this week in unintentionally grim-sounding recruiting headlines
As always, no real checking was done to see how this ballot and last week's ballot lined up, so there's jitter. Criticisms will be more swaying if they rely on team A versus team B instead of the delta column. One thread of conversation I would like to contest, this from Big Red Network:
Once again, Kansas and Hawaii are #1 and #2. For those would complain about those rankings, I submit the 1983 Huskers. Only one team from Nebraska's regular season schedule that year finished in the AP top 20. Both Kansas and Hawaii will face one team in the regular season that will finish in the top 25 (Missouri and Boise State). To suggest that these teams don't deserve a title shot after a perfect regular season, is tantamount to saying the 1983 Huskers should not have been playing for a national championship. Boise State's win over Oklahoma should be all the proof we need that schools from small conferences can play with the big boys.
Kansas we'll let slide. I obviously don't think much of the Jayhawks but they're still #8 in my poll. But comparing this year's Hawaii team to 1983 Nebraska preposterously undersells the Cornhuskers, which swept the Big Eight and played this nonconference schedule:
- Penn State (8-4-1), W 44-6
- Wyoming (7-5), W 56-20
- Minnesota (1-10), W 84-13 (yes, 84, in case anyone was feeling even a tiny bit bad for NU during the Kansas game this year)
- UCLA (7-4-1), W 42-10
- Syracuse (6-5), W 63-7.
Four of the five opponents were "BCS" teams; four of the five had winning records. Though Nebraska didn't play any really high level opponents, they played a lot of decent to good opponents and slaughtered them all. Exactly two Nebraska games were not enormous blowouts, one a 14-10 win against 8-4 Oklahoma State and the other a 28-21 win versus 8-4 Oklahoma. Nebraska's pre-bowl points for: 624. Points against: 186.
Meanwhile, Hawaii has the worst SOS imaginable and has beaten 5-6 Louisiana Tech by one point, 4-7 San Jose State in over time, 6-4 Fresno State by seven, and 5-5 Nevada by two. Meanwhile, Boise State "proved" it could hang with the big boys last year. This year it's proven it can lose by two touchdowns to the worst team in the Pac-10. Death to Hawaii... even if I held my nose and dropped them in at the end.
One change: USC drops back a bit after SMQB points out their stunning lack of schedule strength in an email, though I'm inclined to blame that more on the Pac-10's round robin -- this blog's new obsession, evidently -- and, of course, the implosions of Nebraska and ND than actual malice.
On Kansas: SMQB ponders the placement of KU in a theoretically just universe, concluding that it's not one or two but leaving exactly where they go open to discussion. Meanwhile, Gunslingers takes a different view, noting that KU has not played any team better than around #40 in the computer polls and that, depending on your poll of choice, somewhere between 21 and 29 other teams can make the claim that they have not lost to a team ranked #40 or lower. I mean, look at this:
Colley: 105th toughest schedule (only Texas Tech is worse among BCS conference teams)
GBE: 98th toughest schedule (only USC is worse among BCS conference teams)
Sagarin: 97th toughest schedule (worst among BCS conference teams)
Team Rankings: 117th toughest schedule (worst among BCS conference teams)
CBS Sports: 73rd toughest schedule (only ahead of USC, Texas Tech, and Miami (FL) among BCS conference teams)
NCAA (warning - PDF): 86th toughest schedule (only ahead of Texas Tech, Miami (FL), and USC among BCS conference teams)
It's nice they're undefeated, really, it is. But I think Gunslingers is right:
In sum, if you are ranking Kansas highly, you must be placing a lot of emphasis on not losing, without regard to how bad or mediocre the opposition is. And if you are placing a lot of emphasis on not losing to bad or mediocre opposition, there are about two dozen other teams who also haven't lost to bad or mediocre opposition (but several of them have played and beaten good or great opposition).
Kansas played awful cupcakes in a year when Texas and Oklahoma weren't on their schedule and absolutely should not be rewarded for that; I won't be ranking them over one-loss Oregon or LSU teams that played way, way harder schedules, period.
Not that this matters because they will lose by two touchdowns to Missouri unless there is a flukish outburst of turnovers.
I'm actually fairly happy with this effort. I'll keep hammering this point: the Pac-10 looks less impressive than it really is because they play an extra conference game. Oregon is still #1 in my book, though the margin is slim. The only thing that rankles is shoving USF down four after a win, but Illinois and Cinci both deserved to move up, as did Clemson for nuking a decent Wake squad. Florida... eh.
