Six Potential Trap Games in 2008

June 2, 2008

Trap games. They happen when a good team finds itself in way more of a competitive game than should be expected against a lesser opponent. They come before, after, or between big games, when a superior team thinks it could rest easy. During them, the most common refrain for these teams’ fans is, “This can’t be happening…”

Everyone hates them, because you usually can’t see them coming until you’re in them. After going through the schedules of the six BCS conferences, I now give you a potential trap game for each league. If you see your team here, beware.

The Game: Virginia Tech at UNC, September 20

Before and After: Georgia Tech before, at Nebraska after

Why It Will Be a Trap Game: While no one expects Georgia Tech to compete for an ACC title this year, Virginia Tech will need all the time it can get to prepare for Paul Johnson’s unconventional offense. The Hokies also will probably be looking forward to making a statement against Nebraska, since when they went on the road to a BCS school last year, they were sent home from Baton Rouge with a 48-7 loss. They will want to show they can win big road games out of conference, even if these Huskers aren’t as good as last year’s champs were.

In the middle of those contests sits UNC, in year two of the Butch Davis era. The Tar Heels were a mostly harmless 4-8 in 2007, and their recruiting and player development have not progressed far enough in to turn them into a conference title contender just yet. Still, UNC lost by just seven in Blacksburg last year, and could very well pull the upset if the Hokies are distracted.

Why It May Not Matter: Virginia Tech has Furman the week before playing Georgia Tech, so the Jackets may not be much of a factor. Plus, UNC has received a lot of preseason love already, so it might be difficult for the Heels to truly sneak up on the Hokies.

The Game: Texas vs. Oklahoma State, October 25

Before and After: Missouri before, at Texas Tech after

Why It Will Be a Trap Game: Did you know that Texas’ pass defense was ranked 109th in 2007? Did you also know that Texas will be starting two redshirt freshmen at safety in 2008? Both are true, and they could spell trouble when the Cowboys come to town.

Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson finished 12th in the nation in passing efficiency in his sophomore year, and he could be even better as a junior in 2008 without any Bobby Reid-related distractions hanging over the team. OSU only lost by three in Stillwater last year, so we know they can hang with Texas.

With the Longhorns having to deal with a presumed national title contender in Missouri the week before and an absolutely loaded Texas Tech team the week after, they very well could overlook this game and give Oklahoma State a chance to steal one in Austin.

Why It May Not Matter: Oklahoma State’s pass defense in 2007 was even worse—112th in the nation. Texas also has a rising junior quarterback in Colt McCoy who managed to finish 24th in passer efficiency last season, despite a more than shaky offensive line.

UT is a young team that figures to get better as the year goes on, so this game might be happening after everything clicks for the Longhorns. Plus, Texas hasn’t lost to Oklahoma State since its 4-7 campaign in 1997, and it hasn’t lost at home to the Cowboys since 1944.

The Game: West Virginia at UConn, November 1

Before: Auburn

Why it Will be a Trap Game: The Mountaineers’ trip to Storrs comes a week after what could be a titanic matchup with Auburn in Morgantown. West Virginia will doubtless be amped from the game against the Tigers, wanting to prove the school made the right choice by sticking with Bill Stewart as head coach.

The national feeling is that the bowl win over Oklahoma was a nice story, but Stewart may not be the right guy for the job. Defeating Auburn is probably the one chance the team has to stand up and make a statement on the national stage in favor of its beloved head coach.

The contest the week after has “classic letdown game” written all over it. After what will be an emotionally draining contest with Auburn win or lose, West Virginia must travel up north to face the well-disciplined Huskies.

UConn doesn’t play highly entertaining football, but last season it found a way to win ugly with ruthless efficiency. The bottom fell out of their season late last year, and the Huskies lost three of their last four. But in 2008, UConn will want to prove that they were not a one year wonder. Beating West Virginia would be the best way to do that.

Why it May Not Matter: For starters, West Virginia smoked UConn 66-21 last year. It was a tour de force for Mountaineers’ QB Pat White, and he’s back in 2008. He won’t be running exactly the same offense, but there’s something about him that UConn couldn’t handle. If the Huskies don’t figure White out, it’s over because they won’t have the firepower to win a shootout.

In addition, UConn might end up contending for a conference title again, in which case any trap potential goes out the window.

The Game: Ohio State vs. Troy, September 20

Before: at USC

Why it Will be a Trap Game: Principally, this could be a trap game because it comes the week after Ohio State plays the USC Trojans in Los Angeles. That is a critical game on many levels for the Buckeyes, mainly in restoring credibility to itself and to its conference. The ESPN College GameDay crew will be there, it will receive endless hype, and it may end up being the best regular season game.

The week after that circus, the feisty Trojans from Troy, Alabama come to town. They are well known throughout the South for near misses against good ACC and SEC teams. Troy runs the spread offense that gives OSU fits, and though former offensive coordinator and spread guru Tony Franklin has left for Auburn, his protégé Neal Brown is taking over and keeping complete continuity.

In a similar trap game scenario, Troy played Georgia to within 10 points the week after the Bulldogs played Florida. If Ohio State comes home fat and happy after a win in L.A., this game could be a lot closer of a contest than anyone thinks.

Why it May Not Matter: If Ohio State loses to USC, they will probably take it out on Troy in ugly fashion. While it’s true that the Trojans played Georgia to within 10 points, it took a touchdown with five seconds left to keep that from being 17. Troy also lost senior QB Omar Haugabrook to graduation and star CB Leodis McKelvin to the NFL draft this offseason.

Ohio State is absolutely loaded on both sides of the ball, so it’s a bit much to expect a Sun Belt Conference team to win in the Horseshoe no matter the circumstances.

The Game: USC at Washington State, October 18

Before: Arizona State

Why it Will be a Trap Game: Arizona State appears to be main contender in 2008 to end USC’s hegemony in the Pac-10. QB Rudy Carpenter will be in his senior year, it’s the second season under turnaround specialist Dennis Erickson, and the Sun Devils have seven returning starters on both sides of the ball. Given what Oregon has lost, ASU is the clear No. 2 in the conference this fall.

The week after that crucial game for USC comes a road match in Pullman, Washington. Washington State’s team is a bit thin in the first year of the Paul Wulff regime, and he is installing a new offense and defense there. His no-huddle spread offense could be dangerous against USC if the Trojans are napping the week after a big game.

Plus USC, won by only six the last time it played at Washington State, and if they can lose to Stanford last year they can lose to anyone. If things click for the Cougars by mid-October, they could be dangerous in this game.

