Some BCS Final Score Projections

December 31, 2008

Just for the record, here are my projections for the first four BCS games. They were arrived at via the same method I used for the hypothetical BCS title game scenarios and to project a 35-21 Florida win in the SEC title game (which would have been 34-20 if Phillips didn’t miss his field goal).

I’ve run several bowl games, and it seems to be more accurate for good teams. It projected a 21-17 Boise State win over TCU (actual final: 17-16 TCU win, five total points off), but also a 34-31 Central Michigan win over FAU (actual final: 24-21 FAU, 20 total points off).

Anyway, I’ve used the absolute number projections rather than the percentages because time and again they are the more accurate ones. If you’ve read up on how this works, that has meaning to you. If you haven’t, then don’t worry about it.

Rose Bowl: USC 25 – Penn State 21

Orange Bowl: Cincinnati 19 – Virginia Tech 18

Sugar Bowl: Alabama 25 – Utah 24*

Fiesta Bowl: Texas 37 – Ohio State 18

For what it’s worth, this method has always projected the scores too high except for the obvious outliers (take a bow, Notre Dame) in every bowl I’ve run them for so far.

A bonus pick for tonight: Georgia Tech 31 – LSU 30 in the Chick-fil-A (Peach) Bowl.

*Originally said 25-23, but I noticed an error on the spreadsheet. It now says 25-24 because I don’t want to predict a tie, but since the raw numbers are Alabama 25.29 – Utah 24.93, it technically projects a 25-25 tie.


Hypothetical BCS Title Game Scenarios

December 8, 2008

With the BCS Championship Game set between Florida and Oklahoma, a lot of time and effort will go towards analyzing the two teams. Before we leave everyone else for third place or worse, I figured it would be fun to look at what historians call counterfactuals. You and I know them as “what ifs.”

Florida and Oklahoma are obvious inclusions, as is Texas since some voters out there still think the Longhorns should be No. 1. I went ahead and included USC as well because of how dominant their defense has been, and it’s hardly their fault that the Pac-10 stunk it up big time.

The methodology I used was the same as I used for the SEC title game last week. I looked at what effect each team had on its BCS conference opponents and used that against the other’s season averages to project yardage and points for the game. I am not going to make all the tables for all these matchups, but if you want to see some that illustrate the methodology, have a look at the prior post.

I do two projections for each game. One is using real numbers, meaning statements like “Florida holds its opponents to 12.48 points below their season averages,” and one is using percentages, meaning statements like “Florida holds its opponents to 52 percent below their season averages.” I should mention that I left TCU in Oklahoma’s calculations because the MWC is better that at least the Big East and the Frogs are in the top-15 of the polls.

For the time being, I give more credence to the real number projections because they did a better job at projecting the SEC title game. They had a 35-21 Gator win (actual was 31-20, which becomes 34-20 if UF doesn’t miss a field goal), and they had Florida outgaining Alabama 372 to 325 (actual was UF 358 and Bama 323). The percentages projected the yards slightly better but had the scores too low.

That is a sample size of one though, so I know that the percentages could end up being better in general.

The Matchups

First up is the actual BCS title game with Florida versus Oklahoma. The real numbers project a UF victory of 41-40, with the Sooners outgaining the Gators by a count of 481 to 440. The percentages predict a much more comfortable Gator win of 41-26, with Florida narrowly outgaining the Sooners 449 to 435.

If the Longhorn fans had their way, it would be Florida versus Texas. The real numbers project an instant classic Gator win of 36-35, with the Longhorns barely outgaining their foes 415 to 400. The percentages do the same thing in this game as with UF-OU, as they project a 32-20 Gator win with Florida outgaining Texas 406 to 359.

If we wanted to have an East Coast/West Coast game, we’d have Florida versus USC. The real numbers project a narrow Florida win of 28-24, with USC massively outgaining Florida 385 to 313. The percentages are not as kind to UF as they have USC winning a low-scoring 18-14 contest with the Trojans outgaining the Gators 364 to 275.

