Pete Carroll’s Record at USC

July 13, 2008

There’s no sense in beating around the bush with this one. Pete Carroll has been both an ace recruiter and a prolific winner of games since he got to USC.

After going 7-6 in his first year, he has run off six consecutive seasons with two or fewer losses for a combined record of 69-8 (.896). Adding that first year on only brings him down to 76-14 (.844), still an outstanding mark.

There are those who keep meticulous details of the arrests, scandals, and other malfeasance that have gone on at USC this decade alongside all that winning. Through it all, Carroll has been the amazing Teflon coach, since very little seems to stick to him.

Plus, few have questioned the way he disciplines his players to the same degree that guys like Bobby Bowden and Bob Stoops have been scrutinized in the past.

Carroll has had a large built-in advantage when it comes to recruiting though: He coaches at USC, the only traditional national-title contender west of the Great Plains.

In 1984, BYU won the championship, in 1990, Colorado (AP and Coaches’ champs) split it with Georgia Tech (UPI poll champs), and in 1991, Washington (Coaches’ champ) split the title with Miami, FL (AP champ).

Before that, you have to go back to UCLA in 1954 to find a team other than USC located west of the Great Plains that won a national championship. Talented west-coast athletes that want to compete for a college championship without going too far from home have only one choice: USC.

Combine that with the fact that California is along with Texas and Florida one of the three best talent-producing states, and you have a formula for great success.

Anyway, let’s take a look at his record.

His one neutral site game against Virginia Tech in 2004 has been counted as a road game since it was played in FedEx Field, the home field of the Washington Redskins. That was done because it was Carroll’s one and only one neutral site game and singling it out would have served no purpose.

Pete Carroll at USC
Site Wins Losses Totals
Home 39 3 42
Away 32 9 41
Bowls 5 2 7
Totals 76 14 90

As you would expect, Carroll is excellent, no matter where he plays. The 39-3 (.929) home mark is certainly impressive. It is behind Stoops’ 53-2 (.963) home record, but from a winning percentage standpoint, it is on par with Steve Spurrier’s home mark while at Florida (68-5, .932).

It’s also worth noting that the home and away game totals are nearly identical. It reflects a greater willingness on Carroll’s part to go on the road in the non-conference schedule than other coaches who have a lot more total home games than road games.

Here is Carroll’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.

Pete Carroll at USC
Tier Wins Losses Pct. Avg. Scored Avg. Allowed
First 15 5 .750 36 20
Second 28 8 .800 32 18
Third 26 2 .929 39 17
Fourth 7 0 1.000 45 9

Carroll’s 15-5 mark against the top tier is the best of all of the coaches I’ve studied so far. If you take out his first season, it comes out to 15-3 with the losses being at Kansas State and at Washington State in 2002, and to Vince Young and Texas in the incredible 2005 BCS Championship Game.

The second tier mark of 28-7 (.800) puts him in line with or behind some other coaches like Jim Tressel (31-5, .861), Les Miles at LSU (12-2, .857), Urban Meyer at Florida (16-3, .842), Bob Stoops (36-9, .800), and Mark Richt (32-8, .800). If you take out Carroll’s first year, that 28-8 mark improves to a 27-4 (.870) record though.

Of those two third-tier losses, I know you can name one. It was of course the loss at home to 4-8 Stanford last year. The other was a road loss to 5-6 Notre Dame in 2001.

I mentioned earlier that USC has had two or fewer losses for six consecutive seasons. I don’t know how impressive that sounds to you, but you should be very impressed. As far as I can tell (and correct me if I’m wrong), only three schools have matched or surpassed that in the past 30 years.

Florida did it for six seasons in a row from 1993 to 1998. Miami, FL did it eight seasons in a row from 1985 to 1992. Florida State did it 14 seasons in a row from 1987 to 2000. That’s it and that’s all.

It should come as no surprise that those teams reside in a talent factory of a state like USC does. It’s especially impressive when you consider that FSU and Miami kept their streaks alive while playing each other in 1987-92, and Florida and FSU kept their streaks alive while playing each other every year in 1993-98.

