5 Thoughts (11/29) - The Pac 10's Free Pass
Stanford QB Andrew Luck
Stanford QB Andrew Luck
Posted Nov 29, 2010

Who has Stanford beaten? How is the Cardinal ranked 4th by the BCS Computers without any big wins, and why are the humans so in love with an Oregon team with just one big win ... OVER STANFORD. Taking a harder look at two of the key players in the the BCS puzzle, praising UConn and South Carolina, and more in the latest 5 Thoughts on the Weekend.

CFN Analysis 

5 Thoughts, Week 13

- 5 Thoughts Week 1 - Is TCU Deserving?  | Week 2 - The bad, bad ACC 
- Week 3 - Uhhh ... Texas & Florida? | Week 4 - Ohio State's Schedule 
- Week 5 - Boise State's Poll Slide | Week 6 - The Poll Problem 
- Week 7 - The 2 Left Standing? | Week 8 - The Oregon Résumé
- Week 9 - What do you want for a national title?
- Week 10 - Do you believe Cam? | Week 11 - Arguing FOR the BCS?! 
- Week 12 - Denard's great year

1. First the wires and chips ... 

E-mail Pete Fiutak

Yeah, BCS Computers, I'm looking at you … what has Stanford done to deserve all of your love?

I honestly want to know; how can the six BCS computers rank a team whose best win is over No. 23 Arizona, fourth, while Arkansas, who beat Texas A&M (No. 18), South Carolina (No. 19), Mississippi State (No. 22), and LSU (No. 10), and has played the seventh toughest strength of schedule, is fifth (according to the computers)? What's with the unquestioned respect for a team whose only claim to fame is playing well for a half against a WAY overrated Oregon  (more on that in a moment)… before losing 52-31?

Really? The best win was over Arizona at home? Wisconsin's best win was over No. 6 ranked Ohio State. Boise State beat No. 15 Virginia Tech on the road. Oklahoma just beat No. 14 Oklahoma State on the road. Stanford's second best win might have been over USC at home, but that was a nail-biter that came down to a final kick against a bad team.

Oh, so Stanford must have played a killer non-conference schedule.

Sacramento State, Wake Forest (the worst team in the ACC), and Notre Dame. Sure, beating the Irish was nice. Michigan State did that, too, and it has a win over No. 5 Wisconsin on the résumé.

Strength of schedule? Stanford's slate is ranked 63rd, Wisconsin's is 65th (obviously worse, but not by so much to be so far behind in the BCS Computer formulas), Ohio State's is 54th, and forget about it when it comes to Arkansas (7th), LSU (10th), and Oklahoma (12th).

Of course Stanford is strong, and Arizona is good (with a nice win over Iowa as its one statement), but Washington, if it beats Washington State, will be the league's No. 4 bowl team. USC would've been a bad bowl squad if eligible, but UCLA, Oregon State, Cal, Arizona State, are all completely and totally mediocre. In other words, to put it kindly, the Pac 10 is top-heavy and has no depth whatsoever.

So why are the top Pac 10 teams getting a free pass? Why aren't Oregon and Stanford getting their guts stomped out like we all did to Boise State and TCU when analyzing the schedules? Fine, so I'll throw it out there ...

2. ... and then the flesh and blood 

E-mail Pete Fiutak

Yeah, human pollsters, I'm looking at you … what has Oregon done to deserve all of your love?

Forget about the Auburn vs. Oregon debate for No. 1, because it isn't remotely close (Oregon, take a look at Auburn's schedule and then go slink quietly into a corner), and it isn't really necessary since finishing in the top two is all that matters. Schedule-wise, Arkansas, LSU, and Oklahoma all beat Oregon on the deserve factor, but in a more pertinent debate, take a look at how close the argument is when comparing Wisconsin to the Ducks.

- Oregon's strength of schedule: 77th. Wisconsin's strength of schedule: 66th.

