5 Thoughts - Tebow or Bradford?

Posted Dec 8, 2008

What's the big problem with the 1) Heisman race, 2) the BCS computers, 3) the BCS and 4) Steve Sarkisian? These topics, along with a little love for Rutgers, in the latest 5 Thoughts.

5 Thoughts ... Dec. 8

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Two words: Troy Smith. Two more: Vinny Testaverde

By Pete Fiutak   

1. I just submitted my Heisman ballot, but I’m not happy about it.

My choice will come in a later article, but it wasn’t Colt McCoy or Graham Harrell or Shonn Green or Andre Smith; the four guys on my radar screen. It came down to Tim Tebow and Sam Bradford, and here’s the problem … the issue isn’t settled.

The fatal flaw in the Heisman process is that the honor is given out before the bowl games. We’re supposed to be voting for the “most outstanding college football player in the United States for 2008,” so I guess, technically, it’s just about who was the best player in 2008. However, I’d like to include the first week of 2009 and throw out the January of this year for Tebow and Bradford.

I voted for Reggie Bush two years ago and I’d like that vote back considering what Vince Young did in the Rose Bowl to win the national title. I voted for Tebow last year, and while I’m still comfortable with the pick, if the voting was done after the bowl games I’d have given far more thought to picking Pat White. At the very least, I would’ve made White No. 3 instead of Colt Brennan, and possibly No. 2 ahead of Darren McFadden.

So now my vote is in and it can’t be changed. Yeah, the Heisman is supposed to go to the best player, but I wish my vote could go to the one who leads his team to the national title.

Oh those wacky computers.

By Pete Fiutak   

2. I'm not a BCS apologist, but I do come off that way. However, I have always been a huge backer, probably the leader in the fight, that the computers should not only be a bigger part of the system, but they should push the humans to near irrelevancy. I'm not sure I'm taking up the cause any longer.

I get it. I get that the computer formulas are all going to be a little wacky sometimes, but we're always promised by everyone who handles that side of things that when all is said and done, and when the season is over, everything is taken into account and all the wackiness and all the discrepancies are ironed out. But my backing and belief system is getting pushed.

Fine, so I can live with Oklahoma being No. 1 in all six BCS computer rankings. With wins over Cincinnati, TCU, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri, to go along with all the offensive numbers, yeah. Cool. I'll even buy that according to some formula that Utah is No. 2, like it is in the Anderson & Hester ranking. But here's where I lose it: Florida.

The SEC was down this year, so if the Gators aren't No. 1, fine. Not No. 2 with Texas ranked behind the Sooners, as is the case in three of the formulas, okay. But to be ranked fourth in three of the rankings (Anderson & Hester, Sagarin and Wolfe) and fifth in the Massey rankings means there needs to be some form of oversight here.

I get that this is supposed to be about who deserves to be in based on what happened, but for the Gators to beat the No. 1 team in America, something Oklahoma never did, and to face 10 bowl teams in a 13-game schedule (Tennessee, Arkansas and Citadel are the other three) and to still have the nation's No. 3 scoring offense, No. 5 scoring defense, No. 8 punt and return game, and to be second in turnover margin yet still finish third in the computer rankings and lower than third four of the formulas is absolutely absurd.

But the wackiness doesn't end there. In the Wolfe ranking, Alabama lost to its No. 3 team, Florida, and Boise State's only win of note was against Oregon, the formula's No. 6 team, and the Broncos are ranked higher than the Tide. BYU is ranked ahead of TCU in the Billingley formula (which had Florida ranked No. 2), even though the Cougars lost to the Horned Frogs and Utah, and TCU's losses were to Utah and the formula's No. 1 team, Oklahoma. The Billingsley formula also has Ohio State ahead of Penn State.

Trust me, I get it; there will always be discrepancies in the systems and a few bugs here and there. Our CFN Rankings at the end of the year always has one or three things that don't seem to jibe. But Florida ranked 2, 3, 4, 4, 4, and 5? That means that if Oklahoma blasts the Gators, the computers really will be right. If Florida wins, then it gets pointed out that Virginia Tech was No. 1 at the end of last year according to the non-humans. (I rip, but they were actually right ... Virginia Tech, based on its schedule, really did deserve to play for the national title last year.)

He can't bring the defense with him.

