Gary Pinkel’s Record at Missouri

July 15, 2008

The last time I did a coach analysis, I threw it open for requests. It’s not so much that I was out of ideas, but I wanted to make sure I would be covering the people that folks are interested in.

The first request was for Gary Pinkel, which gave me pause. First of all, he wasn’t who I was expecting to see as the first request. Second, I really don’t know that much about Pinkel or Missouri football.

I spent over 22 years of my life in Florida with the rest in Charlotte, North Carolina and the entire time I have been a Florida fan and an SEC guy. Before 2007, I really only knew two things about Missouri football beyond its location and conference—Brad Smith was really good and a lot of people thought Pinkel was an underachieving coach.

I suspect the two of those were related. After all, Smith was an exceptionally talented player who has set all kinds of records for dual threat quarterbacks. He’s the all time quarterback rushing leader, the first ever to 8000 passing yards and 4000 rushing yards in a career, and first ever to 2000 passing yards and 1000 rushing yards in multiple seasons.

Smith began to get preseason hype for the Heisman in 2004 and his Tigers were ranked 17th in the preseason. Unfortunately, Mizzou would limp to a 5-6 record.

It was especially puzzling considering the Tigers defense gave up just 19.5 points per game, the lowest of Pinkel’s tenure up to that point. One would figure that with a defense that stout and Smith at quarterback, the team could have found a way to a winning record.

I think for the national audience, this was the year that really branded Pinkel with the underachiever label. His program actually had expectations, but it failed to live up to them. As a national observer, that’s all I can really speak to.

To get an insider’s opinion on Pinkel though, I asked the Bleacher Report Community Leader for Missouri Football, senior writer Peter Fleischer, for his thoughts on his head coach:

“Pinkel was pretty much hit or miss with Tigers fans. I personally liked him and felt like he got a bad rap for not producing as much at Mizzou as he could have.

The fact of the matter is that at the end of the Larry Smith era, Missouri football wasn’t exactly a perennial powerhouse, so it’s not like Pinkel ruined the program, ala Quin Snyder. I didn’t think that he underachieved with Brad Smith and felt like his teams had a knack for losing the games they should have won.

The most painful loss in my memory of Gary is the 2006 Sun Bowl against Oregon State, where the Tigers blew a huge lead and lost. I felt like Gary was a decent coach but never could really execute the big games. He couldn’t get over the hump.

I think he and his staff have finally done that. The spread offense is clicking on all cylinders, and he finally is starting to close the borders of Missouri, keeping in-state talent at home. If he keeps this up, he should be able to build something special at Missouri.”

Big thanks to Peter for the insight.

The 2007 season was a huge breakthrough, as everyone can tell. Missouri finished a top ten team, had a Heisman finalist in Chase Daniel, and won 10 games for the first time since 1960. The team scored 558 points, which wasn’t just the first time the Tigers had reached 500 points in a season. It was also the first time they reached 400 points in a season, with the previous high being 399 in 2003.

With all of the above in mind, let’s take a look at Pinkel’s record broken down by site:

Gary Pinkel at Missouri
Site Wins Losses Totals
Home 27 13 40
Away 12 21 33
Neutral 4 1 5
Bowls 2 2 4
Totals 45 37 82

The neutral site games are three games against Illinois in St. Louis, a game against Kansas in Kansas City, and a Big 12 championship game.

Given that Pinkel is 45-37 (.549) overall, none of these were going to look all that great. The .675 home record isn’t bad all things considered, but the 12-21 (.364) road record is dismal. Then again, I suppose that’s how you end up with three losing records and three seasons with five losses in your first six years.

Here is Pinkel’s record broken down by tier of opponent. As always, first-tier opponents are teams that had a winning percentage of .750 or better, second tier were .500 to .749, third tier opponents were .250 to .499, and fourth tier opponents were .249 and below.

Gary Pinkel at Missouri
Tier Wins Losses Pct. Avg. Scored Avg. Allowed
First 2 12 .143 20 36
Second 17 18 .486 28 26
Third 21 14 .600 35 23
Fourth 5 0 1.000 36 9

Pinkel clearly has been dreadful against the top tier. One win was against Nebraska in 2003, the Tigers first since 1978. The other was over Kansas this past season.

Five of the losses are to Oklahoma and three are to Texas. The remaining four came to Colorado and Nebraska in 2001, and Kansas State and Bowling Green in 2002. These results seem to confirm Peter’s perception of Pinkel being a coach who can’t get over the hump in big games.

Pinkel is still under .500 against second tier teams despite going 4-0 against them last season. His record against third tier teams isn’t very good, but at least he hasn’t lost to a fourth tier team. These results seem to confirm Peter’s perception of Pinkel being a coach who loses games he shouldn’t.

