Oh, Donna…..

Irony, from the latest issue of ESPN: The Magazine. In a story on tOhio State University President Gordon Gee, you will find this gem:

“At Miami, president Donna Shalala personally hires each coach. She studies the NCAA rulebook and weekly compliance reports. During football games, she scours the sidelines for suspicious guests. ‘I’m on alert all the time,’ she says.”

Yeah. Sure she was. All the time.

Boise State MIGHT Not Obviously Would Have Made An NCAA Playoff

EDIT AGAIN: Dan Wetzel, the patron saint of the playoff, doesn’t have Boise State in HIS bracket, either. So please complain to him.

Those clamoring for a Division I playoff in college football (and I’m pro-playoff, let’s get this out of the way up top, but I’m not calling for Congressional intervention) might not have seen one of their darlings in the field this year, depending on how the participants might have been determined would have been delighted to have Boise State take the WAC’s automatic bid on the basis of being the highest-ranked of the three teams that all finished 7-1 in conference play. Thanks to alert reader TA who pointed out that there was actually a three-way tie, not a two-way tie atop the WAC. But, I’ll say this: Nevada is 12-1, and some people make such a big deal about one win sometimes (like when Utah was 13-0 in 2008 and Florida was 13-1 but Utah tried to tell us their 13-0 was more impressive than Florida’s 13-1), you’d wonder why they wouldn’t do the same with Nevada.

Some playoff scenarios insist you have to give all 11 conference champions an automatic bid (and you might have to, just to get the votes to get a playoff implemented). If that’s true, Boise State may be on the outside looking in, as they wouldn’t have been their conference’s automatic qualifier and may not have received one of the five available at-large bids.

Let’s look at the automatic bids under a system where the 11 conference champions (however each conference determines them) are in the field. And we’ll use the current tiebreaker of BCS ranking, which appears to be what determined the Big Ten and Big East entrants this year.

ACC Champion: Virginia Tech (11-2)
Big 12 Champion: Oklahoma (11-2)
Big East Champion: Connecticut (8-4)
Big Ten Champion: Wisconsin (11-1)
Conference USA Champion: Central Florida (10-3)
Mid-American Champion: Miami (OH) (9-4)
Mountain West Champion: TCU (12-0)
Pac-10 Champion: Oregon (12-0)
SEC Champion: Auburn (13-0)
Sun Belt Champion: Florida International (6-6)
WAC Champion: Nevada (12-1) Boise State (11-1)

EDIT: Obviously, the rest of this is based on a faulty premise, so no need to read any farther. Suffice it to say, I suck and I am chastened. Feel free to send a strongly-worded email to your own address.
Continue reading Boise State MIGHT Not Obviously Would Have Made An NCAA Playoff

Okay, So Let Me Get This Straight….

After a long, arduous climb, one fraught with twists, turns and drama, that plucky little Boise State team has persevered and kept its hopes alive for a spot in the BCS Championship Game. Its win over Virginia Tech yesterday, coming so late in a tough season as it did, virtually assures…

Wait, what?

This was their first game?

What the f***, USA Today?

It’s week one. Uno. The first. There are months to go.

Now, I know Boise State has a fairly easy road the rest of the way (naturally), but, please, can we stop doing this every year? Every year a handful of teams start out 4-0 or 5-0 and people start kvetching about what will happen if there are more than two undefeated teams and this means we need a playoff and how are they ever going to resolve this and blah blah blah blah. By week twelve it usually sorts itself out.

Now, I’m used to Halloween displays going up in August and Christmas music being played on the radio before Thanksgiving, but I believe this is the first time I’ve seen someone anointed as a BCS championship contender based on their first frigging game. “Keeps (their) BCS hopes alive?” Whuck?

Now, kudos to Boise State, nice win and all that. I’m usually a fan of the underdog, and if they happen to run the table and knock off some people and get into the big game (which is here in the Valley, by the way) and win that, fine. They may or may not do that. But lets please not go putting them there when the season is five days old, people.

The other thing I have a serious problem is this cottage industry that has sprung up (PTI’s Michael Wilbon may be the founder of this movement) that if the Broncos were in the SEC or Big Ten or Big Twelve, they’d go undefeated. (Wilbon’s actual quote, “Boise State will beat anybody in the SEC.”)

