Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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

08 Sep 2008

Confessions of a Football Junkie: Pirates' Treasure

by Russell Levine

Tropical Storm Hanna was supposed to turn Saturday's West Virginia-East Carolina game into a quagmire. Instead, clear skies appeared over Greenville, N.C., but the Mountaineers got hit by Hurricane Holtz -- as in Skip Holtz, suddenly the coach of the hottest program in college football.

Holtz, the son of former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz, is in his fourth season at East Carolina. With 16 starters back, the Pirates were expected to contend for the Conference USA title, but few expected them to vie for a Bowl Championship Series bid. Yet that's exactly where they find themselves after back-to-back wins over ranked BCS-conference teams to begin the 2008 season, the latest a leave-no-doubt, 24-3 whipping of No. 8 West Virginia.

Non-automatic qualifying leagues have sent teams to the BCS three times, including both seasons since a fifth game was added to the BCS in 2006. All three schools -- Utah in 2004, Boise State in 2006, and Hawaii last season -- fought their way up the polls all year, only getting into position to qualify for a BCS bid in the final weeks.

East Carolina might have no such worries. After beating Virginia Tech and West Virginia, the Pirates are already No. 14 in the AP poll. What's more, they have already played what will likely be the two best teams on their schedule, and with games remaining against Virginia and North Carolina State, they could go undefeated with a 4-0 mark against BCS-league schools. It would be an unprecedented achievement in the BCS era.

In fact, what the Pirates have already done this season has little precedent.

East Carolina might have "the best pair of opening wins in recent memory," says Matt Hinton, who blogs about college football as "Dr. Saturday" on Yahoo! Sports. "I can't find anyone else in the last five or six years that beat two top 20 teams in consecutive weeks to open the season."

Hinton is also a voter in the online BlogPoll, which was designed to counteract the typical problems with the writers' and coaches' polls -- namely, that teams are placed at one spot in the preseason, and are only moved up and down relative to that initial ranking.

Hinton prefers "resume ranking" his ballot, only giving teams credit for what they have done on the field to that point and setting aside all preseason assumptions. He had the Pirates No. 5 last week, when they did not appear in the AP top 25. This week, they will move up.

"ECU laid it on West Virginia by a pretty wide margin, so as of now, I expect them to be No. 1," said Hinton, who expects to drop ECU as BCS-conference teams start to build better resumes. "But as long as they're winning and unless Virginia Tech and West Virginia turn out to be flops, those wins will keep ECU near the top of the mix for most of the season. It's certainly more impressive than Hawaii, Boise State, and Utah in their BCS seasons, because none of those teams faced a ranked opponent from a 'Big Six' conference in the regular season, much less two."

Regardless of where ECU ends up this season, Holtz has already authored a remarkable turnaround for a program that appeared to have lost its way under John Thompson, who went just 3-20 in his two years in Greenville.

Holtz's teams have improved each season, from 5-6 in 2005, to 7-6 in 2006, and 8-5 last season, which was capped with an upset win over No. 22 Boise State in the Hawaii Bowl.

Against Virginia Tech, East Carolina rallied to win late by returning a blocked punt for the winning touchdown. There was nothing last-minute about the thrashing of West Virginia, which was a popular national title pick in part because of its perceived weak schedule.

A year ago, East Carolina's defense gave up a 599 yards and 48 points to West Virginia. On Saturday, the totals were 251 and 3, as West Virginia quarterback Patrick White was held completely in check.

ECU quarterback Patrick Pinkney meanwhile, continued his spectacular play. After two games, he has completed 41 of 51 throws for 447 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Holtz proved masterful at getting his team not to rest on its laurels after upsetting Virginia Tech. The challenge will be even greater this week, after the media darling Pirates have had another dose of press clippings. A trip to Tulane may seem like a foregone conclusion after the teams ECU has already beaten. With Holtz's club likely to be favored in nearly every game the rest of the way, it may be his task all season to get his team to play at the same level it did against Virginia Tech and West Virginia.

If the Pirates do that, they'll be in prime position to give Conference USA its first ever BCS bid.

This is not the first time the East Carolina program has been on the rise. Steve Logan led the Pirates to four straight non-losing seasons from 1998-2001, and memorably upset Miami in 1999. But he was fired after going 4-8 in 2002, and the program fell apart under Thompson.