Why it May Not Matter: Did I mention Washington State’s team is thin? It is, and it lost scholarships to Academic Progress Report-related penalties. Plus, there has been a rash of disciplinary and academic problems there. If injuries strike at all, they could torpedo the Cougars’ season entirely. Besides, the new schemes may not have gelled by this point, severely limiting Washington State’s chances in this game.

The Game: Florida at Arkansas, October 4

After: LSU

Why it Will be a Trap Game: Sandwiched for Florida between a road match at Tennessee and a home game with LSU sit two SEC West teams, each breaking in new coaches—Ole Miss with Houston Nutt and Arkansas with Bobby Petrino. It will be very tempting for the Gators to lump the two together as future threats, but nothing to speak of this season.

While that’s true for Ole Miss, Arkansas is an intriguing team. Petrino immediately brings credibility as a coach who has won a BCS bowl game, and senior QB Casey Dick will finally get a chance to play in an offense that treats the pass as more than a novelty. Dick had a nice spring for the Hogs too, and they get a week off before hosting the Gators.

Florida’s secondary was a disaster last year. Though Urban Meyer said it’s the most improved part of the team, even if it’s twice as good as 2007 it still won’t be elite. Petrino’s scheme gives Arkansas’s passing game immediate credibility, and Dick won’t have to play like an all-SEC quarterback to cause trouble if Florida is looking ahead to LSU

Why it May Not Matter: It’s not clear that Dick will have anyone to throw to, as every receiver on the Hogs’ roster is a question mark. The player with the most receptions in 2007 coming back is TE Andrew Davie with 14.

There’s also no guarantee that Dick can repeat his spring success against real defenses in game situations this fall. Florida’s defense will be better, and its offense should better too. If UF takes this one seriously, the disparity of talent and skill on offense should allow the Gators to win, even if the defense doesn’t show up.


More Academic Trouble at FSU

May 8, 2008

It is somewhat ironic that on the day the NCAA’s Academic Progress Report was released, FSU announced its former starting left tackle will be transferring to a JUCO after being declared academically ineligible.

Daron Rose started 11 games for the Semis last year, but was suspended in the academic scandal that hit the FSU athletics program last December. It’s a case of “when it rains, it pours” for a program that lost projected starting linebacker Marcus Bell when he was released from his scholarship on Monday and still is without WR/RB Preston Parker who by school rules cannot participate in athletics due to an outstanding felony charge.

It would be easy to take some cheap shots at the school over these matters, but it’s almost a case of old news since Rose and Bell both were suspended in the academic scandal. Plus, college football players being charged with felonies is nothing new. The real problem is the way the school dealt with the fact that some key players will be suspended for the first three games next year due to that academic scandal.

FSU chose to have its schedule begin with not just one, but two I-AA teams in Western Carolina and Chattanooga. And it’s not just that they’re I-AA teams – they’re bad I-AA teams. They went a combined 3-19 last year. FSU’s scout team could probably win those games.

It effectively turns the sanction into a one-game suspension, with the game against Wake Forest being the only team with a pulse that the penalized players will miss. It’s one thing to have a mid-season suspension conveniently line up with a game versus a bad team; everyone does that and if it’s not a coincidence, you can at least make up a plausible lie. There’s no way to frame structuring a schedule around a suspension without it being a completely overt weasel tactic.

The sad thing for a once-proud program is that it will need those wins. The Semis will probably lose to Wake Forest due to missing those suspended players, and the Deacons have had FSU’s number as of late anyway. Florida never wins easily in Tallahassee, but the Gators are a lot better and a lot deeper than FSU is and will almost certainly win.

Of the remaining schedule, Colorado, Miami, Virginia Tech, Clemson, and Boston College will be as good or better than FSU at full strength will be, so the Semis will need to 4-1 in those games to have a chance at the ACC championship game. A 3-2 mark would mean missing a January bowl yet again.

In the end, though, wins are a Pyrrhic victory if the academic side of things doesn’t get back in order. That’s not an impossible task considering plenty of schools keep their players in good academic standing without any shenanigans. Perhaps with new AD Randy Spetman and the eventual takeover of Jimbo Fisher, FSU can once again be a winner, only this time without any dark clouds of controversy.


Did the BCS Get it Right? Part II

January 9, 2008

Yesterday, I examined whether in hindsight the BCS got the national championship game participants right. As I have pointed out in the past though, that’s only half of the BCS’s mission:

The Bowl Championship Series (BCS) is a five-game arrangement for post-season college football that is designed to match the two top-rated teams in a national championship game and to create exciting and competitive matchups between eight other highly regarded teams in four other games.

So, did it get the second half correct?

The Sugar Bowl

Participants: 10-2 Georgia vs. 12-0 Hawaii

Result: Georgia 41 – Hawaii 10

This game sure set the tone for the 2008 rendition of the BCS. It was unwatchable unless you are a Dawg or you just liked seeing Hawaii get its comeuppance for actually thinking it belonged in the BCS and then daring to be sanctimonious about it. I feared for Colt Brennan’s life at times, and this game spooked June Jones so much that he actually willingly took the job at SMU.

The Rose Bowl

Participants: 9-3 Illinois vs. 10-2 USC

Result: USC 49 – Illinois 17

This game had the largest margin, and honestly USC could have made it even bigger if it wanted to. Illinois was overmatched from the start, and the Trojans just kept pouring it on as the Illini kept giving the ball away. From everything I’ve read, the nation wanted to see Georgia in this game, but that was kept from happening by two main things: 1) the BCS rules made it so the Sugar would’ve had to give permission to the Rose to take UGA, which it did not, and 2) the Rose Bowl officials think it’s 1960 and believe that there’s nothing better than a Big Ten/Pac 10 matchup.

Illinois had to be in a game somewhere since it finished in the top 14 and was the only eligible team left after you accounted for Hawaii’s auto bid and Georgia and Kansas’ selections. However, it should have been in a game versus someone around its talent level such as Hawaii, Kansas, or Virginia Tech. Note: it’s pretty sad if definite tiers can be seen within the BCS, but that’s the way it goes with the BCS.

The Fiesta Bowl

Participants: 10-2 West Virginia vs. 10-2 Oklahoma

Result: West Virginia 48 – Oklahoma 28

This game was probably not as close as the score indicates, though not nearly to the same degree as the Rose Bowl. The conventional wisdom said that OU had the better talent and was on a roll, as opposed to the poor old Mountaineers who had inexplicably lost to Pitt, keeping them out of the title game, and had lost head coach Rich Rodriguez. Instead, WVU rolled to a comfortable victory, and Bob Stoops’ bowl record now suddenly looks a lot like Larry Coker’s does.