If the rematch had happened, we’d have Oklahoma versus Texas. The real numbers project the Sooners avenging their loss with a 42-37 win, having outgained the Longhorns 495 to 436. The percentages see these teams basically even in points with Texas winning 35-34, though the Sooners are projected to outgain Texas 471 to 431.

A replay of 2004 would give us a game with Oklahoma versus USC. The real numbers have Bob Stoops avenging his 2004 loss with a 35-33 win, though with USC outgaining OU 439 to 408. The percentages see the Trojans doubling up the Sooners 32-16, with the Men of Troy massively outgaining OU 439 to 322.

Finally, the matchup of the two on the outside looking in is Texas versus USC. The real numbers project a narrow Trojan win of 27-24, with USC outgaining Texas 399 to 310. The percentages don’t see it that close, with USC rolling the ‘Horns 25-12 and outgaining them 396 to 266.

Overall

Here are the results of this fictional tournament. The real numbers see Florida going 3-0, Oklahoma going 2-1, and Texas and USC each going 1-2. The percentages see USC going 3-0, Florida going 2-1, Texas going 1-2, and Oklahoma going a surprising 0-3.

The real numbers say the system got it right, while the percentages favor the Gators and Trojans. No matter, almost all of these hypothetical games are close. These are all good teams and choosing between them is basically a task of splitting hairs. An actual tournament wouldn’t definitively say which team is best of them, but it would at least give us a most deserving team.

If there’s another matchup of teams you’d like me to do, tell me in the comments and I’ll try to get around to it some time. I’ll do Utah if you want, since I think the MWC is as good as or better than the Big East and maybe the Pac-10, but the WAC is not, so sorry but no Boise State.


The Pac 1

September 27, 2008

Very clever Dawgs. Nice GameDay sign. I’ll give you this one.


Polls Look a Little Like 2004

September 17, 2008

Ah, 2004. The last time we had a presidential election. The last time we had a summer Olympics. Also, the year we had an undefeated Auburn team shut out of the national title game, launching the SEC’s giant unofficial public relations campaign to ensure that would never happen again. The modern conference wars that have been raging the past couple seasons can be traced back to that occurrence.

After the past two seasons, it would seem impossible for an unbeaten SEC club to be shut out again. You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who is not a fanatical partisan for a different league who doesn’t think the SEC is the best of the conferences. Be they Bruce Feldman, Jeff Sagarin, or Sports Illustrated, they all say the SEC is the best of the bunch.

I can’t tell you how many times in recent seasons that I’ve heard that we won’t see another undefeated SEC champion shut out of the national title game like when Auburn was passed up for USC and Oklahoma. Yet look at the rankings and what do you see? USC at No. 1, Oklahoma at No. 2, and an undefeated SEC team at No. 3.

Now, it’s only the fourth week of the season so it’s far too early to sound any alarms just yet. There’s way too much football left to be played to get too worked up over it. However, the fact that the same two teams that were at the top in 2004 are at the top now got me thinking.

USC appears to be entrenched at the top of the polls. As long as the Trojans don’t lose, they won’t fall. They have a popular coach, star power on the field, and the most powerful brand in college football today. In what appears to be a down Pac-10, USC will be able to run up the kinds of huge blowouts that will prevent them from falling.

Oklahoma appears to be the class of the Big 12, which is the consensus No. 2 best conference. If someone doesn’t have the SEC as the best now, they’ve got the Big 12 there. Thanks to the relative lack of defense in the conference, Oklahoma should also be able to run up huge scores to impress voters. Since OU is about the only team in the league that does play tough D, that will probably lead to more blowouts.

The SEC, on the other hand, definitely has a lot of tough defenses. The offenses appear to have some issues with so many first year coordinators and quarterbacks, but the defenses are definitely there. It will be difficult for anyone in the league, even Florida and Georgia, to run up many, if any, blowouts in conference play.

If the eventual SEC champ goes undefeated without scoring gobs of points, will that be enough to pass up USC or Oklahoma? In past years the answer would almost certainly be no, but there has been enough shuffling in the top five so far to think that it might. However, the longer the season goes on the more inertia there is in the polls, so the longer USC and Oklahoma stay at the top, the less likely they are to fall without dropping a game.