This time, the ECU administration appears to be treating its coach with greater care. Holtz was given a six-year extension through 2013 before the season, but if ECU continues to play this well, it might be time to check the fine print on the buyout clause. While projecting an undefeated season in mid-September is obviously premature, it's a much safer assumption that a BCS conference school will come calling if Holtz even comes close.

A Word About the 'Other' Big Story


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ECU's win had to share co-billing with another story on Saturday, thanks to a controversy at the end of the BYU-Washington game.

Since I expect many of you have opinions on what transpired -- after rushing for a potential game-tying touchdown with two seconds left, Washington quarterback Jake Locker was flagged for excessive celebration for throwing the ball in the air, and the Huskies lost when the 35-yard extra-point try was blocked -- I'll offer my own.

It's a ridiculous way to end a good football game, but do not blame the officials. What Locker did, tossing the ball high into the air, absolutely rose to the level of excessive celebration as defined by the NCAA rulebook. He did not flip the ball over his head onto the ground as Mark May seemed to believe. He tossed it what looked like 15 to 20 feet in the air. The referee is simply doing his job by calling that penalty.

Blame the rulebook, not the referee. It's a stupid rule. I'm all for cleaning up the game of prolonged or premeditated celebrations and especially taunting. That is what the rules should target, not simple exuberance that shows up exactly nobody. But that's not the way the rules are written.

John L. Smith Trophy

South Florida was comfortably ahead of Central Florida by 14 points and in full kill-the-clock mode in the final four minutes. The Bulls had run the ball on five consecutive snaps and seven out of the previous eight. About the only thing that could threaten USF at that point in the game was a turnover. Why throw the ball, particularly a pass that was high-risk, low-reward?

But on second-and-9 from his own 35, USF coach Jim Leavitt called for a quick out. Matt Grothe's pass, which would have gained at most a couple of yards, was intercepted. Four plays later, UCF was in the end zone. After a USF three-and-out, the Knights scored again to send the game to overtime, where USF prevailed.

Leavitt's club may be the Big East favorite after what we saw from West Virginia Saturday. But if he claims the Big East Trophy, he'll have to put it next to the JLS award on the mantle.

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 make changes based on comments for next week.

Rank Team Delta
1 Southern Cal --
2 Oklahoma 4
3 Georgia --
4 Florida 2
5 Missouri 4
6 Oregon 7
7 East Carolina 14
8 LSU --
9 Texas 2
10 Auburn 5
11 Alabama 4
12 Penn State 8
13 Wisconsin 1
14 Ohio State 10
15 South Florida 3
16 Kansas 1
17 UCLA 1
18 Arizona State 1
19 Texas Tech 1
20 Brigham Young 2
21 Utah 2
22 Fresno State 2
23 Georgia Tech 3
24 Wake Forest 2
25 California 1

Dropped Out: West Virginia (No. 10), South Carolina (No. 15), Cincinnati (No. 25).

Rankings that may require further explanation: We're still in wild swing mode as the teams sort themselves out. Oklahoma moves way up because others struggled and they bombed a Cincinnati team that I feel is pretty good. Oregon shuffles up because their offense looks unstoppable, but we don't really know until they actually play somebody. I moved the top of the Big Ten -- Ohio State, Penn State, and Wisconsin -- down to the middle of the poll in a block. Obviously, Ohio State will move WAY up if they beat USC this week. Still mostly guesswork for a few more weeks, so look for lots of movement in the next several polls.

Games I watched at least part of: South Carolina-Vanderbilt, Miami-Michigan, West Virginia-East Carolina, Ohio-Ohio State, Oregon State-Penn State, Ole Miss-Wake Forest, Cincinnati-Oklahoma, Miami-Florida, Stanford-Arizona State.

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

Posted by: Russell Levine on 08 Sep 2008

65 comments, Last at 11 Sep 2008, 11:12am by Kevin11


by Doug (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 5:59pm

Finally, some good analysis of the BYU-WAS situation. I was watching that game. I've seen the replays of that touchdown play. The ball flies up and out of the picture completely, then lands several seconds later. He did not flip it over his shoulder. The ref had to make the call, because of what the rule says.

