30 November 2008

It's Oklahoma!

(From BCS Guru)

The voter shifts in the coaches poll and Harris poll were not enough to prevent Oklahoma from jumping Texas in the latest BCS standings, sending the Sooners to the Big 12 title game.

The Longhorns, however, can still win the BCS title and the AP title as well. Texas is ahead of Oklahoma in the AP poll. And should OU lose to Missouri in the Big 12 title game, the Longhorns are guaranteed a spot in the BCS title game.

One Harris voter did not cast a ballot. And as usual, all coaches and Harris ballots were secret.

Also, Oregon State's loss to Oregon prevented a mini-championship game scenario where Texas would've taken on USC in the Fiesta Bowl, with the winner potentially winning the AP title. With the Trojans locked into the Rose Bowl now (should they defeat UCLA), both teams will face lower-ranked teams in their respective bowl games and a split title scenario becomes a bit more remote.

29 November 2008

The Envelope, Please ...

(From BCS Guru)

(Late update added to provide more robust data, the analysis remains unchanged)

This is probably the most difficult projection the Guru has ever had to do. But here goes ...

No. 2 SHOULD BE Oklahoma.

But will it be? That's entirely up to the voters.

Logically, Oklahoma should be No. 2. But if the BCS is about logic, then it wouldn't even exist. And with all these voters - 175 in all, if they all vote - having foisted upon them a responsibility that they neither desired nor deserved, there really is no telling where they're going to go.

Nevertheless, they're asked to decide on the Big 12 tiebreaker, as the winner of the South Division will be determined by the BCS standings, among Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech. Whoever gets into the Big 12 title game will be the prohibitive favorite to beat Missouri and have the inside track to the BCS title game, against the SEC title game winner between Florida and Alabama.

Well, let's examine those three Big 12 South contenders, side-by-side:

1. Against Big 12 South teams:

Oklahoma Beat ...

at Baylor, 49-17
at Oklahoma State, 61-41
at Texas A&M, 66-28

Cumulative Score: 176-86
Point Differential: +90

Texas Beat ...

Baylor, 45-21
Oklahoma State, 28-24
Texas A&M, 49-9

Cumulative Score: 122-54
Point Differential: +68

Texas Tech Beat ...

Baylor, 35-28
Oklahoma State, 56-20
at Texas A&M, 43-25

Cumulative Score: 134-73
Point Differential: +61

Advantage: Oklahoma.

2. Against all other common opponents:

Only Kansas played all three and this is how it fared:

Lost to Texas Tech, 63-21
Lost to Texas, 35-7
Lost at Oklahoma, 45-31

Advantage: Texas Tech.

3. None-conference opponents:


Chattanooga (I-AA), 1-11
No. 16 Cincinnati (Big East Champion), 10-2
at Washington, 0-11
No. 14 TCU, 10-2

Cumulative Record: 20-15 (I-A only)
Bowl Teams: 2


Florida Atlantic, 6-6
at UTEP, 5-7
Arkansas, 5-7
Rice, 9-3

Cumulative Record: 25-23
Bowl Teams: 1

Texas Tech

Eastern Washington (I-AA), 6-5
at Nevada, 7-5
SMU, 1-11
UMass (I-AA), 7-5

Cumulative Record: 8-16 (I-A only)
Bowl Teams: 1

The Sooners did play at winless Washington, but they beat two teams expected to be in the top 15 of the BCS standings. In total, OU beat four teams ranked in the projected BCS top 15. Or put it another way, these 15 teams had a total of 18 losses, and OU is responsible for doling out four of them, twice as many as Texas, Texas Tech and USC, the only other teams with multiple wins vs. the top 15. Advantage: Oklahoma.

4. Head-to-head: Texas wants to talk about beating OU, 45-35, true, but this is not a pure head-to-head situation, it's a three-way tie and a circular argument. Texas Tech has to be included in every discussion because we're trying to break a three-way tie. That Oklahoma routed the Red Raiders is a credit to the Sooners, not an opportunity to dismiss Tech.

And just for logic's sake, the fact that Texas beat OU on a neutral field is a classic non-sequitur. One may deduce that Texas would've beaten OU in Austin, but nothing more - so essentially each team WOULD'VE won at home. The following is how these three teams did against each other, the research courtesy of our friends at Saurian Sagacity:


Points Scored: 100
Points Against: 66
Net Points: 34
Total Yards: 1060
Total Yards Against: 844
Net Yards: 216


Points Scored: 78
Points Against: 74
Net Points: 4
Total Yards: 812
Total Yards Against: 1014
Net Yards: -202

Texas Tech

Points Scored: 60
Points Against: 98
Net Points: -38
Total Yards: 985
Total Yards Against: 999
Net Yards: -14

Taken in its totality, it's rather obvious that Oklahoma is the most impressive in the head-to-head results. Advantage: Oklahoma.

If last week's poll results stay relatively stable - given that every team in the top 10 either won or was idle - this is how the computer rankings should break down:

1. Alabama (.970), 2. Texas (.960), 3. Oklahoma (.940), 4. Florida (.880), 5. Utah (.830).

And the BCS standings would look like this:

1. Alabama (.987), 2. Oklahoma (.926), 3. Texas (.921), 4. Florida (.909), 5. USC (.797).

The biggest loser this weekend, without a doubt, is USC. The Trojans not only don't have a shot at the BCS title game, their AP title hopes also evaporated with Oregon State's loss to Oregon. By being forced to play in the Rose Bowl against Penn State, there is little chance for USC to claim the AP title, as opposed to a Fiesta Bowl matchup against either Oklahoma or Texas.

So, assuming the voters actually do their homework and not go nuts or conspiracy-happy, here's the Guru's projection of the penultimate BCS standings:

1. Alabama, 2. Oklahoma, 3. Texas, 4. Florida, 5. USC, 6. Utah, 7. Penn State, 8. Texas Tech, 9. Boise State, 10. Ohio State, 11. TCU, 12. Ball State, 13. Cincinnati, 14. Oklahoma State, 15. Oregon.

27 November 2008

Winning Games and Scoring (Style) Points

(From BCS Guru)

Vince Lombardi was wrong about this: Winning is not everything, it's not even the only thing. Winning BIG is what truly counts.

We're at a phase of the college football season where style points are equally as important as winning. Beat your opponents by a big margin, watch you rocket up the BCS standings. Barely squeaking by a weak foe, it might as well be a loss.