Gary Pinkel has delivered five of the eight highest scoring seasons in school history in terms of total points scored, and he has guided the team to four of its six bowl appearances since 1983. Players are now getting named to preseason awards lists, and Missouri captured the attention of the country with its short stint at No. 1 in 2007.

The team had a banner year last year and expectations are the highest they’ve been since 2004. Will Pinkel guide his talented team to lofty heights again or sink under expectations as he did three seasons ago? It’s just one of the many interesting subplots that will make the 2008 college football season great.


Coaching Analysis: Jim Tressel

July 7, 2008

He has accumulated many nicknames over the years, from the Senator to CheatyPants McSweaterVest. He has also accumulated many wins, conference titles, a national title, and two spectacular flameouts in the past two BCS title games.

He is Jim Tressel, head coach of Ohio State and one of the more controversial figures in the sport.

He would seem an unlikely candidate for the role of controversy. He wins a lot but seldom via embarrassing blowouts. He speaks out in public only on rare occasions. He projects an image of a conservative, almost introverted college professor who is more likely to give a lecture on economics than a pregame motivational speech.

He also has earned that second nickname listed above thanks to a string of off the field incidents that range from player arrests to guys taking money from boosters. They date back to his time at Youngstown State, and a New York Times article from the week before his game against Florida outlines the major stories if you’re interested.

One thing that can’t be denied regardless of affiliation is that the man wins a lot of games. Through seven seasons in Columbus, he has won a national title, four conference titles, and appeared in five BCS bowl games. He is one of only two coaches, along with Bob Stoops, to have made three BCS championship games; however, they are also the only two coaches to have lost two of them in a row.

Ohio State has won the Big Ten three years in a row, and it appears to have the best team going into 2008. That means Tressel is threatening to turn the Big Ten into what Pete Carroll has made the Pac-10: one team on top and everyone else playing for second place.

Here is Tressel’s record broken down by site. This table does not include games against I-AA teams.

Jim Tressel at Ohio State
Site Wins Losses Totals
Home 44 5 49
Away 24 8 32
Bowls 4 3 7
Totals 72 16 88

Overall, that’s pretty impressive. That’s a winning percentage of .818, which is about as good as anyone can do over an extended period of time. The bowl record obviously could use some work, but I’ll get into more of that later. The home record isn’t quite as good as I had expected, but two of those five losses came in Tressel’s first year.

Here is Tressel’s record broken down by site. As always, first tier opponents are teams that had a winning percentage of .750 or better, second tier were .500 to .749, third tier opponents were .250 to .499, and fourth tier opponents were .249 and below.

Jim Tressel at Ohio State
Tier Wins Losses Pct. Avg. Scored Avg. Allowed
First 9 9 .500 23 24
Second 31 5 .861 28 15
Third 28 2 .933 33 13
Fourth 4 0 1.000 31 6

The obvious: he wins a lot of games, beats the teams he should beat, but doesn’t win by gaudy scores. This much we knew. The two losses to third tier teams, if you were wondering, were to five-win teams in his first year on the job.

That said, the 9-9 record against the top tier surprised me.

Prior to the last two BCS title games, Tressel had a reputation for being one of the best big game coaches in America. He could be counted upon to win the big games, one of the few in the country who were trusted to do so. Yet toss out those two championship game fiascoes, and he’s a good but not great 9-7 against that top tier.

One of those seven other losses was to Vince Young in 2005, which is entirely understandable. Two more were to Illinois’ miracle 2001 squad and Lou Holtz’s one good South Carolina team in Tressel’s first year, which are also understandable.

He also had a loss to Joe Paterno’s last great Penn State team (the 11-1 team in 2005), Kirk Ferentz’s last great Iowa team (his 10-2 team in 2004), and the sole loss to Michigan in 2003 (which can’t be complained about given the outcome of every other Michigan game). Overall, it’s hard to blame him for those.

However, guys don’t get reputations for being a great coach on the biggest stages based on understandable losses. I have to conclude that his big game rep was built on beating Michigan year in and year out and his 4-1 bowl record through the 2005 season.

Perhaps that should be enough to qualify a coach for that status, but perhaps we shouldn’t have been so surprised to see the losses to Florida and LSU. Given that LSU was almost certainly the better team from the start of 2007 and the overwhelming talent on Florida’s defense, those losses were also understandable (though the final scores were not).

I mentioned Bob Stoops earlier, and now I want to bring him up again. He and Tressel have many similarities, most notably their winning the national title in their second years and then going on to lose two BCS title games in a row. I wanted to see though, just how similar their records are.

So, here are the records of Stoops in his first seven seasons and Tressel side by side.

