Thursday, December 21

A lengthy dissertation on the New Mexico Bowl

Really. This game kicks off at 4:30 and it involves two teams you're probably not going to watch. One team hasn't beaten a 1-A team with a winning record all year. The other team lost to Portland State.

Go spend some time with your family, come back at night. I'm not even going to waste my time on this game - and given some of the other dreck I've already spent time on, that should warn you. Stay away.

Don't get up early for the Papa John's Bowl

South Florida @ East Carolina - Papa John's Bowl, 12/23

How South Florida Got Here
Someone's gotta finish 4th in the Big East. This year had the trio of WVU, Louisville, and Rutgers - but right below them was an 8-4 USF team. Aside from that, it was a pretty typical season for a second-tier team in a major conference. You pull off an upset (@ West Virginia), you lose a couple of question marks (@ Kansas, @ Cincy) and lose to the guys you should lose to. Beat everyone else and that's good enough for a 1/1 bowl in some leagues. Not so much here. Blame the Big East tie-ins if you want to.
Best Win: 24-19 @ West Virginia, 11//25
Worst Loss: 6-23 @ Cincinnati, 10/22

How South Florida Operates
Offensively, this team will go as far as QB Matt Goethe will carry them. He's their leading passer - and their leading rusher. Aside from that, they don't do any one thing particularly well; their scoring D is only allowing about 18 points per game and their pass D is good enough for second in the conference (behind only Rutgers). However, in this league average is good enough for 8-4.

How East Carolina Got Here
Who knew C-USA had at least 4 bowl tie-ins? That's really the long and short of it in a lot of ways. They sucked coming out of the gate (2-4), although they did have a win over Virginia, who beat Miami. After that, they did well, only losing a close game to Rice - and beating NC State (which probably sealed Amato's departure). This is good enough to qualify for a banner year at ECU, and going 2-2 in games against schools from major conferences is a pretty impressive feat, even if both of those wins were against subpar ACC schools.
Best Win: 20-17 @ Southern Miss, 10/28
Worst Loss: 12-17 @ UAB, 9/9

How East Carolina Operates
ECU is predictated on the strength of their defense (3rd in the conference). Calling their offense average for C-USA is a bit of an overstatement, as they're not very good at moving the ball. However, they have a solid pass D and their rushing D isn't terrible - remember that they kept Steve Slaton in check when they played the Mountaineers. In addition, they're also +5 on the season in turnover margin, which isn't too impressive - but USF is also -5 on the season, so there could be something there.

5 Things to Watch When USF Has the Ball (or is punting)
1: Matt Goethe's dual-threat capability. Obviously. He's the Bulls leading rusher and their leading passer pretty much any way you slice it. He's got to play well for the Bulls to have any shot of winning.
2: Ricky Ponton. Who's he? He's a SO RB that came on strong in the second half of the season after not playing in the first half of the season - he's also the only guy that might run for more than Goethe will; if he doesn't, then the load will fall to Benjamin Williams to pick up the pace as the second rushing threat.
3: Taurus Johnson and Earl Randolph. I'm normally fond of noting at least the first two receivers, and these guys pretty much define the "deep threat/possession" guys I'm looking for in an offense. Randolph is the possession guy, Johnson's the deep threat - if that really counts with the Bulls.
4: Amarri Jackson's playmaking ability. The Bulls will line him up under center a few times a game at least, have him run, maybe have him pass, put him in the slot; basically they'll try and get the ball in his hands a few times and hope he can do something exciting. It's a useful type of player to have.
5: No special teams. Simply put, they suck - USF is the worst punting and FG kicking team in the Big East. Maybe it has something to do with Florida. This doesn't bode well for the Bulls if it's close late.

5 Things to Watch When ECU Has the Ball (or is punting)
1: James Pinkney's ability to force the action. ECU's offense has been stagnant all year, so if there's going to be any major offensive movement, it's going to begin and end with Pinkney.
2: Brandon Fractious and Chris Johnson. It's tough to say which one of these guys is the change of pace back - I don't think either one of them is, really. If you think of them as a two-headed monster then they're good for about 75 yards a game, which isn't much. They need to combine for over 100 yards, which has happened only 4 times all year - and 3 of those were when one of them went over 100 yards on his own.
3: Aundrae Allison's ability to make the passing game go. There's not much without him (more on them in a minute), but Allison makes the passing game go. He's got the most receptions, most yards, most yards per game (a natural extension), and the most TDs. If he's shut down, it's over.
4: Who steps up to #2? There's a bunch of candidates - Phillip Henry, Steven Rogers, Kevin Roach, Davon Drew - but nobody has emerged as a credible threat. Drew is a short-yardage TE, Henry is a largely unimpressive #2 by default, and Rogers and Roach are very similar players (Rogers is more of a deep threat). Force me to pick a guy that'll step up and I'll say Henry, but realistically two of these guys need to have a good game - at least - for ECU to have a shot.
5: Hidden yardage. Remember how I said that USF punting sucks? ECU is the opposite; they're nearly tied for best in C-USA at just over 42 yards a punt which will net well if they're lucky enough to find themselves in a defensive battle late.

What to Expect in the Game
Well, if you looked at the game and said, "Hey, it's Big East against C-USA, I'm going Big East" - you're totally right. I don't see much reason why ECU should stay in the game as they haven't faced a dual-threat capability like Goethe since Pat White, who killed them through the air. Goethe's a better passer. Now, if ECU can luck out and keep it close, they have more of a chance than you'd expect; they'll win the hidden yardage game and they're at least decent kicking FGs. However, unless it's 0-0 in the 4th, I don't think that'll be a factor.

Tuesday, December 19

If you go to New Orleans for the New Orleans Bowl, don't leave the French Quarter

Rice @ Troy - New Orleans Bowl, 12/22

How Rice Got Here
Talk about a rebounding doormat. After starting off the season 1-5 - with the only win being over perennial doormat Army - Rice was, well, looking like Rice. However, nobody told Rice they were actually Rice and they've won 6 straight since then, all against conference competition. It's tough to fault them for most of their losses, too; 3 of their losses were to BCS teams (including Florida State back when we thought they were still decent) and a fourth was to C-USA champ Houston. Plus they're Rice - you think they care that they're only 7-5? They're in a bowl!
Best Win: 41-38 @ Tulsa, 11/11
Worst Loss: 24-38 @ Tulane, 10/7

How Rice Operates
They're greater than the sum of their parts, that's for sure. They'll play close, but neither their D nor their O is much to call home about (they're about average across the board yard-wise). However, they're 3rd in C-USA in scoring average and lead the conference in turnover margin. Maybe sometime it's better to be lucky than good.

How Troy Got Here
Someone's gotta win the Sun Belt - why shouldn't it be the team that's turned into the Fresno State of the Sun Belt? Troy's made a name for themselves playing most everywhere at any given time, and this year was no different. Heck, they should've beaten Florida State early in the year - that being said, they didn't; they fell off the national radar after getting blown out by Nebraska 56-0. Since then, they've very quietly whipped up on the dregs of Division 1-A, going 6-1 in-conference and beating MTSU to win the Sun Belt conference title.
Best Win: 21-20 @ Middle Tennessee, 11/25
Worst Loss: 0-56 @ Nebraska, 9/23

How Troy Operates
Kind of like Rice, there's no one thing they do well. However, unlike Rice they're also above conference average in most categories (instead of defining the average like Rice does). In the Sun Belt, that's good enough for 6-1.

5 Things to Watch When Rice Has the Ball (or is punting)
1: Chase Clement vs. 60% completion percentage. Clement only has a 57.7% completion percentage on the season, and the Rice offense is basically a watered-down version of the Texas Tech offense (witness his 21-5 TD-INT ratio). He should have success against the Troy pass D (which is below average for the Sun Belt), but he also needs to hit his targets.
2: Quentin Smith. Smith is both a rushing and receiving threat - he's good for around 120 yards of non-return offense, and with any kind of gimmick massive-receiver offense it's critical to have a running back that can cause chaos catching the ball.
3: Clement's two-way ability. Clement doubles as Rice's second-leading rusher, and Troy hasn't seen someone as successful as a combo QB since - arguably - Reggie Ball. Of course, Clement is probably a better QB than Ball, too - certainly a better passer.
4: Jarett Dillard. Dillard has about as many receiving yards as everyone else on the Owls ... combined. He's one of the most explosive receivers in C-USA - and because he's such a critical part of the offense, Troy has to make sure he's shut down. Going back to the Troy-GT game, he's probably the Calvin Johnson comparable - but Troy shut down Johnson in the passing game.
5: Joel Armstrong. Armstrong is an interesting character; he's got some obvious talent and Rice will look to use him in any way they can. This includes as a receiver, a running back - and as a QB. I wouldn't be surprised to see a few Clement / Armstrong packages.

5 Things to Watch When Troy Has the Ball (or is punting)
1: Turnovers. Troy is -9 on the year and Rice is +10. Since both of these teams are tested-but-flawed, Troy should be able to rebound from losing the turnover battle if it's -1 in their favor, but if it's -2 or -3 .... I'm not so sure. FWIW, Rice is better at forcing fumbles than forcing picks.
2: Kenny Cattouse. He's Troy's primary rusher, and since the Rice rush D is horrid (114th in the nation), he should be primed for a 100+ yard game. Now if he can actually rush for over 100 yards, that'll be something.
3: Will Gary Banks actually pass? He's played in all 12 games for Troy (one of 6 players that's had a passing attempt), but only has 4 attempts. Chances are they'll use Banks for a drive or two to spell their primary QB - more on him in a sec - and just rely on Cattouse and Anthony Jones.
4: Omar Haugabook. Like Clement, he's a two-way threat. Unlike Clement, Haugabook isn't really effective running the ball (1.7 ypc). However, he should be able to get positive yardage against this rush D.
5: Gary Banks' other side. Think of Banks as a mix between Armstrong and Dillard and that's about his use. He doesn't have a lot of rushes - and we've already talked about his passing ability, or lack thereof - but Troy will at least use him as a diversion when he's not lined up at WR. When he is, he'll act like a possession receiver - albeit a possession receiver that scores.

What to Expect in the Game
You'll fall asleep. Honestly, my recommendation here is watch when Rice has the ball and go make dinner when Troy has the ball. Don't get me wrong - good on both teams to make it to a bowl game - but this game isn't exactly a shining beacon of great play. Clement should perform better than Haugabook and Rice should win.

