>Wednesday Lunch: Late Losses and the Plight of the Non-AQ

Posted: December 1, 2010 in college football, ncaafb
Tags: , , , ,


By Dylan Jamaal Davis

On September 27th, 2008 the 4th ranked team in the country lost at home to an unranked conference opponent by one point on a kicking mistake in the closing minutes. On November 27th, 2010 the 4th ranked team in the country lost on the road to a ranked conference opponent in overtime on two kicking mistakes in the closing minutes.

Both of these teams ended the year with one loss, yet one team was never considered for a BCS game while the other won the national title later that year. If you look at the two games they lost it seems that the second team has the edge because they played a ranked team, the game was on the road, and the finish was closer.

The first team is the Florida Gators who missed an extra point in a 31-30 loss to Ole Miss in Gainesville. They won all the games before and after that and by beating Alabama in the SEC title game and Oklahoma in the national title game, they finished the year number one and with the crystal football.

The second team is the Boise State Broncos. This past weekend they traveled to 19th ranked Nevada and took a commanding 24-3 halftime lead. The Wolf Pack pounded away and tied the game with under a minute to go. With about 10 seconds left, Kellen Moore rocketed a pass 53 yards downfield to Titus Young who made a spectacular diving catch with one tick left on the clock. At this point I was having flashbacks to the Big 12 title game last year when favored Texas had one second on the clock to kick a game winning field goal and preserve their undefeated season. Kicker Kyle Brotzman missed the 26-yard chip shot that followed, then another in overtime, and Nevada escaped with a narrow upset. Even though their loss was not nearly as damaging as Florida’s, they are nowhere near a BCS game, much less the title. Why is that? Let’s examine the two main issues.

1. Early losses vs. late losses: The Gators were lucky enough to suffer their loss early on in the season. Teams that lose early on in the year usually drop down in the polls, but over the course of the year they will climb past teams with similar records if they keep winning. There seems to be a thought that if you lose late, you should be dropped behind teams that are your equals just based on when in the year you happened to get tripped up. Honestly, this is completely idiotic. Virginia Tech lost the first two games of the season to Boise State and FCS James Madison. Nebraska, Missouri, and Oklahoma State all have the same number of losses and play in the much tougher Big 12 and have only lost games to other teams in conference play. Just looking at those resumes, one would believe that they all should be ranked higher, but since their losses were incurred at a later point than the Hokies, they are all now ranked lower in the polls.
A team should be judged by its total body of work and not by when they lost. In extreme cases (such as a team losing its last two games while another team loses the first two) it can be taken into consideration, but if two teams have a similar body of work, the team with more recent loses will be ranked lower 99 out of 100 times.

2. BCS vs. Mid Majors: Many people would look at the opening to this column and scoff, how can I possibly think that Boise State should be ranked ahead of Florida? The Gators play in the rough and tumble SEC, while the Broncos blow out sub par WAC competition week after week. This is a perception that is absolutely ludicrous and is perpetuated by the mainstream media. If Boise had played a home game against a middle of the pack ACC foe, the press would have blasted them if they hadn’t won by 20 points. Auburn did exactly that earlier this year when they squeaked out an overtime win against a 6-6 Clemson team on a missed field goal in overtime. If they had only beaten a 6-6 SEC team by 3 points, they would have been deemed unworthy of playing in a major bowl, but Auburn did exactly that against middling Kentucky. On the other hand, if the Bronco’s blow out a ranked Pac 10 team by two touchdowns (Oregon State who was ranked at the time of the game) or shut out a bowl bound squad by a score of 51-0 (Fresno State) those games are dismissed because “that’s what Boise should be doing”. When they are given the national stage to showcase their talents, they rarely fail to deliver. In their last eight games against top-ten teams, the Broncos have only lost once, and that was against another non-BCS school in TCU.

