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Posts Tagged ‘Fresno St.’

Trojan Horse of Misinformation

In Bowls, College Football, History, NFL on October 23, 2015 at 2:43 PM

I watched the “30 for 30” about the USC “dynasty”.  They won a lot of games in a row, but that’s not my definition of a dynasty.  Overall, it wasn’t bad, but there were so many misleading or outright false things in there.  That detracts from the quality and entertainment value.

The first thing was the comparison between Paul Hackett and Pete Carroll.  I wasn’t in the L.A. area at the time, so I don’t know know what the conventional wisdom was around here, but it just doesn’t match reality.  Hackett’s previous head coaching job was with the Pittsburgh PANTHERS (not in the NFL like the documentary said).  How is that like the New England Patriots at all?  Hackett’s previous job was in the NFL, but offensive coordinator isn’t the same thing.

The Chiefs did make the playoffs all but one year while Hackett was there, but after his first season, they failed to win any playoff games under head coach Marty Schottenheimer.

The Jets never gave Carroll a chance and have been a poorly run organization for a long time, so I don’t blame him for their 6-10 mark in the one season he was there.  Jimmy Johnson went 1-15 his first season with the Cowboys.  Speaking of the Cowboys, Tom Landry went 0-11-1 in his first season there.  It’s ridiculous to judge anything based on a head coach’s first year with no chance to follow up (Carroll didn’t do much better his first couple of years in Seattle either), so I’ll focus on his time in New England.

Carroll coached the Patriots for three seasons and made the playoffs twice with an overall record of 28-23.  He followed Bill Parcells, who had coached there for four seasons and also made the playoffs twice, going exactly .500 in his time there.

I really don’t understand the view that Carroll was a failed NFL coach who was going to do poorly at USC; and as someone who followed the NFL closely in the 1990s, I did not have that expectation at all.  I’m not saying I thought USC was going to be one of the top four teams seven years in a row though.  I don’t think anyone could have reasonably expected that.

We can also contrast Carroll’s prior NFL record with that of Bill Belichik, who coached a total of five seasons in the 1990s and only made the playoffs once with a total record with the Browns of 37-45.

Next, they acted like USC looked so bad in early 2002 to for losing to Washington St.  You have to hear the way they say it.  The tone suggested they had lost to a Cougar team from 2008-2010.  The loss was in overtime in Pullman, and Wazzu had won 10 games the season before and went on to win 10 games again that season before losing in the Rose Bowl.

Washington St. completes a long pass against USC in October 2002. The Trojans won 46 of their next 47 games after this loss.

Then they acted like the win at Auburn in 2003 was a monumental victory, calling them “one of the best teams in the country”.  The Tigers went 9-4 in 2002 and would finish 8-5 in 2003, infamously resulting in Tommy Tuberville nearly being replaced by Bobby Petrino.

The documentary ignored the Trojans’ last loss before the streak, which was in Berkeley against a similar team.   Winning 34 in a row and 45 of 46 doesn’t really need to be embellished, does it? So why completely ignore the one loss in those 46 games?

Cal’s Tyler Fredrickson kicks the winning field goal in overtime against USC in 2003.

I guess it was to avoid mentioning the three-team race at the end of that year.  No mention was made of the fact that Oklahoma was the unanimous #1 going into the conference championships (which of course the Pac-10 didn’t have) or that the Trojans finished third in the BCS standings behind the eventual winners of the BCS LSU.

I did note that at one point Matt Leinart used the singular when referring to the USC national championship, although the narrator repeatedly talked about how the Trojans were a minute away from winning a third in a row.  USC did beat Michigan at the end of that year, but when the team you’re playing is just playing for a nice bowl win, that’s not the same as actually playing a team who’s also trying to win a national championship.

The famous “Bush push” to win against Notre Dame.

Apart from the last-second controversial win over Notre Dame, the documentary also acted like USC was untouchable in 2005.  A lot of mention was made of how many yards the Trojans (Reggie Bush in particular) put up against Fresno St. in the second-to-last game of the regular season, but somehow the fact that they gave up 42 points and only beat the Bulldogs by 8 wasn’t mentioned at all.  You would have guessed from the information provided that USC won by several touchdowns.

The point being that there were some cracks in the façade.  USC was not seen as unbeatable by any sports fan I remember talking to that year, and I talked to a lot more people about sports back then.  They were in 2004 by some but not in 2005.  It was similar to the difference between the perception of the 2013 Florida St. team and the 2014 edition.  They were still expected to win every game during the regular season, but they weren’t seen as invincible.

I remember going to Louisiana for Christmas in 2005 and people asked me how close USC would make it, implying Texas was going to win and the only question was the margin.  Of course, I insisted USC was in fact a very good team even though I picked Texas myself.

Vince Young scores the winning touchdown against USC, ending the Trojan’s 34-game winning streak and giving Texas its only national championship since 1970.

I know that’s an indication of regional bias, but there were people in other areas who saw USC as vulnerable.  Based on the Notre Dame performance, there were also some Midwesterners (and Notre Dame fans from other regions) who saw the same thing.

Anyway, I had a lot of respect for Pete Carroll even going back to the Patriots and I still do.  I wanted him to lose once USC became a prominent team in 2003, but when I cheered for other teams to beat him I knew they were facing a prepared and formidable opponent.  It just bothers me not to correctly characterize what actually went on, and not just trying to bolster a simplistic cardinal-and-gold-tinted recollection of events.

I’m not even saying this as a USC detractor.  Why not give Carroll some credit for not being a bad coach (though I guess you could say he was mediocre) in the NFL?  Why not give the 2002 team credit for only losing a couple of early games to good teams (the other was to Kansas St., who would finish 11-2) and then finishing strong?  According to Jeff Sagarin, that was the best team in the country that year despite the losses.  I thought they at least had the best second half of the season.

