With all the various polls and rankings out there, how can football fans tell which teams are actually really, really good and which teams are subject to media bias, politics, and are overrated? What teams are below the radar and not hyped by the national media but are actually very good teams that can contend for a BCS title?
The pre-season polls have been out months, and they are a complete joke. How can you objectively rank a team that hasn’t played at all? All you can really do is subjectively speculating on how the team might do in the upcoming season and these things are chocked full with bias!
The AP, Coaches, and Harris polls are all questionable at best as they are subject to the same bias and inconsistency. I heard a prominent pollster describe the logic behind some of his recent votes. It shocked me that he changed his voting week to week based on how good or bad the team looked THAT WEEK.
I thought the polls were supposed to tell us who the best teams are, not who played the best that week or who beat the better opponent that week? Sure, style points are going to matter because polls are to some degree subjective and the strength of schedule over the course of the season is a key component, but WEEK TO WEEK!? You can’t tell me that last week you thought Alabama was #1 but moved Ohio State to #1 THIS WEEK because they played and beat Miami and Alabama played and beat a lesser opponent!
Now I don’t know that all pollsters or exactly how many share this type of thinking and strategy when making their votes, but I honestly hope not many. Votes and especially #1 vote should not be made lightly and so if you believe strongly enough that Alabama, for instance, is #1 at any point in time, and then you had better not remove them from that spot until they A). Lose or B.) Have been consistently outplayed over the course of weeks by another team (i.e., a legitimate trend, not a better matchup in any given week). This type of thinking is ridiculous and is a complete joke to me and is just a small part, but fits along with the theme of several other issues (I’ll get into the BCS, Bowls, playoffs, in another post) damaging college football.
The first BCS rankings will come out tomorrow night and our friends at ESPN have taken the liberty of projecting the first BCS rankings. This may or may not be affected by ESPN’s obvious and inappropriate bias toward Boise St. (for anyone who watched the Boise St. vs. Oregon St. game on ABC you saw and heard what I’m talking about). And who knows what effect the constant stroking by ESPN has on the rankings in the polls (pre-season and in-season). Either way, ESPN has projected the following:
- Boise State
- Ohio State
We could probably spend days debating the appropriateness, effectiveness, and validity of the BCS system, but for now, let’s ignore that. Just look at that list and ask yourself if it makes sense? If you were forced to bet a significant amount of money on this being an accurate top 5, would you feel comfortable?
Does this list translate into what you’ve seen on the field? Does it make sense that Oregon is ranked #2 in the AP poll, only recently jumped up to the #2 spot, and has played a pretty weak schedule, but is #2 on the BCS? Does it make sense that Ohio State has been #2 in all polls all year long, has played a weak schedule thus far, but did play a good Miami team and beat them easily, and has played just as strong of a schedule as Oregon, yet is listed at #5? Are you telling me TCU and Boise have played tougher schedules than Oklahoma and Ohio State?
College football and sports, in general, have no shortage in loudmouth blowhards who are ready to give you their opinion (myself included). But how do you separate real analysis, facts, and legitimate opinions from all the bullshit? To start, and this is not true all the time, but in most instances, anyone on a big network (ABC/ESPN, NBC, FOX, etc.) will give you a sliver of their real opinion, but it will be outweighed severely by the network’s bias & agenda. ESPN for instance, is notorious for skewing stats/highlights to paint whatever picture serves their purpose instead of providing a true and accurate picture of what happened.
The same goes for their various mouthpieces that will spew crap that I surely hope they don’t actually believe, but to advance their agenda. Like I said, this isn’t always the case, but it is A LOT of the time, so just use caution and be skeptical when deciphering this type of information and any information for that matter (mine included).
One of the most frustrating things when talking to other sports fans is when they just take a sound bite or a highlight from ESPN and repeat it and believe it blindly with no understanding of the true circumstance and no skeptical or reasonable thought or analysis.
Sure, not everyone has time to watch every play of every game and I don’t either. But if you pay a little attention and look at things with the understanding that rarely will you get the raw truth and much more often you’ll get spin and agenda advancing garbage, then you’ll have a much better chance to discerning the truth and getting better information from which you can form your own decisions.
