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Combining the BCS, the traditional bowls, and a playoff: The Pundit devises the ultimate system to determine a National Champion

There are many quality arguments for a college football playoff. There are a few supporting the current system. There are many people who say to hell with the tradition of the bowl games, and many more who aren’t so willing to kick them to the curb. There are those who claim that the regular season is far more exciting than it would be with a playoff intact, and those who feel that the playoff would simply be the appropriate resolution to a captivating regular season.

The Pundit is here to bring you all together.

What will follow is my comprehensive plan to combine the BCS ranking system, a college football playoff, and the current bowl structure. If that sounds crazy, bear with me: I think this could work.

First of all, the regular season would have to be limited to 12 games max, including any conference championship games (which means ACC, SEC and Big-12 schools would be limited to 11 games before their conference championship bouts). Don’t want to lose money by losing regular season games, big conferences? Then cut the cream-puff games against puny schools. The conference championship games would take place a week earlier than they currently do. The week after this game, a 16 team playoff would ensue. The first two rounds would take place, leaving only four teams left to play for the National Championship. These first two rounds would be played at the home stadium of the higher-seeded team. After these two playoff rounds, all of the traditional bowl games would make their selections, picking from a pool of all eligible schools, excluding the four schools playing for the National Championship. This would leave around two to three weeks for the players of these schools to take their finals, the coaches to prepare for their next bowl game, and the fans to purchase their tickets.

Deep breath. And continue…

The four remaining teams would play the semifinal games after the New Year’s culmination of bowl games. These semifinal playoff games would take place on neutral fields. All bowl games would be played on or by January 1st. In the event that January 1st fell on a Saturday or Sunday, the semifinals would take place on Monday and Tuesday. Otherwise, the semifinals would take place on the first Saturday after January 1st, and the National Championship Game would take place a week later.

Alright: how would this thing be seeded?

Good question. The winners of the six BCS conferences (ACC, Big-10, Big East, Big-12, Pac-10, ACC) would be given the top six playoff seeds, placed in order of their BCS rankings. After these six teams, the next ten BCS-ranked teams would qualify. Some stipulations: any BCS conference winner that did not finish the season ranked in the top 20 would still automatically qualify, but would be dropped from the top six seeds and automatically seeded ninth. In this scenario, the highest-rated BCS team that did not win a conference would take their place in the top six. As well, if a non-BCS conference winner, such as Utah this year, finished in the top six, they would be given a seeding in the top six according to their BCS rank, unless all of the BCS conference champions placed in the top ten, in which case that BCS non-conference winner would automatically qualify for the seventh seed. If a non-BCS conference team placed in the top six, the BCS conference champion they ousted from the top six would automatically be given the seventh seed, unless they were ranked lower than 20. Also, there would be no limit as to how many teams from one conference could qualify for the playoff – this year, four teams from the Big-12 would make it, while the Pac-10 and Big East would only have one each. Sorry, fellas.

Any questions? Alright, let’s do some predictions to see how this would play out. Based on what I think will happen for the rest of the season, the following will show exactly what would happen if my model were in place for the rest of the season. Since I predict wins for USC, Oklahoma, Florida and Boston College next week, my BCS top 16 after this weekend would be as follows:

1. Oklahoma   2. Florida   3. Texas   4. Alabama   5. USC   6. Utah   7. Texas Tech   8. Penn State   9. Boise State   10. Ohio State.   11. TCU   12. Ball State   13. Cincinnati   14. Oklahoma State   15. Georgia Tech  16. Boston College

Here’s what the first round match-ups would look like:

