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Posts Tagged ‘UAB’

SEC Wednesday #1 (Delayed)

In College Football, Me, SEC Wednesdays on October 1, 2015 at 2:32 PM

I said this would be a Wednesday thing (obviously); but I couldn’t concentrate, and there is no point posting in the middle of the night.

A friend and somewhat of a fan of my content passed away at the age of 28, and it’s been extremely hard to focus on anything.  I mentioned this on twitter (@TheBayouBlogger) and you can find out his name from there.  Just out of sensitivity for his family I don’t want to post his picture or elaborate further on his identity.  He was a big FSU fan, so that’s why I say “somewhat”. He really wanted them in the top 10.  I will miss his perspective and support.

I'm hardly a visual computer artist, but you get the idea.

I’m hardly a visual computer artist, but you get the idea.

Anyway, Saturday started about as well as I could have hoped as far as predictions.  The first four games went exactly as I’d predicted.  South Carolina went just past the line, Alabama fell just short of it.  LSU fell a little more short of it than I’d hoped, and Georgia beat Southern (ESPN didn’t have a line on that one).

Then it all came crashing down.  After my good luck was snapped by Florida’s comeback, I got all of the remaining picks against the spread wrong to finish 3-5 for the day.

I only got two other of the winners wrong (I had picked Missouri and Auburn), so in that category I was 6-3.

The first two partly hinge on ones reaction to the 52-20 Georgia win over South Carolina.  I’m going to fault South Carolina for being bad rather than credit Georgia for being great.  Central Florida is absolutely atrocious, and the Cocks were lucky to win on a neutral field against North Carolina.  So I’m taking Missouri minus the points.  They may only win by 3 like they beat Connecticut (even though they had a 90+ yard drive during which they failed to score), but I still think they may be another somewhat late-blooming team like last season.  Anyway, even 3 is still better than the line.

So since I’m not heaping praise upon Georgia, I also have a feeling Alabama will win that one (though I’d love if the Tide never won a game again the rest of the year).

Saban doesn’t lose two conference games in a row, at least apart from his first year at Alabama in 2007.  He didn’t lose consecutive conference games at LSU even once, although he did lose to Auburn and UAB in consecutive weeks in his first year (2000).

Anyway, speaking of Auburn, I’ll pick them to win.  However, they were so far away from the line the last few weeks, there are probably only about 15 teams in the whole FBS I’d pick them to beat by 20.  2-2 San José St. isn’t one of them.  The Spartans did lose to Air Force by 21, and that’s probably where that line comes from, but only after the Falcons scored 20 points in the fourth quarter.  I’m just not seeing a similar offensive output from Auburn.

I’m going to take my lesson from previous games and resist the temptation to take a road favorite against the line, especially when it’s 7.5 like the Ole Miss/Florida line is.  Last year, Ole Miss was #3 and they visited a team who was ranked #24.  That team was LSU, and LSU not only kept it within 7 but won.  I don’t pick Ole Miss to lose this one because despite the final record LSU was a bit better last year than Florida is this year, but I will take the Gators and the points.

Tennessee is favored by 6.5 over Arkansas, and even though they’re at home, I’m taking the underdog again.  Arkansas is having a bad year, and Tennessee may do all right.  But the Hogs gave A&M all they could handle, and I don’t think the Vols can run away (or throw away?) with it like Texas Tech did.  I will pick Tennessee to win though.

This brings me to LSU, who is favored by 44.5.  It’s rare that LSU beats anyone by that much, but they did beat NMSU and Sam Houston St. by 56 apiece last year.  In 2013, they only beat UAB by 39, but what sold it for me is late last year Western Michigan even beat the Eagles by 44.  So it is a generally insane margin, but I think LSU will more likely than not beat it.  EMU is a team that gave up 58 points to Army (who scored 17 and 14, respectively, in the Cadets’ other games against FBS opponents).  Les Miles does take his foot off the gas at times, so there is some hesitation; but LSU could score over 50 without even trying particularly hard, and I don’t see the defense giving up more than a score or two.