Now, what do you think would have happened had Washington made the final extra point from 35 yards? This call would become a non-issue. Instead, the kick was blocked and the Washington lovers and BYU haters are out in force acting like they were robbed of an opportunity to play for a win.

by War Eagle (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 6:12pm

"Hinton prefers “resume ranking” his ballot, only giving teams credit for what they have done on the field to that point and setting aside all preseason assumptions."

This is reasonable on face value, but it sounds like he evaluated ECU by one standard and ECU's opponents by another. That is, ECU is top 5 because of on field results, but their on field results are impressive because of subjective polls.

I don't think it's reasonable to say you reject polls and then use them to calibrate your own rankings.

by RB #25, Tulane (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 6:14pm

HAHA! I told you guys Matt Forte > Darren McFadden. Does this get me a job at FO?

by RB #25, Tulane (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 6:15pm

exactly, #2.

by PHn (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 6:24pm

Duck love! Catch the fever!

The OSU/USC game will obviously be interesting -- I'll be watching along with the rest of the known world -- but I'd guess that the Trojan defensive coaches are more worried about the Oct. 4 visit by Oregon. If Bellotti can keep his team healthy (a huge "if" these days), it'll be the best offense 'SC sees during the regular season.

by TheWedge (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 6:33pm

My cousin used to play for ECU back when they upset Miami. I have nothing else to add.

by TheWedge (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 6:39pm

re 6:
And by that I mean the year after they upset Miami. I suck.

by Ken (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 6:57pm

I'm with you Russell. The referees have no option when the rule book is so explicit. It's a problem there's been in other sports, too. In soccer, if you remove your shirt during a celebration, you automatically get a yellow card - so there have been players who have been sent off (ejected) for receiving a second yellow card for taking their shirt off - somewhat disproportionate. In cricket, too, umpires aren't empowered to decide what constitutes unfair intimidatory bowling, so a crucial tactic is taken away from the fast bowler by being unable to bowl more than one bouncer an over. It's ridiculous; referees should be trusted to know what kind of celebrations are acceptable and which ones cross the line into taunting. If they don't, that's a problem with training, not with the rulebook.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 7:10pm

This is reasonable on face value, but it sounds like he evaluated ECU by one standard and ECU’s opponents by another. That is, ECU is top 5 because of on field results, but their on field results are impressive because of subjective polls.

I don’t think it’s reasonable to say you reject polls and then use them to calibrate your own rankings.

Excellent point. As the article states, what an amazing start, beating two top-20 programs - and hey, no one else did that! But in reality beating two top-20 programs at the start of the year means little, because who knows how good they are?

It always irks me at the end of a season when a fan of a team (or even worse, an announcer! - and they do it all the time!) says something like "Well, my team beat 8 ranked teams - that were ranked at the time of the game."

Sometimes a ranking "At the time of the game" isn't deserved, and in reality, the team is closer to being an unranked team (Virginia Tech, for example, probably shouldn't be ranked at all). Other times, that might not be the case (a ranked team that suffers some serious injuries may not be worthy of ranking anymore, but WAS worthy of it before).

Admittedly, at the start of the season there isn't much else to go on, and so I'm fine with making judgments that way for now, but it bears mentioning.

by Duck in MA (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 7:11pm

I would also like to concur with Russell's analysis of the UW-BYU ending. I was watching the game and as soon as he threw the ball in the air and the flag came out, my immediate reaction was 'that was so stupid!' Of course I don't think the officials should make that call, but you can't make it for them by hurling the ball in the air. I'm glad UW lost, but Russ is right that the rule is the issue, not the enforcement.

Thanks for the Duck love. Still ironing out some kinks in the offense (as scary as that is after rolling up 688 yards and 66 points), but the defense looks pretty damn good. First road test this weekend at Purdue should tell us how they can respond to the hype. Go Ducks!

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 7:41pm


1. Florida
2. Oklahoma
3. Southern Cal
4. Missouri
5. Ohio State
6. Georgia
7. Auburn
8. Penn State
9. LSU
10. Wisconsin
11. Alabama
12. East Carolina
13. California
14. Utah
15. Texas Tech
16. South Florida
17. Oregon
18. Texas
19. UCLA
20. Wake Forest
21. Arizona State
22. Kansas
23. BYU
24. Oklahoma State
25. Georgia Tech

Ohio State treated the game against Ohio U. like a scrimmage, and I understand why they did, but I can’t keep them at #1 ahead of Florida, Oklahoma, etc after that performance. Having said that, I think they’ll beat USC next week and anyone else they play this season- OSU is the best team in the nation.

