Ask CFN - Can Michigan win a national title?
Posted Dec 8, 2006

How should a Plus-One work? Is Troy Smith a great Heisman winner?

Pete Fiutak

Fire over your questions to me at I might not be able to answer them all, but I promise they're all read. Any e-mails sent to this address may be published or edited unless requested otherwise. (Please put ASK CFN in the subject line, and PLEASE keep the questions short ... it makes my life easier.)

Past ASK CFNs ...  
- BCS possibilities for several teams
- West Virginia schedule, BCS rules
- Toughest coaching jobs
- Hidden Heisman 5

- Is Temple worst ever?
- Oklahoma-Oregon fiasco
- Has Bob Stoops lost it?
- Is Colorado done?

How is it that everyone's solution to the current BCS turmoil is simply, "we need a playoff".  Other than the "Plus One" system many have suggested, I have not seen a single expert elaborate on any of the following details: How many teams?

How are they seeded? Where do they play? Are there byes? Are there automatic bids for conference winners? Will there still be bowl games? Is anyone else ready to ban BCS-bashing unless playoff proponents can answer at least one of the following? - Pat

A: First of all, no one of decision-making, system changing importance is talking about this at all.  People are talking about tweaks, changes, and ways to improve the current system, but as far as a playoff or an extra game, or a plus one, don’t hold your breath.

The rest of the CFNers have their own opinions on this, but in my perfect world: How many teams? Four. Any more and it becomes a gimmick and diminishes the importance of the regular season. How are they seeded? By a BCS system like we have in place. Remember, if you’re not going to have a playoff, the BCS is actually a decent idea if used properly. No. 1 vs. No. 4 and No. 2 vs. No. 3. Where do they play? Rotate it. One game is in one current BCS game, one is in another, and then the two winners play in one extra game. Are there automatic bids for conference winners? No, but the field of my final four is only open to conference champions and Notre Dame, if it finishes in the BCS top four. Will there still be bowl games? Of course. They’re exhibitions, not playoffs.

Under my system, this year you’d have Ohio State playing Louisville in one bowl, USC play Florida in another, and the two winners play off in the title. Where’s Michigan? Where’s LSU? Conference champions only, please.

Forgetting a playoff, outside of conference champions only in title game, what’s the one main change that should be made to the BCS to make more people happy? –KJ

A: Top ten are in. That’s it. The extra exception for Notre Dame and the strange rules for the little guy aren’t fair, and winning your conference championship shouldn’t mean you get an automatic invite. Wake Forest is 14th and in a big money game and Notre Dame is 11th, while Wisconsin is out despite being ranked 7th along with Auburn at 9th. No. 1 vs. No. 2, Ohio State vs. Florida, in the title game, No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 5 USC in the Rose, No. 4 LSU vs. No. 7 Wisconsin in the Sugar, No. 6 Louisville vs. No. 9 Auburn in the Orange, and No. 8 Boise State vs. No. 10 Oklahoma in the Fiesta. The matchups would be far better and much fairer.

I got torched in picking last year's bowl games, so I need to ask--what are the best rules of thumb or guidelines for picking a bowl winner? – MM

A: Let me know if you can figure this one out. Without inside info, bowl games are next to impossible to consistently get right because there’s so much lag time between the end of the regular season and the late December/early January games. Some teams get healthier, some get rusty, some just lose interest and the fire it had when it was so hot in mid-November. With that said, here are three basic rules to go by: 1) Take the veteran quarterback over the inexperienced one. He’ll likely have spent the time off preparing more effectively. 2) Go with the better offensive line. Coaches with idle time cook up all sorts of goofy tricks and wrinkles for the bowl game, but when push comes to shove, most go Pat Buchanan conservative and rely on their ground attacks. Combine a great line with a veteran quarterback and you have a likely winner. 3) Analyze the schedules, hard. Wisconsin might have the first two rules, but it didn’t beat anyone outside of Penn State. That doesn’t mean it can’t beat Arkansas, but if you’re in a confidence pool, put this game low on your list because there are too many unknowns.

For the sake of argument, let's say that Michigan comes out and trounces USC in the Rose Bowl, and Florida barely/controversially/soundly/however beats OSU.  Do you see a scenario in which the AP voters, who don't have to answer to the BCS honks, vote Michigan as the #1 team?  I know it's WAY out there, but I was wondering if you guys had thought about it.  Thanks. -PJ Kendall

A: I got a bunch of e-mails from desperate Michigan fans asking the same thing, and I’ll ask you the same thing I told Auburn fans in 2004; would it make you feel better? Would that fill the void in your life left empty after Shawn Crable cranked Troy Smith on the helmet-to-helmet hit? The AP poll is meaningless now that it’s out of the BCS, but if it would help you sleep better at night being the AP champion, or anyone else’s champion, then good luck, and hope you get it. Of course the denial can only last for so long, and eventually you’ll realize that unless you’re the BCS champion, it just doesn’t mean much.

Fine, let’s say Florida beats Ohio State in a sloppy, ugly 9-7 game with a ton of turnovers and the Buckeyes playing disinterested and dead. Michigan beats USC 45-3 in the Rose Bowl. There might be some picking the Wolverines first, but so what?