The Las Vegas Bowl (or why the wheels fell off Oregon's bandwagon and the bandwagon promptly plowed into a tree)

(19) BYU @ Oregon - Las Vegas Bowl, 12/21

How BYU Got Here
It's tough to fault a team that goes undefeated in conference play, as that should be a sign you're at least better than your competition. That's what BYU did. After losing two of their first threee games (@ Arizona, @ BC - while BC was in their Luckiest Team in the Nation phase), they reboudned to go undefeated from then until then end of the year. All of their conference games were played after the first two games, which has quietly given BYU a pretty impressive run.
Best Win: 31-17 @ TCU, 9/28
Worst Loss: 13-16 @ Arizona, 9/2

How BYU Operates
BYU is known for their great passing game - and this year isn't any different. John Beck leads the MWC in passing (and is comfortably 4th in the nation) at just under 320 yards per game. However, it's not all about the passing game; BYU has 2 of the top 12 conference rushers - Curtis Brown (2nd, 74.2 ypg) and Fui Vakapuna (12th, 40.2 ypg) - as well. As a result, BYU is also 1st in the MWC, scoring 36.7 ppg.

Amazingly, BYU's defense isn't nearly as bad as you'd think given the high-octane offense they have. They're only allowing just under 16 ppg and they're about average in the MWC in both rushing and passing D. In addition, they're one of the few teams where turnover margin makes for an appreciable difference; they're +14 on the year, 4th in the nation.

How Oregon Got Here
Sometimes you're on top of the world. And sometimes you fall off the top of the world, land on a tree, fall off the tree, and hit every branch on the way down. That describes Oregon's season pretty well. They started off 4-0, including a 34-33 win over Oklahoma that you might've heard about (at great length, depending on where you were). Cal killed that streak pretty dead and Washington State killed any shot Oregon had of winning the Pac-10. However, they were still 7-2 going into the USC game with a good shot of going 9-3 at worst. Of course, this is when the wheels fell off; the Ducks lost to USC, Arizona, and Oregon State to close out the year. Now they're playing before Christmas - ouch. Is it a coincedence Brady Leaf had a ton of playing time in those three games? That's an exercise left to the reader.
Best Win: 34-33 v. Oklahoma, 9/16 - and if you don't think that's an actual victory, we'll go with 48-13 @ Arizona St., 9/30
Worst Loss: 10-37 v. Arizona, 11/18

How Oregon Operates
Good luck trying to find fault in the offense when it's performing well. It's pretty much the Dennis Dixon and Johnathan Stewart Show - but you could do worse than that; Stewart is 5th in the Pac-10 in rushing (80 ypg) and Dixon is 6th in passing (183.7 ypg). Dixon's a two-way threat as well, rushing for 35.6 ypg. However, there's going to be a weak point in their game, and it's a pretty glaring weak point: they're allowing 25.6 points per game and allowing nearly 150 yards on the ground. However, their pass D is still great - 1st in the Pac-10, 8th in the nation. Another weak point: they're -10 in turnover margin on the season. Of course, this also isn't even remotely mentioning the fact that both Dixon and his backup (Brady Leaf) have spent the last three games sucking.

5 Things to Watch When BYU Has the Ball (or is punting)
1: John Beck's effectiveness against the Oregon secondary. This will be the key matchup for BYU; if they win this, they'll probably win. Otherwise, who knows - it's certainly possible for BYU to win, but it's a lot harder. Food for thought: John David Booty - the leading passer in the Pac-10 - only passed for 176 yards against Oregon. John Beck passed for 313 yards against Wyoming (best pass D in the MWC).
2: Curtis Brown @ Fui Vakapuna vs. the record books. Well, by "record books" I mean "Oregon's front 7", but you get the idea. They haven't been able to stop most teams anyway, and the teams they did stop - Washington and Oregon State - don't have great running games. If Arizona (whose offense sucks) can run up 37 on you, what does that mean when you're facing an offense that can actually normally score that much?
3: Curtis Brown and the two-way effect. Brown is also their leading receiver (in terms of receptions, not yards), which should mean that he'll get his yards. Oregon will probably put a LB on him at all times to limit the damage he can do taking screens out of the backfield (based on his receptions, that'll be 4-5 times over the course of a game), and it'll be up to Brown to shake him and pop a big run.
4: Jonny Harline and the Oregon secondary. Harline is BYU's leading receiver, and it's not even close; he's also their leading TD man. Harline has to make a couple of big plays against the Oregon D in order to have a shot to win; McKay Jacobson is a good secondary receiver, but he's not the possession threat (with deep potential) that Harline is.
5: Kickoffs and punts. Although BYU hasn't run either a punt or a kickoff back for a TD, they've done well in the field position game (not quite the top of the MWC, but close), and if they can do that again here, that'll be another 20-30 yards that their offense won't have to cover.

5 Things to Watch When Oregon Has the Ball (or is punting)
1: Dennis Dixon vs. Brady Leaf. I'll be honest - I haven't been following Oregon much this year. However, it's kind of hard to miss the issues there; Dixon fell off the table against Washington State and hasn't gotten better. Of course, Leaf hasn't been great either. One of them has to step it up.
2: Jonathan Stewart vs. BYU's 8th man. I've got to think that BYU will just shove 8 in the box until either Dixon or Leaf can prove to be a credible passing threat, so it's up to Stewart to consistently make guys miss in the open field in order for Oregon's offense to do anything.
3: Jaison Williams' ability to get open. BYU's pass D isn't great, but since there's some QB troubles, it's up to Williams to force separation. He's Oregon's leading receiver - and it *really* isn't close with him. He's going for nearly 90 yards per game and about 6 catches as well. He needs to do that against BYU as well - and he should be able to.
4: Kent, Rosario, and Paysinger: who steps up? Those three receivers are largely interchangeable for the guy who lines up opposite Williams. Kent has had the biggest games - but both were in losses, Rosario has been the most consistent, and Paysinger had two big games in a row - but those were in the middle of the season. The signs would point to Kent being the most likely to have a true breakout game, but as long as at least one of them emerges as a credible threat, Williams should have a good shot. If two of them can draw BYU defenders, then Stewart should play well as a result (since three recievers will probably draw 4 defenders, leaving Stewart only needing to beat 7 in the box ... you can figure out the rest).
5: The turnover battle. I talked about this briefly earlier, but we'll revisit it here. BYU isn't the best at forcing fumbles, but they're normally good for at least 1 INT a game. Meanwhile, Oregon both coughs it up and lets it rip. Teams that are good at forcing turnovers perform well above their norms against Oregon. As a result, I wouldn't be surprised if Oregon throws a couple of picks and coughs the ball up once over the course of the game. That may be significant.

What to Expect in the Game
When I first looked at this game, I figured Oregon would walk. However, looking a little deeper at the stats and team performances, I'm not so sure of that. If Dixon can return to his early-season form then all bets are off, but I'm not sure that can happen. If that doesn't happen, BYU should carry this; their defense will at least force a couple of turnovers and their running game should at least be decent enough to pull off the win.

Monday, December 18

It's the most you'll ever read about the Poinsettia Bowl

Northern Illinois @ (25) TCU - Poinsettia Bowl, 12/19

How Northern Illinois Got Here
Aside from the obvious (on the legs of Garrett Wolfe), it was a relatively up-and-down season for the Huskies. The MAC doesn't get a ton of credit for being an even conference, but it is; the talent level obviously isn't that of the major conferences, but they've also had 5 different champions in the last 5 years. (But that's another post in itself.) NIU opened with two losses against Ohio teams (Ohio State and Ohio), but after that they rolled off 4 consecutive wins. Of course, the team performs only as well as Wolfe does, and he struggled though the middle of the season - and the Huskies lost 3 of 4, which pretty much killed any chances they had of going to a decent bowl. Still, they rebounded well by winning their last two, handing Central Michigan their only MAC loss of the season.
Best Win: 31-10 v. Central Michigan, 11/17
Worst Loss: 13-17 v. Toledo, 11/7

How NIU Operates
When you have the leading rusher in the country in Garrett Wolfe, you're probably going to do everything you can to make sure he gets a lot of carries. That's about the long and short of the offensive gameplan. QB Phil Horvath isn't terrible; he doesn't pass a whole lot (predictable), but he's at least decently effective when he does. Defensively, they ... don't do much, really. They have a good rush D (2nd in the MAC), but they're only in the top third nationally. Their pass defense is horrid, though - next to last in the MAC and 104th nationally.

How TCU Got Here
It's amazing what happens to your national perception when you beat Texas Tech. It's more impressive watching your national perception deflate after losing consecutive games to BYU and Utah. This is an interesting team - those two losses were the only losses they had all year, and they've very quietly re-entered the Top 25. However, it could easily be argued that most of those wins weren't over good teams; Wyoming was their best win during the 8-game winning streak - and it's not like there's a ton of teams clamoring to be ranked at this point in the season anyway.

How TCU Operates
TCU is pretty much the embodiment of the idea that good rushing offense plus good rush defense wins games. They'll rely on Aaron Brown and Lonta Hobbs (who is quickly approaching 27, from what I remember of him - he's been around a while) on the ground and Jeff Ballard through the air. Ballard isn't terrible - he's better than Horvath, which isn't exactly a huge endorsement, but there you go. Their pass D is good but unspectacular - they're solidly a top third team. However, their rush D is 4th in the nation.
Best Win: 12-3 v. Texas Tech, 9/16
Worst Loss: 7-20 @ Utah, 10/5

5 Things to Watch When NIU Has the Ball (or is punting)
1: Garrett Wolfe's effectiveness against the TCU front seven. Actually, their front eight. Wolfe will see a lot of 8-man plus fronts in this game, and he has to be effective in making that extra defender miss in order to consistently pile up yardage.
2: Phil Horvath's ability to get pressure off of Wolfe. It's likely that NIU will rely on play-action passing to freeze the TCU defenders if/when Wolfe establishes himself; in the meantime, Horvath will have to make plays to keep the corners and safeties honest.
3: TCU's ability to contain Wolfe. They haven't seen a rusher like him all season; Air Force has the best rushing *attack* they've seen all year, but in this case rushing attack is not the same as rusher. What's of note is that the two best MWC rushing teams that weren't Air Force and TCU were BYU and Utah - the two teams to beat TCU. (Of course, both teams also have good passing games.)
4: Britt Davis and Marcus Perez's ability to get separation against the TCU defense. Perez is the TD threat while Davis is the possession receiver, but neither is used that often - Perez gets about 3 catches a game while Davis gets about 5. NIU uses a ton of receivers, so any of them can step up - but one of them has to.
5: The "defensive struggle performance" stats. While NIU's punting isn't that great, if the game gets into a field position battle, NIU might not be entirely toast - they have a good return game and a good FG kicker in Chris Nendick.

5 Things to Watch When TCU Has the Ball (or is punting)
1: NIU's ability to shut down either Brown or Hobbs. If both of them are able to get their normal yardage, then NIU is going to be in for a long day.
2: Jeff Ballard's dual-threat ability. While Ballard isn't much of a runner (only about 34 ypg), he does have 5 rushing TDs on the year and a long of 23 yards. That's just enough running ability to be able to keep the Huskies honest - provided he's able to get the time to run.
3: Aaron Brown's catch-and-run ability. Brown's the quick-strike rusher - and as a result, look for TCU to get him the ball on a few screens and hope for the best. TCU doesn't run many screens, but if their line can occupy NIU's front seven, Brown can probably take one to the house.
4: Harmon, Massey, and Reagan. Harmon's the primary, Reagan's the deep threat, and Massey's the third option. But remember that the NIU pass defense isn't anything to write home about. Look for one of these guys to have a big game - and if more than one has a big game, look for TCU to win.
5: Ball control. It's not a guarantee of victory, but TCU does control the ball nearly 32 minutes per game, which may be important - but they do need to have some measure of ball control, since it's not like they're designed for quick strikes.

