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I'm from Houston, a graduate of the University of Texas, a fan of the Houston Astros and Houston Texans. But this blog will be about the "greater sports", whatever that means.

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

BCS vs. Playoff, a 2010 - 2012 retrospective

As we head into the final two critical weeks of the college football season, all eyes will be on the weekly BCS standings released on the Sunday following.  Most pollsters and computer geeks agree, if Florida State and Alabama don't lose, they will meet for the BCS Championship in Pasadena, CA, on January 6, 2014.  However, they are not the only undefeated teams and fans of Ohio State are crying foul.  But being undefeated has never (before or after the BCS) guaranteed a team a shot at playing for the National Championship.

Which brings us to the 2014 regular season, when we expand our current 2-team playoff (also known as the BCS) to a 4-team playoff.  More impactful is probably that the teams will be decided by a committee, not a human-computer poll combination.  Since 2013 isn't over yet, it's too early to call how that would shake out (maybe a blog for two weeks from today).  But let's look back at the previous three football seasons, see how the 2-team BCS looked, as compared to a 4-team and 8-team playoff format.  We'll comment on teams that probably don't belong, and those that are excluded.  Each (the 2/4/8) format will get a subjective letter grade (A - F) and we'll see, is the 4-team the right answer?

2010:
Final BCS Standings Top 10
Auburn (13-0) 0.9866
Oregon (12-0) 0.9720
TCU (12-0) 0.9102
Stanford (11-1) 0.8356
Wisconsin (11-1) 0.8041
Ohio State (11-1) 0.7660
Oklahoma (11-2) 0.7297
Arkansas (10-2) 0.7274
Michigan State (11-1) 0.6922
Boise State (11-1) 0.6137

BCS Championship Game (two-team playoff)
#1 Auburn vs. #2 Oregon - played out as expected, came down to the end, both teams demonstrated that they belonged, if not for a couple of plays either way, Oregon might have pulled it out.  As it was, Auburn finished as (currently) the last undefeated national champion.
Grade on how the BCS did its job? B-.  With TCU also sitting undefeated, there is a level of unfair that they didn't get a chance to participate.  They would go on to win the Rose Bowl over Big 10 Champion Wisconsin.

Auburn vs. Oregon was great, but TCU didn't get a chance to play
Four-team playoff:
#1 Auburn vs. #4 Wisconsin
#2 Oregon vs. #3 TCU
I'm guessing the committee would have put the Badgers in as a Big 10 Champion, rather than the Stanford Cardinal as the runner up in the Pac 10.  Either way, this is as big as TCU being left out, not fair.
Grade on how a 4-team playoff would have worked? B-. A worthy team left out in this scenario.

Eight-team playoff:
#1 Auburn vs. #8 Michigan State
#2 Oregon vs. #7 Oklahoma
#3 TCU vs. #6 Ohio State
#4 Stanford vs. #5 Wisconsin
I'm figuring Oklahoma in as Big 12 champs, plus Michigan State, which had just one loss to Wisconsin, in over a 2-loss Arkansas.  Boise State in a weaker conference and a loss (Nevada).
Grade on how an 8-team playoff would have worked? B+.  Not near the argument here for a team being left out.  Three teams in from the Big 10 might raise eyebrows, especially in SEC country with only one.  Otherwise, it would be an A.

2011:
Final BCS Standings Top 10
LSU (13-0) 1.0000
Alabama (11-1) 0.9419
Oklahoma State (11-1) 0.9333
Stanford (11-1) 0.8476
Oregon (11-2) 0.7901
Arkansas (10-2) 0.7687
Boise State (11-1) 0.7408
Kansas State (10-2) 0.6827
South Carolina (10-2) 0.6553
Wisconsin (11-2) 0.6374

BCS Championship Game (two-team playoff)
#1 LSU vs. #2 Alabama - This was a major fail in my opinion.  These two teams had already played, the road team won, one team didn't win its Division, yet because of human pollsters (i.e. media hype), Alabama got in ahead of Oklahoma State.  The game wasn't good, of course with Alabama winning.  But Oklahoma State wasn't given a chance.
Grade on how the BCS did its job? D.  I never advocated two teams from the same conference, mainly because you need that cross-play to truly determine a champion.  The Big 12 may have been tougher than the SEC, but for lack of hype, we won't know.

Four-team playoff:
#1 LSU vs. #4 Oregon
#2 Alabama vs.#3 Oklahoma State
This would easily solve the #2 vs. #3, but the #4 is more murky. While Stanford decisively held the spot, they did not win their conference, getting blown out by Oregon.  Oregon won the Pac 12 with a loss to LSU, but I'd give them the nod here.  They earned it with a win over Stanford head-to-head.  The next four teams didn't win their conference, Wisconsin not really in the discussion.
Grade on how a 4-team playoff would have worked? A-.Only the Oregon inclusion murks this.

