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19 Oct 2009

One Foot Inbounds: Winning Matters Most

by Robert Weintraub

Let's get right to the heart of the matter -- should a team that wins a close game be punished by a drop in the rankings? Florida has gained mightily over the years from laying a few extra scores on outmatched competition. If "style points" matter, then they have to work both ways. On the other hand, winning is the only thing that matters. How do you say to Tim Tebow, who just led an expert final drive for the winning score at the gun over Arkansas (23-20), "sorry, that wasn't good enough. Win by 30 every time, please." After all, it's not as though Alabama was dominant against South Carolina -- not that dominant.

I went back and forth, and it seems that a case can be made for either Florida or Alabama. But I just can't justify dropping a team that has won 16 games in a row. They have several facets to shore up, like pass protection, run defense, and downfield passing. But the Gators get it done, and until they don't, they're my No. 1.

Mark Ingram has established himself as Tebow's equivalent in one respect -- when you absolutely need a yard, or a first down, or a goal-line touchdown, he's money in the bank. Now that he's taking direct snaps, he's guaranteed to have the ball in his hands come winning time, just like Tebow. The SEC title game just got even more intriguing.

I didn't see much action this week, instead I was consumed by a research trip to New York and spent five hours shivering at Yankee Stadium Saturday night. I would have much preferred watching Idaho improve to 6-1 with a 35-23 victory over Hawaii. Who needs Dennis Erickson? Robb Akey is doing a far better job in resurrecting the Vandals program, thanks in part to slugging safety Shiloh Keo.

I did see Boise struggle with Tulsa on Thursday night, and if G.J. Kinne, Golden Hurricane quarterback and the hardest name to say quickly in the FBS (formerly Division I), doesn't miss a wide, wide open receiver in the final minute, Boise's BCS may have been busted. But there is another example of team getting slammed for winning. Hey folks -- nobody is very good this year, haven't ya noticed? Since when did teams have to win by three touchdowns every week? Utah played pretty darn well in its BCS game last January, and some of the Utes regular season wins were Ugly Betties. Few saw them, though, save the nine people who get The Mountain on cable.

I guess the upshot is, if you're going to stink, don't do it on national TV.


  • In the long-awaited D.C.-area Weakness Bowl, Virginia won over Maryland, giving the Wahoos an aura of, well, less futility than the Terps. Break up the Cavs -- they are 3-3 and unbeaten in the ACC, and all of a sudden, Al Groh seems a better coach than Rex Ryan.
  • Jahvid Best -- do it against the big boys, if you please.
  • In this Heisman-frontrunner free season, why not a freshman? Quarterback Matt Barkley was excellent at South Bend in Southern Cal's pulsating victory over Notre Dame. He hasn't been perfect, but in USC's money road games, Barkley has played well. Remember, he was injured and missed USC's pratfall at Washington, which in a way turns out to be the strongest bit of evidence in Barkley's favor of all -- without its freshman signal caller, USC was hopeless.
  • By the way, you would think Mr. Decided Schematic Advantage would have some better goal line plays than that, no? True, Duval Kamara slipped on the final play, but that penultimate play was brutal. Here is where the Irish badly missed Michael Floyd's aerial agility.
  • Ohio State, Kansas, Nebraska -- these were teams that didn't look good in winning, and it caught up to them Saturday. That's why I don't look down on winning ugly. Just getting Ws on today's ultra-level playing field is enough.
  • I've talked about his strength and improvement as a quarterback before -- Saturday was Josh Nesbitt's debutante ball. It's been a long, long time since the Jackets had a home win as big as the 28-23 stuffing of Virginia Tech, and Nesbitt's three rushing touchdowns led the way. Suddenly, The Institute looks like the best team in the ACC, and an outside national title contender.

The OFI Top 25

Rank Team Delta
1 Florida
2 Alabama
3 Texas
4 Southern Cal 3
5 Cincinnati 3
6 Boise State
7 Oregon 2
8 TCU 2
9 Miami (Florida) 2
10 Iowa 2
11 Georgia Tech 11
12 Penn State 6
13 LSU 3
14 Virginia Tech 9
15 Ohio State 11
16 Houston
17 Oklahoma State
18 Texas Tech
19 West Virginia
20 Notre Dame 6
21 Brigham Young 2
22 South Carolina 7
23 Utah
24 Oklahoma 11
25 Central Michigan
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: South Florida (#20), Nebraska (#21), Pittsburgh (#24), Auburn (#25).

