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I've often talked about a theory that I refer to as the "Bounceback-Dropoff" theory of picking the winner of an upcoming college football game. This theory holds that a team coming off an emotional victory and/or a huge upset win is likely to have an emotional dropoff that will leave them vulnerable to an upset in their next game - and that a team that stunk up the joint last weekend will bounce back and play much better the next weekend.
I'll cite as one example of this Georgia Tech during the 2003 season, when the Jackets upset Maryland 7-3 in a hard-hitting Thursday night game, then came back in the following game and got blown out 41-17 by a putrid Duke team. There was also the 1999 season when Tech was upset 26-23 by Wake Forest on the road, then bounced back the next weekend and defeated Georgia in that epic 51-48 overtime battle.
It's just a theory of mine, you understand, and it's not always supported by what happens on the field, but if ever there was a game that validated the bounceback-dropoff proposition, it would have to be last weekend's North Carolina-Virginia matchup.
North Carolina, an exceedingly mediocre squad this year, was coming off one of the worst defeats in school history, a 69-14 waxing by Louisville. Virginia, conversely, had just knocked off undefeated FSU at home by a 26-21 score - the Cavs' first victory over the Semin-holes since that historic Thursday night encounter in 1995 when Virginia became the first team to beat Florida State in ACC play.
So what happened? North Carolina held off a much more talented Virginia team to win by the baseball-like score of 7-5. Virginia had looked fabulous against FSU but couldn't get the job done against the Tar Heels. Bounceback . . . dropoff. That loss puts Virginia at 4-3 and, despite all that wondrous talent recruited by Al Groh, the Cavaliers are sitting at fifth place in the ACC's coastal division, ahead of only Duke. You just never know.
Had it not been for Hurricane Wilma, Georgia Tech would be in a similar bounceback/dropoff position going into the game with Clemson. If the Jackets had played through their normal schedule, they most likely would have been drubbed by Miami last weekend and would be preparing for a Clemson team that was coming off a 30-point victory margin over Temple. I would have liked the Jackets' chances in that situation. Actually, I still like Tech's chances since they're playing at home and it's about time for Tommy Bowden to blow another game. We'll see.
There's an interesting publication by Street & Smith on the newstands that lists the "50 Greatest College Football Programs of All Time." These things are always fun to read, so I'll do a quick rundown of their list - not because I agree with all of it, but just to get a discussion going.
The schools listed as the top 10 programs of all time are:
1.. Notre Dame
2.. Southern Cal
8.. Ohio State
I won't argue with eight of those 10 choices, but it's absurd to put two Ivy League schools in that listing. Yes, the Ivies were major football powers at one time - until the 1930s. An Ivy League school hasn't contended for a national championship in roughly 70 years and the league hasn't produced a Heisman Trophy winner since Princeton's Dick Kazmaier in 1951 - which was 54 years ago. The Ivies also don't award athletic scholarships and haven't played the equivalent of Division I-A football since the 1950s when they de-emphasized the sport. If you were picking the greatest football programs of the 1889-1950 era, then sure, put some of the Ivy League schools in there. But this is a joke.
As for the other schools, I would probably switch Southern Cal and Notre Dame between the top two spots, but the rest of the choices seem to be placed about where they should be.
Here are the programs that Street & Smith ranked in the 11-20 slots:
11.. Miami (Fla.)
12.. Penn State
14.. Florida State
16.. Georgia Tech
Obviously, what jumps out and grabs your attention is that Georgia Tech is ranked two slots ahead of Georgia, which will have the fans of the Trembling Chihuahuas stamping their little feet in rage. But I think it's a fair ranking. After all, Tech has won a national championship more recently than Georgia (1990 as opposed to 1980) and has won more national championships throughout its history than the school in Athens. Georgia fans will protest that they've produced more Heisman Trophy winners but remember, the trophy was named after a Tech head coach. The school that does not belong in this bracket is Minnesota. The Golden Gophers did win a few titles a long time ago, but they haven't won a national championship since 1960 and haven't been to the Rose Bowl since their 1961 team. I would have dropped them down to about 35th or 40th on this list.
Here are teams 21 through 30 -
23.. Texas A&M
24.. Michigan State
26.. Ole Miss
We've already discussed how the Ivy League schools don't belong on this list. I would have dropped California and Ole Miss to much lower slots, along with Army. Colorado should be a little higher on the list.
Teams 31 through 40 -
35.. Brigham Young
40.. Arizona State
I would argue for putting UCLA higher on the list, along with Brigham Young (because of the Cougars' long run of success under LaVell Edwards and his innovative passing offense). Maryland has had a couple of good seasons recently under Ralph Friedgen, but I'm not sure they belong on this Top 50 list. I've also got my doubts about Illinois.
