The Ocho

A home away from home for the college football fan who's tired of the talking heads not knowing what they're talking about.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Mid-Majors in the BCS? Who is the most likely to go?

Starting this year, the BCS has changed its rules once again, adding a fifth BCS bowl as an unnamed title game, which will rotate through the four big boys of the BCS every year (Fiesta, Orange, Rose, and Sugar), so once every years, one bowl will host two games. This year, the lucky bowl is the Fiesta, so the Phoenix area gets to be home not to two (Insight and Fiesta), but three bowls this year.

More importantly, the two additional at-large bids come with some new rules, favoring the inclusion of mid-majors. These rules allow for a non-BCS conference team with a rating of 16th or higher in the BCS poll to gain an at-large bid if it is ranked higher than any of the BCS conference champions. Under these rules, last year, TCU, winner of the Mountain West, would have received a BCS bid, as it was ranked higher than 16th and higher ranked than Florida State, the lowest ranked BCS conference champion. I'm sure the powers that be at the BCS hope this change to give the have-nots some table scraps will help them maintain their stranglehold on the national championship, and keep Congress and the mid-majors from talking about unfair competition. What it certainly does is keep the prospects of any form of a playoff very dim indeed.

However, the changes are a bright spot for the following mid-major teams, who could, just possibly, slip into a BCS bowl and big bucks this season. One thing to keep in mind - to make it, a non-BCS team will almost certainly have to win its conference, and probably can't survive more than one loss to a BCS conference opponent. Any loss in conference or to a non-BCS conference opponent likely kills any chance to slip into the BCS. The possible Cinderellas for this year, in order of likelihood, are as follows:

1.) TCU - If the Horned Frogs should've gone last year, they certainly should this year. While their loss last year to SMU still leaves people scratching their heads, and the win over Oklahoma was over a very different team than the Oklahoma at the end of the season, TCU made a bang in its first season in the Mountain West. Expect the trend to continue, although it may face some in-conference opposition from Utah. It's non-conference schedule so far includes at Baylor, at Army, and a visit from Texas Tech. If the Horned Frogs can beat the Red Raiders, or even keep it close, and win out, expect them to have a BCS bid at the end of the season.

2.) Utah - Utah finds itself in a similar situation to TCU, as its non-conference schedule includes at UCLA, Northern Arizona, at Utah State, and Boise State. Of these, only UCLA and Boise State provide any challenge, and Boise State have to come to Salt Lake City. With a win over UCLA, or a close loss, and winning every other game, Utah will bump out TCU and take its BCS hopes away.

3.) Boise State (notice a trend here?) - Boise State is poised to win the WAC again, if it can manage to win out. Boise State lost its chance at perfection by losing to Fresno State last year, but at least this year, its non-conference schedule isn't as brutal. It gets Oregon State at home, replaces Georgia with at Utah, and has at Wyoming and I-AA Sacramento State to fill out its non-conference schedule. In this case, Boise State has to win out altogether to make it to the BCS, as the WAC schedule is not going to be quite as demanding as the MWC slate Utah and TCU face. A win in Salt Lake City, and a repeat of 2004's win over Oregon State on the Smurf Turf, ought to send the Broncos to the BCS, assuming they manage to overcome both Fresno State and a quickly improving Nevada in-conference.

4.) UTEP - Mike Price has shown his ability to coach (and stay away from one-night stands with strippers) in El Paso, and the Miners have a real chance to win the C-USA crown and go undefeated. With a non-conference slate that includes getting Texas Tech at home, and playing New Mexico, New Mexico State, and San Diego State, UTEP has a real shot at making it into conference play undefeated. Once in conference, the biggest hurdle is a game at Marshall, and the C-USA conference championship game, likely against UCF from the East. Like Boise State, UTEP will have to win out, due to the pollsters having far more respect for the Mountain West competition than the C-USA competition. It'll help if Texas Tech, in losing to the Miners, also manages to beat the Horned Frogs. Otherwise, even an undefeated season may not be enough to lift the Miners to one of the big bowls.

Outside of these four, all the other mid-major teams are a real longshot to make it to the BCS. TCU, Utah, Boise State, and UTEP stand out by having winnable contests with BCS conference opponents, and a chance to win every game in-conference. Marshall and UCF face much bigger non-conference opponents (West Virginia and Florida, respectively), and even in the unlikely event a MAC or Sun Belt team manages to win out, the quality of conference competition and the likely awful season for whatever BCS conference opponent can somehow lose to a member of one of these two conferences puts it out of reach. So, if one of our 4 Cinderellas can win out, or in the case of TCU or Utah, manage a very close loss to their BCS conference opponents, we'll see a mid-major in a BCS bowl again this year.

Way to go, BCS - you made it possible for one of four additional teams to make it. Way to open it up to the little guys.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Who will be #1 (or rather, who won't)?

