By Stewart Mandel
November 02, 2004

Sifting through the ol' inbox has become an increasingly cumbersome chore the past couple of weeks. It seems all anybody wants to ask these days is ....

Can you offer up a defense for the human polls? To continue to have Tennessee ranked behind Georgia is nothing short of absurd. Tennessee's only loss is to No. 3 Auburn and UGA lost at home to Tennessee! I'm pretty sure a computer would not come up with this answer. --Lawge, New Orleans

Picture reading this same question, in one form or another, 250 times over the course of a week, and you'll understand why I've started keeping a bottle of extra-strength Tylenol next to the computer at all times. While poll injustices have always been a popular reader topic, never before have they been debated to this extent -- and for that, we have the BCS to thank.

To Lawge (of whom my mental image is a 350-pound man sitting on a stool outside a French Quarter bakery playing the harmonica -- is that wrong?), and everyone else in his camp, let me just say: I'm with you. While I've had my share of beefs all along with the BCS formula, I was not one of those who felt the Bowl Championship Series needed to put more weight on the human polls, mainly because I don't pretend to assume that the people who vote in them are any more right than the computers.

In fact, while I have no scientific evidence to prove this, I always got the sense that the initial outrage over USC's Sugar Bowl exclusion came more from the traditionalist media, who couldn't fathom the idea of their chosen top-ranked team not playing for the national title, than from actual Joe fan (besides those in L.A., of course). Not only did the BCS commissioners, who by now have become hypersensitive to criticism, react to the outrage, they probably went a little too far.

Now, I'm by no means saying I prefer computers to humans. The computers don't account for a lot of important intangibles, especially since the BCS made them eliminate margin-of-victory as a factor. However, the human polls contain two essential flaws: the teams don't start on equal footing, and when you lose matters more than to whom you lose.

Case in point: The Tennessee-Georgia situation. If at this very moment you were to start with a clean slate and rank the teams from scratch, of course you'd have the Vols ahead of the Dawgs, for the very reasons Lawge mentioned. But here's what actually happened: Georgia started 11 spots ahead of Tennessee in both polls, and after the Vols lost to Auburn, that margin grew to 14. The next week, Tennessee beat Georgia and moved up three to four spots while the Dawgs fell five spots in one poll, nine in the other, but that wasn't enough to make up the gap in either poll. Since then, neither team has lost, so nothing has changed.

The more pressing dilemma is, of course, what happens if USC, Oklahoma and Auburn all win out. Thanks to the new system, the Trojans and Sooners would almost certainly reach the Orange Bowl, even if the computers give the nod to Auburn. Under the old system, the Tigers would have benefited not only from a stronger schedule than, at the very least, Oklahoma, but would also have had more "quality wins" (since they will have to beat top-10 teams Tennessee, twice, and Georgia). Under the new system, however, it's more important to have the humans behind you, even if the main reason they're behind you is because that's the way they had it in August.

All of this is an overly complicated way of saying to Lawge, no, I do not have a defense of the human polls. They're completely subjective, every voter has his own way of doing things and, let's be honest, not even the world's most acclaimed football expert truly knows whether Auburn is better than Oklahoma or Cal is better than Wisconsin, unless they were to face each other on the field.

So, now that we've addressed that, I'm asking for your assistance. Please, pretty please, can you guys come up with some new questions? I'm not asking -- I'm begging.

How is there is still no serious Heisman consideration for Braylon Edwards? He has an uncanny knack for making game-breaking plays, even with freshman QB Chad Henne learning the ropes. How can the media snub a guy with this much talent even after he made two catches against Michigan State that were not only ridiculous, but they were also plays that changed the whole complexion of the game? He's been big-time all year, and last Saturday's game proved why he's arguably the best player in the country. --J.R., Essex Fells, N.J.

As a true, down-to-earth Michigan fan, I believe I can legitimately ask this: Is it just me or is Braylon Edwards overrated? As I watched him fumble the ball away on the 20-yard line against MSU it seemed like a play that summarized his career -- he always does things like that, dropping the easy ones or making the stupid play. See the Notre Dame game, when he let an easy pass go through his hands and get picked off; or last week when he had a critical drop against Purdue. Then in typical Braylon fashion, he makes a few outstanding catches and is again the best receiver in the country. So what I'm saying is, yes, he is one hell of an athlete, but he doesn't make the little plays, only the ones that get him on SportsCenter. --Alex Kardos, Oak Harbor, Ohio

Both of these e-mails really get at the dilemma I, like a lot of voters, have with Braylon, because both are right. Coming into the year, I agreed wholeheartedly that Edwards was overrated because of his propensity for exactly the kind of plays Alex mentioned (who can forget the dropped touchdown bomb in the Rose Bowl?). I went to Ann Arbor this spring to do a Braylon story for Sports Illustrated's college football preview issue, and I remember Lloyd Carr telling me, "I don't think there was a better receiver in the country the second half of last season," to which I thought, "Umm, hello? Mike Williams? Larry Fitzgerald?"

