Monday, November 27, 2006

The PAC-10: Your One Way Ticket to the National Championship

Well, as I predicted, with USC's destruction of a way overrated Notre Dame, they have successfully jumped Michigan to all but solidify themselves in the National Championship for the fourth straight year (barring an implosion at UCLA this weekend).

I was listening to ESPN Radio today (Colin Cowherd specifically) and I felt I needed to vent a little bit regarding a few of his comments on the SEC. I usually agree with him regarding his view of the conferences and teams, namely that Notre Dame isn't one of the top 10 best in the country and that the Big East is a huge joke.

But today, he called the SEC over-rated, and the premise that he used to knock on the SEC is the very same argument I have used as to why USC has the easy route to the national championship every year.

Cowherd today referred to the SEC as over-rated, saying that none of the teams are of the quality of Michigan, Ohio State, or USC. I don't disagree with him on this. But there's a huge difference between USC and any SEC team, and it's simply that SEC football is 100% more brutal than the candycane fancy offense PAC-10.

USC nearly runs the gamut and gets into the national championship every year because the rest of the PAC-10 is soft, and they are heads and tails above it. I mean LOOK at their CONFERENCE schedule. Arizona (joke), Washington State (joke), Washington (joke), Arizona State (joke), Oregon State (who they lost to, and also a joke), STANFORD (extreme joke), Oregon (overrated joke), Cal (drilled by SEC team joke), and UCLA (has-been joke).

If Florida had THAT schedule in conference, I'm not so sure they wouldn't do as well as USC. I think there's little doubt that they are one of the top 3 teams because Pete Carroll is a superb coach and they do have tons of talent. Still, I believe if you stick USC in the SEC, they might be the team to beat, but you can bet that they'd be upset by somebody.

And the cherry on top? Well, the PAC-10 doesn't even play a championship game. USC wrapped up the conference crown two weeks ago. Now go ahead and try to tell me that doesn't act as an advantage.

The next best team in the PAC-10 couldn't beat the 3rd-5th best team in the SEC, and that's a fact. (Tennessee 35-Cal 18).


Seamus O'Toole said...

Thanks, Stanimal.

I've been making this argument for years, and I love it when people try to tell me the Pac-10 is "traditionally underrated." The "Herd" is an idiot, and his argument that the SEC is overrated is plainly false by any objective standard I can think of.

"What standard is that?" you might ask. Well, since we're trying to be completely fair about this, let's rank all the major conferences by the ONLY measure that doesn't lend itself to controversy: combined win-loss record. By this I mean the total number of wins and losses for all teams in a conference. I took a look at this over the weekend, and the results are crystal clear. Conferences are ranked in order of strength:

1. SEC 89-55 (.618)
2. Big Ten 77-56 (.579)
3. Big 12 81-63 (.563)
4. PAC 10 66-54 (.550)
5. ACC 77-77 (.500)

I built in for the fact that some teams are not finished with their seasons by adding a win and a loss for the conference. (For example, the fact that Cal plays Stanford and USC plays UCLA next week means that there will be two more total wins and two more total losses for the PAC 10.) If Oregon State beats Hawaii, the PAC 10 winning % is .558, and if they lose (as I expect they will) the PAC 10 winning % is .545.

I'm ranking this based on winning percentage because I realize that not all conferences have 12 teams. If you want to imagine that all conferences have the same number of teams, just add two imaginary teams to the PAC 10 and one to the Big 10, both of which have records that match the conference average. Obviously, you get the same results.

Interestingly enough, the Big East will finish the season with a a .625 winning percentage (60-36), which would be good enough for first place. However, I think most would agree that the Big East (with only 8 teams) should be classified as a mid-major conference.

The point is this: no matter how you slice it, the SEC is a much better conference than the PAC 10. That's why if you ask anybody around the SEC, they'd rather win the conference title than go to a BCS bowl any day of the week.

If USC beats UCLA next week, they play for the title. And they may be the second or third best team in the country, so I get it. But I'll go on record: If Florida wins the SEC championship next week to pull to 21-1 -- with wins over LSU, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Georgia (and a loss to now-#11 Auburn, not to awful Oregon State) -- they deserve to play in the BCS National Championship more than the Trojans.

Anonymous said...

RWilliams and Stanimal -- you guys are total homers.

I challenge you both to look beyond your association with the most futile football enterprise in the SEC and see the big picture: USC clearly deserves to play in this year's semi-professional…I mean BCS championship game.