Akron beats Syracuse at the Carrier Dome, MTSU beats Maryland, and a week after beating Texas A&M, Arkansas State scores 83 (!!) against Texas Southern.

by PHn (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 8:16pm


How can Cal rise one spot to #25 in your poll? The same question arises for Georgia Tech and Wake Forest. Do you unofficially keep track of spots 26 and higher?

by PHn (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 8:18pm

Actually, now that I do the math, I realize you would have had Cal (up 1 to 25), Wake (up 2 to 24), and GT (up 3 to 23) all ranked at 26. C'mon, spill! How's that possible? :-)

by bowman (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 9:10pm

re: UW-BYU

Why no criticism for the BYU coach for accepting the penalty? If the penalty was bogus, wouldn't it be proper sportsmanship to decline it?

(I'm thinking of criticism here for the coach(es) who abused the new, inane clock rules a few years ago).

by ChrisH (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 9:10pm

Two points:

I heard the NCAA head of officiating on ESPN Radio this afternoon, and really didn't like what he said. He said that, yes, the ref can call that a penalty, but he has some leeway in determining if he was trying to show up the other team, or if it was spontaneous. That seems to go against everything the NCAA sent out to it's refs, and to teams, as a point of emphasis this year. He said the ref probably only had a second or two to decide if he was going to throw it, but they will look into revising the rule in the offseason.

Shouldn't he get on the radio, say "He called the rule as it's written, there's no controversy, we let all they teams know this before the season started and he called it just like the video we sent out", and not leave it open to blaming the ref if this happens in the future? I wasn't a fan of that (If you want to track down the radio, it was the 2nd hour of Tirico and Van Pelt today)

Second, looking at the Sagarin computer rankings, can someone explain how VT and WVU are ahead of ECU in a computer ranking? Aren't the supposed to be unbiased and care more about the games on the field and stats? ECU has a better record, has a much higher SOS, and should be ahead of both of them, right? Maybe that will work out later, but from a computer, that really bothers me.

by bowman (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 9:12pm

2. ECU beat 2 BCS conference schools. Name a team that has done the same. If you assume BCS conference school > non-BCS conference school, than ECU MUST be 1st, according to an otherwise unbiased ranking system.

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 9:19pm

Second, looking at the Sagarin computer rankings, can someone explain how VT and WVU are ahead of ECU in a computer ranking?

I can- Sagarin's ratings have never made any sense. It's as if he made some wacky pascal-based program on his Commodore 64 in 1985 and never changed it.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 9:36pm

Re #17
Sagarin uses last year's ratings for the first couple weeks of the year, until there are enough linkages among all the teams to come up with actual ratings. Think DAVE.

One thing not many people have pointed out is that I'm pretty sure Ty was going to go for 2 and the win if not for the penalty. Obviously, with the penalty, that's out, and it doesn't affect how we should view the call, but it's something to think about.

I saw a wire story with the comments for the head of officiating. Honestly, that's just bogus equivocating that makes him sound better.

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 9:52pm

Sagarin uses last year’s ratings for the first couple weeks of the year, until there are enough linkages among all the teams to come up with actual ratings. Think DAVE.

Except that his final ratings are always nonsensical.

20 years ago I liked seeing the Sag Ratings in USA Today since he rated all of the teams (D-1 and D1AA mixed), but the more one looked, the less one liked.

by ChrisH (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 9:57pm

#18: Van Pelt mentioned that as well, but if you search for the video on You Tube, you can see he only has one finger up and was going for the tie (which he should do being at home).

by bradluen (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 9:58pm

bowman: Cal has beaten BCS conference opponents 38-31 and 66-3 and can't get any higher than the bottom rungs of any subjective ballot (except Kevin 11's). The school is delegating a committee of Nobel Prize winners to investigate.

by Eric J (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 10:16pm

PHn, I'm pretty sure that "26" is basically just shorthand for "not in top 25." If you look at the preseason ballot, he lists each of the 25 teams as up from 26 to their spot on the ballot.