The punditry has selected its favorites, and, predictably, they have largely followed the Ocho, as we clearly set the college football world's agenda. However, the national championship contenders selected is a flawed list. Here are some examples of the flaws in the programs, and why they won't be #1:

1) Ohio State. The Buckeyes had an incredible year last year, losing two heartbreakers to two top 3 teams and earning a decisive win over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. The media have made them the favorite to win it all this year, largely b/c the media watch college football like 13 year old girls. Passing is pretty, and offensive skill players that run fast are supercool. Thus, Troy Smith and Ted Ginn, Jr. are this year's dashing darlings, and have the Bucknuts pegged as the top dogs in this year's race. They're not. Why? Well, for starters, it's starters. As in, 9 of them lost off tOSU's sensational unit from a year ago. They will again play solid defense, but an inexperienced unit will have breakdowns, especially early, when they must face the defending national champs on the road. The Big 10 is such a brutally tough conference that one can't plan on going unbeaten in it. The gang's all here, and they'll beat Indiana now, but 10-2 is a more realistic expectation for this squad than 12-0.

2) Texas. The media have now decided that Mack Brown can, in fact, win the big game, and are ready to jump on the Horns bandwagon and ride it all the way down IH-35 and and 10 to Tempe. However, neither Colt McCoy nor Jevan Snead is Vince young, and Greg Davis is still Greg Davis. Additionally, Chizik's schematic flaws were exposed in 2 of his last 3 games. Replacing a 1st round draft pick at QB and the Thorpe award winner on defense can be costly. Ask Chizik's old boss Tommy Tuberville. The Horns face 5 potential stumbling blocks: tOSU, OU, Texas Tech, Nebraska, and Texas A&M. They likely win at least 3, but lose at least one. If they can lose just one, and it's an early, OOC loss to tOSU, they can be a threat. Still, they'll need hope.

3( Notre Dame. ND's back. They lost only 3 games in their coach's first year and made it to a NYD bowl game. Yes, 2002 clearly marked the return of the Irish. Oh wait, we're talking about 2005, now, aren't we? Second verse, same as the first. Notre Dame continues to be to college football what Pet Sounds is to music or The English Patient is to film. People feel compelled to list them on 10 best lists even if logic and reason indicates that they're not that good. ND' stitle dreams end in week one, when Jeff Smardizja gets to see who college football's real top WR is as Calvin Johnson torches Rick Minter's porous D, just like a bad Michigan State team did last year.

4) USC. Until the 6 minute mark in the Rose Bowl, things couldn't have been going much better for Pete Carroll and the Men of Troy. Since then, things couldn't be goin gmuch worse. A late game meltdown against Texas, the loss of all their top offensive skill players, potential NCAA problems, as well as off the field troubles with phenom QB Mark Sanchez. Combine all that with the fact that the Trojan D has slipped badly in each of the last two years, the fact that the college football world now can see SC would have zero titles if they'd been matched against the appropriate teams in '03 and '04. Add on to the top of that they must open on the road against the most improved team in the country, where they will meet a RB who can both run fast and run between the tackles. They don't see many of those in Cali, and will likely not know what to do. They're more likely to be off the radar screen by the end of September (where they face two of the most improved teams in the Pac 10 in Arizona and Wazzu) than still on it in Nobember.

5) Auburn. The 13 year old girl factor at work again. Kenny Irons can run really fast, and Brandon Cox is just dreamy. Well, Auburn must install its 3rd defensive system in 3 years. Sure, Muschamp has been a smash on the Plains thus far, but they open against one of the nation's most potent offenses with an experienced QB. The shift to a different DC with different terminology and different gameday signals cost Auburn its opener a year ago, and may do so again. Combine that with AU depending on newbies on the DL and in the secondary, and the defense is likely to have some difficulty early. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the schedule is unusually frontloaded with the first half of the season featuring games against Washington State, LSU, South Carolina, Arkansas and Florida (the latter 3 in successive weeks). There are teams in the NFC South that couldn't make it through that stretch unbeaten. However, if the Hard Fighting Soldiers are still unbeaten at that point, watch out.

So what does all this mean?? There is no clear cut #1, no team to beat, no frontrunner. it means this likely to be a heck of a year in which at least one team in the BCS title game has a loss, and possibly both, and possibly another year of turmoil for the BCS in which algorithms and decimal points mean more than on the field accomplishments. In other words, it ought to be a wild race to the finish, and I can't wait.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Now Just Four Little Indians

Prior to June 1, 2006, there were five remaining universities that had Native American mascots that played college football at the Division 1A level. Those five instituions were Arkansas State (Indians), Central Michigan (Chippewas), Florida State (Seminoles), Louisiana-Monroe (Indians), and Utah (Utes). Of those, CMU, FSU, and Utah had been granted permission to continue using their nicknames, primarily because a. the nicknames were actual tribes and b. the schools gained permission from at least one remaining branch of those tribes to keep using the names.

However, as of June 1, 2006, Louisiana-Monroe (or ULaMo, as I like to call it) will now use "Warhawks" as its nickname for its athletic teams. Now, on one level, I applaud this. One of the most annoying things to me in a sports league/conference is for multiple teams to have the same nickname (such as Auburn/LSU Tigers, MSU/Georgia Bulldogs, the two Roughriders teams formerly in the CFL (Ottawa has since folded)). In addition, Warhawks apparently has a connection with the area, as the P-40 Warhawk was flown by General Claire Chennault, a graduate of what was once Northeastern Louisiana.

