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15 Oct 2007

Confessions of a Football Junkie: Chaos, Continued

by Russell Levine

This is fast turning into a college football season like no other in recent memory. Three straight weeks of stunning upsets have left the preseason polls in wreckage. Each of the top 10 teams in the AP preseason rankings has at least one loss, and together the group has been defeated 16 times in seven weeks.

Thus the preseason No. 11 team, Ohio State, is now atop both the polls and the first BCS standings, which were released Sunday afternoon. Behind the Buckeyes sits a pair of Cinderella teams -- South Florida and Boston College -- clinging to undefeated records, followed by a cluster of once-beaten powerhouses scrambling to get back into the top two spots.

Just as every year at this time, there will be predictions of impending BCS disaster, particularly with South Florida currently in position to go to the title game. Can a zero-cachet team from the Big East possibly hold off one-loss LSU from the SEC to play for the championship? What about Boston College from the pedestrian ACC?

All such arguments are more pointless than usual this season. To paraphrase Mark Twain's famous quip about the weather in New England, if you don't agree with the polls, just wait a week, they'll change.

One can argue the merits of college football's most peculiar method of selecting its "champion" -- the quotes being necessary when the NCAA doesn't acknowledge an official titlist in football's bowl subdivision -- but the three months leading up to the BCS selection show sure are entertaining. In a sport that relies on computer algorithms and human opinion, there is but one nearly assured method by which a team can keep its place at the championship table: by winning each and every week.

Often lost in the long history of BCS controversy is this reality: In the nine years the system has been in place, only once has a team from one of the top six conferences gone undefeated and been denied a place in the championship game: Auburn in 2003. A repeat this season seems unlikely. There are just five remaining major-conference unbeatens, and each has significant tests remaining. Ohio State faces road trips to Penn State and Michigan. Boston College travels to Virginia Tech this week and may have to face the Hokies again in the ACC championship. South Florida visits Rutgers Thursday night and also hosts Cincinnati and Louisville. Arizona State has yet to play Cal, Oregon, or USC. Kansas faces Texas A&M, Nebraska, and Missouri. The chances are slim that more than two of the five finishing with unblemished records.

The coaches of all five teams -- even poll laggard Kansas -- can tell their players that if they win out, they will play in the January 7 BCS championship, and do so with a straight face.

Ohio State is perhaps the most likely to remain perfect, a feat that would land the Buckeyes back in the championship game for a second straight year. Though the Buckeyes' toughest game has been a visit to 2-4 Washington, they have been the nation's most consistent team. The defense has been smothering, surrendering more than seven points just once, and the offense has improved each week.

The fact that five of the six major conferences are represented on the list of unbeaten teams is sure to raise the hackles of followers of the sixth. The SEC has enjoyed a deserved reputation as the nation's best conference in recent seasons, and its fans will no doubt point out that the toughness of the conference is the reason why all of its teams already have at least one loss. But SEC superiority is sometimes based as much on perception as on-field results, as its teams typically do not play non-conference games against highly ranked foes. LSU did destroy Virginia Tech for the SEC's best non-conference result this season, but those who would automatically assume that the SEC champ is better than the Big East champ may be missing the bigger picture.

South Florida, the current Big East front-runner, won at Auburn earlier this year. That's the same Auburn that won at Florida, the same Florida that is the defending national champs and which came within a Tiger's whisker of winning at LSU. While it's true that the week-to-week grind in the SEC is more difficult than in the Big East or Big Ten, it's also true that the conference is treated well by the BCS formula.

At No. 4, LSU is the highest-ranked one-loss team in the BCS standings. No. 6 South Carolina and No. 7 Kentucky are third and fourth, respectively, among once-beaten teams, and Florida (14th), Auburn (17th), and Georgia (20th) are the only two-loss teams in the BCS top 20.

The net result is that the SEC champion, provided it finishes with a 12-1 mark, has an excellent chance to qualify for the title game.

That may not be good enough in the eyes of SEC supporters who would cringe if undefeated South Florida or Boston College edged the SEC champion in the final BCS standings. Such a result would no doubt renew calls for a more inclusive playoff. But as has been often pointed out, college football already has a playoff: It's called the regular season. To make a change that would minimize the impact of Cal's loss to Oregon State or LSU's to Kentucky might do irreparable damage to the sport.

After all, do fans really want to see college football turn into another version of the NFL, where Sunday's win by the Patriots over the Cowboys in a much-hyped battle of undefeated teams is, ultimately, essentially meaningless in the Super Bowl chase?

For good or for bad, the frustration that comes with BCS controversy is the same ingredient that fuels the majesty of the best regular season in all of sports.

John L. Smith Trophy

Kentucky's Rich Brooks nearly came in for a JLS Trophy this week, when an ill-timed timeout allowed LSU to attempt a game-winning 58-yard field field goal as regulation time expired. But that mistake didn't end up costing the Wildcats, so we'll let Brooks enjoy his win in peace.

Brooks's counterpart in that game, LSU's Les Miles, is also in for some scrutiny for his play-calling on the Tigers' final possession of overtime. Yet Miles pretty much employed the same strategy he used to beat Florida a week earlier, so it's tough to kill him for going with his bread-and-butter.

There was much discussion in the SDA comment thread of giving the award to Cal's Jeff Tedford after his redshirt-freshman quarterback inexplicably opted to run, costing the Bear's a chip-shot field goal attempt to tie their game against Oregon State. Tedford does deserve some blame for that situation. He's got to drill it into the quarterback's head that he absolutely, under no circumstances, can run the ball. Yet, at some point, it's up to the player to understand the situation and execute. There were 14 seconds left in the game, too much time for Cal to attempt the field goal right there, so running another play was the right call.

Yet Tedford does not escape scrutiny for another decision in the game, one that was largely lost based on how the contest ended. Cal had just scored a touchdown to take a 14-10 lead with 43 seconds left in the first half when Tedford opted to call for a squib kick, despite the fact that Oregon State had all three timeouts remaining. The Beavers got the ball at their own 42, and moved 23 yards in four plays to kick a 52-yard field goal. What's more, they only needed a single timeout to do it. Forty-three seconds is an eternity in college football, and you cannot concede possession near midfield with that much time remaining. Those three points ended up being the difference in the game.

It is for that decision, and not the final play, that Tedford earns this week's JLS Trophy.

BlogPoll Ballot

This season, I'll again be voting in the BlogPoll, hosted by mgoblog. I'll post my ballot in Junkie each week. Feel free to comment, and I may adjust may rankings based on your suggestions.

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

Dropped Out: Florida State (#17), Wisconsin (#19), Texas A&M (#23), Indiana (#24), Virginia (#25).

Rankings that may require further explanation: There's a point in every college season where the straight logic of "Team A beat Team B, therefore must be ranked higher" is forced out the window. We have reached that point.

This is the week I attempted to rank the teams based less on last week's results and more on a combination of their season resume to date and whom I think would win on a neutral field. Thus, LSU remains above Kentucky. I apologize, UK fans, but if those two teams were to meet again in the SEC championship, I'd feel pretty confident in an LSU pick. (Then again, my SDA picks have reverted to 2005 cover-your-eyes bad levels, so take that with a grain of salt).

Ohio State is largely untested, true, but the Buckeyes are tremendous on defense and have shown weekly improvement on offense. If they fail an upcoming test at Penn State, I will punish them much more than I did LSU for losing at a quality team like Kentucky.

You could make the same arguments about Arizona State and Kansas. Fair enough. Kansas we may never really learn the truth about. Their schedule contains only one true test: vs. Missouri to end the regular season. I'm punishing them for their joke of a non-conference slate. Arizona State still has to play all the top teams in the Pac-10, so the Sun Devils will have their chance to make a dramatic rise in my rankings.