Stoops and Tressel, through 7 Seasons
Stoops Tressel
Record 74-16 72-16
Bowl Record 4-3 4-3
BCSCG Record 1-2 1-2
vs. 1st Tier 14-7 9-9
vs. 2nd Tier 27-7 31-5
vs. 3rd Tier 26-2 28-2
vs. 4th Tier 7-0 4-0
Nat. Titles 1 1
Conf. Titles 3 4
vs. Rival 5-2 6-1
Heismans 1 (J. White) 1 (T. Smith)

BCSCG means BCS Championship Game. For Stoops, “Rival” means Texas; for Tressel, “Rival” means Michigan.

Their records aren’t just similar, they’re eerily close. Just about as close as Mack Brown and Phil Fulmer through ten years.

Stoops was better against the top tier, but Tressel was a little better against the second. Otherwise, everything is basically the same down to getting blown out in the national title game with their Heisman-winning quarterbacks.

It gets even spookier when you line up the year-by-year records of each from best to worst:

Records by Year
Stoops Tressel
13-0 14-0
12-1 12-1
12-2 11-2
12-2 11-2
11-2 10-2
8-4 8-4
7-5 7-5

It can’t get any closer than that, can it? Have a look at the year-by-year records for Oklahoma and Ohio State if you want to reconcile the differences in number of games for each season, though most have to do with Oklahoma playing in the Big 12 title game.

This second section was mainly for fun, since there’s not a lot that can be gleaned from it. It’s a remarkable coincidence that these two coaches in different conferences in different time periods with fairly different philosophies can do almost the exact same thing over such a long period of time.

It just goes to show that football success takes all types, and that even high levels of success can be matched elsewhere. Will Tressel go into as big a bowl tailspin as Stoops did? It’s just one of the many interesting subplots that will make the 2008 college football season great.


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.


The Guys Who Follow College Football’s Coaching Legends

May 9, 2008

We’ve all heard it a million times: “You don’t want to be the guy who follows a legend; you want to be the guy who follows the guy who follows the legend.”

It makes intuitive sense, and it certainly would seem true. Urban Meyer is the guy who followed the guy who followed the legend at Florida, and things have worked out quite well for him so far. Then again, Bill Callahan was the same at Nebraska, and the fans were ready to run him out of town two years before he finally got the axe.

To see how true this adage is, I’ve looked at some coaching legends and the guys who followed them. They are as follows, in chronological order from when the legend was hired:

OKLAHOMA

Legend: Bud Wilkinson, 1947-63, 145-29-4 (.826); 3 national and 14 conference titles

Follower: Gomer Jones, 1964-65, 9-11-1 (.452); 0 national or conference titles

Next: Jim Mackenzie, 1966, 6-4 (.600); 0 national or conference titles

This is somewhat of a bad example to start off with, since Mackenzie sadly passed away due to a heart attack after his first season.

Jones definitely had a difficult time following Wilkinson though, having not been able to break even in his two years. Wilkinson is the coach who led Oklahoma to its famed 47-game winning streak, and he failed to win the Big 8 title in only three of his 17 years.

AUBURN

Legend: Shug Jordan, 1951-75, 175-83-7 (.674), 1 national and 1 conference title

Follower: Doug Barfield, 1976-80, 29-25-1 (.536), 0 national or conference titles

Next: Pat Dye, 1981-92, 99-39-4 (.711), 0 national and 4 conference titles

Jordan held the job for 25 years and the stadium is named after him, but his .674 winning percentage is lower than any of the other legends on this list. Barfield followed him up with 5 forgettable seasons, with 8-3 being the best record he posted.

Dye had the most success in his tenure of the three, though he was forced out of his coaching and AD position when it was revealed that assistant coaches and boosters had paid a player. He still is fondly remembered, though, as the field at Jordan-Hare stadium was named after him in 2005.

OHIO STATE

Legend: Woody Hayes, 1951-78, 205-61-10 (.761), 5 national and 13 conference titles

Follower: Earle Bruce, 1979-87, 81-26-1 (.755), 0 national and 4 conference titles

Next: John Cooper, 1988-2000, 111-43-4 (.715), 0 national and 4 conference titles

Earle Bruce did an admirable job in following Woody Hayes after Hayes’ unexpected meltdown and firing. He did not see the same success however, though he nearly won the national title in his first year.

John Cooper is a goat in OSU annals, having posted a 2-10-1 record against Michigan and having presided over numerous academic and discipline problems.

TEXAS

Legend: Darrell Royal, 1957-76, 167-47-5 (.774), 3 national and 11 conference titles

Follower: Fred Akers, 1977-86, 86-31-2 (.731), 0 national and 2 conference titles

Next: David McWilliams, 1987-91, 31-26 (.544), 0 national and 1 conference title

Akers did a much better job than McWilliams did. Akers caught flak though for losing bowl games and in his final few years having bad records against Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

McWilliams’s 1990 SWC championship year looks like a fluke in light of the rest of his seasons, with the 7-5 record in his first year being the second-best record he had.