Really? You think so?

Here’s the facts, boys and girls: in the last 20 years (since 1990), exactly seven teams (five schools) have gone undefeated in Big Ten conference play and only four have run the table on their entire regular season1. Only seven SEC teams (four schools) have gone undefeated in conference play2 and five of them have been unblemished through the regular season and conference title game. In the Big 12 (and Big 8 before that), it’s happened a bit more often: 11 teams (four schools) have gone undefeated in conference play3 (Colorado and Nebraska were 6-0-1 in 1991) and eight have been undefeated through the regular season and conference title game.

So 25 times in 20 years in three conferences, a total of 13 schools have gone undefeated in conference play. And you want to tell me that Boise State could do it? You cannot tell me that Boise State is getting the sheer number of outstanding players that an Alabama, Florida or Texas gets. Their first 22 may be very, very good. But there’s no way they go undefeated through these conference schedules with their current team when so few have been able to do it with theirs.

Now, you could say that IF Boise State was in the SEC, they’d be able to get better players and better athletes and that’s fair. But eight other SEC schools get athletes, too, and they don’t go undefeated in conference play. Not in the last 20 years.

It’s just too hard to do.

For the record (and for those of you who aren’t regular readers), I’m in favor of a playoff. I have yet to see the perfect format, and I know you’re not going to get one that makes everybody happy. But more than I’m for a playoff, I’m against people who say stupid things. And, for some reason, college football seems to make more people say more stupid things than just about anything in our sports culture.

But someone like USA Today shouldn’t be leading the charge on that.

(For the record, since 1996, Boise State is 66-22 against WAC teams. Their win over Virginia Tech was their first over an ACC team – they’re now 1-1 against that conference. Overall since ’96, they’re 17-7 against BCS conference teams. That’s very good. That ain’t undefeated.)

1 – Michigan in ’91 and ’97, Penn State in ’94, Northwestern in ’95, Iowa in ’02 and Ohio State in ’02 and ’06 all went undefeated in Big Ten play.
2 – Florida in ’91, ’95 and ’96, Alabama in ’92 and ’09, Tennessee in ’98, Auburn in ’04.
3 – Colorado in ’90 and ’91, Nebraska in ’91, ’93, ’94, ’95 and ’97, Oklahoma in ’00 and ’04 and Texas in ’05 and ’09.

You Say You Got a Real Solution? We’d All Love to See The Plan

Dan Wetzel‘s plan for a major college football playoff is pretty close to the one I’ve espoused – but I don’t believe I’ve ever written about – for a while now. You can read his, I’ll give you the short version of how I think it should go down: Continue reading You Say You Got a Real Solution? We’d All Love to See The Plan

Bobby, We’re Glad We Knew Ye…

Meant to get to this yesterday: Bobby Bowden is stepping down after 34 years as the head football coach at Florida State University.

There’s not a lot I can say that will honor the man – his accomplishments speak for themselves. While FSU hadn’t matched the quality of its amazing run of 1987-2000 in recent years, college football was better with Bobby Bowden in it. It’ll be worse without him. But, such is the way of things. Bowden is 80 and the impatience of today’s sports society demands results.

As you all may know, I’m a proud graduate of the University of Florida. But my first job out of college was at the CBS television station in Tallahassee, where I covered that 1987 Seminoles team that started Bowden’s ridiculous run of 14 straight top-five finishes. The photo above is from the day before the Fiesta Bowl against Nebraska – held, coincidentally enough, here in the Valley of the Sun, where I now live, at Arizona State University, where I now teach.

I had that photo blown up and took it to FSU’s football offices to see if Bowden would sign it for me (hey, I was 23, what did I know about crossing ethical lines?). His secretary took it, and in a couple of days, it was waiting for me, signed by the coach: “To a much promising (sic) sports commentator. Best wishes, Bobby Bowden.”

More than two decades later, that signed 8 x 10 still hangs on a wall in my house. It’s a reminder to me of a gentleman I’ll always respect and admire.

Godspeed, Bobby. This Gator wishes you well, always.