What to Expect in the Game
I'm not sold that NIU can shut down either Brown or Hobbs and two of the three receivers. Either they'll shut down the receivers and Hobbs / Brown will run over them or Hobbs will get shut down and Harmon will have 6 catches for 100 yards (and Reagan 5/110, etc.) - you get the point. Meanwhile, I think that Wolfe will tear up the TCU defense. However, Horvath won't be able to provide a truly effective compliment to Wolfe and TCU will walk away with a win.

Sunday, December 3

The Great Question of the next 24 hours: Florida or Michigan

Obviously, the question on the minds of every college football fan is - will Ohio State play against Michigan or Florida in the Fiesta Bowl? We'll be getting an anwswer in about 24 hours.

I believe it should be Florida, and here's why:

One of the (yes, very biased) announcers in the SEC championship game was talking about comparing schedules between UF and USC. Basically - compare the teams' loss, and then compare their wins in ranked order. USC lost so that is irrelevent, but what about UM/UF comparisons:

Michigan (11-1, Big Ten runner-up)
loss: #1 Ohio State
W1: #6 Wisconsin (11-1)
W2: #12 Notre Dame (10-2)
W3: Penn State (8-4)
W4: Minnesota (6-6)
W5: Iowa (6-6)
W6: Indiana (5-7)
W7: Central Michigan (9-4)
W8: Vanderbilt (4-8)
W9: Northwestern (4-8)
W10: Michigan State (4-8)
W11: Ball State (5-7)

Florida (12-1, SEC champion)
loss: #11 Auburn (10-2)
W1: #5 LSU (10-2)
W2: #8 Arkansas (10-3)
W3: #13 Tennessee (9-3)
W4: Georgia (8-4)
W5: Florida State (6-6)
W6: South Carolina (7-5)
W7: Kentucky (7-5)
W8: Alabama (6-6)
W9: Vanderbilt (4-8)
W10: Southern Miss (8-5)
W11: UCF (4-8)
W12: Western Carolina (joke)

Florida played one more game than Michigan, but against a non-div IA opponent. So perhaps considering them both 11-1 against div IA is more appropriate.

Obviously, Michigan's loss is a better loss than Florida's.

However, to be quite honest, going down that list you could say that each and every one of Florida's wins is more impressive.
* Wisconsin is 11-1, but they've played only one ranked opponent all season (Michigan). LSU is 10-2 despite facing 4 ranked teams.
* As Georgia Tech lost in the ACC Championship, that means they will likely fall out of the top 25 and Notre Dame will be 0-2 vs ranked opposition, while Arkansas defeated both Auburn and Tennessee.
* Penn State's a 4-loss team, 0-4 vs ranked teams by a combined 99-36. Tennessee not only has fewer losses, but they put a hurting on Cal who is currently #21 and won today.
* And then... Georgia or Minnesota? Florida State or Iowa? The disparities continue.

I think Michigan has actually gone the whole season without beating a team who has beaten a single ranked opponent, though UCLA's upset of USC may bring them into the top 25 (and thus Notre Dame would be 1-2 vs ranked). There is no question in my mind that UF deserves their first shot at beating Ohio State.

That's just the schedule argument. There's still the fact that Michigan already had a shot at Ohio State and lost. It may not be "fair" to Michigan to judge them on that, but then again it's hardly fair to Florida at all for Michigan to get two chances to beat Ohio State while they don't even get one.

The common wisdom is that while Florida played against the tougher schedule, Michigan is the better team as they have won their games more comfortably or with better "style points." But I'm not sure if that's really true. Statistically, Michigan is putting up 30.2 ppg while Florida averaged 28.9 ppg. That's very similar offensive production against what's regarded as the best defensive conference in the nation by far, as well as the best overall conference. Defensively, Florida gives up 14.6 ppg as does Michigan. So their average margins of victory - 15.6 and 14.3 - are close indeed. Then it goes back to the fact that Florida did this against more difficult opposition.

Lastly, there's also the fact that, if I want the Fiesta Bowl to be a good game, I want a team capable of beating Ohio State. On the surface, Michigan's three-point loss in Columbus makes it seem like that team is them. But let's look a little deeper at that game. Ohio State did everything Michigan could have asked for to pull the upset. They turned the ball over three times to Michigan's zero. Troy Smith's interception gave Michigan the ball on the OSU 25 which led to a Michigan field goal. Smith's first fumble gave UM the ball at the OSU 9 yard line to set up a TD, and his second killed a drive that had Ohio State in position for a field goal at least. If the teams rematch, I guarantee that Smith won't have three turnovers and that UM won't win the turnover battle by such a margin. Those turnovers gave Michigan a net of anywhere from +10 to +17 points, and they still lost. The game was all but over at halftime and Michigan caught Ohio State napping, but it wasn't enough. By the end of the third quarter it was still an 11 point game and when Michigan scored their final TD and 2-pt conversion to cut an 11 point deficit to 3, there were just over 2 minutes to go in the game. Ohio State was also penalized for more yards than Michigan. Their punter, one of the tops in the nation, had an abysmal (by his standards) 38 yard average. All this, and Michigan still lost. So I have to ask, what else could go right for the Wolverines in Tempe? I'm not sure that this Ohio State team will play a worse half than the second half they played in Columbus that Saturday, but it wasn't bad enough. And as they showed all first half and whenever they needed to in the second, Michigan's defense, good as it is overall, does not have the personnel to stop OSU's four-receiver packages. Smith shredded the defense to complete 70% of his passes, and when the defense was spread too thin each of their two RBs added a 50+ yard TD scamper.

Could Florida beat Ohio State? Truthfully I doubt they will. Ohio State is, and I really believe this, the best team in the nation. But other "best teams in the nation" have lost BCS championships. 2002 Miami lost to Ohio State. That OSU team, like UF this year, was criticized for winning too many close games. That battle-hardenedness proved useful in a double-OT game for the title, while that was basically Miami's first real test of the season. Florida is more battle-hardened team than Michigan, both in terms of the opposition they faced as well as having to pull out several close victories. Then 2005 USC lost to Texas. Despite USC having a Heisman-winning QB, Heisman-winning RB, and superior receiving corps, Texas had college football's ultimate weapon - the dual-threat QB. College defenses can't handle em. Florida has TWO dual-threat QBs - the more experienced, faster Leak and the battering ram changeup, Tebow. Henne, while a good QB, does not present the same type of defensive problem that Leak and Tebow do. Furthermore, Urban Meyer's offensive schemes are more difficult to defend against than the standard offense Michigan runs. On top of that, Florida has more big-play potential on offense and a better punting, return, and block team than Michigan. So they have the potential to simply play Ohio State close and win off a big play or two. Michigan's only chance would be to actually outplay Ohio State, as the big play potential completely favors the Buckeyes in that matchup.

If there is anything just and right about college football, and many would argue that there isn't, Florida should face Ohio State for the national championship.

Sunday, October 8

New statistic: yards per point

There's a great college football preview magazine out there by Phil Steele... most accurate predictions in the country over the last five years or so. It's full of more information than anyone but the most diehard fan could ever want, and one of Phil's statistics is Yards Per Point (ypp).

The idea is that an offense is efficient if their ypp is low, meaning they're turning yards gained into points scored. Likewise, a good defense doesn't let you turn yards into TDs, so a good defense will have a high ypp. Winning the field position battle also creates a favorable ypp statistic. Let's look at two examples:

1. The Texas Longhorns. The defining games of the season for the Horns so far have been Ohio State and Oklahoma. Against the Buckeyes, Texas gained 340 yards and gave up 368, but the score was a 24-7 loss. Why? A turnover on the two yard line killed a likely TD drive, and an interception to start the second half allowed OSU to score a field goal without having to move the ball. A missed field goal also negated a long drive by the Horns, though this also happened to the Bucks on their first drive.
In the Red River shootout, Texas consistently had good field position, and their first two offensive touchdowns needed only 62 and 52 yards. This and the fact that they had no turnovers allowed the Horns to score 21 offensive points despite just gaining 265 yards. OU on the other hand gained 380 total yards but scored just ten points. Five turnovers had a lot to do with that.

2. The Oregon Ducks. The defining games of the season for the Ducks so far have been the Oklahoma and California games. Against the Sooners, UO outgained OU 533 yards to 402, but they trailed 33-20 late in the 4th quarter. The reason? UO turned the ball over four times and forced just one Sooner TO. A -10 yard average punt deficit swung the field position battle, and the kickoff coverage team gave up 123 yards on just 4 returns. On top of that, the Ducks missed a 51-yard FG to wipe out a long drive in the second quarter. So what should have been a comfortable win by the yardage numbers ended up being one of the craziest finishes of the season.
Against Cal, the turnover battle was once again lost by a count of 4 to 1. The Ducks gave up a punt return TD and again had an average punt of under 40 yards. So in this game, the yardage totals were 428 for Cal and 374 for Oregon, but the score was 45-24.

Steele uses this to predict the next year's success - interestingly, with the premise that the law of averages means that team with very good ypp rankings won't have the same luck next season, and a team the poor ypp can only move up.