The Orange Bowl

Participants: 10-2 Virginia Tech vs. 11-1 Kansas

Result: Kansas 24 – Virginia Tech 21

This one was the only actual close game, but it was the bad kind of close. Poor offensive execution by both sides hamstrung progress for these two defensive-minded teams, and yet each scored multiple touchdowns. This game proved that Kansas was good but not overwhelmingly so, and that VT (and by proxy, the ACC) probably just was not that good this year. That is all I have to say about the Orange Bowl.

The BCS National Championship Game

Participants: 11-2 LSU vs. 11-1 Ohio State

Result: LSU 38 – Ohio State 24

Ohio State got a garbage time TD late against an LSU prevent defense to keep within three scores, though the game really wasn’t that close after the first quarter. Again the SEC champion embarrassed Big Ten champ OSU in the biggest game of the year, turning the BCS’s experiment of having a special 5th game for the championship into a blowout-fest.

This game technically doesn’t fall under the second part of the BCS mandate, but the fact that it ended up a one-sided blowout reinforces the fact that the first part was botched.

Conclusion

So did the BCS fulfill its mission of creating exciting and competitive matches in the non-championship games? Absolutely not. Only one game (Orange Bowl) was competitive, and none were terribly exciting. As a showcase for the sport, the BCS gets a rating of “EPIC FAIL” for the 2008 bowl season.

ICanHasCheezburger.com


Did the BCS Get it Right?

January 8, 2008

Now that LSU has defeated Ohio State for the BCS title, did the system set up the right championship game? I’ll do a quick rundown of the 1-loss and major conference 2-loss teams then make my case. After all, everything’s clearer with 20-20 hindsight. Teams are listed in alphabetical order, and the “Best Wins” category lists wins over .500 or better teams from major conferences (and Hawaii, if applicable, since the Warriors made a BCS game and had only one loss).

1 Loss Teams

Hawaii Warriors

Best Wins: Boise State, Fresno State

Loss: Georgia, 41-10

No wins over a major conference foe besides the Pac 10′s doormat, Washington. I feared for Colt Brennan’s life in the Sugar Bowl. No way, no how. I’m calling this one right now.

Kansas Jayhawks

Best Wins: Oklahoma State, Virginia Tech

Loss: Missouri, 36-28

While losing only once (and only by 8 points) is impressive, beating a perpetually suspect Virginia Tech team and a 7-6 Oklahoma State team is not, so Kansas is not helping itself much with the schedule.

2 Loss Teams

Georgia Bulldogs

Best Wins: Auburn, Florida, Georgia Tech, Hawaii, Kentucky, Oklahoma State

Losses: South Carolina, 16-12; Tennessee 35-14

The team was lost and listless until injuries forced Mark Richt to play Knowshown Moreno as a feature back. Uninspired play also forced Richt to pick a new motivational gimmick each week starting with the Florida game, all of which worked. This team was playing some of the best football in the country at the end of the year, but you must consider the season as a whole.

LSU Tigers

Best Wins: Auburn, Florida, Mississippi State, Ohio State, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia Tech

Losses: Kentucky, 43-37 (3OT); Arkansas, 50-48 (3OT)

It’s hard to accept a national champion who had two losses and gave up 50 points in a game during the season. Still, no one had a better array of wins, and as LSU fans will be quick to point out, the Tigers were undefeated in regulation and won the system everyone agreed upon.

Missouri Tigers

Best Wins: Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech

Losses: Oklahoma, 41-31; Oklahoma, 38-17

Missouri only lost to one team all year, except that it did so on two separate occasions. The Tigers did have wins over BCS participant Illinois and Arkansas, a team that beat LSU.

Ohio State Buckeyes

Best Wins: Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Purdue, Wisconsin

Losses: Illinois, 28-21; LSU, 38-24

Ohio State had the #1 rated defense in the regular season and was one of the most consistent teams all year. It did however play in the Big Ten, which dropped a stink bomb in bowl season and looks awful now. Plus, Illinois was thrashed by USC and the final score of the LSU game was closer than it should have been.

USC Trojans

Best Wins: Arizona State, Illinois, Oregon State

Losses: Stanford, 24-23; Oregon, 24-17

The Arizona State and Illinois wins were certainly impressive. However, it took until November 3 for the Trojans to beat a team that would finish above .500 for the year. The Stanford loss was unimaginably bad, and though USC had it’s backup QB playing the game, so did the Cardinal. Oregon with a healthy Dennis Dixon was probably the best team all year, and USC lost by just a touchdown.

West Virginia

Best Wins: Cincinnati, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Rutgers, UConn

Losses: USF, 21-13; Pittsburgh, 13-9

The Fiesta Bowl win was a huge statement, the Miss State win was nearly as big as LSU’s, and the UConn win was overwhelming. Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, the Pitt loss was nearly as bad as USC’s loss to Stanford, and the team couldn’t get anything going against USF. In its defense, WVU lost Pat White for large stretched during the two losses.

As a side note, Pitt’s 13-9 win over WVU that sent LSU to the championship game was the same score as the UCLA win over USC last year that sent Florida to the championship game.

Conclusion

Who are the top two teams?

Hawaii is eliminated, period.

Kansas had just two wins over teams that finished above .500 for the year. You’re a nice story, Jayhawks, but you’re also eliminated.

USC, you only had 3 wins over above-.500 teams, and you still lost to Stanford. Total body of work counts, so you’re eliminated.

Ohio State had only 5 wins over winning teams, but it also played a pillow-soft non conference schedule and the Big Ten was deplorable this year.

West Virginia had also 5 wins over winning teams, but it was the weakest set of wins out of the teams with 5. WVU, you’re eliminated.

We’re now down to Georgia, LSU, and Missouri. LSU does belong in the top two because it had seven wins over .500 or above opponents and wins over two other BCS conference champions (ACC, Big Ten). Between Missouri and Georgia, the Bulldogs had more wins over teams .500 or better and beat a team (UK) that beat LSU. But, Missouri’s losses were better and the Tigers played just as well as UGA did in each’s bowl game.

For the moment, I have to pick the team with more quality wins, so I go with Georgia. That leaves an LSU/Georgia game. It might make people from the Midwest or West unhappy, but honestly those two deserved it more.

So no, the BCS didn’t get it right.