I understand you can always highlight some things and not other things to tell the story a certain way, but don’t pick a game that’s a bad example of what you’re talking about and distort what happened and who the other team was.

One thing I was glad they didn’t do was mention whether Vince Young’s knee was down in the second quarter.  I think the ball was already coming loose from his hands when the knee touched (if we were evaluating a fumble rather than a lateral, I don’t think it would even be very controversial); but even if he were down, he already had a first down on the play.  Texas would have had first and goal at the 10.  The game was decided by who did (or didn’t do) what in the fourth quarter, not by that call.

I just think getting it right is more important than telling a dramatized story, which was compelling enough on its own in reality.

Time to Talk Turkey

In Bowls, College Football, Rankings Commentary on November 26, 2013 at 9:38 PM

By turkey, of course I mean football and the coming bowl season. The bird isn’t anything to get excited about really, but it can make an excellent sandwich to accompany football-watching.

First of all, I wanted to remind my All-Blogger voters to get their submissions in. About half of the ballots are still missing. None will be accepted after the first game kicks off on Thanksgiving, which is right about the time I plan to post it.

LSU-Arkansas (Friday on CBS) will be an afterthought among all the interesting games in the next few days, but I originally wrote this blog back in 2006, and it’s what touched off my successful (for me, anyway) Rivalry Series. So if you have any interest at all, please check it out.

Sometimes I wonder if articles are written for Bleacher Report just to annoy me. I used to suspect the same thing of Sporting News. Not me in particular, but they want to get under fans’ skin to get more hits. Brian Pedersen is a “Featured Columnist” on the site, and based on the way his “Which Teams Got Screwed in Week 14 Standings?” column is written, he doesn’t understand how the BCS rankings work after 15 years. The rankings will cease to exist in a couple of weeks. Have some respect.

• explain why Clemson (10-1) got passed by Missouri in the latest standings, despite both teams winning? Yes, Clemson moved up from seventh to sixth

> So let me get this straight. Getting “screwed” means not moving up ENOUGH after beating an FCS opponent? Does it not occur to him that Missouri beat a ranked Ole Miss team. Maybe there are times when beating a ranked team should move you ahead of someone even if that other team doesn’t lose. Is that so hard to imagine? I know a few other teams beat Ole Miss, but let’s review who they were: Alabama, Auburn, and Texas A&M. Ole Miss has beaten LSU, Texas, and Vanderbilt. Even if you’re not convinced Ole Miss is a good win, let me float this idea: Maybe Clemson shouldn’t have been ahead of Missouri in the first place. This doesn’t convey a highly fundamental misconception of the BCS. Maybe he figured the pollsters would penalize Missouri for what they knew would be a boost in the computers, I don’t know. But wait for it.

> He then mentions South Carolina didn’t lose ground after a similar game. NEITHER DID CLEMSON! He also mentions LSU climbed after beating an FCS opponent “and not just because teams above it lost”. Staying at 13th isn’t climbing. Missouri lost to a team called South Carolina. Guess what Clemson can do if they belong ahead of Missouri?

• But did the (Baylor) Bears‘ loss to Oklahoma State—arguably the hottest team in college football right now and currently ranked seventh—justify dropping from fourth to ninth?

>> Falling 5 spots after being blown out seems reasonable to me. LSU was in the Alabama game until the fourth quarter, and they fell 8 spots. This is the same guy who tries to argue there is a double standard in favor of the SEC. If anything, if you’re further down to begin with, losing to a top team shouldn’t hurt you as much.

>> Another big complaint seems to be that Stanford—which beat Arizona St., Washington, UCLA, and Oregon—passed up the Bears. Let’s review Baylor’s best four wins: Oklahoma… Texas Tech, Buffalo, Kansas St. Utah went downhill since beating Stanford, but they’ve played all the best teams of both divisions (not to mention BYU and Utah St., both of whom they beat) and some of the losses were very close. Stanford just happened to be their lucky game. South Carolina might pass Baylor if they beat Clemson (which would at worst be their second win over a 2-loss team). I think that MAYBE trumps Oklahoma and Texas Tech perhaps?

Michigan State (10-1) is locked into the Big Ten title game, where it will have a chance to earn an automatic BCS bid if it were to beat Ohio State in Indianapolis in two weeks.

>>> And best of luck to them. What’s the problem? Oh, they DIDN’T pass up the likes of Clemson and Baylor. So, the team that stays behind Clemson and Baylor got screwed. Clemson and Baylor also got screwed by not staying ahead of all the teams they had been ahead of. Wow. South Carolina is also ahead. He then mentions how Michigan St. should get more credit for winning its division. Baylor isn’t in a division. Michigan St., unlike Clemson, isn’t in a division with Florida St. Maybe he has a point with South Carolina (which won’t win its division unless Missouri loses to Texas A&M), but not if South Carolina beats Clemson.

Fresno State (10-0) gave its home crowd a powerful sendoff by putting up 69 points against New Mexico on Saturday, getting 820 yards of total offense and seven touchdowns from superstar QB Derek Carr [but fell behind Northern Illinois]… You can probably chalk that up to NIU getting ESPN exposure on weeknights the past two weeks, while FSU was on the lesser-watched CBS Sports Network.

