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.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Cinderella Report

Well, we're 4 weeks into the season, and we've got a grand total of three, count em, three undefeated mid-major teams left. Let's break them down, and see how likely either one is to end up undefeated at the end of the season, and who's likely to gain a BCS bowl berth this year.

1. TCU - The Horned Frogs just have to take care of business in conference to go undefeated, and get a likely BCS bowl invite. After defeating Texas Tech (and Baylor, too, I guess) from the Big 12, the only remaining hurdle is the conference schedule. With a game at Utah at Oct. 5, and a visit from BYU tomorrow night, TCU should likely know its fate. Win both of those, and a BCS berth is almost guaranteed. Lose either and it's a much harder road ahead. Of course, this is the same TCU that after beating Oklahoma last year still managed to lost to SMU the next week. Be wary of a letdown this week against BYU, and the possibility of slipping up somewhere down the line in conference play. Oh yeah, they play Army, too, but let's just call that a win.

2. Boise State - Boise State has three challenges remaining, and only one of them is on the Smurf Turf at home. The Broncos play at Utah this week, face Fresno State on Nov. 1, and play at Nevada Nov. 25. While Boise State doesn't seem to be feeling the loss of Dan Hawkins, the Broncos MUST go undefeated to rise high enough to contend for a BCS bowl bid. As the MWC is on the verge of being the unofficial 7th BCS conference, and is seen that way by the pollsters, an undefeated, or possibly even a 1 loss TCU is likely to be more highly ranked than an undefeated Boise State. also, unlike TCU, Boise State is prone to dropping one or two games in-conference on the road to perfection, so even if it makes it past the speed bumps I mentioned, there's always the chance for the Broncos to blow it on the road.

3. Houston - The surprisingly undefeated Cougars are in the lead in C-USA right now, but don't count on them to make it to the end. Why, you might ask? Because they play Miami, at Miami, this Saturday. Now, we all know Miami isn't what it used to be, and a loss to the Cougs will certainly be Larry Coker's death knell, so the 'Canes are likely to be fired up for this one. In the event that 17 year starter Kevin Kolb (I know, it just feels that way) manages to outshoot Miami and stymie its defense, the Cougs will still face more competition in-conference than either Boise State or TCU. While they get both UTEP and UCF at home, they play at Southern Miss, which should be a stumbling block for them. On the other hand, if the Cougs do manage to beat both Miami and Southern Miss, and run the table (including the C-USA title game), expect them to contend with TCU for the Cinderella this year. Unfortunately, I don't see it happening, but if it does, well, then, go Cougs.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Because Some of Them Have Contracts They Want to Honor . . .

See, the problem with doing things at the last minute (or at the last year, for football scheduling) is all the pretty dance partners probably already have dates.

For instance, Penn State already has its non-conference schedule for 2007 set, with Notre Dame, Florida International, Buffalo, and Temple next year. While I'm sure an upgrade to an opponent like Auburn to replace one of the three bottom dwellers would be nice, I think our program probably just wants to honor contracts. Ohio State, likewise, has their schedule completed, with Youngstown State, Akron, Washington, and Kent State. Notre Dame also has all 12 games filled. Miami's schedule for 2007 hasn't been released, but it has been released that they will be playing Oklahoma in 2007.

Texas, meanwhile, doesn't seem to have the same problem, as it has an empty non-conference game slot to go with TCU, Central Florida, and Rice. Same with Michigan, which has Eastern Michigan, Notre Dame, and Oregon on tap.

So, let's not throw stones at those teams who already have filled out their schedules, and want to honor contracts. (Remember Bowling Green? I bet you do!). As for Texas and Michigan, while it is possible that the avoidance of playing Auburn may have something to do with not wanting to schedule a team that's pretty successful right now, it may also have something to do with what Auburn's schedule has available. Perhaps a hom-home series split between 2007 and 2010 just isn't that attractive to a lot of teams. In addition, Auburn is looking for a season opener, at home. Both Texas and Michigan already have potentially tough non-conference challenges, as does Miami and our teams with set schedules already.