Southern Cal's ranking is based on the resume. The blowout of Nebraska means less each week, and they have not really played well all year. If they put it together, they're a threat to beat anyone above them, but the season is halfway over and we haven't seen a complete effort from the Trojans. Thus, they plummet.

Michigan is back in the poll, hooray. Despite my misguided proclamation that the Wolverines weren't making any progress, they completely dominated a pretty good spread offense in Purdue and have now won five straight. We'll know much more after a road trip to Illinois this week.

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

Games I watched at least part of: Florida State-Wake Forest, Hawaii-San Jose State, Purdue-Michigan, LSU-Kentucky, Arizona-USC, Georgia-Vanderbilt, Oregon State-California, Louisville-Cincinnati.

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

Posted by: Russell Levine on 15 Oct 2007

93 comments, Last at 18 Oct 2007, 3:16pm by Ben Johnson


by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 5:30pm

And on the college football note, Nebraska has fired its athletic director, saying that the performance of the football team is not up to standards.

One can only assume that Bill Callahan is next to go, at the end of the season, unless there is an incredible turnaround.

Where does Nebraska go for a new coach? Callahan was supposed to be The Answer, and he completely changed the entire direction of the program, yet they didn't get it done. I'm not sure where they should start looking.

by B (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 5:33pm

Somebody posted this in the NFL Open thread, and I think it deserves a JLS nomination, although I didn't see the game in question:
So, after watching Dallas kick that, it brought up what happened at the UNC-South Carolina game yesterday, so maybe someone has a better opinion on this:

UNC trails 21-9 with around 3:00 left. We have 4th and 1 at the 10 or so. We send out the FG team. Realizing this was stupid, we call our last timeout, send out the offense, get the 1st down and then a TD.

You score the TD, it's now 21-15, you have no timeouts, and will have to onside kick, so what do you do? You go for two! WTF?

Conversion fails, UNC winds up losing at the end, but after not getting the onside kick, South Carolina has a 45 yard FG attempt with 40 seconds left to go up by 9 since we didn't kick the XP.

Can anyone explain this, outside of Butch Davis having no concept of math?

by Todd S. (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 5:38pm

Hear, hear regarding the regular season in college football. All the other major sports have cheapened their regular seasons with expanded playoffs. I enjoy the "every-week-is-a-big-game" grind of FBS football.

If I can take a contrarian view on a couple of things...what makes you think Purdue has a pretty good spread offense? Ohio State and Michigan have completely shut it down the last two weeks. I'm not sure scoring a bunch on the likes of Minnesota and Notre Dame qualifies as anything special. (I say this as a Purdue fan.)

Also, I think you're underrating South Florida. They just dominated a team that played Texas to a near standstill. Their defense has a ton of speed and a dominant defensive line. Their QB is mobile and can make plays with his arm when needed as well. I've got no problem with the BCS ranking them #2 at the moment. I fully expect Rutgers to get carved up Thursday night.

by bradluen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 5:50pm

I remain skeptical of an Oregon team that doesn't have the quality wins that Cal, Arizona State, or even UCLA have. You beat Michigan while they were punch-drunk, big deal. You blew out Washington State at home, well, so did Arizona. You beat Stanford, who hasn't beaten Stanford?

Answer: USC!

by pawnking (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 5:56pm

I second the agreement about College football having no playoff system is a good thing. Any playoff would include 8 teams at a minimum, which means there would regularly be 2 loss teams involved, and conceivably 3 loss teams.

I don't want the equivalent of the 2006 Cardinals claiming their team is #1 because they got hot and beat 3 teams in a row at the end of the season.

by CoreyG (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 6:05pm

BC plays VT next week, not this week.

Also, what's the point of the regular season if unbeaten BC drops 5 spots even with a 7-0 record? At what point do they jump a one-loss team, and what's the reasoning behind that jump happening later rather than sooner?

by Chris Heinonen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 6:10pm

#2: I posted that in the game discussion thread, and I just went back to the game log to make sure what the situations were. When they lined up for the FG down 12, there was actually 6 minutes left, but they had to burn their final timeout to decide to go for it.

On deciding to go for 2 when down 6 (which still makes no sense to me), there was only 2:35 left in the game, they had no timeouts, and they were going to onside kick, which will instantly put South Carolina into FG range, and a made FG makes it a 9 point game if you fail.

Just horrible decision making, and the SC fans that were sitting around us agreed as well. How can you be down 12 with 6 minutes left, and then have to burn your final timeout because you send out the kicking team first?

On a good side, South Carolina opened the 2nd half gaining a first down before having to punt, then went 3 and out the rest of the way (6 possessions). How can a team hold a Steve Spurrier team to that for a whole half? I guess their defense really is their strength (though UNC did drop two TD passes in the game, both of which were perfectly thrown).

by BHW (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 6:23pm

I remain skeptical of an Oregon team that doesn’t have the quality wins that Cal, Arizona State, or even UCLA have.

Is my sarcasm meter off? I'm a UCLA fan -- they haven't any quality wins, and are in fact quite bad.

by Sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 6:24pm

1: They'd just signed the AD to a contract extension in July and Callahan got an extension last month. And given the school's chancellor hired the AD (who in turn hired Callahan) you get the impression the problems go all the way to the top.

I thought Callahan would be a disaster so I'm not surprised they're having troubles, but frankly the most prudent move right now would be to fire the defensive coordinator and see what happens with somebody new making the calls. Their offense has been okay.

by bradluen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 6:27pm

My midseason All-Americans, heavily biased toward players I've actually watched (sorry, Michael Crabtree). Bonus points for making me sit up and go, "wow, he's good".

QB Brian Brohm, Louisville
RB Tashard Choice, Georgia Tech
RB Justin Forsett, Cal
WR DeSean Jackson, Cal
WR Jordy Nelson, Kansas State
TE Travis Beckum, Wisconsin
OL I don't pay enough attention to individual players, so let's just take LSU's

DL George Selvie, South Florida
DL Jermaine Cunningham, Florida
DL Eric Norwood, South Carolina
LB Vince Hall, Virginia Tech
LB Jordan Dizon, Colorado
LB Wesley Woodyard, Kentucky
LB Curtis Lofton, Oklahoma
DB Trey Brown, UCLA
DB Haruki Nakamura, Cincinnati
DB Zackary Bowman, Nebraska
DB Walter Thurmond, Oregon
K/P Ryan Succop, South Carolina

by Eric J (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 6:33pm

Speaking of questionable decisions on going for two, how about Bob Stoops? Down 24-23, OU scores a TD and goes for 2 (12:26 to play in the 4th). After that fails, OU recovers a fumble and runs it in, making it 35-24 (11:40 left), and goes for 2 again. By going for 2 the first time, Stoops basically says "They won't kick two field goals." The second time, he says "They might kick two field goals - and score a TD." Plus, going up 12 is better than being up 11.

by bradluen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 6:34pm

8: I think 3 of UCLA's 4 wins are decent. Oregon State beat Cal, I still think Washington will turn out to be good, and BYU's one of the 5 best mid-majors. The only win I'd question the value of is Stanford, but then they BEAT USC. (No, I will never get tired of pointing that out.)

If UCLA's two losses were to Cal and Arizona State, then they'd be comfortably ranked. But they weren't.

by TBW (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 6:35pm

"In a sport that relies on computer algorithms and human opinion, there is but one nearly assured method by which a team can keep its place at the championship table: by winning each and every week."

Unless you are Virginia, and then even when you win Russell drops you out of his top 25.

by DFJinPgh (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 6:37pm

#5, others. I think part of the resistance against a playoff system is legitimate (extra games wear heavily on young bodies, etc). But I think part of it is how bad the fit is between an NFL-style one-loss-out system and other systems.