Two teams facing this particular predicament this weekend are Texas and Oklahoma. The two Big 12 rivals are locked in a death grip for the No. 2 spot in the BCS standings - and with it, a berth in the Big 12 title game and a clearer path to the BCS title game. If both teams should win, and provided that Texas Tech as expected defeats Baylor, the BCS standings will be used to determine which team to face Missouri in the Big 12 championship game.

No. 3 Oklahoma should have the upper hand, even though at the moment the Sooners are .084 points behind No. 2 Texas. Their opponent, Oklahoma State, is 9-2 and ranked No. 12 in the BCS standings - its only losses were to Texas and Texas Tech. The Longhorns host Texas A&M, their archrival but having a horrendous season with a 4-7 record.

If Texas even struggles against the Aggies, it will make things very easy for Oklahoma - a non-controversial victory in Stillwater should be enough to move OU into No. 2. If the Longhorns blow out A&M and OU has a hard time putting away OSU, then Texas just might squeeze out enough votes to maintain its slim lead. A score comparison also is in play: Texas barely beat OSU in Austin, 28-24. The bar isn't set very high in that department for the Sooners.

The BCS did away with margin of victory in the computers in 2003, ostensibly to discourage coaches to run up scores to impress the computers. But it forgot to remove eyeballs and brain cells from the pesky poll voters, who for some reason continue to consider margin of victory when they cast their ballots. And since the standings were re-formulated in 2004 to favor the human voters, running up scores has therefore become more important than ever.

The Texas A&M-Texas Thanksgiving night (8 p.m. ET) showdown kicks off this weekend's crucial slate, bookended by Saturday night's Bedlam throwdown between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State (also 8 p.m. ET). And there are a handful others that will have significant impact on this year's BCS bowl picture:

Auburn at No. 1 Alabama, 3:30 p.m. - The 5-6 Tigers need this win just to be bowl eligible whereas the Tide, the lone remaining unbeaten BCS conference team, needs a victory to keep its national championship hopes in tact. Once again, Tommy Tubberville' seat is getting quite warm (maybe he should check the coils under the seat cushion, this seems to happen almost every year) but a seventh straight victory in the Iron Bowl will placate a lot of unhappy people.

No. 4 Florida at No. 20 Florida State, 3:30 p.m. - This, for a time, was the rivalry in college football. But with FSU seemingly freefalling and Florida's ascendancy, the gap between these Sunshine State foes have grown to be considerable. The Gators have won the last four by an average of 18.5 points and they will need to score a big victory to stay in the hunt for the top 2 spots. Don't think for a moment that Urban Meyer will take pity on the Seminoles.

Syracuse at No. 16 Cincinnati, Noon - Well, this is the BGISH for Cincinnati. A victory gives the Bearcats the Big East title and the school's first BCS bowl berth. All they have to do is handle a 3-8 Syracuse team whose coach was fired two weeks ago. But the Orangemen didn't get the memo last week in an upset at Notre Dame, so Cincy had better show up for this game.

No. 23 Oregon at No. 17 Oregon State, 7 p.m. - The resurgent Beavers are playing for the school's first Rose Bowl berth in 44 years, but they'll now have to win the Civil War without the help of star freshman tailback Jacquizz Rodgers. OSU holds the tiebreaker on USC, whose lone loss was in Corvallis back in September. But ironically most Trojans fans will be rooting for OSU as they'd rather not return to Pasadena so they can get a better game elsewhere, say, in the Fiesta against either Oklahoma or Texas.

Virginia at Virginia Tech (Noon); No. 21 Boston College at Maryland (3:30 p.m.) - These two games will determine the two ACC teams who'll play for the conference's wholly undeserved Orange Bowl berth. A Virginia Tech victory sends the Hokies to the ACC title game for the third time in four years, otherwise, it'll be Georgia Tech. Boston College can earn a return trip to the ACC title game, otherwise, Florida State gets to go to Tampa.

25 November 2008

Eyes of BCS Are Upon Mack Brown

(From BCS Guru)

Coach Mack Brown, how are you gonna vote?

That's the 17 million dollar question that Texas coach Mack Brown might have to answer to. Brown just may end up casting the deciding vote on who gets to play in the Big 12 title game - and by extension, the BCS national championship game.

How? As this has been rehashed many times now: Brown has a vote in the coaches poll whereas Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops does not. The coaches do not have to reveal their ballots next week, but that's when the tiebreaker for the Big 12 South will be decided, via the BCS standings. (We're assuming that Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma are going to win as favorites, please stop flooding the Guru about all the other probabilities - I'm WELL AWARE of them.)

If Brown drops Oklahoma from where he had them last week (presumably in the top 5, but he's not telling) to 10th, 20th or even entirely off the ballot ("Oops, did I forget to put OU on the ballot? That must've been an oversight, darn!"), it will have a profound - if not deciding - impact on the BCS title picture.

Based on the Guru's projections - assuming the human voters stay mostly static with their ballots - this is how the BCS standings will look should Alabama defeat Auburn in the Iron Bowl:

1. Alabama, 2. Oklahoma (.940 computer, .9258 overall), 3. Texas (.960 computer, .9209 overall), 4. Florida (.840 computer, .8955 overall).

If Brown leaves Oklahoma off the ballot, OU will end up at .9208 - yep, you guessed it, 1/10,000th of a point behind Texas and voila! Hook 'em Horns to the Big 12 title game! Even if he just nudges the Sooners to 10th, a tiny bit of movement in Texas' favor elsewhere in the polls will do the trick just as well.

You know, like calling to ask a favor from a friend or something. Yes, we're just getting warmed up.

The coaches' poll is such a conflict of interest cesspool, it's amazing how the whole season just might come down to who puts whom where in their ballot. No fewer than seven Big 12 coaches have a vote in the coaches poll, including Brown:

Art Briles (Baylor), Gene Chizik (Iowa State), Dan Hawkins (Colorado), Mike Leach (Texas Tech), Bo Pelini (Nebraska) and Gary Pinkel (Missouri).

Four other coaches with teams in Texas or Oklahoma also vote:

Todd Dodge (North Texas), Todd Graham (Tulsa), Gary Patterson (TCU) and Mike Price (UTEP).

