Why the '09 Hawkeyes are like the '02 "Luckeyes," plus more mail
Ever since the BCS adopted its current formula (two-thirds human polls, one-third computer rankings) in 2004, the weekly standings releases have been largely anticlimactic. Generally, the BCS standings mirror the AP and coaches poll, plus or minus a couple of decimal points here or there.
I noticed quite the hubbub last Sunday, however, when Iowa -- seventh in the AP poll, eighth in the coaches -- suddenly showed up at No. 4 in the latest BCS standings, boosted by its consensus No. 1 ranking in the computer component. We entrust computers to protect our credit card information, deliver important documents and identify potential dating partners -- but to evaluate football teams? Now
In this week's
But most people don't want to hear it.
Iowa still has a long way to go to before being mentioned in the same breath as that Ohio State team -- in fact, before that can happen it will need to beat Ohio State on the road YoNov. 14 -- but the parallels certainly exist. Much like these Hawkeyes, those Buckeyes played an old-school, often unsightly brand of football. Like Iowa, Ohio State endured an inordinate amount of last-minute escapes. But here's the most important shared trait of all: A large majority of the county refused to believe they were the juggernaut their record indicated. They were "the Luckeyes," and not until that final
There are, however, some pretty notable differences. For one, the Buckeyes delivered two early nonconference routs that helped boost their credibility: A 45-21 win over Texas Tech in the now-defunct Pigskin Classic and, more impressively, a 25-7 win over eventual Pac-10 champ Washington State, ranked 10th at the time. Iowa, to its credit, beat 5-2 Arizona, currently tied for second in the Pac-10, but that game went virtually unnoticed at the time.
And then there's the personnel. While most failed to appreciated it at the time, that Ohio State team was incredibly talented. Amazingly, all 11 defensive starters and two nickel-backs were drafted, as were seven offensive starters (not including two-way starter Gamble) and kicker
Which brings me to the most important element of all: The Big Ten of 2009 is
Compared to those '02 Buckeyes, the '09 Hawkeyes are playing against significantly watered-down competition. However, the same may well be true nationally. Contrary to preseason speculation, '09 Florida has not looked remotely like '02 Miami. Nor has anyone else. The Hawkeyes aren't the most talented team in the country, but, at least according to the BCS computers, they've delivered the best results.
Let me be clear. I don't believe Tebow has suddenly morphed into a crappy quarterback. My only contention is that he should not currently be mentioned as a Heisman candidate for this season.
While Tebow's yardage production (232.1 per game) hasn't dropped all that much from last season (244.2), in SEC play he's thrown just three touchdowns while committing six turnovers. As is usually the case with quarterbacks, it's not all on him, and I could list any number of contributing factors. His offensive line has played poorly. His inexperienced receiving corps is decidedly average. Florida's play-calling, particularly in the red zone (where the Gators are struggling miserably), has been extremely questionable. And let's not forget the elephant in the room: that concussion. While Florida's medical staff has deemed it safe for him to play, he could still be suffering after-effects.
At the end of the day, Florida is still 7-0 with plenty of time to work out its kinks. Tebow may well turn up his game another notch over the stretch run. What bothers me, however, is that much of the media is essentially holding open a spot for him in New York, regardless of his actual production to date. At this point, any Heisman voter/watcher who still has Tebow in his top five (and apparently, there are
He absolutely, positively should be -- but the Huskers' horrific offense isn't exactly aiding what was already a long-shot bid to become the first defensive tackle to win a Heisman. Presumably, you saw that Nebraska suffered a humiliating, eight-turnover performance in a 9-7 home loss last week to Iowa State in which the most memorable image came
But obviously, it's going to be much harder for him to gain traction now that Nebraska has three losses and is completely off the national radar. The same is true of another eye-opening standout from a three loss team ...
Good question. Spiller, who amassed a school-record 310 all-purpose yards against the 'Canes on Saturday, currently averages a national-best 207.9 all-purpose yards per game. He's returned there kickoffs for touchdowns as well as a punt, and, perhaps most impressively of all, he's scored at least one touchdown of 60-plus yards in every game he's played this season.
I did some digging for you, Kevin. Believe it or not, Bush's production through seven games in '05 was nearly identical -- 203.1 per game. Howard's was a more modest 159.9, though he'd already racked up 14 receiving touchdowns. Both played their most memorable games toward the end of the season -- Bush's monstrous night against Fresno State (294 rushing yards, 135 kickoff yards, 68 receiving yards) and Howard's career-defining 93-yard punt return against Ohio State. For Spiller to have a chance, he'd probably need to produce a few more Miami-type games, and the Tigers would need to win the ACC championship game with at least one huge Spiller play.
Hey A.J. Thanks for writing in. Glad to see you're a Mailbag reader. Naming you to our
I regret to inform you, however, that the difference between your
As you can imagine, I get a gazillion e-mails just like this every week, but for some reason this one caught my attention. As a detached observer of the polls, you'd be hard-pressed to find fault with Brian's logic as to why the Ducks should be rated higher than the Trojans.
So in this case, to understand why USC is currently ranked fourth and Oregon 10th in the AP poll, our best bet is to simply retrace the voters' steps.
So there you have it. The short answer: USC started much higher than Oregon, both took big tumbles following their losses and both have since climbed back up. This weekend they'll play each other and render this entire topic moot.
It's not going to happen. If you recall, the same exact scenario took place last season with Utah and Boise State, both of which were undefeated. The Utes got the automatic berth because they were ranked higher (No. 6 vs. No. 9), while the Fiesta Bowl opted for 10-2 Ohio State over the 12-0 Broncos (who went on to face TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl). The only difference this year is that the two teams being mentioned are already ranked that high in late October (TCU is No. 6, Boise is No. 7), which, depending on the amount of attrition above them, means we could be talking about two top five teams come early December.
But the bowls have to protect their business interests (particularly in this economy), and there aren't too many scenarios where a BCS game would draw higher ratings and attendance by voluntarily taking one of these teams. Fans of non-BCS teams and/or BCS critics don't want to hear it, but the numbers don't lie. Utah-Alabama earned a 7.8 rating last season; Texas-Ohio State 10.4. True diehards (like those of you reading this column) are going to watch the Fiesta or Sugar bowls no matter who's playing, and many of you might prefer to watch Boise State than Penn State. But the fact remains, brand-name schools buy more tickets and draw in more casual viewers.
You guys just aren't going to let this go, are you?
It's been a bad year for officiating, both in the SEC and elsewhere, but there has been bad officiating for as long as there's been football. And the replay officials, in my opinion, are worse than the guys on the field. It's one thing to miss a live call in real time that occurs with no warning; it's another for a bunch of guys standing around a television monitor to watch that Doe replay over and over and
But do I think they're all in cahoots to protect Florida? Sorry -- I'm not that cynical. If that's the case, somebody went rogue on that
I watched a lot of that game and Pitt, now 7-1, looked pretty good. In fact, the Panthers looked like the team I was expecting to see last year, with all those highly rated
And the beautiful thing is, Stull still doesn't have to carry the load because he's got one of the most productive running backs in the country behind him. It's amazing how quickly freshman
Defensively, that lineup is comprised almost entirely of juniors and seniors like end
Apparently conspiracy theorists aren't exclusive to the SEC.