Try the one linked in my name. It doesn't solve everything - with no college preseason it's tough to jump straight into conference play when every game counts - but at least it creatively addresses most of the constraints everybody places on it.

by Dennis (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 6:47pm

In the nine years the system has been in place, only once has a team from one of the top six conferences gone undefeated and been denied a place in the championship game

Of course there have been several times when undefeated teams from non-bcs conferences have gone undefeated and have had no opportunity to try to win the national championship. But a team from the WAC or Mountain West would never be able to beat a BCS conference champion, so it really doesn't matter.

by BHW (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 6:50pm

8: I think 3 of UCLA’s 4 wins are decent. Oregon State beat Cal, I still think Washington will turn out to be good, and BYU’s one of the 5 best mid-majors. The only win I’d question the value of is Stanford, but then they BEAT USC. (No, I will never get tired of pointing that out.)

If UCLA’s two losses were to Cal and Arizona State, then they’d be comfortably ranked. But they weren’t.

I'm not buying. Oregon State is a bad team, and UCLA only had a 19-14 lead when the Beavers forgot how to catch kickoffs; two fumbled kickoffs and a blocked punt handed the Bruins 21 points, making the final 40-14.

Washington? They do have the Boise State win, but there's little reason to believe such a win means that much this season. They did play $C close, but that's not looking too impressive, either. They do have a reasonable shot at finishing the year at 6-7, but that's not very impressive.

BYU ... BYU is decent. But UCLA only beat them because BYU imploded due to turnovers and penalties. It was an ugly win. Oregon's defeat of Fresno State is likely more impressive than UCLA's of BYU.

UCLA should be 6-0 right now, but even if they were, that wouldn't say much about them.

by Yinka Double Dare (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 6:51pm

10: I'd wonder why no Michael Hart, but then again you probably haven't seen much of him given he's been on the Big Ten Network for at least half of the games.

by Joe (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 6:54pm

“In a sport that relies on computer algorithms and human opinion, there is but one nearly assured method by which a team can keep its place at the championship table: by winning each and every week.�

Unless you are Virginia, and then even when you win Russell drops you out of his top 25.

Or Boston College, when you win and Russell drops you five spots.

by Kal (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 6:55pm

I don't think that Oregon could beat LSU or Cal on a neutral field, at least not consistently. And I'm a huge Duck homer. Especially now that they've lost two WRs and a RB to injury.

They're a good team, one of the strongest I've seen from the Ducks (at least offensively) and with one of the better QB performances I've ever seen, but they're a bit inconsistent and their defense is painful at times.

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 7:03pm

They had the answer before Callahan. His name was Bo Pellini.

and I love Alabama, but they are not a top 25 team right now. Way too inconsistent and they allow too many big plays and while the 4th quarter comebacks are fun-they have allowed too many points in the 2nd half. They could be 7-0, but they can easily be 2-5 as well.

by Eddo (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 7:06pm

I'd like to submit Ron Zook for an Honorable Mention for the JLS Award. Not once, but twice he opted to accept penalties on plays where Iowa failed to convert on third down.
The first was especially detrimental. Illinois was up 6-3 in the second half (I forget the time specifics), Iowa had the ball in the red zone, and their third down failure left them with a 4th-and-2 situation. However, Zook decided to accept a five-yard-penalty, putting Iowa in a 3rd-and-7 situation. The next play resulted in the go-ahead touchdown. Even if Iowa had been stopped on the 3rd-and-7, it would still have been a relatively easy field goal try and a likely tie game. Instead, Illinois never got the lead back (neither team scored after that).
Then, a few drives later, Iowa once again failed to convert on third down, Zook accepted a penalty, and Iowa ended up using the second chance to make the first down. The Illini defense bailed him out with an interception, but it still was a terrible decision.

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 7:07pm

And Notre Dame has lost its 4th sophomore since April today when OL Matt Carufel left the team. I have no idea what that means, but it is interesting nonetheless.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 7:33pm

As a side note for all people trumpeting the statistical rankings over the human rankings: virtually all of the upsets in the human polls have been massive upsets in the statistical rankings as well. No one saw Stanford over USC - not by a mile - and there are a lot of other 'inexplicable' upsets as well (UCLA vs Notre Dame, Louisville vs Cincinnati, etc. - yes UCLA had a walkon QB, but WTF are you doing only having a walkon QB as an option?!).

Massey's rankings have a "Most Unlikely Game Outcomes" list at the bottom, and the unlikely games this year are muuuch more unlikely than previous years.

This year is just weird.

by Fourth (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 7:40pm

Re: 21
Florida fans are having empathy pains for the Illini.

Re: 22
Further evidence Weis has set that program back almost as far as any NCAA "death penalty" could have.

Re: 20
Yeah, agreed, but Bama will either earn their ranking this week or get booted.

Re: 19
Agreed, I mostly think Cal's penalty was kind of harsh since they were starting a frosh backup.

Re: 18, 6
He probably dropped BC because he stepped back this week and looked at everyone's resume. Check BC's lately? It's Hawaii-like, minus the scares at the likes of LaTech. (The Wake win is their best and there was no Skinner in that game.) To address #6, they get to jump the 1-loss teams when they beat a quality opponent or two. I think what the poll is saying is that if BC had the schedule of LSU or Cal, they would have a loss also. Or two.

Re: 15
Funny! I get it! Cuz Boise St. beat OU, and Utah beat Pitt...
...want to make the case for Boise St. beating last year's Florida team? How about Utah beating VY's Longhorns, or the USC 1.5 championship "dynasty"? A mid major could play for the title, especially in a year like this, but what is Hawaii doing? Going to overtime against LaTech and SJSU. Beat those teams by 50 week in and week out and you're in the conversation. It's only a matter of time at this point, unless the BCS blows up first (I hope so).

Re: Playoffs
It would take me 2,000+ words to actually discuss all the different objections and hurdles to a playoff. One day I will do it, and post a link.

Re: Russell
Looks good this week, though like I mentioned I think you have Cal too low, as they were without Longshore (best qb name in the NCAA btw).

by bradluen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 7:50pm

Longshore is the best QB name? Fans of Booty (presuming there are any left) would take issue.

by Fourth (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 7:56pm

Being from the South, John David Booty's aren't really unique or interesting.

by John In Lansing (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 8:03pm

I realize there are many reasons to object to a playoff, but do you really think a playoff with a small number of teams would ever create "essentially meaningless" regular season games?

Let's just use an eight team playoff as an example, which would include conference champs from the BCS conferences and two at large teams, selected either by a formula, or a committe, or whatever. It's nearly impossible to win a BCS conference by more than one game in the standings, so those games stay meaningful. And it may induce teams to beef up the non-conference schedule to improve their at-large chances since they could still get in by winning their conference but would probably need a marquee non-conference win to get in as the at-large in case they don't get the auto-bid.

I know there are plenty of other issues that need to be addressed, but I just can't imagine the regular season intensity dropping because of a playoff.

by Matt (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 8:24pm

C'mon! Penciling in BC for the ACC Atlantic Division already?

One ACC loss to VT, FSU, Maryland, or Miami, and Clemson is right back in it. Tiger's are playing WF, Duke, and Maryland before BC, so no more losses to ACC opponents is very do-able. I'm afraid the chickens may beat the crap out of us, but the home game against BC, probably at night, may be for the ACC Atlantic. Both of Clemson's losses are against the Coastal division, which helps for the tiebreaker situation.

Yes, I'm delusional. Sometimes delusions are good.

by Matt (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 8:28pm

Oh, and there is a major sport that hasn't let too many teams into the playoffs. Baseball.

Of course, individual regular season games are still pretty meaningless, but series are still important.

by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 8:38pm

#15: Brilliant, simply brilliant.

#21: No need to fret, Zook will win the JLS award outright soon enough.

I was arguing that in fact the Cal QB Riley should win the JLS award. I don;t care if its coaches only, he still should've gotten it. Giving it to Tedford assumes that he told his QB it was perfectly fine to run before that play, which I find hard to believe.