Next up is Vanderbilt.  At least they’re not a favored road team. The Commodores have done better than I would have expected in their last three games, and they did better than they were supposed to in Week 1 (I just wish they could have gotten that 2-point conversion and won in overtime).  I’ll take Vandy and the point and a half.  I’ll even take them to win.

Another team that keeps surprising me is Mississippi St.  I definitely would not give seven points in that one, but I think the 12th man gives the Aggies another close win.

There is no line for the FBS/FCS games, but of course I’m picking Kentucky over Eastern Kentucky.

In  sum:

To win – Missouri, Alabama, Auburn, Ole Miss, Tennessee, LSU, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Kentucky

Spread – Missouri -2.5, Alabama +2, San José St. +20, Florida +7.5, Arkansas +6.5, LSU -44.5, Vanderbilt +1.5, Mississippi St. +7

Exorcise the Saban Ghost

In College Football, General LSU, History on November 19, 2014 at 3:03 PM

People talk about ghosts of Tiger Stadium (which turns 90 on Tuesday, by the way). Usually it’s positives like Billy Cannon’s Halloween Run in 1959, the 1988 Earthquake Game against Auburn, the five fourth-down conversions against Florida in 2007. There were a couple of other classics against those opponents and others.

There have also been negatives. One negative was when the Tigers went 30 years without a win against Alabama at home. Even though Bear was only there for about the first 1/3 of that time, it was like his ghost was still on the sidelines, pushing the Tide to victory in a way that it wasn’t even present in the state of Alabama.

Other than the national championship, one of the main things I’m grateful for from Saban’s tenure is the fact that he had two home wins over Alabama, the first of which ended that long streak. Neither win came against a great Alabama team, but that wasn’t important. Just like it wasn’t important how young this LSU team was or how well Ole Miss had played in previous games this season.

In January, it will have been ten years since Nick Saban coached an LSU team.

In January, it will have been ten years since Nick Saban coached an LSU team.

Under Miles, things against Alabama started even better. After winning two games over Mike Shula’s teams (I also find it kind of funny that Miami is the team Saban came from due to that last name), Miles won three of his first five games against Saban. If Miles had left after 7 seasons, he’d be known the guy who (unlike Saban) actually beat a number of good Alabama teams at LSU. (In addition to the three wins over Saban, LSU beat a previously unbeaten, 4th-ranked Alabama team in 2005.)

The ghost of Bear might be gone now, but now there is a living ghost in the collective psyche of LSU fans by the name of Nick Saban. Some still openly regret the fact that he’d left and wanted him to come back. I’ve heard from multiple sources there was a group of boosters who thought they could get Saban back if Miles were to leave. Others bitterly resent what they see as his betrayal of LSU by going to Alabama.

I believe like most supposedly supernatural phenomena, this ghost is present in our minds only to the extent we allow it to be, but it’s been really hard to shake since 1/9/12, that fateful day that ended what would have been LSU’s first undefeated season since 1958 (although LSU still won two more games in 2011 than it had in 1958). It also prematurely ended what should have been at least 24 consecutive months of bragging rights over the Tide and gave Alabama another national championship to rub everyone’s noses in.

To backtrack a bit, I want to note that very few people mind the fact that he went to Miami. He had rejected many NFL offers out of respect for LSU, and he was still of the age that it made sense to give it a try. Also Wayne Huizenga, the owner of the Dolphins, had bent over backwards to accommodate Saban’s every contractual demand.

The betrayal was going to Alabama. Alabama may not have ever put too much emphasis on beating LSU, but the same could not be said of LSU’s priorities. Of course, Alabama was not what it once was in 2007, but I think most LSU fans knew it would only be dormant for so long. For the catalyst of Alabama’s return to be Nick Saban was the ultimate slap in the face.

Both LSU and Michigan St. (his two stops before his brief experiment with NFL head coaching) fans took part in derogatory chants against Saban a couple of weeks ago. The Michigan St. fans did it when Chris Fowler interviewed Saban by satellite (if that’s even still the technology used), and the LSU fans did so in person when the Tide came to Tiger Stadium.

What annoys me more though is the perception by some that LSU and Michigan St. owe any success in the last few years to Saban. I wanted to set the record straight on some things, because Saban did not have anything close to the kind of improvement or level of consistency he’s had at Alabama since 2008.

