decent program in recent years.

by Domer (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 12:59pm

Re: Alberts

Tribune news services
Published September 7, 2005

ESPN fired Trev Alberts on Sunday after the college football analyst failed to show up for work at ESPN's studios in Bristol, Conn., SI.com reported Tuesday night.

"He phoned and said that he wasn't going to show up," Mark Shapiro, ESPN's vice president of programming and production, told SI.com. "When he didn't, he was in breach of his contract and we terminated him."

Quoting Shapiro, the Web site reported that on Sunday morning, in the midst of college football's first big weekend of the season, Alberts phoned ESPN's coordinating producer of college football, Ed Placey, and voiced his discontent over his role on "College Football Scoreboard" and "College Football Gameday."

Alberts eventually told ESPN that he would not be reporting for work that afternoon. Once the former All-American defensive end at Nebraska and Indianapolis Colts player failed to appear for his studio show assignment, he was fired, the site reported.

"They first wanted me to resign," Alberts told SI.com Tuesday night . "Then they fired me. I obviously have a serious problem with the word 'breach', but that's something my attorney will work out."

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 1:01pm

Thanks, nate. I don't pay enough attention to college ball to have a handle on it, but it just seems that Michigan has gotten away from playing sound defense for a couple of years now. Is reduced scholorships having an effect outside of Los Angeles?

by Adam H (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 1:18pm

Re TCU I wasn't pushing for them to be ranked, I'm not getting carried away yet either. I was just curious where you thought they were.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 1:23pm

Some of the articles re: Trev Alberts are saying that he was upset with his "second tier" status compared to the traveling Gameday crew (i.e. Herbstreit/Corso et al) and unhappy with recent assignments.

So, to protest this, he called and said he wasn't going to come to work, in protest, last weekend. Perhaps he figured they would take that as note of his dissatisfaction and address things - instead he was fired on the spot.


by Tarrant (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 1:33pm

I was listening to a local sports talk radio show yesterday, and the topic of Miami/FSU came up. The host was taking aim at many people's assertions that while FSU may have won the game, Miami came out looking like the better team (something I readily agree with - Miami made mistakes that led to the loss, but FSU was completely inept offensively, while Miami was able to move the ball with comparative ease - if you told me to rank them not by wins/losses, but by who I thought was better, I'd put Miami in front).

He was taking potshots at anyone that said that, saying "Look at the scoreboard! The team that scores more is always better!" Which is a stupid thing to say - perhaps one could say they were better that day, but winning the game doesn't necessarily make one the better team. Sometimes the team that is less talented wins - maybe it's once out of every ten games, but they do. That doesn't make them better. Now, if one team won by 30, well fine, then you can say that. But from that game? No.


by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 2:05pm

Unfortunately, Tarrant, this is the type of argument one gets when an athletic competition has opinions play a role in determining the eventual champion. College ball could have such a great playoff system, without harming the regular season one iota, by simply restricting the playoff teams to eight conference champions, and telling Notre Dame that if they want to participate that they need to join a conference. In fact, if one gave home field advantage to the top four seeds in the first round, with seeding heavily determined by strength of non-conference schedule (say, for example, by making a close loss by Texas to Ohio state more valuable to Texas than Texas' drubbing of Louisiana Lafayette) , then one could correct the greatest weakness college ball has, which is non-conference cupcake opponents.

The current situation, in which talk radio rhetoric plays a role in detrmining the champion, is so fraudulent to me that I just can't get more than mildly interested in college football.

by Ned (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 2:25pm

I support a playoff because it would be fun, but doesn't the FSU/Miami game show the potential problem with a playoff system? If that were a playoff game, FSU would have advanced, despite the fact that many neutral observers felt that Miami was the better team. Unfortunately, most pollsters do not have the nerve Russell has and rank based solely on results. I would contend that the BCS computers and a poll that was filled with real analysis instead of just moving teams up and down based on results, is more likely to crown the best team champion then a playoff system would.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 2:38pm

If that were a playoff game, FSU would have advanced, despite the fact that many neutral observers felt that Miami was the better team.

Nonono: that's a problem when you're ranking teams. Not in a playoff. In a playoff, the goal is to win, not to perform as good as possible.

When ranking teams in the normal season, it's a problem - because you're trying to figure out which teams to include in a playoff format - which is what makes the current BCS situation so hard, because the total number of teams there is "2".

But once you've got the playoff teams selected, then the goal is to win, not to impress.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 2:41pm

Ned, are you saying that an analysis-filled poll would better determine which was the best NFL team than does the playoffs?