Here's where the intrigue begins. Brown undoubtedly has a few guys on his speed dial if it comes down to the nuclear option Saturday night: Chizik is a former assistant, Dodge is a former Texas quarterback and San Jose State's Dick Tomey was an assistant in between head jobs at Arizona and SJSU and helped Brown win a Rose Bowl in 2005.

But Stoops, who probably now regrets giving up his vote after last season, has a formidable coaching tree and allies himself. Both Leach and Pelini were his assistants, and he can probably count on Steve Spurrier, his former boss at Florida whose own son Steve Jr. tutored under Stoops.

Then there are a few with their own murky agendas: Urban Meyer, whose Florida team is no lock for a top 2 spot even if it wins its final two games, may want to make sure to keep BOTH Texas and OU down. Cal's Jeff Tedford, who no doubt remembers how Brown screwed his Golden Bears out of that 2005 Rose Bowl berth, might decide it's high time to exact a little sweet revenge.

And this is just scratching the surface. I'm sure there are other relationships that run beneath the obvious; and don't forget the Harris poll, whose 114 voters are full of former players, coaches and administrators, whose allegiances run the gamut.

That's why the secret ballot (for both coaches and Harris voters) is a terrible idea. Using the BCS standings to break conference ties is just icing on the crappy cake.

A lot of this intrigue, however, might melt away - at least for this week - if Auburn upsets Alabama. This is how the BCS standings should look if the Tigers take their seventh straight Iron Bowl (again, assuming the ballots stay static - slotting each team one spot higher):

1. Oklahoma (.970 computer, .9625 overall), 2. Texas (.980 computer, .9542 overall), 3. Florida (.890 computer, .9388 overall).

This way, the Sooners will have more of a security blanket against voter shenanigans. And Florida will creep a little closer to the top 2 spot. Of course, this sets up a potential all-Big 12 BCS championship game with a rematch between Oklahoma and Texas.

We'll have to leave that topic for next week. One controversy at a time, please.

24 November 2008

RCW Person of the Year

(From RealClearWorld)

It used to mean something to be selected as Time Magazine's "Person of the Year." Began in 1937, with Charles Lindbergh as the first honoree, the lineup of what used to be "Man of the Year" was filled with the world's movers and shakers, for better or worse.

FDR won it - the only person to be named thrice - but so did Adolf Hilter and Josef Stalin. Ghandi, Churchill, Ike and George Marshall were all among the early honorees. But over time, this list has been populated more often by frivolous choices.

The Computer has won it (1982) ... as did the Earth (1988) ... but the absurdity perhaps reached its apex when the magazine picked approximately 6 billion winners in 2006.


Yeah, you.

Eager to restore its relevance, the magazine actually made a good choice last year - then-Russian president Vladimir Putin, certainly a worthy winner even if a controversial one. And Putin rewarded Time's editors with a lengthy and thought-provoking interview.

In about two weeks, the magazine is due to release its 2008 choice. But RealClearWorld has decided not to wait. We've seen enough from around the world to come up with our own Person of the Year. While there are scientists, humanitarians, artists and athletes who may warrant consideration, our top five candidates are more political in nature.

Here are our choices:

No. 5 Nicolas Sarkozy

23 November 2008

'Horns No. 2, But For How Long?

(From BCS Guru)

After Oklahoma gutted Texas Tech on Saturday, the Big 12 South debate officially raged on. Will Texas hold off Oklahoma for the coveted No. 2 spot, assuring a berth in the Big 12 title game? Or will OU overtake UT, despite having lost to the Longhorns on a neutral field?

The latest BCS standings still favor the Longhorns, but here's a message before you start humming "The Eyes of Texas": Don't get too comfortable.

Just how thin is Texas' advantage over Oklahoma? If the Sooners move up one spot in three of the computers, then they'd be ahead of the Longhorns. Or, if about a third of the voters decide to swap OU ahead of UT on their ballots, that'd do it, too.

The former is far more likely to happen than the latter, as Oklahoma plays at No. 13 Oklahoma State whereas Texas faces woeful Texas A&M at home. There's much more room for Oklahoma to improve its computer rankings while the 'Horns are basically "maxed out." Texas also wants to pay particular attention to the Alabama game, as an Auburn win in the Iron Bowl will certainly provide the computer boost that OU needs - IF the poll results stay relatively static.

So the big question is, will Texas hold Oklahoma off for one more week? Adding to the intrigue is the fact that Texas coach Mack Brown has a vote in the coaches poll whereas OU coach Bob Stoops does not. Not to call his integrity into question, but since it's a secret ballot, what's to stop Brown from putting OU as low as 10th on his ballot?

Sitting in wait is No. 4 Florida. With games against Florida State and No. 1 Alabama remaining on the schedule, the Gators should be able to move up the standings - particularly with Texas and Oklahoma in a deadlock, potentially splitting valuable votes. An Oklahoma upset loss to Oklahoma State would clear the path for Florida, though it might not be entirely necessary.

The team that's doomed is No. 5 USC. Even with a couple of upsets in the final two weekends, there is no conceivable way for the Trojans to climb into the top 2, thus a spot in the BCS title game. USC's weak computer rankings will not alter much with games against mediocre Notre Dame and UCLA left - and that weakness will torpedo USC's quest even if it finishes in the top 2 in the human polls. The only way the Trojans can win the 2008 national championship is via the AP poll.

A split championship? Yep, that possibility is alive and well. But that's a topic for another day.

22 November 2008

Tech Bubble Burst Roils BCS Market

(From BCS Guru)

Well, the BCS may have a crisis that mirrors the one in the real world.

It was so easy last week that the Guru just knew there will be ample payback this time. If the caveman could do the projections last week, then this week's would require the combined brain power of Albert Einstein, Werner von Braun and Stephen Hawking, not to mention the psychoanalytic mind of Freud. This might be a bit out of the realm for a chump like me.

But I'll try anyway.

First thing first, we know two things for sure: Penn State is headed to the Rose Bowl, becoming the first team to clinch a BCS berth this season. Utah followed suit by completing a 12-0 season, becoming the first non-BCS team to win multiple BCS bowl berths.

The rest is up in the air.

Oklahoma's 65-21 annihilation of No. 2 Texas Tech sets up a near certainty of the BCS standings being employed to break a three-way tie in the Big 12 South - OU still must win at Oklahoma State next week, though. If the Sooners stumble, then the Red Raiders win the Big 12 South if they can handle Baylor at home.

