theknightswhosay

#2 Debate Redux

In General LSU, Rankings Commentary on September 27, 2012 at 2:09 PM

Note after UW-Stanford: The last time the Huskies defeated a top 10 team was in 2009 over USC, just a couple of weeks after losing to LSU.

I’m glad I post things in places where I get some feedback. It reminds me that the opinions of even dedicated sports fans don’t always take into account hard facts but rely in large part on perceptions.

I didn’t have anything special to post this week in addition to my rankings blog and my update to the LSU/Auburn series, so I’ll talk a little more about the change at #2 in the major polls.

Again, let me reiterate that I’m not upset with people having seen the Auburn game or having seen how close the Auburn game was having less confidence in LSU. But I am annoyed with not looking at all the facts and being consistent.

Oregon deserves to be #2, the logic goes, because they beat Arizona. Arizona is good because they were ranked. (this leaves out that Arizona was ranked because they beat Oklahoma St., which was ranked because they were good last year… might as well rank LSU higher for beating Oregon last year, but I digress.)

LSU beat Auburn, who had two prior losses (by 7 on a neutral field against Clemson and by 18 @ Mississippi St.) and was not ranked. LSU does not have a good schedule, people claim, because the week before Auburn, they played Idaho and in the following week, they play Towson.

I think this analysis is extraordinarily flimsy, but it seems enough for a lot of people.

The schedule portion is the most problematic, so I’ll address that first. I ask this. Which of the following is more difficult to navigate undefeated?

Schedule A
North Texas
Washington
Idaho
@Auburn

Schedule B
Arkansas St.
Fresno St.
Tennessee Tech
Arizona

Schedule A belongs to LSU. I don’t think it’s even close. And that’s without mentioning that North Texas seems to be a not-terrible team this year since Kansas St. (which won @Oklahoma by 5 and beat Miami by 39) only beat the Mean Green Eagles by 14 in Manhattan. It’s also without mentioning that Arizona needed overtime to beat Toledo in Week 1 before beating Oklahoma St. in Week 2.

LSU’s next opponent, as mentioned, is Towson. That’s not intended to be a fierce competition and I don’t expect it will be, but why punish LSU after 4 weeks for its Week 5 opponent? Oregon’s next opponent is Washington St., which just lost to Colorado at home. I still don’t think Oregon has a better schedule after 5 weeks, but I do admit reasonable minds can differ on this.

Before anyone accuses me of quibbling with the below, those who moved LSU down are already quibbling by complaining about the close score against Auburn, so we might as well take a closer look at the other major-conference game LSU played and the sole major-conference game Oregon played.

Except for taking over after LSU fumbled the opening kickoff (this exchange netting the Huskies’ only points of the game), Washington did not go past the LSU 46 until mid-way through the third quarter when the score was already 27-3 LSU.

Contrast that with Arizona/Oregon. Oregon didn’t take a 3-possession lead until mid-way through the third quarter, 21-0. That the Ducks then went on to score 4 more touchdowns isn’t that impressive to me. But OK, 27-3 and 21-0 at similar points in the game isn’t a big difference. I mentioned Washington’s drive progression for a reason though, so let’s talk about the opportunities Arizona had had by that point. In the first quarter, the Wildcats had the ball at the Oregon 4 (went over on downs), the Oregon 18 (interception), and the Oregon 2 (went over on downs). Those were the only 3 first-quarter possessions for Arizona. Three possessions in a row in the red zone in one quarter is generally pretty good, especially when your opponent only scores 13 in the whole first half. Not in this case, but it’s not sufficient evidence we should be wowed by Oregon’s defense (which gave up 34 to Arkansas St. and 25 to Fresno St.) as well as its offense. In the first two possessions of the second quarter, Arizona had two more opportunities, with the ball at the Oregon 13 (blocked field goal) and the Oregon 30 (fumble). At the time or that fumble, the Ducks had only scored 7 points (in the drive that immediately succeeded the interception mentioned earlier).

So even if Arizona is a little better than Washington (which is not in line with pre-season projections), I still give LSU a little more credit for the way they won their game against a Pac-12 team. Auburn isn’t having a good season, but at this point, I’m still going to regard them as better (especially at home) than Fresno St. or any Oregon opponent who wasn’t Arizona (especially since all were home games for Oregon).

Just to refresh people’s recollections, last year Auburn was 8-5 (losses @Clemson, @Arkansas, @LSU, @Georgia, @Alabama), Washington was 7-6 (losses to the top 3 Pac-12 teams as well as @Nebraska, @Oregon St., and to Baylor in the bowl game), and Arizona was 4-8 (wins against Northern Arizona, UCLA, ULL, and @Arizona St.)

After Week 6, LSU will have played Washington, @ Auburn, and @ Florida. Oregon will have played Fresno St. (I’m guessing they’re better than WSU, which just lost at home to Colorado), Arizona, and Washington. I’m really going to be annoyed if at that point I hear Oregon has had the better schedule so far.

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  1. […] I’ve made clear, I still disagree with the Oregon #2 ranking. Somehow it doesn’t matter that Arizona has lost another game […]

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