by chuangtzu (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 11:04pm

Those of you saying "that's what the rule book says" in regards to the UW-BYU game haven't read the rule book. It says that throwing the ball into the air can be called as a penalty. It does not say that throwing the ball into the air must be a penalty. This call was made by an official, not a rule book. It was within his discretion to call it a penalty or not, and he chose to do so. The head of officials was correct in saying that he can't fault the official for calling a play "by the book," but can't we as fans expect officials to rationally exercise their discretion?


by andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 09/08/2008 - 11:12pm

Miami (Fla) quieted the swamp and if not for heroics from Tebow and some punting miscues, might have actually had a shot in that game. Florida did win... but Miami's program looks to be on the way back.

by PHn (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 12:09am


Ah. Thanks. It looks to be a BlogPoll convention. Sorry for the noise.

by Gihyou (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 12:19am

Anyone who thinks the ref had to call that penalty, or was 'just doing his job', probably fills out his TPS reports in triplicate.

I mean, really, there's discretion in EVERY call by a ref. There's no such thing as a 'have to throw the flag' moment. And no one throws celebration flags in crucial moments.

Also, the apparent reason for the rule seems to have something to do with keeping the ball handy for a ref so he does not need to go chasing after it. The ball went straight up into the air, then landed right back down (actually hit Locker on the way down).

And, finally, whether it was the official or a dumb rule, the fact remains: it was stupid, it probably cost Ty Willingham his job, and it cost us a chance to see college football overtime. Why must we defend this?

by Jeff (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 12:33am

If you're going to have Mizzou #5, why have Illinois unranked? It's not like Missouri pounded them into submission or anything.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 5:13am

Except that his final ratings are always nonsensical.

Sagarin's BCS ratings well, just Elo ratings, which you can pretty much look up anywhere online. They're basically just a maximum-likelihood rating.

The Predictor ratings have a noticeable bias for teams which play in fast-paced conferences (higher scoring games), probably because the game-output function is probably only 1D (scoring margin) rather than 2 or even 3D (2 being score and opponent's score, 3 being, most logically, score, opponent's score, and total number of drives).

The only "nonsensical" ratings in the BCS are Billingsley's ratings. The others are all on very solid statistical footing.

by t.d. (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 5:33am

I thought Auburn looked impressive, not like a team that should drop. USM has a frisky little program, and that game was not as close as the final score. Auburn dominated them, then eased off after it was out of reach. Sort of the opposite of the OSU game

by bowman (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 7:17am

21 - I stand corrected. Still, not many schools have 2 BCS wins. ECU and Cal should be near the top, until the other teams play more meaningful games.

26 - Any of that vitrol for the BYU coach? He equally deprived us the overtime.

by ChrisH (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 7:37am

#23,26: The reason we're defending the ref is that the NCAA made a huge point in the offseason to tell teams that they were looking out for celebrations, and they were going to flag them, sending a video out to all the teams showing them examples of the celebrations they would be going after.

If they were making this point to the teams, and the media, they were probably making this point to the refs as well, and so they were on the lookout for this far more and instead of using discretion, they were just trying to do their jobs and call what had been emphasized in the offseason. The NCAA, if there was discretion to be used, should have made this more clear to the refs and to the media.

If I was a ref, however, and my bosses spent my offseason telling me to look for something very specific (celebrations) that we were going after this year, and then when I flag it, even if it is a critical point, I'd expect them to back me up, not to tell me that I could have used my judgement in that case so they can try to save face.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 8:17am

ChrisH, at this point in the season, we have two choices: rankings based mostly on previous rankings (which will vary considerably in the coming weeks) or rankings based solely on on-field results (which will vary tremendously).

Look at Massey's ratings for an example of the latter. Is Norfolk State really the third-best team in the country? Almost certainly not, but there just haven't been enough games played to show that we know they aren't.

Even using his MOV rankings, we can see some teams that just seem out of place ... but the reason why they seem out of place is probably related to our internal rankings, and those are likely to be a synthesis of last season's rankings, on-field action, and perhaps historical results.

There are 245 DI teams, after all. (120 I-A teams, if we look only at that group.) There's no way to sort them properly after two weeks.

