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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

PAC-10 Uber Alles?

Excellent analysis by Ted Miller on the PAC-10 v. the world.

Best observation I didn't know: "That combination of nine conference games and tough nonconference scheduling also leads to this: No PAC-10 team played fewer than five road games this year. Seven played six -- including Oregon and Stanford -- and USC played seven.  Contrast that with other top-10 BCS programs: Auburn (four road games), Wisconsin (five), Ohio State (four), Arkansas (four), Michigan State (four), Oklahoma (five) and LSU (four)."

Best quote: "There are 19 other bowl-eligible BCS conference teams that are 6-6 or 7-5. How many would not be bowl eligible if they played an extra conference game, another road game (or two), one fewer nonconference patsy and one more tough nonconference game?"

Best conclusion from the column: "In other words, 5-7 in the PAC-10 is much different than it is in the Big Ten, Big 12, SEC and ACC. That's what the non-biased Sagarin Ratings take note of when it rates the PAC-10 ahead of other conferences."

Read the article. He raises some good points.

Monday, November 29, 2010

What a Weekend!

What a tremendous week of great games: Auburn/Alabama, LSU/Arkansas, Boise State/Nevada, Oklahoma/Oklahoma State.

It seems unlikely that Stanford will get to the Rose Bowl. Too bad. I think Wisconsin v. Stanford would be a great pairing - and in keeping with the PAC 10 - Big 10 tradition.  Instead, Stanford is more likely to end up playing Oklahoma or Nebraska in the Fiesta.  (Orange Bowl v. Virginia Tech is also an outside possibility.) Stanford matches up well against Wisconsin, being strongest defensively against the run and with an offense the likes of which Wisconsin has not seen all year. A-little-better-than-mediocre Iowa most resembles Stanford's style, and they played Wisconsin dead even. Either way, Stanford has an exciting array of possible marquee match ups (unless they get stuck with Connecticut in the Orange Bowl!)

Assuming Oregon plays Auburn for the national championship, I'm picking Oregon to lose. Studying their game stats this year, I'm convinced the green smurfs are vulnerable - I just don't think they've got the requisite toughness on either side of the ball. Their offense was essentially shut down against Arizona State.  The one time I was impressed with their defense was the second half v. Stanford.  But even then they had help from mistake-prone Stanford.

Arizona State
Speaking of Arizona State, they must be the best five win team in the country. They've been close in just about every game they've played.  Wisconsin beat them with a blocked PAT. They out gained Oregon by a wide margin (but had seven turnovers, two directly for touchdowns). They played Stanford very, very close. The Sun Devils could easily be 9-2 right now. It just underscores how volatile a college football season can be. I understand they have most of their team back next year.  Look out.

Northwestern is a poster child for scheduling your way into a bowl game. Yeah, they have seven wins, but just 3-5 in their conference.  Not just to pick on the Big 10, but I think any team that can't win half it's conference games doesn't deserve a post season celebration. Teams should not be rewarded for loading up on out-of-conference patsies.

Conference Comparisons
I read a good analysis from a San Jose blog.  The writer cited some stats regarding how the PAC-10's full round robin scheduling hurts the conference. The observations:
  • The SEC, Big 12 and Big 10 play four out-of-conference games: one BCS opponent, two mid-majors and one FCS.  The PAC-10 plays three out-of-conference games, including more BCS conference teams than anyone else, plus one more in-conference (BCS) game. That translates essentially to one more loss for half the PAC-10 teams compared to the other major conferences.  It affects rankings, it affects bowl bids. 
  • Jeff Sagarin, the oldest and most respect rating system, ranks the PAC-10 as #1. 
  • The PAC-10 has a higher win percentage in the BCS era than any other conference in BCS head to head out of conference games and against BCS top 25 teams.
  • This year the PAC-10 has the strongest out of conference performance, including the toughest out of conference schedule. The PAC-10 has 9 teams ranked in the top 15 in terms of strength of schedule.
Sources (we're not making this stuff up):

Monday, November 22, 2010

Big Game and More

Big Game
I do love college football. I was at the Big Game Saturday (Stanford at Cal) and got see old Memorial Stadium before the renovation. Counting Notre Dame, that makes two storied stadiums I've had the privilege of visiting this year. Memorial stadium is beautifully located (dug into a hillside overlooking San Francisco Bay) with a perfect bowl configuration that's fairly close to the field. Unfortunately, its so old there is no concourse, bladder breaks head for the Honey Buckets out back and it's cramped, cramped, cramped.  All 67,000 seats are wooden benches, no backs, and the bench in front of you is so close, you literally must stick your knees between the fans in front of you.

I was impressed with the decorum of the Cal fans.  I expected worse, based on some bad actors last year in Stanford, but the Bears took it well (except for the Cal students who threw water bottles at those three celebrating Stanford students while the cops watched - and who then admonished the Stanford kids).  Too bad the Cal team wasn't as civilized before the game.

Also, too bad the security didn't do the same after the game. They really, REALLY wanted to keep Stanford students off the field and cordoned off the end zone area where we sat with yellow caution tape and three deep in cops and stadium security.  Stanford fans found a way, however, and some Junior G-Men from stadium security were tackling a few of them on the field, including young women.  This is while dozens to hundreds of people streamed by.  Idiots. They finally gave up when the Stanford team came from mid field to gather near the end zone.

The Hit
Gotta love Stanford QB Andrew Luck.  He's got size and he's not afraid to use it. Take a look at him decking Cal DB Sean Cattouse en route to a 58 yard run.  He's a horse. The best part was the way Luck seemed to pause momentarily before resuming his dash.  Admiring his work?