Along those lines, I had a difficult time in finding Auburn's 2007 schedule. And by difficult, I mean I couldn't find it. So if Auburn is scrambling to fill its schedule, whether with big boys or not, I would comment that trying to line someone up in 2006 is much like asking someone to prom about 2 days before the event. While the addition of the 12th game may be at fault, there are some teams (like Ohio State, Penn State, and Notre Dame) who haven't had that problem.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Texas, Penn State refuse to play Auburn

Chances that when this slot is eventually filled (at least in '07) with a I-AA/SunBelt/bad CUSA or WAC opponent that the media will remember this and blame any other program: ZERO.

That's what Auburn's athletics director keeps hearing when he tries to line up a big-name opponent for next season. While no one will say it, Auburn has made inquiries with Michigan, Miami, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Texas. No dice.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Whining about Bad Calls

With the furor over the horrible calls that ended the OU-Oregon game, and the controversy over the calls in the Auburn-LSU game, I'm reminded of nothing more than school-yard kids calling names and calling for do-overs in kick ball.

This is not to say that the calls were (or weren't) bad, or that bad calls aren't a part of the game. But bad calls should be complained about by fans, sports writes, and other people who really don't have any ability to affect the game. Complaining about bad calls is as much a part of the game as complaining about the BCS or the new timing rules. Even complaints by coaches and players have their place, at least within the first couple of days after the game. But this, this is something new.

The fits being thrown by the administration of both OU and LSU are unprofessional, and show that both schools are missing the point. OU President (and fans), look - the Pac 10 suspended them, recognized they were bad calls, and you unfortunately got shafted. Guess what? Deal with it. You can't open the door to review these post-game, or no final score will ever be final again. Consider yourself Gore-ed and the Pac 10 refs are your Katherine Harris. But for the sake of the game, you've got to let it go. LSU AD - same goes for you. Sorry everybody decided that the calls you thought were bad weren't bad, but guess what - that's the way the ball bounces sometimes. Sometimes the ball bounces against you.

Hey, here's an even better concept. You want to avoid losing a game due to a bad call? Actually play well enough that the bad call doesn't matter. For all the hullabaloo about the onside kick, no one seems to admit that the OU defense, after the call, couldn't stop Oregon from scoring. If the D holds up, then the call doesn't matter. Or that the OU D couldn't stop Oregon from scoring BEFORE the onside kick. Same deal with LSU - the complaints don't stem from the final drive where JaMarcus Russell inexplicably throws the ball to the one player NOT in the end zone, or his decision to run the ball with time running out, and not get out of bounds. No, the dispute is from earlier in the game.

OU, LSU, and everyone else - you don't want bad calls to determine the outcome of your game? Then win the games on your own, and don't blame the calls for your meltdowns after them.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The worst call ever? (OU-Oregon)

I hate OU as much as the next guy, but this is pretty bad:

Here, not only did Oregon touch the ball before it went 10 yards on the onside kick (thus, automatically giving the ball to OU), but also, it appears that Oregon never actually recovered the ball, and OU did.

This rivals the other "worst call ever," which took place in Auburn-Vandy 2001. Vandy receiver Dan Stricker dropped a ball (never had possession) and was out of bounds, but was credited with a touchdown. This is in that league. The Sooners, unlike LSU, have a legitimate gripe. Disclaimer: I was at Auburn-LSU and forgot to DVR OU-Oregon, so I don't know what other calls happened (perhaps OU got some bad calls its way earlier), so I'm in no way alleging conspiracy, or even that OU was, on net, screwed by the officials. This was not a good call, though.

Update on the Colley situation

The Ocho is making a difference. Here's a recent email convo I had with Wes Colley of the Colley Matrix:

Ugh, the Indiana game actually set me to coding up some ideas for
handling I-AA.