I could probably write a book about all the things I like and don’t like about him and my observations of him as a person and a coach over the last 20 years (I clearly remember Michigan St. both before he took the job and during his time there), but I just want to focus on what exactly changed at Michigan St. and LSU when you look at the results on the field. I also want to consider the argument or suggestion that if he’d stayed at LSU, the LSU football team would be what Alabama has been over the last five seasons.

Saban’s last year at Michigan St. was a good one; but before that, his teams were just about as mediocre as they were under his predecessor there (although to be fair, 6-5-1 and 6-6 at least aren’t losing seasons, which his predecessor had suffered a couple of times). Still, Saban’s second-best season there was only 7-5.

I don’t want to dwell on Michigan St. too much — his last season there was 15 years ago — but in his first season gone, they went right back to 5-6, which they had finished the year before Saban started there. That was a long-term impact of approximately 0. In fact, you can go out even further. In the five years before Saban, Michigan St. won 48% of its games. In the five years after he left, Michigan St. won 48% of its games. What are fans today supposed to thank him for again? Other than memories of the 1999 Citrus Bowl?

It doesn’t take a great coach to have a single ten-win season in five years. I don’t think any major programs are beating down the doors of Will Muschamp, Larry Coker, Gerry DiNardo (Saban’s full-time predecessor), or even Gene Chizik, who has a national championship to his credit. Another example from the SEC, David Cutcliffe, took a long time to get back into a head coaching job despite having led Ole Miss to its best season in decades in 2003.

Saban did step things up in his fourth and fifth years at LSU, but the Tigers had a combined 12 losses in his first three years. The conference championship in 2001 was a fluke. How often has the SEC champion had three conference losses? How often does the SEC champion have a loss by 29 points at home?

LSU had worse in the previous two seasons than Michigan St. had had immediately before Saban but had two season of the previous four with wins of 9 games or more, whereas the last time Michigan St. had won even 8 games was five seasons before Saban got there.

LSU likely had better athletes to start with. After being a dormant program for 6 seasons, DiNardo did have some initial success. In his first season, he led the Tigers to only their second bowl win in 16 years, and it was over Saban’s first Michigan St. team. This was followed by a 19-5 record over the next two seasons, which included a win over defending national champions Florida in 1997. Also, Louisiana is more fertile recruiting ground for recruiting than the state of Michigan, and LSU isn’t “little brother” to anyone in the state of Louisiana.

It was not that difficult to have a spike in Louisiana recruiting. It also wasn’t the case that DiNardo couldn’t develop players, which he clearly did given some of the close results against good teams. He just lost the ability (partly due to turnover among his assistants) to manage the team to wins.

I’m sure that put a damper on recruiting in the 1998-99 offseason, but LSU would finish the 1999 campaign with a strong win over a ranked Arkansas team (with an interim coach), and the hope that the hire of Saban brought (probably as much as or more than Saban himself) kept the recruiting after the 1999 season from being a problem. If they could beat a ranked team with a no-name interim coach at the helm, the sky was the limit.

Nonetheless, Saban’s first three seasons were actually worse than DiNardo’s first three by record, and there had been no winning seasons that preceded any of the recruiting classes DiNardo worked with in that time.

Saban’s 9 wins in his final season were good in the context of the 12 years before his arrival, but I don’t remember Les Miles getting a ton of credit for following a national championship season with 8-win and 9-win seasons, respectively. Nor did he get a lot of credit for winning 33 games in the past three full seasons combined. Saban’s best three years at LSU together didn’t account for that many wins.

One of the other coaches I mentioned likely could have coached Saban’s 2004 team to 9 wins or more. Also, the loss to Georgia that season was reminiscent of the handful of bad losses Miles has had. So there was really only one season at LSU that was better than what had taken place at LSU the five seasons before Saban’s arrival.

As he did at Michigan St., he did raise the floor at LSU. When things didn’t go well, he went 8-5 and 8-4 instead of 4-7 and (starting) 2-8. That was an improvement, but just like with Michigan St., he only raised the ceiling in one year.