But how about how the top 25 teams are performing this season? By my rankings:

1. Ohio State: Offense 11.78 ypp, Defense 32.33 ypp
2. Florida: Offense 14.25 ypp, Defense 27.34 ypp
3. Michigan: Offense 11.43 ypp, Defense 17.64 ypp
4. Louisville: Offense 11.90 ypp, Defense 22.91 ypp
5. West Virginia: 10.74 ypp, Defense 23.98 ypp
6. USC: Offense 13.60 ypp, Defense 21.00 ypp
7. Texas: Offense 9.83 ypp, Defense 22.52 ypp
8. Tennessee: Offense 11.97 ypp, Defense 15.04 ypp
9. Auburn: Offense 12.99 ypp, Defense 24.47 ypp
10. California: Offense 11.33 ypp, Defense 17.55
11. Clemson: Offense 10.87 ypp, Defense 16.87 ypp
12. Georgia: Offense 11.22 ypp, Defense 18.19 ypp
13. Iowa: Offense 13.63 ypp, Defense 19.38 ypp
14. Notre Dame: Offense 12.55 ypp, Defense 14.67 ypp
15. Georgia Tech: Offense 12.33 ypp, Defense 17.02 ypp
16. LSU: Offense 11.9 ypp, Defense 20.92 ypp
17. Oregon: Offense 12.68 ypp, Defense 13.28 ypp
18. Missouri: Offense 12.39 ypp. Defense 21.61 ypp
19. Arkansas: Offense 16.73 ypp, Defense 16.26 ypp
20. Nebraska: Offense 11.68 ypp, Defense 21.05 ypp
21. Boise State: Offense 10.52 ypp, Defense 20.72 ypp
22. Oklahoma: Offense 12.26 ypp, Defense 15.31 ypp
23. Va Tech: Offense 10.53 ypp, Defense 19.98 ypp
24. Rutgers: Offense 10.62 ypp, Defense 23.34 ypp
25. Wisconsin: Offense 12.40 ypp, Defense 19.27 ypp

So what does that mean? Well I look for two things:

1) High ypp offense or low ypp defense. These are the teams who aren't playing very efficiently, and that may lead to losses in the future.
* Florida 14.25 ypp offense. They've throw 6 INTs and missed numerous field goals.
* Arkansas 16.73 ypp offense. Averaging 21.2 points on 354.6 yards. That is not nearly enough point production to defeat a team like Tennessee, and yards will be hard to come by against LSU.
* Tennessee 15.04 ypp defense. Opponents are scoring way too easily.
* Notre Dame 14.67 ypp defense. Then again, we already knew UND's defense was weak.
* Oregon 13.28 ypp defense. Good lord. Some of the top offenses aren't averaging the kind of efficiency they're giving up every week.
* Oklahoma 15.31 ypp defense. The big play is killing them; they've got to turn some of these long TDs at least into long plays into the red zone (if not just stopping them altogether), where they have the chance to force a turnover or field goal.

2) Extremely low ypp offense or extremely high ypp defense. The idea here is that they're playing extrememly efficiently, but that might not last all season.
* Texas 9.83 ypp offense. The Horns aren't moving the ball that well, but defense and special teams are helping. How long will that last? Even the 05 Texas and USC offenses weren't this efficient.
* WVA, Boise State, Va Tech, Rutgers < 11 ypp offense. What this really says is that most of their opposition is just too weak to stop a drive.
* Ohio State 32.33 ypp. They're relying a little too heavily on the other team turning the ball over and missing FGs. I don't know that I've ever seen a team finish with a ypp over 30.

Of course, with the teams just starting to get into the meat of their schedules, these numbers aren't as telling as they will be in a few weeks. Just something to keep in mind...

Week 6 - my top 25 and impressions

1. Ohio State - I'd consider myself to have been a healthy skeptic of the Buckeyes for most of the season, but the skepticism can only go so far. The Bucks have the best QB-WR duo in the NCAA with Smith and Ginn, a strong #2 WR in Gonzalez, and have shorn up their defense. The kicking game has settled down since the first two weeks, and they've had comfortable wins over Texas and Iowa.

2. Florida - How'd 99% of people out there miss this team? Well I did too, so don't ask me. Their 1-point win over Tennessee looks a lot better now, and they gained 311 yards against a LSU defense that had been giving up less than 200 ypg, scoring 23 against a defense which had given up just 37 in 5 games. Defensively the team is amazing, with one of the best secondaries in the nation led by Ryan Smith and Reggie Nelson, and the defense is giving up just 56 ypg rushing despite having faced a tough SEC schedule. Tebow is a great change of pace, and when Wynn returns the offense will be even better.

3. Michigan - If Arrington continues to emerge, the offense will have five legitimate weapons which will make them one of the most well-rounded units in the nation. The defense has given up just 40 ypg rush per game, and they have faced Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Michigan State's offenses. Looking ahead, this stat implies that the Wolverines may match up very well against West Virginia.

4. Louisville - Perhaps more than anyone else, this team exemplifies what it means to have depth. Incurred losses have had no effect on their gameplay.

5. West Virginia - Other than ECU, their wins have been impressive, but in every instance they've been against cupcakes.

6. USC - Struggling with the injury bug and struggling to defeat mediocre teams in conference play. Though they're still unbeaten, that Cal-Oregon-Notre Dame stretch suddenly starts to look like it may be too much for the Trojans.

7. Texas - This week answeed a lot of questions for me. The defense has held its own against two very strong offenses in Ohio State and Oklahoma. While the offense was held to just 7 against the Bucks, turnovers negated them actually gaining about the same number of yards. As McCoy matures, TOs will go down and scoring will go up, as we saw this past weekend.

8. Tennessee - What they've done against Cal, Georgia, and even Florida is impressive, particularly offensively, but at the same time I don't like a defense giving up 30 points to Air Force and Georgia.

9. Auburn - Let's not forget that the Tigers did beat a good LSU team and have one of the best backs in the nation, but at the same time Arkansas did expose their size issues and troubles in the passing game.

10. California - A 21-point win over Oregon is impressive, and now that 18-point loss to Tennessee on the road doesn't look so bad. The offense is incredibly explosive, but the defense hasn't had a truly good performance yet.

11. Clemson - I don't know what to make of this team, but they're unlucky not to be undefeated with a weird loss to BC. The FG block unit has scored two TDs and a 2-point conversion, which is impressive.

12. Georgia - With Tereschinski back, the offensive struggles may be over. The defense, though, was shredded by Tennessee... giving up 51 points is not acceptable for a team with title aspirations.

13. Iowa - Potentially strong, yet inconsistent performances.

14. Notre Dame - Can I gripe for one minute? They're ranked no lower than NINTH in any of the major polls. How quickly people forget their blowout at the hands of Michigan, a fortunate choke by Michigan State, or for that matter the fact that Stanford rivals Duke as the worst team in a BCS conference.

15. Georgia Tech - The win over Maryland was closer than it should have been, but they're a TD away from being undefeated, and that loss was to the team right above them.

16. LSU - The defense is still scary, but not being able to run the ball is a major liability.

17. Oregon - The defense is mediocre, the offense is great, but this team needs to learn how to hold onto the ball. The offense turned the ball over four times against Cal and four times against the Sooners, five of those being interceptions thrown by Dixon.

18. Missouri - They're solid on both sides of the ball, but they have a freshman QB and still haven't beaten a good team.

19. Arkansas - This team's not as bad as they looked against USC, nor are they as good as they looked against Auburn. Their HB duo is frightening, but Mustain's play has been weak for the most part.

20. Nebraska - Okay, so Big Red isn't exactly back. But their rush defense has been solid enough, and have looked good in four of their six games. (yes, we're getting to that level of teams) Frankly we won't know much about them until they play Missouri... well, unless they pull the upset of Texas.

21. Boise State - Undefeated and with a bruising running game... but right now, you could argue that their toughest opponent has been 2-3 Oregon State.

22. Oklahoma - AD's presence means that most defense can't stop them. The problem is, OU's defense doesn't look like they can stop too many people either.

23. Virginia Tech - They still haven't really done anything, but their loss to GT wasn't that bad either.

24. Rutgers - Well they are unbeaten afterall.

25. Wisconsin - Sure, why not. 5-1 record, averaging close to 200 ypg rushing.

Thursday, October 5

Weekend Matchups (Week of 10/7)

Totally delayed on getting stuff posted; I've been busy, and it looks like it'll stay that way. What'd help matters is if I didn't post incredibly, incredibly long entries. This way I wouldn't need to allocate 3 hours per post. Anyway....

(15) Clemson @ Wake Forest
Why to watch: Well, it's for the early-season title of strongest ACC team of the moment. Seriously, who thought Wake would be 5-0 anyway?

What to watch for: Rushing yardage. Clemson now has a dual-threat running game with C.J. Spiller and James Davis (Spiller finally emerged last week), while Wake only goes one-deep thanks to an injury to Micah Andrews - he won't be back this week, either.

What to expect: Again, Clemson has a stronger set of running backs, and I'm a sucker for a strong 1-2 punch on the ground. Oddly, Wake's been having issues stopping the pass (both defenses do a decent to good job of stopping the run), so for all the rushing yardage, Will Proctor might be the difference.

Purdue @ (19) Iowa
Why to watch: Momentum. Purdue didn't really play a bad game last week, but they were outplayed. Meanwhile, Iowa got embarassed at home. Think that'll be a factor?

What to watch for: Defensive disparities. Purdue's been having issues stopping the run - witness the anemic ND rushing attack going for nearly 140 yards last week - and Iowa again has that 2-deep rushing attack I like.

What to expect: I figure Iowa's going to be pissed. When a team is hammered like that at home, they either fall into one of two groups: depressed for the year (the Michigan State side) or looking for retribution. Iowa's probably going to fall into the latter, and while I think Purdue will get their yardage, Iowa has an intangibles edge. Of course, I said this last week about BYU.

Navy @ Air Force
Why to watch: It's the only 2-1 team in the nation. Seriously. AF has only played 3 games so far. Also interesting if you like a) rushing and b) the academies.

What to watch for: options - lots of options. Also, two teams that are very familiar with each other; not only do both teams run variants on the same offense, but they play every year.

What to expect: Navy's triple option: Brian Hampton (QB), Reggie Campbell (SB), Adam Ballard (FB). Air Force's triple option: Shaun Carney (QB), Chad Hall (RB), Ryan Williams (FB). Those 6 guys will get the ball most of the time, and this game will take you back to 1925. This matchup lacks the luster of a lot of other games, but academy games are normally strongly contested and Navy looks like they could be bowl-bound again this year. Both teams could use the win.

Washington @ (3) USC
Why to watch: Tyrone Willingham has the Huskies sitting at 4-1, but this is their toughest test by far. USC is fighting off injury issues at receiver.

What to watch for: We know about USC this year; we know Booty and Moody will be good this year and next, but we also know that they're not the teams of years past. What we don't know is how Washington will play now that they have some confidence (remember that we didn't know anything about the Huskies when they played Oklahoma, really; the general response was "Oklahoma sucks", not "Washington might be good), and that's going to be interesting. What happens if Washington finds themselves close late?

What to expect: Lost in all the talk of offense is that USC still has a pretty good defense; again, it's mortal, though. Look for Washington to attempt to get the ball to Shackelford and Russo in an attempt to stretch the USC D. Shackelford is the better option of the two - he dominated the UCLA game. For USC, they'll do what they always do, and they'll probably do it about as well as they've done it so far this year.

(9) LSU @ (5) Florida
Why to watch: SEC is overrated lolz. Arguably the most complete 1-loss team in the nation going up against an undefeated team that ...well, really isn't getting respect. Also, Texas / Oklahoma is on commercial break (if you're from the Big 12).

What to watch for: Well, defense. Both of these defenses are impressively good, and both these teams have taken the best shot from the best teams they've played so far (Auburn and Tennessee, respectively). LSU's defense rose to the challenge against Auburn (check the stats; they outgained Auburn by nearly 100 yards, even if Auburn won the game. No disrespect against Auburn, either; that was an impressive win).