What would you say to Oklahoma, the team that most likely gets passed up by an undefeated SEC team? They did all they could do, were in position, and still couldn’t get to the national title game. It would be like the argument Georgia made last season, only the Sooners would have a conference title in their pocket.

If you’re going to use the conference strength argument, that being the SEC champ is worth more than being the Big 12 champ, then Oklahoma shouldn’t be the team left out. USC would need to be passed up because there is no way the Pac-10 is as good as the SEC or Big 12.

I don’t want to imply that the SEC has a birthright on the national title game; just because it is the best conference top-to-bottom doesn’t necessarily mean it will produce one of the two best teams. However, we have a rock-paper-scissors scenario. USC is in the weakest conference but will have the strongest non-conference slate, the SEC team is in the strongest conference but (if it’s not Georgia) probably the weakest non-conference slate, and Oklahoma is right in between.

This is the kind of paradox that makes the BCS a bad thing. A team can win all of its games, which is all anyone can do, and not have a chance to play for the national title. It’s something that will definitely be monitored closely throughout the rest of the season.


It Ends with a Whimper

September 14, 2008

Yup. Turns out the best game of the weekend was Friday night.

The Buckeyes’ fall goes on the Ohio State defense in my mind. Sure Todd Boeckman wilted under pressure like a malnourished begonia. But we knew he’d do that, so the goal had to be to keep the pressure off of him.

Jim Tressel came out in the second drive with a little vintage late-’90s Spurrier action, rotating Boeckman and Terrelle Pryor on nearly every play. It worked until the red zone, when USC rebuffed OSU’s attempts at getting in the end zone, but a field goal left Ohio State with a 3-0 lead.

At that point, the Buckeyes were in good shape. The offense had moved the ball well, and the tough, senior-laden defense was now playing with a lead. They had landed the first punch in the only game all those seniors returned to school for.

Oops. It became 14-3 almost before you could blink as the Trojans knifed their way through Ohio State’s defense with startling ease. Now it was different. Now there was pressure. Now, it was time for Boeckman to self destruct.

The next three drives went like this: missed field goal, Boeckman interception returned for a touchdown, Boeckman lost fumble. It became obvious fairly quickly that Pryor was only around to make one read and run, since he missed some open receivers regularly. The game was put on the senior quarterback, and he sure played like one. Provided your frame of reference is Chris Rix or Anthony Morelli, of course.

USC played like the calm assassins they normally are, but (I can’t believe I’m saying this) they weren’t really challenged much in this game. OSU opened with a jab, USC countered with a right hook, and the Buckeyes hit the mat never to get up.

Somehow you knew the Ohio State offense would struggle without Chris Wells, but the inevitable conclusion is that Wells is the offense. Robiskie and Hartline are no Ginn and Gonzalez, and Boeckman sure is no Smith or Krenzel.

The good news for Ohio State is that the Rose Bowl is still out there. Only Penn State, and to a lesser extent Wisconsin, look like a serious contender for the conference throne for now.

Still, this season is lost for the Buckeyes. They said constantly before the game that it’s not about the top 10, it’s national title or bust. Well, bust it is.


All 2008 Picks In One Place

August 23, 2008

I don’t think I’m going to have time to write up the rest of my picks in as much detail as I did with the ACC and Big 12. Instead, I am just going to reveal them all now. I will also be showing you how my selections fit with the expected outcomes based on ten years of BCS games and my opinion of the upcoming season.

Before we dig into the picks, I have some numbers to share with you. Numbers aren’t as juicy as picks are, of course, but they form the basis of these predictions.

The first bit is about BCS at-large teams. Since 1998, the BCS has had 24 at-large teams. I’m fudging a bit; the BCS Busters (Utah, Boise State, and Hawaii) had auto-bids, as did Nebraska and Oklahoma when they made the championship game without winning the Big 12. Just humor me for now.

Of those 24 at-larges, 20 have had the opportunity to return to the BCS the next season. Six of them were able to do it; fourteen were not. Since only 30% of BCS at-larges return the next season and we had four at-larges in 2007, we should expect that only one of them comes back this season.