Brandon Weeden and Oklahoma State had just one loss, but was left out of a chance at the title.
Eight-team playoff:
#1 LSU vs. #8 Boise State
#2 Alabama vs. #7 Wisconsin
#3 Oklahoma State vs. #6 Arkansas
#4 Oregon vs. #5 Stanford
Arkansas only lost to the Top 2 teams, so a worthy inclusion.  Kansas State had a bad loss to Oklahoma, and Wisconsin winning the Big 10 pushes them ahead.  South Carolina also had a bad loss to Auburn.  Moving Wisconsin ahead of Boise State in seeding because of better conference (Boise State only loss to a good TCU team).
Grade on how an 8-team playoff would have worked? A.  There's not much indefensible here.  Having Oregon play Stanford isn't ideal, but you'd have to put those two (at #4 and #5) ahead of Arkansas and the rest, and not ahead of Oklahoma State.

2012:
Final BCS Standings Top 10
Notre Dame (12-0) 0.9978
Alabama (12-1) 0.9441
Florida (11-1) 0.8984
Oregon (11-1) 0.8621
Kansas State (11-1) 0.8226
Stanford (11-2) 0.7683
Georgia (11-2) 0.7583
LSU (10-2) 0.7511
Texas A&M (10-2) 0.6756
South Carolina (10-2) 0.6604


BCS Championship Game (two-team playoff)
#1 Notre Dame vs. #2 Alabama - This was the clear logical choice.  The SEC champion, despite a loss, against the only undefeated.  With six of the BCS Top 10, no question Alabama had it over Oregon or anyone else.
Grade on how the BCS did its job? A+.  Best two teams played, nobody else had a legit claim.
Few could argue that these two teams deserved the 2 spots on the BCS title game
Four-team playoff:
#1 Notre Dame vs. #4 Stanford
#2 Alabama vs.#3 Kansas State
This would be a very VERY difficult decision.  Anyone from #3 through #10 could make an argument to be included.  My approach is that conference champs get a nod over non-conference champs, and so it's KSU and Stanford over Oregon (lost to Stanford) and Florida (didn't win SEC East).
Grade on how a 4-team playoff would have worked? D. About six teams have a right to be angry here.

Eight-team playoff:
#1 Notre Dame vs. #8 Florida State
#2 Alabama vs. #7 Oregon
#3 Kansas State vs. #6 Florida
#4 Stanford vs. #5 Georgia
By all means, more SEC teams get in after the Top 4.  But not more than three.  Oregon gets in by their one loss to Stanford, Florida State (finished BCS #12, behind #11 Oklahoma) only lost a conference road game, then to Florida, both good losses and were ACC champs. The Big 10 notably absent, 5-loss champs Wisconsin not near worthy, undefeated Ohio State ineligible.
Grade on how an 8-team playoff would have worked? B-.  The SEC has some gripes, but you can't just say because the Top 6 teams only beat each other and the other 8 were so bad they didn't beat any of them, that they deserve more than 3 spots. The above has conference balance and good matchups.

So summary of grades by playoff team count:
2-team playoff: B-, D, A+.  Average a B-
4-team playoff: B-, A-, D. Average C+
8-team playoff: B+, A, B-. Average B+

So the 8-team caused the least blow ups in terms of teams left out (at worst a B-).  The best was 2-team or 8-team every year.  My staunch opinion has been that we deal with a 2-team playoff and reward the regular season.  I can see from the above that really there aren't any bad teams included in the 8-team format.  By rewarding conference championships, you really make the regular season important and every game count.  I'm thinking more and more that the 8-team will be here sooner than later and made the most sense.  It's clear to me the biggest decision the new committee has is how to balance very good teams that didn't win their conference, vs. very good teams that did.  The polls typically are blind to conference titles and you might have a lot of runners up in the Top 5.  I think a playoff should include more conference champions.

For an 8-team, I would do it with first round on campuses in early December to make it more difficult for those in the second half of the bracket.  Then the Final Four the weekend before New Years, and the final the weekend (or Monday) after.  And release the first round losers to other bowls.

I do think sixteen-team is too burdensome unless you completely go away from the Bowl System.