What to expect: LSU will have to take to the air to win the game. Florida's rush defense has been incredibly impressive, and as I can attest to, running the ball against the Gators is damn hard unless you have a solid back. Speaking of solid backs, Wynn is out for the Gators. This means that the Gators will either have to go to the air or rely on Tim Tebow for their rushing yards. Probably both - but LSU also has two safeties that played for their '03 championship squad. Besides, it's a SEC game between two national powerhouses - all (well, most) eyes will be here.

(7) Texas @ (14) Oklahoma @ Dallas
Why to watch: It's some kind of rivalry game. There's obvious Big 12 implications here, and possibly NC ramifications if the cards fall right. Also, LSU/Florida is on commercial break (if you're from the SEC).

What to watch for: Mack Brown in a big game. I'd really just repeat this about 20 times, but in the interest of the game, you've got Colt McCoy playing a game that's arguably bigger than the OSU game was and Adrian Peterson looking for revenge after missing last year.

What to expect: See above. Colt McCoy shouldn't be counted on to win this game like he was against OSU. Jamaal Charles should carry the game for the Longhorns, and Peterson will carry the Sooners. It'll come down to if Oklahoma can pull out a few stops; remember that this defense was well-hyped coming into the season, and they're coming off a bye week.

(23) Missouri @ Texas Tech
Why to watch: Mizzou's first real test; another opportunity for TTU to get some respect after a tough win against A&M last week. They're still looking to fight off the TCU loss.

What to watch for: Check out the differences in team philosophy; Missouri's had a rock-solid defense all season and TTU is, well, TTU. One of the most obvious "what to watch for" lines on the board.

What to expect: Here's the interesting one. Texas Tech will have issues running the ball again this week, but since they're primarily a passing team, it'll fall to the Missouri secondary to stop the offense. The Tigers shouldn't have an issue moving the ball, though; TTU has given up big games both on the ground and through the air this season, although their big passing yardage mark is a total outlier. Still, Missouri should have some success on the ground, and they'll try to control the game with the rush.

(13) Tennessee @ (10) Georgia
Why to watch: Tennessee's first chance to prove its legitimacy after the Florida game, and Georgia's last chance to prove they're a legitimate unbeaten. (Think about it; if they lose, they can't really prove they're a legit unbeaten.)

What to watch for: Tennessee's running game (or lack thereof?), Georgia's passing game (or lack thereof?). Joe Tereshinski is back for the Dawgs, but Arian Foster will be - at best - limited for the Vols. It's up to LaMarcus Coker to prove that the last couple of weeks weren't flukes.

What to expect: A game that's way, way closer than anyone's figuring. Yeah, Georgia hasn't looked good. Yeah, Tennessee's done well between the hedges the last few years. But it's a night game in the SEC, and you can go ask Auburn what that means.

(11) Oregon @ (16) California
Why to watch: You live on the West Coast; another opportunity for Oregon to silence the critics and an opportunity for Cal to prove they're a legit team in the Pac-10.

What to watch for: Excellent QB play (Dennis Dixon and Nate Longshore) and excellent RBs (Jonathan Stewart, Marshawn Lynch, and Justin Forsett). While Dixon and Stewart are the better talents, Cal does run a strong 2-deep. Plenty of talent in the backfield for both teams.

What to expect: Again, with two great offenses it normally comes down to whichever team can stop them. Oregon's already seen a great RB in Adrian Peterson, and while Cal will give them a different look, Peterson carried 34 times against the Ducks. The most that Lynch and Forsett have carried in a game is 39 times against Minnesota. Similar to Oklahoma, Cal was supposed to have a good defense. This'd be a great time for it to show up for the Bears.

(22) Nebraska @ Iowa St.
Why to watch: If you're a fan of the Big 12 North, this is the game for you. ISU hasn't been on the winning end of a blowout yet this year, and Nebraska is coming off a way-closer-than-expected OT win over Kansas.

What to watch for: Whither the Cyclones' rushing attack? They've been stuffed on the ground the last couple of games, and that won't keep them in the division hunt if that continues. Nebraska should be looking to make a road statement, as Iowa State falls squarely in that area of "not national title contenders, but not bad teams" - and we don't know how Nebraska does against those teams yet, really.

What to expect: Nebraska will get yards one way or another; the only team that's stopped them was USC, and ISU doesn't have near that caliber of defense. Iowa State will do their best to keep the game close, and offhand I'd say this could be a contender for the All-Ugly Game of the Week (non-ACC division).

Other games to watch - quick edition:
Arkansas @ (2) Auburn: a battle for the early driver's seat in the SEC West. Arkansas needs to control the ball more than they do right now, and Auburn needs a decisive win after what came off as a lackluster win against South Carolina. (It wasn't, really.)

Penn St. @ Minnesota: more rushing yards. Offhand, it looks like the Golden Gophers have the better team, but PSU has a better record. Weird. No idea what to expect here.

Pittsburgh @ Syracuse: say wha? Syracuse is 3-2 and a win against Pitt totally legitimizes them for Big East competition. Nobody expects them (or Pitt, really) to do anything other than get waxed by the big guns, but if the Orangemen pull off the upset, it could be a dogfight for 3rd. Pitt has all the pressure, as Syracuse has realistically already exceeded expectations for the year.

Monday, September 25

Week 3 Thoughts

Note: these are for my top 25, not the top 25 as espoused by actual pollsters. I'm mean-spirited like that. Also, they get *really* fast near the end.

Auburn (#1)
Pretty much a talent-disparity victory of 38-7. Nothing major to see or take away from it, other than Kenny Irons sat. Brad Lester and Ben Tate took most of the offense; Tate looked especially impressive. Still, this is effectively a 1-AA opponent, so evaluate at your own risk.

USC (#2)
Sleptwalked through a 20-3 victory over Arizona. Really didn't do much of note, but props to the defense, who just obliterated the Wildcats.

Ohio State (#3)
28-6 victory over Penn State looked better than what it was thanks to a couple of late picks for TDs. The offense was pretty much shut down all game, although part of that was PSU and part of that was the rain. Important to note is that rain neutralized a lot of OSU's speed, which could be important later.

West Virginia (#4)
Tougher-than-expected victory over East Carolina. I think that Skip Holtz should sell his plan for stopping WVU's rushing attack to the highest bidder. Unfortunately, WVU just passed it instead. What could be interesting to note is that WVU actually can pass if needed, although I'm not sure if they can against a good secondary.

Florida (#5)
Basically the Tebow Game, for all intents and purposes. Kentucky put up a pretty good fight for 2 1/2 quarters, then Florida just slowly overwhelmed them. Watch for the Tebow Effect to have a pretty good impact on the team, as they can bring him in as basically a short-yardage QB.

Michigan (#6)
Woke up late to win a post big-game trap game over Wisconsin. Wisconsin's not that bad a team, either, so kudos to the Wolverines for pulling it off. Iowa's the only road block to an undefeated showdown against OSU. (Note that Iowa is a roadblock for both those teams.)

Louisville (#7)
Not too bad performance against a half-decent KSU defense. Don't look now, but Lousville's defense might be getting better at not allowing scores, which bodes well.

LSU (#8)
Woodshed beating of Tulane. Not that anyone's surprised at this; again, it's tough to take away much from a killer victory over inferior competition, as this is basically what LSU's done all season. Still like the team.

Virginia Tech (#9)
Struggled early against Cincinnati (the worst team in 1-A). Woke up to put them away, but lack of focus might be an issue down the line.

Georgia (#10)
Colorado gave the Dawgs one hell of a scare. Who knew? Hawkins fared better this time between the hedges, and Joe Cox unseated Matt Stafford, renewing the QB controversy. Just what this team needs.

Oregon (#11)
Beat the bye week after a questionable pass interference call; replays clearly showed Oregon's CB mauling a WR in the end zone (right down to the decapitation), but offensive pass interference was called. For some reason, Stanford also applied to have the result of their game stricken from the record books, although they were reluctant to explain.

Notre Dame (#12)
Brady Quinn for Heisman oh my god ND is back holy crap MSU sucks - which one of these three statements strung together is actually true?

Texas (#13)
Played pretty damn strong against an Iowa State team that I honestly thought was better than this. They've got the same question marks, but evidently the game was a blowout because Mack Brown and Greg Davis didn't think it was a big game.

Iowa (#14)
Quietly won 24-7 over Illinois. Notice that the only real press these guys have gotten was after the Syracuse victory. Wonder why that is; think they've noticed?

Boston College (#15)
LOLZ. Sorry. Win by luck, lose by luck, as NC State beat them in an ugly, ugly 17-15 game. So much for that BC in the BCS bandwagon - that had about 4 people on it, but still.

Clemson (#16)
Walked all over UNC big-time. Great game for them, as they're quickly proving that BC loss was a total fluke. Well, they had already proved it in my eyes with the FSU victory, but I'm a little biased.

TCU (#17)
(bye week)

Tennessee (#18)
Won 33-7 against Marshall, pulling away late. LaMarcus Coker may be the answer at RB, and they finally figured out how to stop the option - go after the ball carrier. Yeah, I know.

Oklahoma (#19)
Obliterated MTSU - just totally obliterated them. Now they've got two weeks to prep for Texas, and I'd be a little worried if I was a Longhorn.

Nebraska (#20)
Proved they're way better than FSU, killing Troy. Much-needed confidence booster.

California (#21)
Went all Madden-offense on Arizona St., just totally obliterating them and justifying my not ranking ASU. Yes, it is all about me.

Rutgers (#22)
Blasted Howard 56-7 in the "no shit" game of the week. Also, they're ranked for the first time in 30 years, which is admittedly cool.

Boise State (#23)
In a game that can't be good for the defense, Boise State beat Hawaii 41-34. Not the best of victories, I don't think, as Hawaii historically has problems on the mainland, but it was early in the season, which means that - among other things - it's not freezing-ass cold in Boise, meaning the Warriors had a shot.

Michigan St. (#24)
Why did I say "why not" last week, anyway? Played the entire second half of the ND game with both hands around their neck. Yikes. Great first half, though.

Missouri (#25)
Uh, don't look now, but Mizzou's defense is damn impressive. Maybe there's a second team from the Big 12 North after all.

Thursday, September 21

Stat Time! (or, what I do when I'm bored)

So I was tooling around over on and I ran across this guy talking about how good K-State's defense is. At this point, my initial reaction was somewhere close to, "WTF is he smoking?" - although I'm not the type to express that thought in so many words. So I decided to conduct a little stat experiment. I asked myself the following questions:

1 - how good is K-State's defense, anyway?
2 - how good did K-State do with respect to stopping the offenses they played?
3 - how good are the offenses they faced?