- Oregon: Four wins over bowl teams, and USC. If Arizona State beats Arizona, Oregon will have beaten six teams with six wins or more, but Wisconsin beat the Sun Devils, too (granted, at home).
- Wisconsin: Four wins over teams going to bowls, not counting Arizona State, but the Badgers played a fifth bowl team, Michigan State .

- Oregon: One great win at home over No. 4 Stanford.
- Wisconsin: One great win at home over No. 6 Ohio State (who was No. 1 at the time).

- Oregon: The eyeball test. Watch Oregon vs. California again.
- Wisconsin: The eyeball test. Watch November again.

- Oregon's three best offensive performances: 72 vs. New Mexico (1-11), 69 vs. Portland State (2-9 & FCS), 60 vs. UCLA (4-7)
- Wisconsin's three best offensive performances: 83 vs. Indiana (5-7), 70 vs. Austin Peay (2-9 & FCS), 70 vs. Northwestern (bowl bound)

Oregon: The second best win was at home over Arizona. The third best win was at Tennessee, who's not all that good, but is going bowling.
Wisconsin: The second best win was at Iowa, who lost to Arizona, but was back on track in late October. The third best win was at Michigan, who's not all that good, but is going bowling.

Oregon: The one blip, a 15-13 win over a 5-7 Cal team that failed to beat a bowl bound team.
Wisconsin: The one blip, a 34-24 loss at No. 8, 11-1 Michigan State, who pitched a perfect game to beat the Badgers.

It should be closer than you think, and if Oregon loses to Oregon State, and considering Stanford's résumé is lacking, it should be a Wisconsin vs. TCU debate to see who plays Auburn for the national title. It won't be. In fact, it should probably be a Wisconsin vs. TCU vs. Oregon debate right now, and it's not.

3. Cinderella might be able to Fiesta.

Richard Cirminiello

Is Cinderella persona non grata in the world of college football?

This country invented the underdog, yet you get the sense that upstarts aren't welcome any longer, at least in terms of the BCS bowl games. In many circles, Boise State and TCU have been unwanted nuisances, especially when the national championship game was the topic. Ground zero for the elitist's contempt? The Big East, specifically Connecticut, which is a win in Tampa away from taking the conference and earning automatic entry into the BCS, likely the Fiesta Bowl.

Does the Big East winner deserve a certain bid when the Mountain West winner doesn't get one? Are the Huskies one of the nation's 10 best programs? No and not even close, respectively. However, that doesn't mean this isn't a story worth championing. By all accounts a "basketball school", Connecticut has made a remarkable ascent in football, where there's virtually no tradition or big-game history to call upon. Randy Edsall, one of the game's most underrated head coaches, has methodically taken the program from I-AA when he arrived to the brink of national prominence. When he took over for Skip Holtz, his ironic opposing coach at South Florida this Saturday night, his Huskies were members of the Atlantic 10 Conference, playing in a tiny stadium. Today, home is 40,000-seat Rentschler Field, and they're close to joining an exclusive fraternity that'll include such luminaries as Ohio State, Auburn, Oregon, and either Oklahoma or Nebraska.

Edsall does things right. He doesn't get blue-chippers, relying instead on marginal recruits that he and his staff perennially coach up, some to an NFL level. RB Jordan Todman wasn't flooded with offers, yet he's second nationally in rushing and will play someday on Sundays. LB Lawrence Wilson got out of Tuscaloosa without so much as an offer from the local team, but has been a four-year starter and a perennial all-star. Those are two of the countless examples of kids who've been transformed once they've spent a few years under Edsall's tutelage.

The ultimate Cinderella is alive and well in Storrs, a small college town in the state of Connecticut. Go ahead and embrace her this week when she visits South Florida, regardless if the rest of the country is rolling its eyes in disgust and disagreement. In a year filled with way too many allegations of NCAA infractions and off-field transgressions, this is one those rare feel-good stories that's worth celebrating, even if it doesn't fit your blueprint of who ought to be playing in January.