Playoffs taking away from the regular season? Get outta here. There are 119 teams in 1A football, how the hell are we supposed to know which one is truly the best *without* a playoff? Besides, at least half those teams have nothing to play for after the first week or two anyway, doesn't stop them. It sure didn't stop Stanford against USC did it?

My only gripe with the poll is that this season has been so crazy, and so many teams have lost games that on paper they shouldn't have, that being unbeaten at this point is a badge of honor and more special than ever before. I say until they lose, rank all unbeatens above all one-loss teams. If the unbeatens are as bad as people think they'll lose soon enough and get dropped below the one-loss teams you think are better anyway, right?

by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 8:40pm

Oops, forgot about #26. True dat. 'Round these parts every other son of an SEC football fan is named "John David".

by Fourth (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 8:50pm

So Zook could hold the JLS trophy and the Fulmer Cup at the same time!? I like your ideas and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

by Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 8:52pm

USF has the best resume by far. They're undefeated and have beaten two of your top 15. You put them below Oregon? The same Oregon who has not beaten a team with a winning record other than still-shell-shocked-by-Appalachian-State Michigan and Fresno State and has a loss?

When you bring out the "who would win on a neutral field", other than demonstrating the problem with college football in the first place, you're just saying "Oregon is a bigger program than USF so it would beat USF."
If BC, USF and tOSU can keep "winning every week" in a BCS conference (to a lesser extent Kansas but they've only played 2 BCS teams, tOSU and BC have played 4) and downgraded arbitrarily...

by mm (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 8:52pm

once teams aren't trying to be a #1 or #2 team, the big conferences will return to the pre-BCS schedules of all I-AA teams in non-conference games. They have a lot of easy teams now, but it used to be worse.

"If the unbeatens are as bad as people think they’ll lose soon enough and get dropped below the one-loss teams you think are better anyway, right?"

ummm...who in the Big 10 is any good? Ohio State could go undefeated and still be worse than the 3rd place team in the Pac 10 or SEC. I don't think anyone's that hot about the ACC or Big East this year either, but South Florida has 1 good and 1 decent non-conference win this year (Auburn, Central Florida), which is why the computers have them #1.

I'd have South Florida #1 if I voted in a poll. At this point, I don't think I'd have Ohio State or BC in the top 4.

by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 9:07pm

#34: If THE Ohio State University (you forgot to add on the "the", shame on you) goes undefeated against the weak Big Ten well, they're *already* #1 so I don't really get what your point is. No offense.

I do think a playoff system would in fact *not* result in everybody going out of their way to play easy games (which may not be so easy anyway) because teams would now know a loss or two wouldn't necessarily keep them from a playoff game.

by msgr (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 9:21pm

I'm SHOCKED that you go completely out of your way to malign the SEC. The fact is, each and every team in the SEC plays some of the toughest schedules in all of college football. It wasn't too long ago that you were creaming your panties about "OMG FOOTBALL ARMAGEDDON." Ohio State very well may win out, but they will get their asses handed to them by a team from a real conference once again.

by mm (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 9:32pm

You said:
"If the unbeatens are as bad as people think they’ll lose soon enough and get dropped below the one-loss teams you think are better anyway, right?"

My reply tried to make the point that they could go undefeated and still be "as bad as people say"; that is, weaker than teams from the Pac 10 and SEC.

by bradluen (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 9:42pm

While Ohio State should be ranked above Boston College, I'm not convinced there's any real difference between the strengths of their respective schedules.

OSU: @ Washington, Northwestern, @ Purdue and a bunch of cupcakes
BC: Wake Forest, @ Georgia Tech, @ Notre Dame and a bunch of cupcakes

(yes, Minnesota and NC State count as cupcakes this year)

Maybe @ Notre Dame brings down BC's average, but @ Georgia Tech brings it back up.

Hey, the computers agree with me.

by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 9:44pm

#37: Okay, now I see. The Buckeyes were a bad example though, because of already being rated #1.

Yeah why not? It's not like that didn't happen last year.

I hate it when my hopes for something not happening rest on Michigan...

by Marko (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 9:44pm

"Yet Tedford does not escape scrutiny for another decision in the game, one that was largely lost based on how the contest ended. Cal had just scored a touchdown to take a 14-10 lead with 43 seconds left in the first half when Tedford opted to call for a squib kick, despite the fact that Oregon State had all three timeouts remaining. The Beavers got the ball at their own 42, and moved 23 yards in four plays to kick a 52-yard field goal. What’s more, they only needed a single timeout to do it. Forty-three seconds is an eternity in college football, and you cannot concede possession near midfield with that much time remaining. Those three points ended up being the difference in the game."

I'm glad you pointed that out, because I had the same thought at the end of the half. I had a feeling allowing that field goal was going to haunt Cal.

by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 10:08pm

Here's a commentary on current conference strength and how the SEC is eating itself. Or something. (Link in my name.) I disagree a bit seeing as how Oregon, USC and Arizona State still have yet to play each other though, and Cal has yet to play Arizona State or USC.

by Oldcat (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 10:33pm

The problem with the current NCAA football regular season is that there little logical reason to schedule anything but cupcakes, and go undefeated. We already see teams like tOSU and Michigan scheduling softer out of conference games, since a W is a W. Now the SEC is complaining that their schedules are too hard. Teams play extra games at home to further enhance the chance of the win.

In basketball, the tournament is the championship, so you have to be ready to play a series of games against good teams and win. Part of this means you are willing to play those same teams in the regular season, as the experience is more valuable than the chance of the loss. In football, that loss means you will have no chance of playing in the big game at all, most likely.

I dont want to get back to rewarding teams in lousy conferences that play 1 decent game a year. Or rewarding the only unbeaten squad even if they never play anyone. Any system that discourages the major teams from playing each other and rewards soft games will take us right back to those sorry days again.

I'm sorry you let Michigan back into your list. They won't be on mine for three years at least. You schedule a baby school and lose, you're dead to me.
If you win, you're a bad sport.

by Fourth (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 10:41pm

This year, the National Championship Game is actually being held on December 1st in Atlanta.

by Yinka Double Dare (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 10:54pm

36: I hope that was sarcasm. The only one of the top SEC teams who has played anyone else that's in the top 25 discussion and beat them was LSU, who beat like a drum a team with no useful quarterback. Tennessee lost to Cal. Bama lost to FSU. Auburn lost to USF (they did beat K-State, who is at least OK, but nothing special). SEC teams as a whole are definitely getting better about it, but had a reputation of avoiding playing anyone decent in the non-conference schedule, so it can be tough to gauge how good they really are. That's what he's said in the article -- how you can assume that the SEC champ would be better than, say, an undefeated South Florida who won at Auburn and held the explosive WVa offense to 13 points (next lowest is 31, and every other game they've cleared 48)? It's impossible to know, unless they play on the field.

We'll know all we need to know about OSU if their defense can shut Michigan down, or whether like last year their defense looked good because most of the teams on their schedule had lousy offenses. Of course, if OSU gives up 39 points to Michigan again this year, they're going to lose anyway.

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 10:56pm

Playoffs taking away from the regular season? Get outta here.

I totally disagree with you. NCAA basketball's regular season is completely meaningless because of it's tournament. In any other sport the regular season games are basically meaningless.

Russell put it best: "After all, do fans really want to see college football turn into another version of the NFL, where Sunday’s win by the Patriots over the Cowboys in a much-hyped battle of undefeated teams is, ultimately, essentially meaningless in the Super Bowl chase?".

by Dennis (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 11:16pm

Re 23:As a side note for all people trumpeting the statistical rankings over the human rankings: virtually all of the upsets in the human polls have been massive upsets in the statistical rankings as well.