What about other big programs, you ask? For purposes of historical comparison, I looked for seasons with two or fewer non-wins—non-wins being losses or ties. I also restricted it to the college football’s modern era: 1946 to the present.

Oklahoma had the longest such streak pre-1980, spanning 11 seasons from 1948 to 1958. The next longest was Alabama at six seasons, from 1961 to 1966. After that? No one.

Michigan, Ohio State, and Nebraska only got to five in a row. The best, Georgia, Notre Dame, Penn State and Texas, have done is four in a row. USC pre-Carroll didn’t even make it to four.

That means Carroll is one of only five coaches to have six consecutive seasons with two or fewer non-wins in the modern era, along with Bowden, Spurrier, Bear Bryant, and Bud Wilkinson. That’s some pretty good company right there.

It does bring up a question though: What does it say about a conference when one team can dominate it by so much for so long? Miami was independent for most of its run, so toss them out. Florida’s run was aided somewhat by some lean years out of LSU and Georgia.

FSU began its streak independent, but it clearly benefited from joining an ACC with suspect credentials in football.

The Pac-10 has only been able to deal USC more than two losses once. USC was nearly unbeatable for anyone in 2003-05, but that still leaves 2002, 2006, and 2007 where the conference couldn’t break the spell.

It hasn’t had two teams in the BCS since 2002. It has become Carroll’s private fiefdom, with everyone else playing for second place.

Some people question whether USC can keep up its level of success. Was the Stanford loss a crack in the armor, or did the Trojans just catch the upset bug that got nearly everyone else last year? Will Rick Neuheisel get UCLA caught up to its cross-town rival? Will all of the success make the program complacent?

Regardless of what everyone else does, USC will continue to bring in top-shelf talent as long as Pete Carroll is there. Given his track record so far, I have a hard time seeing USC falling off dramatically any time soon.


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.


Punting in 2007

May 13, 2008

It’s safe to say that no one really enjoys punting. Punter is the only position without a representative in the NFL Hall of Fame (though Ray Guy should have been in long ago). Punting is an important part of the field position battle, but honestly, no one enjoys doing it. We’d rather see our teams score.

It is with that in mind I present you with the most and least prolific punting teams in college football a year ago. Keep in mind that avoiding punting is not necessarily an indication of an elite offense – turnovers end drives too, and often in more damaging ways.

The most prolific punting team was UCLA, with an astonishing 93 punts on the season for a robust 3899 yards. That’s right; the Bruins had more punting yards than 14 teams gained on offense. For comparison, UCLA punted for 992 more yards than Notre Dame gained with its offense. Karl Dorrell, this is your legacy.

The Ray Guy of coaches. Or something.

Other frequent punters included Virginia Tech (89), Iowa (87), FIU (83), Oregon State (83), East Carolina (82), Virginia (81), Syracuse (80), Duke (80), and Mississippi State (80). There’s a mix of good, bad, and mediocre in there, showing that punting a lot doesn’t necessarily mean your team will lose. It is telling though that a fourth of the ACC is in the list of the ten most frequent punters.

On the other end of the spectrum, Navy had the fewest punts with just 24 on the season for 895 yards. I’ll be interested to see if Paul Johnson’s Georgia Tech offense can keep the punting down anywhere close to that much in the punt-happy ACC. Georgia Tech punted 67 times last season, 3.1 more than the average team.

The remaining nine of the top ten least frequent punters are Texas Tech (30), Hawaii (35), Florida (37), Air Force (47), Louisville (48), Boise State (48), West Virginia (49), Southern Miss (49), and Arkansas State (50). This list is a bit better than the ten most frequent punters, with Arkansas State’s 5-7 record being the worst of them.

Granted, I don’t have a list of the number of drives for every team so I don’t know how these compare on a relative basis. Still, it’s interesting to see how justified UCLA fans were in their frustrations with Dorrell and to see how efficient the Gator offense really was last year.