Make all the blanket statements you want about the Pac-10. But USC, year in and year out, has been able to field some of the most talented and entertaining teams money can buy. Literally. It costs a lot of dough to rope in that much talent. Almost as much as FOX and the NCAA would make in advertising revenue if Notre Dame ever played in the BCS championship. You've got to respect that kind of cash -- Reggie Bush and his fam know what I'm talking about.

Speaking of money...let's talk about conference championship games. Don't hold it against USC that the Pac-10 doesn't require its teams to play in an utterly superfluous championship game in December for the sole purpose of inking a monstrous contract with Dr. Pepper and/or ABC or CBS. If the ACC, Big-12 or SEC wanted to level the playing field BCS-wise for their best teams by no longer forcing them to play an extra game against each other in Week 12, they could easily do so. All they'd have to do is trim the fat a little bit by axing some of the lightweight teams (i.e, Baylor, Kansas, Duke … VANDERBILT), consolidate divisions and send their singular regular season champ to the postseason without further qualification. Done and done. But somehow I doubt these leagues are too enthusiastic about dropping multiyear, multimillion dollar TV deals.

So let's get weird and throw some enthusiasm behind USC's third consecutive appearance in the BCS title game. I, for one, would much rather watch Dwayne Jarrett earn himself a new fully loaded Lexus Neon Bodeaux-style with a few one handed TD catches than be forced to sit through four quarters of Chad Henne playing catch with Ohio State's secondary, or worse yet, four quarters of hearing about how Tim Tebow is the great white athlete of the SEC football.

And I don't think Lloyd Carr or Urban Meyer have earned the right to coach in this game either. Carr chased off a perfectly respectable, promising Hispanic quarterback in favor of an interception-prone lightweight who has had a ridiculous tattoo on his throwing arm since the 8th grade. Meyer might be the only college football coach in history to color code his offense in reverse. These types of mistakes should not be overlooked by the BCS electorate, or the blogosphere.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it,

An anonymous contributor whose last name starts with M and ends in Z

PS Apologies for the totally unnecessary pot shot at Vandy.

Stanimal said...

In response to the anonymous user who's name starts with M and ends with Z, both mine and RWilliams point had nothing to do with whether or not USC deserved to play in the national championship. As a matter of fact, I agreed that they should be able to do so. My point and RWilliams point was that the PAC-10 is an extremely weak conference, and that the gap between USC and the next best team is enormous. USC played in and won 5 quality games this year. That's to their credit, and I think they should be in the national championship (though I think they played a weak quality 5 teams).

RWilliams, I gotta disagree with you on Florida. Good argument, however, I must admit.

We all know that down the stretch, it's not how you started, but rather how you finished. On paper, based on the schedule, it certainly looks like Florida has played tough teams all year. In my mind, Florida hopes at the national championship ended when they lost to Auburn because from that point forward, they played strictly average against teams that have struggled all year long. Not to mention that whoever scheduled Western Carolina THIS LATE in the year should consider another profession. The schedules may be made years in advance, but it's not like Western Carolina is ever going to develop into a quality opponent, so why play them this late? No matter how bad you beat them, you won't impress anybody with that victory.

By contrast, USC had their huge games late: Oregon, Cal, and Notre Dame. While we reserve our opinions on those three teams, the pollsters certainly find value in all of them, and as such USC dominating those teams leaves a big time case for contention in the national title game.

Florida's schedule and poor play since November 14th is the reason USC should be, and will be, in over Florida, despite the fact that Florida comes from a tougher conference.

Bobby O'Shea said...

I am certainly an SEC homer, but I would like to ask a question and then clarify a point. Is the issue here about USC or the Pac-10 more generally?

The SEC is certainly a better conference- their overall record as RWilliams outlined above, and that fact that no less than 9 teams are bowl eligible should put to rest any conversation about that. BUT, USC is more deserving of playing Ohio State than either Florida or Arkansas based on the flawed system currently in place.

USC is certainly better than Arkansas since they put a hurt on them in Fayetteville this season. As for Florida, whether they deserve to play Ohio State assuming they win the SEC is certainly debatable. I would argue that if Florida wins on Saturday and is still shut out of the BSC, they will be complicit in their fate. Florida’s non-conference opponents are a paltry 20-27, and that is better than Arkansas’ (18-27, 8-26 without USC). USC’s non-Pac 10 opponents went 29-7 and include 2 participants in conference championship games this Saturday and a Notre Dame team that, while over-hyped, is still a quality opponent. Florida’s resume is hurt by Florida State being so bad this year (6-6), but that makes the 21-14 win they eked out thanks to a terrible Florida State offense that much more discouraging. The argument will be made that the SEC teams need to schedule weaker opponents because of the brutality of the SEC, and while that might be true, voters and pundits are free to use that against them when it comes time to filling out the national title picture.

