Thursday, September 30, 2010

College Football Week 5

Imagine what it's like living in SEC country. The Tampa Bay Rays are in first place, a half game ahead of the New York Yankees. They are young; they are exciting. Two seasons ago, they surged all the way to the World Series, only to be denied in the end by a damn good Philadelphia Phillies team and some freakish torrential downpours that provided no momentum for anyone. And now they're back to try again, as they once again clinched a playoff spot, coming from the toughest division in baseball to do so. But then there's this. How is this possible? If the Kansas City Royals fielded a team even close to the Rays' caliber, our town would be painted blue. We would have parades every day. Our city would no longer be called "City of Fountains," but instead the "City of Parades." But we don't have a team like theirs. Not even close. So we just move on to our Chiefs, our Jayhawks, our Tigers and our Wildcats. We embrace football just like everyone else, all the while dreaming of the Big 12 basketball season to come. The Royals are a void that remains unrealized for 25 years and counting.

Football season, just like everyone else. Well...not exactly "everyone" else. Because the reason, as pathetic as it may seem, that the Rays can't find their fans is because they don't really have them. Nobody cares about sports in SEC country, they only care about 1 sport, college football. I don't like it, you probably don't either. MLB definitely does not like it. But here's what can be said on behalf of SEC people, this sport they do pay attention to, the one they fill the stadiums for: at least they are very, very good at it. They win every year. They snatch up the National Championships and they win the majority of their Bowl games. And their non-conference schedules before they tee off against each other? They win those too. And unlike some of the teams getting dropped in my rankings because of poor competition, the SEC teams schedule real, intriguing match ups. And win. My top 25 this week:

1 Florida (4-0)
2 Auburn (4-0)
3 Alabama (4-0)
4 LSU (4-0)
5 Arizona (4-0)
6 Oklahoma (4-0)
7 TCU (4-0)
8 Missouri (4-0)
9 USC (4-0)
10 Ohio State (4-0)
11 West Virginia (3-1)
12 Stanford (4-0)
13 Kansas State (4-0)
14 Boise State (3-0)
15 Oregon (4-0)
16 North Carolina State (4-0)
17 Michigan (4-0)
18 South Carolina (3-1)
19 Northwestern (4-0)
20 Toledo (3-1)
21 Nebraska (4-0)
22 Penn State (3-1)
23 Temple (3-1)
24 Utah (4-0)
25 Wisconsin (4-0)

Notice a trend here. Unlike last season, in which I made it virtually impossible for a team to be passed in the standings without losing, this season is ever changing from week to week. The reason for this is simple, my standings are not only responsive to how a team does in a given week, but also how their prior opponents fared that same weekend. So a team such as TCU, who was just last weekend glorified for having beaten 2 otherwise unbeaten BCS conference teams, saw Oregon State tumble again and will also likely see Baylor visit darker days before too long. I have never been a fan of the theory that games later in the season are of more significance than games played early on, but by the same token a team shouldn't receive too much credit for exactly the opposite either. The inherent problem with football in general, is that the sample size of an entire season never seems adequate enough to really create much separation amongst the top teams. This is the very reason I am supportive of the NFL's recent decision to expand the schedules to 18 games. The more games, the more likely we are to see the best teams eligible for post-season play. College football, of course is even fewer games then the inadequate 16 games that the NFL is expanding from. A tournament would go a long way to help resolve that, but hey, we don't have it, so the best approach is to consistently evaluate a team's success and the successes of their opponents. And all games are to be evenly evaluated, regardless of at what point in the season the victories and defeats took place.

In last week's comments, my friend Kevin said this: "You make an assumption that Boise State has the ability to schedule more quality non-con games. Most high-level opponents are loathe to play them. Certainly nobody wants to do a home and away series with Boise. When Boise has offered to play people at their houses no-strings-attached, they are still rejected. The money is not that great, you get zero credit for beating them, and god forbid you lose to them. Props to VA-Tech and Oregon State for stepping up. Search your soul and honestly tell me that you don't think Boise is one of the ten best teams in college football, let alone top twenty. Do the right thing kyle."

First of all, yes, my soul tells me that Boise State is very good, one of the best teams in the country. So why play the games then? The entirety of a season is important for earning championships, not just being gifted one. My soul is not objective and should not be trusted. But beating good teams leaves little doubt, and Boise added one this past weekend so they have moved back on up accordingly. Again, not losing will certainly help, but they're going to need some help from the better programs they do play, because if those teams flop, Boise St will have accomplished not much at all. And then there's this. Granted, it's not until 2015, but can you imagine if that game happened this year? Subtract South Dakota State or Idaho or Western Kentucky from Nebraska's schedule and add Boise State. Subtract Wyoming or Toledo from Boise State's schedule and add Nebraska. Wow the difference. Suddenly, we have a great game to watch and are looking at the two teams in an entirely different light. The larger point here is that Boise State's anyone, anytime, anyplace, slogan seems to have some disclaimers. We shouldn't be surprised; we know that money does most of the talking. Just saying, if the two schools roll out schedules in 2015 that at all look like this season's, then shame on both schools for not reaching a compromise. I suspect that this is more common than we may know, so no, I don't really buy into the argument that Boise State can't get decent teams to play them.

The other comment of note came from anonymous:  "Your betting system is a joke. Good job otherwise, though"

I'm not sure about the "good job" part, but one thing remains clear, yes anonymous, my betting system is very much a joke. I believe that there really are those that can keep up with Vegas' trends and are very adept at taking advantage of their misgivings. My mama's boy mid-western ass, however, is not one of those people. I've always had an inclination that gambling, besides the basic low stakes pools and brackets and fantasy leagues, is just not my thing. I think I'll trust my intuition here and stay away from it. Consider the gambling system discontinued, it's merely a waste of my time otherwise.

Thoughts? Comments? I really do appreciate those that I do get, so if something occurs to you, by all means....

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