Take a deep breath and follow this one here: Texas can't win the Big 12 South on anything but the tiebreaker, and Oklahoma's blowout win made that a little more difficult. If the Longhorns don't get to play in the Big 12 title game, they still may play in the BCS title game. And even if they don't play in the BCS title game, they can still win the national championship - by winning the Fiesta Bowl and claiming the AP crown.

The door is left slightly ajar for USC as well - ironically because Oregon State may keep the Trojans out of the Rose Bowl. If they end up playing Texas in the Fiesta Bowl, there is a chance for the Trojans to win the AP title - that chance doesn't exist if they face Penn State in Pasadena. In any event, there is virtually no chance for USC to play in the BCS championship game.

Alabama will ascend to No. 1 in the BCS standings, without a doubt. After the Tide, I expect Oklahoma to narrowly edge Texas for the No. 2 spot this week. The voters will be very torn about where to place the 'Horns and Sooners, even though Texas did defeat Oklahoma on a neutral field back in October. The 65 points OU hung on Texas Tech would be difficult to ignore as well.

Adding to the intrigue is that Texas coach Mack Brown has a vote in the coaches poll but OU coach Bob Stoops does not. The coaches do not have to reveal their ballots until the final regular-season poll, meaning that whatever Brown puts on his ballot will affect the tiebreaker - and it will stay a secret as well.

Here's the Guru's projections for the Week 13 BCS standings:

1. Alabama, 2. Oklahoma, 3. Texas, 4. Florida, 5. USC, 6. Utah, 7. Texas Tech, 8. Penn State, 9. Boise State, 10. Ohio State, 11. Georgia, 12. Oklahoma State, 13. Missouri, 14. Texas Christian, 15. Cincinnati.

21 November 2008

Party Like It's 1942?

(From BCS Guru)

No one needs to remind Mike Leach and his Texas Tech Red Raiders just how big Saturday night's game at Oklahoma is. Beyond being the BGISH, there are even more historic implications.

A victory clinches the Big 12 South title for the Red Raiders. But more importantly, it puts No. 2 Texas Tech two wins away - home to 4-7 Baylor and 9-2 Missouri in the Big 12 title game - from a spot in the BCS championship game.

Just how big a deal is that? Let's put it this way: If the Red Raiders win the BCS title this year, it would be the biggest transformation of a program since Ohio State won it all.

In 1942. Paul Brown's second season as the Buckeyes' coach.

Before this season, the Red Raiders have never finished in the top 10 of the AP poll. Ever. The best final AP poll showing for Texas Tech is 11th, in 1938 and 1973. So in terms of college football pedigree, Texas Tech has none.

Every AP national champion in the last 65 years has either won a title before or finished in the top 10 of the AP poll at least once. Programs typically don't go from mediocre or worse to national champion overnight.

Make no mistake, Leach has been building a program since taking over in 2000 from Spike Dykes - who laid a good foundation. Texas Tech has gone to a bowl game every year since Leach took over and is the only school to finish with a winning record every year since the formation of the Big 12 in 1996. But nothing in Tech's recent history even remotely suggested such a meteoric rise.

Texas Tech, typically, would win a big game here and there, but could never string them all together in the same season. It's beaten Texas or Oklahoma before, but never in the same season. So they could make history Saturday night in improbable fashion - sort of like America electing a black man president (hey, wait a minute, that's already done!).

But the Red Raiders are not doing this with smoke and mirrors. They happened to be good. Damn good. There is not a better quarterback-receiver tandem in football than Graham Harrell and Michael Crabtree. The once-maligned defense has given up 30 points just twice - and considering Tech has scored at least 35 points in every game, that's good enough. They even run the ball a little bit, averaging 126 yards a game. And their walk-on kicker has not missed anything inside 40 yards.

A loss to No. 5 Oklahoma, though, could prove devastating. Even if the Red Raiders finish in a three-way tie with OU and Texas for the Big 12 South title, it's unlikely that they'd prevail on a tiebreaker based on the BCS standings. Not winning the division also probably will keep them from their first BCS bowl invitation. And for sure, there won't be a Heisman Trophy for either Harrell or Crabtree. The tumbleweeds will swirl back to Lubbock.

Yeah, just how big is this game for Texas Tech?

The Texas Tech-Oklahoma 8 p.m. ET prime time shootout, however, hardly is the only Saturday game with BCS implications. While a few traditional rivalry games might have lost some luster (yes, I'm talking to you, Michigan), a few others have the blood boiling just a few degrees hotter.

No. 14 Brigham Young at No. 7 Utah, 6 p.m. - They call this the Holy War not because these Utahans feel warm and fuzzy about each other. Especially not this year, not with 9 million bucks on the line. A Utes victory clinches a BCS bowl berth for Utah and a big payday for the Mountain West Conference (and yes, BYU gets 1/9 of that pot). A Cougars win gives them a shot at the big money pot - but not without a Boise State loss in its final two games. Ten of the last 11 games in this series were decided by 7 points or less, the lone exception was 2004, when the Utes became the first non-BCS team to play in a BCS bowl.

No. 9 Boise State at Nevada, 4 p.m. - While the Broncos need a Utah loss to have a shot at their second BCS bowl appearance in three years, they had better not overlook Nevada. The 6-4 Wolf Pack held Texas Tech to its lowest scoring output of the season in a 35-19 loss and have scored at least 41 points in six of their last seven games. Last year, it took the Broncos four overtimes to subdue Nevada, 69-67, in the highest scoring game in Division I-A history.

No. 15 Michigan State at No. 8 Penn State, 3:30 p.m. - The Rose Bowl representatives are pretty torn about this. A Penn State win could set up a potential Penn State-Oregon State rematch in Pasadena. A Michigan State victory hands the Big Ten crown to Ohio State, which might mean an Ohio State-USC rematch. The idiot Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio says he'd root for the Buckeyes, even though a Michigan victory gives the Spartans their only chance for a Rose Bowl berth (then again, high IQ is not a pre-requisite for State, so no surprise there).

No. 21 Oregon State at Arizona, 7 p.m. - The Beavers are two wins away from an improbable Rose Bowl appearance, their first since the 1965 game - something that entered virtually no one's mind when they upset then-No. 1 USC on Sept. 25. But they're no cakewalk, though. Besides next week's Civil War against Oregon, the Beavers must win at Arizona, whose only home loss this season was a 17-10 battle against the Trojans. Oregon State, on the other hand, has yet to beat a team with a winning record on the road this season.