I understand that the lower teams in the SEC are better than the lower teams in the WAC or Mountain West, but is anyone really scared of Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, or Kentucky? I’m sure Boise would play those teams in a heartbeat and would probably crush them by the same margins that an SEC power would. With TCU and Utah both moving to BCS conferences next year and BYU going as an independent, there are a dwindling number of non-BCS teams that are good enough to make a BCS bowl. But until this problem is completely eradicated, we will still see teams like Boise and TCU shut out of the title game year after year, and that hurts the game. Of course, if there was a playoff system…but that’s an argument for a different day.

Week 14 Preview:
There was some spectacular college football action this past weekend, but everything this year has led up to week 14. This is conference championship week, and in the conferences that don’t have title games, there are a number of important tilts that need to be discussed. Let’s dive right in.

SEC Championship Game: Auburn vs. South Carolina: These two teams met in Auburn earlier in the season and the Tigers were able to pull out a 35-27 victory. This game will be different for a number of reasons. Firstly, Marcus Lattimore has transformed into a complete and utter beast and should be primed to go against a stout Auburn run defense. The Auburn pass defense showed against Alabama that they have issues, especially with big physical receivers. Alshon Jeffrey should have a field day with Stephen Garcia hopefully being left in the entire game. If the improved Gamecocks defense can keep the clamps on Cam Newton, they might be able to pull off the biggest win in school history. Pick: South Carolina-38 Auburn-34

Big 12 Championship Game: Oklahoma vs. Nebraska: While neither of these teams have a shot at the national title, a BCS bid would be huge for both. If Taylor Martinez is able to play the entire game for Nebraska, the Huskers will run away with the victory. Landry Jones has made tremendous progress this year but the Huskers pass defense has been dominant and the run game of Nebraska will wear down the Sooners mediocre defense. Pick: Nebraska-28 Oklahoma-24

De Facto Big East Championship Games: Connecticut vs. South Florida, West Virginia vs. Rutgers, Pitt vs. Cincinnati: The games above are listed in order of importance. If Connecticut wins its game, it will secure the Big East crown. If they lose and West Virginia is able to defeat bottom-feeding Rutgers, they would take the Big East and the automatic BCS berth. If both the Huskies and the Mountaineers falter, but Pitt is able to exact revenge on Cincinnati, the Panthers would get the BCS bid. If they all lose, it goes back to UConn for the crown. Basically, these games are for the right to be blown out in a BCS game, but it’s still important for recruiting and school pride to be able to call yourself conference champs. Pick: South Florida-24 Connecticut-21, West Virginia-30 Rutgers-14, Pitt-28 Cincinnati-24 (this game wouldn’t matter if the other predictions hold true.)

ACC Championship Game: Florida State vs. Virginia Tech: Virginia Tech has steadily improved on both sides of the ball since two heartbreaking losses to start the season, and now boast an explosive offense to complement their suffocating defense. These two teams haven’t met, but the fact that Florida State slipped into this game based on North Carolina State losing to Maryland last week tells me all I need to know. Pick: Virginia Tech-34 Florida State-24

Oregon vs. Oregon State: Everyone is already placing Oregon in the title game, and that’s a dangerous thing. Playing a conference rival on the road is always a tough task (just ask Boise State) and this one may be tougher than most. In 2007 West Virginia had a high-powered rushing attack and would’ve made the title game if they had been able to beat a struggling Pitt team in the season finale. They ended up losing that game, at home no less, and fell to the Fiesta Bowl. Don’t be surprised if Oregon stumbles coming out of the gate and the game is close in the 4th quarter. With that being said, losing James Rodgers has severely limited the Oregon State offense and the Ducks tend to wear teams down in the second half. I expect LaMichael James to have a huge second half to lead Oregon to its first BCS title game. Pick: Oregon-48 
Oregon State-37

If all of those picks hold true, the title game will most likely be Oregon vs. TCU which could potentially lead to a 50,000 word column next week by me, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Have a great weekend watching these tremendous games and check in next week for a regular season wrap up and look forward to bowl season. Also look for a critique of the BCS system by members of the TSL staff and guest writers in the near future.


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