>>>> This is that one shining moment you’ve been waiting for. I seriously doubt a whole lot of voters dropped Fresno St. In fact, their points in both of the BCS polls went UP (maybe a little less than Northern Illinois’); but you know those computers? They don’t get impressed by scores, because the NCAA mandated that the computers couldn’t factor that in. They also don’t care what channel the games were played on. They care that Northern Illinois beat a team with only one other loss (Ball St.) and then another (Toledo) who had been 7-3. Before beating New Mexico (3-8), Fresno St. had a bye week. Those mean computers want you to prevail over actual competition. For shame!

There was some griping about Central Florida and Duke, not completely without merit. But it’s just reality that when it’s 2/3 human polls, they’re not going to start supporting teams that have been out of the spotlight as quickly as you might like. Central Florida wasn’t realistically going to go ahead of undefeated Northern Illinois and Fresno St., but they don’t have to worry about that since all they have to do is win their conference anyway. Duke (with two losses) is behind a few teams with three losses. Maybe they have an argument to be ahead of USC, UCLA, or both; but do we have to pretend the SEC West is roughly equivalent to the ACC Coastal?

Finally, he complains about Cincinnati, with the worst schedule in college football other than possibly Old Dominion, which played mostly FCS schools. Cincinnati was absolutely destroyed by Illinois. The Illini have three other wins, but none of those victories were against teams with a single FBS win of their own. The Bearcats also lost to South Florida, whose one other FBS win was over Connecticut. Cincinnati did beat SMU, Rutgers, and Houston in consecutive weeks, but that doesn’t make up for those losses. The best win before those? 3-7 Memphis.

The same guy also did the bowl projections for this week. I know this will come as a shock to fans of the Stanford Cardinal, but even if they beat Notre Dame, the chances of playing for a national championship are approximately 0. He also assumes Texas will beat that great Baylor team he complains about and play Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl since LSU has three losses. Uhhh, Texas A&M does too; and furthermore, he projects Missouri to beat the Aggies! I had been wondering who to cheer for in this game since I think I might like to see South Carolina play Auburn or Alabama more than Missouri, but it’s clear now. The thought of LSU getting passed up for the Cotton Bowl again despite beating A&M again is a bit frustrating for me, so I’ll be cheering for all three SEC Tiger teams.

Thoughts on Pac-12 expansion

In College Football, Realignment on November 12, 2013 at 8:26 PM
Logos in white boxes represent potential additions.  The red areas are the current South Division, and the blue areas are the current North Division.

Logos in white boxes represent potential additions. The red areas are the current South Division, and the blue areas are the current North Division.

With BYU’s success as an independent team (despite losses to Virginia and Utah, the latter a recent Pac-12 addition), I still think the Cougars would be a good fit for the Pac-12. That’s the real rival for Utah–not Colorado, who doesn’t have a real rival in the Pac-12.

I know the conference is expressing reluctance to expand, but it wasn’t too long ago that it was talking about 16 teams. Also, it doesn’t seem like that long ago that the Pac-10 and Big Ten didn’t want to expand, didn’t want a championship game, and didn’t even want to be involved in the BCS. Both wanted their champion to play in the Rose Bowl and for that to be the end of it. A few conferences seemed happy at 12 but have expanded/are expanding anyway.

I still don’t understand why public “research universities” is such a priority for Pac-12 admission, but people always bring it up. I had never heard much about Utah or Arizona St. (or a couple of the more long-standing Pac-8/10/12 schools) being academic powerhouses. Anyway, I do know BYU is a good school (without so much research maybe), and since they’re unaffiliated and there are two schools in the Rockies unconnected with the rest of the conference, it seems it would fit.

Although I don’t know anything about its standing among other schools academically (promotional materials seem to make their research sound impressive: http://www.depts.ttu.edu/vpr/), Texas Tech would be a good way to expand into the pool of Texas talent since it is in Western Texas, actually not very far to the East (although significantly to the South) of Boulder, Colorado. It was one of those potential additions to the Pac-12 when the Big XII nearly fell into pieces.

How to align the divisions would be a challenge, although I do have an idea of how that could be done. Basically, take the 7 rivalry pairs and put all the more sophisticated schools in one division and the other schools in another. Washington St. and Oregon St. seem a little grittier than Washington and Oregon, the latter two being rivals of one other anyway. Stanford/Cal, USC/UCLA, and BYU/Utah are fairly obvious since the first one of each pair is private and the second public. I don’t think I have to elaborate on why Texas Tech is more rough-around-the-edges than Colorado. Just imagine Boulder, then imagine Lubbock. By reputation, Arizona seems a little more buttoned-down than Arizona St., but I’m not sure that matters either way.

Colorado could have an even better rival in Air Force, although that doesn’t really expand the recruiting base. It may add to fan interest though. The service academies have fans scattered all over. Of course, Air Force also regularly played BYU and Utah when all three were in the Mountain West and WAC. The team right now is pretty bad though. You don’t always want to focus on the short term, but I think that would be a meaningful concern. The Pac-12 doesn’t want another doormat.

Boise St. doesn’t have much of an academic profile, but that would seem to make for an easy transition. The Broncos already have the talent and interest to compete, and it would be natural to add them to the Pac-12 North and BYU to the Pac-12 South. I still think teams in Colorado and Utah being in the South seems a little off, but my understanding is everyone not in California wants to play in California at least once a year.

Fresno St., UNLV, San Diego St., and San Jose St. could be other possibilities if academics aren’t a priority. UNLV and San Diego are big unexploited media markets for major college football (and in the case of UNLV, there are no major professional sports in the area either). I’m not sure how much San Jose St. and Fresno St. would add, so they’re probably least likely, but they make obvious geographical sense. There are half a million people in Fresno and no major sports in the surrounding area, where arguably another half a million people or more live. San Jose St. isn’t very far from Stanford, but not everyone is a Stanford person.