1. Oklahoma vs.16. Georgia Tech

8.  Texas vs. 9.  Alabama

4. Utah vs. 13. TCU

5.  Penn State vs.12. Ohio State

6.  Cincinnati vs. 11. Boise State

3.  USC vs. 14. Ball State

7.  Boston College vs. 10. Texas Tech

2. Florida vs.  15. Oklahoma State

Obviously, there are some rematches here – Penn State against Ohio State and Utah against TCU. Hey, that’s how playoffs work, people. As well, the one danger in my system occurs when conference winners aren’t necessarily at the top of the rankings, as evidenced by the monster showdown between Texas and Alabama in round one. But that would add a whole new level of drama to conference play – win the conference, guarantee yourself a high seed, and let everyone else sweat out horrific early match-ups. An important note: round two would be re-seeded. Why? Well, imagine this year, where the third and fourth ranked BCS schools ended up as the eight and nine seeds in the playoff – would it really be fair to ask the top-seeded team in the playoff to face one of them in round two, should that team win? I don’t think so, and thus, I would propose the second round, and only the second round, be re-seeded.

1. Oklahoma vs.  11. Boise State

4. Utah vs.  5. Penn State

3. USC vs.  9.  Alabama

2. Florida vs.  10. Texas Tech

Some pretty intriguing games there, right? Let’s whittle it down to four, then figure out the bowls games.

1. Oklahoma vs.  5. Penn State

2. Florida vs.  9.  Alabama

Ah, another rematch – that’s a playoff system for you. Now, the 12 teams that lost in the playoffs would be dropped back into the pool of bowl-eligible teams. An important note: the playoff would not affect the BCS rankings before the bowl game selections. Once the playoff begins, the regular season and BCS rankings are closed. The next, and final BCS rankings, would thus occur after all of the bowls and playoff games were decided.

Here’s how I would project the major New Year’s day bowls based on the results of the playoff, using traditional bowl-selection protocol:

Rose Bowl – Ohio State vs. USC

Orange Bowl – Cincinnati vs. Boston College

Fiesta Bowl – Texas vs. Utah

Sugar Bowl – Georgia vs. Texas Tech

I would predict an Oklahoma win over Penn State, a Florida repeat over a worn and torn Alabama team, and an Oklahoma win over Florida for the National  Championship.The semifinal and championship games would get huge ratings and generate as much (if not more) revenue as the bowls. Everybody wins.

Whew…that’s my system.

See – you get a playoff, and the bowl games are intact. Perhaps there are those that will argue that my system renders the bowls consolation games; isn’t every bowl game except for the National Championship Game a consolation game in the current system? Some may say that the drama and controversy will get sucked out of the regular season. I beg to differ – it will still be huge to win the conference, and now, instead of the top teams sweating a BCS bowl bid, the teams hovering between rankings 10-20 will be battling every week to get into the playoff. The BCS will still generate controversy, as ultimately a few teams will be left out of the playoff. Imagine this year: Would the voters keep Utah at six, automatically giving them a top-six seeding in the playoffs? Or would they bump them down a slot to seven, altering Utah’s playoff seed from the 4th seed all the way down to the 9th or 10th? Imagine the stakes for the showdown between Georgia Tech and Georgia this past weekend – that game would have had a whole new meaning. Certainly, controversy would remain, but we would have a winner determined by the play on the field.

That’s what we really want, right?

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Football has become essential agony: The Pundit dishes on the Birds and the BCS

The Eagles

What exactly was Andy Reid thinking when he sat McNabb down on Sunday? The Birds were only down by three points, after all. Granted, McNabb had been playing an atrocious game, but benching McNabb, at least to me, signaled a move in a new direction, i.e. the Kevin Kolb era. And then Kolb stunk it up, and Andy announced on Monday that McNabb would be his starting QB.

Huh?

So now, not only have you put all of the pressure on McNabb’s shoulders by singling him out and benching him, but you also are refusing to give Kolb a long look to see what you have for next year. ‘Cuz let’s be honest – it doesn’t look like McNabb will be coming back after this year. What kind of message has Andy Reid now sent to his starting quarterback? To me, he’s sent a very simple one: “Better, uh, watch your back there, Donovan, ‘cuz at the next sign of trouble, you’re coming out, and, uh, Kevin Kolb, we’re uh, we’re going to go ahead and give him a shot.”