So, with all the polls, all the bias, all the politics, all the personal agenda driving spin…. who are the true top 5 teams in the country? Without bias, without BS logic in poll voting where you change your #1 vote like you change your socks, and no BCS formula bullshit? I may not be right and you may not agree with me, but I will tell you my honest opinion based on what I’ve seen and where teams stand as of today.
I’m a little conflicted on this one, because Iowa isn’t a great team. They’re not flashy, they’re not that exciting to watch, and they have a brutal schedule from here on out. But they have a very good defense, they are extremely well coached, and they are perfectly positioned to win the Big-10 and navigate the regular season undefeated. They will need to get past Ohio St. at Ohio St. which will not be easy. I know, Ohio St. just got dominated by Wisconsin, but that’s Ohio State’s M.O. Lose a game in October/November that you should win, and then regroup and win the rest of the tough games to position yourself as a strong 1-loss team in the BCS argument. But there are certainly enough weaknesses on the Ohio St. team this year that Iowa should be able to take advantage of such as special teams, coaching, run defense, and the Hawkeye defense is better than the Buckeye offense. They have to get by Wisconsin next week and Michigan St. as well before they face off against the Buckeyes and it won’t be easy. But if they can get through the Big-10 schedule, I don’t see Iowa being shut out of the big game by Boise or TCU, and I guarantee Iowa would dominate either team.
Ricky Stanzi has been VERY good and might be one of the most underrated QB’s in the Country, passing for over 1,400 yards and 13 TDs with only 2 INT and a QB rating over 180. They have a very solid running attack with Adam Robinson who ranks 2nd in the Country in rushing yards per game and pretty solid WR’s. On defense, they’re lead by stud DE Adrian Clayborn and a very good LB corps. They are certainly not the flashiest team, and you won’t see a lot of them on Sportscenter, but they are a very good and very well coached team. The next few weeks will tell us a lot about just how good they are as they meet up with Wisconsin, Michigan St. and Ohio St.
Many, myself included, thought it would be a tall order for Bob Stoops to compete for a BCS title this year after losing Sam Bradford (#1 overall), Gerald McCoy (#2 overall), and Jermaine Gresham (#21 overall) in the 2010 draft. But in a year where perennial power and rival Texas is having a down year, Oklahoma has looked to be the class of the Big 12 South. The only other real competition in the BIG 12 is Nebraska who continues to make great strides in returning the program to prominence, but as we saw with their loss against Texas, they aren’t quite back.
Landry Jones has been solid in replacement of Sam Bradford and like I said, it was awful at the time, but the Bradford injury actually helped them prepare for this year and its showing. Demarco Murray, who is just about as talented as any other back in the country, but often disappears for unknown reasons, is playing great and the Sooners look good.
Despite a complete re-load due to the draft, and they actually had the benefit of having to play without Bradford for most of last year so that transition was aided, Oklahoma is undefeated and is well positioned to make a serious run at the BCS. They will have a couple tough tests from here on out, as will all contending teams, so they will have to truly earn their spot wherever it ends up. If they’re able to keep up their strong play and get past Mizzou, Oklahoma St. and most likely Nebraska in the Big 12 title game, they will be tough to keep out of the championship game as an undefeated from a power conference. Oklahoma is a very good team, and a great program, but they’re not one of the elite OU teams from the past. They are well positioned to get through the Big 12 and if they do, they’ll be a huge factor in the BCS.
While Oregon has been a popular team for the past several weeks, mostly based on their explosive offense and blowout victories, I don’t have them quite as high. They are a very, very good team and they have a GREAT offense. But they have played weak teams, the PAC-10 is down, and they are suspect on defense. They might be the most exciting team to watch, but they are certainly not the most complete or best team in the country. It’s largely the same argument against Denard Robinson for Heisman and you can see what happened to him when he faced above average defenses in Michigan St. and Iowa. Could you imagine what would happen to him if he faced a tough SEC defense? Or the Blackshirts of Nebraska? Or what Ohio St. will do to him?
That is the exact reason I’m skeptical of Oregon as a team. Last year is last year, but Oregon was an incredibly talented team with what most will say was a better QB last year. Despite their gaudy numbers last year, they were absolutely DUSTED by Ohio St. in the Rose Bowl. The old saying typically holds true in that a great defense will beat a great offense. In today’s wide open game it’s nearly impossible to shut down a great offense, but a great defense will get more stops than the offense will convert into scores. LaMichael James is a stud and has a good chance at the Heisman this year, but I’m not sure this team can stand up against an SEC defense.