Another possibility I thought of was Hawaii, which apparently does have some research credentials, but that program has crashed and burned since June Jones and Colt Brennan left the islands, so it has some of the same problems as Air Force, except I think Air Force has better road fans. Logistics aren’t very favorable for Hawaii either, of course.

Nebraska is a long-shot, but I thought it worth mentioning. I don’t think the Big Ten is quite what the Huskers signed up for. If they have to play a 9-game conference schedule and travel to one of the coasts, why not the Pacific Coast instead? With Colorado, at least they would get one of their traditional rivals back. Maybe if they joined along with Texas Tech, that would be the best way of including new teams in a more logical way.

As to how the divisional alignment would work, Utah could just be switched to the North and keep playing Colorado as a permanent opponent (or “protected series”, as the Big Ten calls it). Berkeley is about the same distance away as Tempe (Arizona St. is the second-closest Pac-12 South opponent for the Utes) is anyway. Nebraska would also help out the competitive balance in the long-run. I’m sure that would be a really expensive proposition though.

LSU/Alabama Pre-Game + Projected Top 10

In College Football, General LSU, Post-game, Rankings Commentary on November 8, 2013 at 4:46 PM
LSU has won 5 of their last 6 games at Bryant-Denny Stadium and is 8-4 there since 1988.

LSU has won 5 of their last 6 games at Bryant-Denny Stadium and is 8-4 there since 1988.

A lot of people are going to be looking for this (and I give more information about the things I’m going to discuss here): LSU/Alabama Rivalry blog.

I also wanted to list the other posts this week in case you missed any (I usually don’t post so much in a short period of time):
My Top 25
Week 10 Conference Report
All-Blogger Poll Week 10

As to how I feel about this game, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. LSU really needs a big win right now, and I’m not all that optimistic (though a close win would not shock me). I think the win over Alabama in 2010 was what eventually kick-started 2011. Before the game, a lot of people thought Alabama could knock off Auburn that year (which they nearly did) and return to the championship game.

Alabama has only beaten LSU two in a row, the same number LSU had won before that, but it doesn’t feel that way. The bowl game in 2011 was a punch to the gut. I don’t know if LSU has ever had that kind of win over Alabama. I guess I can see an argument for 1993, when LSU was mediocre on a good day and Alabama lost its first game in almost 2 years. I can’t even think of any other candidates though, and that’s not quite the same thing anyway. When you win the year before, it’s not such a disaster. If LSU had won in 2011, the 2012 season wouldn’t have bothered me at all. But it wasn’t just that it took away the national championship that seemed so well within reach, it was also that it basically erased the regular-season win. So that was like two wins in one for Alabama, not to mention that the Tide had another national championship to brag about at LSU’s expense.

Then last year, LSU was probably one first down (or one fourth-down stop) away from beating Alabama. I think that just further cemented a feeling of helplessness that we could outplay them for that much of a game and still lose. It was a flashback to how people older than me described the series before I was born. It didn’t seem to matter how good of a team the Tigers had or how well they played, Alabama seemed to find a way to win. LSU hasn’t snatched away a victory like that anytime recently from Alabama. So the circumstances of those games were so much worse than just happening to lose to a big rival two games in a row.

During the early to mid-2000s, LSU mostly just tried to keep anything exciting from happening and wore out the Tide. Alabama was never in a position where they should have won in the first place (with the possible exception of 2007—more below). The Tide did lead 10-0 in 2005, but LSU tied it with over 20 minutes left in regulation. So other than that overtime game where a three-point deficit is normally considered a good thing (absent some kicking mishap or a ridiculous loss of yardage, the worst that happens is generally another OT), you have to go back to 1988 to find a game where Alabama was leading in the closing seconds only to lose. LSU won that game by a point with a 34-yard field goal following a 68-yard, 149-second drive. The winning points were scored with only 29 seconds left in the game.

Interestingly enough, 2011, 2005, and 1988 were all at Alabama. LSU’s loss last season and the OT loss in 2008 were both at home. Also, that 1993 game I mentioned was at Alabama. Alabama has dominated the series generally, but even when they kept LSU winless at home in the series from 1969 to 2000 (exclusive), the Tigers still won 7 times at Alabama during that time span.

The 2010 game was at LSU, but a similarly crucial game for the Tigers was at Alabama: 2007 after the overtime loss to Kentucky. Had LSU lost that game, it’s actually possible that Les Miles wouldn’t have made it past the 2008 season. I doubt the Tigers would have handled Arkansas (their second triple-overtime loss that season) any better by losing to Alabama, and the season before was good enough for Tiger fans to suffer through a losing conference record in 2008 and four losses (including the clock-management blunder against Ole Miss) in 2009.

2008 might have been an example of what would have happened. When LSU lost in OT to Alabama that season, they barely beat Troy the next week (after rallying from a 31-3 deficit) then lost big to Ole Miss and lost a close game against a losing Arkansas team.

Alabama ended up being the one whose season fell apart instead in 2007, but the Tide had entered that game ranked #17, and didn’t go down easily. Alabama scored 24 unanswered points to take a 10-point lead with just over 16 minutes left in the game and led with as little as three minutes remaining. I guess that’s the closest LSU came to doing what Alabama did last year since 1988.

I’m not saying LSU is not going to show up the rest of the season if the Tigers lose this one or that all hope will be lost for the future, but it could be a sign of the program starting to go downhill: maybe something along the lines of what happened to Tennessee in the last 10-15 years, or what happened to Alabama between Stallings and Saban, or what happened to LSU between 1989 and 1999. Alabama getting a third win in a row in this series would really give them the upper hand going forward, in momentum, with fan and alumni support, and in recruiting. You’re never safe in this conference. At some point, it becomes, “What have you done lately?” The Alabama program, in teenage recruits’ minds especially, is being seen as more and more of a national championship program, and the LSU program is being seen as less and less of one.

