Friday, December 22, 2006

We were had

I think the sports media loves college football so much because it is the only sport they can directly influence. If ESPN was lobbying tirelessly for the Detroit Lions, instead of the Michigan Wolverines, it would obviously be an effort in futility. The NFL has a system in place where teams advance to the playoffs and finals based on wins and losses. So does every other major sport - except Division I-A college football.

One conference for which the sport's pundits and “experts” lobbied tirelessly for this year was the Pac Ten, and more specifically, USC. We were told how “tough” the schedules were for the Pac Ten, not just by the Mark Mays of the world, but by computer pollsters such as Sagarin, who still to this point rates most of the Pac Ten teams as having the hardest schedules. In the efforts of the sports media to promote USC, we were told that the Pac Ten had the best, most talented teams in the country.

It was all a sham.

I never saw the logic why USC was being promoted by the media so relentlessly over both Florida and Michigan. We were told – as a matter of fact – that if USC beat UCLA, they were going to play Ohio State for the BCS title.

Apparently forgotten was the point that, of the three schools considered for the BCS match-up with OSU, the one with the worst loss was USC. While Florida lost to eventual 10-2 Auburn, and Michigan to Ohio State, USC had lost to then unranked Oregon State. If one would think that losing in late October to an unranked team would end USC’s chances, one did not count on the persistent power of the Pete Carroll adoring media.

What exactly were the “rehabilitation” wins that USC posted after the Oregon State loss that got them within a Bruin’s hair of the title game?

Well, they were as follows –

Stanford 42-0
Oregon 35-10
California 23-9
Notre Dame 44-24

In retrospect, it would have been incredible if USC had lost any of these games. If you have been watching any college football, there is no need explaining the win over Stanford. California, the “sexy” pick by many college football analysts pre-season, got thumped by Tennessee the first game of the season, and lost to lowly 6-6 Arizona the week before falling at USC. Notre Dame as a qualifying win made perhaps the least sense of all, as Michigan had beaten them worse, at South Bend, earlier in the season.

And now we see what a total joke Oregon was.

Against Mountain West Champion BYU, Oregon lost last night 38-8. This is the same Oregon that, at one point in this season, was ranked as high as 11th in the AP. BYU, said to be of a lesser conference, totally throttled the Ducks. To appreciate how bad Oregon was beat, compare the game stats from the loss Oregon suffered to USC to the stats from the Las Vegas Bowl versus BYU-

Oregon against USC

First Downs Ore 25 USC 21
Total Yards Ore 355 USC 343
Passing Yrds Ore 256 USC 213
Rushing Yrds Ore 102 USC 130

The amazing thing about this game is that Oregon out gained USC, both in yards and first downs. However, had not Oregon turned the ball over twice deep in their own territory for two easy USC scores, the overall score would have been closer.

Oregon against BYU

First Downs Ore 14 BYU 30
Total Yards Ore 260 BYU 548
Passing Yrds Ore 166 BYU 375
Rushing Yrds Ore 97 BYU 173

USC, with its supposedly brilliant offense, managed 7 less first downs, 205 less total yards, 162 less passing yards, and 43 less rushing yards against Oregon than BYU did. On the other side of the ball, Oregon had 11 more first downs against USC than it did against BYU, 95 more total yards against USC, 90 more passing yards and 5 more rushing yards.

In other words, BYU played Oregon significantly better in every aspect of the game than USC did.

So, presently we find the “vaunted” Pac Ten ranked as follows in the AP –

8th – USC
20th – Cal
24th – Oregon State

And that is it.

Further, in the bowls should Cal lose to Texas A&M, or Oregon State to Missouri, the Pac Ten could be facing a single ranked team at year’s end.

Lastly, not only the Gators, but all of college football, owe one Pac Ten team a debt of endless gratitude – the UCLA Bruins. For had they not unmasked the fraud that is USC, the media would have pushed their Southern Cal golden boys to what would undoubtedly have been an ugly ending in Glendale on January 8th.

UCLA saved many a face with their December 2nd victory over the Trojans – and many of the faces so saved are the same ones still coming to you from your TV, still lobbying on behalf of Michigan, and giving Florida “no shot” against Ohio State.

1 comment:

D. Tensor said...

A major factor in the perception of USC as invincible was, perversely enough, the strength of the SEC.

USC completely dominated Arkansas. Yes, Arkansas was without McFadden but the Hogs defense still gave up 50 points to a rookie qb. When Arkansas went on to run off a string of victories in the SEC, each win made USC appear stronger and stronger.

{And, while technically irrelevant, the fact that USC had destoyed Arkansas two years in a row made it difficult to dismiss as a fluke.}

While the Florida/Arkansas game was too late in the season to explain the USC over Florida bias, if we apply the same statistical comparision to Florida and USC using Arkansas as a common opponent, USC comes out well ahead, (if I read the numbers correctly).
USC had 27 first downs, 472 total yards, 280 passing, and 192 rushing - Florida was 17, 396, 194, and 202. In other words, USC played Arkansas better in (almost) every aspect of the game than Florida did (for a striking difference, look at the third down efficiency).

What do these statistics mean? Not much, in my opinion, and Florida is the better team, but the pre-UCLA push for USC was not entirely unjustified.

My own opinion (as an Aztec and Buckeye fan) is that both USC and Florida played tough schedules, while Michigan (and OSU) had a significantly easier road.

But as the Oregon/BYU results show, a good team that plays a weak schedule is still a good team.

ps. Congratulation on an enjoyable blog. Between you and EDSBS, Florida is exceedingly well represented.

pps Question: why does the Big Ten
stop playing in mid-November?
Uh...maybe the weather? November is chilly, December is frigid. Why do you think people burn stuff after the game? (don't answer that)