The Auburn Tigers would be in the top 5 solely based on their freakishly good QB and Heisman hopeful, Cam Newton. At 6’6, 240, he is physically imposing. He’s big, fast, strong, and throws a pretty good ball. Not to mention, his coaches put him in great positions and use his strengths to their full advantage. Auburn is using him much in the same way that Texas used Vince Young and Florida used Tim Tebow. Both won national championships and both SHOULD’VE won the Heisman. Newton is putting up incredible numbers and Auburn just keeps winning in the tough SEC.
The biggest question mark with this team is the defense and while they are your typical athletic SEC defense, they don’t seem to be able to get stops. But with a QB as good as Cam Newton, and with the offensive scheme that is nearly impossible to stop, they will be tough to beat and they’re a VERY good team. The only thing holding them back from a higher rating is a dominant defense that you’ll see the team above them has. They have a ridiculous road ahead of them, fighting off Arkansas today, and facing Georgia, LSU, and Alabama the rest of the way.
As we saw with Alabama, it doesn’t really matter how good of a team you have, if you have to play opponents that are this good, and this physical, three weeks in a row or 3 out of 5 weeks, you’re likely to have a hiccup and get knocked off. I think they’re a great team, and I don’t think they’ll make it through the schedule undefeated, but even if they end up with 1 loss against a ranked opponent, they should be in the BCS conversation. And with Cam Newton, they will have a chance to win every single game they play.
I know, I know… how can I have a 1-loss Alabama team ahead of several undefeated teams and ranked this high after they just got beat by South Carolina!? Remember, my ranking is based on the best team and not on politics, bias and who had the best performance THIS WEEK. Despite a loss to South Carolina, I still feel Alabama has the best overall team and faced up against any of these teams on a neutral site, I would take Alabama over anyone as of today. Obviously, it’s a long year, and teams can get better, injuries happen, and things change. But remember, they lost after beating highly ranked Arkansas on the road (who is giving Auburn all they can handle as I write this), #6 Florida, and then South Carolina in consecutive weeks. Quite honestly, most teams in the country, and on this list, won’t face that level of competition throughout the entire season, let alone in 3 consecutive weeks.
They have two of maybe the top 3 or 4 RB’s in the nation on the same team and while they were shut down by South Carolina, I’m not so sure that it didn’t have as much to do with the team trailing early as it did with their ability and the South Carolina scheme against them. There is no denying their talent and in a must-win game, I like my chances with these two at RB. The QB is still a liability, but Julio Jones erases a lot of his mistakes. The running game and Julio Jones are good enough to cover up McElroy.
The defense is what you’re used to seeing from a ‘Bama defense. They’re big, fast, strong, physical, athletic, and very well coached. The only knock on this defense is their youth and inexperience, but as the season progresses, I like Nick Saban to be able to coach them up enough by the end of the year. They’ll face enough top quality opponents (LSU & Auburn) that they will either learn quick enough and on the run, or ‘Bama will be out of the race in short order. I don’t know that they’ll be able to get through the rest of the season without another loss, but they have as good of a chance as anyone and I still think they’re a superior overall team than anyone else in the running. There are teams that are close (Auburn, LSU, Oregon, Oklahoma) and they can certainly improve and are good enough to compete with them in a one-game setting, but if forced to bet on any of these teams, I would take Nick Saban’s running game and defense every day.
Ohio State had been ranked #2 all season long until Alabama was knocked off by South Carolina, and rightfully so. The Buckeyes have one of the most athletic and talented players in the country in QB Terrelle Pryor and one of the best defenses in the country (on paper). While Pryor has been good, he has not been great and that is both a positive and a negative for the Buckeyes. The positive is, they had won and won convincingly despite their star QB not playing up to his true potential. The negative is that if he hasn’t played up to his potential against the weak part of the schedule, he may never be able to do it.
In my Heisman blog I spoke about the injury and THE VEST‘s play-calling being part of the reason that Terrelle Pryor hasn’t quite lived up to expectations. Another huge part and one of the big question marks on this team is his passing ability. There is no question that he is one of the most physically gifted players in the country and if used correctly (i.e., Tebow, Vince Young, Cam Newton), he would be literally impossible to stop. History tells us that when used in this manner, even questionable passers can be effective in the passing game and their true strengths can be used to their full advantage. I’m telling you now, if Pryor was used more in this fashion and got 15-20 snaps running the read-option and variations off of it, he literally could not be stopped.He’s just too big, too strong and too fast. Think about it, he’s bigger than VY and FASTER!