Welcome to the Big Leagues, Colt

January 2, 2008

Last night’s Sugar Bowl was immensely satisfying. I have been sick and tired of the Colt Brennan hype machine since, oh, about last year’s bowl season. It got even worse when Hawaii plundered the bakery that is the WAC and somehow played an even worse non-conference schedule to finish the season undefeated. I didn’t want to see him get injured (although Georgia’s defense appeared to be trying to accomplish just that with as many fearsome hits as it delivered), but to see him humbled on the national stage was great, and possibly even good for him as he heads into draft workouts.

I found an article at Foxsports.com with some quotes of his, and I’d like to share them with you now:

  • “When you play against a team like this, you can’t miss a beat. We didn’t do that.”

No joke, Colt. When your whole team has 4 guys who might in a dream scenario play in the NFL, you have to absolutely perfect because every mistake becomes a sack, turnover, or touchdown for the other team.

  • “We knew coming in this was probably the best defense we’d ever faced. We really wanted to do something special here tonight, but we just couldn’t get any momentum going. We have a lot of drives that didn’t go anywhere. It wasn’t so much a question of X’s and O’s. They just won the battles all night.”

Perhaps, but your X’s and O’s guru on the sidelines also had a hard time not calling slow-developing pass plays despite the fact you became intimately familiar with the inner workings of the “Sportexe Momentum 41” playing surface of the Superdome.

  • “Everybody knows the SEC is the fastest league in the country. We just couldn’t simulate that in practice with our scout team.”

Self-explanatory. It’s similar to Billy Donovan’s comments about Marresse Speights and Alex Tyus – they’re suffering in practice because there’s no one else on the team like them to hone their skills against. Okay, back to football.

  • “We had never played in this type of element before. We tried as hard as we could to keep everything the same as we have all season long, but it just seemed like we weren’t used to the venue as big the Super Dome. Georgia plays in this kind of environment in the SEC every week all season.”

If anyone has questioned whether playing on big stages every week helps teams of the major conferences, here’s your proof that it does make a difference. Hawaii started 1st and 20 on its opening drive due to penalties, and it was all downhill from there. Before you bring up Boise State last year, remember that the Broncos had a similar harrowing experience at the hands of Georgia in Sanford Stadium in 2006, and BSU regularly plays at Pac 10 venues.

  • “We have done a good job most of the year protecting Colt,” [Head Coach June] Jones said. “But they had eight sacks and a couple of times we didn’t touch anybody. They just blew in and whacked him.”

Well said, June. That about sums up the 2008 Sugar Bowl.

If last year’s Fiesta Bowl set up this season’s craziness from week to week, this year’s Sugar Bowl most likely sets up next year as a season of juggernauts. Florida, Georgia, and maybe LSU in the SEC, Ohio State in the Big Ten, Oklahoma, Missouri, and maybe Texas in the Big 12, and USC in the Pac 10 all appear set to dominate next season.

West Virginia in the Big East would have counted if Rich Rodriguez had stayed, and then Pat White and Steve Slaton would have stayed as well. If WVU hires former Rodriguez assistant and spread option fan Butch Jones away from Central Michigan, and Jones can convince White and Slaton to stay, they might yet have a chance. After all, Jones molded Dan LeFevour into only the second guy to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a season, Vince Young being the first.

Virginia Tech will likely be the titan of the ACC, but the rest of that conference save Boston College is so bad, it’d be difficult to tell if the Hokies are really that good. BC won’t qualify as a juggernaut because it wasn’t one this year and is losing its senior starting QB Matt Ryan. No one else in the conference will clock in as better than “surprisingly good.”


A Brief History of the Post-Season in America

December 18, 2007

I am going to be doing a haphazardly-published series on playoffs and college football. I would prefer to see a playoff decide a champion rather than polls,  for the record. This is the first in the series.

The longest-running post-season event in major American professional sports is baseball’s World Series. The first one was in 1903, when the National League and American League, then two completely separate entities, organized under the mantle of Major League Baseball. Each league’s champion played a best-of-9 series to determine the overall champion. The necessity for this playoff was the fact that AL and NL teams didn’t play each other during the regular season. After a dispute canceled the series in 1904, it returned in 1905 and would be played every year since except the strike-shortened 1994 season.

The next-oldest professional post-season event is the NHL Playoffs, as the league has had some sort of playoff determining a champion every year since its inception in 1917. The lone except is 1920, when the Ottawa Senators won both halves of the regular season and the league decided a playoff would be unnecessary. The league’s regular season system was strange up until that point; read the Wikipedia page linked to above for details.

After that, you have the NFL playoffs. The NFL was founded in 1920, but from its founding until 1932, no playoffs were held. From 1920 to 1923, the champion was selected by the owners voting at the annual owners meeting. From 1924 to 1932, the team with the highest winning percentage won the championship as the teams all played different numbers of games. In 1932, the Chicago Bears and Portsmouth Spartans tied for the lead in winning percentage, so a one game playoff was thrown together hastily to determine a champion.

Responding to fan interest in the game, the NFL split itself into two divisions (East and West) in 1933. From then on, playoff games were held if necessary as tiebreakers and then the east and west division winners played in a championship game. A consistent tournament to determine who got to play in the NFL title game was not held until 1967 when the league expanded to 16 teams. The first Super Bowl was played in 1967 as a championship game between the NFL and AFL winners, and it became the NFL championship game after the AFL/NFL merger in 1970.

The NBA playoffs have occurred every year since the precursor BAA league was founded in 1947. The league had east and west divisions from the start, and at least the top three teams from each division have appeared in the playoffs every year. Perhaps the relatively late founding of the NBA allowed it to observe the other leagues and set up a proper playoff tournament from the start.

The NCAA

The precursor to what we know as the NCAA was the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS). It was founded by Teddy Roosevelt after his son broke his collarbone playing football at Harvard while running the offense known as the flying wedge. The idea was to have a governing body setting rules for collegiate sports to cut back on the injuries and yes, deaths, being experienced by college athletes. The organization took the name NCAA in 1910.

The NCAA at first was a a discussion group and rule-setting club until 1921, when the first NCAA championship was officially recognized: the National Collegiate Track and Field Championships won by Illinios. In the years since, it has come to sponsor 44 women’s, 41 men’s, and 3 coed championships.

The only sanctioned sport without a recognized champion is Division I-A football, a.k.a. the Football Bowl Subdivision. Only in the sport of football is a relevant distinction made between multiple parts of Division I.

Bowl Games

As we all know, I-A football uses a system of bowl games as its post-season fare. They were originally a method of attracting tourists for the areas in which they were played, and they were scheduled around the new year to give fans time to plan trips and travel to the site.