Non-Conference Call

Yes, Florida’s schedule sucks. Yes, playing Charleston Southern and Troy in back-to-back weeks is hardly what you think of when you think of what makes college football great.

But the Gators aren’t the only team facing substandard non-conference opposition this year. Here’s a look at every non-conference game scheduled for every team in a BCS conference in 2009 (*=FCS team):

Southeastern Conference (8 conference games)
Alabama – Virginia Tech, Florida International, North Texas, Chattanooga*
Arkansas -Missouri State*, Texas A&M, Eastern Michigan, Troy
Auburn – Louisiana Tech, West Virginia, Ball State, Furman*
Florida – Charleston Southern*, Troy, Florida International, Florida State
Georgia - Oklahoma State, Arizona State, Tennessee Tech*, Georgia Tech
Kentucky – Miami (Oh.), Louisville, Louisiana-Monroe, Eastern Kentucky*
LSU – Washington, Louisiana-Lafayette, Tulane, Louisiana Tech
Mississippi – Memphis, Southeastern Louisiana*, Alabama-Birmingham, Northern Arizona*
Mississippi State – Jackson State*, Georgia Tech, Houston, Middle Tennessee
South Carolina – North Carolina State, Florida Atlantic, South Carolina State*, Clemson
Tennessee – Western Kentucky, UCLA, Ohio, Memphis
Vanderbilt - Western Carolina, Rice, Army, Georgia Tech

Big 12 Conference (8 conference games)
Baylor – Wake Forest, Connecticut, Northwestern State*, Kent State
Colorado – Colorado State, Toledo, Wyoming, West Virginia
Iowa State – North Dakota State*, Iowa, Kent State, Army
Kansas – Northern Colorado*, Texas-El Paso, Duke, Southern Mississippi
Kansas State – Massachusetts*, Louisiana-Lafayette, UCLA, Tennessee Tech*
Missouri – Illinois, Bowling Green, Furman*, Nevada
Nebraska – Florida Atlantic, Arkansas State, Virginia Tech, Louisiana-Lafayette
Oklahoma – Brigham Young, Idaho State*, Tulsa, Miami (Fla.)
Oklahoma State – Georgia, Houston, Rice, Grambling State*
Texas – Louisiana-Monroe, Wyoming, Texas-El Paso, Central Florida
Texas A&M – New Mexico, Utah State, Alabama-Birmingham, Arkansas
Texas Tech – North Dakota*, Rice, Houston, New Mexico

Big Ten Conference (8 conference games)
Illinois – Missouri, Illinois State*, Cincinnati, Fresno State
Indiana – Eastern Kentucky*, Western Michigan, Akron, Virginia
Iowa – Northern Iowa*, Iowa State, Arizona, Arkansas State
Michigan – Western Michigan, Notre Dame, Eastern Michigan, Delaware State*
Michigan State – Montana State*, Central Michigan, Notre Dame, Western Michigan
Minnesota – Syracuse, Air Force, California, South Dakota State*
Northwestern – Towson*, Eastern Michigan, Syracuse, Miami (Oh.)
Ohio State – Navy, Southern California, Toledo, New Mexico State
Penn State – Akron, Syracuse, Temple, Eastern Illinois*
Purdue – Toledo, Oregon, Northern Illinois, Notre Dame
Wisconsin – Nothern Illinois, Fresno State, Wofford*, Hawaii

Pac 10 Conference (9 conference games)
Arizona – Central Michigan, Northern Arizona*, Iowa
Arizona State – Idaho State*, Louisiana-Monroe, Georgia
California – Maryland, Eastern Washington*, Minnesota
Oregon – Boise State, Purdue, Utah
Oregon State – Portland State*, UNLV, Cincinnati
Stanford – Wake Forest, San Jose State, Notre Dame
UCLA – San Diego State, Tennessee, Kansas State
Southern California – San Jose State, Ohio State, Notre Dame
Washington – LSU, Idaho, Notre Dame
Washington State – Hawaii, SMU, Notre Dame