You know, one of the things I was thinking about the UW-BYU game is that maybe Ty needs to focus a bit on special teams practice. Whether UW should or shouldn't have been in that situation, they missed a game-tying 35-yard "field goal". It's not at all a sure thing in the college game, but it should be a kick you can expect your FG team to make if you need it.

by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 8:48am

21- My rating of Cal, like all of my ratings, are based on some fairly flimsy assumptions. Those being:

1. Michigan State is a good team.I was thinking nine wins for them before the Cal loss.

2. Washington State isn't bad, and Cal pummeled them.

3. Cal was pretty good to begin with, I think I had them at #27 to open the season.

Of course, it could turn out that all three of these premises are false, and if so I'll adjust accordingly.

by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 9:31am

Teams that may be replacing their coach at the end of the season (if not sooner), in order of likelyhood:

1. Syracuse
2. Pittsburgh
3. Washington
4. Clemson
5. Virginia
6. Arizona
7. Tennessee
8. Maryland
9. South Carolina
10. Louisville
11. Oklahoma State
12. Mississippi State

Kentucky and Purdue don’t count, and I have no idea if Paterno or Bowden will retire.

by Dennis (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 10:11am

And, finally, whether it was the official or a dumb rule, the fact remains: it was stupid, it probably cost Ty Willingham his job, and it cost us a chance to see college football overtime. Why must we defend this?

What I find really interesting about this is that I haven't seen anyone lay the blame where it really belongs:

1. On Locker for throwing the ball in the first place.

2. On the kicker and field goal unit for missing the kick. Yes, a 35 yard kick is 15 yards longer than a 20 yard kick, but it still should be made.

by Dennis (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 10:19am

There are 245 DI teams, after all. (120 I-A teams, if we look only at that group.) There’s no way to sort them properly after two weeks.

And this is exactly why preseason and early-season polls are pointless. There isn't remotely enough data to make anything resembling meaningful rankings.

As much as Russell talks about the blog poll being "designed to counteract the typical problems with the writers’ and coaches’ polls — namely, that teams are placed at one spot in the preseason, and are only moved up and down relative to that initial ranking", and then his rankings suffer similar problems. As has been mentioned, he dropped Illinois out after they lost to Missouri, who he ranks #5. If a lower ranked team loses to a higher ranked team, why do they drop? They are supposed to lose. Heck, maybe there were even under-ranked to begin with.

by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 10:32am

36- Pre-season polls are based on limited information, but that doesn't make them "worthless". For example, Ohio State was really good last year and every good player is back, so I figure they'll be one of the best teams in the country. Ditto Georgia, Florida, etc.

by Joe T. (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 10:56am

Nobody's talking about the South Florida/Central Florida game at all. Maybe one of the greatest college football games I've ever seen.

by tic toc (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 11:32am

RE 33
Wazzu IS bad! Horrid. It's going to be a rough year.

by DrewTS (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 11:53am

Re 11

Just to nitpick, why rank Ohio State 5th if you think they are "the best team in the nation"? The justification you gave doesn't make a lot of sense. Either they're the best team, or they're not -- you can't have it both ways. If you think they're the best, put them at the top. If you can't trust your own judgment when making your list, it becomes meaningless. Of course, it says that right at the top, so maybe I'm taking this too seriously.

by Dennis (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 11:56am

37: This goes back to the debate over whether the polls/rankings should be predictive or descriptive. Obviously preseason polls are purely predictive. At some point during the season, they should become purely descriptive, but they never do. Even at the end of the season, voters say things like "I ranked team A ahead of team B because if they played today, I think team A would win" even though said voter agrees that team B has the better resume.

I think it's great that Hinton is trying to do purely descriptive rankings from the start, but it's impossible this early in the season.

by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 12:16pm

40- Fair question.

Let's get this out of the way early: me doing a poll is just a goofy hobby.

I do think OSU is the best team in the country, but unlike the teams ranked ahead of them they haven't actually done anything.

The fact that I think they're the best team keeps them from being unranked.

