5 Thoughts - It's The Polls, Stupid
USC QB Mark Sanchez
It's all about the polls, and they need to be under more scrutiny. Why? Ranked fourth, USC and Mark Sanchez are in a perfect position to slip into the national title game. Minnesota's turnaround, Texas rebounding, bad rules, and more in this week's 5 Thoughts.
5 Thoughts ... Oct. 12
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No Bailout Plan Is Needed
The problem isn’t the greed, the incompetence, or the
life-altering, catastrophic errors; the problem is the
lack of oversight. The system needs to be torn down and
built back up correctly so we won’t have to go through
this mess anymore, but at the very least, there must be
a far better system of checks and balances.
Wall Street? Whatever. The poll system needs to be
better. Far, far, better.
I write this every year about this time, just before the
BCS kicks in, and every year about this time the polling
gets worse and worse. Considering millions of dollars,
once-in-a-lifetime dreams, and the national championship
are all on the line thanks, we need more than the whims
of coaches and Harris pollsters who know next to nothing
about anyone but the teams they coach/cover.
Oh sure, Texas, Alabama and Penn State might appear to
have the inside track to the national championship, and
if two of those three finish unbeaten it’ll all be
cut-and-dry, but you know, just like those three do,
that it’s not a question of if, but when the bubble
This has nothing to do with how good the teams are,
throw in Oklahoma State, and these are the most
impressive teams in America over the first half of the
year, but the national title chase is going to get more
bizarre before it gets clearer.
Penn State has to go to Ohio State, Alabama has to play
at LSU, and if everything works out, the SEC title game,
and Texas has to deal with Missouri, Oklahoma State,
Texas Tech, Kansas, along with a Big 12 title game. Of
course, as Ole Miss showed against Florida, and Oregon
State displayed against USC, the losses could come out
of left-field, too. And then there’s the flat-out choke
factor, like West Virginia vs. Pitt last year when
everything was on the line.
And all this wackiness will mean the rankings are more
important than ever, and remember, the polls (the
Coaches’ and Harris, NOT the AP ... ESPN is misleading
the world on this) will basically determine the national
title matchup. The computer formulas in the BCS equation
are basically around for show. If the pollsters don’t
want someone in (like Georgia last year or Michigan two
years ago), they’ll make that happen. Remember, the No.
1 team at the end of the 2007 regular season, according
to the computers, was Virginia Tech. On the deserve
factor, it should’ve been LSU vs. the Hokies for the
So now it’s vital to really take a hard, hard look at
the polls each week. For some bizarre reason, USC is
ranked fourth, because losing at Oregon State is less
offensive than Oklahoma losing to Texas, the current No.
1 team in America. Theoretically, Oklahoma could be No.
2. Florida obliterated LSU, but the loss to Ole Miss
means the Gators are worse than Texas Tech, a team that
has beaten absolutely no one and needed overtime to beat
a bad Nebraska? BYU, who has really beaten
nobody, is ranked ahead of an Oklahoma State team that
just beat Missouri in Columbia? LSU is 14th.
Name the person in America who’d take BYU, Ohio State or
Utah over the defending national champions on a neutral
field next week. Meanwhile Michigan State is ranked
ahead of a Cal (the Bears beat the Spartans), Kansas is
ahead of South Florida (the Bulls beat the Jayhawks),
and some coach somewhere gave Miami a No. 25 vote.
Of course everything will shake out over the next
several weeks, and we might be saved from the gross
incompetence with two BCS league teams finishing
unbeaten, but there’s a better chance that we’re going
to have yet another unsatisfying conclusion to the
But How? Vince Young
Is A Titan?
hands-down biggest winner of Week 7 was the Texas
Longhorns, which staked their claim to the No. 1 ranking
with an unexpected win over top-rated Oklahoma. A close
runner-up was every one-loss team in the country with
aspirations of still playing for a national
championship. That means you, USC. And you, Florida. And
Ohio State, Georgia, LSU, and Missouri.
Until Colt McCoy, Jordan Shipley, and the rest of the
‘Horns delivered the unlikely in Dallas, Oklahoma looked
to be the most probable team to run the table. The
offense was unstoppable. The defense was better than
expected. The schedule had fewer landmines than other
unbeaten teams. None of that matters now. The Sooners
are flawed, just like so many other schools with lofty
expectations. Here’s the kicker: Texas’ stay among the
unbeaten teams has a shelf life. I realize this is the
worst possible time to bring it up, but the schedule is
brutal, including games with Missouri, Oklahoma State,
and Texas Tech in successive weeks. That’s downright
unfair, and likely to produce a loss long before the Big
12 Championship game.
The maximum number of unbeaten BCS schools has shrunk to
three with half a season still left to go: Penn State,
Alabama, and the Big 12 champ. Because of how well Texas
played Saturday afternoon, that last entry is a little
less likely to get to the finish line without a blemish.