Quoting "Me">:
> Mr. Colley,
> Thank you for your prompt and professional reply. I agree with you
> that I-AA has been of little concern in the past. However, I see two
> reasons why this has changed this year. First, the NCAA added the
> 12th game, but did not add an additional week in which to play the
> game. Thus, many more teams than usual (including some such as Texas
> and Penn State, which have long avoided I-AA competition) are
> scheduling them, and I-AA is, as you say, doing better than usual.
> In fact, the first two weeks of the season have seen more I-AA over
> I-A victories than all of last year did. Additionally, two of the
> victims, Colorado and Northwestern, were in bowl games a year ago,
> have been to multiple bowl games in recent years, and are conference
> champions within the decade. It is possible that these teams will,
> as they usually are, be competitive in their own leagues. That will
> not be reflected, but could make a big difference.
> For example, Ohio State after the win at Texas emerged as a
> frontrunner for the national title. The winner of this Saturday's
> contest between Auburn and LSU will do the same. OSU plays
> Northwestern. Auburn and LSU play Arkansas. Auburn/LSU will be
> punished for Arkansas' loss to USC, but Ohio State will not be
> punished for Northwestern's double digit loss to New Hampshire. Does
> that seem like an accurate system of ranking to you?
> I'm curious as to the possible solutions you've considered. One to
> consider would be to disregard wins over I-AA teams, but consider
> losses. That way, scheduling an automatic win and winning doesn't
> help you, but scheduling an automatic win and losing hurts you. I'm
> not sure if that would be feasible in your formula, however.
> Thanks again, and have an enjoyable football season.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Wesley N. Colley []
> Sent: Tuesday, September 12, 2006 10:22 AM
> To:
> Subject: Re: I-AA games
> Every year I get e-mails with this concern. Every year this concern
> evaporates.
> So far there has not been any demonstrable need to carry I-AA in my rankings.
> However, I-AA teams seem to be getting slightly better each year in
> the kinds of I-A teams they beat, so I'm keeping an eye on it. I have
> considered several possible solutions should the need arise.
> Quoting ":
>> Mr. Colley,
>> I enjoy keeping track of your rating system for college football,
>> and believe yours is the most credible of the 6 BCS computer
>> rankings b/c it is the most transparent. However, I find it
>> interesting that you are not counting I-AA games at all. While I
>> know it's early, and don't figure that Indiana will be a competitor
>> for the BCS title game, you have a Big XII team and a Big 10 team
>> ranked #1 and #2. Both of those conferences have seen teams lose to
>> I-AA opponents. Is your formula not giving those teams, and the
>> other teams in those conferences, a free pass for losing?
>> This is of particular interest as I know that normally distributed
>> conferences, like the Big XII, tend to do better that non-normally
>> distributed conferences, like the SEC, in your rankings and other
>> computer rankings, but if Colorado were to win the Big XII North -as
>> it has done for 4 of the past 5 years - won't that mean that a team
>> that was not good enough to beat a I-AA (or championship division
>> or whatever they're calling it), being good enough to rank highly
>> in the Big XII indicates that the Big XII is not a strong league?
>> Won't your rankings be misleading for not charging them with that
>> loss?

Kudos to Mr. Colley for being concerned with integrity of his rankings and understanding their impact on the college football world.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The SEC speaks, and vindicates Auburn

As you've no doubt heard, there was some controversy surrounding a 4th down pass by LSU in the 4th quarter against Auburn. Auburn defensive back Zach Gilbert collided with LSU receiver Early Doucet, and was originally flagged for pass interference. The flag was waved off, however, b/c Auburn safety Eric Brock had tipped the ball. LSU coach Les Miles, and a horde of media idiots like Spencer Tillman from CBS, and Mark May from USCSPN, complained that the call should've stood b/c replay (not available for purposes of the call, BTW) indicated that Gilbert made ocntact with Doucet a nanosecond before the arrival of the ball. What the commentators, andMiles, failed to remind folk was that for pass interference to occur, the ball must be catchable. The ball was not, b/c of the tip. The SEC has corrected them:

Now THAT, ladies and gentleman, was a football game

The Auburn-LSU game this weekend was an epic struggle that pitted two incredible football teams playing football the way it was meant to be played. I haven't seen hitting that hard in college since, well, probably since I started watching football. If Florida were a prisoner at Gitmo, being forced to play LSU and Auburn back to back would be considered a violation of the Geneva Convention.