This illustrates the fundamental problem with the polls, and Russell is prime example: they are trying to make them predictive rather than descriptive. You shouldn't be selecting teams for the championship game based on who you think will win. It should be based on who has accomplished the most over the course of the season.

The purpose of the objective (computer) rankings isn't to predict future performance, it's to evaluate past performance.

by Dennis (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 11:24pm

Re 24: My point in post 15 is that under the current system the regular season is already meaningless for half the teams in division 1-A because they can go undefeated and will still have zero chance to play for the national championship.

Could Hawaii beat any of the top teams? Maybe they could, maybe they'd get creamed, but if they go undefeated they deserve a shot. Most people didn't think Boise State could do it and they beat Oklahoma.

by Becephalus (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 11:32pm

ANyone know where I can checkout video highlights of the cal game, i cannot seem to find thm anywhere unlike msot other games.

by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 11:40pm

#47: Well *I* got it...

#45: The problem I have with that line of thinking is that, since 1A (or whatever PC name it's called now) college football is the only division of any team sport in the WORLD to not have a playoff, anyone who believes a playoff is silly would also have to be arrogant enough to believe that everyone else on the planet has it all wrong. And that's just too much to ask me to accept.

Again, every other team sport on earth somehow manages to have regular season games just fine with a playoff system. I've found most college football regular season games utterly forgettable myself. Does *anybody* remember say, the Ohio State-Michigan State game from 2003, for example? Did those teams even PLAY in 2003? And can anyone say for sure yes or no without looking it up?

Besides, even WITH the BCS in place, the regular season was in very real danger of being rendered utterly meaningless anyway when it seemed for a while last year that Michigan would get to play a team they literally just got beaten by for the national title.

by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Mon, 10/15/2007 - 11:44pm

Check the link in my name for an essay on the complete and utter folly of voting in college football. Great site too BTW.

by mmm... sacrilicious (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 12:06am

#49: Michigan beat OSU 35-21 in the Big House to make the Rose Bowl.

By the way, that game still holds the national single-game attendance record. And no, I didn't look either of those up. Not that that proves anything, but still...

by Yinka Double Dare (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 12:15am

49: Unless you're counting the UEFA Champions League, the various top soccer/football leagues of Europe do not use playoffs to determine their champions. Some of the lower leagues use them to determine some of the teams that get promoted.

The Champions League isn't really a good comparable either -- it's a tournament of the teams that were really good the previous season, and is played concurrently with the league seasons. So the College Football Champions League would have Michigan, Wake Forest and Louisville, while Kentucky, South Carolina and South Florida would be sitting at home for that tournament.

by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 12:18am

#51: HEY!!! That's cheating! Since Michigan hasn't beaten the Buckeyes in so long of *course* their last win over them would be memorable :-)

Don't get me wrong, I do remember *some* college regular season games. But not nearly as many as I should given that the college regular season apparently means so much more than in any other sport.

I actually remember more NFL regular season games than college ones.

Don't even get me started on how a team only has to win 50% of its regular season games now to get into a bowl...

by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 12:27am

#49: Just another reason then why I'll never understand how soccer is so popular worldwide. And I actually played it when I was a kid.

But they do have the right idea with different tiered leagues. 1A college football just needs to be honest about it and send the WAC, MAC, MWC, Sun Belt and C-USA to a different division altogether. Or maybe just promote and demote individual teams up and down.

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 12:52am

I don't get way the SEC gets picked on for playing non-BCS teams when the Big Ten is just as bad. Sorry we cannot throw Notre Dame on the schedule and act like we are playing some worth a damn. I mean other than Ohio State-what other Big Ten team consistently plays solid teams from BCS conferences (and wins). They are just as bad as the SEC (and again-the Big Ten out of conference W-L record is not awesome either).

I know people like to throw out SEC hyperbole about its speed or dominance-and yes they are overrating the SEC, but I think sometimes people overextend themselves to prove that point.

by Brian (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 1:16am


I don't think anyone would argue that elimination tournaments in other sports is a bad thing. However, there are 2 key points here. One, American Football, due to it's heavy physicality, makes for a uniquely poor tournament. Two, the idea that those tournaments are a better way of deciding the best team than a poll system is a fallacy.

1) Basically, this argument comes down to the fact that teams can realistically only play one game of football per week. In the NCAA tournament, the ability to play as many as 4 games a week means a 65-team tournament can be done in a month. In football, you're talking about having a maximum of 8 teams. This doesn't fix any of the problems the talking heads like to complain about regarding the BCS. They like to argue, and arguing over which team is #8 will be just as strong. In NCAA basketball (or baseball, or any other sport), this discussion of "last team in" is usually in regards to either a team nobody has heard of, or which .500 team should get a shot. It's just not as compelling as the football argument would be.

2) Here is my big pet peeve in this argument; tournament supporters always like to shout about how teams should be able to sort themselves out on the field. Here's the shocking (not really) truth: a single-elimination tournament is a really poor way of finding out which team is best. Seriously, look at the list of winners of the NCAA tournament recently. If you think this is a list of the best teams from those respective years, I fear you're too delusional to have a rational conversation about this subject. You could argue Florida was the best team last year, but overall, I think the polls are BETTER at picking the best team than any elimination tournament could be.

Which brings me to my final point: the problem with 1A football isn't the BCS; it's the preseason polls. Having polls that come out before a single game has been played creates the ladder system, and that's what causes the most difficulties with determining the best team. Essentially, teams are stuck in their preseason rankings. They drop if they lose, and when they avoid losses, they move up into the spots of the teams that lose above them. Teams only occasionally change spots based on which played better or had a more convincing win. Essentially, you can guarantee that the BCS championship will be played between the 2 teams that were ranked highest in the preseason and avoided losses. If we disallowed polls untill, say, week 3, there would still be a ladder system but at least it would be based on some sort of performance, rather than currently, where it is based on some arbitrary ranking of recruiting classes combined with name recognition.

Oh, and the BCS hurt itself by all the changes it's made, basically redesigning itself every season so that it more closely matches the polls instead of sticking with its impartial computer analysis guns.

by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 1:18am

#24... Your statement about Charlie Weis only proves you might have less knowledge about ND than any human being alive.

Charlie is playing A LOT of freshmen and sophomores. The problem is all the ones who aren't playing want to tranfer somewhere else and play. Matt Carufel was playing behind another sophomore and wants to transfer. Konrad Reuland was playing behind another sophomore and wanted to transfer. Demetrius Jones was playing behind the freshman Clausen and wanted to transfer. Perhaps Weis is promising guys playing time, so they bail when they don't get it.

It's really not a big deal. However, Weis has to start convincing players who aren't playing to stick around. Anyone notice the guys who are playing aren't asking for a transfer?????????????

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 1:28am

To put it another way: Best non-conference team SEC teams play:

Georgia: Oklahoma State/Georgia Tech
Florida: Florida State
Tennessee: Cal
Kentucky: Louisville
South Carolina: Clemson
Vanderbilt: Wake Forest
Alabama: Florida State
Auburn: South Florida/Kansas State
Arkansas: Troy
Ole Miss: Missouri
Mississippi State: West Virginia
LSU: Virginia Tech

Big Ten
Ohio State: Washington
Michigan: Oregon
Illinois: Missouri
Penn State: Notre Dame
Wisconsin: Washington State
Indiana: Ball State
Northwestern: Nevada...maybe Duke?
Michigan State: Notre Dame/Pitt
Purdue: Notre Dame
Iowa: Iowa State/Syracuse
Minnesota: Miami (Ohio)?

Yeah real murderer's row..watch out world-here comes the Big Ten and the SEC ducks out on the big games.