The problem for Pryor and for Buckeye fans is that THE VEST won’t go all out and use him this way. He promised Pryor that he would develop him into an NFL QB (as if he knows anything about that) and so he won’t revert too much to a read-option type offense. Sure he’ll sprinkle it in to get big first downs and to make the defense prepare for it, but he won’t use it to his full advantage. This brings us to another positive/negative for the Buckeyes. Positive: They’ve won despite not using Pryor in the most effective and deadly way. Negative: They will never use him this way and so they’ll need to continue to win using Pryor’s weaknesses rather than his strengths. And as we saw last night against Wisconsin, they just aren’t quite good enough to win that way.
The potential is certainly there, and with an incredibly athletic defense, the Buckeyes had a great shot at successfully navigating the Big-10 and ending up undefeated at the end of November. The two big tests, one that they failed miserably in Madison against Wisconsin, and the other against Iowa (who is a very good team and is my #5 team on this list). The true question is, however, if they end up as a 1-loss team (again) and there are other undefeated and/or 1-loss teams such as Oregon, Oklahoma, Alabama, Auburn… will the Buckeyes get the nod into the BCS title game given their struggles in years’ past against big time opponents.This isn’t entirely fair as every year is different and the Buckeyes team speed has dramatically improved since getting the brakes beat off them by Florida and LSU, but it’s the perception and will be a potential hurdle for the Buckeyes.
There are a couple main contributors to the Buckeyes choke job last night in Madison. First, Tressel was, yet again, out-coached in a big game. His team came out flat, unprepared, and gave up YET ANOTHER SPECIAL TEAMS TD. The Vest was too slow to adjust to Wisconsin’s game-plan and after spotting them 21 points, it ultimately proved to be too much. The “vaunted” Ohio St. defense was overpowered and Wisconsin was the more physical team on both sides of the ball. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that Ohio St. doesn’t have the athletes or the talent, but it does mean that the VEST doesn’t quite know how to coach them yet. After the embarrassing losses to Florida and LSU in the BCS title game, there was a shift in the type of athlete that was recruited, especially in the trenches. Gone was the importance placed on size and strength (traditional Big-10 values) and in place of it, was speed and athleticism. I commend the program for making this adjustment, but the problem is they didn’t know how to use this new type of personnel against the old-school Big-10 power running game of Wisconsin. I’ll write more about it in a different post, but I truly hope that Ohio St. doesn’t revert to its old philosophy, as this new personnel is ultimately needed in order to compete nationally. Hopefully, they’ll just take a page out of Alabama and Florida’s book, and learn how to use this type of athlete to stop both power running games as well as speed and spread-type offenses.
But, bottom-line… yet again, Tressel’s team was not prepared, he was out-coached in preparing the game-plan and during the game, and yet another valuable opportunity was blown for the Buckeyes to run the table in the Big-10 and take advantage of their superior talent.
Despite their absolute choke-job against Kentucky yesterday and this one may be a bit of a surprise, as they don’t get much hype or attention nationally, but this team is legit. Ironically, as Spurrier is known for being an offensive guru, he has one of the best defenses in the country. While the stats and rankings won’t tell the whole story, this is an incredibly tough, fast, athletic and physical defense and it was on full display against Alabama. Going into the season, and watching the dynamic backfield of Alabama this year, it honestly didn’t look like anyone would be able to slow both of the down for an entire game. South Carolina did one better as they absolutely SHUT down the defending Heisman Trophy winner and his uber-talented backup.
The South Carolina defense is no secret as it has been dynamic for years, but the true weakness to Spurrier’s teams in years’ past has been the offense and more specifically, the QB. While Stephen Garcia isn’t going to blow you away with pure talent or statistics, but he is what the Game Cocks have needed for years, a solid and consistent QB that can play under pressure. He didn’t exactly light it up against the ‘Bama defense, but he was solid, throwing for 3 TD’s and 1 INT. Add to the tough defense and solid QB a complete TRUCK at RB, freshman Marcus Lattimore. He splits carries as a freshman, but he has been very good and was a HUGE reason why they were able to knock off Alabama, scoring 2 rushing TD’s and 1 receiving TD, running for 93 yards and controlling the ball.