And finally, schools 41 through 50 -
42.. North Carolina
44.. West Virginia
46.. Miami (Ohio)
48.. Texas Tech
49.. Boston College
50.. N. C. State
Again, what's with this Ivy League nonsense? I think Wisconsin and West Virginia deserve a little higher placement. I would have dropped Texas Tech and N. C. State from the list entirely. But that's just one guy's opinion.
This has nothing to do with the 50 best programs of all time, but it's a great piece of trivia I was reminded of: In the 1984 Rose Bowl, an underdog UCLA team whomped Illinois, 45-9. That was the game, as I still remember, when some geek students hacked the electronic scoreboard in the Rose Bowl and changed the names of the teams from "UCLA" to "Cal Poly" and "Illinois" to "MIT." That had to be one of the great punkings of all time. The game itself fascinates me all these years later because the two key players for UCLA were quarterback Rick Neuheisel, who completed 22 of 31passes for four touchdowns, and flanker Karl Dorrell, who caught two of those scoring passes. Both of those guys later became bigtime college coaches: Neuheisel at Colorado and Washington, Dorrell at UCLA (where his Bruins are currently undefeated). It's a small world after all.
This week's picks:
Clemson at Georgia Tech. One of my readers emailed this question: "You were saying a few weeks ago that N. C. State was the pivotal game of the year. Is Clemson the next pivotal game of the year?" That's a very good question. Unfortunately, NCAA rules limit Division I-A teams to only one pivotal game per season (unless you're playing Hawaii, in which case you get two).
I can't call this a pivotal game, but I would point out that it's one of the games Tech will have to win if it wants to salvage a winning season. The Jackets will now end the season with back-to-back games against Miami and Georgia. I'm guessing they will be at least 14 or 15-point underdogs in both games. Tech also has to play Virginia, another team to which it will be the underdog, the week before Miami.
That tells me that Tech must beat Clemson and then Wake Forest at Bobby Dodd Stadium to at least finish with a 6-5 season. Those are two games that the Jackets are capable of winning - but are just as capable of losing. I'd say the team's chances hinge on the ability of P. J. Daniels and Eric Henderson to get off the injured list and return to fulltime status. If those guys can come back, a winning season is still possible.
Tech is favored by three points as I write this. I think the Jackets can win straight up, but I would be very reluctant to lay those points.
Georgia at Florida. With all of their problems - a quarterback not comfortable with the offense, a head coach who gets all weepy if anything goes wrong -- the Gators are still five and a half or six-point favorites over the chihuahuas. Shows you what the loss of a quarterback will do. Georgia's backup quarterback Joe Tereshinski displayed all the intelligence and agility of a constipated marmot in the Arkansas game. If he is as big a doofus against Florida, the Gators might very well cover that spread.
Boston College at Virginia Tech. Nobody has stopped the Hokies yet and I don't see BC doing it, but they won't lose by 13 and a half.
Maryland at FSU. After their thrashing by Virginia Tech, Maryland now must contend with the Seminoles. Sorry, Ralph. At least your next game will be against North Carolina.
North Carolina at Miami. I don't look for another Tar Heel upset of Miami this year. Going back to my "dropoff" theory, North Carolina should be on a down cycle against the Hurricanes.
Mississippi State at Kentucky. The oddsmakers have this as a "pick 'em" game, so I'll pick not to watch this at all. Can anyone think of two more boring teams to put on the same field at the same time?
South Carolina at Tennessee. The Vols are 14-point favorites, which I think is a big mistake. This is a Tennessee team that will either be looking ahead to the Notre Dame game or is about to quit on Phil Fulmer and effectively call off the rest of the season (as Gerald Riggs has already done). Either way, there's an opportunity here for Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks to steal a victory. They certainly should be able to beat the spread.
Michigan at Northwestern. The Wildcats are a fun team to watch this year and are on a roll with three big victories in a row over Wisconsin, Purdue, and Michigan State. I'd take the four points the oddsmakers are giving Northwestern.
Oklahoma at Nebraska. This was a classic game for so many years, but it would be hard to find two teams this year that are more underachieving. Oklahoma is a one-point favorite, which seems about right. But really - who cares?
Wake Forest at Duke. The Deacs prepare for their big showdown with Tech by beating Duke, but probably not by 14 points.
Southern Miss at N. C. State. Even thought the Wolfpack are favored, I've come to the conclusion that it's time for Chuck Amato to go, so I'm picking Southern Miss in an upset special.
Central Florida at East Carolina. I was leaning toward East Carolina until George O'Leary called and said I had always been a worthless flapper, so I'll pick the Golden Knights. Just don't hit me again, George.
Dr Football's Weekly Column
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