As for USC not having to play in a conference title game, that is a fair point and it probably is an advantage. On the other hand, neither does Ohio State. How exciting would it be right now if this weekend’s conference titles included a Michigan/Ohio State rematch, or an Ohio State/Wisconsin game (Wisconsin, by the way, might be the most underrated team in the country)? The NCAA should require every conference to play a title game and should eliminate the ridiculous 12th game that allows Arkansas to play a 1-11 Utah State team, or the Gators to play Western Carolina in Gainesville in November. Every conference with a BSC tie-in should have to earn that bid by winning a conference championship game.

Stanimal’s analysis of the PAC 10 is also unduly harsh, especially given that it is coming from a Vanderbilt Sports site. I am not knocking Vanderbilt the way MZ did (unnecessarily, by the way), but the way many SEC opponents look at us (or Mississippi State or Ole Miss) is the way USC looks at some of the “joke” teams that the Animal laid out. I am not saying that top to bottom the conference is better…its not. What I am saying is that in-conference games, no matter who they are against, can get crazy. There is a natural rivalry that exists within conferences among teams that, unless you follow the team, you cannot appreciate. Does that mean that David will slay Goliath every year? Or every 5 years? Perhaps not, but that is always a possibility in conference play.

The problem with all this is that very little, at this point can be definitively decided on the field. Someone, under the system in place, is almost always left out. I feel for the SEC and for a Florida team that, after potentially going 12-1 (with their one loss coming off a questionable call against a very good opponent), is left out in the cold after playing in the best and deepest conference in football. Under the system in place however, USC, regardless of their conference affiliation, deserves to play the Buckeyes if they beat UCLA.

Seamus O'Toole said...

Addendum to my last comment:

SEC 2006 non-conference record: 41-7 (.854)

Losses were to Louisville (Kentucky), Michigan (Vandy), USC (Arkansas), and two each for the two worst teams, Ole Miss and Miss St (Mizzou/Wake and WVU/Tulane). In other words, 4 of 7 losses have been to teams in Top 5 at some point, with all but 1 loss (Tulane 32-29 over Miss St) coming to Top 25 teams.

Keep talking, Colin...

Seamus O'Toole said...

To clarify:

My point initially was that the SEC is much better than the PAC-10, and not about USC. Stanimal cleared that up, so everything in that regard is moot.

The secondary point I made was that Florida DESERVES to play in the BCS title game more than USC. I did NOT say Florida is the better team. I should probably expand on that.

Think about NCAA basketball. Tell me the last time the 4 BEST/MOST TALENTED teams in the country played in the Final Four. No, you can't, because it never happens. But that's not a bad thing, it's a good thing. The goal of a championship in my mind is not to pair up the two BEST teams necessarily, but the two teams that have earned it the most.

I think Florida (assuming a win against Arkansas), by virtue of winning what is clearly the best conference in football with only one loss to Auburn, deserves to play in the BCS title game more than a USC team that won what is clearly a mediocre conference with one loss to a pathetic Oregon State team.

Of course, all this is going to become irrelevant when UCLA beats Southern Cal next Saturday.

Stanimal said...

Point taken O'Shea. I clarified it a few seconds earlier, but my beef is not with USC, it's with the Pac-10.

As for the in-conference rivalries, I support Vandy sports, and I like to see them do well. But I'd be lying if I said that we're in the upper echelon of SEC athletics. This argument is with regards to "national championship" contention, and we aren't to that stage (yet, haha). So I apologize for offending any west-coast teams that I referred to as a "joke". But let's face it, y'all aren't the belles of the ball. In the SEC, in-conference rivalries are much more evenly matched. The teams are highly competitive with top-notch recruits going to each school. If you go to and take a look at the top 25 recruiting classes for the past three years, you'll notice a pretty apparent trend. In 2005, the top 10 for recruiting included 2 SEC schools and 2 Pac-10 (USC, who had the number one class). In 2006, USC again topped the charts, but Georgia, Florida, LSU, and Auburn all cracked in to the top 10 as well. This year, USC is in the top 5, but you have Georgia, Florida, LSU, Tennessee, Auburn, and even Ole Miss in the top 10.