Richard Cirminiello   

3. Steve Sarkisian? Really?

No disrespect to Washington’s choice to replace Tyrone Willingham, but this feels like a serious gamble at a school that can ill-afford to roll the dice. The Huskies haven’t had a winning season since 2002, and are fresh off a historically bad 0-12 campaign. From fan support and facilities to the product on the field, the program is a mess. What it needed is a man who’s had recent success as a head coach at this level. Not knowing their availability or interest, someone like Kyle Whittingham, Gary Patterson, Chris Petersen, or Mike Leach would have made a whole lot more sense than a 34-year coordinator, who has not distinguished himself at USC.

Have you watched the Trojan offense this season? Forget the overall numbers, which were largely built on the backs of lightweights, like Washington and Washington State. Despite housing more blue chips than Bellagio, USC has sputtered far more than it should this fall. It was shut out in the first half of the loss to Oregon State, kept in check by an average Arizona State defense, and held to 17 points by Cal and Arizona. That’s hardly resume material when it comes time to job hunt. Of course, he did work for Pete Carroll, which for many schools, is like staying at a Holiday Inn Express. Part of the problem is a national fixation with all things Troy. Heck, if he coached there, he must be the next big thing, right? Well, not so much. Quick, name the Carroll disciple that’s flourished since leaving Los Angeles. Yeah, I’m still thinking, too.  

U-Dub is a sleeping giant. Maybe Sarkisian is just the right guy to wake it from its five-year slumber. Or maybe, he’s the next Ed Orgeron, struggling at a school that can’t run circles around opponents on talent alone. Washington athletic director Scott Woodward believes he’s landed a rising star within the coaching ranks. He better be right because this program can’t handle another poor hire or another prolonged stretch of futility.

Yes, there is a hot Big East team out there.

Richard Cirminiello   

4. Wow, 60 points on a cold December night. That Rutgers team sure has turned the corner.

Okay, it’s not going to knock Oklahoma’s record-breaking fifth straight 60-point outburst from the front page, but it’s worth noting that no one in the Big East finished the regular season hotter than the Scarlet Knights. The same Rutgers program that was on life support at 1-5 in the middle of October has won six in-a-row, including Thursday’s 63-14 thumping of Louisville, to finish with an improbable bowl berth and a share of second place in the conference.

Everything has clicked for Rutgers in the last two months, a credit to head coach Greg Schiano and his assistants. When other schools with similar talent (see South Florida) were running fade patterns, the Knights were turning the corner, refusing to give up on the season or the staff. Maligned QB Mike Teel shook off a brutal start to the season and serenades from the boo birds to toss 20 touchdown passes in the last five games. The running game got a boost from a trio of underclassmen, Kordell Young, Jourdan Brooks, and Joe Martinek. And the defense evolved into a rock against the pass and the run. Short term, Schiano has done the best coaching job of his career, reminding the locals why he’s the highest paid employee in the state of New Jersey. Long term, Rutgers has recaptured the momentum that was quickly evaporating in the first half of the year.

As we embark on another bowl season and recruiting cycle, it’s important to peel the onion on each school to determine who’s rocking and who’s limping to the tape. Few schools are clicking better than Rutgers, which once again played like champs on championship weekend.

The BCS is great! (If you live in Gainesville or Norman)