Only 37 punts? Magnificent. If only we forced more than 10 the whole year…


USC Has a Serious Agent Problem

May 12, 2008

ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” program has reported that former USC basketball player OJ Mayo received around $30,000 worth of benefits from Rodney Guillory, a “runner” for sports agency Bill Duffy Associates. This is not just a passing accusation either; OTL has a mountain of evidence detailing the story. It stretches back to when Mayo was in high school in Huntington, West Virginia.

I was going to draw some detailed parallels between Mayo’s case and the Reggie Bush case, but Pat Forde already beat me to it. He goes a bit over the top, I think, but it’s a nice summary of the allegations.

The troubling aspect is how cavalier USC appears to have acted towards agents and their influence. Yahoo! Sports’s investigation into the football program showed that agents and their representatives were allowed to be in the locker room and on the sidelines at practices and games. Now we find out that the school did nothing about the fact that Mayo was known to be associated with Guillory, despite the fact that former USC guard Jeff Trepagnier and a former Frenso State basketball player were suspended for accepting benefits from him.

USC Compliance Officer Schultz was unavailable for comment.

Every major program has trouble with agents. UF suffered its own scandal with the Tank Black episode back in the mid-1990s. If anything, that fact should make schools more vigilant about keeping agents and their runners away from their players. USC especially needed to be on that beat, considering the Reggie Bush fiasco and the fact – and this was news to me – it’s against California state law for agents to give gifts to amateur athletes.

Really, Mayo was a ticking time bomb for NCAA compliance. He has been in the spotlight since he was in middle school. His family was very poor, yet he had nice clothes, nice shoes, and a 42″ TV in his dorm. USC head coach Tim Floyd apparently had contacts with Guillory during the recruiting process, despite Guillory’s past history with the school. All the signs were there.

Mayo’s case also ties in with a lot of other issues in college sports – the role of media and now colleges in middle school athletics, the NBA’s age limit, and the NCAA’s historically laughable record of enforcing its own rules. Combined with the Bush case, it shines a light squarely on the issue of whether USC can police itself.

Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. We have not just one, but two major sports media outlets that have done far more investigation into Trojan players than USC itself has. We also have reports from both the Bush and Mayo investigations that agents and their influence seem to be an accepted part of the culture in USC football and men’s basketball between agents being allowed at football practice and Guillory not being blackballed from the men’s basketball program.

How about it USC? When are you going to regain institutional control?


BCS Plus One Proposal Fails, but Why?

May 1, 2008

Unsurprisingly, there will be no plus one system added to the BCS for the 2010 season. It always was a non-issue since the Rose Bowl contract with ABC goes through 2014. Any big changes like a plus one system will have to come when all of the TV rights expire in the same year.

Beyond that though, the Big Ten and Pac 10 were never going to allow it to happen. Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delaney loves being the playoff villain. He has stated on the record that a playoff could be good for college football as a whole, but adds, “I don’t work for college football at large.” His goal is to advance the Big Ten brand, and he sees tradition, the Rose Bowl, and a TV network as the way to do that.

Pac 10 Commissioner Tom Hansen has also said that the Pac 10 would rather secede from the BCS than have a plus one system. The ACC, Big 12, Big East, and SEC were willing to discuss the matter at the BCS meetings this week, but the Big Ten and Pac 10 had no plans for giving it a fair chance. Only the SEC and ACC were fully committed to the plan.

I keep hearing the same arguments over and over about why there shouldn’t be a plus one system. I will now address them one by one.

A Plus One system will inevitably grow

Not necessarily. Major League Baseball, having had playoffs since 1903, kept a four team playoff up until 1994. The only reason it expanded was because of expansion of the league. It stands at 8 teams currently, and there are no plans for the foreseeable future to change that.

Compare that with the hallowed bowl system, which has now expanded to 34 in total. That means 68 teams, or about 57%, of the 120 Division I-A teams will be going bowling. In the two years that wins over I-AA teams have counted towards being bowl eligible, 73 and 71 teams have made the 6-6 threshold. That’s cutting it awfully close.

