Monday, September 17

college football - hodgepodge

Conferences, title outlook, trivia, games of the week...

Comparing the Conferences

At this time, it's pointless to nitpick schedules as it's uncertain how exactly most of these teams will wind up. However, at this point it may be possible to guage conference strength:

Elite Teams: none
Ranked Teams: #14 BC, #15 Clemson, #21 Va Tech (in my rankings)
Good Unranked Teams: Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami
Bad Teams: Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, NC State
Key OOC Wins:
Week 1:
Week 2:
Week 3: Florida State > Colorado, Duke > Northwestern
OOC Losses:
Week 1: UCF > NC State, Wyoming > Virginia, Connecticut > Duke
Week 2: LSU > Va Tech, Nebraska > Wake Forest
Week 3: West Virginia > Maryland

RANKING: 6 - With victories over Colorado and Northwestern highlighting their nonconference play, the ACC once again has done nothing.

Big East:
Elite Teams: #8 West Virginia
Ranked Teams: #8 WVA, #10 Rutgers, #19 Cincinnati, #20 Louisville
Good Unranked Teams: South Florida
Bad Teams: Pittsburgh, Syracuse
Key OOC Wins:
Week 1: Connecticut > Duke
Week 2: Cincinnati > Oregon State, South Florida > Auburn
Week 3: West Virginia > Maryland
OOC Losses:
Week 1: Washington > Syracuse
Week 2: Iowa > Syracuse
Week 3: Kentucky > Louisville, Michigan State > Pittsburgh, Illinois > Syracuse

While Texas has been on the verge of collapse for the Big XII, Louisville actually did collapse for the Big East, and Miss State's win over Auburn makes South Florida's a little less impressive. Half the conference is ranked but one of their two big dogs fell sharply, and their bottom two are just awful. Syracuse may be the worst team in a BCS conference - Duke and Stanford posted victories this weekend.

Big Ten:
Elite Teams: #5 Ohio State, #9 Penn State
Ranked Teams: #5 Ohio State, #9 Penn State, #12 Wisconsin
Good Unranked Teams: none at the moment...
Bad Teams: Minnesota, Northwestern (winning record, but lost to Duke)
Key OOC Wins:
Week 1: Wisconsin > Wash State
Week 2: Iowa > Syracuse
Week 3: Ohio State > Washington, Michigan State > Pittsburgh, Illinois > Syracuse
OOC Losses:
Week 1: Appa State > Michigan, Bowling Green > Minnesota
Week 2: Oregon > Michigan
Week 3: Iowa State > Iowa, Duke > Northwestern, FIU > Minnesota

Many Big Ten teams have 3-0 or 2-1 records without having faced anyone even remotely good. All that's clear is that Michigan is a lot worse than expected, Minnesota is a little worse than expected, but Ohio State and Penn State are a bit better than expected. While weeks 1 and 2 had this group battling for the worst conference, a big win by Ohio State and two victories over Big East schools in battles of sub-mediocres make them clearly better than the ACC.

Big XII:
Elite Teams: #3 Oklahoma, #7 Texas
Ranked Teams: #3 Oklahoma, #7 Texas, #17 Missouri, #22 Nebraska, #24 Texas Tech
Good Unranked Teams: Texas A&M
Bad Teams: Colorado, Iowa State, Oklahoma State
Key OOC Wins:
Week 1: Missouri > Illinois
Week 2: Oklahoma > Miami, Texas > TCU, Nebraska > Wake Forest, Missouri > Mississippi
Week 3: Iowa State > Iowa
OOC Losses:
Week 1: Kent State > Iowa State, TCU > Baylor, Georgia > OK State, Auburn > Kansas State
Week 2: Arizona State > Colorado, Northern Iowa > Iowa State
Week 3: USC > Nebraska, Troy > OK State, Florida State > Colorado

When all is said and done, Oklahoma might be the only top ten-worthy school in this conference. However, five or six may end up ranked and either of the Kansas schools could be a surprise. The bottom three are pretty bad but ISU did post a victory over Iowa.

Pac 10:
Elite Teams: #2 USC, #6 Cal
Ranked Teams: #2 USC, #6 Cal, #11 Oregon
Good Unranked Teams: Arizona State, UCLA, Washington
Bad Teams: Arizona, Stanford
Key OOC Wins:
Week 1: Cal > Tennessee, Washington > Syracuse,
Week 2: Washington > Boise State, Oregon > Michigan, Arizona State > Colorado
Week 3: USC > Nebraska
OOC Losses:
Week 1: Wisconsin > Wash State, BYU > Arizona
Week 2: Cincinnati > Oregon State
Week 3: Ohio State > Washington, Utah > UCLA, New Mexico > Arizona

As has become routine, USC carries the torch and has already knocked off one of the better teams from another BCS conference, Nebraska. Cal's victory over Tennessee and Oregon's over Michigan give the conference some major cred, but with upcomer Washington losing big to Ohio State and UCLA getting run over by a nobody, they fall short of #1.