Because, you know, the quarterback position isn’t already chock full of pressure. Let’s go ahead and put even more pressure on McNabb. Let’s go ahead and bench our franchise quarterack, in a game we are only trailing by three points, while we are still apparentely in a playoff race!

I MEAN, ARE YOU FRICKIN’ SERIOUS?

Kudos to McNabb for toeing the company line and playing it cool on this one. I, personally, would have been pissed the hell off. Don’t tell me that no one’s job is safe, bench a guy, then start him again the next week. Especially in a game they were only trailing by three friggin’ points! To me, Andy simply didn’t evaluate the situation properly. Was McNabb playing horrible football? Absolutely. Can you blame Andy for wanting him out of the game? Maybe not. Should Andy Reid have considered how sensitive the entire quarterback issue is this season, and really has been throughout Donovan McNabb’s career in this town, before he yanked him at halftime? Shouldn’t he have considered how this would be treated by the media and the fans, many of whom are already questioning whether or not McNabb will, or should, be back next season?

DUUUUUUUHHHHHHHHHH!!! (Editor’s note: Oh, that’s just obnoxious).

What is going to happen to McNabb? If he isn’t going to return, will we get to see Kolb at some point? Barring a ridiculous hot streak by the Eagles, where they win out, at what point should Kolb get a look? Is Andy Reid’s job safe any longer? Has he lost control of this team? He certainly has lost the public support, but will that matter to Jeffrey Lurie? Who would you want to replace Reid?

I miss the Phillies.

The BCS

Oh, what a tangled web we weave. Now, unless Alabama loses to Auburn or Florida loses to Florida State, the winner of the Alabama – Florida SEC Championship Game will be playing in the BCS Championship Game. Right, that seems simple enough. And it seems likely that somebody from the Big 12 South will be there as well, in all likelihood either Texas or Oklahoma, each with one loss. Ahhhh, let the debating begin.

In one corner, you have Texas, who beat Oklahoma earlier this year, on a neutral field. I mean, honestly, shouldn’t the argument end there? Well, not exactly. After all, if you are going to rank Texas ahead of Oklahoma, shouldn’t you also rank Texas Tech ahead of Texas? Tech also only has one loss, and beat Texas earlier this year.

Ah, but let’s not forget about that neutral field. Texas’ win over Oklahoma has to be slightly more impressive than Oklahoma’s victory over Texas Tech, since Texas beat OU on a neutral field, while OU beat Tech at home.

But hold on, hold on a second: OU absolutely destroyed Tech, 65-21. They beat the number two team in the nation by 44 friggin’ points, for God’s sake. To me, that cancels any advantage that Texas would be given for winning on a neutral field. Still, Texas beat OU.

Alright, but how about this: OU has several impressive non-conference victories. They beat Cincinnati, who will likely win the Big East, 52-26, in week two. Cincy is currently ranked number 16 in the BCS rankings. They also beat TCU, currently ranked 14th in the BCS rankings, 35-10 in week 5. As a matter of fact, in 4 games against opponents currently ranked in the BCS top 25, OU has outscored its opponents 187-92. Very, very impressive stuff, and if they knock off number 12 Oklahoma State this Saturday, it’s hard to imagine they won’t jump ahead of Texas.

But would that be fair? Texas has also played against 4 teams currently in the top 25 of the BCS rankings, and outscored those opponents 162-129. Not as impressive as the margin of victory posted by Oklahoma, but Texas faced those 4 opponents in four consecutive and unbelievably brutal weeks!

To review: if OU beats Oklahoma State, they will have victories over Texas Tech, OU State, TCU and Cincinnati under their belts. Their primetime, utter demolition of Tech will not quickly erase from the minds of the voters. Sam Bradford might be the frontrunner for the Heisman. Oklahoma is certainly the sexy pick.

Texas will have victories over OU, Oklahoma State and Missouri under their belts. Their only loss of the season will have come in an extremely tight game against Texas Tech, which they lost on the last play of the game. Oh yeah, and they already beat Oklahoma this year – on a neutral field. Texas is, by no means, a sexy pick, but they just might be the correct one. Hard to say, and they will be ignored if Oklahoma destroys Oklahoma State like they did to Tech.