Lurking -- Kansas, Boston College, Arizona, Oregon State, Navy, Idaho

Posted by: Robert Weintraub on 19 Oct 2009

19 comments, Last at 20 Oct 2009, 7:24pm by Rover


by SOBL (not verified) :: Mon, 10/19/2009 - 2:42pm

Rob - Any comment on the weird roughing calls on Taylor Mays in the USC-ND game? The hit on armando allenw as when he was still inbounds, and Mays was already launched by the time WR Paris was being tackled. I'm still at a loss over the Mays-Allen hit being called a personal foul, but then again, USC was up 20. I know the NFL has been taking heat on the weird roughing calls this year, and it would be a shame if the same lame calls made their way to the NCAA. Excessive celebration is already a talking point (everson griffin flexing = 15 yards).

by jebmak :: Mon, 10/19/2009 - 2:42pm

Maybe you should drop Florida to #2 based on them needing the refs to give them that last drive. Maybe I am just bitter because Sundays games sucked for me. Also, I watch about 60-90 minutes total of college football per year including bowl games. So I probably haven't a clue what I am talking about.

by chappy (not verified) :: Mon, 10/19/2009 - 3:07pm

Agreed. There were 30 yard of field position given on those very questionable calls. The pass interfernce was a terrible call, but I can at least see how a referee could get confused in that situation. The personal foul immediatly thereafter was completely insane. If a guy can't block when he is engaged, I don't know what he is supposed to do. Maybe he said something afterwards that got him the penalty, but I sure couldn't see it.

by Kibbles :: Mon, 10/19/2009 - 3:49pm

I agree that Florida really benefited from some calls, but let's be a little bit reasonable, here. People cite 4 plays in particular at the end of the Florida/Arkansas game (mostly because those were the 4 plays Danielson was outraged about). Of the four, two came on the Gators penultimate drive (that resulted in a TD). The PI was extremely tacky, but it was technically correct (Broadway initiated physical contact before he turned around to look for the ball, so he can't say he was playing the ball). Regardless, that never should have been called, especially with how underthrown the ball was. The personal foul was simply egregiously wrong. The PI was a half-the-distance call, so Florida only got 25 yards of field position, which is still a decent chunk. But both penalties occurred on FIRST DOWN. If not for those calls, Florida would be facing 2nd and 10 or 2nd and 9 in the red zone- it's not like they'd just throw their hands up in defeat and punt the football. It's one thing if Arkansas gets a stop on 3rd or 4th down and the refs bail Florida out... but now we're talking about the refs gifting Florida a game because of a pair of 1st down calls when Florida was moving the ball at will, anyway?

The other two calls I've seen people complaining about came on Florida's final drive (the game-winning FG). First, people complain that Riley Cooper didn't get called for OPI on a pass to the end zone, but the refs made the correct call there. Cooper was looking upfield and reaching for the ball. Both players have a right to make a play on the ball regardless of who has position. Second, after Tebow had a run of 8 yards on 2nd and 9, the refs gave him an extra yard on the spot. That play finished at the 18 yard line with 30 seconds left in the game. The end result of the drive was a 27 yard game-winning FG. Even if we assume that Tebow couldn't convert a 3rd and 1 (a pretty terrible assumption, imo), then worst case scenario is that Florida kicks a 35 yarder instead of a 27 yarder and Arkansas gets the ball back with 22 seconds instead of 9 seconds. If we assume that Tebow does what he does 95+% of the time and converts that 3rd-and-1, then the bad spot was actually a blessing for Arkansas, because Florida had one fewer running play to run the clock down (and one fewer chance to break a tackle and reach the end zone), meaning Arkansas got the ball back with 9 seconds instead of Florida kicking the game-winner as time expired.

So... in the final quarter, the refs made a terrible personal foul call, an extremely tacky PI that was correct but shouldn't have been called, a correct no-call, and made a bad spot that was entirely meaningless in the grand scheme of things (and potentially even beneficial to Arkansas). 5th Down or '06 Boise/Oklahoma it wasn't.

by t.d. :: Tue, 10/20/2009 - 1:28am

what was controversial about Boise State-Oklahoma?

by xLittleP :: Mon, 10/19/2009 - 3:00pm

Rob -

I appreciate your re-evaluation of my beloved Jackets. However, could you please stop making up nicknames for teams? I have never heard anyone call us "The Institute" in my life. If you're trying to draw attention to our stellar academic programs as well, then I certainly appreciate that, but pulling some out-of-nowhere reference always makes me do a double take, and I went to that school!

As for the Alabama-leapfrogging-Florida debate, you shouldn't rely on preconceived notions to make your rankings. I don't think it's acceptable to say, "Well I thought Florida was the best team coming into this week, and while they didn't play like it this week, they didn't lose, so..." It should be, "Who is currently playing the best football in the country right now?" Or, "Which still-unbeaten team looked the best in their win this week?" I honestly don't think it matters who is number one at this point (even if it's Texas), because the eventual SEC champion WILL be the de facto number one team in the land, even if it was a #2 vs #3 matchup.

Keep up the good effort.
- p

by pkyle (not verified) :: Mon, 10/19/2009 - 3:08pm

Wow, how did you graduate from Georgia Tech without hearing the school referred to as "the Institute"? There's no College or University in the name. It's the Georgia Institute of Technology. It's more formal than calling it Tech or GT.

by xLittleP :: Mon, 10/19/2009 - 4:41pm

I understand what the name of the school is (This is one of the reasons why I adamantly refer to "Virgina Tech" as VPI). Still, if you google "Georgia Tech 'The Institute'", you get mostly Georgia Tech references to itself, and even then it's all references to the academics. Like most Tech grads, I was there for the full five and a half years (don't ask, it's typical, trust me), and not once did I hear anyone refer to the school's athletic teams as "The Institute". Not in the school's sports coverage, not in local sports coverage, and not in ESPN's national coverage. Perhaps this is some outdated term applied to Bobby Dodd's teams in the 50s and 60s, and Rob's trying to be hip by bringing it back, but I'm just saying that it sounds downright weird to me.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 10/19/2009 - 8:38pm

If the school is referred to in other capacities as "The Institute" doesn't that make it completely acceptable to refer to it that way on a website that tends toward the tongue-in-cheek and creativity? There's nothing official about this site after all.