However, there's no question Edwards has elevated his game to another level this season, with the Michigan State performance his crowning moment. I can't say he's overrated because no other receiver in the country has been making the kind of plays he did Saturday on any kind of consistent basis, and while the mistakes haven't disappeared, they haven't had nearly as big an impact as have his positive plays. That said, I'm not ready to join the John Saunders-led Edwards lovefest just yet. For a receiver to be considered for the Heisman, I think he has to dominate week-in, week-out -- because unlike a quarterback or running back, he has fewer chances to affect the outcome of a contest -- and immediately prior to the Michigan State game, Edwards had three catches for 18 yards against Illinois, five for 25 against Purdue. Sorry, not going to cut it. If anything, I think Michigan's most deserving Heisman candidate, if he keeps this up, is Michael Hart, who's had three straight 200-yard games. That's freaking incredible for any player, nonetheless a true freshman.

Mandel, you 'Canes-hater! You say Miami can't stop the run? What do you call what they did to Leon Washington, Lorenzo Booker and Ryan Moats? The problem with you and every other analyst is you can't predict the 'Canes. Quit trying to figure them out, the 'Canes make you look stupid! And just say they're No. 1! --Brett Smith, Miami, Fla.


There was no mention of Mike Price as a potential coaching replacement at any of the schools you mentioned in your coaching-changes column. Do you think it's too soon? I think he has kind of burned off that one incident and seems too talented a coach to write off. --Art, Metarie, La.

I hadn't thought about it before, but now that you mention it, wouldn't that be something? There's no question Price can coach -- he's got UTEP, which hadn't won more than two games in a season since 2000, ranked in the top 25. And if you're an A.D., you'd have to be pretty small-minded to hold the "incident" against him at this point. I think it's probably too soon -- even if suitors come calling, I'm guessing Price would be hesitant to leave the school that gave him his second chance after just one season. However, there's at least one opening out there that you have to think would be tempting. Picture this: Price standing on the other sideline during next year's Apple Cup, coaching the very Washington team that used to torment his Cougars with regularity. Stranger things have happened.

Now that Miami and Florida State have lost, do you think there could be a rematch between USC-Cal in the BCS title game? We know these are the two best teams in the country. --Scott, Cleveland

It became a whole lot more feasible after the AP voters, to my utter surprise, jumped the one-loss Bears over undefeated Wisconsin following the former's 27-0 win over Arizona State, despite the fact the game kicked off at 10 p.m. Eastern on TBS. So much for East Coast bias. Maybe the extra hour of sleep Saturday night motivated voters to stay up and watch. Obviously any such scenario requires both Oklahoma and Auburn to lose; however, I'm also not so sure Cal has put Wisconsin in its rearview mirror for good just yet, nor do I necessarily think it deserves to if the Badgers finish 11-0. Also, I think the Bears are going into a potential snake pit Dec. 4 at Southern Miss, which, you may recall, quashed TCU's undefeated season last year. I bet Cal is kicking itself right now for having postponed that game. It feels a little bit too similar to 1998, when 10-0 UCLA had to play a makeup game at Miami the last week of the year. And you remember what happened there.

You keep hating on the 'Canes! When they lost to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, that team was said to not be able to stop the run, but yet were a "horrific" pass interference call away from winning a second straight national title. This year, Miami's defense has two bad defensive games and now the 'Canes can't stop anyone? Give me a break, Mandel. --Julius, Atlanta

I will take this under advisement.

If the final BCS rankings end up: No. 1 USC, No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 3 Cal, No. 4 Georgia, No. 5. Auburn/Tennessee, No. 6 Utah, who gets the two at-large berths? My understanding is that non-champs from BCS conferences that end up ranked third or fourth in the final BCS rankings get automatic berths. But so does a non-BCS team ranked No. 6 or higher. Something's got to give. --Dave, Athens, Ga.

Sorry Dave, your Dawgs would get the short end of the stick. The provision about non-BCS teams in the top six comes before the other one, so Utah would get the first at-large berth, and the provision guaranteeing non-champs from BCS conferences ranked third or fourth only protects the higher ranked of the two, if there are that many, which in your scenario would be Cal.

Being the only college football fan in the Southern Hemisphere probably permits me to ask you this: Who'll be the top NFL Draft pick of 2005? -- Marius Cornelissen, Pretoria, South Africa

You do realize I will now get at least 10 e-mails from other fans in the Southern Hemisphere? Perhaps you guys can trade e-mail addresses and get together for some games.

I don't think any clear-cut No. 1 has emerged yet, but I'd say the leading candidates are Cal QB Aaron Rodgers, Texas LB Derrick Johnson, former USC WR Mike Williams, Miami CB Antrel Rolle and Wisconsin DE Erasmus James. Lately the trend has been toward taking a quarterback No. 1 (six of the past seven years), which would seem to favor Rodgers, but it will depend on who gets the pick. Personally, I think Johnson is the best prospect on the board, but you don't see a whole lot of linebackers go No. 1.

I think you are a 'Canes-hater! How on earth could Virginia beat Miami? I am sure you said the same thing with N.C. State too. I wish I could meet you on a field so I could give you a good-old 'Canes sack for this one. Man, wake up before it's too late. NOBODY CAN BEAT MIAMI THIS YEAR. NOBODY!!! --Kwame Addo, Burtonsville, Md.

Mind if I go back to sleep now?

You May Like

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)