The first bowl game was the “Rose Bowl” of 1902. I put it in quotes because while it was put on by the  Tournament of Roses, it was called the “Tournament East-West Football Game.” It featured a dominant Michigan team versus a decent Stanford team, and it ended in the third quarter when Stanford quit while trailing 49-0. The Tournament of Roses was so scarred by the blowout, it wouldn’t sponsor a football game again until 1916. The game wouldn’t take on the name “Rose Bowl” until 1923 when the stadium known as the Rose Bowl was completed and hosted the game. Fun fact: it wasn’t actually a bowl stadium at the time, but a horseshoe stadium.

The Rose Bowl pitted a team from the Pacific Coast Conference (the predecessor to the Pac 10) and an eastern US team up until 1947, when the champions of what are now the Pac 10 and Big Ten became the annual contestants. It was the only major bowl until 1930, and the oldest surviving bowl games besides the Rose are the Sugar, Orange, and Sun Bowls, all founded in 1935. Besides those, the Cotton (1937), Gator (1946), and Florida Citrus (1947) are the only bowls that have been held consistently for more than 50 years. The first major bowl with a title sponsor was the (in)famous Poulan Weed-Eater Independence Bowl, operating under that name from 1990-1996.

Football Playoffs

Up until 1973, the NCAA had two divisions – the University Division, roughly football’s Division I, and the College Division, roughly football’s Divisions II and III. In 1973, the I-II-III system was set up, and Divisions II and III immediately began holding playoff tournaments for football. Division I did not, however, set up a playoff tournament thanks to the tradition of the bowls and polls.

In 1978, the NCAA partitioned Division I into three divisions: I-A for the principal football schools, I-AA for the lesser football schools, and I-AAA for the Division I schools that did not play football. Division I-AA from its inception has had some sort of playoff tournament, probably because none of its participating schools would be bowl material. This fact confirms that the real reason I-A has no playoffs is due to the bowls; every other excuse given (demands on players, the sanctity of the regular season, etc.) is secondary to the bowl games. The NCAA must have realized in the late ’70s that teams with no hope of making a bowl were playing meaningless seasons, so a separate division with playoffs included was created. No other reason for the existence of Division I subdivisions makes sense.

The Polls

The absence of an officially recognized champion of major college football naturally created a power vacuum of sorts that many organizations have been eager to fill in. The NCAA on its website keeps a record of every major poll service’s pick for national champion dating back to 1869. No polls existed at that time, but poll services such as Richard Billingsley, the National Championship Foundation, and Parke Davis have gone back and somehow come up with champs for all those years.

The two oldest surviving polls are the AP poll and the Coaches’ Poll, the latter initially being published by UPI before being taken over by the USA Today in 1991. The AP poll began in 1936, but it didn’t release a post-bowl season poll until 1965, and it wouldn’t do so on a consistent basis until 1968. The Coaches’ poll, for its part, began in 1950 and didn’t release post-bowl season polls until 1974.

Over time, mathematicians began taking cracks at making polls since human-based opinion polls can be influenced by bias, ignorance, and misinformation. The BCS has used a variety of them over its decade of existence, but the ones used today are Jeff Sagarin’s ELO-CHESS, Richard Billingsley, Anderson and Hester, Kenneth Massey, Peter Wolfe, and the Wes Colley Matrix. This group was chosen because they all do not rely on margin of victory.

One final human poll has come to prominence, the Harris Interactive Poll, after the AP pulled out of the BCS formula in 2005. The poll is made of former players, coaches, administrators, and current and former media members selected at random from a pool of candidates. Harris Interactive is a market research firm that specializes in opinion polls.

A National Title Game

For the most part, national champions for Division I/I-A football since 1950 are recognized to be the final #1 in the AP and Coaches’ Polls. That’s fine when they agree with each other, but what if they disagreed? You’d get two teams with equally legitimate claims at a title. How could one convince both
to vote for the same #1? Why, by having a national title game, of course.

The first attempt at creating a national title game was the formation of the Bowl Coalition. It consisted of the SEC, Big 8, SWC, ACC, and Big East partnering with the Orange, Sugar, Fiesta, and Cotton Bowls. The idea was that the site of the national title game would rotate among the four bowls, and it’d take the #1 and #2-ranked teams from the AP and play them against each other. This setup might require the breaking of tie-ins of conference champions to their traditional bowls, but the Coalition agreement made that possible. It lasted from 1992-94.

You may notice the absence of the Pac 10, Big Ten, and Rose Bowl. They did not participate in the Coalition, and they kept their traditional arrangements with each other. This resulted in 1994 of  #1 Nebraska playing #3 Miami in the “national title game” while #2 Penn State played in the Rose Bowl.

Following the formation of the Big 12, the Bowl Coalition was replaced by the Bowl Alliance. It consisted of the SEC, Big 12, ACC, and Big East along with the Orange, Sugar, and Fiesta Bowls. The purpose and goal was the same as the Coalition’s, but the absence of the Pac 10, Big Ten, and Rose Bowl created the same problem. Twice a #1 vs. #3 game was forced to occur in the so-called national title game. It lasted from 1995-97.

In 1998, the three stubborn laggards finally came aboard to form the Bowl Championship Series. The goal was the same – have #1 and #2 play each other – only this time it would use the AP poll, Coaches’ Poll, and an index of computer polls to determine #1 and #2. Initially, strength of schedule and losses were their own categories, and in 2002 a quality win category was included as well.

By 2002, the BCS purged all computer models that included margin of victory to discourage teams from running up the score. However, it’s impossible to keep the human element from considering it, and margin of victory definitely plays a part in the human-generated polls. In 2004, it was streamlined to include just the human and computer polls with no other categories. In 2005, the Harris Poll replaced the AP poll. In 2006, the system was tweaked to deemphasize the computers, and the result has been that the human polls control the BCS formula almost completely. Only a huge anomaly in the computer element could override a unanimous human selection. That situation creates a Catch-22, since such an anomaly would likely cause an outrage, probably leading to further deemphasizing of the computers.