Elite Teams: #1 LSU, #4 Florida
Ranked Teams: #1 LSU, #4 Florida, #13 South Carolina, #16 Kentucky, #18 Alabama, #25 Georgia
Good Unranked Teams: Arkansas, Tennessee
Bad Teams: Mississippi
Key OOC Wins:
Week 1: Georgia > OK State, Auburn > Kansas State
Week 2: LSU > Va Tech
Week 3: Kentucky > Louisville
OOC Losses:
Week 1: Cal > Tennessee
Week 2: South Florida > Auburn, Missouri > Mississippi
Week 3:

LSU knocking off a top ACC team was expected. Middle of the pack Kentucky upsetting Louisville? It's not completely unreasonable to believe that LSU and Florida are the two best teams in the country - certainly they're two of the top four - while Kentucky and South Carolina could be two of the bigger surprises this season. Only Auburn is truly disappointing (Tennessee's record was expected given their early schedule), and Alabama may end up picking up their slack.

Somebody's Getting Their Second Trophy

Nine different teams have won the BCS championship in its nine years of existence. It's been remarkable in promoting equal treatment for teams that might have been otherwise overlooked... for comparison sake, I think that if the old bowl system had been used we only would have had six schools winning titles (98 Tennessee, 99 FSU, 00 Oklahoma, 01-02 Miami, 03-05 USC, 06 Ohio State). Repeating is a lot more difficult... now that you actually have to beat the #2-ranked team instead of just getting more votes than them.

Here the BCS champions are listed by year of title and my current ranking:

1998 - Tennessee - unranked, 2 losses
1999 - Florida State - unranked, 1 loss
2000 - Oklahoma - #3, unbeaten
2001 - Miami FL - unranked, 1 loss
2002 - Ohio State - #5, unbeaten
2003 - LSU - #1, unbeaten
2004 - USC - #2, unbeaten
2005 - Texas - #7, unbeaten
2006 - Florida - #4, unbeaten

Every team in my elite top four... actually, all top five and six of my top seven... have already won a BCS title. The teams who have never won it and have the best shot of doing so are California, West Virginia, and Penn State. Think any of those teams will run the table? Realistically, only the Mounties have a credible shot of even being in the title game. And how would they hold up against any team in the top four, or even Ohio State?

This season will feature somebody's return to the top, possibly even Florida for a repeat.


When was the last time Duke, Illinois, Kentucky, and Stanford all won on the same day?
Answer in next week's edition.


Texas A&M @ Miami FL
Both of these teams have something to prove after Miami was humiliated by Oklahoma and A&M nearly lost at home to Fresno State. The winner could wind up near the bottom of the top 25 in my book, if it's a well played game.
Pick: Miami

Oklahoma @ Tulsa
Sure, it'll probably be ugly. But we've thought that about midmajors in big games before. Tulsa is one of the top non-BCS schools this year and it'll be interesting if they have anything near what it takes to be the next 06 Boise State.
Pick: Oklahoma

Michigan State @ Notre Dame
You only have to look back to 2001 for the last time the Irish started out 0-3, with losses to BCS title loser Nebraska and bowl game winners Michigan State and Texas A&M. 0-4? It's never happened. For everyone who thought Jimmy Clausen would be a record-setter at Notre Dame, this Saturday is your chance to see him set his first of many to come!
Pick: Michigan State

Penn State @ Michigan
Two seasons ago, a Penn State team that finished #3 in the country lost just one game all season - to Michigan in Ann Arbor. The Nittany Lions haven't been a good road team in recent years, and the Wolverines desperately need to continue the positive momentum from their victory over Notre Dame. Lloyd Carr's slim chances of saving his career probably rest on the team finishing with no more than three losses this season - sweeping the Big Ten and winning their bowl game is a safer bet. Their backs are against the wall and the team has a lot of offensive firepower in a home game. Potential upset.
Pick: Michigan

Georgia @ Alabama
This will be a completely different kind of test for Saban's Tide as Georgia has nowhere near the offensive firepower of Arkansas but better defense, special teams, and discipline than the Hogs. Mark Richt cannot afford an 0-2 start in conference play.
Pick: Georgia

Kentucky @ Arkansas
Two explosive and contrasting offenses, not the defense you'd expect in an SEC matchup. You'll think you were watching a WAC game by the scoring.
Pick: Arkansas

Rice @ Texas
It's Texas against a weak team from a non-BCS conference, so it figures to be close.
Pick: Texas

Iowa @ Wisconsin
Iowa had their boat rocked by previously winless Iowa State. They need to avoid dropping down to .500 if they want to be taken seriously. At the same time, Wisconsin has struggled for two straight weeks and this is their chance to make a statement at home to start conference play.
Pick: Wisconsin

South Carolina @ LSU
Beating Georgia is one thing, but when South Carolina lines up against LSU they may be overmatched at every position. How much can Spurrier get out of his players to prove that they belong in the middle of the top 25?
Pick: LSU

Washington @ UCLA
Both of these teams were sharply thrown from their high horses last weekend. Now one of them faces a .500 record as their schedules start to pick up.
Pick: Washington