No. 20 Pittsburgh at No. 19 Cincinnati, 7:15 p.m. - A victory puts the Bearcats within reach of their first Big East title and BCS bowl appearance - with just a conference home game against lowly Syracuse left. Cincinnati has played in bowl games the last two years, but this time, it could be just a little more auspicious than the PapaJohns.com or International variety. A Pittsburgh win potentially sets up next week's Backyard Brawl as a winner-take-all.

19 November 2008

Another Jam-Packed Mailbag

(From BCS Guru)

Where's Mailman Steve when you need him?

The Guru won't cry about being overwhelmed by mail - it's a sign of business is good. And with President-elect Barack Obama seemingly having some kind of fetish about the BCS - and the fact that the BCS just signed a four-year deal with ESPN ... my days as the Guru should be anything but numbered.

To reassure you the Guru's commitment, here's an announcement: The Guru answers EVERY SINGLE piece of e-mail that contains a question. Sometimes it'll take me a few days to get back to you, but always before the next weekend. Even if you post your question on the comments board, I'll get back to you - but I'd prefer to answer questions via e-mail.

And every two weeks or so, the best of these e-mails, with the most pertinent questions - along with answers - will be posted here. This is the latest installment:

  • For a USC fan what result should we be rooting in the Texas Tech/OK game?

I think you want to root for Texas Tech for a couple of reasons: 1) it eliminates Oklahoma; 2) then all you need is a Tech loss in the Big 12 title game against Missouri - they don't play each other this season - and I just think with Tech being new at this, it might not be able to handle the pressure of being one win away from the BCS title game - ironically like Missouri a year ago.

  • Say it ain't so! I am a die-hard Longhorn, and feel sick at the thought of OU jumping us in the BCS. I DON'T GET THIS AT ALL!!!!

    How can this be possible when the following is true:

    * Texas beat OU by 10 on a neutral field
    * Texas SOS is 5 opposed to OU at 27.
    * OU is 0-1 against Top 10 opponents, Texas is 3-1 (Four weeks in a row!!!)
    * BCS ranking now: TEXAS #3 with .891, OU #5 with .839 (How can OU make up this distance?)
    * Points allowed by OU defense opposed to points allowed by Texas defense (For example, Texas allowed KU 7 points opposed to OU allowing KU to score 31)

    I am no math expert, but I just don't understand how OU can jump Texas unless it blows out both TT and OSU. Please shed some light on this.

I know you're disheartened to hear this - and logic seems to favor the Longhorns - but the fact remains that if OU beats Texas Tech, especially if it's a blowout, OU probably will jump Texas - eventually. The Sooners' SOS will improve - as will their computer ratings - just by playing these last two games.

The best-case scenario, as a Texas fan, is for OU to win a close game and then beat OSU in another close game. A Tech win eliminates Texas (and Oklahoma) from the Big 12 title game ... so you definitely don't want that. Texas' best argument, if it gets to that dreaded three-way tie, will be that it won on the neutral field while the other two won at home.

  • We all know how important voting is going to be if it indeed does come down to a three way tie. The voters will have a big say over the issue, and my question is surrounding the votes of Mike Leach and Mack Brown. Stoops is not voting this year, and I'm worried about the biases of the other two coaches trying to get their teams into the Big 12 title game. For all we know, Brown and Leach could leave OU out of the top 25 altogether to hurt their overall points in the poll. I'm told that coaches votes are not made public until the last poll, which means they could technically vote however they want.

    One, do you see them leaving OU out of their ranking to hurt the Sooners' overall point total?

    And two, if this does happen, do you think the votes of these two coaches will have a substantial impact on the Sooners' BCS positioning?

Brown and Leach indeed can leave the Sooners out of the Top 25 entirely on the secret penultimate ballot. If they both do, the impact on the coaches' poll would be about .033 points - enough to alter the outcome in a close race. But the most likely event would be for them to move OU to, say, 10th. It would be sneaky but probably won't make that much of a difference.

However, most of the Harris voters have school/conference affiliations, too. And like the coaches poll, their anonymity is protected until the final poll. This is the very screwy thing about the BCS standings - the total lack of transparency.

That's why two things needs to happen: 1) It should be open ballot every week, like the AP; 2) The standings should not be used for any tiebreaking purposes, there is just too much inherent conflict of interest, and it was never the intent of the standings anyway.

  • If Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Texas all finish 11-1 and near the top of the BCS standings. Whoever wins the tiebreaker ends up losing the championship game to Missouri, and whoever wins the SEC Championship game loses a game to their arch rival before that. This could potentially end up with two big 12 teams finishing 1-2 in the BCS, and another Big 12 team (Missouri, presumably) having the conference championship. If I am reading the rules right, this would leave Missouri (the Big 12 Champion) out of the BCS entirely, wouldn’t it?

According to BCS administrator Bill Hancock, this potential conflict has just been amended to allow a THIRD team from the same conference to get a BCS bowl bid. So, if the Big 12 finishes with the Nos. 1 and 2 teams in the BCS standings but Missouri wins the automatic bid, then the conference would indeed claim three spots.

  • "The champions of the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-10 and Southeastern Conferences will have annual automatic qualification for a BCS game after the regular seasons of 2008 through 2013, based on mathematical standards of performance during the 2004-2007 regular seasons. The 2006-2009 regular seasons will be evaluated under the same standards to determine if other conferences will have annual automatic qualification for the games after the 2012 and 2013 regular seasons. The champions of no more than seven conferences will have annual automatic berths."- according to the BCS Website.

    So, do you think that you could start tracking the BCS by Conference in a manner consistent with this evaluation process. I think it would be great information and give people some insight into the elite bias as well as the hope that the current system could actually benefit other conferences in the future.

Good idea ... it'll definitely be on my plate as a postseason project. They refused to reveal the formula, but I'm sure I can generate something comparable.

  • What happens if Utah and Boise both end up in the top 12 at the end of the year? Are they both guaranteed spots? If not, what is the BCS rule that governs this?

Only the highest-ranked non-BCS team, if it's in the top 14, is guaranteed a BCS berth. If there's another team, it would merely be "eligible" but not guaranteed (and not likely) to be selected. Right now, it looks like Boise needs a Utah loss to get that bid.