A Brief Timeline of the Post-Season in America

1902: The Tournament East-West Football Game

1903: The first World Series

1916: First annual Rose Bowl game

1917: NHL formed; first NHL playoffs

1921: First officially recognized NCAA championship

1932: First NFL Championship Game

1935: First annual Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl, and Sun Bowl

1936: First AP Football Poll

1937: First annual Cotton Bowl

1939: First NCAA men’s basketball tournament, consisted of 8 teams

1946: First annual Gator Bowl

1947: First annual Florida Citrus Bowl

1947: Advent of NBA precursor; first annual NBA basketball playoffs

1950: First Football Coaches’ Poll

1965: First post-bowl season AP poll

1967: First Super Bowl

1968: First annual post-bowl season AP poll

1971: First annual Fiesta Bowl

1973: NCAA creates Divisions I, II, III; first annual D-II and D-III football playoffs

1974: First annual post-bowl season Coaches’ Poll

1978: NCAA creates Div. I-AA; first annual I-AA football playoffs

1984: NBA playoffs expands to current 16-team format

1985: NCAA men’s basketball tournament expands to 64 teams

1990: NFL playoffs expands to current amount of 12 teams

1992: Bowl Coalition formed

1992: SEC expands to 12 teams, plays first ever football conference championship game

1993: NHL playoffs expand to current format

1994: MLB institutes the wild card; World Series canceled due to strike

1995: Bowl Alliance formed

1996: Big 12 formed; first Big 12 Championship Game

1998: BCS formed

2001: NCAA men’s basketball tournament adds 65th team, play-in game

2002: NFL reorganizes to 8 divisions, drops one wild card per conference to keep playoffs at 12

2003: Split national title between LSU and USC; BCS formula completely rewritten

2004: NASCAR implements its “Chase for the Cup” quasi-playoff system

2005: ACC expands to 12 teams; first ACC Championship Game

2005: AP Poll drops out of BCS formula, Harris Poll is formed to replace it


SSOS Awards

December 7, 2007

Statistical Strength of Schedule (SSOS) has become a weekly feature of mine, and you can read the rationale and about how it’s calculated here.

I’ve got the final SSOS calculated, but I’m not done with the writeup and charts and all. In the meantime, enjoy these awards I just made up last night on an airplane. They’re based on the final numbers, which should be up sometime before Ragnarok.

The SSOS Champion: Best overall SSOS

WINNERS: Nebraska (team): 48.52 SSOS score; SEC (conference): 29.75 average rank

Huskers, even though you got torched constantly on defense, had a wildly inconsistent offense, and got your coach fired, at least you did it all against the nation’s toughest schedule.

The SEC showed just how tough it is by overcoming 10 games against I-AA opposition to win the conference battle comfortably over the Pac 10. No more whining about the SEC having weak out of conference opponents – the teams still graded out as having played the strongest schedules among the BCS conferences.

The SSOS Goat: Worst overall SSOS

WINNERS: Hawaii (team): 81.44 SSOS score; ACC (conference): 59.33 average rank

Hawaii, you’re a nice story and all with your BCS bid, but I hope you know it’s fraudulent with as easy of a schedule as you played. I know Michigan State pulled out of its game with you, but playing two teams below I-A will get you this award nearly every time. At least you play Florida next year.

ACC, by now you know that no one cares about your conference when FSU and Miami are having bad years. The attendance in Jacksonville a week ago proved that. However, your attempt to look better by playing the weakest overall schedule by far didn’t work because your teams really are that bad and that boring. Please try to play a real slate in the future, which means finding strength in your non-conference games because you sure won’t find it inside your conference.

Mr. Bland Award: For scheduling mediocrity

WINNERS: Wisconsin (team): ranked 60th; Big Ten (conference)

Wisconsin, you finished exactly in the middle. There were 59 teams ahead of you, and 59 teams behind you. That is the perfect embodiment of middle-of-the-road. It makes sense considering your conference.

Big Ten, you finished with all of your teams in the second and third quintiles. No one particularly exerted itself, but no one took it easy either. It’s an interesting strategy, albeit one that gets you ranked second-to-last among the BCS conferences. Ohio State dropping Youngstown State picking up USC certainly helps, but don’t let the Buckeyes’ ambition steer you away from your dream of blandness. It suits you well.

Go Getter Award: Largest gap between the conference’s first and second place

WINNER: Syracuse

Syracuse, you win this one for having the toughest schedule in your conference and for finishing with the biggest gap between you and the second place team (Pitt) at 16 spots. Way to put the rest of your conference to shame. Perhaps this is why Greg Robinson still has a job.

Deadweight Award: Worst schedules in each conference

WINNERS: Georgia Tech, Kansas, UConn, Northwestern, USC, Arkansas

If not for you all, your conference’s scheduling marks would look a lot better. I hope you’re happy. Readers, please note that there are two teams here that made BCS bowls. I’m just saying.

Anchor Award: Worst schedule for a team in a BCS conference

WINNER: Kansas (112 rank, 74.92 score)

Kansas, you’re the only team in the country that played in a BCS conference and still managed to have a schedule in the bottom 20%. That’s not easy to do. Sure, it just so happened you missed Oklahoma, Texas, and Texas Tech in your conference rotation, but few teams went to the bakery for bigger cupcakes than you did non-conference. Put it this way: throw out your numbers and the Big 12 has the toughest overall schedule for a conference; with them, it drops to third. Of course, that schedule is probably the main reason Kansas is in a BCS bowl, so the Jayhawks will probably make this a habit.

Deposed Nigerian Prince with an Email Account Award: Most fraudulent records

WINNERS: Boise State, Boston College, BYU, Hawaii, Kansas, UCF 

These are the teams who won at least 10 games with a schedule in the bottom two quintiles. Try to play some more notable teams in the future, will ya? Readers, please note that there are two teams here that made BCS bowls. I’m just saying.


BCS Projections

December 2, 2007

Before everyone gets their picks out, here’s my projections for the BCS:

BCS National Title Game: Ohio State and LSU

Rose Bowl: USC (auto) and Illinois

Fiesta Bowl: West Virginia and Oklahoma(auto)

Orange Bowl: Virginia Tech (auto) and Missouri/Kansas

Sugar Bowl: Georgia and Hawaii

The designation (auto) indicates a conference champion tie-in that will happen by contract.

I project LSU to pass up Virginia Tech since the Tigers beat the Hokies 48-7 earlier this year. I project LSU to pass Georgia because they have identical records, but LSU won the conference while UGA didn’t even win the SEC East. USC won’t pass LSU because USC lost to Stanford. End of that discussion.

The Rose Bowl will take Illinois because it is desperate to set up a Pac 10/Big Ten game every year, and no one else will want the Illini.

The Sugar Bowl will take Georgia because it prefers to have an SEC team. Hawaii has no fans on the mainland, so it too will go to the Sugar Bowl (who has the last pick this year). The Fiesta will have to take Big East champ West Virginia since it won’t want an inter-Big 12 game.