Ranking them at #5 takes both factors into account.

by Dave Glass (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 12:28pm

Re #35: EXACTLY. It's ALWAYS easier to blame the ref than to take responsibility for one's own (or your favorite team's) mistakes. Locker threw the ball, the rule is pretty explicit and the NCAA directives were VERY explicit - what do you want the ref to do there? Risk his job by disobeying the NCAA? I'm a ref, and there are PLENTY of rules I don't like. Plenty of nonsense BS things I get evaluated on - if my black shoe has a white stripe, that's a point, for example - but I don't have to like the rules, I have to enforce them. There are PLENTY of refs out there who would love a D-1 gig, and the difference between a good crew and a mediocre crew is so small that NOT throwing a flag in a case like this stands a good chance of getting you fired. What would YOU do in that situation, you've worked for YEARS to get to D-1 officiating, you've got a directive to flag celebration...would you risk your OFFICIATING CAREER over that? I know in my case, in that situation, I throw the flag and mutter under my breath 'what a stupid BS rule'. Blame the player for throwing the ball, blame the NCAA for a ridiculous rule - do NOT blame the officials for doing what they are told to do.

I agree with the poster who expected the NCAA to better back the officials there. They should have gone on TV/radio/etc and said the officials 100% made the right call by the rule, end of story. But that would involve loyalty and integrity, which I'm not at all sure the NCAA has in its arsenal.

by John (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 2:35pm

35: The reason you haven't seen anyone discussing that is that everyone acknowledges those truths. No one disputes them. You can try and sound wise all you want, but stating the obvious isn't going to help that.

The problem is you didn't address the argument in post number 26. You can say that it really wasn't the ref's choice to call it, but then maybe you should explain why the refs of 3 other games didn't call the balls being flipped in the air excessive celebration, as shown on ESPN.

The bottom line is, the refs do have the choice. Just like they can choose not to call some holding or pass interference.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 2:40pm

What would YOU do in that situation, you’ve worked for YEARS to get to D-1 officiating, you’ve got a directive to flag celebration…would you risk your OFFICIATING CAREER over that? I know in my case, in that situation, I throw the flag and mutter under my breath ‘what a stupid BS rule’.

Or, you can just work in the Pac-10. Consider that the referee who, a few years back, completely and utterly botched the Oklahoma-Oregon onside kick call, is now the Pac-10's director of officiating.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 2:57pm

I believe that the referees indeed have some discretion, but that at the same time, the NCAA, after making a big deal in the offseason about how referees NEED to be much more harsh on calling celebration penalties by the book, can't (or shouldn't) go on TV and say "Well, he probably should have used discretion."

That's throwing the guy under the bus for enforcing something that he was specifically ordered to enforce by the book, even if stupid. If the NCAA representative had said, perhaps "We did indeed instruct our referees to enforce the rules as written. However, this incident, while called correctly by the referee, has led us to reconsider to some degree this point of emphasis", that would have been OK to me.

But then the NCAA would have to admit it made a mistake, and it doesn't do that.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 3:00pm

Re #45
Yes, but he utterly and completely botched the Oklahoma-Oregon onside kick call in favor of the Pac-10 team. If ever the benefit of my conference is at stake, as it was in that game or, say, WVU-Pitt last year, I want exactly that kind of guy in charge and giving me directions. And thus we finally get to the real reason the NCAA didn't support the guy-he was acting against the best interests of his conference, and the call favored non-BCS bowl contender BYU.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 3:01pm

And, kids, let's this be a lesson. Don't forget to close your italics tags.

by Dennis (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 3:11pm

44: I don't see why I need to address anything in post 26. I'm not arguing either way as to whether the ref was allowed to use his judgement to call it or not call it.

It's Locker's fault for putting his team in the position where the ref could exercise his judgement to call it. If Locker didn't throw the ball, there's no penalty, period. And if they had made the kick, nobody would be arguing about this now (at least not anywhere near to this extent).

But it's easier for Washington to blame the ref instead of themselves, because that would require them to actually take responsibility for what happened.

by t.d. (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 3:20pm

Clemson isn't getting rid of Bowden, and Spurrier leaves only if he wants to.

by bear goggles (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 3:22pm

1) I can't believe people are actually defending the Udub-BYU call on the basis of a missed 35 yard extra point. It shouldn't come down to the kicker, ever on an XP and Washington shouldn't be in that situation of having to make that. 2) Penalizing part-time 20 year old football players for exuberance is just plain stupid. How much of this is the ref's fault for enforcing a dumb rule and how much is the NCAA's fault for emphasizing it is unclear at this point, but bottom line, this shouldn't happen, and somebody needs to make clear who's responsible and how the rule should be enforced going forward. Let's stick to taunting and premeditated celebrations for penalties, shall we?