By Matthew Zemek

The regular season is finally over. No team from a BCS conference escaped without a loss. Utah and Boise State will be hard-pressed to win their bowl games.
No, it wasn't the parade of unceasing insanity that 2007 turned out to be, but this 2008 season did sustain a trend that is only likely to continue in 2009 and beyond: Once again, a team with at least one loss is going to win the national title.
This reality has profound implications for the sport, and most of them are bad.
First, the good news. Teams that lose once should not be dogged for the one fish that got away. It's just a fact of life that 99 percent of college football seasons--1995 (with Nebraska) and 1979 (with Alabama) being conspicuously rare exceptions--will require some luck at some point along the way. If that bit of good fortune doesn't arrive at just the right moment, an 11-1 or 12-1 season is in the cards, even for the best ballclubs in the country. Hopefully, the trend of one-loss title teams will make it easier to appreciate every one-loss season in FBS competition.
The only reason single losses (against 11 or 12 victories) get dissected and downgraded is... well, what else could it possibly be?... the beauty pageant known as the BCS.
12-1 Florida. Tim Tebow, superb speed, and Urban Meyer's guts.
12-1 Alabama. Balanced and powerful.
12-1 Oklahoma. Explosive on an historic scale.
11-1 Texas. The most courageous quarterback.
11-1 Penn State. Joe Paterno, rock-solid defensive fundamentals, and offensive diversity.
11-1 USC. An all-time-great defense, coached by Pete Carroll, a master of his trade.
11-1 Texas Tech. A weak non-conference schedule, but still part of the Big 12 South's three-way tie.
One can find small but real points of differentiation here. Penn State, SC and Tech all exist on a lower plane, given their weak non-conference schedules (Penn State and Tech) or their lack of a quality league (Penn State and USC).
But in looking at Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas, my gosh, there's virtually no separation among the four clubs. Texas was a little bit better than OU on a neutral field, with the Sooners losing a star middle linebacker to injury. Florida was a little bit better than Alabama on a neutral field, despite a few of their own injuries.
It's great that Florida and Oklahoma will get to play for all the marbles, but it's a shame that Bama won't play Texas in the Sugar Bowl.
Oh, and one other thing: It's a shame Florida won't play Texas.
Oh, and another thing: It's a shame Oklahoma won't play Alabama.
And just one more little thing: It's too bad we couldn't at least do a plus-one, an idea that, while hardly a perfect solution, would at least enable the BCS bowls to be structured as semifinals, with the plus-one settling the ultimate argument.
As long as one-loss teams are playing for national titles--and this is now the seventh time in the 11-season BCS era this has in fact happened--you're going to have some controversy and some undeniably subjective decision making.
As much as a lot of fans want complete objectivity in this process, that's just not going to happen unless the one magic scenario--two and only two unbeaten teams from BCS conferences--emerges. One could have made great, reasonable, legitimate and valid arguments for any of the nation's top four teams this season. The Longhorns, Sooners, Gators and Crimson Tide all have good reason to say that their one-loss profile is better than the rest. And since intelligent adults can and will disagree--as shown by the debate conducted over the past few weeks by equally knowledgeable Texas and Oklahoma fans--one person's objectivity is another person's lack thereof.
We come back to square one, then, and we're left with no choice but to say this at the end of each and every college football season: The only objective element in college football is playing a game on a field. There aren't enough games (particularly in non-conference play) to go around in a 12-game slate, but we can at least have more argument-settlers instead of the few we currently have. When the BCS bowl system (forget the title game for a moment) can't at least give us another argument-settler called "Alabama vs. Texas", it only soils the reputation of this sport to an even greater degree.
It's okay to admit that any playoff or plus-one system would have its fair share of limitations and political controversies. That's true, and it's intellectually dishonest to sit here and claim that one system could cure all of college football's ills.
With that said, if so much money and time are going to be invested in this sport, why not use each and every season to settle as many arguments as possible? The BCS system is with us through 2014--fine. Can we at least begin to tweak and reform the BCS and the bowl system in the meantime?
Here's what needs to be done, in short:
1) Tack on the plus-one. Not too much to ask.
2) Four-loss teams can't automatically qualify for BCS bowls, even if they're conference champs.
3) Non-BCS conference teams, if undefeated and yet unable to meet in a BCS bowl game, should be provisionally allowed to play a second-tier bowl game. The Mountain West and WAC might want to talk about making a deal; ditto for C-USA and the Mid-American.
4) Establish definable metrics, numerical or otherwise, for scheduling the following kinds of teams in non-conference play:
A) FCS opponents;
B) Non-BCS opponents in the FBS classification;
C) BCS-opponents in the FBS classification;
D) All of the above, in connection to their specific records.
Example: Assign point values to various teams, instead of popping them into a computer formula. Make future BCS standings depend on easily-tabulated point totals instead of byzantine mathematical equations. If Oklahoma scores 45 points for scheduling Chattanooga, Washington, Cincinnati and TCU, while Texas scores 35 points for scheduling Rice, Florida Atlantic, Arkansas and UTEP, it would be Sooner fans who could yell "45-35!!!!"
No one could argue that score, either.
The BCS won't go away. That's okay--changes are still waiting to be made. Let's simply hope this sport will get a clue in the offseason preceding the 2009 campaign. We don't have to have Barack Obama enter the fray; if college football's leaders finally show a spine, we will get a strong dose of the "change we can believe in."