How anyone can still rank SC ahead of Auburn is beyond me. LSU is the best team anyone has beaten.

Monday, September 11, 2006

GD stands for...

god dammit.

Greg Davis was up to his old tricks again. Ignoring the strengths of the Texas offense, Davis instead made the following dubious play calls:

- On Texas' opening drive against tOSU, Texas ran the ball with impunity, driving down to the tOSU 7 yard line. Rather than lining up and pounding the ball in, he called a wide-receiver screen on 1st down, which went nowhere. On 2nd down, another wide-receiver screen, which Pittman fumbled on the 1, and tOSU recovered and returned to mid-field.

- On 3rd and 1, on the buckeye side of the field, rather than lining up and running up the gut to get a 1st down, Texas runs the ball out of the shotgun, and loses four yards and momentum. The good news is, in a similar situation later in the game, Texas lined up in goal-line and converted the 1st down. Maybe even GD can learn from his mistakes.

I may be a wistful old fogey, but in goal-line and short yardage situations, put in a fullback or an extra tightend, rely on your stout O-line, and get your yardage. Running out of the shotgun seems to work fine between the 20s, but once inside the red zone, the defense tightens up, and the horizontal running and passing game is ineffective.

tOSU played a great game, and I do not contend Texas would have won if they converted on the above scenarios, but their chances of winning would greatly improve. Its up to the coaches to put the players in position to win, and GD failed again. I have never been on the "fire Greg Davis" bandwagon, and it is hard to criticize a coaching staff that just won 20 games in a row, but if Texas gets inside an opponents ten yard line, and proceeds to line up in shotgun, I'll die a little inside.

Oh, and the zone read only works if you have a QB that is a threat to run.

That said, I still think Texas is the best team in the Big 12. But will the nightmares of RRS pasts come back to haunt GD and Texas on Oct. 7? We'll see.

Wes Colley: Losses for Big XII, Big Ten don't count

The Colley Matrix, a mathematical ranking founded by UVA grad and math whiz Wes Colley, is one of the 6 computer polls that together form 1/3 of the BCS formula.

Currently, Mr. Colley has sitting atop his poll in the #1 and #2 slots . . . Oklahoma and Indiana. Ok, so it's early. Teams have played just two games, and we haven't yet achieved "full connectivity" - the magical point at which all times are connected in the "six degrees of Kevin Bacon" sense (e.g. Notre Dame played Penn State who played Akron who played . . . ). You may recall that at a similar time a year ago, New Mexico was ranked #1 in Colley's poll. No big deal right?

But looking a little deeper, we find that Colley's conference rankings show the Big East #1 (!!!), the Big 10 #1, and the Big XII #3. The SEC lags behind at #4. How can this be? Colorado of the Big XII and Northwestern of the Big Ten have lost recently, in convincing fashion, to I-AA squads. Well, folks, here's how that can be. From Colley's FAQ section:
"I ignore I-AA results." Yes, that's right. Wes Colley's poll is ignoring these defeats, which means that certain teams - and the teams that play them - get a free pass for their embarrassing losses. Thus, the perverse result is that a Northwestern loss to Ohio State would be WORSE for their rankings than a loss to New Hampshire. More to the point, it means that in a BCS race, Auburn will penalized by playing Arkansas who lost to USC but Ohio State will not be penalized for a matchup with Northwestern for NW's loss to New Hampshire. That's nuts and it's unfair.

If you want to discourage these I-AA matchups, fine. If you want to not count the wins, fine - don't reward teams for scheduling wins that are supposed to be automatic. But when you schedule a win that's supposed to be automatic - and you lose - you should be punished.

Or better yet, scrap the whole comptuer poll nonsense.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Ocho: Page Six

In the spirit of another great sports blog, on the DL, , it's time to dish some college football related scoop. First, Alabama has made headlines in a not so positive way for not suspending linebacker Juwan Simpson who was arrested for having marijuana and a gun in his possession. Now, the hot buzz in cyberspace and on talk radio is that Mr. Simson wasn't alone, and that the passenger in his automobile - whose involvement was allegedly covered up - was none other than the daughter of a prominent Tide booster. Speculation is that their last name is similar to that of a former New York mayor. Why does this matter? Well, there are now concerns about the propriety of the actions of said booster, including not only an alleged cover up, but also potential issues involving the representation of Mr. Simpson (reportedly pro bono). Stay tuned.