Atlantic Coast Conference (8 conference games)
Boston College – Northeastern, Kent State, Notre Dame, Central Michigan
Clemson – Middle Tennessee, Texas Christian, Coastal Carolina*, South Carolina
Duke – Richmond*, Army, Kansas, North Carolina Central*
Florida State – Jacksonville State*, Brigham Young, South Florida, Florida
Georgia Tech – Jacksonville State*, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Georgia
Maryland – California, James Madison*, Middle Tennessee, Rutgers
Miami – Oklahoma, Florida A&M*, Central Florida, South Florida
North Carolina – The Citadel*, Connecticut, East Carolina, Georgia Southern*
North Carolina State – South Carolina, Murray State*, Gardner-Webb*, Pittsburgh
Virginia – William & Mary*, Texas Christian, Southern Mississippi, Indiana
Virginia Tech – Alabama, Marshall, Nebraska, East Carolina
Wake Forest – Baylor, Stanford, Elon*, Navy

Big East Conference (7 conference games)
Cincinnati – Missouri State*, Oregon State, Fresno State, Miami (Oh.), Illinois
Connecticut – Ohio, North Carolina, Baylor, Rhode Island*, Notre Dame
Louisville - Indiana State*, Kentucky, Utah, Southern Mississippi, Arkansas State
Pittsburgh – Youngstown State*, Buffalo, Navy, North Carolina State, Notre Dame
Rutgers – Howard*, Florida International, Maryland, Texas Southern*, Army
South Florida – Wofford*, Western Kentucky, Charleston Southern*, Florida State, Miami
Syracuse – Minnesota, Penn State, Northwestern, Maine*, Akron
West Virginia – Liberty*, East Carolina, Auburn, Colorado, Marshall

The 65 teams in BCS conferences are playing a total of 258 non-conference games, 54 of those (21%) against lower-level competition. You can see from the list above that a lot of the FBS opponents of these teams have only been top-tier programs for less than ten years, having moved up from what was once called Division I-AA.

Non-conference college football is hardly any more than a money-maker. The big schools need a certain number of (very lucrative) home dates, while the small schools are happy to take the guarantees that often make up a large part of their athletic budgets.

Yes, Florida’s non-conference schedule is very weak. Luckily, they should be able to run the table, because their strength of schedule is not going to help them at all.

Why You Shouldn’t Take Sports Columnists Too Seriously

Chris Dufresne, Los Angeles Times, August 27, 2009:

“Making (USC true freshman quarterback Matt) Barkley’s first-ever road trip a nationally televised game at Ohio Stadium is like sending a first violinist to Carnegie Hall before he has learned to play the entire concerto.”

The gist of it was that Barkley wasn’t ready, that they were just serving up a spot in the BCS title game to Ohio State by starting a true freshman who threw 18 interceptions as a high school senior.

Barkley was just 14 for 31 passing for 195 yards and one interception on the day, but led the Trojans on a 14 play, 86-yard drive for the winning score in an 18-15 victory over the Buckeyes Saturday. The freshman who wasn’t ready to go into Carnegie Hall went 3-for-5 passing for 55 yards and converted a fourth and a third down with quarterback sneaks on the game-winning drive….in the fourth quarter…in the cauldron of Ohio Stadium. How about that?

Dufresne’s colleague, Bill Plaschke, wrote in his column on the day after:

“Those who questioned Coach Pete Carroll’s sanity, those who thought a true freshman should never be the starting quarterback for a championship-contending team . . . were you watching? Were you listening?”

Dufresne must have been listening, but must have conveniently forgotten what he had written two weeks prior (or he must have hoped we wouldn’t remember). His column made little mention of the USC/OSU game, except to say:

“Matt Barkley?

His offense generated one touchdown: the one that counted.

And, in football, only the scoreboard counts.”

Well, lah tee freaking dah. Here I thought it was about how old you were or how much experience violin practice you had.

As a side note, there apparently is a psychic named Christopher Dufresne. It ain’t the guy writing for the LA Times, I can assure you.

Rep. Joe Barton: Idiot

Texas Congressman Joe Barton likened the Bowl Championship Series to communism in hearings today in Washington.

In a related story, Texas Congressman Joe Barton is an idiot.

I’m sorry Texas didn’t get to play in the Championship Game. Really, I am. But blame your Big 12 tiebreakers, okay?