Regardless of what LSU does, the national championship probably won’t be on the table like it was in 2007 — even a BCS bowl (what will we even call them next season?) might be hard to accomplish — but having 3 losses (however close) before even playing Texas A&M or going to a bowl game is going to be hard to swallow.

Also, on a lighter note, Oregon wants Bama according to their T-shirts, so we should do our best to make sure the Tide aren’t in the BCS championship game.

Projected Top 10

With the significant top-10 results yesterday, I decided to project the top 10 at the conclusion of the week. I just computed my formula with bye weeks for the teams who haven’t already played and who would not be (or play) a top-10 team. Part of the projection is the teams who are in the top 10 lists and who do play tomorrow would win. Since Alabama is playing a somewhat highly rated team, I did another projection of what it would probably look like with LSU winning.

Projected top 10 if the remaining top 10 teams all win:
1. Florida St.
2. Stanford
3. Alabama
4. Auburn
5. Ohio St.
6. Baylor
7. Missouri
8. Miami
9. Clemson
10. Notre Dame
(LSU would probably fall out of the top 25.)

Projected top 10 if LSU beats Alabama and remaining top 10 teams win:
1. Florida St.
2. Stanford
3. Auburn
4. Ohio St.
5. Baylor
6. Missouri
7. Miami
8. Alabama
9. Clemson
10. Notre Dame
(LSU would probably be #13 behind Fresno St. and Oregon.)

Keep in mind Notre Dame has a bye week next week, so their place in the top 10 would probably be highly temporary if they win Saturday in the first place. Remember also that Pitt was about a 30-yard field goal attempt away from beating the Irish last year. Also, another Michigan loss (they play Nebraska) would hurt the Irish, possibly enough to allow Fresno St. and Oregon to remain ahead of them. Oregon is very close to Fresno St., so it’s also possible that other results would keep the Ducks ahead of both Fresno St. and Notre Dame. Miami will most likely be in the top 10 with a win regardless of other games, but Clemson could get passed up

South Carolina and Michigan St. (as well as Ohio St., Clemson, and Fresno St.) are idle this week and obviously Oklahoma has already played, so absent a slew of losses, they won’t be able to jump over many teams. There is a somewhat sizeable gap between 15 and 16, so I don’t expect any team who is not currently in the top 15 to have much of a shot at the top 10.

Don’t cry for the SEC too much if it doesn’t have a team in the top 2. Alabama plays Auburn, which should help out the winner a lot, and one of them will in all likelihood play for the SEC title.

College Football Top 25 Week 4 (+ LSU post-game comments)

In College Football, General LSU, History, Post-game, Rankings, Rankings Commentary on September 23, 2013 at 5:05 PM

LSU post-game
In one of the least-exciting college football weeks I remember, thankfully the LSU-Auburn game was no exception. The Fighting Tigers went out to a 21-0 lead, and the lead was never fewer than 14 points after that.

I realized there were some errors in my LSU-Auburn rivalry blog, so check that out if you’re interested. This game shows up in the series record books in a couple of places. LSU has now won 6 of 7 against Auburn for the third time ever and for the first time since it became an annual series in 1992. (For its part, Auburn had a 5-1 run that ended in 1994.) The rivalry has definitely lost its luster in recent years, but from 1980 to 2011, the two programs were 12-12 against one another, so it’s still a competitive rivalry in the big picture.

The contest on Saturday would have been the largest point total of any LSU-Auburn game in history (they have traditionally been low-scoring) had LSU successfully kicked a field goal in the third quarter rather than faking unsuccessfully (and all other scoring proceeded in the same way). I thought the fake was stupid. That’s something that you draw up but keep for a more important moment in a later game. Also, Les never seems to factor in how many yards are needed. If it were 4th and 6 instead of 4th and 10 (and the other qualification were met), that would have been an outstanding play.

Zach Mettenberger suffered an interception, his first of the season, although it did hit the LSU receiver in the hands (he just didn’t wrestle the ball away and the defender did). But 14 for 22 isn’t a bad percentage. The defense did well, although there seemed to be an overall lack of enthusiasm in the second half. I liked to see the improvement relative to the TCU game in third down defense. Not only did LSU hold Auburn to 6/17 on third downs, they also held them to 1/5 on fourth downs. So 11 times they stopped Auburn on third down and 4 times they stopped them again. There was some sloppiness–two turnovers, a bunch of procedural penalties, for instance–but hopefully we can blame at least some of it on the rain. I also liked that LSU only allowed 19 total return yards for the game, in contrast with the 169 return yards given up to TCU.

Next up is the first SEC road game, this time against Georgia, Zach’s former school. I’m hopeful, but things can definitely go wrong in a hurry in that stadium. It’s games like this were I almost miss the days were I was just happy to see LSU win a game; and if they played a big game like this, I was just happy for the opportunity for a big win rather than dreading the possibility of a loss. The way things are now, no matter how much success comes after a loss, “but we lost” is still in the back of my mind. If we lose a second game, then the season is pretty much over (barring a repeat of 2007 anyway). If I get time, I may write about the LSU-Georgia series, although it has been played relatively seldom.

Les Miles has only lost twice in the month of September with LSU, the first time in his first game as head coach in Tiger Stadium in 2005. The second time was @Auburn in that 7-3 game in 2006. LSU won its most-recent trip to Georgia in 2009. LSU entered the game with a 4-0 record and Georgia entered the game at 3-1. (The respective records this year are 4-0 and 2-1.)

