Monday, January 12, 2009

My Vote

My final BlogPoll of 2008 is duly submitted, and I have chosen Utah as number 1.

It wasn’t easy, despite my pledge to do so after Utah beat Alabama. I was truly torn between the Utes and my own Gators. And, for the record, I think the Gators are the “best” team in college football right now. But Utah has the best resume, if just barely. Certainly when we compare their head-to-head opponent – Alabama – Utah had the edge.

Moreover, Utah played a credible schedule in 2008 that ranked 32nd according to the NCAA.

Most importantly, they won all of the games in front of them, something no other school can claim. While I believe Florida would beat Utah head-to-head a majority of the time, my Gator’s own loss to Mississippi in the Swamp is just enough of a stain to give Utah the slim edge.

As for all the usual arguments, there are two I would like to dispel –

1. Why don’t they “join a real conference”?

First of all, who to say the Mountain West isn’t real, despite their non-BCS status? 5 of the 9 MWC teams went to bowl games, or as many teams that went to bowls from the 10 member Pac Ten. And while we are comparing them to the Pac Ten, according to the BCS computer component the Colley Matrix the two conferences had similar strengths when you compare teams by rankings -

Mountain West Colley Standings

3. Utah
11. TCU
26. BYU
47. Air Force
53. Colorado State
78. UNLV
89. New Mexico
96. Wyoming
111. San Diego State

Average of teams Utah played - 63.9

Pac Ten Colley Standings

4. USC
14. Oregon
16. Oregon State
21. Cal
48. Arizona
67. Stanford
73. Arizona State
81. UCLA
108. Washington State
117. Washington

Average of teams USC played - 60.5

The Utes supplemented their schedule with Michigan (blech) and Oregon State, who beat USC. If you would average in Oregon State to the Utes schedule as a “9th” conference game Utah actually played a harder “conference” schedule than USC, averaging a 58.6 Colley ranking.

Of course USC, with a NCAA schedule ranked worse than Utah at 38th, would have gone to the BCS title game if they won every game. It is manifestly unjust to hold Utah, with an arguably harder schedule, to a stricter standard.

As for joining a “real” conference, it isn’t necessarily that easy. Utah actually tried to join the Pac Ten in 1978 but was passed over (along with BYU) for Arizona and Arizona State by the then Pac Eight. People act as if teams like Utah are somehow “ducking” competition by not joining the big conferences, when it is pretty obvious they would love to – after all that’s where the money is.

Finally, in regard to this argument, if BCS conference teams can play these non-BCS teams – and count them as wins – it is absurd they can’t compete for the same titles. Florida was willing to play Hawaii for the first game this year, and that same Hawaii team is part of our 13 win record. Yet Hawaii was denied any chance to play for a national title just last year.

2. Alabama wasn’t motivated against Utah.

And that’s Utah’s fault, even if true?

First of all I don’t believe it is, but if true, it is a damning statement about Alabama football, and the bowls in general. Are we really playing top bowl games, BCS level bowl games, among teams that don’t give a damn?

I can’t think of a more compelling argument to destroy the current bowl system than this. If only one bowl game “counts”, why in the hell do I have to watch 34?

As for the game itself, think for an instance how close Alabama was to playing for the BCS title. No one would have questioned Alabama as an undefeated team in the title game. And, say had 1- loss Oklahoma played Alabama and won as convincingly as Utah, they would have been the consensus “national champion”. Utah’s argument is no different than USC’s was in 2003, when the 12-1 Trojans beat a 2-loss Michigan team to claim the AP title over 1-loss BCS winner LSU. Hell, Utah’s argument is better.

As for the rest –

1 Utah 25 2 Florida 24 3 Texas 23 4 Southern Cal 22 5 Oklahoma 21 6 Alabama 20 7 TCU 19 8 Boise State 18 9 Penn State 17 10 Texas Tech 16 11 Ohio State 15 12 Oregon 14 13 Mississippi 13 14 Georgia 12 15 Virginia Tech 11 16 Cincinnati 10 17 Oregon State 9 18 Iowa 8 19 Florida State 7 20 Georgia Tech 6 21 West Virginia 5 22 Michigan State 4 23 Missouri 3 24 Oklahoma State 2 25 LSU 1

Dropped Out:


Finally, congratulations to my Gators for a fantastic season. We are BCS Champions and, most importantly, SEC Champions.

As for “national champions” - perhaps one day. But I’m an adult, so along with the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny, there are certain things adults just can’t believe in.

20 comments:

Henry Louis Gomez said...

The most compelling argument is the one you made about USC. If they had beaten Oregon State they would have been in the Championship against Oklahoma and the Gators would have been out. And it would have been based solely on USC's name because as you rightly point out they had a weaker schedule than Utah. In the end it's crazy that we have to have a debate. Imagine if the NFL conducted its championship this way with pollsters making the match-up.