Where do you find the next best Pac-10 school to USC? This year to this point its Oregon at 22. Last year it was UCLA at 17. For 2005, you had USC and Cal in the top 10 (Cal was 9), but after that the next best was Arizona. Who came before Arizona? Georgia, Florida, Auburn, and Alabama. So while the in-conference rivalries may mean a lot to the rest of the Pac-10, there is zero doubt that USC is several rungs up the ladder from the rest, unlike Ohio State in the Big Ten, or Florida (we think) in the SEC.

So how do you get to the national championship several years in a row? Play in a conference that appears tough. Just ask FSU, Miami, or Oklahoma.

Bobby O'Shea said...

RWilliams makes a ridiculous point here that cannot be ignored. NCAA Basketball and NCAA Football’s championship apparatus are, unfortunately, not the same. I do not see how a team can “deserve” to play for the national title if they are not considered the best team based on their on-field performance. Say what you will about the BSC, but its mission is to have the two best teams play for the title. But make no mistake about it, the goal of a championship IS to pair up the two best teams, who, by virtue of being the best, deserve to be there because they are the best. Where the system falls (extremely) short is that there is an serious impasse when it is not demonstrably clear who the best two teams are. Such is the case this year.

I understand the point about the NCAA tournament, but really think you are comparing apples and oranges. Because the NCAA tournament is based head-to-head competition, rather then strength of schedule or conference, play on the field determines who the best team is (at least at that particular time of the season). This approach is certainly preferable, but given the system in place, we cannot start divorcing “best” and “most deserving” when the way the BCS title is decided is already so subjective and ambiguous.

Seamus O'Toole said...

Bobby O'Shea would do well to actually read what I wrote instead of belittling it as "ridiculous" without a second thought.

First, I agree about the BCS's supposed mission, but does it really live up to it? The BCS will not take 3 teams from any one conference to play in BCS bowls. So if the mission was to have the "best" teams play in these games, what's unfair about it if 3 of the best teams are from the same conference? (That is just one example of how the BCS contradicts itself.)

Second, I did NOT say that under the CURRENT system, Florida should necessarily be playing for the championship (assuming a win next week and a USC win). I do think a 1-loss SEC champion in a year like this is the most deserving of any 1-loss team, for the precise reason that, objectively, the winner of the best conference going to the national championship makes a lot of sense to me (when it is stacked up against teams with identical records from worse conferences). But sure, I guess that could be characterized as "ridiculous"...

Also, you have to look at who these teams LOST to. Florida lost to Auburn (who was in the national title discussion until losing to Georgia), while USC lost to Oregon State (who is likely to finish 8-5 with losses to UCLA and Washington State).

My point, again, is that in terms of TALENT and ABILITY, USC may well be the "best" of the one-loss teams. But I don't think those criteria alone make you most deserving (ask Michigan).

"Best" and "deserving" are indeed two different categories, which anyone who has watched the buzz around why voters would never put Michigan into a national title game against Ohio State ought to understand.

Finally, after calling my point ridiculous, you ultimately agree with it and concede at the end of the comment that what I am saying is correct -- football should be more like basketball by having a playoff. Under that system, the system you just said you are in favor of, the "best" team does not always play for the national championship, but the most "deserving" team (i.e., the team that has one 5 straight games in the NCAA tourney, assuming no disastrously blown calls that make any of their wins undeserving) ALWAYS does.

Bottom line: a playoff would resolve this, and for an SEC team (i.e., a team from what is consistently the best conference) to play for a national championship, that's probably what we'll have to wait for.

Stanimal said...

I knew that comment would get some tempers flaring.

Look, we all agree in a roundabout way that a playoff system is the cure to all of these unanswered questions. Any time you have a system in sports which does not allow for multiple top-ranked teams to play each other, you run into that problem. The key words, which O'Shea brought up, are "subjective" and "ambiguous". I mean look at it, do we really think it's a good idea to allow the Coaches to have so much clout in determining who goes? They're not even watching the games.

O'Shea isn't disputing the need for a playoff. What he is saying is that you can't make the system less concrete by throwing "most-deserving" in the mix because there's already so much chaos in it anyway. And I agree with him at the same time that you cannot have a playoff of the same style as college basketball. I've always been an advocate of the plus-one system, which I think keeps all of the pollsters, bowls, and University Presidents happy. Good luck getting those folks to sacrifice the money they make of the bowl system to determine who the real champion is in a 16 or even an 8 game playoff.