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 2:44pm

That's always a problem with a playoff system, but one that people accept.

I mean, it happens in the NFL playoffs and NCAA basketball tournament too - any one-and-done playoff system can by its nature end up with the lesser team advancing. The #1 seed doesn't always win it all, and sometimes it's the #9 overall seed (out of the 65 in the NCAA Tournament, for example) that walks away the champion. But that's considered acceptable, because at least there's a playoff.

You can pick numerous times in the NFL playoffs when the team you'd probably consider as the better team didn't win their game - but at least they had a shot. Right now, college-wise, multiple teams (such as Auburn and Utah last year) have no shot at all come championship time.

However, I think to make such a thing useful, there'd probably have to be some greater regulation of the way teams schedule their games.


by Tarrant (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 2:51pm

And yes, one could argue that there are still deserving teams that get left out even if there is an 8-team playoff or whatever.

But it's far easier on the mind to have a #9 (or #13, for the NFL, or #66, for NCAA basketball, or what have you) team that played well left out of the playoffs, than it is to have five undefeated teams at the end of the year, only two of which are put in position to win the "championship". People understand and generally accept that if you're #9, you didn't do enough to get to the playoffs. But if you're an undefeated #3, you did everything you possibly could to get to the championship level.


by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 3:17pm

If the eight we're restricted to conference champions the argument could be made that they had their shot to win their conference, were unable to do so, and if they can't win their conference, how can they be the best team in the nation? I could see a situation in which a conference like the Big Ten, which neither has a round-robin schedule, nor a conference championship game, could end up with a champion determined by some sort of silly tiebreaker rule (not involving head to head outcomes or record against common opponents), but that would be something to work out on that level.

by Ned (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 3:30pm

Nonono: that’s a problem when you’re ranking teams. Not in a playoff. In a playoff, the goal is to win, not to perform as good as possible.

It's a problem with both systems. I thought that the purpose of any tournament was to crown a champion who is generally considered the best team. The possibility that a weaker team can win and advance thanks to luck is a negative for both the current ranking system and any potential playoff system. A playoff is certainly the fairest way to decide who the best team is, but I'm not sure it will prove to be the most accurate when that day arrives.

I may be wrong because if you believe DVOA, the NFL playoffs have been fairly accurate (4 out of 5 ranked first or second the last five years). Still, if you went by straight DVOA to assign the champion, the last five years would have been
2000: Tennessee
2001: St. Louis
2002: Tampa Bay
2003: Kansas City
2004: New England
I think the only clear miss is Kansas City which was still a much better team than the 2001 Patriots. By giving New England a game against St. Louis and Baltimore a game against Tennessee, we ended up with two teams who I feel were clearly inferior who won Super Bowls.

This system would be much less interesting and much less fair, and I do not advocate it at all. I love the NFL playoffs, and I long for the day of an 8 team playoff in college.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 4:32pm

I thought that the purpose of any tournament was to crown a champion who is generally considered the best team.

Ah. That's where I disagree. In my opinion, the purpose of a tournament is to offer a title to the champion, not to decide who is the best. The game, after all, is what decides who's best, not opinions, or even complicated and detailed metrics.

In my mind, the polls are there to rank teams who haven't played each other. In that case, all you have is opinions or metrics. Playoffs are there to rank teams by the only guaranteed unbiased metric available - the game itself.

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 4:37pm

That's the difference between a sport and a competition. A sport (like professional football) decides the champion on the field, a competition (like gymnastics) descids the champion based on the judges' opinions.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 5:17pm

Good call, B. I like that distinction.

So NCAA Football isn't a sport. It's a competition. :)

by HLF (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 5:22pm

Excellent analogy, as NCAA Div 1-A college football has all the integrity, lack of corruption, and fair and level playing fields that gymnastics and ice dancing have. Those who explicitly or implicitly support such things as a "national champion" for Div 1-A (decided off the field of play), or poll rankings, are morally complicit, and their actions postpone real change.

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 5:23pm

Also, anything you can do while drinking or drunk isn't a sport, it's a game.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 5:30pm

Also, anything you can do while drinking or drunk isn’t a sport, it’s a game.

What's hilarious is that I just read this quote on SI's rumors page.

That all backfired after a series of off-field events resulted in Clarett being cut. He reported to training camp at 248 pounds (at least 20 pounds overweight), was slow to return from an injury, had run-ins with coaches and was even found drinking alcohol in the team's weight room.