Scully said...

I am not sure that we will ever see the day again where a 1 loss SEC champion (or undefeated for that matter) will ever get left out of the championship game. The performance of the conference against the champion of the so-called best conference of the year dictates that.

As for Utah being #1, while I understand that they are undefeated do you truly think that they have the best resume?

Explain to me again their signature win? Is it Alabama without their left tackle? Is it Oregon State at home on a Thursday night?

Why did you compare Utah's resume against USC's? I think there are a number of teams that you ask the question, if X played Utah's schedule would they have been undefeated? You cannot ask that USC, since they had a common opponent.

The fact that the non-BCS conference schools are in the discussion is a joke in and of itself. The difficulty of a conference like the SEC isn't the specific teams, but rather that those teams have to be played one after the other. Florida played 11 teams that went to bowl games. They ended the year with #4 Defense in the Country. Sure USC has a great defense, but Florida's defensive #'s looked any different if they played USC's schedule? I think you can make the argument that they might have looked more impressive.

Collegefootballnews.com has an excellent article on why Florida is #1 team in the land, and I think he even delves into Mergz's resume based ranking with his analysis.

Troy said...

I agree with Matt Hinton at Doc Saturday that Florida is the #1 team, but I think you make the case for Utah better than anyone else I've read so far. CERTAINLY better than Reilly and Feinstein.

For me Florida is the #1 team, but Utah has a legitimate argument to be national champs. If that makes sense. In no other sport is the champion necessarily the best team or the team with the best overall season. The Patriots (the common example) had by far the best season in the NFL last year. It was probably the greatest season in NFL history by probably the greatest team in NFL history. And yet they weren't champs.

Florida is the best team this year. And I think Florida had the best season. But Utah had a good enough season (I like the argument using USC as an example) to merit championship consideration. If we wanted to determine a champion based on merit, Florida/Oklahoma vs. Utah would have been the way to go.

However, we have the system we have, it chooses the champion it chooses, and this year it chose the Gators. It think Utah might deserve it, but I'm still going to go buy a Gators National Championship shirt.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

Scully, I have to disagree. The Gators were a 1-loss team that lost by one point and Oklahoma was a 1-loss team that lost by 10-points and still Florida was ranked 2nd. And to top that off OU has laid eggs in its last several BCS games. But the pundits were convinced that the Big 12 South was the best division in football (just like they were convinced the Big 10 was the best conference in 2006). They were wrong on both accounts. Next year who knows who the flavor of the month will be.

Also, comparing Utah's schedule with USC is wholly appropriate because so many people are claiming that despite their loss to Oregon State that they were the best team in the country. If USC had been undefeated do you have any doubt that they would have been in the BCS CG? And that's with an easier schedule than Utah.

This whole thing is bogus. A playoff doesn't guarantee that the best team will win. It never does but a reasonable objective is to have a field large enough so as to most likely contain the two best teams. If they win or not, that's on them. Right now we're taking two of at least half a dozen teams that could make a claim.

Mergz said...

The comments above show one of the biggest problems with the current system - lack of definition.

There is simply no agreement as to what it is ANY of us (AP, Coaches or even BlogPoll) are voting for.

Best team? Best resume? Most deserving?

What exactly does it mean to be number 1?

As I said, it is my inclination that Florida is the "best" team, but I can't prove it. Utah, on the other hand, has the only flawless record. That is real and incontrovertible.

The worst part of the process is how malleable it is. You have the folks who argue being undefeated is the most important element, then the same folks argue that doesn't matter if you are a certain team. Strength of schedule matters until it doesn't. Even figure skating has better defintions in its voting than college football.

Utah is the only team that did everything they were asked. They get my number one.

Scully said...

I don't think anyone could say that Florida would have been left out this year, b/c the criteria would have been different. Do you leave the SEC champ out of the title game? I am not sure the answer would have been yes. The backlash would have been unimaginable, especially if the bowl season played out the way it did this - proving the Big 12 was a fraud.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

Scully,

Are you saying that if USC had beaten Oregon State that you are 100% convinced that 1-loss Florida would have made it in over 1-loss Oklahoma with the Heisman trophy winner and the highest scoring offense in the land? If so, then why was OU ranked ahead of us going into this game?

This system screws seemingly deserving teams on a regular basis.

Mergz,

I've always said big time college football is a judged sport.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

Oh and Scully you also use some funky logic.

Do you leave the SEC champ out of the title game? I am not sure the answer would have been yes. The backlash would have been unimaginable, especially if the bowl season played out the way it did this - proving the Big 12 was a fraud.

The only way we'd know if the Big 12 was a fraud would be AFTER we got screwed.

