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NCAA Football Round-Up Week 3
by Brian Miller (NCAA Football)
Posted on September 24, 2009, 8:47 PM

Same group of guys; another week of college football to evaluate; you already know the deal. Just a note that the rankings below were compiled before tonightís Ole Miss versus South Carolina game.

Rank Team (First Place Votes)

1. Florida (2)
2. Texas (1)
3. Alabama
4. Cal
5. Penn State
6. LSU
7. Boise State
8. Miami
9. Cincinnati
10. Ole Miss
11. USC
12. Virginia Tech
13. Oklahoma
14. Houston
15. Ohio State
16. TCU
17. Oklahoma State
18. BYU
19. Washington
20. Kansas
21. North Carolina
22. Auburn
23. Florida State
24. Oregon
25. Georgia

Brian: Last week you two right fully praised the success of the Mountain West in the first two weeks. This last week the arguably two best teams in the division got toppled by above-average, but not great Automatic Qualifying (AQ) teams in Florida State and Oregon. How much credence does this lend to the argument that in a single game scenario a team like BYU can upset an Oklahoma, but over the course of a week to week schedule that the top non-AQ teams wouldn't fair any better then above average AQ teams in a "major" conference.

Andrew: Well I agree with that argument, but also think it works both ways. I absolutely, positively believe the this system benefits a Boise State, because while preposterous to say Oregon or or Missouri Mississippi State would be the best team in the WAC or Sun Belt or MAC, it is quite possible if not likely that they'd be a top 2-4 team. In that case you look at an Oklahoma or USC or Florida's 5th to 9th best win or toughest opponent on a schedule being the 2nd-4th on one of those schools. And while supporters of those programs don't want to hear it, it absolutely it easier when you have the luxury of really circling some games, adding a few extra minutes each practice during the summer and early weeks to prep knowing the disparity between half your opponents allows a lack of an A-game sometimes (Idaho or Miami-OH anyone?) But again in the defense of a BYU, of a TCU, of a Utah, that also means that the truly best of certain places can have a bad night and it isn't representative of their talent, and I think the Mountain West in general, even with this past week, is a lot closer to the elites than the other non-qualifying conferences, and daresay top to bottom are arguably above the Big East. But these teams know that, and thats why you've seen the non-AQ teams in recent year that know what they're doing- the BYUs, the Utahs, the TCUs- going out and scheduling those tough opponents week in week out to at least show whether or not they come out unscathed, the people will take note of it come crunch time in later part of the season and even years.

T.Cow: I donít think that argument holds up well simply because the top AQ teams can also lose to the better than above average AQ teams. You donít have to look any further than last year (Florida to Ole Miss, Penn St to Iowa) or even this year (USC to Washington). Iím not saying that a BYU or Boise should be put in the same class as a Florida or Texas, but more that itís hard to say how these smaller schools would fit into the big 6 conferences. The lines between the good and the great teams are close enough that anyone can beat anyone on a given Saturday so while that statement may help the BYU/Oklahoma argument, it also helps the FSU/BYU point.

Andrew: Eight of the nine years of this decade the Heisman has gone to a Quarterback, very arguably the most glamorous and noticeable position on the football field. The year started with the entire nation fully aware of three returning elite ones in Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow, and Sam Bradford, the top 3 vote-getters of last year, two of them having won the trophy before, and in all likelihood at least one of the three will be playing for a team in the National Title game come selection time. Not so quietly if you've been watching the games, Jahvid Best has been racking up everything and anything in his way and seems to be the consensus top Runningback in the nation on a top 10 calibur California team. But with so much attention put on the big 3 at QB, what if anything does or can Best do to legitimately become the Heisman front-runner?

T.Cow: I really think that Cal has to go undefeated for Best to have a shot at the Heisman. It has become so much of a quarterback award that if Cal isnít in the national championship game, then the best I think heíll be able to do is get an invite to New York. In order to remain in the spotlight, not only does he have to produce, but his teams need to keep winning. The next 2 games are crucial for his Heisman hopes. If Cal goes 0-2, I canít see him winning it. The other factor playing against him is that heís on the west coast and playing for a team not named USC. Yes, east coast bias exists, and Best (and Cal) will have to work harder than Tebow (and Florida) to keep his name in the fold.

Brian: If Best goes for around 300 total yards and four touchdown in Cal victories over Oregon and USC, Cal wins the PAC 10, and Best is Top 5 in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns at the end of the year then heíll have done all he can do to win the Heisman. All that likely wonít matter if either McCoy or Tebow pilots their team to an undefeated season because then the trophy will be handed to one of them no matter how good Best performs. But if both Texas and Florida suffer a loss at some point and Best meets the above criteria then itís certainly possible that the running back from Cal could win the Heisman. Of course if you want the best ďdark horseĒ candidate to win the Heisman I got to words for you... Tony Pike, but weíll save that discussion for another day.

T.Cow: Three weeks into the season, and we've seen multiple top 10 teams fall with some even to unranked teams. Should pre-season or even early season rankings be abolished until later in the seasons, or does giving team numerical values only to have them drop or lose it a good discussion tool for college football? If you believe the former, when would be a good time for the rankings to come out?

Brian: In theory I donít have a problem with preseason and early season polls. From a fanís perspective they need to be realize that a lot of the polls are based on limited information and assumptions at the beginning and not try and argue the exact placement of any team because until every team has played at least four games thereís about a minimum three ranking buffer in each direction. From a pollsterís perspective thereís not an issue as long as theyíre willing to go back and examine their assumptions that they used to justify their early rankings. Itís best if this is done week to week, but since the final poll is what really matters as long as theyíre willing to shake that poll up when looking at a season in retrospective then thereís no issue. I think since the AP broke away from the BCS their writers have actually gotten better at doing this and their rankings while far from ideal more closely resemble reality. The coaches (or Information Directors who actually fill out the polls) have a long way to go in regards to challenging the assumptions they base their rankings on.

Andrew: I may not personify terse but I'm going to try and be it here to save a rant, but in short no. This is total idealism to say early rankings factor. Alabama wasn't ranked to start last year, Utah wasn't ranked to start last year. Outside of last year with Utah, the biggest controversies during the BCS era have been with two or three like-recorded teams, and if one started the year expected to be elite, expected to be top 2-3, and kept up their end of the bargain going undefeated or keeping the same record as the rest of the nation with one tough loss, how have they deserved to be punished either. And again, to abolish pre-season rankings is to assume that the voters would lose bias- every person has a bias. Are you to say if we waited to week 8, week 10, and Notre Dame was 7-2, or USC was 8-1 with that Washington loss, that they wouldn't be given the benefit of the doubt and ranked as highly as they are now? Can one say that if a team has a history of dominance, and is still at that level at least record-wise, there wouldn't be or shouldn't be a sense of credibility earned or given to them for being that way even without a preseason numerical value? It's all idealism to think waiting, at least for a good long period of multiple generations of voters, would change it.

I hope you enjoyed the column. If you have any questions, concerns, or issues feel free to contact us via the Oratory Forums or e-mail Brian at bdmiller @ vt.edu, T. Cow at tangcow @ gmail.com, and Andrew at a.holik @ umiami.edu.

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