Top 25

rank / team / prior

1 Alabama 1
2 Ohio St. 2
3 Oregon 3
4 Stanford 4
5 LSU 5
6 Clemson 6
7 Georgia 7
8 Louisville 8
9 S Carolina 9
10 TX A&M 10
11 Oklahoma 11
12 Washington 12
13 Florida St. 13
14 Miami 14
15 Ole Miss 15
16 Michigan 16
17 N’western 17
18 Okie St. 18
19 UCLA 19
20 Auburn 20
21 Texas Tech 21
22 Baylor 22
23 Florida 25
24 Notre Dame —
25 Fresno St. —

Out of rankings: (23) Mich. St., (24) Wisconsin

Prior rankings:
Preseason
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3

Bring Back the Big West

In Bowls, College Football, Realignment on December 8, 2012 at 10:04 AM

Even though this could have been the promising first year of a reorganized respectable second-tier conference, the WAC as we used to know it seems pretty much dead. All the football members have left or are leaving apart from Idaho and New Mexico St.

As recently as 1995, the top three WAC teams of this year, Louisiana Tech, Utah St., and San Jose St., all competed in the Big West. Nevada, UNLV, and New Mexico St. were also in that conference, and Boise St. joined (along with Idaho) in 1996.

Which got me thinking… since there won’t be a WAC, why can’t there be a Big West in football again? I can’t think of a good reason. In football, the Big East is doing so much expanding from the area near the Mississippi River all the way to Boise and San Diego, so that can incorporate these teams while the rest of the conference can keep operating as it is already, with some possible quality expansion in other sports.

These were the teams in the WAC in 1995:
Air Force
BYU
Colorado St.
Fresno St.
Hawaii
New Mexico
San Diego St.
Utah
UTEP
Wyoming

Boise St. and San Diego St. are actually going to be in the Big West in other sports, and Hawaii is already there. I imagine Utah St. and San Jose St. (which appear to be headed to the Mountain West) could be brought back with just the foundation I’ve mentioned so far. BYU left the Mountain West to become independent in football (WCC in other sports, which makes less sense than the Big West would), but no currently AQ-conference has offered them a spot, and they’re naturals to be playing the likes of Boise St. and Utah St., both of which they’ve played this season.

The East-West alliance along the lines of the previously-discussed MWC-CUSA idea didn’t work out because of all the existing obligations (essentially schools could then leave without buyout fees and without paying the conference shares of post-season revenue), but all those problems aren’t here since administratively, it would still really be the Big East.

Louisiana Tech is a definite for the Conference USA, but that’s fine because they were too far to the East for the WAC anyway. The Big West football conference did extend into Arkansas and Louisiana briefly (inlcluding Louisiana Tech and UL-Lafayette, then known as the University of Southwestern Louisiana). There is a bit of a central region in the Big East as well that could provide the anticipated mega-conference some flexibility, so they’re not completely out of the question later.

The Big East has already announced plans to include Memphis, Tulane, SMU, and Houston. With the quality Western teams available, I would think Memphis and Tulane would be playing in the true Big East (by which I mean teams that would be in the Big East in other sports and in the Eastern division in football), but SMU and Houston would be good opponents for them as well. If only one of the four goes out West (in the even both Cincinnati and Connecticut find other conferences), then SMU and Houston could still be permanent opponents.

The only teams left from a couple of years ago (to make up the core of the true Big East) will be Connecticut, Cincinnati, and South Florida.

So this is what I’m thinking as a possible alignment…

Big East Big West
Central Florida Boise St.
Cincinnati BYU
Connecticut Hawaii
East Carolina Houston
Memphis Nevada
South Florida San Diego St.
Temple SMU
Tulane UNLV
Future possibilities Future possibilities
Army Air Force
Louisiana Tech San Jose St.
Navy* Utah St.

*-Navy is already set to join in 2015.

Apart from Navy, the Western future possibilities are more likely in the event of more shuffling of the Eastern teams. The ACC or Big Ten could take teams from the East if they want to go to 16. If the SEC goes to 16, they would likely come from the ACC, which will probably want to replace those two. So if two teams are lost from the Eastern division, they could be replaced by SMU and Houston, whose spots in the Western division could be taken by San Jose St. and Utah St. I could also see SMU and Houston joining the Big XII to make it… wait for it, 12 teams. Then you could simply replace them with San Jose St. and Utah St. Air Force (who could of course be a permanent opponent of Navy) seems like another reasonable possibility

To balance out possible unfairness from permanent opponents, I would be in favor of only counting divisional play toward picking the contestants for the championship game, but this would not rule out one or two games against teams from the other side during the season. If Air Force and Navy were in different divisions, they would still need to play one another. I don’ t know if Army is a possibility, but just for instance, it might be that if all the Commander-in-Chief teams are in this conference, two permanent opponents would be needed. That can’t really be done if it counts as an equal conference game. Other programs may not prefer to play any inter-divisional games.

Also, if circumstances change (which seems to happen every couple of months), maybe there could be too much interest in the East and not enough in the West. Then, you could easily have Memphis and/or Tulane move to the West.

I guess we can expect the Mountain West to have a number of members suitable for a round-robin format, which is sort of why it was created around the turn of the 21st century. So in addition to the three programs mentioned as future possibilities for the Big West, the Mountain West membership includes Wyoming, Colorado St., Fresno St., and New Mexico. I started this off by mentioning Idaho and New Mexico St. They could fit right in if some of the defections take place. Another possibility would be UTEP, which is less than an hour away from New Mexico St. West Texas might be a place to make recruiting inroads. Of course, the Big East is already going to be in East Texas.