Stanford's Bowl Hopes
Still hoping for the Rose Bowl but the pollsters aren't helping.  Let's see, Stanford demolishes Cal in Berkeley and drops in the polls.  Thank god for the computer rankings. Somehow, folks back east seem to think that since the Big 10-1/2 has three one-loss teams then it must be a strong conference and worthy of high rankings. Of course, they don't all play one another.  For a great analysis on that, read Seattle PI columnist Ted Miller's take which follows.

Ted Miller on PAC-10 v. the World
"Over at the Pac-10, we're grinning. We're about to point out the Pac-10 plays a nine-game conference schedule, which automatically adds five losses to the conference, which, of course, hurts the conference's national perception, not to mention its number of bowl-eligible teams. Every other BCS conference plays eight, other than the eight-team Big East. But that’s not why we're grinning. We're grinning because the Big Ten and the Big 12 will do that soon, and then they'll find out the perception consequence of not giving your entire conference an extra win with a nonconference patsy. Of course, the savvy SEC will continue to play eight conference games, schedule weak nonconference opponents and then trumpet itself as super-awesome.

Why is the Pac-10 No. 2 [conference]? Well, it's got the nation's No. 1 team in Oregon. It's got the nation's No. 6 team in Stanford, which many believe to be the nation's best one-loss team. And four of 10 teams are ranked. Are Iowa and Wisconsin good teams? Absolutely. But Iowa lost to Arizona, which has three Pac-10 defeats, and Wisconsin got a fluky one-point win at home over Arizona State, which is 2-5 in the Pac-10. The Pac-10 is 10-4 overall vs. other BCS conferences. It's ranked No. 1 by the Sagarin ratings, which for some reason don't believe stadium size is a true measure of a team or a conference. Even lowly Washington State is no longer the pushover it was the previous two seasons.

Depth? Let's put it this way: The Pac-10 would love to match the team that ends up second to last in its conference versus the one that ends up in that spot anywhere else."

Well said.  Bottom line, distribute an additional loss to half the teams in the other conferences. Interesting exercise, no?

Here are my rankings using "who would win"(in head-to-head competition) speculation. I'm still unconvinced Boise State and TCU could stay undefeated with a tough conference schedule. Hey, it's an opinion.
(BCS in parentheses):

 1    Oregon  (1)
 2    LSU (5)
 3    Alabama (11)
 4    Auburn  (2)
 5    Stanford (6)
 6    Boise State (4)
 7    Nebraska (15) (assuming a healthy and happy QB Martinez)
 8    Arkansas (12)
 9    TCU (3)
10   Wisconsin (7)
11   South Carolina (18)
12   Oklahoma State  (9)
13   Who cares?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Polls

Did a bit of research into who votes in the polls. Here's the breakdown by conference/state of both the sports writers and coaches poll.  The reader is left to draw his/her own conclusions:

                                      AP Sportswriters                 USA Today Coaches

Big 10 States                         12                                            14

SEC States                            14                                            15

PAC 10 States                        6                                              6

Down the Stretch Its Anybody's Ballgame

Time to get Futbol Thots back on track

Stanford's Bowl Prospects
Despite just one loss and current #6 rank in the BCS, Stanford's hopes of getting to the Rose Bowl are virtually nil. If things stay as they are, the Rose Bowl will be obligated to take TCU or Boise State. Stanford's only hope, should they win out, would be for Auburn to lose, giving either BSU or TCU a chance to move into the championship game, whether or not they deserve it.  The other big bowls will pick teams from the SEC or Big 12 and/or someone from the east coast.  The Sugar Bowl is Stanford's other best hope...officials attended the Arizona State game (ouch!).  My bet, though, is that they go with an SEC team and TCU. Meanwhile, Michigan State is a likely Rose Bowl entry, a team that defintely does not deserve any ranking better than 15th, if that. 

Big 10-1/2
Now, go figure that this conference, a clearly mediocre product this year with no national contender, will get two (are they allowed to have three?) in the BCS (Wisconsin, on balance a far more worthy team than Michigan State, despite the head to head result, will be the other). Meanwhile, Stanford, a team in the mix when pundits ask about the best one-loss team in the country, will likely have to settle for the Alamo Bowl. Seems to me the Bowls would be better served inviting Boise State to the Sugar or Orange Bowl, and ignore the minor league entries from the ACC and Big East, thereby clearing the way for the PAC to play in the Rose Bowl.  It won't happen, of course.

Biggest Losers of the Week
Boise State and TCU stock took a nose dive, their strength of schedule plummeting with Oregon State's shellacking at the hands of the worst team in the PAC and Utah's drubbing at Notre Dame.  (By the same token, Stanford's stock goes up, if only incrementally).  At least, that's what I thought until I thought about it for a moment.  The polls don't really look at strength of schedule. Bottom line: far too much emphasis is put on won-loss record, particularly if a team is undefeated. That only makes sense in playoff scenarios - which of course make polls moot. When deciding national champions by committee, you must look closely at strength of schedule.  It's the only way to accurately answer "who would win" when most of the top teams don't actually play each other. When they do play each other, they should be rewarded, not penalized. My ranking below reflects that approach.

Biggest Winners of the Week
Boise State and TCU. As stated previously, the polls don't care much about strength of schedule. Cowed by past "outrages," once you lose, you're toast in the polls.

National Championship
Auburn will not be going to the BCS championship game.  They will lose one more game. If not to Alabama, then to South Carolina.

My Rankings (BCS Ranking)

 1   Auburn (2 )  Placeholder: I think they're going to lose.
 2   Oregon (1)   I'm still not convinced of these guys
 3   LSU (5)
4    Alabama (11)
5    Arkansas (13)
6    Nebraska (8)
7    Boise State (4)
8    Stanford (6)
9    TCU (3)
10  Wisconsin (7)
11  South Carolina (17)
12  Oklahoma State  (10)
Anything after this doesn't matter