South Carolina has navigated the toughest part of their schedule and if you told them at the beginning of the year they would split with Alabama and Auburn (and they lost a close one to Auburn), I think Spurrier would take it and giggle. Every SEC game is a battle and this was in full display yesterday against Kentucky. Despite dominating much of the game and jumping out to a huge lead, the Game Cocks pissed away their lead and then in true SEC coaching style, The ‘Ol Ball Coach severely mis-managed the clock resulting in an embarrassing loss that should’ve never happened. It’s actually a shame as South Carolina is a very good team and would’ve otherwise been in my top 5. I know, insert your joke or smart comment. But I really think they’re a very good team (talent-wise).
How can an undefeated SEC team not be in the top 5 at this stage in the season? Well, it’s mostly the way LSU has won, as Les Miles appears to have sold his soul to the devil. Despite ridiculous errors in clock management, sloppy and undisciplined performances, LSU continues to come away with big wins.
They’re below average on offense, and somehow seem to be making their two-QB system of employing both Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee successful. Neither will blow you away with raw ability or stats, but they’re somehow getting the job done, despite a combined 8 INT and only 4 TDs between them. They also don’t really have one established running back, although Stevan Ridley gets most of the load and has done a solid job, but there are really no big-time players on the Tigers’ offense.
But they do have an incredible defense, ranking first in the SEC in several key defensive categories such as yards/game and rushing yards/game. The Tigers are ranked 6th nationally in rushing yards/game and have your typical LSU speed, athleticism, and overall talent. The defense is clearly the key to this team’s success and we’ll soon find out just how good it is. They face Cam Newton and the high powered Auburn offense next week and Alabama and Arkansas in weeks to follow. I’m skeptical that the defense is good enough to stop the likes of Cam Newton and Mark Ingram consistently enough to cover up for their less than stellar offense. As shown in Auburn’s victory yesterday, this isn’t your typical SEC and there are times where despite your great defense, you will need to put up some points.
LSU is very close to jumping into the top 5 and a victory of Auburn would surely give them a huge bump. The biggest concerns for me are their lack of offensive production, overall undisciplined play, questionable coaching, and countless “lucky” breaks. If the MAD HATTER can keep it up though, he has a great chance to get the Tigers back to the big game.
I’m not quite ready to add them as a serious bubble team, but they have been impressive. The knock on Michigan St. is they almost NEVER play up to their talent level. They are a perennial let down, but Coach D. has made great strides for the program. They have a very good defense and last week they shut down the prematurely awarded Heisman Trophy winner, Denard Robinson.
They are undefeated, and if they’re able to get past a very good Iowa team, we will know they are legit. After Iowa, their next toughest test is Penn St. who is less than a power this year in the Big-10. Outside of these two games, there are no other opponents who should be able to stay on the same field as the Spartans and while MSU teams of the past would almost certainly drop one of these games, we’ll find out if they’re legit.
After dismantling the much touted Ohio St. defense last night and confusing and severely containing Heisman hopeful Terrelle Pryor, Wisconsin looks like a very good team. They have a good enough defense, although it’s certainly not on the level of some of the better defenses in the Big-10 and they have a deadly running attack. If John Clay is healthy for the rest of the season, he showed us last night just how great he can be behind that talented offensive line. Throw in the perfect change of pace in James White who can both make you miss and put his shoulder down, and you have perhaps the best rushing attack in the Big-10.
Tolzein provides a solid leader at QB who actually throws a very good ball, and Toon is a reliable WR for him on the outside. They don’t have any game-breakers on the outside, but they have several good WR’s and they do have incredible speed with David Gilreath who killed Ohio St. in the return game.
With a loss to Michigan St. earlier in the season, and a tough game against Iowa next week, Wisconsin is unlikely to be in the hunt late in the year. If they’re able to beat Iowa, however, and run the table, Wisconsin could actually be a factor, especially if they continue to run the ball as effectively as they did last night. We’ll know a lot more next week against Iowa and if they knock off the Buckeyes and Hawkeyes in consecutive weeks, we’ll know the Badgers are for real!