As for Cal's ranking, who knows. Wazzou's performance was sub-BCS caliber; honestly the worst performance I've seen in many a year. They may go winless. At this point in ranking teams, we have to make some assumptions about the quality of the opposition and assuming that WVU and VaTech are pretty good at least makes some sense.

by Tarrant (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 3:30pm

Re: #49

Locker has taken full blame for throwing the ball resulting in the penalty. Reports were that he apologized to the coach and team afterward for it. I haven't seen him blaming the referees for making the call - he's done the "right thing" in this instance (to my knowledge).

Now, whether "The Internet" and "The Sports Media Honks" are blaming the referees, well, Locker doesn't have any control over them.

by horn (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 3:58pm

Miami was down 9-3 with about 8 minutes left and Florida was punting on 4th and 9....ANNNNNDDDD here come the SEC refs to give the ball to Florida, somehow overturning a play ruled incomplete where the WR doesn't even hold on to the ball and lands 99% out of bounds. 3 plays later, another gift DPI call on an uncatchable ball and Fla finally scores on their 3rd SEC ref-assisted-1st down.

Until that point, Miami had the longest drive of the game - at Gainesville, and without their best offensive player - Javarris James.

Miami's D is definitively back, hiring the DC from Kansas was a great move.

Gator fans, I'd be worried, as the good SEC teams won't be penalized by SEC refs, and they won't be play a lot of true freshman on D like Miami had to do.

by Dennis (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 6:20pm

52: That's great that Locker is taking responsibility. I give him a ton of credit for that. It's too bad the NCAA isn't taking responsibility for the rule.

by Roscoe (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 6:51pm

Let me be the first to ask whether ECU deserves a shot at the national title if it can win out. It already beat the teams that won the ACC and Big East last year. If (1) Va Tech and West Va go on to have good years; (2) one of them (or both) wins its conference and gets a BCS berth; and (3) there aren't two undefeated big conference schools at the end of the year, why shouldn't ECU get an invite to the big dance?

by War Eagle (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 7:38pm

Because they'll get blown out and nobody wants to watch that.

by War Eagle (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 7:39pm

Which is also why no one wants OSU back in the NC.

by bradluen (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 7:55pm

In that case, let's have Ohio State vs ECU for the Crystal Football.

by Roscoe (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 8:31pm

War Eagle. Everyone also thought that Oklahoma would blow out Boise St. a couple of years back, and it didn't work out that way. I know you are thinking Hawaii, but that isn't a good example, as they never played anyone who was any good.

It just seems to me that it isn't fair to say that a team has no chance of getting to the show, even whey they play a tough schedule and win all their games, just because they aren't from a "name" school.

by bear goggles (not verified) :: Tue, 09/09/2008 - 8:36pm

Re: 54


by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 7:00am

There would certainly be no reason to disqualify ECU from national championship consideration if they ran the table. They have an incredible non-conference schedule, with Virginia and NC State yet to come. I know those teams stink this year, but still...

However, ECW has eleven games to go, and I do NOT think they will run the table.

by War Eagle (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 10:29am

re: Roscoe

Touche. OU loses games it should win like its their job. I amend my statement to stipulate that should OU already be in, ECU should go.

by Kevin 11 (not verified) :: Wed, 09/10/2008 - 4:23pm

RE #57- I don't understand what you're saying.

The 2006 Ohio State team got blown out. The 2007 team lost but didn't get blown out.

But for argument's sake, would that automatically mean the 2008 team would get blown out?

That makes no sense.

RE #56 IF IF IF ECU runs the table, they'd have as credible a resume as many teams that have played for the NC.

by Kyle S (not verified) :: Thu, 09/11/2008 - 2:39am

It may be the NCAA's responsibility to defend the officials, but I'm under no obligation to do so.

They did not have to throw the flag. I'm just not buying it. If you say they did, then you have to also say that officials in a couple of other games were derelict in their duties when players tossed the ball high into the air.

by Kevin11 (not verified) :: Thu, 09/11/2008 - 11:12am

If you say they did, then you have to also say that officials in a couple of other games were derelict in their duties when players tossed the ball high into the air.

Np problem, I'll say it: if that ever happened when the rule was in place, those refs were were derelict in their duties when it occured.

That was easy. ;)