While we're talking college football, the state of AL, and lawyers, a certain Auburn trustee just happened to find as one of his co-trustees his bank's lawyer. Reportedly, the banker is on his way to being the lawyer's former client. What does this rift mean for AU athletics? Who knows, but you're sure to find out As the Ocho Turns.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

2004: Could it happen again?

My thinking on the 2004 situation with Auburn running the table and getting left out was that it was such a fluke it was unlikely to happen again. After all, the previous BCS "crises" had emerged from there being too few unbeatens. The '04 year yielded 5 at the end of the regular season, 3 from the BCS conferences. This had not happened in the modern era. But the way things are shaping up this year, it could.

Currently, we have 3 conferences that are very tough: the SEC, the ACC, and the Big Ten. The rest are not so tough, and independents (you know who I'm talking about) can manage their schedules very effectively. Thus, we have a situation where a handful of schools have a relatively easy ride to an unbeaten season. Further, the perverse biases of the national media FAVOR those that have an easy ride over those that actually must achieve something to go unbeaten.

If Texas beats Ohio State this weekend, in all likelihood, the 'Horns go unbeaten. Road trips to Lincoln and Lubbock are potential stumbling blocks, but Chizik has figured out the Leach gimmick (there's a reason he advised Tuberville to hire a WCO coach in Borges as opposed to a spread guy like Rob Spence or Shane Montgomery), and Nebraska doesn't have the horses to hang with Texas.

If USC and ND make it through September unbeaten, they are likely to be unbeaten when they play each other Thanksgiving weekend. One of them has to win.

Therefore, there's a good chance that USC and Texas are unbeaten again at the end of the season. What if Auburn or Tennessee from the SEC, Florida State or VT from the ACC, and/or WVU or Louisville from the Big East are as well? Throw in Iowa as a darkhorse to go unbeaten in the Big 10 as well.

We have the same scenario, with the same cause: huge resource disparities creating an easy path to conference domination by a handful of elite teams.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Perhaps I was wrong . . .

I have been known for my opposition and sadness toward IA teams, especially IA powerhouses, playing IAA teams. Not just for the lack of gamemanship in such games, but that they represent one of the plagues of modern college football: bowing down to the almighty dollar. Well, this first weekend of college football 2006 has shown me something: perhaps I have been a little hasty in my opinions considering this.

For what must be a the first time since the rigid distinction between IA and IAA was made, 3, count them, 3 IA teams lost to their IAA opponents. The Richmond Spiders posted a 13-0 win over Duke, continuing the Blue Devils misery on the gridiron. Portland State overcame the Lobos of New Mexico 17-6, a result somewhat more surprising than a IAA teams posting a win over the woeful Blue Devils. But the biggest shocker of all - Colorado - Big 12 North champ last year, BCS conference member, losing to the Bobcats of Montana State 19-10. What a good start to the Dan Hawkins era!

Even more surprising, and disappointing for fans of certain teams, were the troubles that some teams had with the lower division teams they played. Maryland struggled with William and Mary, finally winning 27-14. NC State had similar problems against perennial IAA power, Appalachian State. (By the way, ACC, that's not a good way to establish yourself as a power conference). Kansas State managed a win against Illinois State, only because after a late TD, the Rebirds went for the 2 point conversion for the win, and didn't kick the point after for the tie to force overtime. Arizona State had all it could handle against Northern Arizona, until pulling away in the 4th quarter. The same could be said for South Florida in its opener against McNeese State. Or Purdue, against Indiana State.