Barton, the top Republican on the committee, said at the hearing that efforts to tinker with the BCS were bound to fail.

“It’s like communism,” he said. “You can’t fix it.”

He quipped that the BCS should drop the “C” from its name because it doesn’t represent a true championship.

“Call it the ‘BS’ system,” he said to laughter.

Congratulations, Congressman. Everybody else made that joke in 2000.

A request to the United States Congress: fix the f***ing country first, then we’ll worry about the goddamn BCS. Health care, the economy, national defense, all that stuff. Get that sorted, then you can waste our time and the taxpayers’ money holding hearings about the goddamn BCS.

You want a playoff? I want a playoff, too. Great. But keep Congress out of it.

Of course Utah is getting hosed. Utah is supposed to get hosed because Utah plays in the Mountain West Conference. Join the Pac-10, then we’ll talk.

The BCS favors power schools from power conferences. Duh. That’s not communism. That’s capitalism. You remember capitalism, right? Only you can’t scare people and get them up in arms by saying you’re against capitalism. You have to give them a red menace to take up pitchforks against.

I guess the people in Texas were okay with Richard Nixon declaring the Longhorns the national champions in 1969 by fiat. But now? Nah, gotta have a playoff. Gotta call in Congress to get it done.

Been There

When I was younger and less mature, I’d have taken great glee in this.

Having lived through it as a student at Florida in the mid-1980s, I can’t bring myself to think anything but, “that sucks for them.”

My first job out of college was in Tallahassee. I grew to respect Florida State’s programs and people quite a bit.

I’m sure Steve Spurrier would have had a field day with this, though.

Ah, The Unbridled Enthusiasm Of Utes

I realize that Utah is the favorite of the BCS-bashers now (with SI’s Rick Reilly – who used to be really, really good at this – chiming in now that we should just crown their asses), but here’s my point, after looking at things a little more deeply:

Oklahoma has a much, much, stronger case to be the national champion than Utah does. And IF Florida beats Oklahoma tomorrow night, that, to me, is akin to knocking out the champ. That’s how you get the belt.

Consider this: Yes, Utah has beaten four teams that finished ranked in the AP Top 25*: Oregon State (#24), TCU (#11), BYU (#17) and Alabama (#4). Florida has only beaten two: Georgia (#16) and Alabama (#4). The Gators also lost to #20 Mississippi, by a point. IF Florida beats Oklahoma, they’ll have three victories over ranked teams, including the #2 team (the Sooners were #2 in AP, but #1 in the BCS), and will be basically a blocked extra point away from being 14-0 with a much, much better body of work than the Utes.

But Oklahoma has beaten five ranked teams and would make it a sixth by beating Florida. (The Sooners beat #12 Cincinnati, #11 TCU, #8 Texas Tech, #13 Oklahoma State and #25 Missouri, while losing to #3 Texas.) What’s more, they crushed almost everybody. OU rang up more points than any team in modern college football history. They’ve scored more than a point a minute for the last five games and in the game before that they scored 58.

Reilly’s just pandering and practicing columnism. He’s being contrary just to be contrary.

No, Rick, you can’t crown Utah’s ass already. They’re not who you think they are. A very good team, yes.

“Find me anybody else that went undefeated,” you say. I should surely hope they’d go undefeated with that schedule. Not all undefeated teams are created equally. Oklahoma is a far, far better candidate despite their 10-point loss (to Texas, which is also one of the darling “We Should Be There” teams people are latching onto) on the basis of their body of work, which is far more impressive than Utah’s, despite the Utes’ unblemished record. (Weber State? Seriously? And you beat New Mexico by three? Wow, I didn’t know Bud Wilkinson was coaching the Utes now.)

If Oklahoma beats Florida, they’ll have earned the title, no question. That would be one hellaciously impressive season. If Florida beats Oklahoma, what a run that is to end the season for the Gators.

Sorry, Rick. The national championship game is tomorrow night, even though it’s trendy to extoll the virtues of the Utes.

*Showing my age here: Remember when the rankings only went to 20? Seriously, who are we kidding here? Are 21-25 worth more now than 30 years ago?