- Longhorndave

Monday, November 25, 2013

Sportsman of the Week Ending 11/24/2013

In the 100th week of honoring great sportsmen and sportswomen, we are proud to give a hat tip to a service academy.  In a week in which we remembered Navy veteran John Kennedy, we acknowledge a Naval Academy superstar who carried his team to a road victory and set records in the process.  Navy QB Keenan Reynolds rushed for 240 yards on 36 carries (6.7 YPC) and an NCAA record seven touchdowns in the Midshipmen's triple overtime victory against San Diego State.  The Midshipmen are headed to the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl in Ft. Worth.  Proudly, Reynolds is our Longhorndave 100th Sportsman of the Week!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Top Undefeated College Football Teams Denied a Title since 1970

BCS bashers have united that the college football title game system never worked and was unfair to someone.  Thankfully for them (and most college football fans), 2013 marks the last time it will exist as college football moves to a 4-team playoff in 2014.  Some are thinking it's one year too late, with six teams undefeated as of this post (Alabama, Florida State, Baylor, Ohio State, Northern Illinois, and Fresno State), none playing each other, and only two spots in the BCS Championship Game.  History says that undefeateds drop off at seasons end (rivalry games, conference title games, etc.) but this year (everyone always says) will be different.  However they were saying this with Oregon in the mix, and they lost a surprising game at Stanford (same Stanford team that lost to Utah).

But back to the matter at hand, fans get up in arms at the mere thought that an undefeated team is denied a chance to win a title.  And they act like it's never happened before and a crime against humanity.  These fans have short memories.  During the BCS (and well before the BCS) we've had undefeated teams not included in the title game and it's part of the fabric of college football.  With a limited sample of games and over 100 teams, some are bound to get through and get through in a manner that they do not demonstrate superiority to at least one other team (bigger conference, better bowl game, etc.).  Here's a list (since 1970) of teams that ran the table but didn't get a shot at the title (excluding teams on probation):

1970 - Arizona State (11-0) - As members of the WAC (and the weaker schedule to go with it), the Sun Devils only got to play in the Peach Bowl (destroying North Carolina), while outscoring opponents 401-148 over the season.  Three other powerhouses (Nebraska, Ohio State, and Texas) were awarded shares of the National Championship.  Of those, Nebraska was the only other undefeated, however they had tied USC.  ASU finished the AP #6
1970 - Toledo (12-0) -As members of the MAC, Toledo wasn't given serious consideration for a major bowl.  Instead they played the Tangerine against William and Mary.  The Rockets outscored their opponents 384 - 88 over the season finishing #12 in the final AP poll.
1973 - Penn State (12-0) - Okay, enough with the small conferences, Penn State played a major conference schedule (although was an independent) rolling over Stanford, Pittsburgh, Iowa, and LSU (Sugar Bowl).  This run could only get them to #5, with #1 Notre Dame finishing undefeated, but the other three teams with a loss or a tie.  Somehow Alabama with a loss claims a National Title as well, even with a loss to Notre Dame.
1975 - Arizona State (12-0) - Again, as WAC champions they didn't play a major conference schedule, but they did beat Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl.  Oklahoma, with one loss to Kansas at home, was awarded the National Championship as Arizona State finished #2 in the AP Poll
1982 - SMU (11-0-1) - Including a team with a tie here, because all other teams had a loss.  SMU (from the powerhouse Southwest Conference) defeated Pittsburgh in the Cotton Bowl, their only tie was to Top 10 Arkansas.  Instead, (independent) Penn State grabbed the National Title despite suffering a 3-TD loss to Alabama, which didn't even finished ranked in the AP.
Eric Dickerson and the Pony Express ran over everyone they played.

1994 - Penn State (12-0) - Now a member of the Big 10, you figure the power schedule would carry the Nittany Lions to a title.  However, locked into the Rose Bowl, they could "only" play Oregon while two other undefeateds, Nebraska and Miami, squared off in the Orange Bowl.  Penn State had to settle for #2 while Nebraska won the National Championship.
Kerry Collins could not pass his team into a National Title chance
1998 - Tulane (12-0) - The Conference USA champions ran the table, but lacked a marquee win and allowed 24 points a game, lacking that dominating swagger.  This got them a Top 10 finish, but undefeated Tennessee took home the National Championship hardware.
1999 - Marshall (13-0) - Only three years removed from National Title at Division I-AA, the Thundering Herd stormed through the MAC on their way to a Motor City Bowl victory.  Without a marquee win (Clemson and BYU the best, but both unranked) they finished #10 in the AP Poll, while undefeated Florida State won the title with a win over regular season undefeated Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.
2004 - Auburn (13-0) - You would think an SEC team would get a guaranteed berth to the BCS Championship game, but you would be wrong.  Not when two powerhouse teams (Oklahoma and Southern California) were also undefeated.  This being the first year that USC could pass the Rose Bowl and go to the BCS Championship Game.  USC rolled Oklahoma (a title later revoked due to the Reggie Bush scandal) leaving Auburn wondering what might have been, with the SEC winning 7 straight national titles beginning two years later (many of those teams with one loss).
Auburn rolled over everyone in the SEC, but didn't play for the BCS Hardware