To answer those questions, I went over to - which is pretty straightforward to figure out (awesome site, check it out) - and decided to check a couple of things. First, I checked K-State's defensive yardage numbers against their 1-A opponents this year. Then I checked the yardage numbers that their opponents had gone for (also only against 1-A competition). So I ended up with the following numbers:

K-State's defensive rushing YPG allowed
K-State's defensive passing YPG allowed
Opponents' offensive rushing YPG
Opponents' offensive passing YPG

So now I had a clear answer to Questions 1 and 3. What I didn't have was an answer to Question 2. That was found simply enough, though - I found the yardage stats for a specific game and compared them to K-State's averages (and their opponents' averages). I didn't know what to call it, but I ended up with something called the ratio of suppression. It looks like this:

RoSr(x) = rushing yards by opponent X / defensive rushing YPG

RoSp(x) = passing yards by opponent X / defensive passing YPG

RoSt(x) = total yards by opponent X / defensive total YPG

Obviously, RoSr is the rushing ratio of suppression, RoSp is the passing ratio of suppression, and RoSt is the total ratio of suppression. Don't be confused by the terminology X - that really just means "for this opponent". (i.e., K-State would have a specific RoSr, RoSp, and RoSt in their game against Marshall. In this case, X would be Marshall. Make sense?) You can also find the aggregate RoS's (aRoSr, aRoSp, aRoSt) by the following formulas:

aRoSr = defensive rushing YPG / average rushing YPG of all opponents

aRoSp = defensive passing YPG / average passing YPG of all opponents

aRoSt = defensive total YPG / average total YPG of all opponents

With me so far? I hope so. Here's a quick example: Miami has allowed an average of 48 rushing YPG. The average rushing YPG of all their opponents is 153.17 YPG. That means their aRoSr is:

aRoSr = 48 / 153.17 = 0.313 = 31.3%

Basically, that means that teams facing Miami have only run for about 31.3% of their "usual" output. In addition, Miami allowed 294 yards passing against Louisville, and their average passing D YPG is 234.5 yards. So the RoSp(Louisville) is:

RoSp (Louisville) = 294 / 234.5 = 1.254 = 125.4%

This is important to note! It's possible to have a ratio of suppression that's greater than 1. What that means is that the defense basically got taken out back.

Of course, you can do this for offensive stats, too - we'll call that the Ratio of Achievement (I was going to use Ratio of Success, but, well, that'd be too confusing). Here's what those look like:

RoAr(x) = rushing yards against opponent X / offensive rushing YPG

RoAp(x) = passing yards against opponent X / offensive passing YPG

RoAt(x) = total yards against opponent X / offensive total YPG

aRoAr = offensive rushing YPG / average defense rushing YPG of all opponents

aRoAp = offensive passing YPG / average defense passing YPG of all opponents

aRoAt = offensive total YPG / average defense total YPG of all opponents

Basically, these are kind of the inverse of RoS. Quick example: take the Louisville passing numbers and apply them to RoAp(Miami) (Louisville's passing YPG: 307)

RoAp(Miami) = 294 / 307 = 0.958 = 95.8%

So while Miami felt like they got torched, they pretty much held Louisville to what they normally do. In short, the RoS* / RoA* stats (the ones that talk about specific games) compare a team's performance to itself (did they struggle? did they do exceptionally well?) and the aRoS* / aRoA* stats (the cumulative ones) compare a team's performance to the teams it faced (are they beating up on most defenses, or can they be shut down?).

There you have it. It looks like a lot of math, but the math itself is incredibly simple - it's just summing ratios at worst, and obviously there are a couple of things that aren't addressed here. It's not entirely clean, but it's functional, which is what I'm going for.

What's its functionality? Well, if a defense has only given up 60 YPG rushing, that sounds like it's an awesome defense, right? It'd make sense to think that. However, what if their opponents only rush for an average of 40 YPG? Obviously, those are some pretty bad rushing offenses. But if they went for 60 yards against that defense, well, they did better than they normally do. That's the purpose of these stats - to provide clear answers to those questions. In this case, their aRoSr is 1.5, or 150% - they're allowing 150% of their opponents' normal rushing output. Let's say this defense faced, oh, West Virginia. Think WVU would be held to only 60 yards if that defense is allowing 150% of WVU's normal rushing yards? I doubt it.

For the record, there's no direct relationship between any of these stats and points given up. A 30-yard drive that begins at your 20 is worth the exact same as a 30-yard drive that begins at their 30 in this system. Obviously, that's not how it is in the real world, but I'm not concerned with point output in this case. There's no direct relationship between yardage and points - after all, a 79 yard drive can result in no points and a -10 yard drive can result in a FG. Don't use these formulas as a medium to compare points and yards and you'll be okay. Hope that made sense.

Tuesday, September 19

Asterisk U? Throwing out games in sports.

In the aftermath of the Oklahoma-Oregon game, one small snippet from an article about the Pac-10 suspending the offending officiating crew stuck out in my mind. OU president David Boren asked Big XII commissioner Kevin Weiberg to try to get the game removed from the books, a request which Weiberg refused.

Before proceeding, as a primer to just how bad that call was, I'd recommend some background reading. It's rare that I'll be linking you to other opinion articles, but here's one that you should really read - Monday Morning Quarterback by Matt Zemek.

You may also be aware that Oklahoma is next-in-line to receive the 2004 title should the NCAA decide to vacate USC's games in which Reggie Bush participated from October 2004 on. This, on the other hand, would be an example of acceptable throwing out of games. (that is, if USC is guilty of rules infractions) Not that too many people would, in their hearts, believe OU was the best team that season after a 55-19 beatdown in which Leinart moved the offense and Bush didn't even score. But rules are rules and the NCAA should enforce them, you know, on occasion.

What would happen if the NCAA removed the OU-UO game from the books? First, every Louisiana State fan in the country would say "and while you're at it, take out the Auburn game where we should have had pass interference called!" And then...?

It becomes a cloudy issue of opinion and perspective. Zemek laid out a solid reason why the onside kick call is worse than, say, a missed pass interference. But I could just as easily construct an argument about pass interference in or near the end zone as being a score-changing play, while the onside kick itself doesn't actually put points on the board -- the opposing defense still has the chance to negate the official's error. While it's highly likely, it's not guaranteed that Oklahoma would have won this game had they recovered the onsides. (surely some of you remember how Arkansas lost to eventual champ Tennessee back in 98) On the other hand, if a ref doesn't call pass interference during a certain Fiesta Bowl overtime on 4th down, Miami wins its second BCS title as a matter of fact. So in certain situations, the PI call can be just as game-altering, if not moreso. There's no limit to where it goes from there. USC had the "Bush Push" a season ago, which happened on the last play of the game. In their epic Rose Bowl game, Texas's first touchdown should have been ruled dead around the 10 yard line -- that was also a bad call, not a controversial call -- Young's knee quite clearly touched the ground. The Michigan-Nebraska Alamo Bowl had so many missed calls and prcedural errors, I don't even know where to begin... and those are just games from last season.

If we throw out OU-UO, how many other games have to be thrown out with it for the sake of consistency? What even defines consistency, in this case?

Mistakes by referees are, unfortunately, still a part of the game. Replay is going to help that, but clearly the replay system still needs to be improved upon itself. What's not "just a mistake" is having a professional, or otherwise ineligible, athlete play college ball. That's the only place the line can be drawn without leading us down a slippery slope, and a place where the line must be drawn for the sake of fairness. All other results must stand.

Week 3 Rankings - Yet Another Perspective

Well I am second this week afterall ;-)

1. Auburn
Almost completely shut down in the first half, Kenny Irons started to lean on LSU's defense in the second. Brandon Cox had an unispiring performance but didn't do much to hurt the team, which may be all that's asked of him. The defense has allowed just 17 points all season, and holding LSU to 3 is no small feat. A red herring was John Vaughn's miss of a 26 yard FG.

2. Ohio State
It's hard to say if the defense is solidifying or if Cincinnati is just that bad. I'm not yet concerned about a slow start by the offense in one game, but if there's a repeat performance this week that could be another issue. On the bright side, 3/3 FG (47, 43, and 52 yds) is a big improvement.

3. USC
Against Arkansas, their performance answered any questions about the Trojan offense. Against Nebraska, the defense answered many of its critics. It must have been nice for Trojans fans to see their team able to win despite scoring less than 30 points. John David Booty is the real deal at QB, but at the same time this is not the offensive firepower SC has brought to the table the last two seasons.

4. West Virginia
The Mounties have one of the scariest offenses in the NCAA... even many top ten teams would struggle to slow it down. Discipline and focus for 60 minutes (!) are some concerns.

5. Florida
Taken to the wire by the Vols, but Tennessee is a solid team who matches up against UF very well. The Vols were able to use Ainge's short passing and physical receivers to move the ball with short outs. That and the kicking game are the only real concerns for the Gators. Leak's play, the sick rushing defense, and the med-long passing coverage are all solid strengths.

6. Louisville
Giving up just 7 points against the Canes answered some questions I had about their defense after week 1. Now, Miami isn't a great offensive team, but their defense looked pretty nasty against FSU. Louisville (sans Bush) made it look like nothing... then they lose Brohm and keep rolling?? This team is deep, unlike WVA who could not stand similar injuries to White/Slaton. Brohm's likely out for the next four games, if they can win those then they will have a bye week to get ready for the showdown with WVA.

7. Michigan
Had they not started at #15, this team could be in your top 5. They dominated Notre Dame, and all three games have been comfortable victories thus far. The defense is good, good enough that they could upset Ohio State. Henne got his act together just in time for the Fighting Irish, showing the nation what this team is capable of. Now the question is whether they (specifically in the passing game) will continue this level of play over the season.

8. LSU
The defense has still given up just 13 points all season. Russell's decisionmaking needs to improve a little, and the running game may not be a strong as it had looked in early competition.

9. Georgia
If I'm a Dawgs fan, I'm nervous about having a freshman QB with Tennessee and Florida on the plate for October. I like Georgia's ability to run against the Vols, not so much against the Gators. Like LSU, the defense has givne up just 1 TD all season, and barely over 200 yds/game... that and a strong special teams unit should keep the next five games manageable for Stafford.

10. Virginia Tech
Like Richmond, their defense can shut out Duke. They host Cincy next week... maybe Georgia Tech on 9/30 can give us a better look, as the Hokies have been impressive but against weak opposition.

11. Oregon
Caught a lucky break against OU, and the defense got hammered by AD. But they won't face another back like that all season, and the offense is looking solid. After a bye week, they'll be on the road to face ASU and Cal, which will be the teams challenging for #2 in the Pac 10.

12. Texas
Well, we know that they're not quite in Ohio State's league, but that they're tons better than North Texas and Rice. Iowa State should be a little better guage than their two wins so far. Every position is solid except QB, but that's a big one.

13. Notre Dame
Exposed as overrated. The defense was shown to be pretty much what they had last season. Quinn's Heisman hopes took a major blow.

14. Iowa
Tate's return heralded the return of the Hawkeye offense, completing 68% of his passes and throwing for 3 TDs against Iowa State. Considering that they lose this game last season and that it's a rivalry game, I consider a 10-point 4th quarter win to be solid.

15. Oklahoma
Let's be honest, were it not for horrible officiating, Oklahoma would have gone into Autzen and won. That said, even an undeserved loss can be revealing. OU's secondary continues to be torched, and the opponents' yards per carry has been just a shade under 6 for two consecutive weeks. Thompson finally had a good game.