Back on October 19th OU was 4th in the BCS and Florida was 10th. Both teams had already had their loss.

By the 26th of October Florida had climbed two slots to 8 while OU stayed at number 4.

On November 2, OU had dropped to number 6 with Florida just ahead at number 5.

On November 9, Florida was 4 and OU was 5.

Then on November 23rd OU leapfrogs UF.

On November 30th, Florida (4) is behind both OU (2) and Texas (3).

An undefeated USC team would have been number 1. No doubt about it. They were number 1 in both the coaches poll and the AP poll before they lost. That means Alabama would not have been number 1 but instead number 2 when UF beat them in the SECCG. I definitely think it's believable that OU would have been ranked 2nd with UF ranked 3rd. That = UF getting screwed despite losing 1 game by 1 point.

Remember we were actually closer to Texas in the final BCS standings than we were to OU.

Trader Rick said...

This is all a big joke, right? Gators are the Champs!

Henry Louis Gomez said...

If you say so.

Mergz said...

Yes. The Gators are SEC Champs, BCS Champs and BlogPoll Champs.

Of course the SEC Champ, when given a chance, is always BCS Champ...

Mike said...

This blog article reminds me of the old AP vs UPI vs Sisters of the Poor polls that independently ranked the Top 20 teams and created the controversial, co-championships of the past. Your evaluation of the deserving alternative teams, though interesting to read, seems to be an exercise in futility. Were you a philosophy major?
Why not just take the BCS gift of our National Championship award and be happy?
Following your logic, if we had a national playoff system Champion, you could still shoot holes in that team's right to the title.
Maybe I haven't been reading this blog long enough. What is your proposed, unassailable solution to this perceived dilemma?

Brian said...

This was a good read. I'm a Utah man to the core (but was very happy to see the Gators chomp OU). I think Utah has some claim to be champion. Do I think they would beat Florida? Honestly, probably not. But nobody really knows. If nothing else, then people can throw that whole loss to Ole Miss out the window.

Glad to hear Tebow is coming back - he is crazy fun to watch!

Scully said...

Yes I am saying that if the question presented itself, Florida would have been voted into the BCSCG. I know it is a stretch when you look at the polls during the year, but I think those polls would have been voted differently throughout the year had USC not lost.

Once again just my opinion. And thankfully it was not something we had to deal with.

Mergz said...

Mike,

Those controversial co-championships aren't so much of the past - USC is claiming 2003 as their own, even though LSU won the BCS.

Speaking of the past, in 1984 a BYU team that reminds me of this year's Utah was the "national champ". If we were still operating under the old bowl system (SEC winner to Sugar, etc) Utah might very well have won "it" this year. What the BCS really does is exclude any team outside the big conferences from having any shot at all.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

Mike,

Why not just take the BCS gift of our National Championship award and be happy?

You are saying that because the Gators managed to work the system this time, that we should be happy? Well first of all that doesn't appeal to me from fairness standpoint and secondly that's a double edged sword. There were plenty out there including many in the ESPN power cabal that wanted a rematch of OSU/Michigan a couple of years ago. We almost got screwed. And we almost got screwed this year. In the final BCS standings of the regular season the Gators were closer to Texas in third place than OU in first.

Following your logic, if we had a national playoff system Champion, you could still shoot holes in that team's right to the title.

How do you figure? Nobody disputes who the NCAA basketball champ is, or the baseball champ, or the FCS Football champ is.

Maybe I haven't been reading this blog long enough. What is your proposed, unassailable solution to this perceived dilemma?

You're right, you haven't been reading it long enough. We took a stand very early on denouncing the fraud that is the BCS. It would be hypocritical to back off now that we've been the beneficiaries of a system that we feel is inequitable.

You see how that works?

Scully,

I still think the potential for UF to get fucked was high if USC had run the table.

Mike said...

Scully,

'I still think the potential for UF to get fucked was high if USC had run the table.'
So, instead, we screwed them. I say - If a frog had wings....

The main point I'm making is that there has never been an undisputed national champ. We are getting closer to better solutions now then we have ever been. To this point, A Div I football championship has always been mythical. Be happy with the three gifts we already have.

Henry Louis Gomez said...

e happy with the three gifts we already have.

The thing is that you guys make it sound like I'm less of a Gator fan because I think the championships are a fraud. It's quite the opposite. Because I'm a huge Gator fan I don't want there to be any question as the legitimacy of their championships. Nobody questions who the 2006 and 2007 Basketball champs were. It was the Gators. Nobody can make a "claim" to part of the title or grouse about being screwed.

Robes said...

Can you link us to the official final blog poll?

Henry Louis Gomez said...

It's in the side bar under resource links:

CBSsports.com Blog Poll