Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Over Ranked Trojans

In the latest BlogPoll commentary I get called out for placing 4-1 USC 16th on my ballot, while the poll at large has the Trojan’s 6th.

What in the hell has USC done to get them to 6th in the polls? It is the other voters that ought to be justifying their votes.

The Trojans have won the following games –

San Jose State 56-3
At Ohio State 18-15
Washington State 27-6
At California 30-3

And lost

At Washington 16-13

Let’s take the wins in order.

San Jose State - is 1-4, with its sole win over Cal Poly. Color me unimpressed.

Ohio State – OSU is obviously the Trojan’s marquee win thus far. The Buckeyes are 5-1 overall, but aren’t exactly national powerhouses on offense, where they rank 46th overall at 29.7 ppg. Still, a pretty nice win.

Washington State – probably the most inept team in FBS football right now, the Cougars are 1-5 with their sole win in overtime against SMU.

California – if ever there was an overrated team this year, Cal is it. Presently 3-2, with more losses to come.

The only impressive win is Ohio State.

Then there is the loss to Washington. The Huskies are currently 3-3, having defeated Idaho and Arizona besides the Trojans (more on these teams in a second). USC managed only 13 points against Washington.

Now if losing to Washington isn’t a serious offense in your eyes, then where are Idaho and Arizona on your ballot? What’s that you say? You didn’t know that, like USC, 5-1 Idaho’s sole loss is to Washington? Or that 2 loss Arizona (whose other loss is to undefeated Iowa) outgained Washington by 200 plus yards before losing late?

Well, do the stats support a 6th ranked USC?

Scoring Offense – 53rd nationally at 28.8 points per game.
Scoring Defense – 4th nationally at 8.6 ppg
Strength of Schedule – 67th nationally

USC, having played a group of teams with an overall losing record, can manage no better than the 53rd offense in the nation. And while that defense looks good, their opponents have been generally lousy.

People get on Florida for playing an easy schedule, but right now UF is tied for 9th in the nation having played teams with a 13-5 record.

As for USC’s offense, who are some of the teams that rank better on a national basis? Well (by rank) –

12 South Fla.
18 Pittsburgh
19 Central Mich.
22 La.-Monroe
27 Notre Dame
29 Tennessee
30 Duke
31 Rutgers
34 Navy
35 Northern Ill.
36 Toledo
37 Wisconsin
38 Penn St.
40 Southern Miss.
41 Baylor
44 Florida St.
46 Air Force
48 Arkansas St.
50 Wake Forest

(Yes, that says Tennessee there - 24 spots ahead of USC.)

And although that defense looks really nice, guess who is right behind them at 5th? That would be South Florida.

The reason I mention South Florida – undefeated South Florida, of 12th ranked offense and 5th ranked defense – is the same blog entry that banged me for putting USC 16th hit me for putting USF 6th.

I’m not saying USC shouldn’t be ranked – I have them where they belong. But to have them 6th – ahead of unbeaten Iowa at 9th, really isn’t justifiable. Moreover there are a host of one-loss teams that have fallen against far better opponents than Washington. In this group I would include –

Penn State
Georgia Tech
And even Notre Dame.

Yes Notre Dame – who actually BEAT Washington.

They could/should all be ranked ahead of the Trojans.

The only justification I can see for ranking the Trojans 6th is that they won a single good game. Is that really enough to justifying them being in the hunt for a national title at this point in time, ahead of so many others clearly deserving?

Finally, I don’t make “predictive” polling decisions, or who I think *might* be better. But I’m going to go out on a limb here –

The Trojans lose to Notre Dame this weekend.


Clark said...

But it's USC! Don't you know that they're really, really good?

And their coach is Pete Carroll. He's cool and a winner and stuff!

Seriously though . . . I probably wouldn't put them quite as low as 16, but you're right that they haven't demonstrated themselves as a top 10 team.

I assume that you don't consider injuries when putting together rankings? Some of the leniency the voters are giving them is likely because of the key players missing for the Washington game.

Rob said...

Not having a blog, I dont vote in the blog poll, but I have them #21. Mostly due to the bad loss to Washington. At this point, my losses count a lot, IMO.

GJWH said...

I'd like to see someone with USC ranked higher provide some similar thoughts/analysis. They might be able to pull some stats together, but I doubt they would be as relevant.

Good jaerb. Keep the content coming.

aeshel4 said...

Mergz, you seem to forget that Notre Dame is still coached by Charlie Weis, and USC is likely to be a winning team by season's end. Also, USC is still coached by Pete Caroll, Notre Dame is ranked this week, and USC has already dropped their Pac-10 game this season.

Ethan said...

I am conflicted over that game this weekend. I would love to see USC fall even further from the false high rankings they get automatically every year. But if Notre Dame wins, I think it will reflect more on Notre Dame being better than everyone thought than USC being worse than people thought. The same people who rank USC so high will tout ND as the comeback king, which they are not.

Floridan said...

I care not a wit about Southern Cal, but it seems you are "cooking the books" a bit in your justification for your ranking them 16th.

A big part of your argument is the won-loss record of USC opponents. However, 2009's schedules were made, for the most part, many years ago; there's not much this year's teams can do about that.

So it would seem that the valid criterion should be how well did the team play against their opponent, given the disparity in
talent, coaching and resources.

Let's take USC's victory over San Jose State, for instance, which the Trojans won 56 - 3. USC averaged over two TDs a quarter and kept SJS out of the end zone. I didn't see this game (and I'm guessing you didn't, either), but I would suspect that for much of the second half, USC had its second and third tean in the game.

Without additional specifics, what more would you expect of the Trojans? Would you be more impressed if they had won by a score of 73 - 0; or were they doomed no matter how they played because their opponent was SJS?

But SJS is a joke, right? They are 1 - 4. But who did they lose to? In addition to USC, they bowed to Utah, Stanford and Idaho; these four teams have a 17 - 5 record at this point in the season.

Obviously, SJS is not in the same class as USC (few teams are), but I don't see the Trojans' game against them as a good indication of USC's relative ineptness.

Mergz said...

Floridian - so you mean to say that San Jose State is really good but for the teams they played?

Very little of the argument was based on the relative merits of the win over SJS, other than that I was unimpressed by it, which in turn doesn't mean I somehow counted it as a detriment to them. They did what they needed to do by a score that was acceptable. Case closed.

As the record of SJS relates to the overall weakness of USC's schedule thus far, I notice you didn't decide to tackle Washigton State, who's record is more of a detriment. You can quibble all you want about who has played who, but your record is pretty much what it is, and if you have 1 win after 5 or 6 games, you aren't very good. If SJS runs the table from here in conference play, I'll reconsider.

Once again I'm not saying USC shouldn't be ranked, just that there are far more deserving teams that ought to be ahead of them.

As for the arguments that they are bound to do better going forward, let's wait and see. Right now 20% of their body of work is a loss to a pretty mediocre Washington team. If we get to the end of the season and that is their sole loss - or 8.3% of their body of work, that will be a very different story. But right now it is 1/5 of what we know about them. (Comparatively LSU, ranked behind USC, has its 1 loss of 6 games (16.7%) to Florida. LSU, unlike USC, also won at Washington. Seems pretty obvious they ought to outrank the Trojans.)

If USC gets by ND at South Bend this weekend, that will be a pretty decent win, and move them up I will.