Also, thanks to 6-6 teams losing bowls, we now have bowl teams finishing under .500 for the year. Is that really what people want? And what if there aren’t 68 bowl eligible teams in a season?

The arrangement only encourages more I-A teams playing I-AA teams, which weakens the regular season. I thought that’s what we were preserving…

A playoff dilutes the regular season

No, extra-long regular seasons dilute a regular season. Let’s go back to baseball. When only 4 teams made the playoffs every year, did anyone care about May baseball games? Of course not. There were a million other ones leading up to October. I also hear about how March Madness killed the college basketball regular season. It didn’t; everyone playing 30+ games before March killed the college basketball regular season.

Before there was a national title game in college football and teams just played to get to bowls, college football had a great regular season. Once a national title game was established, it made it even better because the competition suddenly expanded beyond conference borders.

Somehow, these BCS proponents think that everyone competing for 4 spots instead of 2 will instantly kill the regular season. That it will make Florida and FSU fans suddenly get along because who needs a rivalry now that four teams have a shot at winning it all at the end of the year instead of two? That Sooners and Longhorns will do the same, or that a September match up of USC and Ohio State will be not be as exciting.

You know how much a difference there is between two teams and four playing for the national title at the end of the year? It’s 1.67% of all I-A teams, or 3% of all BCS conference teams. No, giving four teams a chance to win it all doesn’t devalue the regular season because the scarcity of regular season games will still be there, and an very small percentage of teams will actually be playing for the title.

A playoff devalues the Rose Bowl

Here’s a hint: when the Rose Bowl joined the BCS, it gave up all claims to tradition. The only thing that makes it special over the other BCS bowls anymore is that it’s older than them. That’s it and that’s all.

The final ship to sail in this argument shoved off when Texas beat USC in the 2005 Rose Bowl to win the national championship. It should have become clear right then and there that the Rose Bowl is a great site to hold a game, but it’s the meeting of two great teams that make the game great.

This year’s Rose Bowl just further illustrates the point. We had a Big Ten/Pac 10 meeting, and it was a horrible game. Ohio State’s performance against LSU indicated that had OSU met USC instead of Illinois playing the Trojans, it wouldn’t have been much different. Great games are made by great teams, not stadiums. What happens on the field is what matters, not what occurs on Colorado Boulevard.

Ratings and revenues are up; the BCS must be what fans want

People like college football. That is what people want. They will pay to watch it in person regardless of the postseason format. They will watch it on TV regardless of the postseason format.

Let me tell you a story. The iPod mini was once the best-selling iPod of all time. It was even the best-selling portable audio device in the world in its day. In September 2005, Apple made a bold move and replaced it with the iPod nano. It was a risk because of the enormous popularity and revenue stream the mini had. The nano ended up being even more popular, selling a million units in just 17 days.

In short, this argument is a non sequitur. Correlation does not equal causation, and the BCS format isn’t driving the rise in ratings and revenues. The popularity of football as a whole is.

A playoff would make football a two semester sport

With spring practice, football already is a two semester sport.

Ignoring that for a moment, I don’t see how a plus one makes the postseason any longer. The 1-4 and 2-3 games would happen on New Years, and the title game would happen a week later. That’s the same timing that we have with the current BCS bowl arrangement, so this one is nothing but hot air.

It kills the tradition of the bowls

Too late. By segmenting off the BCS games, we already have tiers in the postseason. Besides, once we got bowls in Shreveport, Detroit, and especially Toronto, they no longer were about giving teams a reward for a good season by getting to play a game in nice locale.

Besides, not one playoff proposal I’ve seen, Mike Slive’s included, has proposed killing off all of the bowl games in favor of keeping only a playoff. No one is suggesting that, and having a plus one system will not diminish the prestige of the Papajohns.com bowl. It never had any in the first place.

*   *   *

I welcome any comments/discussions on the topic. If there are any other objections about a having a plus one system in college football, I’d love to hear them. It just infuriates me to no end to know that the people in charge of the system are getting rich off of fan dollars while not delivering what the fans want.


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.


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