But, on the other hand, I have come to despise the trend in political correctness in sports. While it may or may not be fair to Native Americans to be utilized as a sports mascot, the fact remains that no one picks a mascot to ridicule it (the UC-Santa Cruz Banana Slug an exception to this rule). Teams want a mascot that exudes stength and victory and honor and glory. Like Spartan. Or Trojan. Or Mountaineer. Or Ragin' Cajun. I bring the last two up, only because they are the two non-Native American mascots that actually could apply to modern demographic groups in the United States. I understand that Redskin or Redman or Savage can be seen as offensive, just as changing Mountaineer to Redneck or Inbreeder would be. But the NCAA's heavy handed policy of forcing schools to change their long-standing nicknames to appease a small but vocal group of people who find it insulting or demeaning disturbs me. What's next? Greek-Americans advocating a ban on the use of Spartan or Trojan? PETA complaining about animal mascots or nicknames? Crayola copyrighting Crimson, Cardinal, and the like? Where does it stop?

Kudos to ULaMo for finding an alternative that not only ties into school history, but also sounds pretty intimidating too. I just hate the fact that the NCAA forced them into it, by pandering to the opinions of people who really just ought to be told, "Tough. Guess you'll have to be insulted. Don't come to any of games, then."

Friday, June 09, 2006

uh oh

the problem with using a timely handle is you have to keep it updated. to that end, Vince4Heisman has left early for the draft, you may now call me JamaalRunGood, or sir.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Comparing the Pre-Season Polls

Way back in January, before the Ocho went on an unplanned temporary hiatus, I put up my pre-pre-season top 8. Now, most of the other polls have come out, the spring games have happened, and we can see how my top 8 stacks up against everyone else's.

So, here are the JoePa Uber Alles Top 8 Pre-Pre-Season picks.
1. Ohio State
2. LSU
3. West Virginia
4. Texas
5. USC
6. Oklahoma
7. Notre Dame
8. Florida

Now, in comparison, here are some other top eights that have appeared since then, with links attached:

Stewart Mandel of SI.com

1. Ohio State
2. Texas
3. ND
4. WVU
5. LSU
6. Oklahoma
7. USC
8. Cal (Incidentally, Mandel had Florida as his number 11, while I don't mention Cal at all)

Dennis Dodd of CBS Sportsline.com

1. Ohio State
2. WVU
3. Auburn (mentioned in my 8 next teams, in no particular order)
4. LSU
5. Oklahoma
6. Texas
7. Notre Dame
8. USC (Florida comes in as his number 9)

Ivan Maisel at ESPN.com

1. Ohio State
2. Oklahoma
3. WVU
4. Texas
5. Florida State (mentioned in my next 8 list)
6. USC
7. Cal (again, I didn't mention the Golden Bears)
8. Notre Dame (Florida and LSU come in at 12 and not mentioned. UTEP is his 23, but no LSU? Wow.)

Okay, so what do we gather from all this? Every poll has Ohio State at number one. 6 of the 8 teams I picked as my top eight are in every poll listed here. So, this means one of three things:
1. My picks are about as good as those of sportswriters and professionals, and are a result of having spent years watching and commenting on college football as an amateur
2. Sportswriters' picks are about as bad as mine, despite their supposed better experience as professionals.
3. All of us jump on certain teams' bandwagons, and the preseason polls reflect those bandwagons more than giving any sort of reliable indicator of expected finish in the upcoming college football season.

Figure it out yourselves, and remember, college football starts on September 2. Only 88 more days to go.

Why I Was Wrong in Saying that Joe Pa is the Winningest Coach

Some may remember a few months ago that I wrote an impassioned argument as to why Joe Pa should retain the crown as winningest Division IA coach. This argument had everything to do with 21 wins Bobby Bowden had at Howard College (now Samford) and the injustice of counting those toward his overall win total. Well, while I may still find it unjust, I cannot say any longer that it was against the rules.

Upon trolling the Internet and researching this issue further, I found that the NCAA does indeed have a rule to cover this (and my questions about either Eddie Robinson or John Gagliardi coaching a Division IA game to get the record). The NCAA rules allow all prior wins to be counted if the coach coaches ten years at the Division IA level. Therefore, if ER or JG ever had coached/will coach a DIA program for 10 years, all of their prior wins would be counted toward their overall DIA win total.

While I may debate the fairness of this rule, and its future applicability now that there are clear divisions in college football (which there were not when Bobby Bowden was at Howard), the fact remains that the rules do indeed explaign why Bobby gets credit for those 21 wins.

All that's left to me is to say I was wrong, and that I hope Penn State keeps moving up and FSU keeps moving down. A couple more 1 loss seasons for my boys balanced by a couple more 5 loss seasons for the Seminoles will catapult JoePa back into first place again.