Funny thing about that game for Texas: they need OU to win. See, the only reason this discussion is taking place is because, in the Big 12, if there is a three-way tie for first, the tiebreaker goes to whoever has the highest BCS ranking. But in the case of a two-way tie, the tiebreaker is a head-to-head match-up. And Texas Tech beat Texas. So if OU loses, Texas Tech wins the South based on their head-to-head win against Texas. Texas actually needs OU to beat Oklahoma State for them to have a chance, though I doubt they want them to win anything other than a squeaker.

Does your head hurt yet? Mine sure as hell does.

Alright, let me do my BCS predictions. OU is hot right now. They beat Oklahoma State, though not as handily as they beat Texas Tech. Let’s say 38-21. Sorry, Texas, but the sexy chick always gets laid before the bland, practical one does. Florida beats Alabama, Oklahoma beats Missouri, and Florida beats Oklahoma, 56-52, to win their second National Championship in three years. The other bowls? Oregon State will lose to Oregon, meaning an intriguing Rose Bowl between USC and Penn State. I go Penn State over USC, 23-21. (Editor’s note: What a homer!) Alabama will face at-large Utah in the Sugar Bowl, and handle them fairly easily, winning 35-13. The Orange Bowl will be Cincinnati vs. one of the ACC teams. Seriously, I have no friggin’ idea what is going on in the ACC, and quite frankly, I could give a damn. Cincinnati wins the Orange. Finally, poor ‘ol Texas gets a less than appealing match-up against Boise State, who gets a rare second at-large bid for the mid-majors, ousting Ohio State for the final BCS slot. Texas Tech is the highest ranked team to get stiffed, since only two teams from any one conference are eligible for BCS bowls. Texas takes out its rage on Boise State, winning 49-10. Clearly, none of this will happen, and it is only what I am hoping will happen. In all reality, I just want the BCS to explode.

(Editor’s note: God, would a playoff be great this year. Stay tuned – methinks The Pundit is in his linguistic laboratory, concocting the perfect playoff system, one that will please all available parties. Oh, it shall be grand – or not. Either way, stay tuned).

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Why you need to know about Oregon State, what you need to know, and why it should piss you off

Rant Jacobs

Earlier this year, I did an article reviewing the Oregon State vs. USC game, writing about how happy I was that USC had another “fall from grace” game after underestimating an Oregon State team that had a lot to prove.  Much of this came from my anger towards USC’s apparent dynasty. Well, that and I wanted USC to make way for my rising Penn State Nittany Lions in the weekly polls.  Plus, it was great to see the #1 team in the country lose to a team that Penn State had recently pulverized.

Fast forward 8 weeks and now I’m fretting like an old woman over the outcome of that contest. (Editor’s note: And he’s taken up sewing – he nitted me a sweater with my name on it the other day. What the hell am I going to do with a sweater that says “Editor” on it, wear it to the club? Yeah, that should get the ladies hot). Why, you say?  Because since then, Oregon State has miraculously rattled off 5 straight conference wins and quietly taken control of their own destiny after losing their season opener to pathetic conference foe Stanford!  My celebration has come back to bite me in the ass!  With a vengeance! (Editor’s note: You should get a tetanus shot! You don’t know where your celebration has been!)

Oregon State needs only two conference wins (against Arizona and Oregon) to catch the PAC-10 title in their fucking beaver tails and swim southward to the Rose Bowl to face my beloved Nittany Lions, who stomped them in the second week of the season. I can’t believe it!  How has this happened? (Editor’s note: Fate is a cruel temptress, Rant).

Whew…and I’m spent.  I just needed to get that out.

I need to relax when I think about Oregon State though, as both Oregon and Arizona can put points on the board. They are ranked 10th and 11th in the nation in scoring – these games shouldn’t be “gimmes”.  But then I remember that Oregon State’s defense ranks 15th in the country in yards allowed, so I’m not getting too comfortable.