In both instances, those singular seasons caused his stock to go through the roof (continuing with the housing analogy), although he did decide to stick around at LSU another year anyway. Also, it’s not just wins and losses on their own. There were baffling losses under Saban. In his first season, he lost to Florida by 32, he lost to UAB (with only 10 points scored), and he lost to an Arkansas team (which had gone into the game with a losing record), 14-3.

It’s not good if you have three games where you score 10 or fewer points and four games where you score 17 or fewer.

The next year, they had the opposite problem. The offense was only held under 20 twice, but they allowed 44 to Florida, 25 to a bad Kentucky team, 35 to Ole Miss, 38 to Arkansas, and 34 to Illinois.

2002 was all over the map. They scored 14 or fewer four times, but they scored over 30 seven times. They allowed over 25 points five times.

2003’s team only had a single loss, but it was an ugly one: 19-7 at home against Ron Zook’s Gators. The Tigers struggled offensively at times against the better teams such as Georgia, Ole Miss, and Oklahoma. It helped that that team was able to play 6 teams with losing records and a I-AA opponent. Before the last four games of that season, LSU had not played two teams back-to-back that would finish with winning records. Contrast that with Miles’ last couple of seasons.

The 2004 team did not have a stellar offense, and LSU actually hurt themselves by trying to start JaMarcus Russell too soon. They nearly lost to Florida before Marcus Randall came off the bench to lead a comeback. They also needed Oregon St. to miss a few extra points in order to win the opener by 1 point in overtime. I already mentioned the Georgia loss that year.

LSU scored over 40 points three times that year (against teams with a combined 11 wins), but their highest point output otherwise was 27 against an Ole Miss team that finished 4-7. They only managed to score 24 apiece against the likes of Troy and Vanderbilt.

This was with Jimbo Fisher as the offensive coordinator. To apply the criticism Miles gets to Saban, he must have been holding the offensive coordinator back, right? It would seem to apply to Saban even more. In fact, I’m calling it right now: Cam Cameron is not going to be the head coach of a national-championship team in the next 10 years.

One could have also argued Saban only developed one “real” quarterback (Matt Mauck, whom he actually first recruited during his Michigan St. days) in those five years.

Saban was there when Russell came to LSU, but I’m sure that had more to do with Jimbo. Also, Russell didn’t really come into his own until the middle of his last year, which had nothing to do with Saban.

Point being, if you start from the perspective of looking to blame the head coach for everything, Saban could have taken a lot of blame as well as credit during his time at LSU. I think people just don’t realize how much their expectations have changed, which made every big win Saban had wonderful and every loss (or sometimes even close win) under Miles tragic.

So if we’re going to be assigning blame, we can blame Saban for causing LSU fans to forget what a losing season feels like. I still don’t think we have him to thank for the 7 double-digit-win seasons since he left, although of course he was instrumental for at least the first couple of them.

The LSU fans who do have this pathetic sense of longing for Saban are misguided. Alabama has certain advantages that LSU just isn’t going to have.

I don’t buy into conspiracies, but I think there is a natural degree of deference they get from recruits, from referees, from the media, from conference officials (who, perhaps not coincidentally, are based in Alabama), etc. Notre Dame has not had a sustained presence atop college football in 20 years. For Nebraska, it’s been about 15 years. So Alabama is the focal point of the historically great programs right now. There is just a different level of mystique for such programs. Nick Saban or not, that wasn’t going to be LSU.

People can’t accept that though. They just think that had Saban been here in 2009, 2011, and 2012, we would have had three national championships in those years rather than none. Maybe Saban wins in 2011 with either team (although even that’s arguable), but I’m doubtful about 2009 and 2012.

What if LSU (rather than Alabama) had been undefeated in 2009 and threw an interception on the game-clinching drive against Alabama. You think that gets ruled incomplete and LSU goes on to kick the field goal anyway?

LSU got some flak for winning in 2007 with two losses, but at least they won the conference, unlike Alabama in 2011.

Let’s say LSU loses a home game to Alabama like they did this year and everything else plays out like 2011. Do you think LSU gets a re-match over a one-loss champion of another conference? I doubt it.