  • Any chance that if BYU beats Utah, either Utah or TCU end up going to a BCS Bowl instead of BYU (assuming Boise State and Ball State losses)?

First, you don't need to worry about Ball State. BYU is already ahead in the BCS standings. Second, you do need to worry about Boise State, it's not likely that a one-loss BYU would jump an undefeated Boise. Finally, Utah could survive a loss to BYU and stay ahead in the BCS standings (not so for two-loss TCU). If the voters only drop the Utes one or two spots in the polls, they can conceivably make up the difference with their superior computer rankings.

  • I can understand that with 4 non-BCS teams in the top 15 it a virtual guarantee that one of them will get a BCS invite, but what would have to happen for two of them to get invites?

Hell freezing over? Actually, not quite. You need three events, and two are quite probable: 1) Oregon State losing one of its remaining games, ensuring the Pac-10 gets only one BCS invite (USC); 2) Penn State beating Michigan State at home, eliminating a second Big Ten team in the event of ...; 3) Hell freezing over, 2008 edition - Michigan winning at Ohio State. The 3-8 Wolverines are a 21-point underdog. But the UM win, coupled with an MSU loss, eliminates the Big Ten from gaining a second entry, thus ensuring a second non-BCS team getting an at-large bid.

  • This notion that 'SC fans want another Rose Bowl is false. We want Oregon St to win out be co-Pac-10 champs and we want to go to the Fiesta and play a big 12 team or sugar and play an SEC team. We have nothing to gain by going to Pasadena and running over another big 10 team ala Illinois and Michigan the last 2 times. This is not only my feeling but the sentiments of the entire marching band and majority of a sports commentary course with knowledgeable USC and college football fans. They aren't making us nervous they're making us excited and anxious to see if we can avoid the Rose even if we don't play for the BCS title.

I get this, it's very sensible, but there is one trap with this line of thinking. USC might need to win the Pac-10 outright in the event of a stumble by the Big 12 South champ in the conference title game. Why? Because then if the Trojans are to get a favorable outcome from the voters for a spot in the BCS title game, they need to have the argument that they "won" the conference whereas Texas, Texas Tech or Oklahoma didn't. If USC and Oregon State are Pac-10 co-champions, the perception would be that USC didn't win the conference because the Beavers got the automatic Rose Bowl bid.

  • I absolutely love your Orange Bowl prediction.....ACC Champ vs. Big East Champ......

    As if to say, "who really cares about this game???"

    That's classic...we're not even gonna waste time guessing who these teams will be...they're just going to play each other in this meaningless BCS bowl game.

Yep. You read my mind.

17 November 2008

Goodbye Fox, and Good Riddance

(From BCS Guru)

Breaking news tonight: Fox is pulling out of the bidding for the BCS contract when the current one expires. That means one thing: No more college football on Fox after the 2009 BCS championship game at the Rose Bowl.

The Guru has a one-word response: HALLELUJAH!

Fox was the worst thing that's happened to the BCS. A network that carries ZERO regular-season games should not be the one that televises its most high-profile games. The Fox announcing crews always seemed to be reading players' names off a speed card because they have never seen any of them until the very moment they stepped into that booth. And the dearth of knowledge ... basically, Fox is always trying to get college football out of the way for the "more important" NFL games.

The most criminal part is Fox's treatment of the BCS standings. Like it or not, the BCS standings are the central element of the whole system, yet Fox never wants to give the announcement the time of the day. The standings usually come at the end of the 4 p.m. NFL games on Sunday - unless it's after the 1 p.m. games. Sometimes they'll banter for about five minutes in the post-game show "The O.T." Sometimes they just put it on the screen against the backdrop of an emptying NFL stadium.

Either way, the message was: We don't really give a crap.

With Fox out of the way, ESPN is the only network negotiating with the BCS and that means ESPN will be the exclusive carrier of all BCS bowl games, including the Rose Bowl. I'm OK with that. ESPN is the sports empire, so it makes sense that it should add another fiefdom into its global enterprise. This works.

So yeah, Fox. Thanks for nothing. Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out.

16 November 2008

Who'll Cause Obama's First 3 a.m. Call?

(From RealClearWorld)

"Mark my words. It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking."

This ominous warning was not issued by President-elect Obama's campaign adversary John McCain or any of his surrogates. It came from Joe Biden, Obama's running mate and the nation's next vice president - merely two weeks before Obama's election victory.

Indeed, throughout his two-year campaign for the most powerful office in the world, Obama's lack of executive experience was almost always Topic No. 1. And his virtual blank slate pertaining to foreign policy produced more attack lines by his opponents than anything else.

During the Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton made much hay when she unleashed the famed "3 a.m. call" television ad questioning whether a nation at war could risk electing someone so green as its leader. She made dramatic gains following the ad's unveiling, taking Obama to the wire in a spirited intra-party fight.

With an electorate more concerned about the current financial crisis and other more worrisome domestic issues, Obama beat McCain comfortably to win the election. But the world's bad actors and flash points will not simply go away. Fortunately for him, some of the potential problems will remain more long-term and less urgent, such as China, India and Brazil; while others, such as Venezuela, Cuba and Africa, will not be strategically pressing enough to warrant emergency actions.

So just who'll be responsible for Obama's first 3 a.m. phone call at the White House? After careful consideration, these are RealClearWorld's top five suspects:

No. 5 Russia

15 November 2008

So Easy, A Caveman Can Do It

(From BCS Guru)

In the Guru's two and a half seasons of being, well, the Guru, there has never been an easier weekend to put together a projection for the BCS standings. I'm looking at John Parker Wilson here, so yes, Alabama is still playing, but it's all done.

Not a SINGLE team in last week's top 15 lost. Not one. I figured it was going to be ho-hum this Saturday, but not comatose.

So, not to waste any more of your, or my time, here's the projected top 15, with just one change from last week: I expect BYU to move up from No. 17 to No. 15, thus assuring that a non-BCS conference team will be invited to a BCS bowl, no matter what happens.

The Guru's projected BCS standings for Week 12:

1. Alabama, 2. Texas Tech, 3. Texas, 4. Florida, 5. Oklahoma, 6. USC, 7. Utah, 8. Penn State, 9. Boise State, 10. Georgia, 11. Ohio State, 12. Missouri, 13. Oklahoma State, 14. Ball State, 15. Brigham Young.