SEC is 5-4 right now in those games. Big Ten is: 8-4...thank god for Notre Dame and the MAC

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 1:51am

and to beat a dead horse: SEC's worse non-conference loss so far, a slightly above average Alabama team losing to a slightly above-average Florida State team on a neutral field (in Florida...). The other 3 non-conference losses have been to teams with a combined record of 16-2 (though adding the Florida State loss would move it up to 20-4.)
The SEC's best non-conference win so far-probably the LSU win over Virginia Tech, though I think the Auburn over Kansas State one was a good one as well.

Big Ten's worst loss? Where to begin-I guess Michigan losing to Appalachian State, uh Minnesota losing to Miami (the Ohio version) and Florida Atlantic, Iowa losing to Iowa State, Northwestern losing to Duke.

Big Ten's best win: Toss-up between Iowa over Syracuse or Ohio State over Washington...hell lets throw in Wisconsin over Washington State.

by Sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 1:54am

56: "American Football, due to it’s heavy physicality, makes for a uniquely poor tournament."

That's funny, I've always enjoyed that single elimination tournament known as the NFL playoffs.

And how do you figure the debate over who's #8 would be just as strong as who's #2? For one thing the #8 team will always either be a mid-major with weak schedule or a 2 loss team. Pretty hard to get too worked up about either of those.

However, you are right about the preseason polls. It wouldn't hurt a thing if they waited 3-4 weeks into the season before starting the polls.

57: I heard Mel Kiper, Jr. on ESPN radio a couple weeks back. He was amazingly harsh on ND, saying he had basically nobody on the entire team rated well. He questioned how ND could get good recruiting classes and have nobody step up while the USCs of the world constantly had that happen.

by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 2:41am

#60... The problem is this team has 6 (!) good upperclassmen on the ENTIRE team. All those players are 5th year seniors, one of them is the punter, and 2 of them are playing HORRIBLY this year.

There's literally NOT ONE SINGLE GOOD JUNIOR on the entire team. Willingham deservedly gets the blame for that because his last recruiting class produced 1 "good" player. Weis gets a pass because he joined the team too late to make any serious moves recruiting that offseason.

by Fourth (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 3:08am

All these tournament comparisons are just straw men. We already have a playoff in college football, in which 2 teams are invited. The issue isn't "should we have a playoff," but rather should we expand the playoffs, and if so, to 4, 6, or 8 teams.

The argument that the regular season could be cheapened or less compelling is the strongest non-logistical argument against a playoff, but one that loses its strength the more limited you make the playoff. While I agree with this line of thinking to an extent, where do you draw the line? It used to be, before the BCS/bowl unification, that being #1 at the end of the regular season was the only way to guarantee yourself a chance to play for the title on the field in your bowl game. Now with the BCS, the number of teams with a shot has doubled to 2. Has there been an adverse affect on the regular season, or a positive effect, by making it more inclusive? If it's had a positive effect, would it do so again if we doubled it again?

Now, I hate to tack this on to the end of such a long post and have it be unrelated, but this needs to be said. To whoever said if the Hawaii's of the world go undefeated, they "deserve" a shot at the title, first, do you favor a more inclusive playoff? If so, you can pretty much ignore the rest. Second, what is it about going undefeated by skating by LaTech and SJSU in OT that makes them more "deserving?" Define deserving. Because if undefeated automatically equals deserving, what about when 5 teams are undefeated? If you mean undefeated automatically means deserving over any 1-loss team...do you really want to live in that world? Where teams can schedule Kent State and Western Kentucky and FAU (woops, sorry Minnesota) to their hearts' content? Where the quality of the product we see on tv every day suffers even more than it already does from our current arrangement? I guess what I'm saying is...if you're going to throw out "more deserving," you better be able to back it up with more than "12-0." This isn't the NFL, there aren't enough common opponents with 12 games among 120+ competitors to go only on W-L.

by thestar5 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 4:26am

Is anybody gonna comment on 14? That guy posted a link with the best idea ive ever heard. It may be too complicated to implement but after I read that I thought it would generate a ton of discussion but no one's said a thing! What do you guys think?

by G_Man (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 4:34am

#57: And you don't think all of these backups transferring won't affect ND's depth in the future? Depth is incredibly important.

On another ND note, I think I fully realized how far they've fallen this weekend while I was watching them lose to BC. Now I'm an ND hater, so I've been enjoying the ND meltdown. But when I finished the game I was legitimately thinking "Damn, ND played pretty well, they only lost by 14." And then I realized ND has fallen so far, that losing by 14 at home is considered a good game.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 5:32am

This illustrates the fundamental problem with the polls, and Russell is prime example: they are trying to make them predictive rather than descriptive.

Personally, I disagree. I've always thought the human polls should be semi-predictive (i.e. you kindof take it into account, but it's not the whole ball of wax) whereas the statistical rankings would be purely descriptive. Then the combination of the two shores up the bias in the human rankings and the imprecision of the statistical rankings.

Could Hawaii beat any of the top teams? Maybe they could, maybe they’d get creamed, but if they go undefeated they deserve a shot.

That's why I've been arguing that playoffs should have an automatic berth for undefeated teams so long as their schedule meets a minimum strength-of-schedule requirement (based on recent historical performance of the opponents, not current year - you want to penalize teams for weak scheduling, not for bad luck in their opponents having down years).

BCS conference teams don't need to bother worrying about it, for the most part - their schedules are already hard enough compared to the non-BCS conference teams. Sorry, but going undefeated in even the weakest BCS conference is far more impressive than going undefeated in the WAC.

by RickD (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 8:13am

I didn't think anybody could make an argument against a playoff by saying that the regular season was a playoff. I congratulate you on the novelty of the argument!

Is South Florida a better team than LSU because USF beat Auburn who beat Florida who almost beat LSU? That doesn't really make sense.

The poll-driven system of college footbal produces a result that is intolerant of losses of any sort, and which has led to top programs scheduling cupcakes and running up the score. Usually if one team is head-and-shoulders better than the rest, they end up #1. But most seasons that doesn't happen.

I'm curious if anybody would argue, come January, that there should not be any Super Bowl between the Patriots and Cowboys (for example), simply because they had already played in October. Had the NFL followed that logic, they would not have had the Pats-Rams Super Bowl, which was the most exciting Super Bowl in the past 20 years, since the Rams had beaten the Pats early in the season, before the Pats really gelled as a team.

So, go ahead, have your BCS-based "championship". Fans of competitive sports will continue to mock you.

by Charles Odell (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 10:05am

The weirdest thing about the BCS standings is that Virginia is tied for 14th(!) in the computer rankings. UVA's having a better year than I anticipated, but I don't see how narrow victories over the likes of the ACC dregs (Duke, UNC) and UConn amount to that high a rank.

by Todd S. (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 10:12am

#66 But the Patriots-Rams Super Bowl is exactly why I prefer the regular season having more weight. Yes, there was an exciting game, but who did we crown that year? The inferior team.

Playoffs, by and large, are about generating more revenue-not determining the best team.

by Joe (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 10:37am

Re 68: The point isn't to determine "the best team", the point is to crown "the champion". The champion and the best team are not always the same. Sometimes the inferior team wins. That's why you play the games.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 10:59am

Re #69
But that's exactly what some of us like about college football-it's the only U.S. sport where the championship will be won every year by one of the 2 or 3 best teams. The last year there's even a semi-credible argument that that hasn't happened was Colorado's split championship in 1990, and the existence of the BCS serves to prevent situations like that one from happening in the future.