LSU hasn’t gotten a soft touch at all in their slate against the SEC East even though their annual opponent (Florida) has been better than Alabama’s annual opponent (Tennessee).
The previous two seasons have had “bridge” schedules, temporary stop-gaps before they started off the new rotation, which was formalized before this season.

Alabama drew Missouri in 2012. Missouri played in the 2011 Independence Bowl, but they had an anticipated lull in adjusting to the SEC slate in 2012. In addition to the one good Muschamp team (which would only lose one SEC game), LSU had to play South Carolina, which had gone 11-2 in 2011. South Carolina would finish with the same record in 2012.

If you switch both SEC East opponents around, chances are LSU goes to the SEC Championship game instead of Alabama in 2012, even assuming Alabama still beats LSU in the closing seconds. Point being, I don’t think had Saban coached LSU that year (even if he had players just as good as the ones he had at Alabama), he would have beaten both Florida and South Carolina.

In 2013, LSU got Georgia, which had nearly beaten Alabama in the 2012 championship game, while Alabama played Kentucky, fresh off another losing season. Again, that scenario does not get reversed if Saban coaches LSU instead of Alabama.

It was an extra advantage for Alabama because what turned out to be their top challenger, Auburn, had to play Georgia also. Auburn had a favorable bounce and there were some unfortunate injuries to Bulldogs players between playing LSU and Auburn, but that could have easily been another Alabama divisional win (even with the Iron Bowl loss) owing in significant part to the schedule.

A Saban team might have won another game last season at LSU, but if they don’t end up winning two more, they don’t win the championship anyway.

So all things considered, maybe Saban wins one more championship than Miles did over the last 10 years (that’s right, this is the 10th LSU season after Saban). On the other hand, maybe they don’t win in 2007. You might blame Miles for the OT losses, but maybe Saban loses games to Florida and Auburn (there were some gutsy calls Saban may not have made) and they either lose a third somewhere along the way or someone else wins the division. So it could even be the same number of championships.

I don’t mind the idea of looking at the unmatched level of success Alabama has had over the better part of the last seven seasons (the only time a program had done anything like that in my memory was Nebraska in the mid-1990s) and wanting to match that, but just get over the fact that the head coach there coached LSU 10 years ago. That goes for people who want to insult him and those who wish he’d stayed (or fantasize about his return) alike. For those who persist in being hung up on Saban, at least get your facts right.

My take on the NCAA Selection Committee

In College Basketball on March 17, 2011 at 2:43 PM

In giving itself a chance to beat West Virginia, Clemson confirmed again (as they did initially in the UNC game and again in the UAB game…I will discuss some of the other controversial inclusions and exclusions below) that they do have skills necessary to win games in this tournament, but my feeling is if you don’t beat an RPI top-50 team before the tournament, you don’t belong in the tournament as an at-large.

For the record, I began writing this when Clemson was ahead by 9 points, and it was partly written in my head before the game started. I just haven’t had time earlier this week to either watch the tournament reaction or write a blog, especially since I filled out around 30 brackets (I have two ESPN accounts, and I filled out all the ones I came across, as many as I could. It’s partly to cover my bases from not having watched enough games this year, but it’s also because I’m much better at individual match-ups than I am at, “This team is going to win this region”…of course most people who show confidence at the latter effort are frequently wrong.)

As for Clemson and its athleticism, I don’t care if they look like Bill Russell’s Celtics if they don’t beat anyone of note. There are few phrases more annoying in the football context where less than 2% of the teams can play for the BCS title at the end of the year, but in basketball, the “eye test” is arguably appropriate as an argument when it’s a close call for #40-something. But not when you can plainly rule out a team based on a lack of accomplishments. Being unable to keep a convincing lead against North Carolina was repeated against West Virginia. So maybe that game was a cause for concern as much as it was a credit to Clemson. (Roy Williams isn’t a particularly good conference-tournament coach anyway. Even his national-championship teams lost in the second game of their respective conference tournaments.)

I know the RPI is flawed, but come on. I wouldn’t require beating a top-25 or top-30 RPI team, but I think counting #50 and above gives enough leeway to factor in the RPI’s weaknesses.