Apparently Clarett just thinks this is a game. :)

by B (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 6:23pm

Heh, I was expecting a Mikey Mantle joke, but I think a lot of Maurice's actions can be explained by his treating professional football (Which, of course, includes his time at Ohio State) as a game.
I want to give Clarett the benefit of the doubt, espicially after Mike Tanier's article, but man that kid really needs to grow up.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 6:34pm

Drinking on the job immediately loses all "benefit of the doubt" claims for me, no matter what. That kind of idiocy kills people.

by Larry (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 8:14pm

The object of the game is to win. Miami simply did not make the plays needed to win the game, FSU did. [note: I didn't watch the game, but that's the beauty of it, I can look at the final score and see who won the game. QED] To rank Miami ahead of FSU based on that result is preposterous. Why have a scoreboard and keep track of those pesky point things during play? Seems unnecessary to a bunch of people.

In terms of assessing teams, wins and losses are the whole thing. In terms of predicting future success, style points are important. If the poll is about the latter, then fine, but why drop OU so far, then? I'm flabergasted. Of course, why have a poll now at all? I guess so we can enjoy these discussions.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 8:50pm

The pollsters (the AP ones, at least, since those guidelines are publicly available) are instucted to rank teams based on how good they think they are, regardless of win/loss record, and without taking future games into consideration.

If you recall, one voter in the initial AP poll had Louisville ranked #1 - he said that while he didn't think they were anywhere near the best team, he felt that after looking at their schedule, they had the best chance of going undefeated.

That voter was reprimanded by the AP and told to follow directions. His first-place vote (the only ones readily available) switched to USC in this week's poll.

Now let's face it - pollsters don't do the above. They take the preseason poll, drop the losers, and shuffle winning/DNP teams upward appropriately. However, if a poll voter believed that Miami was better than FSU, they would be within their right to rank them higher (and I think some voters did so).


by Dauntless Dave (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 8:55pm

All these people that whine about Notre Dame crack me up. They want Notre Dame to join a conference.

If Notre Dame joined a conference, they wouldn't be able to play such a tough schedule and hopefully lose.

More teams should become independants and stop playing patsies.

Then we wouldn't need a playoff system!

by Larry (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 9:21pm

I can accept ignoring won/loss records in the sense that it is not required to rank 1 loss teams ahead of 2 loss teams. But I simply cannot accept that after playing exactly one game, against each other, the losing team could be ranked ahead of the winning team. It suggests that the rules of football and the awarding of points in the game are irrelevant. It is crazy, I simply cannot describe it any other way.

Stupid polls. Giving me agita.

by Kibbles (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 9:35pm

Tennessee barely escapes UAB with their lives, while Florida beats Wyoming 32-14, and Tenn is still rated ahead of Florida? Seems a little bit forgiving, to me.

I suppose the issue will be decided one way or the other in 2 weeks.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 10:02pm

It's amazing enough that the pollsters dinged Tennessee for the "bad win". How often does one see a Rank X team struggle to beat an opponent they should easy beat, while the team ranked behind them demolishes their equal or slightly tougher opponent, and neither team moves an inch in the polls?

Tennessee is one of the few times lately there's been any such movement.


by Trogdor (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 10:43pm

Notre Dame could have just as tough of a schedule by joining the Big 10 (or SEC, or whatever. not the Big East, of course). Consider the games this year that makes their schedule "killer". USC, Tennessee, Michigan, Purdue.

Now look at, for example, Ohio State's big three games. Texas, Iowa, Michigan (the random assigning of opponents lets Purdue escape them). Florida gets Georgia, LSU, Tennessee, and Florida State. Florida State gets Florida, Miami, BC, Virginia, and Clemson. I don't see how these schedules are significantly less than Notre Dame's. So ND could just as easily lose a couple by joining a conference, especially if they keep USC on the schedule.

I also still think Franchione made the wrong decision. I regret that I had turned off my computer so I couldn't post it as soon as it happened, and everyone knew that game would come down to a Clemson FG attempt. The game was not all that high-scoring (at the time each team was at ~7 points per quarter), so we can't assume that there would be four more scores apiece where a missed two-pointer would be really significant. Not all games turn into the Pats/Panthers Super Bowl in the 4th quarter, where a low-to-medium scoring game suddenly has seventeen TDs in about 4 minutes. If it was BYU/SDSU from '91, or a typical Holiday Bowl, I'd agree. But I thought then it was the wrong call, and would now even if it never cost them.