And as a Tech grad (the real one in Virginia, not Georgia) I appreciate the VPI reference. But to be more exact, it's actually VPI&SU ("...and State University"), which would look just awful on the helmets. And "Virginia Tech" or "VT" is an official, although not full, name/logo/reference.

by Todd S. :: Mon, 10/19/2009 - 3:42pm

My fellow Purdue fans and I are accepting Thank You's for making sure THE Ohio State University does not get blown out in the National Championship Game AGAIN this year.

You're welcome.

by zlionsfan :: Tue, 10/20/2009 - 3:53pm

Actually, as a Purdue grad born in Michigan, I kind of enjoy seeing aOSU get blown out on national TV.

by guestpost (not verified) :: Mon, 10/19/2009 - 5:50pm

How do you have USC at #4 and Miami at #9?

Miami lost to a top 15 team on the road, and has 3 wins over ranked teams.

USC lost to a 2-3 team, and has 1 win over ranked teams. What gives?

Your blog ballot looks more like Insert Lazy AP Ballot Here for the top 10.

by The Blue Horseshoe :: Mon, 10/19/2009 - 6:48pm

USC's loss came on the road without their starting QB and best defensive player.

by sundown (not verified) :: Mon, 10/19/2009 - 7:23pm

There's never any consistency with this poll. Check out how OU gets dropped like a stone for their 3-point loss to Texas. But if you're going to dock them that severely for losses, how on earth were they sitting at #13 coming into this week when they'd already lost twice? (Getting back to your Miami reference, he'd completely set the table to leapfrog them over Miami had they managed to beat Texas.)

by Derek (Brooklyn) (not verified) :: Tue, 10/20/2009 - 9:08am

Agree that this poll is terrible. It just goes to show that the blogpoll is subject to the same problems that sometimes plague the AP and Coaches Poll...human error.

by Rover (not verified) :: Tue, 10/20/2009 - 7:24pm

A reasonable ranking doesn't just consider the loss, which is only 1 game. A reasonable rankings considers the wins and USC has better wins than anyone in the country. Name another team that went on the road (minimum distance 1000 miles) for 2 nonconference games equal to OSU and Notre Dame?

Did a single SEC team travel to another BCS conference team's home field? let alone two away games? Let alone 2 away games against 2 good teams? Those wins, and smoking Cal, are impressive. Fortunately, they'll lose to Oregon and then you can safely ignore them.

The loss matters, no doubt, it keeps USC from being #1.

by princeton73 (not verified) :: Tue, 10/20/2009 - 9:36am

youse guys are probably too young to remember, but back in the 60s, when there was the college football scoreboard show, they DID call them "VPI"

by zlionsfan :: Tue, 10/20/2009 - 3:51pm

Dave Diles ... Prudential College Football at the Half?

by Jetspete :: Tue, 10/20/2009 - 11:38am

With the exception of a win at Baton Rouge, Florida has done nothing to deserve its number 1 ranking. The problem is that since Florida was number 1 in the preseason poll (ie before any actual games were played), pollsters and coaches dont want to change what they felt in the preseason. In actuality, while the defense is outstanding, Florida's offensive woes have me questioning why they deserve to be number one over a host of undefeated teams. Look at the resume of the undefeated teams:

Florida: close wins at home over Tennessee and Arkansas, win at LSU
Bama: destroyed arkansas, beat VT on a neutral field, convincing win over SC, impressive win at Ole Miss.
Texas: closer than it shouldve been win over Tech, penalty laden 3 point win over a banged up, 3 loss Oklahoma team on a neutral field.
Cincinnati: close win vs Fresno, convincing road wins at Tampa, Rutgers and Oregon State.
Iowa: Solid, if unspectacular wins vs Arizona and Michigan and at PSU and Wiscy. Serious downgrade for two embarrassing home performances against Northern Iowa and Arkansas State.
Boise: dominated oregon at the line of scrimmage, albeit at home. Get it done road wins at Tulsa and Fresno.
TCU: Good win at Clemson, meat of schedule still to come.

Based on resumes to date, Alabama has to be number one. Florida's resume has been no more impressive than that of Boise or Cincinnati to date. And that is not even including the one loss teams. To the point of the article, i do not expect Florida to win by 30 every week. But don't leave the game in doubt in the final minutes. The good thing for Alabama is they will get the chance to prove they are better than Florida (which they will do). Unfortunately an undefeated team like Cincinnati, Boise State or Iowa might not get the chance to prove they are better than a shaky longhorns squad.