Even Alabama, who had an RPI of 80, beat a top-50 team, Georgia, twice in a row right at the end. I have no reservations about leaving Alabama out, by the way. They didn’t beat anyone worth much out of conference, and they played in the SEC West, so I don’t care if they did beat Georgia twice, their 12-4 SEC record isn’t really better than Georgia’s 9-7 without even looking out of conference.

Speaking of 9-7, that’s how Clemson finished in the ACC, and given their givens, I think they had to distinguish themselves better than that. I’m definitely more impressed with Harvard (especially considering their out-of-conference accomplishments) tying Princeton for the Ivy League crown than I am with 9-7 in the ACC this year.

The other “first four” at-large winner, VCU, is a team I wanted to see in this tournament. They had three wins over top-50 teams going in. People talk about recent losses in criticism of VCU’s selection. They had 6 losses since January 3, including one to George Mason and two to Old Dominion. During that time, they also beat Old Dominion and George Mason. The win over Old Dominion was on the road.

Maybe this doesn’t make up for losses to Northeastern, Drexel, and James Madison, but that’s a different argument. It’s still true that they finished the seaon on an overall upswing despite the losses.

I would also give them credit for playing the non-conference schedule they played. That probably contributed to making them the team they are now, even though again there were some losses to non-tournament teams. Winthrop and Wake Forest have had better years (one neutral-court win, one road win), but it was clear they were not dodging competition. These are the other non-conference highlights: loss to Tennessee (neutral), win over UCLA (neutral), loss to South Florida (road), win over VMI (home), loss to UAB (road). The loss to Tennessee was by 5, the loss to South Florida was by 1 in overtime, and the loss to UAB was by 3.

I heard it said in watching the ODU game that VCU would not get an automatic bid (I had not been following “Bracketology,” which I think is silly until the last week), and although I normally am for ODU, I said aloud, “That’s a shame” that VCU lost because I felt that the tournament would be missing something without them.

Just to be clear, I am not saying that because they looked really good in this game, that they deserved an at-large bid. I’m not discussing them to the exclusion of any contender who did not make the field. I’m not here to argue that they belonged ahead of Colorado, Virginia Tech, and St. Mary’s. Certainly had those three made it and VCU went to the NIT along with UAB and Clemson, VCU would not have had a right to complain. As a side note, from the two St. Mary’s games I’ve seen recently, VCU looked better even in the loss to ODU than the Gaels did during the WCC tournament. My objection is to the statements made on ESPN (by Jay Bilas for example) that VCU doesn’t pass the laugh test. I think dismissal of VCU to that extreme is a continuation of the bias against mid-majors. I don’t know how many Butlers or George Masons or Bradleys these people need. Incidentally, VCU’s profile is not a whole lot different from that of the George Mason team that went to the Final Four. Granted, that team making the Final Four was a bit of a fluke, but George Mason could have easily been excluded from the tournament that year, and few would have been outraged or even moderately annoyed.

It is not an aberrant event for a team to look like a tough out in losing a conference title game and having that team end up in the tournament. About 7 years ago, Utah St. barely lost in the final and surprised most (including Lunardi, if I remember correctly) by making the field. The defense from the committee (which used to take more questions, by the way) was the type of game they played, and obviously some consideration was given for the quality of the WAC and the narrow loss of an automatic opportunity. The committee did seem to move away from that in recent years (Mississippi St.’s snub after the 1-point overtime loss to Kentucky in the SEC tournament final last year, for instance), but I don’t believe they should have. In the case of VCU, I think it’s worthwhile to consider that losing in a rubber match to a clear tournament team (ODU is seeded 9th, and you could easily argue they should be higher) by five points is a good showing even though obviously it does not result in an automatic bid.

I think UAB’s inclusion was a somewhat misguided show of respect for winning (in the regular season of course) a Conference USA that has highly respectable programs including UTEP and Memphis, and a recognition of the type of program at UAB in recent years. However as far as this season, there is no way one top-50 win goes ahead of the six that Colorado had. I don’t care if Colorado played no non-conference games or if they were the ugliest six games since the shot clock was implemented, that’s still more impressive. So I think I’m with the UAB critics, but the people outraged about VCU (especially if they’re not also complaining about Clemson) didn’t give this a fair hearing, they just over-reacted due to having assumed VCU was not on the committee’s menu. The committee got this one wrong, but I think I understand where their impression of UAB came from at least.