Idaho isn’t quite as great of a fit for either conference, but another possibility for Idaho is to go back to the Big Sky, which may also house future FBS programs, by the way.

Anyway, there are definitely suitable teams for an 8-10-team Mountain West as well as an 8-team Big West to be part of the football Big East.

The bowl policies are interesting here. The Fiesta Bowl currently is the Big XII champion’s default destination, but that is going to be the Sugar under the SEC-Big XII contract, so that will open up. Maybe the winner of the football Big East could play there, even if the winner were from the East. An Eastern team might be good enough for the Orange Bowl in some years, but nothing would rule out a Pac-12 or Big XII #2 team playing the MWC champions in the Fiesta Bowl if it worked out that way. I don’t think the MWC under what I’m envisioning would be a fixture in the major bowls, but there may be some years where that would be appropriate. The Cotton Bowl also seems to be taking on increasing importance, but one would think that would be a common location of the SEC-Big XII bowl in the years where the Sugar is a semifinal bowl. In other years, the football Big East might be a good fit as well, regardless of which division the winner comes from.

The Big East doesn’t have to be an unmitigated coast-to-coast disaster, but I’m afraid that is a possibility without the kind of clear direction I would like to see it have with the Western teams. Funny that just a could years ago, many (myself included) were thinking the solution might just be to make the MWC an AQ in lieu of the Big East or simply to remove the Big East from AQ status to make room for more MWC or WAC teams. Now I’m talking about a lot of the teams in question being in the same conference somehow.

#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.

Week 2 Top 25

In College Football, Rankings on September 14, 2011 at 9:07 PM

A little more complicated this week. #25 was a close call. I went with TCU because they had a convincing win over a challenging team on the road (Air Force) after a 2-point loss to a challenging team on the road (Baylor). I didn’t rank Baylor or Air Force in preseason, but both probably would have been in my top 35. But the fact that these two games were on the road helped to encourage me to give TCU the edge over Auburn even though TCU has a loss and Auburn doesn’t. I do think TCU played the clearly better game in Week 1. The two teams each went undefeated last year and had very few returning starters, so they were comparable. Auburn of course will have many more chances to prove itself, and we’ll see how well it does on the road and whether the Utah St. or Mississippi St. game was an aberration. I’m not sure which, and also, Mississippi St. may not be as good as I originally projected (although I expect tomorrow’s game will be worth watching).

Nos. 21-24 each had a narrow win (2 in the case of USC) but no losses. Penn St. and Oregon are the only other teams with a loss, but I didn’t think they were losses that showed any inaccuracy in the prior rankings. The same is arguably true of BYU, whom I considered retaining, but the combination of a 1-point win over Ole Miss (who I question as being a good team) and a 1-point loss to Texas (which is a developing team, I would say) seemed to be worse than the other teams in that vicinity.

Other than moving losing teams out, the only other slight adjustment made was moving Nebraska down two spots. The Huskers had a very close game against Fresno St. until the closing seconds, while Wisconsin and Oklahoma St. each won in impressive fashion against respectable Pac-12 programs (although Oregon St. of course lost to FCS/I-AA team Sacramento St. in Week 1).

At this point, I’m not penalizing those teams who haven’t had a quality opponent, but that will begin to change next week. Also, I will give less weight to how close the games were as we progress toward early October, when I begin to use strict mathematical computations.

rank / team / prior
1 LSU 1
2 Oklahoma 2
3 Alabama 3
4 Oregon 4
5 Florida St. 5
6 Texas A&M 6
7 Va. Tech 7
8 Arkansas 8
9 Stanford 9
10 Wisconsin 11
11 Okie St. 12
12 Nebraska 10
13 Boise St. 13
14 S Carolina 14
15 Mich St. 16
16 Penn St. 18
17 Florida 19
18 Texas Tech 20
19 W Virginia 21
20 Maryland 22
21 Baylor —
22 Texas 17
23 USC 23
24 Arizona St. —
25 TCU —

Out of rankings: (15)Mississippi St., (24) BYU, (25) Utah

Prior rankings:

Week 1
Preseason

More Conference Changes? + My Bowl Projections

In College Basketball, College Football, Realignment on November 29, 2010 at 6:19 PM

Surprise, surprise, TCU is changing conferences again.

The Horned Frogs will join their fourth conference since the dissolution of the SWC in 1996. First, it joined the WAC superconference. Shortly after the MWC teams left the WAC, it moved to the CUSA. Then it jumped to the MWC. Now it will be in the Big East, starting in 2012.

I understand that football teams must start in a new conference by 2012 in order for its statistics to count in the new conference for BCS purposes. The current evaluation period is between 2008 and 2011.

It has driven me crazy that a team in Fort Worth, TX, belonged to the Mountain West Conference since they joined, but they’re moving to a conference that, at least as compared to the current MWC, makes even less sense geographically.

Plus, TCU has a basketball team, so that will be 17 members of the Big East. That’s beyond ridiculous. I think they should make it two separate conferences for the purposes of other sports. Will there now be a play-in game to reach the 1st round of the basketball tournament, where the four winners then get a chance TO PLAY FOR a spot in the quarterfinals?

The travel times listed below are based on Google Maps driving directions.

TCU will leave a conference whose closest rival was 10 hours, 19 minutes away to join one whose closest rival will be 13 hours, 48 minutes away. (South Florida, in Tampa, may be closer in the air than Louisville, but I’m not sure.)

The longest trip will be 28 hours away (it doesn’t give minutes when you go over 24 hours). In the MWC as currently constituted, the longest trip (San Diego St.) was 21 hours, 19 minutes.