On a final note, I went to see Chan Gailey speak a few weeks back (for those of you who don't know, he is the head coach of Georgia Tech) and he brought up an interesting point. Let's not forget that college sports are amateur athletics. The bowls provide each and every school with an opportunity to end their seasons on high notes. Perhaps this is fluff that he uses to disguise the truth that the school loves the money, but it certainly is not a bad point. College football is about as close to a farm system for the pros as you can get.

Bobby O'Shea said...

RWilliams will now be known as Mr. Apples and Oranges, since it is clear that he likes to compare disimilar things for the sake of proving a point. At no point was I arguing aganist a playoff system, I think my record on that is pretty clear. What I was responding to was your analogy concerning the NCAA basketball tournament and how, often, the 4 "best" teams do not make the final four. If the NCAA had a playoff system in football anywhere near as comprehensive what they have in basketball, this entire thread would be moot. Unfortunately, they do not.

Now, let me be clear to all 7 of you (include Mr. A&O), I am not a BCS apologist. I think the BCS is indicative of an NCAA that is completely incompetent. I am glad congress is going to investigate their "not for profit" status and how the good people in Indianopolis get a wake up call.

Mr. A&O says "I did NOT say that under the CURRENT system, Florida should necessarily be playing for the championship (assuming a win next week and a USC win). I do think a 1-loss SEC champion in a year like this is the most deserving of any 1-loss team." Which is it? I never stated that your position was that with a win, Florida should "necessarily play," for the title. All I said was, I do not think they are a better or more deserving than USC. Perhaps I am biased because of the Gators school of the blind out of conference schedule; maybe it is the unimpressive way they have concluded the year; whatever it is, Florida just does not do it for me; SEC or not. In fact, right now, I would say that if USC loses, that Michigan should get a re-match at the Buckeyes.

I'm on fire!

Anonymous said...

You guys have too much time on your hands. Here's something that you can all be proud of and will provide a breath of fresh air.

It was reported today on that Denver will start Jay Cutler at QB for the remainder of the season.

While there are reasons for this (Plummer making rookie mistakes...alot of them) and against this decision (Broncs are still in playoff contention, Plummer took them deep into the post season last year, etc), Cutler has earned his chance. He'll be facing the Seattle Defense which has not looked sharp in recent weeks. While I have no dazzling stats, no long memory of Plummer's past performance, the one thing that I do have is some free time this Sunday. Why not gather around the idiot box and cheer on a fellow Vandy grad.

Feel free to roast me if so desired.

Seamus O'Toole said...

Mr. A&O here, for all 5 of you following the rants of Mr. J___ B_______ (code name Bobby O'Shea).

He tried to change the subject and make you think I was saying he's against a playoff, which I'm not. The whole point was that there is a difference between "better" and "more deserving"--and that's all there was to my point. If you want to argue that USC is more deserving, that's fine, and I'm going to disagree (in a friendly way) for several reasons, a few already stated.

But your argument, if you recall, was that "given the system in place, we cannot start divorcing “best” and “most deserving”". Was I ever talking about the system in place? No. I clearly acknowledged early on that I understand why USC will play for the title, given the system in place.

My overarching point is that the system in place makes it very hard to know who the most deserving team is. I think it's Florida, you think it's USC--fine. I could start talking about blown calls in the USC-Wash St game or something, but obviously you don't want to have that discussion.

You want to be sure everyone reading this makes no distinction between the terms "best" and "most deserving." I hope you realize something: by your logic, if a team ranked 112th beats a team ranked #1, the #112 team should automatically be ranked No. 1. That's because the team that deserved to win (by virtue of having scored more points than the other team) is necessarily the BETTER of those two teams. Because there is no difference between being better and being more deserving, right? Wrong.

The #112 team might have been better on that night, but no one in their right mind would argue that they are a better team than the team they beat. That's the nature of sports.

As far as the nickname you gave me goes, I think the comparison to basketball is very warranted, because almost anyone who has proposed a serious argument for a playoff system in college football has made reference to how well it has worked in basketball in terms of being a fair system. So I guess we can go ahead and name all those people Mr. and Mrs. A&O also, can't we?

Would a playoff system be perfect? No. Would it be better than the system we have now? Yes. Regardless, it is a system (that J___ B_______, code name Bobby O'Shea) favors, and since it is a system that rewards the most deserbing teams instead of the best teams (though sometimes they are the same), Mr. B.O. seems to agree that there is in fact a difference between being the best and being the most deserving.