Kansas has a better record than Missouri, but Mizzou won the division and its two losses were to conference champ Oklahoma. My guess is Missouri will get the bid since it is now more well-known than Kansas, but the Jayhawks’ 11-1 record could prove too compelling to pass up.

The only way this could be wrong is if the Fiesta somehow grabs Georgia ahead of the Sugar, sending West Virginia to the Orange and Missouri/Kansas to the Sugar.

As for the Gators, it’s 99% certain we’re in the Citrus Bowl versus Michigan.

Updated 8:25 am to reflect result of Washington – Hawaii game.

EDIT: I should mention that this would make for a terrible year for the BCS. West Virginia/Oklahoma would be the only game guaranteed to be any good, and that’s assuming Pat White will be healthy.

The OSU/LSU title game would obviously be the most hyped, for the teams as well as what’s at stake, but we will be seeing Ohio State up against a barrage of speedy skill players and a hellacious defensive line. Sound familiar? (Honk if you sacked Todd Boeckman!)

USC would thoroughly beat down Illinois. Georgia would thrash Hawaii. Remember that the Warriors play worse the farther east they go, and the last time they played in Louisiana, they eked out a 1 point win over La. Tech. Ouch. Virginia Tech and Missouri/Kansas might be a good game, a classic defense (VT) versus offense (M/K) game, but VT games somehow always end up boring. Unless you’re a Hokie (and maybe especially if you’re a Hokie) they just suck the life out of you as you watch. Plus, the Orange Bowl would have an extremely hard time selling out the stadium. So, if somehow the Orange gets to pick ahead of the Sugar, I wouldn’t be surprised at all for it to take Georgia for ticket selling purposes.


FSU

November 22, 2007

No team gets me angrier, faster than FSU. Georgia may be Florida’s oldest and most traditional rival, but being born in 1985, I grew up in the 1990s. During that time Georgia was Florida’s whipping boy, and the FSU game had national title implications almost every year. That fact is reflected in the fact that College GameDay has visited the Florida – Florida State game more often than any other.

The rivalry looked like it was going to tail off this decade with the coinciding Jeff Bowden and Ron Zook eras, until the 2003 Swindle in the Swamp reignited it. Again, no game makes me angrier, faster than that one. Let’s just move on.

Then you had FSU QB Wyatt Sexton in 2004, visiting the homecoming game against South Carolina while wearing a Florida sweatshirt.

The following year, Florida won what Gators fans call the Ron Zook Field game, launching a 3 game (and counting) win streak. Let’s count how many ways FSU’s hubris showed in honoring ol’ Bobby at the game against its biggest, most fierce rival:

  1. Named the field after him
  2. Unveiled a statue of him
  3. Unveiled the 5th largest stained glass window in North America with his image
  4. Announced bronze busts of him would be for sale

Now, not only are items 3 and 4 disturbing on several levels, it also served up more than enough motivation for the Gators that day. It’d be one thing to do all of this for your homecoming game against Duke or something, but you don’t do that against your biggest rival. That is, of course, unless you’re concerned that you’re not going to fill up the whole stadium for any other game, which is entirely possible.

FSU is not known for being smart.

Now, this year has some excitement provided by one Geno Hayes, an FSU linebacker known for physical play. He has said Tim Tebow is “going down,” that “the bigger they are, the harder they fall,” and that he plans on ruining Tebow’s Heisman campaign.

That’s fine; after all, the Semis ruined Matt Ryan’s Heisman campaign a couple weeks ago. However, Ryan is no Tim Tebow. Neither, for that matter, is Mr. Hayes – Geno is listed at 6’2″, 218, while Tebow is listed at 6’3″, 235.

Credit to Hayes for picking a fight with someone bigger than him, but he should be warned that Tebow steamrolled LSU’s prized safety LaRon Landry last year, he of the 6th overall pick in the draft. Tebow said he’s going to remember the words on the field, and if you recall, Tebow grew up a Gator fan in the same era as I did so he’s going to have similar feelings about FSU as I do.

He’s going to have plenty to play for even if he really is not thinking about the Heisman at all.

What’s got two thumbs and players who can’t keep their traps shut? This guy!

FSU comes into the game a minor mess of a team. The much ballyhooed change of coaching staff has yielded almost exactly the same stats as last year’s team. The Weatherford-Lee quarterback carousel has been spinning again, though Lee is now permanently out the rest of the season with severe brain cramps. Only a Weatherford injury will cause him to see time again.

In recent weeks, FSU had an epic 4th quarter collapse against Virginia Tech, and it nearly blew a big lead against Maryland. The best success they’ve had on offense ironically has come from taking a page out of Florida’s playbook – having WR Preston Parker take over at running back. The Semis needed some stability back there after having no less than nine players register a carry against VT.

As for the passing game, the Jeff Bowden jump ball will likely be employed early and often against Florida’s weak and banged up secondary, especially since 6’3″ DeCody Fagg and 6’6″ Greg Carr are going to be the targets under those jump balls. Hopefully, the SEC refs will grab the correct glasses for the game, because Carr commits offensive pass interference on nearly every jump ball thrown to him, but I guess it’s never called because he’s just so big and tall.

I can say without snark that the offensive game plan for Florida will likely play out how it did against FAU. FSU is 15th overall against the run, but 74th against the pass. It’s likely going to be Tebow distributing the ball at will with his arm, and some running every now and then on the side to keep the defense honest. I really don’t see a situation that leads to FSU winning this game if Florida plays up to its potential and continues its hot streak from the past couple games.

Another FSU season spirals down the drain.

FSU has finished conference play tied for 6th (!) in the ACC with Georgia Tech. I don’t know how the ACC tiebreakers work, but the bowl that takes the ACC #6 is the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte on the 29th, and the bowl that takes the ACC #7 is the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco. Right now, GT and FSU have identical records, but if GT beats UGA this weekend (oh Lord, please make it so) and UF beats FSU, then the Semis will probably end up reprising their role as the ACC rep in the Emerald Bowl. Florida, for its part is still hoping to sneak into the Sugar Bowl.

But, back to the game on hand. FSU will move the ball and score some points. Our defense hasn’t shown it can hold anyone but Western Kentucky to under 20. However, I expect Florida to win, and possibly win big. Why?

