5 Thoughts ... Who's No. 2? It Might Be Texas

Posted Sep 11, 2006

Who's the number two team in the country? It still might be Texas. All the Carolinas are having problems, the quarterbacks are getting too much pub, and the D-IAA games stink. These and more in the latest 5 Thoughts.

Five Thoughts: Week 1
Week Two Thoughts

It's O.K. to be number two ... or rank a team there

By Pete Fiutak   
1. Outside of a few strange computer formulas, the polls mean everything in college football. That's why they need to be analyzed, scrutinized, and evaluated over and over again so that bizarre way the sport comes up with a national champion can be as fair as humanly possible.

Humanly possible. 

The humans still control, for the most part, who the top teams are at the end of the year. It's the humans who have to use their best judgment to determine how each team should be slotted. And it's human nature to fight the norm and the familiar after so many years.

It's natural for the pollsters to automatically drop a team several spots after a loss and bumping up an unbeaten team. It's the way it has always been. The question was raised over and over again about who the number two team would be after the No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 Texas game, figuring that the loser would automatically drop. Here's one answer no one is considering: it can be Texas.

If Ohio State is ranked in the top spot, that means it's supposed to be better than 118 other D-I teams. Obvious as that may seem, it also means that just because Texas lost, it doesn't necessarily mean it's not the second best team in America. If the pollsters want to rank Notre Dame, USC, or Temple higher than the Longhorns because they think those teams are better, then that's fine. But it's wrong to automatically punish a team for a loss just because it's the way it has always been, just as is it's not always fair to bump a team up after a win. The pollsters have to get over the concept that a great record is equal to a great team, and that a team with one loss still might be better, a lot better, than a team with no losses. Just wait to hear this argument rage if and when West Virginia, with its schedule, really gets in the national title chase.

The D-IAA solution

By Pete Fiutak 
2. 14 teams played games against D-IAA teams this last week and 28 played them in week one. For every Montana State over Colorado, New Hampshire over Northwestern, Richmond over Duke and Portland State over New Mexico, there were several brutal blowouts that did absolutely nothing for the sport. Yes, the top D-IAA teams are better than the lower D-I teams, but they're still in the minor leagues. A AAA team could beat the Yankees on a given day.

With Troy pushing Florida State, UL Monroe almost beating Kansas, Boise State obliterating Oregon State and Akron beating NC State, it's only fair, and more fun, for the lesser-known D-I teams to get their chance to play the big boys. If they get slaughtered, they get slaughtered. At least the game means something in the overall scheme of the D-I world. The only way to make D-I better is to allow the little guy to have more chances to shine. It's time the NCAA step in and put some rules on the games against D-IAA games, and here are two ideas to make things better.
1) Make it mandatory that each D-I team play a D-IAA team to open the season.
With no preseason like the NFL and a limited amount of practice time to get ready, teams need a chance to tune up in live action. The first week of the D-I season should be all home games against D-IAA teams, with some D-I teams starting their seasons in week two since there are a few more teams in D-I than there are in D-IAA. Also make it a rule that these games don't count towards bowl eligibility or in the BCS formulas. That way, the D-I teams can work on what they want to, they get a sweet home game, the D-IAAers get some nice coin, and there's better overall play in week two.
2) Go ahead and play a D-IAA team, but it doesn't count.
It used to be that you could only count a win over a D-IAA team towards bowl eligibility every four years, but with 983 bowl slots to fill, that became unreasonable. Too bad. The rule should be even more harsh to make the games not count at all for records, stats, or bowl eligibility to force teams to play more teams from the Sun Belt, MAC, WAC or, perish the thought, against a big boy to create a non-conference matchup of national relevance. The little guys in D-I need the paychecks just as much as the D-IAAers. With the new 12-game schedules, there has to be some way to force teams to play better games so we don't get so many throwaways.

Quarterbacks aren't everything

By Matthew Zemek
One thing we have to nip in the bud with respect to the national media is this obsession with quarterbacks. Let's be clear: QBs matter a great deal in this sport, and they sure did in the Ohio State-Texas game. But please, can we try to give appropriate emphasis and recognition to non-skill position players when they stand out as the biggest factors in a game? Lisa Salters of ESPN should have been interviewing James Laurinaitis, not Smith, after OSU's big win, because No. 33, not No. 10, was the biggest reason the Buckeyes won. And in print reports on games, some quarterbacks (maybe the one playing at Notre Dame) should take a backseat to (in the Georgia Tech game) Darius Walker and (in the Penn State game) the Irish's smothering defense. If QBs are the difference maker in a game, then by all means, bring them to the podium or microphone, and feature them in a lead story on the print side. But if they're not the number one reason a team won, get the number one reason (if that reason is a player as opposed to a coach or an officiating call).

Carolina's problems. All of them.

By John Harris
4. Pick a Carolina, any Carolina.  North or South.  Suffice it to say, there are some depressed individuals picking up the Raleigh News and Observer or The State this morning.  Better put, the anticipation to see hoopsters like Tywon Lawson and Tyler Hansbrough lacing up the sneaks for basketball season just went up 200%.  These two states probably had the worst Saturday in its college football history yesterday.  Let’s recap.  The University of North Carolina didn’t so much as show up in Chapel Hill against Virginia Tech, one week after getting beat by the State University of New Jersey, Rutgers.  NC State loses on the last play of the game to Akron.  AKRON?!?  That succeeded an unimpressive victory over Appalachian State where the Wolfpack threw for only 36 yards.  Duke gets a field goal blocked on the final play of the game to fall 14 to 13, after having really controlled the game, one week after losing to Division 1AA Richmond (okay, Wake Forest beat them, but didn’t look great in doing it).  East Carolina lost 17 to 12 to UAB.  But, their neighbors to the South didn’t have a great weekend either.  South Carolina was shut out by Georgia’s defense, after having a couple of chances to put points on the board (it was only the second time that a Spurrier team had ever been shut out).  Then, to put the icing on the cake or the slaw on the burger, the much hyped Clemson Tigers, the ‘hot’ pick for many scribes/prognosticators for 2006, went up to Boston College and lost to the Eagles in overtime.  Again.  And, for good measure Elon (North Carolina) and Wofford (South Carolina), division 1AA teams lost as well.  It won’t get worse this week, will it?  WILL IT??!?  If this season continues down this path, the proverbial coach’s hot seat will reside at South of the Border (the unofficial border between the two states).

The surprise, disappointment, and best moment ....

By Pete Fiutak   
. Surprise ... LSU 45 - Arizona 3. How many out there were thinking this was an upset special? How many out there thought LSU would be looking ahead to the showdown at Auburn? How many out there thought Arizona under Mike Stoops was about to turn a corner? Well, not me, but it seemed like the rest of the world was thinking this was going to turn into the much-watch game of the weekend. The Tigers looked national-title ready in their dismantling of the Cats.
Disappointment ... How much did the big games stink? First we kicked off our week with the Florida State - Miami snoozefest, then the Penn State - Notre Dame game was a big, dull, dud, and then the Ohio State - Texas game was as forgettable as an Alf rerun. This next weekend has the potential to be one of the best in years with a boatload of great matchups. Here's hoping that some of them live up to the billing.
Best Moment ... The Iowa goal line stand. There have been more significant goal line stands in college football history (Alabama fans are certain to remember at least one), but there might not have been a more impressive on than Iowa's stopping of Syracuse seven times inside the two. SEVEN TIMES. Poor SU needed a big break to start to turn its program around, and now it'll have its rallying cry in the weight room for the next 12 months.