Also, I think Michigan will win by 38. There's waaaay too much of a ND bandwagon forming, especially since last year they had less talent than an average Division 2 team. I mean, only super-geniuses can get in there. So Michigan wins easily. And if you don't think I'm trying to jinx them... well, it's not like you won't do the same thing to the Buckeyes.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 10:49pm

But I simply cannot accept that after playing exactly one game, against each other, the losing team could be ranked ahead of the winning team.

Buffalo beat New England 31-0 in 2003.

Buffalo went 6-10. New England won the Super Bowl.

The pollsters are trying to reconcile the fact that sometimes flukes happen. This is fine in my opinion. It's not a playoff. It's a ranking. This is, of course, why I think that playoffs are necessary in college football, and I have no idea why they're adverse to gaining two or three more weekends of lucrative TV contracts.

by MRH (not verified) :: Wed, 09/07/2005 - 11:12pm

Russell - While I understand the philosophy behind not changing your rankings much based on only one game, I do think there is the danger of succumbing to the idea that whoever is rated higher in pre-season must remain rated higher throughout the season unless (or even if) they lose. Ultimately, it is the performance on the field, in which wins or losses should figure highly, that should determine how a time is ranked - not pre-season prognostications. The NFL shows every year how wrong those can be; I think college football is not so different.

As for a non-BCS conference school getting a BCS bid, certainly TCU must be in the running at this point. If Oklahoma ends with losses to only TCU and Texas, and maybe one other, TCU's win will look pretty good. If they beat Utah, they will have beaten another team that has a decent reputation. And if they go on to finish unbeaten, it will be very hard to keep them out of a BCS Bowl.

by Larry (not verified) :: Thu, 09/08/2005 - 2:00am

At the end of the season, the fact Buffalo was 6-10 and NE won the Super Bowl gives us the information we need to compare them better. At this point, in my opinion, there simply isn't any evidence to counterbalance the actual result of the game without completely ignoring it. If the pollsters want to do that fine, I guess I'll continue to hold the same opinion of them as I did before. Flukes happen, and more games give us more info to marginalize their effects on our opinions, but it doesn't make sense to invent those results before they happen, does it?

So, we agree, playoffs are necessary, because the point is to win games under the rules of football, not win hearts and minds.

by Terrell (not verified) :: Thu, 09/08/2005 - 8:54am

The terms "eerily reminiscent" and "eerily similar"? Idiotic cliches.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Thu, 09/08/2005 - 10:59am

The polls are there for people to try and adjudicate which team is better/stronger, not simply to rank them in order of wins or losses - that's the job of the conference rankings (where Florida State is, rightly, ahead of Miami). That's why an undefeated Boise State last year wasn't ranked above a 1-loss Texas.

As an example, as we all know, the NFL season kicks off this weekend (well, tonight). One game this weekend is St. Louis vs. San Francisco. I don't think anyone is going to argue that San Francisco is a better team this year than St. Louis is, at least not right now. If you had to rank them, I'm guessing San Francisco would be in the 30s, while St. Louis could be almost anywhere, but probably not worse than 20 or so.

If San Francisco somehow won that game by a field goal, does that mean suddenly that one has to rank St. Louis as #30? Or that you have to push San Francisco up to #16? Or move them both to around #24? Not at all.

The NFL team record for the year will take note of San Francisco winning, but that doesn't make San Francisco the better overall team, even after only one game is played.

And if it's wrong? Well, then, much like the Power Rankings done on numerous sports sites (ESPN, SI, etc.) or the pre-season DVOA projections, they work themselves out by midseason or so.

Likewise, a voter could (not necessarily would, but could - note that most of the pollsters did push Miami downward, and Miami dropped to #14 or so) say the same about FSU and Miami - having seen both teams play, they believe Miami, even in the loss, is better than FSU. If that's not the case, then somewhere down the line, that will likely get corrected (when one of them loses, or looks bad).


by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Thu, 09/08/2005 - 12:10pm

Personally, I think it should be a 16-team playoff, not an 8-team playoff: Limiting it to 8 conference champions would get the powers that be in court faster than you can say "non-BCS conference," and would be inconsistent with tournaments in other sports (and perhaps at other levels of football; don't know if all conference champs make it at I-AA, II, and III). 11 conference champs and 5 at-large bids, if I've remembered correctly from NCAA 2005. That'll get you past the best-team-loses-conference-title-game scenario (NCAA hoops: Maryland-NC State '73?), allow each conference the chance to participate (and the smaller ones to prove they belong or to act as a bye), and get away from the I-think-they're-better arguments we have now. Frankly, if you're not one of the top 10 teams in the country (figuring not all the conference champs will be in there), you probably don't deserve to play for the title.