For one, Urban Meyer has come out with the right game plan each of the last two years. Last year, Florida was just happy to get out Tallahassee with a win, which is fine since UF has had so much trouble winning there over the years. The year before that, though, it was a 34-7 drubbing that could have been worse. Meyer has the team playing some of its best football of the season right now, and Tim Tebow is playing at an unbelievably high level. Saturday, we make it 4 in a row.


SSOS: Penultimate Week Edition

November 22, 2007

Statistical Strength of Schedule (SSOS) has become a weekly feature of mine, and you can read the rationale and about how it’s calculated here.

We’ve got two weeks left in the regular season, but if you think that means there’s not much movement left to do in the SSOS listings, you’re wrong. Wrong like watching all of the puntfests on TV today known as NFL games. Since I’m doing all of the family stuff tomorrow (it just worked out that way this year), I give you a Thanksgiving feast of stats. For the first time since I started these listings, someone other than Notre Dame is on top. Playing service academies will do that to you. The top 25:

  1. Nebraska (+1)
  2. Notre Dame (-1)
  3. Washington (NC)
  4. Syracuse (+3)
  5. Colorado (-1)
  6. Ole Miss (+13)
  7. Iowa State (+8)
  8. Stanford (+3)
  9. Baylor (+4)
  10. Tennessee (+1)
  11. FIU (-6)
  12. Maryland (+2)
  13. Duke (-7)
  14. Utah State (-5)
  15. Mississippi State (+15)
  16. Auburn (+1)
  17. California (-7)
  18. UNLV (+8)
  19. Wyoming (+19)
  20. South Carolina (NC)
  21. Oregon (-3)
  22. Texas A&M (-1)
  23. Oklahoma State (-15)
  24. Louisville (+15)
  25. Kentucky (-3)

Full list: 11-17-07.pdf

SSOS by Losses

Note: Minnesota is the only team with 11 losses. The 11 loss category has been omitted for that reason. Once other teams join the Gophers there after this weekend, I will add in that too.

No shockers here, though the W shape in the middle is interesting. It also shows that the undefeated teams are the outliers, as well as the teams with 9 or more losses. Everyone else is somewhere in the middle, roughly near the average SSOS score for everyone.

This seems to confirm what I put forth last week, that overall schedule strength does not predict success unless you have an extraordinarily weak or difficult schedule. Is that true? Well, let’s look at another chart.

Average SSOS Rank by Losses

Well, we’ve got a much more pronounced W shape. It seems to suggest that of the teams that don’t reside on the extremes, there are more bad teams congregated in the 4 loss and 7-8 loss groupings than in others, because those teams together managed to lose more games than the overall trend would suggest they should.

Unsurprisingly, a quick scan of the 4 loss teams with easy-ish schedules reveals some of this year’s biggest disappointments – Arkansas, FSU, Georgia Tech, and Rutgers. Their schedules say they should be better, but those teams have some kind of flaw holding them back. For Arkansas, it’s the defense. For GT, it’s Chan Gainley’s soporific schemes.

The 7 and 8 loss realms are where you find some of the dregs of college football who are failing to win more games despite having relatively easy schedule – Temple, Tulane, Kent State, UL-Lafayette, Rice, and others. These are the teams that simply don’t have I-A talent, and they mess with the numbers. At least Notre Dame has gone 2-9 against the second most difficult schedule in the country; Northern Illinois has no excuse for compiling the same record against the 114th most difficult schedule.

Biggest Movers

This week’s top gainers:

  1. Idaho (+27) played Boise State last week
  2. Boston College (+26) Clemson
  3. Cincinnati (+19) West Virginia
  4. Kansas State (+19) Missouri
  5. Texas Tech (+19) Oklahoma
  6. Clemson (+17) Boston College
  7. Army (+15) Tulsa
  8. Louisville (+15) USF
  9. Mississippi State (+15) Arkansas
  10. Pitt (+15) Rutgers
  11. SMU (+15) UCF
  12. West Virginia (+15) Cincinnati

We’ve got a logjam at the bottom. As the sample size of games for each team grows with every passing week, the ability to move dramatically decreases. That is, of course, unless you’re in the WAC, ACC, and Big East apparently. Idaho made the week’s biggest leap after playing Boise State, and the BC-Clemson game and WVU-Cincinnati games both made each participant gain ground.

The week’s biggest fallers:

  1. Colorado State (-31) Georgia Southern (I-AA)
  2. UConn (-26) Syracuse
  3. Wisconsin (-22) Minnesota
  4. Central Michigan (-21) Eastern Michigan
  5. UL-Lafayette (-20) FIU
  6. Wake Forest (-19) NC State
  7. New Mexico State (-18) Utah State
  8. Iowa (-17) Western Michigan
  9. Tulsa (-15) Army
  10. Oklahoma State (-15) Baylor

Playing those conference bottom feeders can really mess a team up. Nothing you can do about it though. Serial offenders FIU and Utah State make appearances, along with a I-AA team.

SSOS by Conference

Total Average SSOS for all 119 Teams: 63.55

Best Schedule: Ole Miss, 6th overall, score of 50.34

Worst Schedule: Arkansas, 96th, 70.61

Average SOS Rank: 31.92

Average SOS Score: 57.92

Best Schedule: Washington, 3rd overall, score of 49.25

Worst Schedule: Arizona State, 89th, 68.83

Average SOS Rank: 34.70

Average SOS Score: 58.20

Best Schedule: Syracuse, 4th overall, score of 49.59

Worst Schedule: UConn, 86th, 67.93

Average SOS Rank: 41.63

Average SOS Score: 59.51

Best Schedule: Nebraska, 1st overall, score of 45.73

Worst Schedule: Kansas, 115th, 78.45

Average SOS Rank: 41.75

Average SOS Score: 59.44

Best Schedule: Michigan, 30th overall, score of 58.82

Worst Schedule: Northwestern, 68th, 64.67

Average SOS Rank: 50.73

Average SOS Score: 61.67

Best Schedule: Maryland, 12th overall, score of 54.09

Worst Schedule: Georgia Tech, 95th, 70.43

Average SOS Rank: 58.58

Average SOS Score: 63.13

The Big East continues its meteoric rise, from last a few weeks ago now up to third. That’s as high as its getting though, since the Pac 10 and SEC have such a big lead. The SEC, meanwhile has opened up a larger lead on the Pac 10, and with the SEC’s dead weight Arkansas playing LSU this weekend, it’s likely to get a better score on the whole.

The ACC, meanwhile, is falling behind. Not only is it a wholly uninspiring conference style-wise, but it is just playing bad football all around. That’s one drawback of living on the east coast – you get ACC teams on TV a lot.

One more interim week before the final standings.


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