In Defense of My Top Three

In Rankings Commentary on October 19, 2010 at 9:55 PM

I just posted the conferences & divisions chart for this week. It can also be found on the “ratings site” tab.

For background of where I’m coming from, please see the end of my last post and the comments here. I should not have checked those comments again before bed last night, but what’s done is done.

I remain convinced that if we had a 7-week season followed by bowls, LSU needs to playing Auburn for the national championship. If we had an 8-week season followed by bowls, the winner of LSU-Auburn would deserve a spot against the winner of Oklahoma-Missouri.

To be clear, my formula in no way (except for when home advantage comes into play) factors in margin of victory (MoV), how well a team was playing when a game was played, and the like. It matters who you beat. How good who you beat is depends on that team’s record and their strength of schedule (which is determined by opponents’ and opponents’ opponents records). I think it’s difficult enough to evaluate a group of 120 teams who typically play only 12 games apiece when you look at wins and losses alone to try to claim to be able to fairly consider the context of each game and how that led to the final score (which is the only reasonable way to use MoV)

The outcome I suggest wouldn’t happen if we left it up the pollsters, who would give us Oregon vs. Boise St. (Boise). The BCS might give us one of the two in the second scenario but neither team in the first scenario.

I’ve been pretty harsh on the ESPN crew, but there is one exchange I would like to highlight. Craig James said at one point that it matters “who you play and who you beat.” Kirk Herbstreit’s response was, “Why are Boise and TCU even in the conversation then?”

Craig was missing a qualifying clause: “When comparing undefeated teams….”

In that case, Kirk’s rhetorical point is well taken. They shouldn’t be!

But we consider them in case we’re comparing them down the line to, let’s say, an Ohio St. team who will have only had one impressive win (over Iowa) if they finish the season undefeated, the way things look right now. I’d be hard-pressed to say that Ohio St. team belongs ahead of an undefeated Boise St. team, especially if Virginia Tech continues to do well and Miami continues to struggle in the ACC. I don’t know how good Utah (awful schedule so far) and Air Force (losses to Oklahoma and San Diego St.) really are, but if they’re both undefeated otherwise from now until the end of the season, especially if we add in an improved Oregon St. team (which also might affect Boise St.), maybe they’d be better if they’re undefeated. So I’m not inflexible here, and I won’t say, “no non-AQs, no way, nohow.”

But they don’t just jump to the front of the line because of last year’s team. We’re halfway through the season, even factoring in bowl games and conference championships. Last year is a memory. It deserves no place in the rankings right now.

To get to the nuts and bolts, instead of using my system, which is not biased, but which will be attacked as such, I’ll use Anderson & Hester, which prides itself on rewarding regional dominance. So if anything, it’s an advantage to Oregon and Boise St.

These are Oregon’s opponents:
#12 Stanford
#67 Arizona St.
#75 Tennessee
#96 Washington St.
#109 New Mexico
I-AA/FCS Portland St.

Tennessee, incidentally, is a common opponent with LSU. But Tennessee is LSU’s fifth toughest opponent thus far. I know that’s the one that LSU came closest to losing to, but as I keep reminding people, Alabama beat a mediocre Tennessee team by 2 last year as well.

So Oregon has played one top-66 opponent. Alabama had three in the first five weeks, losing to the fourth. You could make the argument that maybe they shouldn’t even go ahead of Alabama at least until they’ve had two more wins than losses against such teams. My rankings aren’t that harsh toward undefeated teams, but I would have trouble saying that would be wrong.

I just don’t think having one win against a quality team, even if the margin was a big one, qualifies a team to be #1 after 7 weeks. Let’s say a scheduling happenstance has Wisconsin playing Michigan St. later in the year and they go into last week undefeated. You could certainly argue that Ohio St. was better than Stanford, so would the Badgers be a deserving #1 in that case? They also defeated ASU, Oregon’s second-best win right now.