The other important set of stats comes from my analysis of the preseason consensus. Based on that, we would expect there to be four BCS teams that were picked to be first in their division/conference, two that were picked second, one that was picked third, and one from all the rest.

That only adds up to eight teams though, and there are ten BCS spots. I have already said that I think this is a “season of titans” as it were, so to fill in those final two spots I am using two more teams that were picked to finish in first place. That makes a total of six teams picked first in their division/conference in the BCS. Also to fit in with that theory, I expect there to be no BCS Busters in 2008.

The preseason consensus, which appears to be about final at this point, can be found here.

One final point to keep in mind is that only one team–the 2003 Oklahoma Sooners who got a championship game automatic bid–has lost its conference championship game and still made the BCS.

Onto the picks!

ACC

Championship Game: Clemson over Virginia Tech

At-Large: None

BIG 12

Championship Game: Oklahoma over Missouri

At-Large: Texas Tech

BIG EAST

Champion: West Virginia (over second-place Cincinnati, third-place USF)

At-Large: None

I see West Virginia this year in a similar situation as Miami in 2002-03. This is perhaps the last big hurrah for a while since it will be extremely tough to replace Pat White. White will make up for other shortcomings on offense, and DC Jeff Casteel returns from last year’s staff to field a defense that is always better than people think it is.

I really like Cincinnati’s chances to finish second. The Bearcats won ten games last season, and two of their three losses were by one score or less. Replacing Ben Mauk will be difficult, but Brian Kelly is a good coach and a good quarterback developer. The defense will carry them to second place.

USF has talent in key areas, but I just don’t think Matt Grothe is consistent enough to carry them to second place in the conference. There’s just something about him I don’t trust.

BIG TEN

Champion: Ohio State

At-Large: Michigan State

Ohio State should be the best team in the country. It has 19 starters coming back from a team that went to the national title game. The Buckeyes have considerably more talent and depth than anyone else in the conference.

Picking Michigan State is rather curious. If you remember though, I have to have someone who was picked beyond the top three of its conference. The Spartans are that team, having been picked sixth in the Big Ten.

All six of MSU’s losses were close last season, making them a prominent member of the potential risers club. They have a great senior tailback in Javon Ringer, and if there’s a conference where you can ride a senior tailback to success, it’s this one. The offensive line is big, QB Brian Hoyer is a veteran, and Mark Dantonio’s coaching will keep the defense solid.

Illinois will fall back to earth without Rashard Mendenhall, I have little faith that Jay Paterno’s “Spread HD” will amount to much, and Bret Bielema’s teams have played to the level of their opponents so much it scares me. The Rose Bowl will need someone to replace the Buckeyes, and I think the Spartans just might be the in best position to get the bid.

Plus, the Big Ten has put more teams predicted to finish below third in the conference into the BCS than any other league. It would stand to reason that the Big Ten would be the most likely conference to produce that surprise team this year.

PAC-10

Champion: USC

At-Large: Arizona State

USC looks more vulnerable to me this season than it has in years. The defense will still be great, believe you me. The offense just won’t be overwhelming as it was in the 2003-05 run, and that is what made those Trojan teams nearly invincible.

Mark Sanchez may be good, but he is no Carson Palmer or Matt Leinart. Just being John David Booty will be enough to win the conference, and I think he can be that. USC gets the benefit of the doubt until it falls.

Arizona State was a year early by winning ten games a season ago. Serious questions persist about the offensive line, and the schedule is tougher with Georgia coming to town. However, Dennis Erickson is still the second-best coach in the conference, and there’s enough continuity to think that the Sun Devils will enjoy another great season.

SEC

Championship Game: Florida over Auburn

At-Large: Georgia

Florida and Auburn were almost mirror images of each other last year. If Florida could only have had a defense to go with its offense, the Gators could have been contenders. If Auburn could only have had an offense to go with its defense, the Tigers could have been contenders.

The offseason of training should make Florida’s defense much improved, and Auburn’s offense showed a lot of promise in its bowl game under new OC Tony Franklin. LSU has so much talent everywhere that they cannot be dismissed, but I don’t think Andrew Hatch is as good as Matt Flynn was. That assumption is the main deciding factor for picking the Tigers from the Plains over the Tigers from the Bayou.