2004 - Utah (12-0) - The Urban Meyer-led Mountain West Champions became the first "BCS Buster" in being invited to the Fiesta Bowl, but matched against a suspect Pittsburgh Big East Champion.  Defeating Texas A&M, BYU, and Arizona along the way wasn't enough to get the Utes into the title mix, with the aforementioned USC, Oklahoma, and Auburn also undefeated.  Utah finished #4 in the AP.
2006 - Boise State (13-0) - The Boise State empire begins as the WAC champions beat Oregon State, Utah, and Oklahoma on their way to a perfect season.  Meanwhile 1-loss Florida leapfrogged the Broncos to face undefeated Ohio State in the BCS Championship Game, leaving Boise to languish at a #5 finish, even after the upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
Boise State defeats Oklahoma in a memorable Fiesta Bowl

2008 - Utah (13-0) - For the second time in 4 years, Utah ran the table without much consideration for a National Championship.  Defeating Michigan, TCU, and Oregon State, then Alabama in the Sugar Bowl wasn't enough.  Even though both participants in the National Championship Game (Oklahoma and Florida) suffered a defeat during the season.  Utah finished #2 in the final AP poll without a chance to prove their worth against Florida.
2009 - Boise State (14-0) - For the second time in 4 years, the Broncos finished the year undefeated without a sniff of a title chance.  With Alabama and Texas as powerhouse undefeateds, the Broncos faced off with undefeated TCU in the Fiesta Bowl, edging the Horned Frogs, but only rising to #4 (#3 and #2 were one-loss teams to title winners Alabama).
2010 - TCU (13-0) - Still members of the MWC, the Frogs didn't get consideration for the BCS Championship game with Oregon and Auburn both finishing undefeated in deeper conferences.  TCU still beat Oregon State and Baylor.  TCU was invited to the Rose Bowl to play Big 10 Champion Wisconsin, and outmuscled the Badgers to a BCS game victory.  Enough to get them to #2 in the final AP poll behind the undefeated Auburn Tigers.
TCU stood up to Big 10 Champion Wisconsin
While many of these were from smaller conferences, several were from the big boys.  Unfortunately, today's college football climate is built around National Championships instead of Conference titles, and finishing #2 (or not playing the BCS Championship Game) is considered a failure.  The above situations are the fabric of college football to date, and a playoff will include more teams, but never enough, and in 30 years there will probably be another list like this one of those excluded from a title shot.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Sportsman of the Week Ending 11/17/2013

Going a little off the typical sports for this time of year, but the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas is planting it's Stars and Stripes flag to become the equivalent of the Monaco Grand Prix, or any other major country attracting the absolute best in Formula 1.  Austin, Texas, hosted the second annual USGP and about 250,000 fans took notice over the 3-day weekend (some maybe repeat customers). Sebastian Vettel of Germany took the checkered flag in his eighth straight F1 victory, more than demonstrating dominance in this motor sports for the well financially backed.   Vettel is 26 years old, has already won four World Championships, and showed Americans what the elite of the F1 circuit is about.  He is a worthy Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sportsman of the Week Ending 11/10/2013

Sticking to the NFL and another unlikely Sportsman of the Week, we turn our attention to St. Louis.  The Rams rookie WR Tavon Austin seemingly took every ball he touched to the house. Not quite true, but three out of eight ain't bad.  Austin scored on both receptions, plus a punt return to tally 3 TD's in the Rams surprising 38-8 demolishing of the AFC South leading Indianapolis Colts.  Austin totaled 314 all-purpose yards, averaging 36 yards per punt return and 69 yards per reception.  The West Virginia speedster looks to be an elite return man of the future, and is the Longhorndave Sportsmand of the Week!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Sportsman of the Week Ending 11/03/2013

As we turn the corner past baseball season, there have been some video game numbers put up in the NFL this year, so for the second week this season, we honor a 7 TD passer.  Nick Foles has been playing musical chairs at QB for the Philadelphia Eagles, but he gave his coach reason to stop the music.  This week he assaulted the Oakland Raiders defense for 408 yards and 7 TD, it's like he was playing against air.  This over only 3 quarters before he was replaced by Matt Barkley. This blog loves unlikely stars, and Foles is a deserving Longhorndave Sportsman of the Week!