16. Tennessee
Tennessee simply has no running game, and Ainge had an awful outing against Florida after great games vs Cal and Air Force. The secondary and LBs remain solid, but the D-line got a little exposed against the Gators and with Harrell now gone that will only get worse.

17. Boston College
Definitely the luckiest team in college football... they'd be 1-2 were it not for two weeks of kicking game miscues by the opposition. How many weeks can it continue? Certainly Virginia Tech's special teams won't blow it on their Thursday night game in October.

18. Clemson
Special teams are a major, major liability. Cost them the BC game and their kicking unit (you know, when your own team kicks PATs and FGs) GAVE UP nine to the Seminoles.

19. California
Nothing like Portland State to solidify that confidence still two weeks following a terrible flop. But with the best RB in the Pac 10 (though don't write Moody out of that yet), they could test Oregon in a home game.

20. Nebraska
The defense has actually looked good so far, even giving up 28 to USC... many teams have fared far worse in LA. The Trojans did expose flaws in the offense that previous inferior competition couldn't, namely the inability of the o-line to create holes and protect Taylor.

21. TCU
I said I'd rank them when they beat Texas Tech... well, here they are. 12 penalties for 105 is a concern, as is 101 yards passing. The defense looks tough, obviously.

22. Florida State
Holding Miami to 10 doesn't look so impressive after Louisville held them to 7. The Seminoles' best offensive output for the season? 24 against Troy in a game where they fumbled 7 times, losing 3. So why do I have them ranked here? Look at who's below them.

23. Michigan State
24. Rutgers
25. Boise State

Monday, September 18

Week 3 Rankings - Another Perspective

Normally I post my rankings after Bradley posts his, but since I had time early this week, I decided to go ahead and take care of mine now. Shockingly, I'm actually ranking 25 teams this week - realistically, I could probably slice Missouri out, but it's the 25th spot; I'm not going to think about it too much this time around, and as 3-0 teams go, they're better than Purdue, Wake Forest, Houston, etc.

Just missing out: Wisconsin, USF, a bunch of teams with losses that are underperforming (lookin' at you, state of Florida - Florida excluded).

1 - Auburn
Won a hard-fought battle over a tough, incredibly talented LSU team. It wasn't without controversy - maybe you've heard about it. It was a tough defensive struggle all around, but this will only be a sign of things to come for Auburn, since they have to face both Florida and Georgia. Auburn loses some points for being totally ineffective both rushing and passing the ball - although if you look at LSU's total defensive stats, Auburn did about as expected. They'll have to do better than that if they want to make it through SEC play, but limiting LSU's rushing attack to 56 yards is impressive no matter how you slice it.

2 - USC
Two games, two victories - one solid, one impressive. The 28-10 win over Nebraska was pretty solid - Nebraska kept it close for the first three quarters, but USC showed a huge talent gap by holding onto the ball for 11:28 of the 4th quarter, which is scary. Oddly enough, the yardage outputs between the Arkansas game and the Nebraska game were somewhat similar (~80 yards less vs. the Huskers, but 11 less plays, too). The defense was strong, forcing two fumbles and holding the Husker running game to 2.6 YPC.

3 - Ohio State
Sleptwalked through the first half of their game against Cincy before waking up in the 3rd and 4th quarter to pull away for an unconvincing 37-7 victory. Cut them some slack after the Texas game, though. Ohio State also gets to deal with Penn State coming to Columbus this weekend, which will be much more of a challenge. Tough to take anything from this game, as Cincy kind of falls into the "almost 1-AA" category.

4 - West Virginia
Think Steve Slaton was pissed on Thursday? 167 yards in something like 20 minutes of game time. Not surprisingly, the result was a 45-24 pasting of Maryland where the Mountaineers just fell asleep once the game was out of hand. It'll be interesting to see what happens to WVU once they're in a game where the outcome is in doubt after halftime; the sad part is that we may not see that until Louisville.

5 - Florida
A victory in Knoxville is a victory in Knoxville no matter how you get it. Florida came in and ran the Vols out of their own stadium to the tune of 168 - -11. (Those were the rushing totals for each team.) Not surprisingly, they walked away with a victory. There's plenty more to read about this game in other places, so I'll pass on the analysis.

6 - Michigan
That sound coming from South Bend was the Brady Quinn for Heisman bandwagon running into a tree. The louder sound about 15 minutes later was the Notre Dame to the Championship bandwagon breaking an axle. Complete domination by the Wolverines in that game. Michigan's path doesn't get a whole lot easier over their next few games, as their easiest game until October 28 is argueably Michigan State. Of course, there's not a ton of "tough" games, but facing the mid-level teams from your conference week-in, week-out can wear a team down. We'll see if they have enough.

7 - Louisville
Miami refused to learn from Cincy - don't stop on the Cardinals' logo. Oops. Louisville then turned around and hammered Miami to the tune of 31-7. Only downside? Brian Brohm is out for the next few weeks. There's a trap game this week at Kansas State, but it should be relatively smooth sailing after that until the WVU showdown - provided that Louisville has the depth to compete. I wouldn't sell them short, though - they look legit.

8 - LSU
Don't knock the defense for their loss against Auburn - they made the Auburn offense look like LA-Lafayette, too. The offense, however, was ineffective, and there was something about a pass interference non-call you may have heard about. Still, I feel at this point that LSU is still one of the most complete teams in the nation, and they basically played with another incredibly complete team for 60 minutes on the road and still nearly came away with the victory. Don't think they're out of the national title hunt yet - and don't think of suiting up for Tulane, which gets the misfortune of dealing with a pissed-off group of Tigers.

9 - Virginia Tech
Yeah, it's tough to tell how good a team is when they've played Pushover U three games running. We'll start to get a read on them in a couple of weeks when they play Georgia Tech, and we'll certainly know more after their trip to BC. For now, we'll be content with what we've known about Tech teams all along: great defense (10 points allowed all season), great special teams (punt return for a TD this week). We'll figure out more later, but since the ACC looks weaker at the top than it has in a while, this could be Tech's year.

10 - Georgia
Not a whole lot to see here either, as all the 34-0 victory over UAB really told us is that Georgia is much, much better than Oklahoma, which we should've known already anyway. Stafford is slowly getting broken in to the Georgia offensive scheme, but the Bulldogs will probably rely on their running backs for the next couple of weeks. Georgia's first real test is October 7th when Tennessee comes calling; we'll know how far Stafford's progressed then.

11 - Oregon
Kind of here by default, as they won a tightly-contested 34-33 game over Oklahoma. There was controversy here, too - maybe you've heard about it, still heard about it, heard about it some more, seen the video, seen *that* video, and then stuck your head in cold water to get away from it all. It's tough to argue with two quality wins in a row, though. Oregon gets two tests in a row, though, going to ASU and then to Cal. Of course, those tests start after the bye week they have this week.

12 - Notre Dame
Got utterly embarrassed by Michigan at home. I'd want to drop them further, but among other things, BC is already ranked too high for my liking and UND is still a better team than most anyone below them at this point. They get a chance for revenge against Michigan State this weekend, but most importantly, we know that this team has the same weaknesses that last year's team had; this time, though, everyone's seen tape from last year. It won't be easy. But don't worry - beat Michigan State and the pollsters will have you back at #5.

13 - Texas
Sticking around after a confidence-boosting hammering of Rice. Nothing to see here; they still have the same issues, wake me when conference play starts, etc., etc. Will be hurt big-time in their title aspirations by both Oklahoma and Texas Tech's losses out of conference this past weekend, which is probably the most important thing to happen to them. Largely here by default.

14 - Iowa
Won a tough rivalry game over a better-then-you-realize Iowa State team (that beat a Toledo team - that beat Kansas this past weekend). This is the first really impressive showing I've seen from an Iowa team that always somehow managed to come off as less than the sum of its parts. They get a breather against a horrible Illinois team before traveling to Columbus - yikes. There's the real test; can they give OSU a game?

15 - Boston College
Here by default - sense a running theme? Probably the luckiest team in Division 1-A, winning 2 OT games in a row while being outgained both times. I'd like to put Clemson ahead of them, but they beat Clemson, and I'm not the AP voters. Not a complete team - issues on defense have persisted all season - but seem to put up enough points to win. They have the yardage, but they don't seem to score often enough given that yardage... this is a weird team, and I don't know what to make of them beyond lucky.

16 - Clemson
The 27-20 victory over Florida State confirmed a couple of things that we should've known: Clemson's rushing attack isn't half bad, and the Florida State offense is completely inept. (Shockingly, is not registered.) Granted, it wasn't all FSU's fault - Clemson's D is pretty good. More importantly, they have work to do with their protection schemes - Jad Dean's a pretty good kicker, but you have to let him kick the ball first without having it blocked. Clemson gets it relatively easy for the next couple of weeks - home against UNC and LA Tech.

17 - TCU
Fine, I'll rank them now after a 12-3 victory over Texas Tech. Holding the TTU passing offense to just over 200 yards is impressive; holding the team yardage under 300 should get you a medal. It doesn't hurt to put up nearly 200 yards on the ground yourself, either. TCU has a decent shot at 12-0, and a really good shot at 11-1. Matter of fact, they'll probably get that one - their toughest opponents from here on out are BYU and Utah, and those are their next two games. Wonder if the BCS is going to wear Cougar blue this weekend.

18 - Tennessee
Blame it on the injuries if you want, but the little signs were all there for the Florida game: relatively ineffective running game, mounting injuries, inexperience in the defensive front seven. I wasn't surprised by the outcome, but the Vols did a good job of keeping the game close even after being outplayed. They absolutely *have* to get the ground game going to stand a chance in the SEC, though; look for at least 60% runs against Marshall if only to prove a point to the rest of the conference that they can still run the ball.

19 - Oklahoma
Well, so much for the defense. Don't put yourself in a position to get nailed by bad officials and the OU controversy never happens. Shockingly, the offense looks pretty healthy - although Paul Thompson is a WR-turned-QB. Someone will figure that out eventually. They needed this game to have any shot at a national championship. Now they need to win out, hope Texas starts winning and Nebraska more or less wins out to have a shot. Yikes.

20 - Nebraska
The USC loss was kind of expected, but Nebraska covered, which has to count for something, I guess. Pretty solidly dominated across the board - again, though, keep in mind that USC is one of the few complete teams in the nation, and if there's one thing we're learning this season, it's that the tiers of teams are in total effect this year. (Michigan, for example, was a way more complete team than anyone realized, although it makes sense in retrospect.) Nebraska is not a top-level team; rather, they're somewhere between 2 and 3 at this point. Probably closer to second-tier. They get Troy this weekend - uh-oh? Troy played both FSU and Georgia Tech close.