Georgia returns most everyone important from last season. I have some concerns about the team though. Can Mark Richt really keep up the special motivational tactics all season long? If he doesn’t, can the team find the fire inside? The ’Dawgs certainly couldn’t at the beginning of last season.

Will Matthew Stafford really make the leap everyone is expecting? Can another patchwork offensive line come together to have great results? Most of these questions are probably “yes” answers, but I still have UGA finishing second in the SEC East because I think Florida will beat them. I will get into that more around the time of the game, but for now just know I am assuming a Gator win on November 1.

BCS BOWL APPEARANCES

I will use the BCS selection process that I outlined recently to explain why I have everyone going to the bowls they’re listed in.

BCS National Championship Game: Ohio State over Oklahoma

These are the two teams I think have the best shot at going undefeated. Ohio State has the better team, something it didn’t have in 2007, and it will have the motivation of needing to prove the world wrong, something it didn’t have in 2006.

Oklahoma sleepwalked through its two recent BCS games, but it won’t this time. The Sooners don’t have quite the same depth that OSU has though, and the waves of fresh Buckeye players will help decide the game.

For the first time since 2005, we should have a close, entertaining national title game.

Rose Bowl: USC over Michigan State

USC comes in as the tie-in Pac-10 champion. To replace the No. 1 Buckeyes, the Rose Bowl will select Michigan State (ranked between 12 and 14 in the BCS) and get its traditional matchup. The result will be similar to last year’s game as the nation once again howls for the Rose to forget its historical matchup and set up a good game.

Fiesta Bowl: Texas Tech over Arizona State

To replace the No. 2 Sooners, the Fiesta Bowl will take the hometown Sun Devils. It was not able to take them last season because of the Orange taking Kansas; that left the Fiesta with the choice of auto-bid West Virginia or auto-bid Hawai’i.

The Fiesta gets the next choice as well, being first in the rotation this season, so it will take the nearby Red Raiders for the excitement factor. It also will not want a rematch, which is the result of taking Georgia, and it will not want to take West Virginia two years in a row.

The game will be a shootout, and I will take Tech since Mike Leach always seems to do well in bowl games.

Sugar Bowl: Florida over West Virginia

Florida comes as the tie-in SEC champion. The Sugar will take West Virginia so as not to set up a rematch of the Florida-Georgia game.

This should be an exciting game as the poster boys of the spread option, Pat White and Tim Tebow, battle it out in the Superdome. Both offenses will give the defenses fits, but Florida’s stable of playmakers is so much deeper than West Virginia’s is that I have no choice but to take the Gators.

This would be a really, really fun game though.

Orange Bowl: Georgia over Clemson

Clemson comes as the tie-in ACC champion. The Orange Bowl cannot believe its luck that it gets to take Georgia as its at-large team. Both teams are regional powers that will snap up tickets as fast as the bowl can print them.

This is also a historic rivalry game for the schools, though one that hasn’t been played regularly in a while. For that reason, it will be a very hard-fought game with a lot on the line for the fans. Georgia simply has the better team though, so I expect the ’Dawgs to take it in the second half.

In Summary

I have six teams that were picked as first place finishers in the preseason consensus: Clemson, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Ohio State, USC, and Georgia. I have two teams that were picked as second place finishers in the preseason consensus: Florida and Arizona State. I have one team that was picked as a third place finisher in the preseason consensus, Texas Tech, and one from below that, Michigan State. Georgia is the one returning at-large from last season.

All of the BCS games look good except for the Rose Bowl. Most even have an enticing storyline to go along with a good matchup. I feel really bad for leaving Missouri out, but I can’t ignore the history on teams that have lost their conference title games. Subbing the Tigers in for the Red Raiders is still plausible and could also make for a great game.

For what it’s worth, I also expect Ohio State’s Chris Wells to win the Heisman, followed by Chase Daniel, Tim Tebow, and Pat White.

That is over 1,900 words of predicting up there. That’s way more than enough. It’s about time that we actually had some games in what looks to be another outstanding college football season.


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.


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?


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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