Sunday, January 11

College Football: 2008 Final Rankings

The 2008 season of college football has come to an end, and once again we're left with the uncomfortable feeling that the BCS screwed up the title game matchup but managed to get the #1 team in spite of themselves. As the talent pool increases and with the total number of scholarships reduced, expect this endgame to become the norm - we've got somewhere between four and eight (four this year) teams with some kind of argument that they should be champions, and on the other side we've got Jim Delany. Thanks again, Jimmah.

1. Florida
When we got online to update the Overall BCS Rankings (post coming soon), Chris and I both agreed on this season's #1, and disagreed on #2-4. In the hour of geekery that ensued, the statistics actually pointed Florida as a very clear #1. Efficiency, personnel, turnover margin, pythagorean expectation, strength of schedule -- it all favors the Gators.

Actually this chart summarizes our position of the top 5 nicely, although we chose to make one change due to a perceived talent differential. We're ranking the best teams, not necessarily the most deserving teams (Utah would be in the top 2 of that criterion).

In the end, we felt highly enough about this Florida team to rank them #9 in BCS history. Congratulations, Gators, on an outstanding season.

2. Texas
Colt McCoy had a historic season in 2008, besting Daunte Culpepper's completion percentage mark by nearly 3%. This led to one of the highest 3rd down %'s in the country for the Longhorn offense, a unit that didn't score as quickly as the vaunted Sooner offense but may have been harder to actually stop. Texas also got great production out of special teams, with Shipley getting return TDs in their two biggest games and the punter putting his limited time to excellent use. While the offense may have been functionally the best out there to go with a top 5 special teams, the defense finished just inside the top 20 statistically -- even taking quality of offenses faced into account, they're probably not top 10 caliber. The defensive line is top-notch and the corners are strong, but the linebackers are inconsistent and the inexperience at safety showed in the closing minutes of their lone setback.

3. USC
The USC Trojans have not only the best defense of 2008, but probably one of the top 5 defenses of the BCS era. A pedestrian offense only by this program's lofty standards, this stable of runningbacks would be the envy of any team out there. However, we don't feel Mark Sanchez is the consistent leader that McCoy and Tebow are, and the strength of schedule is not there.

4. Utah
With a dominant victory over Alabama, Utah became the only "mid-major" to make our top 40 BCS teams, coming in at #19. While everyone at this blog favors a playoff that would give this team a chance to move on up to the top, when we looked at the numbers it didn't add up for the Utes. So while a championship vote wouldn't be a vote we could cast in earnest, we give major credit to this sqaud for knocking off every team they were given the chance to face, and for having the greatest season in the last 11 years by a team from outside the so-called big six.

5. Oklahoma
When you put a Tennessee fan, a Texas fan, and an Ohio State fan together, you're sure to generate an anti-Sooner bias. (SEC bias, rivalry, and the latter needs OU's BCS failures to outshine the almost equally-frequent failures of _Buckeye._) This Oklahoma team lost two games by 10 apiece to our final top two teams and completely annihilated every other team they faced, which does include five teams on this list. While it's a 5th straight loss in the BCS, losing by 10 to the all-time BCS #9 is nothing to be ashamed of, so Sooner fans needn't hang their heads over this one.

6. Alabama
After a 12-0 start, Alabama's discipline and preparation couldn't quite overcome the talent differential when facing two top 4 teams. However, both losses were competitive, so this doesn't warrant a large drop. The Tide are a QB recruit away from contending for national titles.

7. Penn State
Penn State was a team who kind of ran out of gas late in the season, losing to Iowa and getting hammered by USC. Let's not forget that they really lowered the boom on Oregon State and Michigan State, not to mention beating Ohio State in Columbus. Clark and Royster will be a solid foundation for 2009.

8. Ohio State
Ohio State fans will once again be left wondering what would have happened had they not lost Beanie Wells to injury and played Terrelle Pryor as the lone QB. At least they were using both for the majority of the game. With the offensive gameplan once again falling apart against a top-tier opponent, the Bucks got productivity from their freshman QB's scrambling ability.

9. TCU
With BYU's legitimacy dropping, TCU's top ten claims were bolstered by beating Boise State and by Utah's performance in the Sugar Bowl. Oklahoma clearly showed that this team cannot compete with the high-powered passing attacks that dominated our top 5, but they're solid against the run and don't beat themselves.

10. Boise State
The pollsters saw fit to tank Boise State for losing one game this season by one point against a top ten team, having the audacity to drop them below even an Oregon team they beat on the road and finished with a significantly better record than. Not us. The Broncos had a great season, a 17-16 setback against TCU in a thrilling bowl game hardly negates their 12-1 final record.

11. Georgia
Blowouts against both Florida and Alabama show a gap between #11 and the top ten. But aside from a bizarre loss to Georgia Tech, this team did well enough in their other games, including a nice bowl win.

12. Oregon
In retrospect, it's amazing that the Ducks finished with 10 wins despite having QB issues in midseason. We find the Holiday Bowl win as indicative of Oklahoma State (loss to every top 15 opp faced) as it is of Oregon, but two of their three losses are also understandable.

13. Ole Miss
Unfortunately Ole Miss hasn't learned to be consistent yet, but their wins over Texas Tech and LSU were no flukes. Jevan Snead brings them the level of QBing they've missed since the Eli days, only this time around they're surrounding him with more talent.

14. Texas Tech
In retrospect, TTU benefited from playing Texas at home at the end of the toughest month of football any team played this season. But there's really no question that they're better than Ok State - which also makes them better than anyone else not already listed.

15. Oklahoma State
The #15 ranking is indicative of the complete dropoff in college football after the top 14. Oklahoma State got a lot of credit for beating Missouri and playing Texas close, but we see that in fact they lost to every legitimately good opponent they faced. Robinson, Bryant, and Hunter are a fearsome trio, but the Cowboys will need to be more than that to move any higher next season.

16. Virginia Tech
The Orange Bowl really was the laughingstock of the BCS, as there's a half-dozen teams who played outside the BCS who could easily handle those two. Alas, VT was king of the short bus, which pretty much describes their games on Dec 6 and Jan 1 equally.

17. Oregon State
Oregon State won pretty much the worst bowl game played in 2008. That said... um, they won. Which literally means that they scored - ie, they went 1/2 in FG attempts while Pitt was 0/1, which was enough to negate the 3 giveaways to 2 takeaways. This team beat USC? We find the Stanford loss a lot less surprising.

18. Cincinnati
ACC fans rejoice - this season, you weren't the worst conference. Lacking WVU to hold them up, the Big East clearly fell on their face which resulted in these turds stinking up the Orange Bowl. Ladies and gentlemen, your Short Bus Puntout runners up.

19. Missouri
Here's a team that's a lot stronger on paper than on the field. And here's a season where all the talent is consolidated into a dozen-some odd teams.

20. Iowa
Despite a stronger finish, they lost to Illinois and Northwestern, both of whom Missouri beat. This team only deserves mention because of the upset over Penn State.

Note that we've decided to keep this to a top 20, because nobody else is deserving of ranking. Better luck in 2009!