NATIONAL TOP 25
(Note: This is not a talent ranking of how good these teams are, but rather a look at how they'll perform against their remaining schedules and where they'll be ranked on January 9.)
1. Ohio State (12-0, Last: 1)
Last: Won vs. Michigan, 42-39
Tradesports.com showed their odds of winning the national title increasing from 55 percent to 65 percent as Florida leapfrogged Michigan. I think the Gators are a great matchup for Ohio State – lacking the downfield passing game to attack the Buckeyes' relatively weak secondary.
2. Michigan (11-1, Last: 3)
Last: Lost at Ohio State, 42-39
I cannot wait for the Michigan defensive front to start attacking John David Booty. Something tells me he can be rattled.
3. Florida (12-1, Last: 4)
Last: Won vs. Arkansas, 38-28
I cannot place it, but seem to remember some controversy with Florida and elections before. Give the Gators credit for rebounding offensively after the unit was left searching for a pulse in narrow wins over Florida State and South Carolina.
Talk about backing into a title – try watching a team that beat you fall in triple overtime to your main conference rival. For all the talk about the top-two Big East programs, this was the year where the rest of the league (Rutgers, South Florida, Cincinnati) stepped up to profoundly impact the conference chase.
The pollsters finally got it right and have this team ranked relatively low, despite the gaudy record. I am betting a chaotic bowl showing will make them lose their clarity.
John David had an accident in his Booty, from the looks of things. Anyone still think Matt Leinart was overrated?
7. LSU (10-2, Last: 8)
Last: Won vs. Arkansas, 31-26
Mixed feelings for LSU, which must be enjoying watching Florida earn a berth in the national title game after Auburn was shunned two years earlier. Still, the Tigers were that close to their first-ever Rose Bowl.
I wonder if Auburn would be able to beat Arkansas if the game took place today? This team completely fell off the radar after its loss to the Hogs.
9. Notre Dame (10-2, Last: 10)
Last: Lost at USC, 44-24
LSU is the best two-loss team in the country, and Notre Dame is the worst. This is going to be one of the ugliest bowl games in the land.
10. Rutgers (9-2, Last: 7)
Last: Lost vs. West Virginia, 41-39
Who would have thought five years ago that Florida blue-chippers would be choosing Rutgers over Florida State and Miami with regularity? This program's emergence might do more to cost Florida State and Miami their traditional spots atop the ACC than any opponent on those schools' schedules.
11. West Virginia
After losing in triple-overtime to hand Louisville last year's Big East crown, West Virginia used a triple-overtime win this year to hand Louisville the Big East crown. Another thought: Rich Rodriguez' stock might never be this high again. Bolt to the NFL!
Last year excepted, all Oklahoma does under Bob Stoops is make the BCS. This year, the man-genius was faced with backups at quarterback and running back. No sweat.
13. Boise State
Notre Dame and Wake Forest would be the only better BCS teams to draw than Oklahoma. I really think the Broncos have a legitimate shot.
14. Virginia Tech
How badly could Virginia Tech beat Georgia Tech or Wake Forest today? 20 points? 30 points?
I think Cal fans are jumping off the deep end if they complain too much, but maybe there is something to the idea that Jeff Tedford teams tend to close more slowly than they start. His teams are always very physical and practice in pads more frequently than most, so perhaps they get worn down over the course of the season...
How do you catch a punt running backwards, over your shoulder, at the five-yard line? Poorly, it turns out. Fumble, recovered in the end zone, touchdown and national title berth for Florida.
Someone fire this man. Larry Coker and Walt Harris are rolling over in their coaching graves watching him bank seven figures a year.
18. Wake Forest
ACC Champions in a 9-6 game that set back football 40 years. Now, go represent your school by getting slaughtered by 30 come New Year's.
19. Texas A&M
The team seems to save its best performances for the biggest stages. First they took Oklahoma to the wire; then they beat Texas in their rivalry game on national television. I think they will be ready for Cal.
If they had not played Ohio State, I bet they would be undefeated and in the national title (against Ohio State, ironically) right now. I think an undefeated Texas is that much more focused, and is too driven to be upset by Kansas State or Texas A&M.
Not in the Top 40 if they played in a real conference.
Not in the Top 50 if they played in a real conference.
23. Penn State
Who knows, really? But pollsters give teams from good conferences the benefit of the doubt.
24. Oregon State
Ditto. But we give them a tip of the hat for very nice win at Hawaii – not too many schools manage to pull that one off.
The SEC has three Top 10 schools. Add Georgia Tech to the schedule and these Bulldogs managed to stay alive against one of the nation's toughest slates.