Re #53
The reason there are so many bowls is because (a) schools like to sending their teams to bowls and (b) the bowls make enough money to stay in business. If (a) and (b) weren't both true, then we'd see fewer bowl games. Just be glad you have to win at least 6 games to make it to a bowl, or else there'd be even more of them. More bowl games also helps to solve the primary data problem in college football, viz. the paucity of non-conference results with which to judge comparative conference strength.

by Eddo (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 11:10am

60: "And how do you figure the debate over who’s #8 would be just as strong as who’s #2? For one thing the #8 team will always either be a mid-major with weak schedule or a 2 loss team. Pretty hard to get too worked up about either of those."
Until that #8 seed (which was likely chosen over other undefeated mid-majors with weak schedules or two-loss BCS conference teams) wins the title. Then you wind up with two somewhat justified complaints:

The teams that just didn't make it could very well have been good enough to win the title as well. You could end up with a situation where everyone is still crying for the mid-majors when a 12-0 Hawaii team ranked #9 has to watch from home while a 10-2 USC ranked #8 wins the title.
The champion still isn't as deserving because they only "got hot at the right time" (think 2006 St. Louis Cardinals).

So don't say that the argument over who's #8 is irrelevant.

by Sandman (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 11:21am

Brian (#56):

I concur wholeheartedly. In fact, I might go further and suggest banning polls until much later in the season, possibly even until the end of the regular season, to avoid the anchoring problem.

by Brooklyn Buckeye (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 11:47am

I'll couch this by saying that undoubtedly, the Big Ten is not as strong as the SEC this year. Still, all the hatred for tOSU is pretty confusing to me.

Weak schedule? So far, sure. But I'm not sure you can call tOSU's schedule weak (with games against Illinois, Wisconson, Penn State and Michigan) while simulatneously touting South Florida's "grinder" schedule of Auburn, Louisville, Cincinnati and Rutgers. Sorry, but Auburn's the only decent team on that schedule...this coming from a former Bearcat. That Rutgers and Louisville had good teams last year does not make them competitive this year. That Cincy has managed but one loss so far this year does not mean that they would be competitive against Michigan, Florida, Texas or Oklahoma.

I love the fact that there seems to be more parity among all the schools and all the conferences the past couple of football seasons. I love the fact that scheduling a "cupcake" like Appalachain State or Stanford or Cincinnati does not guarantee a win. But how can so many people assert that the SEC is SOOOO STRONG because SEC teams lose to each other? Penn State's only losses are to Big Ten teams. Wisconson's only losses are to Big Ten teams. So how, pray tell, does that make them any different from Florida or Kentucky? If you're going to argue conference strength, don't use circular reasoning. Opponent comparisons don't work much better, either. IF USF got blown out by tOSU in the title game, would it make Auburn, LSU or Florida look any weaker? Not to me.

I'd love a playoff, but that's not going to happen. Still, the best team in the nation will be #1 come January 9th. It happened last year, it happened the year before that, the year before that, NOT the year before that, but the year before that...whatever.

This year, I'm hoping it's the Buckeyes...

by Pete (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 12:00pm

First, let me say that I love how much each week's games matter. Who cares about an occasional regular season loss by the top teams in the NFL, let alone the NBA or MLB? Winning easily against (comparitively) weak teams can make all the difference. Take a look at strength of schedule...

I would like to remind everyone that the BCS rankings are (theoretically) only used to determine a #1 and #2 team for the BCS championship. I could easily see the system to easily step into a Bowl + 1 that would satisfy the Big 10 and Pac 10 (Rose Bowl features these two teams) and others as well. Everyone competing for the Top 2 spots would probably face at least 1 serious out of conference opponent in early January. 1-2 weeks later a BCS championship game would be played at a rotating or neutral location (LSU playing in the Sugar Bowl and again in Lousiana 1-2 weeks later might be a bit of an advantage similar to USC playing in the Rose Bowl and then in a BCS game in the same field 1-2 weeks later).

Personally, I would prefer to see the computer rankings to be allowed to use margin of victory (yes, a 38-point victory as a visiting team may be slightly more noteworthy than a squeaker at home). I place greater value on the Sagarin Predictor (or ranking rather than just Elo-Chess) since it can actually reward a (weak) team for a near-victory against a strong team and can punish a (supposedly strong) team for a near-loss against a weak team.

I seem to remember early versions giving comparable weight to the Polls as was given to the Computer Rankings… Maybe we can go back to that for determining the Top X teams (where X=2 for the Bowl + 1 or X=# of teams in playoff, should that ever be implemented) after the Bowls, which would give a non-major team a slightly better chance to compete. A single extra game (or 2 or 3) would only affect those teams involved in the Playoff/Championship.

Of course, even better from my personal preference would be including a DVOA ranking as well as giving the Sagarin Predictor/Ranking comparable weight to the Poll of choice. This does not mean I am suggesting eliminating the subjective polls and only using the objective computer rankings or W-L record, but I am suggesting that a good, objective computer ranking could be used with comparable weight to a subjective poll. Of course, sadly, the tendency has been to go in the other direction.

BTW, Sagarin also has rankings (central median or simple average) for Conference comparisons. The SEC (for now) has climbed past the PAC-10. However, with a 3-point advantage for playing at home the average team in the SEC or PAC-10 would each lose the away game to each other… or to the #3 and #4 teams (Big 12 and Big East, respectively, with the Big 10 only a couple points behind the top conferences). I believe Sagarin suggests that his rankings & predictors be ignored until at least 5 games have been played by all teams.

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 1:03pm


I think the point about the SEC and losing to each other is that there is no let-up in the SEC. LSU has a 3 game span of Florida, Kentucky, and Auburn. Kentucky has one of South Carolina, LSU, and Florida. While other conferences have similar spans (Arizona State does, Wisconsin does). Kentucky and LSU just played a tough 3 OT game...and now they get some more top 25 teams. It is hard to stay unbeaten that way.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 1:43pm

Re 49/51/53: perhaps it was unintentional, but the question was about MSU-OSU, not UM-OSU, wasn't it? (Otherwise the "did they play?" question would be completely rhetorical.)

I don't think the number of teams included in a playoff would affect anything more than the type of meaning in each game. In the BCS conferences, a game like Purdue-Ohio State is a chance for Purdue to knock OSU out of the 1-2 race, or at least set them back. It means nothing more to the Boilers. (Well, assume for the sake of argument that they actually had a chance to win it.) With a 16-team playoff, the game means less to OSU, because they're likely to qualify no matter what, but more to Purdue, because they might sneak in with a 10-2 mark.

For non-BCS games, a playoff actually adds meaning. I don't ever expect to see a non-BCS game playing for the crystal ball, and if it does happen, you can bet the rules will be changed the following season. (If they want to make the BCS standings better, they should drop the polls and let the systems use the rankings designed by their creators, rather than arbitrarily-neutered ones.)

The NFL system is a good model to follow; I think what makes the NCAA basketball season less interesting is that virtually everyone can play their way into the tournament. The regular season is just for seeding and bubble teams. As long as you have teams who aren't included (and in football, you'd have to - six or seven games at the end of the season would be impossible to manage), the regular season will retain value, and rivalry games will always be important.

The system in the link in #14 is an interesting idea, and does include most of the conferences, but it has its limitations too (no non-conference play means goodbye to traditional interconference matchups; it would also make it difficult to evaluate the conferences with respect to each other).

I appreciate the idea behind preserving the bowl "traditions", but really, the only "traditions" left are the ones that are convenient for television. Look at January, for example, with the Rose Bowl Presented By Crappy Phone Service, the Fill-In-This-Year's-Sponsor Sugar Bowl, the Better-Than-Brown Orange Bowl, and the We-Got-Replaced-By-A-Bigger-Stack-Of-Money Cotton Bowl.

Now count the other bowl games played in January.

tradition. eh.

by PHn (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 2:00pm


Bravo and Amen.

Debates about which team is best are nearly always inconclusive because everyone brings slightly different criteria to the argument: injuries, perceived strength of schedule, extremely close games, questionable officiating, etc.

Personally, I think there are several two- or three- loss teams that would absolutely trash Hawaii, that LSU beats KY 8 times out of 10 (and therefore the "better" team), that sans injuries USC is still undefeated, and that at least 6 of the teams Russell ranked lower than Kansas would beat the Jayhawks in a neutral-site bowl game.