ALABAMA

Legend: Paul Bryant, 1958-82, 232-46-9 (.824), 6 national and 13 conference titles

Follower: Ray Perkins, 1983-86, 32-15-1 (.677), 0 national or conference titles

Next: Bill Curry, 1987-89, 26-10 (.722), 0 national and 1 conference title

Perkins left the New York Giants to coach at his alma mater, and he left four years later to take a rich contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. An incident where a former player that he had recruited claimed he was paid led to the school being placed on probation in 1995.

Curry was doing well in his three years, though he was 0-3 against Auburn. He didn’t like the contract offered to him in 1990, so he left to coach Kentucky.

GEORGIA

Legend: Vince Dooley, 1964-88, 201-77-10 (.715), 1 national and 6 conference titles

Follower: Ray Goff, 1989-95, 46-34-1 (.574), 0 national or conference titles

Next: Jim Donnan, 1996-2000, 40-19 (.678), 0 national or conference titles

Neither Goff nor Donnan panned out for the Bulldogs. They both failed to win even an SEC East title, and both were used as Florida’s whipping boy. Goff is perhaps most famous for being called “Ray Goof” by Steve Spurrier.

MICHIGAN

Legend: Bo Schembechler, 1969-89, 194-48-5 (.796), 0 national and 13 conference titles

Follower: Gary Moeller, 1990-94, 44-13-3 (.758), 0 national and 3 conference titles

Next: Lloyd Carr, 1995-07, 122-40 (.753), 1 national and 5 conference titles

Moeller is a controversial figure for Wolverines due to his messy departure following a drunken altercation at a restaurant. Some argue his best years were already behind him; some argue that he was trying to modernize the program and that Carr won his national title with Moeller’s players.

Carr is one of the few followed-the-guy-who-followed-the-legend guys who actually won a national title. His legacy will remain mixed due to his futility against Jim Tressel and the loss to Appalachian State.

BYU

Legend: LaVell Edwards, 1972-2000, 257-101-3 (.716), 1 national and 19 conference titles

Follower: Gary Crowton, 2001-04, 26-23 (.531), 0 national and 1 conference title

Next: Bronco Mendenhall, 2005-present, 28-10 (.737), 0 national and 2 conference titles

Crowton won the MWC his first year with Edwards’ players, but failed to reach .500 in his remaining three years. Mendenhall has put together consecutive 11-win seasons, winning the MWC title each year. His 2008 team is expected to contend for a BCS bowl.

NEBRASKA

Legend: Tom Osborne, 1973-97, 255-49-3 (.836), 3 national and 13 conference titles

Follower: Frank Solich, 1998-03, 58-19 (.753), 0 national and 1 conference title

Next: Bill Callahan, 2004-07, 27-22 (.551), 0 national or conference titles

Solich is probably the source of the modern “You don’t want to be the guy who follows a legend” movement, having been fired after a 9-win season. Callahan ended up being a disaster, and will probably be despised by Husker fans forever.

FLORIDA

Legend: Steve Spurrier, 1990-2001, 122-27-1 (.817), 1 national and 6 conference titles

Follower: Ron Zook, 2002-04, 23-14 (.622), 0 national and conference titles

Next: Urban Meyer, 2005-present, 31-8 (.795), 1 national and 1 conference title

Zook was doomed from the beginning, having been a fallback choice for the coaching position and having never been a head coach before. He won games he shouldn’t have, but lost games he shouldn’t have too. He also presided over an explosion of off-field issues, including Zook himself being involved in a fight at a frat house. Some Florida fans still defend him, but the overall sentiment is that his hiring was a mistake.

After doubts about his offense abounded in his first year, Meyer solidified his position in his second by winning a national title. Some fans are uncomfortable with his highly aggressive recruiting tactics, which have drawn scrutiny from other coaches and the NCAA, but otherwise Gators are more than happy with his job so far.

*   *   *

Following a legend, regardless of place in line, is not easy. Only Pat Dye clearly surpassed his legendary predecessor’s accomplishments, but his departure was not the stuff of legends.

None of the followers distinguished himself after leaving, though Earle Bruce had a nice run with Iowa State before coaching the Buckeyes. Ron Zook still has time to carve out his legacy at Illinois.

The book is still open for Mendenhall and Meyer, but both appear to be in good shape. Despite their records, most of the coaches in that coveted “guy who followed the guy who followed the legend” role didn’t fare much better than the guy who did follow the legend.

There is some truth to the adage, but in the end good coaches will succeed in good situations regardless of who came before.


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.


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