RAMBLINGS 'ROUND THE COUNTRY
I went 3-0 last week to close out a 24-15 season, both straight-up and against the spread. Not bad at all, but watch me blow it, as always, come bowl time.
Troy Smith will win the Heisman and we know who is in the BCS, so I wanted to use this space to set forth some clear BCS principles after the latest mess. (Full disclosure: I am a diehard Michigan fan, and they are a better team. But if I had a vote, it would have gone to Florida. Explanation forthcoming.)
Year after year, BCS voters have not stuck to the principles of choosing the best team or the team that has compiled the best results, and this has caused the BCS selection process to grow more arbitrary by the year. Imagine if the NFL, the best-run sports outfit in the land, chose its playoff teams by inventing rules out of thin air.
1. Win your conference? It does not matter. (If that is where the BCS wants to go, fine, but make it explicit. Until then, we cannot cite a rule that does not exist.)
2. Same thing with head-to-head results. If they are to count, then write it down. Otherwise, no pulling rules out of thin air.
3. Doubly true with long, head-to-head chains. If I recall, Florida State lost to Miami who lost to Washington one year. Florida State was obviously the best team and Washington a fraud for 10-1, but the Huskies had a legitimate claim for no good reason. (Side note: BCS, please do not adopt this rule. The same logic lets us conclude that Stanford football is better than USC's.)
4. Whether win by a little or win by a lot does not matter either. (Better teams will win more impressively, but we are judging the cause, not the consequence.)
5. When you lost does not matter. "Sorry Green Bay, your Week 16 loss is worse than the Bears' Week 14 loss."
6. When you last played does not matter. (Michigan was penalized because the Big 10 schedule always ends before Thanksgiving, largely because of the cold weather.)
7. How many viewers you draw does not matter. "Sorry Buffalo Bills. We are leapfrogging the Kansas City Chiefs because of TV ratings." Currently, media coverage is self-fulfilling. (For example, reporters sing the praises of Notre Dame. Notre Dame makes the BCS largely because of the hype. The reporters use that outcome they largely created to justify their hype.) In any other sport, results on the field are the only thing that matters. That leaves college football as the only sport where the fourth wall is broken. Repair it.
8. No vendetta voting. This is not West Side Story and the Jets and the Sharks all over again. Sorry Auburn got the short end of the stick two years ago. That is not a reason to vote for Florida now though.
9. No voting for whichever team is geographically closer to you. (Exhibit A: Former Michigan State coach George Perles gave Michigan his vote for this reason.) I passed fourth-grade geography too. What is next? Voting on color schemes? Schools whose first letter is the same as yours?
And, this year has brought us two more logical fallacies:
10. No voting against a team that has already "had their shot." That is another made-up rule that people should not be allowed to vote by until enacted. (This is a stupid rule, so please do not codify it.)
Say that Ohio State had a postseason ban and an undefeated USC held down one slot of the BCS Title Game. Does anyone dispute that Michigan, not Florida, would be ranked the number-two team in the country? If so, then how does Ohio State's presence change whether Michigan or Florida is the number-two team in the country? Obviously, it does not.
11. Finally, and this is what bothers me the most about this year, no tweaking the results to produce an outcome you like. "No one wants a Michigan-Ohio State rematch." Since when did our preferences make a lick of difference? Sorry Tony Romo. Nice job with four fourth-quarter touchdowns in a Week 17 blizzard to clinch a playoff spot, but our research shows we will attract more viewers make more money with a household name Brett Farve and the Packers. Money, incidentally, which you will never see a penny of.
So how to do it?
Seems to me there are only two legitimate ways to evaluate who makes it in.
1. One is to select the two best teams in the country. Here, Ohio State and Michigan are undoubtedly the selections – Vegas had Michigan a six-point favorite against Florida, and the naked eye confirms that. This view is reflected in other sports: whoever throws the furthest or runs the fastest is crowned champion.
2. The other acceptable method is to choose the two teams that performed the best against their schedule. Here, you probably go with Ohio State and Florida, given that Florida made it through a tougher schedule than Michigan's with just one loss. I prefer this method, as it is employed by every professional team sport: whoever has the best record makes the playoffs. (No need to account for schedule strength because of greater parity in the professional ranks.)
This is not sour grapes over Michigan getting left out. Florida is certainly worthy in accordance with our second principle (and that will not change if Ohio State beats them by 25 in a month – another sportswriter fallacy). Instead, this is frustration over the systemic destruction this beautiful game has had brought upon itself with greed, stupidity and myopia over the past decade. Let us hope that it does not take another decade to change it for the better.
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