Kansas. ... still hasn't played anyone. I do think a comparison between KU and WVU is in order, but WVU has Maryland (5-5) and Mississippi State (6-4) in the nonconference schedule, orders of magnitude better than KU's slate. I might be convinced to slide KU up a couple spots, but they aren't passing Georgia.
Untangling the Big Ten mess. Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan all have identical records and none of the three has a clear round-robin victory over any of the others. But...
|Wins Amongst Group||Wisconsin||Michigan||Penn State, Wisconsin||Penn State, Illinois|
|Nonconference difficulty||Kansas-esque||Almost Kansas-esque||Legit (@ Missouri, 'Cuse)||Good (Oregon)|
|Win over Sweatervest?||Nope||Nope||Yep||N/A|
Illinois is your winner, Michigan comes in second, and Wisconsin is third because they have yet to play Minnesota and had a nonconference opponent (WSU) that isn't completely wretched.
Complaints go in the comments; I'll modify my ballot by tomorrow.
I bumped Kansas up a few spots, swearing as I went.
Arizona State complainers: ASU has a solid win over 5-5 Colorado, an average Big 12 squad, in the nonconference and since the Pac-10 plays round-robin the entire conference has one less cupcake to devour Magino-style. At the end of the year you should mentally subtract half a loss and add half a win from/to every Pac-10 school; their records will be depressed relative to conferences across the country. Meanwhile, Kansas played four atrocious games in the noncon. There's also a common opponent in Colorado, who ASU beat 33-14; Kansas was exactly two touchdowns short of that. There's no comparison.
Oregon complainers: see above for a reason the Pac-10 will be underrated on the records forevermore. Oregon also smashed Michigan, a team that hasn't lost to a I-A squad(!!!) and is currently undefeated in the Big Ten; their other two nonconference games were against Fresno State and Houston, both of whom are 5-1 in conference and 6-3 overall and would have been losable if the Ducks weren't nuclear powered. It's potentially the toughest nonconference schedule in the country, which is a pretty sad commentary on nonconference schedules, I'll grant you. In conference they lost to Cal but have comfortable wins over ASU and USC. LSU can't match the ability to put teams away; OSU can't match quality of opposition, and this ballot has a bias towards who you beat, not who you lost to.
Missouri complainers: they beat Illinois, likely to end up 8-4, and their loss is to OU, who Kansas would lose to as well. They've beaten someone, unlike KU, and have dispatched their opponents with more alacrity overall: remember Kansas struggled with several games this year. All Missouri wins have not been in question.
Connecticut complainers: Hell, I feel your complaints and hate placing such a wonky team so high but they did beat USF and Rutgers and it's really hard to move them down on the merits.
No Tennessee. With apologies to Rocky Top Talk, the only reason to rank Tennessee is mindless SEC bias. The heavy loss to Cal looks worse each day. The Vols were blown out of the stadium by three-loss Alabama and Florida teams. Four of their six wins were against bad mid-major opponents or Mississippi State. (For those who would claim Mississippi State decent: WVU 38, MSU 13, and it was 31-0 six seconds into the second quarter. No. Just no.) The rest of it: an OT win over 6-4 South Carolina in which they were outgained by 200 yards and the aberrant clubbing of Georgia. That's one actual good performance against three awful ones. No thanks.
Man, screw Kansas. Kansas is Hawaii after a power mushroom or, ironically, a replica of Bill Synder's oft-fraudulent Kansas State teams of the mid-to-late nineties.
Not only is their nonconference schedule shameful but they miss both Oklahoma and Texas in the Big 12. Their best win is over a Kansas State team that just lost to Iowa State. It's nice to be undefeated and all that and putting up 76 points against any Big 12 team that's not Baylor is an accomplishment, even if that team is coached by Bill Callahan, but this team has a mid-major schedule and I'm ranking it like one.
Texas? Yeah... I dunno. I probably had them too low (unranked) last week and they're probably too high now.
I'm trying to hew to X beat Y when teams are close... so USF stays in front of Auburn, who remains in front of Florida.
Changes: moved USF in front of Michigan, dropped Penn State out entirely -- their placement in the last poll was an out-and-out error, not some Big Ten fever dream -- and grudgingly re-inserted Florida. I know, I know, there are about ten teams too high. My favorite comment on the last poll came from bluewolverine, who argued that about fifteen teams were too high. Believe me, I know. I know.
re: USC. Yes, they had a more competitive game against Oregon than Michigan did, but 1) Michigan did rack up a bunch of yards with Henne and 2) played Mallett in the second half. I think Oregon still wins if you play that game again but it's a competitive shootout. Meanwhile, Michigan has wins over teams with winning records. USC does not.