And that’s sweet music to every head coach of a school
that’s looking to get back into the national title
of the best stories in the country that absolutely no one is talking
is Minnesota, whose days as a Big Ten whipping boy may be over for a
Just a year after bottoming out at 1-11, second-year head coach Tim
Brewster has the Golden Gophers bowl eligible with five games left
to be played. None of those games, by the way, are against Penn
State or Ohio State. Nine wins are within reach, a ridiculous notion
just two months ago.
Ever the optimist, Brewster saw this day coming, even if he had no
company. His positive approach has always resonated with recruits,
and it’s clearly reached his players. Minnesota upset Illinois in
Champaign Saturday, the most vivid sign yet that the program is
turning the corner and on the brink of a much brighter days. They’re
running the ball with freshman DeLeon Eskridge, creating a ton of
turnovers, and getting more confident with each passing week. Are
the Gophers about to end their 47-year Rose Bowl drought? Unlikely,
but the fact that they’re in the discussion in mid-October is a
credit to what Brewster and his staff are doing.
Minnesota is winning football games and less than a year away from
debuting a beautiful open-air on-campus stadium. Yeah,
it’s going to get even easier over the next couple of years for
Brewster to attract quality players to his campus.
No, Gordon Riese Still Isn't Off The Hook
4. After all the crazy, consequential and controversial incidents
from the past weekend's games, a few emphatic (and angry) suggestions
for the people who make and enforce college football's rules:
1) If a player catches a kickoff when standing out of bounds
(LSU-Florida), but the flight of the kicked ball doesn't break the plane
of the boundary/sideline, the kicking team should not be penalized for
an out-of-bounds kickoff. Penalize the kick returner (and his team, not
the kicking team) for stepping out of bounds. How this rule ever existed
is beyond belief. Change it promptly.
2) Stop allowing Hollywood punters to seduce refs into throwing phantom
roughing flags (Texas-Oklahoma). Enable a punter to be flagged for
unsportsmanlike conduct if he takes a dive the way Mike Knall did for
the Sooners against the Longhorns. This has been going on far too long
in college football... remember, it affected the outcome of the 1999 BCS
title game, the Fiesta Bowl between Florida State and Tennessee. Anyone
remember David Leaverton and an official named Gordon Riese?
3) After the inexcusable lapses in the Texas-Oklahoma game, fire any
replay booth crew that refuses to review important plays (or misses the
calls to an unacceptably large degree) before the next snap. What
happened in Dallas was and is embarrassing. Crack down on replay
reviewers who refuse to even attempt to do their jobs. You can accept a
divergent opinion or conclusion on a replay review; what no fan, coach
or player can accept, however, is a refusal to review a play in the
4) If a player catches a ball and gets one foot on the ground, it's a
catch. Period. All this nonsense about making a football move is making
it very hard for officials and replay people to determine catches.
Worse, it penalizes players who make good plays, on offense and defense.
Oklahoma intercepted Texas in the end zone, but not according to these
rule interpretations. North Carolina receiver Brooks Foster made what
should have been a game-sealing reception against Notre Dame, but not
according to current rule interpretations. An Oklahoma State receiver
caught a pass and then fumbled against Missouri Saturday night (in the
first quarter, but still...), but not according to these current rule
interpretations. Why do college football's rules--including the
allowance of a force-out by defenses (which prevented an easy completion
for Wake Forest in Thursday's game against Clemson)--make it so darn
difficult for receivers and defenders to make legal catches? If you get
smoked, you get smoked. If you pick off a pass, you darn sure earned
that turnover. If you fumble, you fumble.
All of these asinine rule interpretations and provisions are preventing
games from being decided by the players on the field, in moments of both
success and failure. Simplify these rules, just like the tax code---for
the sanity of everyone, and for the health of a sport that didn't look
good after several sorry sequences on Saturday.
Yeah, He'll Make Sure He Can Stand On The Sidelines For That One
know, I am supposed to be enamored with Texas because
they played such a great game in the antiquated Cotton
Bowl and got by a spectacular Oklahoma team. I’m not.
Not with the struggles on defense against the Sooners
and with Missouri, Oklahoma State, at Texas Tech, Baylor
(fine, maybe not Baylor), at Kansas and Texas A&M still
to deal with.
attention is on Penn State. This team just went on the
road and destroyed a very solid Wisconsin team. The
Badgers are only 3-3, but they had a late collapse
against Michigan and a last-second loss to Ohio State
before the Nittany Lions came calling. The Badgers were
down, but Penn State knocked them out cold. This Nittany
Lion team has it all with Daryll Clark on offense,
Lydell Sargeant on defense and Derrick Williams on
special teams. But watch out. It Texas and Alabama go
unbeaten, Penn State will be shut out of the national
title game. C'mon, who doesn't want to see JoePa on the
biggest of stages one more time?