Somehow, Oregon State has morphed into a possible BCS team after their 45-14 drubbing in Happy Valley.  Granted, they play in the pillow-soft PAC-10, but their only other loss was a 31-28 squeaker against Utah, a team currently ranked above PSU in the BCS standings at 7, and looking to make a BCS appearance of their own.  Say what you want about Oregon State (like only having a single quality win this year against USC), but this team has some consistent playmakers that have helped to turn their season around.

The most consistent playmaker responsible for this feat has been freshman sensation Jacquizz Rodgers: the lightning quick, miniaturized 5’6″ halfback from Texas. (Editor’s note: There will be a jacquizz at the end of this post).  Rodgers has sprinted past the century mark in 7 games this season, while piling up 1233 rushing yards and 12 total TDs (averaging 123 yards per game, 10th best in the nation). 

I remember hearing some confused commentator asking his buddies why Rodgers wasn’t as highly recruited by any of the big name schools from his home state of Texas and thinking, Yeah, why is that?  Then I realized that trying to pinpoint ALL of the top high school talent in the entire state of Texas is like trying to staple Jell-O to a wall. (Editor’s note: I’ll bet you Bill Cosby could staple Jell-O to a wall…) 

Rodgers and the rest of his crew are ready to take the PAC-10 in their own hands and head back for a rematch against Penn State in Pasadena, assuming they both win out. That would be an unacceptable end to a Penn State season that broke my heart in Iowa City.  (Editor’s note: That sounds like a folk song I could get down to: Oh, PSU / What did you do? / You left me feeling shitty / When you broke my heart in Iowa City). Oregon State may have morphed into a new beast after their early letdowns, but they are not a worthy team for the Rose Bowl, especially not against my Lions, damnit.

But first things first – Penn State has its hands full this weekend with Javon Ringer and the Michigan State Spartans.  Get past them and at least I can say we have a Big Ten title to celebrate before I start bitching and moaning about Oregon State all over again.

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From the Nosebleeds: The Big 12 ain’t got jack on Penn State

Ryan Jacobs

I was very impressed with Penn State’s performance in Madison this past Saturday night; it was the kind of victory that is solidifying PSU as one of the best all-around teams in the country.  Daryll Clark has been the most impressive player during this team’s rise to 2008 football glory.  Against Wisconsin, Clark proved himself as a passer more than he has all season.  Quite simply, Clark is playing lights-out football.

However, Daryll Clark is being outshined by the holier-than-thou Big 12 quarterback club.  I watched the Red River Shootout and was extremely impressed with both Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford…honestly, who wouldn’t be?  Bradford has thrown for 23 TD’s already this season and McCoy has completed 79.4% of his throws.  These huge stats continue through the rest of the conference with quarterbacks like Chase Daniel, Graham Harrell, and Todd Reesing.  How did this conference give birth to so many aerial assaults?

There are many possible answers to that question, but I think maybe poor defense has something to do with it.  Don’t get me wrong – when you have a gifted offense like many Big 12 teams do, you’re going to score some points. But you would figure that inter-conference rivalries would slow high-scoring teams.  Oklahoma State did a good job of forcing turnovers on Saturday night, intercepting Chase Daniel three times, the first time he’s been picked since the season debut against Illinois (showcasing his, well, God-like abilities during that time). But Daniel still threw for 390 yards in a close game.

Oklahoma, who Kirk Herbstreit says is one of the “nastiest defenses in the country”, got gashed for 161 yards on the ground and 277 yards through the air in their close loss to Texas.  Vice versa, Sam Bradford lit up the “best defense he has seen by far this year” for 387 yards and 5 TDs (though he did throw two picks).  These teams have great playmakers, but defense does not seem to be this conference’s strength.

In fact, Kansas, ranked 27th in the nation in scoring defense, has statistically the best defense in the conference, followed next by Oklahoma at 37.  Penn State, on the other hand, is 6th in scoring defense and 8th in total offense allowed.  I realize that Penn State racked up those stats against some pretty poor offenses, but the same goes with Kansas, Oklahoma, and the majority of the other Big 12 teams, with their early season, cream-puff schedules.  The point is simple: if you’re playing poor teams and you have a good defense, you should be able to win these games without surrendering many points or yards.  These Big 12 teams obviously don’t have those kinds of defenses.