14 November 2008

The Calm Before Guns Ablaze

(From BCS Guru)

Wyatt Earp is sitting in a saloon (somewhere in Lubbock), all by himself. He's nursing a drink, reminiscing all that's happened in this tumultuous season. When he's done, he'll slowly get up and head over to the O.K. Corral (in Norman, OK, of course) to "kill 'em all."

(Here's a visual, if reading hurts your eyes)

Next week, the Biggest Game of the Season and the BGISH for Texas Tech will be settled on Owen Field, with the winner moving on and the loser carried off to the BCS morgue. But this Saturday, both Texas Tech and Oklahoma will be quietly polishing their guns at their respective watering holes.

Elsewhere, not much is expected to happen, either. The other five teams atop the BCS standings are all favored by at least two touchdowns in their respective games. There should not be a single upset among the championship hopefuls on Saturday and we might just have sort of a collective bye week.

The most intriguing game with BCS ramifications will take place in Corvallis - between two teams just outside of the BCS top 25. By now, Oregon State is making USC fans a bit nervous. The Beavers control their own destiny in terms of winning the Pac-10's automatic bid to the Rose Bowl. While the Trojans want to shoot for the big prize of the BCS championship game, they want to have Pasadena as a consolation prize if that doesn't work out.

So far, Oregon State hasn't cooperated, winning every Pac-10 game since dropping its opener to Stanford. But the Beavers will be facing the conference's next-best teams in their closing weeks - against California, at Arizona, and host Oregon in the Civil War. One loss probably will hand the Trojans the conference title for the seventh straight season.

The Golden Bears have a slim, slim shot at a BCS bowl berth, but mostly they're playing for a trip to San Diego for the Holiday Bowl. There's a pretty big difference between San Diego and El Paso, and we are not just talking about the cash money payout.

Besides the Cal-Oregon State 3:30 p.m. ET matchup, there is just one other game whose outcome might impact the BCS bowl picture - Brigham Young-Air Force, also at 3:30 p.m. If the Cougars win, a non-BCS conference team would be guaranteed a BCS bowl berth.

Three non-BCS teams currently are ranked in the top 14 of the BCS standings, with the top team locked in for an automatic bid - No. 7 Utah, No. 9 Boise State and No. 14 Ball State. The Utes, at 10-0, control their own destiny. If they close out the regular season with two more wins, then they're headed to their second BCS bowl appearance in five seasons.

A BYU victory over Air Force cinches the scenario that even if both Boise State and Ball State are upset in the closing weeks, and the Cougars defeat Utah in the Holy War on Nov. 22, one of those teams will stay in the top 14, which comes with the automatic BCS bowl berth. If anything, the Cougars can keep their own slim BCS hopes alive by beating the Falcons.

Finally, just for kicks, the Guru will throw you a few one liners on the expected walkovers Saturday:

Mississippi State at No. 1 Alabama, 7:45 p.m. - Yes, yes, Sylvester Croom has beaten his alma mater the last two years. That streak's over.

No. 3 Texas at Kansas, 12:30 p.m. - This seems to be the chic upset pick of the week. Why? Because it's gonna be cold in Lawrence? Hell will freeze over before KU beats Texas.

No. 25 South Carolina at No. 4 Florida, 3:30 p.m. - Yes, yes, Steve Spurrier was a Gator and will forever be a Gator. Florida fans still love him to death. Just not this week.

No. 6 USC at Stanford, 7 p.m. - Last year the Cardinal shocked the Trojans at the Coliseum with a 24-23 win. If Stanford scores 24 points this time - that'll be one more than USC has given up in the last six GAMES.

No. 7 Utah at San Diego State, 8 p.m. - Just how bad are the 1-9 Aztecs? They've surrendered an average of 43.3 points per game during their six-game losing streak. Division I-AA, anyone?

12 November 2008

Reviewing Resumes

(From BCS Guru)

So you want to play in the BCS Championship Game? Very well. Come in and have a seat. We have a few worthy candidates and you'll get your turn to state your case.

In a contentious BCS atmosphere, every end of season acts as a beauty contest. A battle not fought on the field but in the forum of public opinion. It's not a meritocracy or even a democracy. It's Politburo-style, like in the old Soviet Union: 175 unelected representatives (61 coaches and 114 Harris voters) will decide the fate of our college football nation.

You still think the Guru loves the BCS? Sure, it's good for business. But like a vegetarian meat packer - just because you sell it doesn't mean you have to eat it.

It's a lousy job, but somebody has to do it. We have to try to decipher which are the two best teams that should be pitted in the mythical national championship game. Right now, we have seven contestants. And they're ranked 1 through 7 in the current BCS standings. But as usual, there's more to it than meets the eye.

Is Alabama really the best team? Does Utah have a chance? Which conference is tougher, the SEC or Big 12? And what about USC?

The best thing to do, then, is to evaluate each team's resume and put them next to each other. So the Guru did:




Loss To Best Win

vs Top 14

Alabama 66 6-11 None #10 Georgia (8-2) 1-0 (1)
Texas Tech 29 10-8 None #3 Texas (9-1) 2-0 (1)
Texas 5 9-10 Texas Tech #2 (10-0) #5 Oklahoma (9-1) 3-1
Florida 14 11-5 Ole Miss UR (5-4) #10 Georgia 1-0 (1)
Oklahoma 27 15-2 Texas #3 (9-1) #18 TCU (9-2) 0-1 (2)
USC 39 13-15 Oregon State #28 (6-3) #11 Ohio State (8-2) 1-0
Utah 58 9-9 None #18 TCU 0-0
Key: SOS = Strength of schedule average of NCAA, Sagarin and Massey
RS* = Records of opponents remaining on schedule, excluding I-AA teams

As you can see, aside from being undefeated, Alabama may have the weakest resume of the group, yet it is ranked No. 1. And every other team has some strong arguments and some holes in its presentation as well. Let's review them one by one:

No.1 Alabama - The Tide played the softest schedule of the group. One of its two best wins - over then-No. 9 Clemson - has been thoroughly discredited as the Tigers are 4-5 and just fired their coach. Basically, Alabama is living off its one great half against Georgia. If the Tide go on and finish the season 13-0, with a win over Florida in the SEC championship game, fine, send them to the BCS title game. But one loss anywhere should immediately eliminate 'Bama from this discussion.