Several arguments could be raised against everything I've said and those arguments will always be inconclusive...

...until games are played.

Which is why a championship is about winning, not about being the best.

Major college football has become the equivalent of gymnastics or ice skating, where prior performance, pedigree, and off-field judging are as important as the final score.

by Sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 2:19pm

61: It's not just that Notre Dame's sophomores are getting run over by older opposing players. Kiper said he had basically no ND players rated well within their own classes. So in his view, they're subpar compared to other school's younger players, as well.

by Nick (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 2:55pm

52: This applies to European rugby leagues too (not rugby league, though, that's a different sport) and may be a European thing generally.

Over here, the traditional structure is for every team to play every other team home and away. Whoever has the most wins at the end is the champion. The plus side is that every game counts. The down side is that some teams go out of contention early on (depending on the league size) and it's possible for a team to win the championship with a substantial number of games still to go. It's also possible for a team to come top without beating the team ranked second or third.

by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 4:38pm

#78... The highly ranked sophomore class has produced few results in terms of very talented players. However, the freshmen class seems to be full of very talented players. Armando Allen, Golden Tate, Kerry Neal, Brian Smith, Duval Kamara, and Robert Hughes have all shown they have the ability to play at a very high level in the future.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 6:37pm

The poll-driven system of college footbal produces a result that is intolerant of losses of any sort, and which has led to top programs scheduling cupcakes and running up the score.

Top programs are in BCS conferences. BCS conferences are strong enough that going undefeated is impressive enough regardless of who the out of conference opponents are. In any case, the difference between "scheduling cupcakes" and "scheduling a powerhouse team" is luck. If you had Texas on your schedule two years ago, it was a massive challenge. This year? Not so much. Two years ago, people laughed at Penn State beating South Florida in Week 1. Now, USF is ranked #2.

There is no BCS conference so weak that the 8 in-conference games are all cupcakes. The non-BCS conferences, okay, that's different.

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 8:18pm

Major college football has become the equivalent of gymnastics or ice skating, where prior performance, pedigree, and off-field judging are as important as the final score.

Really? When has this actually happened?

by Duck in MA (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 8:31pm

Wow, Oregon #2? Ummm, as much as I love my Ducks (and I do!), that's being a little too generous. I knew no one was going undefeated in the Pac-10 this year, but right now it looks like the champion(s) will be 10-2. Good for making the Rose Bowl, but I doubt any one will be in the National Championship picture come the end of November.

RE: 81. Pat, all Pac-10 teams play 9 conference games. Every team plays each other? What a concept!

by Bcsbusters (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 10:53pm

I appreciate the traffic to my site coming from this commentary. To really understand the playoff proposal, you should read the six part series on National Realignment for College Football.

As far as addressing the non-conference games, it really does address it because all 120 teams are involved in non-conference games the last three weeks of the season, plus the bowl games and this is occurring at all levels (BCS Bracket, Holiday Bracket, NIT Bracket and Sportsmans Bracket).

Finally, I've thought a lot about how this proposal would affect the rivalries and how difficult it would be to jump right into conference play, so what do you think about a week one, non-counting game with the non-conference rivals? I say non-counting because it wouldn't affect which bracket a team would be involved in in the final month of November, because the conference race, beginning in week #2 would take care of this.

The only draw back is every team would play a 13 or 14 game schedule, rather than a 12 or 13 games schedule. However, could you imagine how exciting week one would be with Florida State - Florida, Clemson-South Carolina, Georgia-Georgia Tech or USC-Notre Dame occurring in Week #1, plus if your a school who doesn't have a national non-conference annual rivalry, it would be good time to create new ones.

Oklahoma - Michigan, Ohio State - Texas, Arkansas-Missouri, Nebraska - Wisconsin, West Virginia - Virginia Tech, Alabama - Clemson? With no BCS liabilities resulting from a loss, this would encourage more rivalry games without the threat of losing the season in week #1 (aka Florida State - Miami).

Let me know what you guys think because some of my best adjustments in regards to this system and book project have come from the fans like yourself! Great site by the way, I book marked it in my blog favorites!

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/16/2007 - 11:48pm

Bcsbusters, please don't take this personally- I hate your idea.

To empashize- you seem like a very nice young man. I like you.

I dislike your idea.

Put ANY sport's championship criteria under the same scrutiny in which you put college football's. What do you get?

NFL teams with eight wins (or even fewer) eligible for the Super Bowl.

MLB teams with 85 or fewer wins eligible for the World Series.

NCAA Basketball teams with literally ZERO wins (win the conference championship and you're in the NCAA's!) with a chance to win the basketball tournament.

NHL Hockey? Erm...

NBA Basketball? What a meaningless season.

College football fans love it because it's COLLEGE FOOTBALL!! We don't need it to be something else.

I once had a co-worker from Puerto Rico that would endlessly babble about how great Puerto Rico was. I once finally asked him why, if Puerto Rico was so great, why did he not go back there?

Similarly, I ask fans of other sports...if you love that sport's system so much...why not focus on that sport?

by lionsbob (not verified) :: Wed, 10/17/2007 - 1:05am

While I agree with your main point Kevin....uh baseball just last year had a World Series winner who had just 83 regular season wins. It makes me sick too. Hell the Cubs could have been 85 game winners going to the World Series as well this season.

by navin (not verified) :: Wed, 10/17/2007 - 1:09am

UNC may have had some bad luck, but a lot of luck went their way in the second half. There were 3 fumbles in the game (2 by UNC) and UNC recovered all three. USC was also playing without their best corner.

Also a lot of the 3 and outs were 4 and 1 situations. I think every drive but one started out with 2 runs and a lot of them had 3 straight runs.

Other than that UNC did play really well. They'll probably knock off some "better" ACC teams the res tof the year.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 10/17/2007 - 4:05am

RE: 81. Pat, all Pac-10 teams play 9 conference games. Every team plays each other? What a concept!

Yeah, yeah, I know, but no one plays less than 8, so 8 was the number I used.

by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 10/17/2007 - 8:26am

Yeah, yeah, I know, but no one plays less than 8, so 8 was the number I used.

Big East teams do.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Wed, 10/17/2007 - 4:17pm

Re 10:
Travis Beckum is not a TE. He weighs less than Plax, Colston, and many other WRs. The announcers a few weeks ago were trying to convince me but there's no way he's a TE.

Re 24:
Yes, two BCS Bowls in three years can kill a program. I'm glad Purdue's never sunk that low.

Re 72:
It doesn't matter how late you mandate the polls start because somebody will start up a poll that everyone else will follow.

by Bcsbusters (not verified) :: Wed, 10/17/2007 - 8:07pm

Major college football has become the equivalent of gymnastics or ice skating, where prior performance, pedigree, and off-field judging are as important as the final score.

To Kevin: Unless you've been living in a coma, or perhaps a cave, its time for you to wake up and smell the coffee bro.

by Drew_BurgerMan_Bledsoe (not verified) :: Wed, 10/17/2007 - 9:32pm

There's got to be some kind of John L. Smith/Keep Choppin' Wood Combined Honorable Mention for Bill Callahan. I mean, when your team is so bad it gets the AD fired and replaced by the legendary coach who used to have your job and now that guy is going to decide if you stay or go...well, that's some seriously chopped wood.

by Ben Johnson (not verified) :: Thu, 10/18/2007 - 3:16pm

Who cares! Nebraska gets exactly what it deserves for firing a guy like Solich who had nearly an .800 win percentage.

Parity is everywhere and the days of ripping off dynasty type winning percentages is over, but since guys like Harvey are still living in the 1970's and 1980's, they always think they are bigger than the game. Guess what guys, with 85 scholies, you can't stock pile anymore, which means Kansas and Kansas State get the same number of players as you do. Reloading is a thing of the past. It usually takes a year or two to build a solid team and then it cycles again.