4. No, South Carolina doesn't suck.

Richard Cirminiello

As if you didn't already know, this is not your ordinary South Carolina team.

Admit it. After beating Florida to win the SEC East on Nov. 13, you expected the Gamecocks to come up a little lame in the subsequent games leading up to Atlanta on Dec. 4. I did. To my surprise, though, it didn't happen. South Carolina could have mailed it in two weeks against Troy, blaming it on a Gainesville hangover, but instead scored 69 points, tops during the Steve Spurrier era. This past weekend looked like a classic bear trap game for the ‘Cocks—on the road against a struggling rival, with a first-ever SEC title game waiting in the on-deck circle. After falling behind 7-0 in Death Valley, South Carolina could have folded and mentally started preparing for the Georgia Dome. It didn't. In fact, it scored 29 unanswered points, shutting out the Tigers over the final 58 minutes.

Okay, so it was just Troy and Clemson, but those two games spoke volumes about how far the program has come this season, physically and mentally. This is no longer the school that fell to Kentucky the week after stunning Alabama. Or the one that got pasted nearly a month ago by Arkansas. Nor is it a program that appears content to have won the East for the first time ever. No, this is a supremely confident team that's getting balance on offense now that RB Marcus Lattimore is at full strength, and suffocating play on defense, holding the last three opponents under 265 yards.

South Carolina has evolved over the last month in ways that transcend Xs and Os and don't show up in the film room on Sunday morning. The program has the right frame of mind for its second meeting with Auburn. It's encouraging news for Gamecock fans, as well as the backers of TCU, Wisconsin, and Stanford, who are hoping to rise in the rankings before BCS bowl bids go out a week from now.

5. Don't hate the player, hate the blue field

By Matt Zemek

It's an old pattern in sports: Fans don't really hate a given team, but they wind up rooting against that team because of the way the media covers it. Fans don't necessarily hate the Southeastern Conference, for instance, but they're understandably sick and tired of Gary Danielson shilling for the league every week in an undeniably transparent manner. Thus, fans root against the SEC and pray for its demise every week. Boise State fit this same pattern in 2010 and became an instantly polarizing phenomenon.

Boise State received a lot more vitriol than it deserved this past season. Boise State doesn't go to the Sugar Bowl when it loses one game. Boise State goes to the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl or the Humanitarian Bowl against a dumpy 6-6 or 7-5 team that either finished eighth in the ACC or third in the Mid-American Conference (or something similar). Granted, the Broncos should indeed have to win all their games to earn a BCS bowl bid, but the team shouldn't be relegated to a bottom-tier bowl. A second-tier game such as the Gator or the Holiday Bowl should create an opening for the Broncos in an attractive time slot against a decent opponent. (This is why bowl tie-ins need to be broken and the process needs to revert to its less convoluted and byzantine 1980s structure. But that's another argument for another day.)

The persistent problem with college football is that it generates arguments more than answers. It creates heated divisions between Boise State lovers and haters. It forms divisions between people who hate some columnists for hyping Boise and people who hate other columnists for hyping the SEC. Some reasonable people think that pundits on both sides have been excessive on both sides of the divide. However, with mainstream college football broadcasting falling in the lap of just a few networks and corporate interests, it's harder than ever to not be so cut and dry when it comes to Boise State, and now that it lost, it shouldn't be so cut and dry to bury the team that was on the cusp of the No. 3 spot last week at this time.

Boise State – 2-0 in BCS bowls over the past half-decade – has certainly not failed to make a number of statements on the big stage. If the Broncos had lost the 2007 or 2010 Fiesta Bowls, they wouldn't have been talked about at the beginning of the 2010 season. However, they did win those bowl games, and just as Alabama was rightly ranked as the preseason No. 1 owing to its status as defending national champion, Boise State received a high preseason ranking in its own right. In hindsight, now that it's all over, the team should've been treated better. It seemed like everyone was looking for negatives and ignoring the positives. And one missed field goal shouldn't dismiss that this really is a very, very good team.