I'm sick of the money-grubbing bowl selection process.  I know your position on paying players, an issue which I'm 50/50 on.  But if we're not going to pay them, how the heck are we justified to decide where they play their bowls based on how much dough they pull in?  Every time I hear of school X being passed over because of low projected hotel room purchases, I feel like punching a kitten.  Having a million living alumni with 500 bucks and a weekend to get rid of should not come before on-the-field performance.  For all the talk about the players being only students, we really should treat them like students and not like commodities. Do you feel the same? How hard would it be for the NCAA to take over, do a huge internal audit like in Office Space, and set the bowls up so the kids play where they deserve to play? –Casey

A: Let’s clear up the money thing first. I’m not for paying players, I’m for letting them have agents, do endorsement deals and letting boosters give them anything they want. There’s a difference. Second, remember that bowl games are businesses. They’re not about the purity and competition of college football; they’re for making money for their corporations, sponsors and cities. If 35,000 Iowa or West Virginia fans will show up for a bowl against Middle Tennessee played in Baghdad, and 142 Miami or Florida State fans would show up for a meaningless bowl played in their home stadiums, who do you think the bowls want more? These bowls are fun for the players no matter where they go. They get gift bags full of goodies that somehow are considered fine by the NCAA, they get lots of dinners, they get their butts kissed up and down. Don’t weep too much for them.

i hate to rehash this tired subject but as in every year delusional fans suggest how their team might, probably or definitely could beat an nfl bottom feeder. in this case, it's bucks vs. browns. being a diehard buckeye fan myself i can't, despite using the best of my imagination, even conceive of the game being closer than 40 points. i doubt cleveland would punt or even attempt a fg, and i don't see how the bucks could put together anything resembling a scoring drive. well, maybe a fluke TD to ginn. 56-7 browns. – Ben

A: I’m happy to rehash this because I get a few e-mails every week wondering how Ohio State would do against the Oakland Raiders, or something to that effect. Last year, I had eight doorknobs (don’t rip on the readers, don’t rip on the readers) who I just couldn’t reach and kept screaming at me that USC would’ve beaten the Houston Texans. How well has LenDale White done so far? Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush are going to be great, but they didn’t come out of the box rocking. How about the rest of that Trojan team? How many are lighting up the big league now?

Ohio State gave up 38 points to Michigan; if properly motivated, the Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders, or any other NFL team you can think of would hang 70. That’s not a rip on Ohio State, that’s just trying to get it into everyone’s head the ten-mile wide difference between the college and pro games. Think of it this way; how many Buckeyes are going to end up playing in the NFL, much less starting? NFL players are bigger, stronger, more mature, more polished, and far, far better. That’s why it’s the NFL.

I was just wondering if you think last Saturday was the most entertaining day of football overall this year?  As I write this, OSU and Hawaii have not yet played, but it seems like all the games so far (with the exception of the Louisville-UConn game) have been close, hard fought battles.  I'm curious as to how you think today's games compare with the rest of the season. - Alex B

A: It was certainly fun. Every week I get into an argument on some radio show about why college football is the best sport going; you don’t get days like last Saturday in any other league. When was the last time you actually cared what happened all across the landscape on an NFL Sunday, outside of your ‘investments” or fantasy team? Quick, name the five best NFL regular season games of the last ten years. You can’t do it, because the regular seasons are meaningless in every other sport. To answer your question, in a roundabout way, it was so much fun because the games mattered. There was so much on the line, so while the games weren’t as good as there were in other weekends, there was more at stake.

Troy Smith has all the prerequisites for winning the Heisman.
1) Solid performances in glamour Offensive position (QB /RB) on a top 5 team, 2) Good performance in quality non-conference win (Texas), 3) Good performance in against biggest rival (Michigan), 4) Undefeated at time of ballot

My question is this, will Troy Smith win this award simply because no one else has actually challenged him or because he deserves it. To illustrate my point lets look at last year Reggie Bush and Vince Young both met the criteria but to me there play was good to begin with and when they were in the zone they were simply breathtaking while Smith has not had me getting goosebumps watching him play, or am I just being hyper-critical? - Navir Thakur

A: You didn’t get goosebumps in that first half against Michigan? Smith is a deserving Heisman winner because he was a flawless leader of the nation’s number one team all year long, but it also helped that no one else was even close. What would’ve happened if Reggie Bush or Vince Young had returned for a senior year? It would’ve come down to the early season Ohio State – Texas game for the Heisman race, and Bush certainly would’ve been in the mix to win number two.

Troy and Middle Tennessee both finished the season with identical conference records (6-1) and identical overall records (7-5).  Troy beat MTSU and got the league's one bowl bid to New Orleans, but Middle (and the Sunbelt Commish) say that the Blue Raiders are "co-champions" of the Belt.  Your opinion? – Bbrookin

A: A Sun Belt question? It’s always good to know the fans are out there. Yeah, technically the two teams tied for the Sun Belt title since everyone played everyone else in league play, but Troy wins the tie-breaker, and in my world, is the real Sun Belt champion if you had to split between the two. Troy lost to Arkansas State 33-26 at home while the Blue Raiders beat the Indians 38-10 on the road.