And another thing – I keep hearing that the Big 12 is the best offensive conference in DI-A.  While this appears to be valid, many supporters of this theory have (obviously) never checked out the eye-popping stats put up by players in the non-BCS, Conference USA.  Just check last year’s numbers for guys like Tulsa’s Paul Smith (QB, 5065 passing yards, 60 Total TDs) or Central Florida’s Kevin Smith (RB, 2567 rushing yards, 30 Total TDs), or Tulane’s Matt Forte (RB, 2127 rushing yards, 23 Total TDs), or Eastern Carolina’s Chris Johnson (RB, 1423 rushing yards, 23 Total TDs).  All three of those running backs are now in the NFL and are already, or will soon make a difference for their respective teams.  This is, overwhelmingly, the best offensive conference in D-IA college football and possibly the worst defensively.

I am still impressed with the big-play Big 12 offenses, but I think Penn State deserves some serious national respect. (Editor’s note: Um, gotta say, I feel as though a national ranking of three is respect).  Penn State’s offense is extremely efficient and very balanced, which in turn leads to smaller numbers for Daryll Clark.  This may lead to a conclusion that Clark isn’t good enough for consideration in the kissing-the-Big-12-quarterback’s-ass club. (Editor’s note: From what I’ve heard, people leave these club meetings with a bad taste in their mouth). On Saturday night, however, he proved to me that he has the ability to throw with the best of them.  He is smart, makes good decisions, and can make every throw across the entire field, regardless if he is standing upright or running for his life.  His ability to make plays in the passing game, especially after things have broken down, is amazing.  His comparison to Michael Robinson is unfair, because Clark is a true passer who just happens to be able to run (and with some strength).  Dare I say he reminds me of a young Donovan McNabb at Syracuse?

Clark is enjoying extreme success in a spread offense that has weapons everywhere (7th in Scoring Offense with 45.3 pts./game), and a team that really doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses (9th in Total Offense, 8th in Total Defense, excellent special teams).  Stewart Mandel of Sports Illustrated (probably SI’s best known college football writer) stated, quite frankly, that he hasn’t seen an offense as dynamic and dangerous as Penn State’s since that of the 2004 Utah Utes, led by coach Urban Meyer, who broke into the BCS that year with an undefeated season.  Anybody else think Urban Meyer knows how to run a really good spread?  Now what about Penn State?

Penn State’s offense is ranked statistically with the best in the nation, but I still don’t think that many analysts realize the stats they’ve compiled.  In the first quarter of this Saturday’s Red River Shootout, a stat flashed onto the screen: Oklahoma has outscored their opponents 103-3 in the first quarter this season.  Kirk Herbstreit promptly stated, “I don’t know if we’ve seen a stat like that in college football”.  Oklahoma improved upon that stat, making it 110-6 by the end of the first quarter in that game, a very impressive stat with a 104 point difference.

Now look at Penn State.  Coming into Madison, Penn State had outscored its opponents 110-20 in the second quarter, then improved that stat to 131-27 by halftime; a very impressive stat with the same 104 point difference as Oklahoma in the first quarter. So in a word, Kirk Herbstreit is wrong.  I won’t give him that much flack, as Herbstreit seems to be a Penn State supporter himself.  In the end though, he played quarterback at Ohio State, which forever leaves a part of him in the realms of douche-bagginess. (Editor’s note: Dot that eye, bitch!).

Coming into this Saturday, I thought Oklahoma had the best all around team in the country.  But after seeing them lose and seeing Penn State’s complete dominance, I think the Nittany Lions need to be considered as the nation’s most solid team from top to bottom.  I still have much respect for Oklahoma, Texas, Alabama, USC, Florida and the likes (and I realize that Penn State has a ways to go), but PSU is a force to be reckoned with.

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