21 - California
Don't look now, but Cal's running the ball again. Not surprisingly, they hammered an overmatched Portland State, but the Golden Bears may be rounding into shape. The offense gets another chance to scrimmage against Arizona State this weekend. The defense gets tested.

22 - Rutgers
Uh, don't look now, but the Rutgers rushing attack is on a roll - two victories over other BCS teams (granted, not *great* BCS teams, but in a conference struggling for respect, take the wins when you can get them) and a win over Ohio for a total of 600 yards on the ground this year. Quite frankly, who's going to stop them at this point (beyond Louisville and WVU)? They get South Florida in two weeks followed by Navy, Pitt, and UConn. If they can come out of that stretch 3-1, they're probably for real. (The Navy and UConn games may set football back 40 years, though; those teams can run.) Also, UNC was the only team to move the ball on these guys so far this year. Keep that in mind, too.

23 - Boise State
Eh, an unimpressive 17-10 win over Wyoming - but really, who else would take this spot? Penn State, which struggled early against Youngstown State? Alabama, who salted off Vandy to the tune of 13-10? Seriously. They're here mainly for that 42-14 hammering of Oregon State still, since - like Rutgers - beat the other BCS schools when you can and kill your conference. That's all they can do.

24 - Michigan St.
Eh, why not. People were thinking about jumping on the Pitt bandwagon before the Spartans took care of them. Now they get to take on a reeling UND at home. This isn't a big game in any way, no sir - but be warned, UND is pissed. MSU's offense - especially on the ground - is damn scary. 6.24 YPC is sick no matter how you slice it. The pass defense is shaky, though, which could do them in.

25 - Missouri
I'll give the honorary "yo, down here" slot to a team that's surprising me at 3-0. Realistically, they've got a good shot at 5-0 before going to TTU - and could be sitting at 7-1 by the time Oklahoma comes calling. Considering these guys were probably mid-level bowl fodder, that's damn impressive to be staring that kind of record down. Give some love to the defense for that, which has played out of its mind this year.

Thursday, September 14

People Get Paid for This?

Yeah, I know it's easy to pretty much obliterate some sports writing - which is why I rarely do so. However, sometimes I can't help myself. Check out this gem over at from Tom Dienhart. He goes through and does a quick recap of all the BCS conferences. Who's up for some fun? Let's take it by conference. First up - ACC:

Looking good: Boston College. The Eagles' scintillating double-overtime win over Clemson sets them up for a 5-0 start. Which leads me to ponder: Is there a better coach in the nation than Tom O'Brien? I think not.

Looking lame: Florida State. Face it, the Noles should have lost to Troy State. Or is it Troy? Doesn't matter. Whoever the hell that was, the Seminoles should have sodded the field with them. Until FSU figures out how to run the ball, it isn't a legit national title contender.

Game of the week: Clemson at Florida State. Bowden Bowl 8 lost lots of luster with the Tigers' loss at BC and FSU's struggles vs. Troy. Nonetheless, we'll be treated to myriad camera shots of Mama Bowden wringing her hands. The drama of Bowden vs. Bowden ended long ago. The drama now: Can Papa Bowden make life even tougher for Tommy Boy?

Yup, that Tom O'Brien is sure good. Two wins, both at home, combined margin of victory: 8 points! Of course, considering everyone else in the ACC turned in a lackluster performance last week, I can understand. Wait, Virginia Tech beat UNC 35-10? Frank Beamer must be a horrid coach.

Seriously, I can at least understand the logic behind saying that BC's on a roll right now - I'd argue that it's flawed by virtue that neither victory looked pretty impressive (they were lackluster against Central Michigan and got outplayed for most of the Clemson game), but Tom O'Brien for Coach of the Year? Hell, I'd put the guy from Akron up for that honor before I'd even consider O'Brien - and neither of them would be in my top 20 at this point.

As for the rest of it - yeah, FSU did suck, no argument there, Jeff Bowden blows, we'll go through this 20 more times before the season is over. FSU/Clemson probably can pass as the game of the week, although - again - I'd argue that the biggest issue for Clemson is the players they've lost on defense so far, not the loss at BC. Of course, FSU is missing almost all of their DTs at this point, so who knows?

Onto the Big East!

Looking good: Pitt. Kudos to Wanny for getting things straightened out in a jiff. Tyler Palko looks like, well, Tyler Palko. And that's a good thing for a program that -- I can't believe I'm gonna type this--could win the league title.

Looking lame: Cincinnati. I still have trouble embracing the Bearcats as a BCS team when I see programs like TCU, Utah, Boise State, Fresno State, BYU and UCF on the outside looking in. Nonetheless, UC marches on with trips to Ohio State this week and Virginia Tech the next. I ask: Why?

Game of the week: Miami at Louisville. I'll go ahead and call this the biggest game in Louisville history. Kinda like picking the greatest Pauley Shore movie ever. But I'm not here to dump on the Cards. No, I'm here to give them a hug. Can't wait to watch that high-powered Cardinals' offense vs. that NFL-quality Hurricane defense.

Yeah, Pitt's been impressive - but league title? Wonder if Dienhart forgot to pay his oxygen bill. And yes, Cincy is clearly the worst BCS team in college football. Syracuse, Duke, Kentucky, Vandy, Wake Forest, Illinois, Colorado, etc., can rest easy. And did he include "we just lost 42-0 to Florida" UCF? (By the way, it's easy to pick the GotW when you only have two ranked teams in a conference.)

Next - Big 10!

Looking good: Ohio State. Nothing like clearing your highest hurdle before you've even hit the first turn of the race. But here are the Buckeyes, just a road win at Iowa and home triumph over Michigan from a trip to the national title game.

Looking lame: Purdue. I admire Joe Tiller's positive spin. You know, saying stuff like "we will improve." But I'm gonna stick to the facts. You know, stuff that's actually happened. And here's the honest truth: This just isn't a good team. The secondary is a mess - again -- and quarterback Curtis Painter is quickly becoming a liability.

Game of the week: Michigan at Notre Dame. This is the game that inspired you to dig out that Irish T-shirt you had buried in your dresser last year. A win would do the same for Wolverines fans this year. Did you just hear that, too? It was Lloyd Carr's collar tightening. FYI: Big Blue hasn't left South Bend with a "W" since 1994.

Good news - Dienhart finally hits! Of course, everyone's saying (t)OSU's looking good, so whatever. Also, good to hear that he's blasting on Purdue when the Zooker and Illinois got blasted by Rutgers. At least they're better than Cincy, right? Right? Anyone? Bueller?

Dienhart forgot to include "and burn" in one of his GotW sentences. See if you can figure out where it should go. "This is the game that inspired you to dig out that Irish T-shirt you had buried in your dresser last year."

Big 12 time:

Looking good: Missouri. It wasn't a shock that the Tigers beat Ole Miss. But it WAS a shock that they thumped the Rebs. Quarterback Chase Daniel only will get better, along with the rest of the offense. And the defense, especially the line, has been sterling. There's a great chance MU could be 5-0 when it heads to Texas Tech on October 7. Yes, you read that right.

Looking lame: Kansas. Hey, I love Mark Mangino and the Jayhawks, but that's a mighty flimsy 2-0 dais they are standing on. A big dose of reality could be served Friday night, when KU travels to Toledo. The Jayhawk offense has to get on track.

Game of the week: Oklahoma at Oregon. The Sooners are 2-0, but you, me and the RufNek driving the Sooner Schooner know that it's a shaky 2-0. It's this simple: The offense is too reliant on Adrian Peterson, and the defense flat out can't tackle or stop the run consistently. Add in a hot Ducks team and one of the nation's toughest venues and, well, I think you know where I'm going with this.

Yeah - Missouri is quietly turning into a half-decent team, so Dienhart did bring the analysis. I'll give him some credit. But last I checked, Colorado lost to a 1-AA team. Did they get kicked out of the league for that?

How does Dienhart define "too reliant on Adrian Peterson, anyway"? Running 60% of plays? Well, he's doing less than that. Pretty damn close to 50%, which means - say it with me - a balanced attack! Also, Peterson is one of the best backs in the nation, just so you know. Dienhart also defines "hot" as winning your last game by 7 and beating a team that lost to San Diego State.

Mercifully, we're almost done. Pac-10.

Looking good: Cal. Welcome back, Golden Bears. The offense dominated and the defense stifled. Of course, playing Minnesota helped. No matter, football is all about confidence. And Cal got a big dose of it. The Bears will continue to right themselves this week vs. Portland State before Arizona State comes calling.

Looking lame: Stanford. The Pac-10 head coaches I talked to this summer all said the Cardinal was the least talented team in the league. Guess they were right. If Stanford doesn't beat Navy or Washington State in the next two weeks, it could go O-fer 2006. Did you know Stanford is known for its academics?

Game of the week: Nebraska at USC. Many felt Bill Callahan scored a signature win vs. Michigan in last year's Alamo Bowl. A win here would be way bigger. But there's no way, no how the Cornhuskers are ready for the Trojans' load.

I'll be honest - I don't follow the Pac-10 much. But even though I just gave Oregon hell, they are 2-0 with an actual quality win. Not hot, but good. Looking good, in fact. Also, UCLA is going to light a bag of dog poop and put it on Cal's doorstep. And Stanford sucks, but we knew that already. They're better than Cincinnati!

Yeah, yeah, the GotW isn't a bad choice, especially since he already got Oregon in the Big 12 GotW.

Almost done with this mess - it's SEC time:

Looking good: LSU. This is the quintessential buzz saw. But remember, the Bayou Bengals ARE the most talented team in the league. The way LSU flogged Arizona was frightening. Can't wait to see if those injured running backs regain their form.

Looking lame: South Carolina. Yeah, yeah, Steve Spurrier is a great coach. But the Gamecocks are living, breathing proof that this is a game that's all about the players. And South Carolina just ain't got 'em. But, God bless 'em, they try.

Game of the week: Florida at Tennessee. If defense wins games, then the Gators have this one in the bag. But the key for Florida will be its ability to continue running well. The Vols? Well, I'm not convinced they aren't still sick. I'm gonna go ahead and call this Tennessee's litmus test vs. what I feel is the best team in the SEC East.

Let's blow through the easy ones - yeah, LSU is looking good (check my rankings, check the other rankings here), no issue there. You can make a case for Auburn, Georgia, and Florida, too, and you'll probably be right there. Also, South Carolina is pretty hideous at 1-1. They're way worse than a Mississippi State team that has yet to put a point on the board - but they're both better than Cincinnati!

Also, there's a game this week between a couple of SEC teams. Maybe you've heard of it - it's LSU @ Auburn. Two national title contenders and two of the most complete teams in the nation fighting it out. But don't watch it, it'll suck. Watch Florida/Tennessee instead - that's a much better option. Also, way for Dienhart to go out on a limb and say Florida is the best team in the SEC East along with most other analysts during the preseason. Way to go, buddy!

(For the record, this post was done without looking up numbers of any kind. I figure this was only fair, as I'm unconvinced that Dienhart did this before writing.)