That’s not to say it will be easy for Oregon to defeat Arizona or even some of the more inconsistent Pac-10 teams such as USC, Oregon St., Washington, UCLA, but why don’t we wait until they play some more of those instead of just one?

Boise can’t even look at their schedule in the future and say that. “Now, wait a minute, you’re not giving Oregon credit for it’s future schedule, why do you want to punish Boise.” I don’t, because I’m consistent, unlike the biased or misguided masses who have Oregon and Boise #1 and #2. For Boise, they ignore the future schedule, but it’s justification for Oregon.

Anyway, since I’m fair, unlike those people, let’s look only at Boise St.’s schedule so far.:
#36 Virginia Tech
#37 Oregon St.
#57 Toledo
#73 Wyoming
#100 San Jose St.
#109 New Mexico St.

The best team they beat is #36. That’s OK, especially considering they also beat another team right behind them. But since people want to act like James Rodgers was going to win the Heisman, and that’s why we shouldn’t consider Oregon St. without him, why don’t we look further into Virginia Tech? They started so badly they then went and played James Madison at home and lost (Boise St.-Va. Tech was a neutral crowd, although Boise had a significant traveling disadvantage). Also, let’s further consider the fact that Boise was lucky to escape with a win against Virginia Tech. I can understand putting them near Oregon though. Maybe it’s tougher to beat two top-40 teams that one top-20 team. Maybe it’s better to put someone tested at all against the top 20, on the other hand.

There is a third win just inside the top 60, enough for a decent top-25 resume, but how does that compare to the schedules SO FAR of Oklahoma, Auburn, and LSU?

Oklahoma:
#15 Florida St.
#17 Texas
#31 Air Force

Let’s stop right there. That’s already three opponents better than Boise St.’s best opponent. Iowa St. is also inside the top 50, ahead of Toledo. I don’t think either win is impressive, but even if we cancel out those, that’s still three opponents better than Boise St. best two opponents. And Florida St. and Texas aren’t even close. I don’t see any logical basis for not putting Oklahoma ahead of Boise St.

To go back to Oregon for a second, when we add in Cincinnati, that’s a total of 5 Oklahoma opponents better than Oregon’s second-best opponent.

LSU:
#20 Mississippi St.
#21 North Carolina
#25 West Virginia
#26 Florida

That’s four opponents better than Oregon’s second-best and Boise’s best. Call me crazy, but I think 4 wins against #20 to #30, one at a neutral site, one on the road, is more impressive than 1 win against #10 to #20 at home. As mentioned, Tennessee is in the 70s in A&H, Vanderbilt is #82. Last week, LSU beat a I-AA team.

Auburn:
#20 Mississippi St.
#22 South Carolina
#28 Arkansas
#50 Kentucky

That’s four better than Oregon’s second-best or Boise’s third-best. Also three better than Boise’s best.

I could take either side of the Boise vs. Oregon debate, but either of them vs. LSU, Auburn, or Oklahoma, I’m sorry, I don’t see an argument there. Since we have opinion polls involved (I’d be happy if we didn’t, assuming it’s a transparent, relatively easy-to-follow rating system), I don’t have a problem with pollsters considering margin of victory if it’s a close call, but there should be a close call first, and there just isn’t.

There is also the strategy of attacking the results of teams that are beaten by the big three (in my view and that of many objective sources). Tennessee almost lost to UAB, for instance. Colorado beat Georgia, who easily beat Tennessee. I think this does more harm to Oregon since Tennessee is higher on their list, but just as an example.

So let’s look at Stanford then and see how #12 their worst result looks. Beat USC with a field goal at the end of the game, just like the Washington Huskies did the week before. Washington, by the way, lost to 2-5 BYU. USC at #27 in A&H is Stanford’s best win, by the way, followed by Notre Dame at #34. Auburn and Oklahoma each have three wins higher than that, and LSU has four.

I’m not saying Stanford is a bad team by any stretch, but the point is you can over-analyze pretty much any team, especially as the season continues, to make them look bad. Also, if that’s all you have to hang your hat on, you don’t deserve to be #1 in the country. It’s good, but it’s not enough.