No. 2 Texas Tech - The Red Raiders are definitely the hottest team and with a win at Oklahoma in two weeks, there should be no argument about their legitimacy. Unlike Alabama, another loss - to Oklahoma, specifically - shouldn't be automatically disqualifying, but the timing would probably do the trick.

No. 3 Texas - The Longhorns were one second away from a perfect record and probably an unanimous No. 1 ranking. Texas has played by far the toughest schedule of anyone and has beaten three teams in the top 14 - all in consecutive weeks. And its only loss is to the second-ranked team, on the road, in the last second. By all means, should either of the two unbeaten BCS teams slip up, Texas should get right back into the title picture. But the reality is that it might not even get into the Big 12 championship game.

No. 4 Florida - The Gators probably have the two most impressive wins - over Georgia and LSU by a combined score of 100-31 - but they also have the worst loss of the teams in the group. Florida's only loss was at home to an unranked Ole Miss team that's not yet bowl eligible. But the Gator have a chance to burnish their resume down the stretch with games against two teams currently ranked in the top 25, and then top-ranked Alabama in the SEC championship game. If they run the table, there should be no denying the Gators.

No. 5 Oklahoma - The Sooners won two games against good non-conference opponents (TCU and Cincinnati) but have yet to beat a quality Big 12 team. But OU has a chance to state its case because its two remaining opponents have a combined overall record of 18-2 (15-2 against I-A teams). And winning those games just might be enough to propel Oklahoma into the Big 12 championship game and open a path to the BCS title game.

No. 6 USC - The Trojans' one bad half against Oregon State not only is keeping them at arm's length of the BCS title game, but might also prevent them from earning a Rose Bowl berth. In retrospect, the loss to the Beavers was not as bad as originally thought - on the road against an OSU team that's now 6-3 and controls its own destiny for the Pac-10 title. And USC has no chance to impress the voters with games against Stanford, Notre Dame and UCLA remaining. Despite the fact that USC's defense, which has surrendered an ungodly 6.7 points per game, may finish as the best unit of all time, the Pac-10's weakness this season is not helping the Trojans' cause.

No. 7 Utah - Can the Utes get into the BCS title game? Yes. The possibility exists. If every team ahead of them loses at least one more game - and Alabama loses twice - then Utah conceivably may end up in the championship game. Short of that, Utah will have to be content with a BCS bowl berth, which will be a lock if it beats San Diego State and BYU to finish the season.

As a bonus, here's the Guru's latest BCS bowl projections -

  • BCS Championship - Florida vs. Texas Tech

  • Rose Bowl - USC vs. Penn State

  • Fiesta Bowl - Texas vs. Ohio State

  • Sugar Bowl - Alabama vs. Utah

  • Orange Bowl - ACC champion vs. Big East champion

10 November 2008

Sorting Out the Big 12 Mess

(From BCS Guru)

My mailbox is about to explode. All these questions about the Big 12. With three Big 12 South teams in the top five of the latest BCS standings, it seems inevitable that somebody from that trio will play in the BCS championship game. And there is conceivably a way to get there without the bother of being in the Big 12 championship game.

Should Texas Tech, Texas and Oklahoma end up in a three-way tie, with 11-1 records and each losing to one another, the Big 12 South representative in the conference championship game will be determined by tiebreaker No. 5 - the highest-ranked team in the penultimate BCS standings. Now, this is a terrible method to settle things - really not much better than a coin flip - but that's the way it goes.

So here's the team-by-team scenarios of how Texas Tech, Texas and Oklahoma might get there:

Texas Tech: At No. 2, the road for the Red Raiders is the most straightforward. Win three more wins, a spot in Miami will be waiting. The toughest one will be the Nov. 22 visit to Norman, and with both teams having a bye week to get ready for that one, it shapes up to be our next Game of the Year. Now, what if Tech loses to No. 5 Oklahoma? Sorry, then the Raiders are pretty much done. A loss, this late in the season, likely will drop them to No. 5 or 6, and most likely shut out of the Big 12 title game and definitely the BCS title game.

Texas: For now, the Longhorns have a slight edge over Oklahoma by virtue of their head-to-head win in Dallas and superior computer rankings. But all that can change if OU beats Texas Tech. An Oklahoma win most likely would force tiebreaker No. 5 to be invoked and Texas might get vaulted over by the Sooners. Now, Texas has a shot of going to the BCS title game without going to the Big 12 title game - if Texas Tech beats OU but loses to Missouri, it's possible the Longhorns can get up to No. 2 and earn a date with the SEC champion.

Oklahoma: The Sooners must beat Texas Tech - and not forget about Oklahoma State the week after - to have any chance of staying in this discussion. A win over second-ranked and unbeaten Red Raiders might push OU ahead of Texas in the human polls. As it is, OU is barely ahead in the coaches poll and slightly behind in the Harris poll. And though the Sooners are currently behind Texas in every computer ranking, a win over Texas Tech more than likely will slingshot them past Texas for good. A scenario also exists for OU to miss the Big 12 title game but make it to the BCS title game - should Oklahoma lose the tiebreaker to the Longhorns, who then drop their rematch against Missouri in the Big 12 title game.

Let's do a matrix, and this is what it might look like involving these three teams: (assuming they each win their remaining regular-season games):

1. Texas Tech beats Oklahoma

  • TT beats Missouri for Big 12 title: Texas Tech in BCS title game; Texas in BCS bowl

  • Missouri beats TT for Big 12 title: USC in BCS title game; Missouri, Texas in BCS bowls

2. Oklahoma beats Texas Tech, then beats Oklahoma State

  • OU beats Missouri for Big 12 title: OU in BCS title game; Texas in BCS bowl

  • Texas beats Missouri for Big 12 title: Texas in BCS title game; OU in BCS bowl

  • Missouri beats OU for Big 12 title: Texas in BCS title game; Missouri in BCS bowl

  • Missouri beats Texas for Big 12 title: OU in BCS title game; Missouri in BCS bowl

3. Oklahoma beats Texas Tech, then loses to Oklahoma State

  • TT beats Missouri for Big 12 title: USC in BCS title game; TT, Texas in BCS bowls

  • Missouri beats TT for Big 12 title: Texas in BCS title game; Missouri in BCS bowl

We'll discuss the SEC, USC, potential bowl matchups and the unbiased relative merits of each of the one-loss teams and Utah later this week as well. Yes, there's lots to talk about.