Meanwhile, of course, some teams managed to completely dismantle their IA opponents, regardless of conference (Arkansas - at least you didn't give up 70 this time. That 36 point margin of victory, so much more acceptable). So, perhaps a rethinking of my position the IAA game is necessary. Clearly, for some teams, the better IAA teams are just as comparable as any IA team - Sun Belt, Duke, the bottom half of the Mac, I'm talking to you. Also clear, though, following last year's huge upset of Stanford by UC Davis (a newly risen IAA team) and the Colorado debacle this year, is that big time programs, in BCS conferences, can lose to IAA teams. That speaks of a far more even playing field than I could have imagined. I will state, however, that a bye week later in the season would've done these teams more good than these losses seem to have.

Other thoughts on the weekend so far -
1. The worst game in college football has in all likelihood been played already. The worst team in IA, Temple, was beaten by Buffalo, one of the Bottom 10, 9-3. In OT. Which resulted in Bulls fans rushing the field. A win against Temple, you rush the field? What a comment on how your team has been doing lately.

2. Coaching - there has been some really bad, bad, bad coaching decisions this opening weekend. While there's some adjustment to the new timing rules, and the first week bugs that need to get ironed out, there have just been some flat-out awful calls. Central Michigan, driving to tie up the game, calls a trick play that sends a QB and 4 receivers out to face 11 men, while the other 6 are lined up halfway across the field, resulting in a pick. Nevada, with little time left and down by 9 points to Fresno State, goes for it on fourth down with 20 seconds left, instead of taking the FG, and trying for the requisite onside kick for the win. GT burns time-outs early and punts late in the game, instead of going for it on the 45 yard line, not recognizing that ND will be able to run out the clock. Jeff Tedford once again making the wrong call between Longshore and Ayoob pre-season, which is shown in the openner against Tennessee. I know the new rule that the clock will start on a change of possession is a change, but come on, coaches - you do this for a living - you should adjust better than that, and it doesn't explain some of the bonehead calls.

3. The first game - I know you can't put much stock in the first game, but somethings I think I've learned:

a. unless GT's D was just that good, I'm now less worried about the Nittany Lions visit to South Bend next week. I think if Penn State can hold ND to 14 points, too, we win that game.

b. The Big 12 seems even more divided into haves and have nots this year. The haves, so far: Texas, Nebraska, Texas Tech. The have nots: Colorado, Kansas State, Oklahoma. Look for some lopsided scores in conference play, and Oklahoma boosters - Texas fans want you to keep cheating - it works so well for us.

c. Conference records vs. OOC opponents to date (I'll be keeping a running tally):
ACC 6-4 (with a loss and two very close wins coming to IAA teams, 4 IAA overall)
Big 12 10-1 (sole loss to IAA, 6 IAA opponents overall - taking over from the SEC this year)
Big East 6-1 (3 IAA opponents)
Big Ten 11-0 (4 IAA opponents - keeping with the Joneses, are we, Big 10?)
C-USA 3-5 (Only 2AA opponents - good for you, C-USA!)
Independents 2-2 (No IAA yet, but with Army and Temple, that chance to win a game guarantees some IAA action in the future)
MAC 2-8 (1 IAA, and kudos to CMU and Toledo for almost making the upsets)
MWC 4-3 (3 IAA, and a loss to one of them - way to go, New Mexico!)
Pac 10 6-2 (2 IAA, and one loss - that bye week looks better and better, doesn't it?)
SEC 6-2 (and wait for it - only a single IAA game - on top of that, let's look at opening week conference opponents - 3 Pac 10, 1 Big 10, 1 C-USA, 1 WAC, 1 Sun Belt - good going, SEC, for showing that you CAN win when you play quality opponents. Well, except for Vandy and Arkansas, anyway)
Sun Belt 3-3 (2 IAA so far, and 2 wins against IAA. Well, 3, if you count Army)
WAC 2-6 (With both victories coming against the 2 IAA opponents - trying to compete with the Sun Belt, are we?)

So there you have it - the only undefeated in non-conference play to date is the Big 10, with their slate of MAC teams, WAC teams, IAA teams, and Vandy. Next best is the Big 12, with a similar slate, plus some Sun Belt action. The SEC is our #3, and, with the best OOC SOS to date, needs to be given the trophy for the week, for actually playing teams that just might be able to beat you. Well done, SEC, and we'll see what happens through the rest of the weekend.