But to be fair, it could have gotten worse had TCU stayed. Boise will be 26 hours away, but Hawaii (if they choose to join the MWC) would have been even farther away, about 2900 miles, almost 1200 more than the distance to Connecticut. There is of course no driving time to Hawaii. Confirmed new additions to the MWC, Nevada and Fresno St., would have also been farther away than any current MWC team.

Obviously, there are other reasons, but it’s interesting that three teams have now left the MWC since it was announced that Boise St. was joining. No one wants to play them, unless it’s another team that wants to go out its way to prove itself (I’m sure Fresno St., for instance, was happy to follow them to the MWC).

As I referenced in the second paragraph, I also read that apparently these moves are all about jockeying for automatic qualifier status. TCU’s BCS appearance last year will count toward the Big East, Boise’s will count toward the Mountain West, and Utah’s in the 2008 season will count toward the Pac-10.

Hawaii’s BCS appearnce in the 2007 season apparently doesn’t matter, so the WAC could really be deprived even if Hawaii stays. The WAC might be the new Sun Belt when all is said and done. Idaho, Utah St., and New Mexico St. were all Sun Belt teams at one point, incidentally. San Jose St. isn’t much better. Louisiana Tech (another severely out-of-place team) actually won the WAC in their first season in the conference, but it’s been pretty much downhill since then. Those five teams are the only ones left if Hawaii also leaves. Maybe they’ll add some California FCS teams, but I think the last thing we need is more FBS teams. The Sun Belt is getting bloated, maybe a some of them will go out West (there are two Louisiana teams and one Texas team who might go well with Louisiana Tech).

The Sun Belt is currently scheduled to have 10 football teams with the addition of South Alabama in 2013. I don’t know if Denver plans to field a football team, but they are moving to the WAC, where BYU will also play in sports other than football.

The Big East is also considering adding Central Florida and Villanova, should the latter choose to move up to FBS. Central Florida would increase the number of basketball teams to 18.

I don’t know if there is any interest in bringing Temple back to the Big East, but that would be a more logical fit than the MAC, especially since the Owls have been improved in the last couple of years. It would also be a good basketball program to add, though its previous membership in the Big East was football-only. Temple would also of course be a natural rival with Villanova. The teams have already played each other multiple times in recent years and have an intense basketball rivalry.

Bowl projections

National championship:
Oregon vs. Auburn

I don’t think either team will have it easy this week, but I expect both to come out on top. I just don’t think the opposition is good enough. On the other hand, just ask Bobby Bowden how tough it is to face a rematch with Steve Spurrier.

A Pac-10 or Big Ten national-championship-game team would automatically send TCU to the Rose Bowl. It’s not right for Stanford, but that’s the breaks. So the Rose Bowl doesn’t really get to pick a team.

So there is the second match-up: Wisconsin (projected Big Ten champion based on BCS standings) vs. TCU.

This would probably leave an automatic #4, probably Stanford, Oklahoma or Nebraska as the Big XII champions, Virginia Tech or Florida St. as the ACC champions, and probably either Connecticut or West Virginia (Pitt would only make it if both lose) as the Big East champions. This leaves open the possibility of two non-automatic at-large teams.

The Sugar Bowl gets the first two real picks, the replacement for Auburn and the regular first pick. I think they’d definitely pick Arkansas (leaving only one other non-automatic slot). They might like to pick the Big XII champion, but they’re contractually obligated to the Fiesta Bowl, so my guess is they knock out that last non-automatic spot and pick Ohio St. The Buckeyes were in a New Orleans bowl game in 2007 (the national championship game), but I still think the team and fan base are the most attractive option. I don’t think there is enough of a gap between Stanford and Ohio St. to ignore all the other positives for Ohio St.

So there is our third match-up: Ohio St. vs. Arkansas

The Orange Bowl will have the ACC champion automatically, and they’ll get to pick a second team. Especially if it’s Connecticut, I don’t think they’d want the Big East team instead, so my guess here would be they’d take Stanford. Even if WVU wins the Big East, I don’t know if you pick a team that’s 20 spots worse because their fans are better.

So the fourth match-up: ACC vs. Stanford

The Fiesta Bowl will automatically get the Big XII champion, and they’d be stuck with the Big East Champion, assuming no one else selects that team.

Fifth match-up: Big XII vs. Big East

Select other bowl projections:
CapitalOne: LSU vs. Michigan St.
Cotton: Oklahoma St. vs. Alabama
Outback: South Carolina vs. Penn St.
Peach: Virginia Tech vs. Florida or Florida St. vs. Mississippi St.
Gator: Florida or Mississippi St. vs. Illinois or Iowa (The Ron Zook Bowl sounds interesting, but if it’s Mississippi St., they might go with Iowa instead)
Alamo: Texas A&M vs. Arizona
Insight Bowl: Nebraska vs. Michigan
Texas Bowl: Baylor vs. Illinois or Iowa
Holiday Bowl: Missouri vs. Washington
Champs Sports Bowl: Notre Dame vs. U. Miami (I don’t know why they’d pass that game up, I don’t care how bad Miami looked against South Florida)

I also think it would be interesting if maybe the Sun Bowl (which used to be somewhat important) matched Notre Dame and Boise St., since there aren’t enough Pac-10 teams and Notre Dame can go to the Big East bowls, but Notre Dame would probably prefer not to play Boise St. anyway. It would be a shame for Boise St. to have to play a team that’s even worse than that. Boise St./Utah would be a good out-west game (the Las Vegas Bowl would be a possibility, since that’s another open Pac-10 spot), but Boise might be possessive and the Broncos could be stuck on the blue field for the Humanitarian Bowl.