As for the problems with rankings ... sounds like what we really need to resolve this is DVOA for college teams. :)

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Thu, 09/08/2005 - 12:21pm

I think DVOA for college would be significantly harder just because there's so many more teams and fewer common opponents...

That said, yes, I think a 16-team playoff, using the champions of all the conferences, plus some wildcards/at-large bids, would be better than an 8-team one. Unless, of course, an 8-team one is simply "Take the top 8 teams according to (some rankings) and seed them" rather than "Take conference champions." In this scenario, though, every team would probably need to be in a conference (hard to fit the independents in this scenario, unless they only could compete for wildcard slots).

Taking just the major conference champions would lead to an instant court case, agreed. Taking the top 8 regardless of conference, though, might pass muster (after all, last year that would have included two mid-majors!). That would also solve the problem of the independents.

Another option would be using 8 super-conferences, ~16 teams apiece (that's 128 teams - there are currently 119 in Division 1-A), splitting each conference into two divisions, and doing a full round-robin in each division, with a championship game between the winners of the two divisions. That gets you 8 teams, 8 conference winners, and no "mid-major" conferences.


by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 09/08/2005 - 12:45pm

I don’t think anyone is going to argue that San Francisco is a better team this year than St. Louis is, at least not right now.

Eh. St. Louis was really bad last year too. SF was a horrible steaming pile of dung, but St. Louis couldn't tackle my grandmother.

I wouldn't be that surprised if SF won. St. Louis has looked better in the preseason, though.

by Larry (not verified) :: Thu, 09/08/2005 - 5:45pm


I suppose it is all meaningless if you believe that "It will all shake itself out by the season's end." But, in college football, it usually doesn't. That is, the impression of early season games doesn't usually get revisited as these polls go towards the end of the season, instead the situation existing in these early polls gets locked in. Also, if it is all going to work itself out, why not let the current numbers reflect the actual results on the field, to be corrected by FSU and Miami winning and losing games as the season goes on.

Lastly, and this may betray me, I don't agree on the Boise/Texas statement. If you win all the games you play, what more can you do? Shouldn't that earn you the right to get a chance to play other teams that have done the same? I think so.

by CNE (not verified) :: Thu, 09/08/2005 - 6:45pm

13. Louisville (15) – That’s your mulligan, fellas.

Overall, you're right. But I think Kentucky will field a stronger team this year than in years past, as they are slowly getting out of the probation quagmire. When Louisville came into the second half trying to play keep-away, it allowed Kentucky's offense to get rolling.

Depending on key injuries to the offense, Kentucky has the potential to shock one of the major SEC teams on its schedule. Which may make that Louisville game look a little stronger for the Cards behalf.

by Hippster (not verified) :: Fri, 09/09/2005 - 12:22pm

Trogdor, you made a point I wish more media types would understand: ND's schedule isn't significantly more difficult than Florida State's, Miami's, or pretty much anyone in the SEC. Ask Ole Miss if they feel bad for the Irish because their sched is so hard.

It's very tough THIS year, but next year Tennessee is replaced by UCLA, plus we add Army. The only big difference between ND's and other powers' schedules is that ND never plays Florida Atlantic like every wuss team in the Big 12, but they play plenty of games they should win every year (Navy, a rotation of Air Force, Rutgers, etc.)

And to those who clamor for a playoff, remember that if college football had a playoff, that Miami-FSU game would have been meaningless, this weekend's Texas-Ohio State game would be meaningless, and so forth. The current system sucks, but it at least makes September games just as important as November games.

A playoff would be awesome, but it's also pretty awesome that Texas, Ohio State, Michigan, and ND all have to win this weekend if they want to play for the title.

And any playoff system would likely invovle the conference winners, which will eventally all be decided by a "championship" game. That would have meant that K-State's fluke win in the Big 12 title game in 2004 would have put them in the tournament, not Oklahoma. So a playoff system wouldn't be perfect either.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Fri, 09/09/2005 - 9:02pm

Tarrant, good point about DVOA. I suppose that would be a hurdle for Russell to clear. :)

The super-conference idea isn't bad, but it makes scheduling a little odd (7 in your division, plus how many from the other division?) if you keep an 11- or 12-game schedule. You couldn't do too many more than that without running into December, which would push up against the playoffs, or August, which would mean playing well before classes started and in awful heat (in a good part of the country).

On the other hand, it would essentially create a full-season tournament, which isn't a bad idea. No chance for a team to dodge a couple of bullets and sneak into the tournament/BCS (cough Purdue cough). At the very least, you have to beat most of the teams in your division and the team with the most wins in the other.